A man jumps to his death.
|Thomas peeks out over the edge of the building.
"Long way down" He says to to himself. He hoists himself up onto the parapet. After a moment of looking at the Vista before him Thomas looks down at his feet and notes a pebble thats there. With the tip of his shoe, he taps the small stone off the building to the busy street below. Thomas recalls hearing that a small object falling from a skyscraper could gather enough velocity to do some real damage; cracking a sidewalk or even penetrating a human skull.
"I wonder what kind of damage I'll do" he says, in a firm voice.
Thomas closes his eyes as a warm breeze kisses his face, softening his stony countenance into one of serenity. He begins taking deep breaths as he raises his arms perpendicular to his body like a man presenting himself for crucifixion. Then he begins rocking on his heels to the rhythm of his breathing.
In and out...
back and forth...
in and out...
back and forth.
His ears focus in on the grainy beat the soles of his shoes are making against the concrete ledge he is teetering on.
Thomas takes in one final breath and one final rock back. On the wind of his final exhalation he falls forward off the building. Wind whistles past his ears. His shirt sleeves flap more and more rapidly as Thomas plummets. The air is ice on his exposed skin. His open eyes are streaming tears up into his hair and his brain is a rapid-fire slide show of dark regrets and cherished memories, but his heart beats slowly and his face has fixed itself into a look of determination. The look of a valiant knight preparing to do legendary battle with a fire-belching dragon.
He closes his eyes tight and yells "I can!".
Thomas opens his eyes just as his body meets the sidewalk.
There is pressure. There is darkness. Then, there is nothing.
Doctor Simpson leans back in his computer chair, stares off into the void beyond his monitor, and lets the breath he had been holding out in quivery sigh.
"That was..." he began saying to no one. He wants to say "magnificent" but thinks it too cheap a description of the break through he has just witnessed. When a better adjective proved unattainable Simpson decided to move on. He pulled up his computer's memo pad and began typing notes.
"How's your new boy coming along?" comes a jowly voice from behind him.
Doctor Simpson swivels around to see a portly man standing in his office doorway with a clipboard in his hand, a pen tucked behind his ear, and glasses resting on the very tip of his nose.
"Patient um..." he says, looking down at his clipboard over the rims of his glasses,
"Patient..." Doctor Simpson begins, "Thomas" he corrects, “is doing just fine. Better than fine actually. I do believe we are making some real headway with him."
"Is that so?" replies the man whose lab coat has "Doctor Reynolds" embroidered above the right breast pocket. Reynolds strides into the office, rolls another chair up to Simpson's desk, and sits in it.
"It is!" Doctor Simpson replies enthusiastically "I've just finished viewing his latest simulation and it is just brimming with things to analyze. Here let me show you."
Reynolds turns his attention to the computer screen as Simpson swipes his index finger across it to restart what he had been watching. The two men huddled around the screen watch Thomas standing on the building. They hear him Mutter something as he looks over the edge. They hear him say something a little louder just before climbing up onto the parapet. They see him totter back and forth. They see him fall. They see him hit the ground.
"Now, I realize this doesn't look like much at first glance." Doctor Simpson says in a rapid, slightly defensive tone.
"He looks like just another jumper." Reynolds says, in a seriously un-impressed tone.
"But in previous simulations", Simpson continues, pushing past the skepticism,"patient 012415 has run the gamut of emotional reactions. Sometimes he spends hours arguing with himself, or screaming curses into the sky, or just sobbing uncontrollably."
"And he always jumps?" Reynolds cuts in, matter-of-factly.
"Yes, but even the way he jumps is quite telling." Simpson answers, his momentum and confidence building,"Sometimes he takes a flying leap, other times he lets himself fall like a rag doll. He's fallen in pitiful, resigned silence and he’s met the ground laughing like a madman, or screaming the entire way down."
"I understand that this simulation wasn't all that eventful," Reynolds says,"but I fail to see how that equates to some kind of breakthrough."
"As I said before" says Simpson," theres not much to see, at a glance, and god knows I have hours of analyzing to do before I get a clearer picture. But, let me show you the two things that stick out to me immediately." Simpson drags his finger on the monitor again until he gets to the image of the "T" of Thomas' body paused in its decent. He presses his thumb and index finger to the screen and spreads them apart to zoom in. "Notice the position of his arms" he says, tracing the "T" with his pinky. "I read this as a welcoming gesture. And look at his facial expression." Simpson places his first and second finger on the image and drags them up to rotate the body around so Thomas' face is in clear view. He zooms in a little more. The crystal-clear image of Thomas’ face fills Simpson's computer screen. Doctor Simpson's fingers linger on the screen as he stares at it.
"Well!" Doctor Reynolds snaps, breaking Simpson's brief trance,"What about his face?"
"Yes, Well, only that this is not the look of indecision, or a coward, or a madman even." Doctor Simpson pauses to give the screen another long gaze,"I see bravery. I see acceptance and determination. I see, well... a hero if I can be a little dramatic. A man given an unhappy task that he plans on completing with joy." He leans back in his chair again and looks up at the ceiling of his office."My rough draft of a diagnosis is that he has made his decision. Not to kill himself, exactly. But to be content with the idea of killing himself, should the choice need to be made."
Doctor Reynold sits in pensive silence for a moment. When he finally speaks again he is devoid of all previous skepticism. "Do you feel that this complicates things for you and your treatment of the patient?"
"Not at all" Simpson says."Most suicides are 'crimes of passion' so to speak. Few, if any, get to the point that Thomas has gotten to before taking their own life. This is the beauty of simulation therapy: Thomas has been given the opportunity to work out all of the complicated things. His internal conflict- which brought about anger, terror, and despair- appears to have been resolved. His mind is now at some form of peace and a mind at peace is usually open to reason."
Reynolds nods slowly as agreement takes its root. "So your job has actually been simplified through the magic of the simulation, then?" he says with a little grin.
Simpson returns the grin with a smile and says "That's the hope any way. Again, theres still a lot of work for me to do," he stands up and stretches the stress out of his back with a series of rapid pops," I'm going to start by having a session with Thomas right now, while this is all fresh. Care to join me?"
Reynolds looks at his watch "Yeah, I can do that. My next inspection isn't for another hour or so."
The two doctors head out of Simpson's office into the hall. The wall opposite the office is tall and made of dark, solid concrete. Set into the wall about 3 feet high are large round metal doors, roughly 3 feet apart from each other. They line the entire length of the hallway as far as can be seen to the left and right, giving it the look of some endless austere laundromat. In the center of each door are two small digital read-outs, one above the other. They are labeled "current occupant" and "simulation" respectively. Below the read-outs is a number pad and a lighted green button below that.
Doctors Reynolds and Simpson head to the right. They walk side by side toward the very last door on the wall, the clip clop of their loafers echoing in the vast chamber. 5 doors are passed before their destination is reached, all containing different words in the "simulation" read out: The Gun. The Noose. The Tub. The Pills. The Garage. They arrive at the final door. Next to "current occupant" it says "012415" and to the side of "simulation" it reads “The Ledge".
Doctor Simpson punches a password into the number pad and presses the green button with his thumb. There is a hiss as air escapes from around the door’s edges. They step back as the door swings slowly open and a narrow bed issues forth form the opening in the wall. On the bed is a thin man dressed in nothing but sweat pants. His head is shaved and covered with small electrode pads that have thin wires coming from each of them leading back into a hole in the bed above his head. There are two more wires stuck to the left side of his nearly skeletal chest. He turns his gaunt bearded face to look up at the smiling eager faces of the two men staring down at him.
Doctor Reynolds notes that, while the man lying before them doesn't look well, his hands are folded peacefully over his mid drift and his face is that of a man ready to tell them the secrets of the universe.
"Hello Thomas” Doctor Simpson says. ”We have so much to discuss. I’m Just dying to get started.”