Excerpt from Entanglements
No one had ever lived after jumping from the Talmadge Bridge. Until now, in my entire fifteen years, I had never been particularly special or unique. So the chances I, Kizzy Taylor, would be the first to survive were probably slimmer than the cheerleading captain at my high school. The nighttime Savannah skyline, with its gold domed city hall, loomed in the distance, serene and beautiful. Leaning over the railing, I peered down to the water far, far below me. The whipping wind slammed my ponytail against my forehead.
In the darkness, the black sheen of the water’s surface had the appearance of asphalt after a rain. It would probably feel like asphalt on impact. At the thought, my knees buckled. Even if I wasn’t particularly afraid of falling, I was suddenly very afraid of heights…Weird.
Straightening my shaking legs with defiance, I dragged my gaze away from the river and deliberately stared at my feet. They weren’t as scary as the height. From the purple polish on my toes to the blister on my right heel, they were the same feet I’d slipped into clear plastic flip-flops this morning. The garishly happy sunflower appliqué of my shoes mocked me.
“Kizzy.” Adam’s tiny four-year-old fingers tugged at the denim of my pants. He held his favorite plastic pterodactyl toy in his other hand.
Glancing back at him, I pried his fingers away. “Get back,” I ordered, giving a little push behind me. Okay. Maybe my life was over but I was going to save my little brother.
“I want to go home and see Mommy.” Adam’s blue eyes were wide and glistening with fear.
“I know, baby. We will. But get back now.” I tried to keep my tone firm but loving.
A car’s horn blared. Rising as it approached, the tone of the honking then fell as the car left us behind. The lights of the enormous suspension bridge must be illuminating us as if we were on a theater stage. Why didn’t any of these passing cars stop to help?
Adam’s sobs tore at me as I balanced my belly against the icy metal of the railing and climbed over. With barely enough room for my feet, their tips hung over the concrete edge.
“Shhh.” I glanced back over my right shoulder at Adam to try to meet his eyes but they were scrunched tightly shut. “We’re just playing a game. We’ll go home soon. I promise.”
“This isn’t a game.” The baritone voice, so agonizingly familiar, drowned out my brother’s cries. “You have to do it,” the man shouted prodding me in the back with his revolver.
The muzzle jabbed into my skin through the thin fabric of my t-shirt and pushed me forward. I would totally have a bruise tomorrow…if I survived until tomorrow.
“Jump,” the man screamed.
Gripping the rail behind me, I clung. A jagged piece of metal on the rail bit into my flesh and I winced as liquid pooled in my palm. I couldn’t help jerking that hand away to hold it in front of me. Blood dripped off my palm before disappearing into the darkness and becoming part of the Savannah River water.
“Kizzzzzy!” My brother screeched.
“Shut up.” The man started with a jerk. “Do you want to make me shoot?”
The pitch of Adam’s wailing heightened.
Clutching at my necklace as if it were a religious medal, I turned to try to talk to him.
“Can’t you just leave Adam alone? I’ll do what you want.” My pleading had the same effect on the man as it did on the steel of the suspension cable a few feet away.
“This is because of you,” he said. He. My dad. He didn’t even look like the hero I’d always known. My once handsome father was now ugly with his face set in angry angles and with unrecognizable wild eyes. “This is all because of you.”
Tell me something new. I’d always suspected I was to blame for my parents’ divorce. But could the breakdown of a marriage actually send my father into this kind of craziness?
“What about Adam,” I said. “Will you take him home…after this?”
“That’s not important.” He—I refused to think of him as Dad again—waved the gun around as if he weren’t even aware of it anymore.
His monotone statement sent an uncontrolled shiver rushing through me. Suddenly, my heart raced so fast and hard it wouldn’t have surprised me if it burst through to the outside of my chest like that creature in the movie Alien. I was terrified for myself and for Adam.
If I tried to get past him, my father could easily block me and throw me over. Mind racing, I remembered the door in the concrete tower—one of the two supporting the deck of the bridge—we’d passed walking up here from our car. I hoped that door led to a stairway down or possibly an elevator. The tower and its door to freedom tantalized me at only about fifty feet away. I could walk the edge of the bridge like a balance beam and make it there pretty quickly.
But what about the gun? It occurred to me that, for some reason, shooting me wasn’t what he wanted or he would have done it by now.
Carefully turning my feet and preparing to get away as fast as I could, I gripped the rail with my right hand and held out the other toward my brother. “Come to me,” I said.
With complete trust Adam ran and hopped so I could lift him into a “seat” on my left elbow. His arms wrapped tightly around my neck. The smell of chocolate in his hair bolstered my resolve.
“What?” The man blinked as if coming out of some kind of trance. “What are you doing?”
Not bothering to answer, I inched my way along. A wall of wind I hadn’t counted on thwarted my progress. Worse, a sudden gust threatened to sweep us over the side.
“Stop,” the man ordered.
A popping from behind me was almost immediately accompanied by a burning in my right bicep. The arm I’d been using to anchor us to the rail went numb and I lost my hold. Apparently, he was willing to shoot me after all.
Only a few more feet to the door. We could still make it, but I needed to go back over the rail to get there.
Twisting, I prepared to set Adam down on the safe side. Another popping noise sounded from behind me and a thud reverberated in my body as if I’d been slammed in the side with a twenty-pound barbell. The numbness in my arm expanded into the rest of my body and fog seeped into my brain. I know I dropped backward and lost the precarious balance I’d had with my feet.
Falling seemed to take forever as the water slowly rose to meet me. The dome of city hall continued to gleam in the distance, with its golden reflection extending to the river water. Strange that I hadn’t seen that before.
No, I thought. The glow wasn’t on the water it was above the water. A luminous oval pulsed between the river and me. The oval transformed into a circle tinged not only with gold but also with violet.
This must be some dying hallucination the brain generates, I thought as I passed into the shimmering ring. The teacher hadn’t covered this in Biology I. Maybe death tripping was in next semester’s material. The stuff I wouldn’t be learning.
Hitting the water felt like a giant wet mouth sucking me in before swallowing me down.