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The Jumps

Cliff over water with tree branches

Please note: this story was provided by the author and published as is.

I look down at my watch and see it’s just about to turn 1:00 am. Shoot, I think to myself. I need to get home. My mom is literally going to disown me. Well first off, I should probably backtrack a little to how I got in this situation, to begin with. Recently, my mom and I have been having some serious problems. It just seemed like everything I said and everything I did, she needed to turn into a lecture. It was typical considering I was 17 and she’s well…my mom, but regardless I was starting to get really sick of it, to say the least. This night, in particular, we have gotten into a pretty big fight about college. I wanted to go far and she wanted to keep me right here in boring Woodstock. I can’t blame her for wanting me to stay though, I know she’s been really lonely since my dad left. It’s just that I am so tired of constantly being told what to do all the time. This is the time in your life when you’re supposed to start making decisions for yourself, but between teachers, parents, and anyone who thinks they have the slightest authority over you I just…I need to get away from all of it. In all of my teenage angst, I grabbed the keys to my little red Fiat and stormed out the door to The Jumps to go see my friends. As I stomped down the steps to our shack of a house my mom called out to me “Come back when you learn how to speak to your mother!” and as I open my car door I look back at her “Oh, I’m never coming back.” I close the door, start the engine, and speed off.

In my town, there’s close to nothing to do. So, most of the time friends from all over get together and meet up at The Jumps. It’s a place where anyone is welcome, there’s just one thing you need to do, bring a case of beer. It’s kind of far back into the woods so no cops can find it, surrounded by a lake and these giant boulders. It’s called The Jumps because there’s this urban legend that this kid way back when that went to our highschool climbed all the way up one of those boulders and jumped into the lake, but never came back up. I think the parents in this town just made that story up to keep kids from jumping. I don’t know though, I just don’t buy it, nobody would be stupid enough to jump off one of those boulders into the lake. That’s a pretty big jump to land in water you don’t know how deep it is. Then again, the sole reason people go to The Jumps is to well, get drunk. So, I don’t know, maybe some jackass was drunk enough to do it.

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I take a sharp right down Henryton road and speed to the bottom which is where the trek to The Jumps begins. As I said, it’s pretty far back in the woods so nobody can really find it. Since it was starting to get dark and clearly I was a little rattled from the argument with my mom, I asked my friend Mark to meet me and walk the path with me. I’m not afraid of the dark or anything, but I just always had this weird pit in my stomach walking there alone. Although it’s a little foggy, I can see Mark at the bottom. Ripped black jeans, a Smith’s band t-shirt on, and chucks. He smiled at me and waved,  “Hey, I really didn’t think you were going to come.” I turn off the engine and go to grab the beer in the backseat of my car. “Yeah, well I had a change of heart.”

Mark and I begin walking through the woods and we both just walk in silence for a bit. The chirping of the crickets was getting louder and louder it seemed like. It was the first muggy night in a while here in Woodstock. So muggy, I felt like I could literally peel a layer of sweat off my face. As Mark swats mosquitos out the way, he finally breaks the silence. “So, how is everything lately with your mom? You guys good?” He asks. I sigh. Really? Have I really turned into that girl? The girl that people feel like they need to check up on because there probably is something wrong. I keep my eyes fixed on moving the prickle branches so I don’t get stuck by one. “Yeah, it’s fine. We’re fine. Just a little fight about college.” Mark scoffs and smiles. “Well, that makes two of us then.” He said rolling his eyes. It gave me some comfort knowing I wasn’t the only one having this, what seemed like, never-ending battle with my mom. I look at Mark and I give a half-hearted smile.“MAGGIE! YOU CAME!” Finally, we had arrived at The Jumps.

There’s something weirdly nostalgic about The Jumps. It’s kind of hard to explain though. It’s like you have all your friends there laughing, having a good time and you can feel the warmth of the fire hit your face as everyone’s just at peace. There’s music playing from someone’s busted speaker and people running into the lake with all their clothes on…just to feel a little bit alive again. This year, especially, The Jumps is really important because soon we won’t be here anymore. There will be the next wave of Woodstock High Schoolers that take over and we will just be a distant memory. They always say you don’t know it’s the good times when you’re in them, but I know. I know these are the good times.

I look over at Carrie who’s barely able to stand. Even though she’s an absolute mess, she still looks amazing. Tall, blonde, and full of life. Carrie had a welcoming presence to her. No matter who you were, where you came from, or what you look like, she was always going to make you feel like you’ve been friends with us forever. “I am so glad that you came! Come, I saved you a seat.” She hands me the bottle of vodka she has been working on all night. “Here. Drink up. We’re going to have fun tonight.” Mark shakes his head at Carrie. We follow her to the firepit.

One drink. Two drinks. Three drinks and yeah four drinks. My head was officially starting to spin. See, I’m not really a big drinker. I know that might sound lame, but it just makes me a little nervous. I don’t like feeling like I’m not in control of my body. My dad was a big drinker and when he drank…he sucked. In other words, he was completely out of control. I hated it. Tonight though, I guess I threw all that out the window because before I knew it, I was hammered. All of a sudden, the conversation I was so apprehensive about getting into detail with Mark started spilling out of me. Like word vomit as they say. “My parents suck.” Everyone around the bonfire laughs. Gavin, this kid I know from Bio, raises his beer. “I think we can all drink to that!” We all take a sip, shot, puff, or whatever our hearts desire. I give it my best shot to stand up and manage to finally get up even though I am a bit wobbly. “No, really though…” This is where my little performance starts. “Aren’t you guys so sick and tired of people telling us what to do?” Some laughing at how completely drunk I am and some probably paying a little too much attention to me. “They say that we’re grown-ups, right? That we need to start taking more responsibility, being more mature, actually getting our shit together. They are sending us off to college, but we still have a damn curfew. It’s bullshit.” I take another swig. “And those boulders…” That got everyone’s attention for sure. Now, all eyes were on me. “Some Mom made up a stupid story that a dumb kid jumped off those rocks and was never to be found again. We all know though that’s not true, right?”

There were whispers scattered by everyone around the bonfire. Where was she going with this? They probably thought. “Someone made up that story just so that there’s another thing parents can tell us what we can and can not do. So, you know what?” I take a pause and glance back at the rocks behind me. “I’m jumping.”

My heart sank to my stomach and a wave of sweat hit my face. Oh God, did I really just say that? At this point, everyone is chanting for me. Mark grabs my arm. “No, no you’re not jumping Mag. You have no idea how deep the water is.” I looked at him and I knew he could tell I was slightly regretful. “You don’t have to do this to prove some point or whatever.” I nudge my arm away from him and take off my sneakers. “Oh, what? Now you’re going to lecture me?” I look back at everyone cheering me on, but the blank faces on Carrie and Mark were very unsettling. I needed to do this and I needed to do it quickly.

I got to the top of the boulder still astonished that I was able to even climb this rock considering how much I’ve had to drink tonight. Honestly, being up this high definitely sobered me up a bit. Which has its obvious pros and cons. Pro being I am more aware of where I am jumping and con being I am more aware of the fact that I am actually jumping. I make a huge mistake by looking down. Jesus, I thought to myself, that’s a far jump. I snap my head back up to look into the darkness.“Don’t look down, are you crazy?” One kid screams. “Just go!” Another exclaims. I look downright before I am about to jump. I realize I’m wearing one of my favorite t-shirts. It’s a big white oversized band t-shirt. It’s really cool it’s got the little rips in it that makes it look all grunge. It’s my dad’s actually. I snap my head back up again. Stop. If you’re going to do this, just do it. I keep reminding myself, I’m not afraid of falling I’m just afraid of landing, but since my landing is water, how bad could it be? 1,2,3 and before I knew it I was falling.

And just like that…it was over. I popped my head back up above the water and threw my hands in the air. I let out a huge victory scream and cheered for myself just like everyone else was doing. I did it. I got out of the water soaking wet, I felt heavier considering I still had all my clothes on. I run over to Carrie and give her a huge hug. “Jesus Mag. Don’t scare me like that, but I mean that was pretty cool.” I give her a huge smile as I try and catch my breath from all the excitement. It might not have been the smartest thing in the world, but it was so much fun and I definitely got my point across “or whatever.” I turn around to find Mark and find him standing directly behind me with his arms crossed. “What the hell is wrong with you?” He did not look happy at all. I hate being yelled at. My face turns red from embarrassment and I answer nervously. “What?” my voice shakes. “Nothing happened, it’s-” He cuts me off. “Yeah nothing happened thank God, but what were you thinking? Yeah, the story of the missing kid probably isn’t true, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t a million other reasons to not jump.” Perfect, just what I need right now. Another lecture and this time from one of my friends. I grab the blanket I had been sitting on all night and dry myself off. It’s time for me to go home.

I walked through the woods and finally made it back to my car. What a crappy way to end such a fun night. I get in my car, start the engine, and make my way back up Henryton road. I can’t stop thinking about Mark and what he said. Mark and I don’t fight, maybe like once, but that’s it. I felt bad, maybe I shouldn’t have jumped. I know everything turned out okay in the end, but it easily couldn’t have. I keep reliving the jump and how exuberating the whole thing was. I am about to reach the end of the road to turn onto my street, but…wait. What is that?

I slam on the breaks and try and comprehend what’s in front of me. It’s just far away enough that I can’t make out exactly what it is. It’s making this God awful noise though. It’s distant, but it’s eerie. It sounds like it’s almost like…crying? Is that a…? No, way it can’t be. I start to put my foot gently on the break just to get a little closer to it. I move not even an inch forward and it runs back into the woods. I sit there in my seat and I swear my heart is pounding so hard I can hear it. That was weird. I try to ignore what just happened and keep driving. I’m so close to home, just a few minutes more. I am really trying not to freak myself out. I start thinking though. It wasn’t an animal, it didn’t really look like an animal. It wasn’t a human though, why would someone run back into the woods. All of the sudden, boom. There it is again! I slam on my breaks and this time I get out of my car.

I turn the car off, open my car door, and step out slowly to call out to whatever it is, “Hey! Are you alright?” I have to yell so loudly because this time it seems like the crying is even worse. I don’t get a response. Whatever it is, seems to be a little closer now. It’s a person but something doesn’t look right. They look hurt, like really hurt. I can’t make it out completely, but their neck looks almost…bent. I call out again, “Are you hurt? Do you need a ride somewhere?” For whatever reason, although this was super weird, I wasn’t as scared anymore. Maybe it was someone from The Jumps that needs a ride? I am trying to rationalize. The moment I ask if they need a ride, they bolt. What the hell. I have officially given up on this. I get back in my car and go to start it back up again so I can just get home. It’s been a long night. This is when I look down at my watch. Just about to turn 1:00 am. I need to get home like, right now. I put the keys in the ignition and…nothing. “Shit.” I slam my hands against the steering wheel. Of course, my car chooses now to act up.

Panic is starting to set in. I start scrambling around my car looking for my phone. It’s got to be in here somewhere. I know for sure that I brought it with me. I don’t leave the house without my phone. After what seemed like forever. I finally find it underneath the passenger seat. I don’t really know who I need to call, but I know I need someone’s help. I call Carrie. No answer. I call Mark. No answer. Then, I am faced with the harsh reality, I need to call my mom. I slowly dial her number. It rings once and clicks, the call went through. “Maggie!?” My mom shouts first thing answering the phone. I pull the phone away from my ear. Why can’t she just speak without yelling all the time? “Mom, relax. I’m sorry I’m coming home, but I think my car died or something. I need you to meet me on…” She cuts me off. “Oh thank God you’re okay-” Her voice starts to get a little fuzzy. “Mom, what? Of course, I’m fine my car just-” She cuts me off again. “Mark called me crying hysterically and told-” Click, the call dies. I sit there frustrated. Why would Mark call my mom crying? Is he actually that worked up about the jump?

I sit there in silence. What am I supposed to do now? The car won’t turn on and clearly, my phone doesn’t work. The sounds of the woods at night start to grow louder and louder. Much louder than I was walking with Mark. I sit there paying close attention to all the noises surrounding me. It’s so quiet, yet so loud. It’s almost like I can hear everything around me crystal clear. Every little bug, animal, and…footsteps? My car miraculously turns back on. Um, I didn’t do that. I look up from the steering wheel and…there it is again. This time, it’s so close I can make out almost everything. It’s a girl, young, probably around my age, and she’s absolutely soaking wet. She is injured, it looks like she hurt her neck. She holds it while sobbing. I get out of my car. I feel like I really need to help her. I noticed something immediately, her t-shirt. It looks just like the one I’m wearing. I walk up to her and an overwhelming sense of terror falls over me. A tear streams down my warm cheek. I look myself in the eyes as I hear the ambulances starting to come down Henryton.