The haze of the fever had me bathed in sweat. I don’t really know how I got here. Yes many times I’ve rode past the Tuller Bridge.
The bus ride to Tuller Bridge was dull. My feet tapped rhythmically on the floor in anticipation. The grey bus churned left and right in weary familiarity. It weaved past cars of all sorts –– shiny sports ones and neglected sedans. A screeching of tires here, then the bus’s hydraulic doors opened. The passengers poured out like liquid.
Tuller Bridge has become this city’s landmark. It’s even on the city’s emblem — quite puzzlingly so because Tuller Bridge is where hundreds of people had leapt off in attempt to end their lives. And here I am right now. Standing on the sidewalk of the bridge, I stared out into the countryside and I took in the grand panorama before me. The bridge rests in between two adrift canyons. I see the gentle striations of the craggy earth. The slopes and curves, the highs and lows of the canyons. The way they all broke down like a puzzle of dirt and rocks. The sky overhead was glowing orange and the sunrays bent and fell on the canyon’s uneven surface. For a moment, I thought of not leaping off. I was struck hard by the landscape but I knew it was all a pink cloud bound to turn into a piercing gray later on. The pain of living was tangy and metallic in my mouth. I want to spit it all out but it just keeps rushing back like an endless tide at the edge of the sea.
It’s stupid how the local municipality has done absolutely nothing to prevent any more jumpers from going off save the futile public safety announcements. They were a bother, at the least. Right here on the sidewalk of Tuller Bridge, I saw no such thing as a tall enough guard rail to deter jumpers. It’s as if the bridge is saying “Go ahead, jump. I will take you places you never knew you could be. No wrong could come of this.” The bridge was open and the ground below was inviting. The ground from which we sprung will be the ground in which we are to decompose.
Out of nowhere, a bird slowly descended and sat beside me. The bird had feathers that were white like ivory. Its size was a meager fistful but it seemed aged.
“This isn’t the end, pal,” said the bird
“Is this for real? Or is this a fever dream?” I replied, puzzled.
“This is as real as it gets.”
“Then how on earth are we communicating?” My voice has grown harsh and curious.
“No more questions asked, buddy. I’m here to stop you from encountering the fate of the many who stood here as you do now.”
“Do you seriously expect my life to change for the better? I believe not. This is absurd, talking to a bird and what not,”
“Really? Inches away from death and you’re one to talk about absurd? Please.”
“What are you here for anyway, bird?”
“Ever since the first time I migrated to this beautiful city of yours, I fell in love immediately. The trees and the streets, the people. O the lovely people! And this bridge, o great Tuller Bridge. Almost every night I’d fly here for this place was my favorite of all in the city.”
“Birds have lower standards, I guess.”
“No, birds appreciate it all. And then the suicides started happening. At first, they all seemed like measly happenings. But then the body count piled up and I started getting curious.”
“The first suicide was ten years ago. You’ve been here that long?”
“Yes I have. Somewhere around the 20th jumper, I decided to take things into my own claws, or hands what have you. I just couldn’t stand to see the bridge being associated with death.”
“Well. Nothing happened. The body count has reached past hundreds. I guess you failed?”
And just like that, I found myself talking to a bird. I sat down and dangled my feet off the bridge and looked at the bird perched by my side.
“Every single time I see a possible jumper, I reveal myself to them. And every single time, they leap to their deaths. I guess my words are not convincing enough.”
“Well, what exactly do you say to them? What would you say to me?”
“I offered them a ride on my wings. A journey through the boundless skies. The wind on your cheeks. I gave them a chance to see the world as I saw it— freely and carelessly. A tempting invitation it seemed.”
“And then what?”
“I guess their pain was too much to try and get a taste of life again. They all jumped to their deaths.”
The sun was slowly setting. The wind was turning cold as the cars whizzed by. There was a droning sound floating amidst the air.
“And now I offer to you, jumper. Would you like to be taken on a trip?”
The canyon was beckoning. The soft amber glow from the heavens melted perfectly on the boulders. At that moment, I was under a spell. Not sure if it was the bird or the view that had reeled me in.
I thought for a moment.
“Yes, bird. Take me flying. I want to see it all”
And at that moment, the bird flapped its wings and slowly ascended. Mid-air, the bird said “Trust me, you will find joy in life once more,” and it grabbed me by my collar and we blasted off into the air.
The wind was pummelling my body but it calmed my internal tempest. We were getting higher and higher, with my eyes I traced the streets below. I saw the boulders and the dirt and the lights from the cars. The city was glowing electric in the dark. I was in the air going faster than I had ever been in my life. I saw the city below, the beautiful people, the trees dancing under us. The howling wind bent to sound like humming angels. The bird saved me from death and rewarded me with something fantastic. We turned westward heading towards the canyon. I was screaming with ecstasy. I felt the clouds on my back and the sun’s warmth on my cheeks. We approached the infinity set by the boulders and the crevices and the dust below.
“What did I tell you?” the bird asked.
I was too happy at that moment to come up with words. All I could muster up was laughter.
“Sadly, all good things must come to an end. I could only bring you so high,” the bird said.
I was puzzled. We were suspended high above and had been hovering at quite an altitude. The bird spoke.
“To be honest, they all said yes.”
Now I was able to speak but the adrenaline was still adrift in my blood.
“Who said yes? And to what?”
“The hundreds of them. They did not leap off, they went flying with me as you do now. ”
And as the bird finished his words, I felt its grip from my collar loosen. I was gaining speed again but this time I was fast heading for the ground hundreds of feet below. I heard a bird’s chirp coming from miles above as I plummeted. The sun had long been replaced by the moon. The trip was over. The day was done.