four seconds to live

Odd, that.

I just heard a story of someone who jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge, which is another good way to go.

It takes four seconds...


Tick tock.


Tick tock.


Tick tock.


Tick tock.

...to hit the water. All the survivors (about 200 out of over 1200--though they think the death rate is much highter) report that they really wanted to die when they had two feet on the bridge, but as soon as they were airborne they really wanted to live. You've got to hit the water feet first, at a slight angle. You still won't be ok. But you might... emphasis on might... live.

At 220 feet above the water, the bridge is a good place to kill yourself dead. Every two weeks or so somebody tries it, dropping 75 miles an hour for four seconds without a parachute, a life vest, or a seat belt, to die of blunt injuries four seconds later.

I've never much understood suicide. Oh sure, things are bad, and sometimes, or maybe always, the person is sick at heart and definitely in the head. But I'm not one of those. Never had a suicidal thought, ever.

I've always thought that killing, whether yourself or somebody else, was for crazy people. To me, convictions aren't about just guilt, they're about how sick the perp was. It's been convenient for me to maintain an assumption of insanity in order to put words to a complicated phenomenon. But now some things are leading me away from that theory. Maybe those of us who do not kill are the ones who are insane. Perhaps we're all death machines, in one way or another. After all, from our first breath of life we put a foot on the rode to death.

I write about death a lot. In my first book two prime characters died, greatly affecting the well-being and success of the heroes, and at the start of the second one of my protags kills two guys almost without thinking. Actually, at the start of this book, unrelated to my series, Sean kills someone. He thinks it will solve his problems. It ends up just setting those problems loose to do real damage.

The easy part is getting the reaction of the protaganist: shock, or if he's hardened, like our Sean, he can mostly take it in stride. A few deaths have touched him during his journey, and I've noticed that he's become quite the old softy as the book progresses. By the time he runs across his dead soldiers stacked like cordwood in their own garrison, he's pretty shaken up.

More difficult to treat are the antagonists. Why do they do what they do? Why do they kill? To them killing is a means to an end, sure. But what do they want? Power? Revenge? Are they so consumed by hatred or rage that it has surpassed their humanness? Yeah. Sure. Easy to write. Difficult to comprehend. Kinda like killing=insanity. But who among us has been so threatened, so jealous, that we'd club somebody on the knee before the Olympics? No one I know.

So, me? I'd kill in self defence. I'd fight back if someone entered my home or threatened my kids, and if they ended up dead, then they're dead. I've always wondered if I might kill someone with my car, accidently, of course. (It's a funny thing. I've never had a ticket; I haven't had an accident since I was sixteen. Dunno why I'd worry about that.) But I won't commit suicide. Ever. If there's a note, I didn't write it. If there's a gun in my hand, I didn't put it in my mouth.

But I do understand that four seconds. I've jumped off that bridge before. I'm midair right now, in fact, and I know I'm going down, what with gravity and all. The seconds are ticking by, and though I had to jump again, I'm just not sure when or how I'm gonna land.

Hopefully feet first, at a slight angle.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

This is the kind of thing I try to teach people. Can I expect a sequel?

Anonymous said...

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