Gary's Mistake
A Short Story By Andrew Pritchard

"What're you? Some kind of pussy? Just jump for chrissakes." Gary said. "Shut up man, if you're so tough why don't you go first? Why am I always the one pressured to do to shit first?" Alex said, the fear of the drop made him quiver. "The water's so warm how are you shivering, dude?" Mike said. "I guess the air cooled it off." Alex said, trying to act like he didn't just shudder at the prospect of jumping off the forty-five foot cliff into the pristine, clear, blue water below. "Oh you wiener, you are scared. Shit, I'll go first." Mike said as a smile curled the corner of his lips and he ran forward, leaping into the air.
It looked as if Mike was suspended in the air for a split second, and he actually could see his own reflection before plunging into the lukewarm quarry. The water felt like a thin ice that was broken when he entered the water. His feet were tingling with pain, which subsided in a matter of seconds. "YEEEAAAAAAH!" Mike screamed after he bobbed his head out the water and gasped for air. "How was it?" Gary asked. "Better than sex man, shit I love the kicks you get out of that, its so exhilarating!" Mike replied, his face was so joyful that it reminded Alex of a fat child getting the biggest piece of cake. "Alright, on the count of three we're gonna take the plunge, cool chief?" Gary asked Alex. "Yeah," Alex said, still thinking this was a bad idea, but eventually realizing he'd be ridiculed otherwise. "Three," Gary said, sprinting towards the cliffs edge.
Alex was frozen still. He saw Gary sprint forward and suddenly disappear, as if the cliff had somehow swallowed him. He began taking short choppy steps to the edge, and then sped up and when he jumped, he made his body stiff and rigid, so that he would cut through the water much more easily.
Mike was absolutely right, the drop was exhilarating. It seemed at first real slow, like Alex was gliding over the water, then it immediately shifted to a rapid acceleration and build up of speed right before he hit the water. The water immediately slowed Alex down, causing him to feel sick to his stomach.
When Alex surfaced, Mike and Gary were sitting at the peak of a tall pile of rusty, old machinery where the water was more shallow and closer to the shore. "Like it?" Mike said, the same stupid grin lighting his face like a jack-o- lantern. Alex simply laughed and began climbing the pile to sit up top next to them.

"You guys wanna grab the rods and try and catch some pike or something?" Alex asked. "Yeah sure," Mike and Gary both replied. "Let's get our lunches too. I'm starving." Alex said, feeling his stomach rumble.
The boys got their lunches, and sat on a smaller cliff, perhaps 10 feet above the water and cast out. As Mike was almost finished his bag of Doritos, he felt a tug on his line. "Nice 10 pound bass getting reeled in here boys." He said as he put his Doritos down beside him and started reeling the fish in.
Alex and Gary began laughing hysterically when Mike pulled a rubber boot out of the water. "Oh, here's something boys, no rubber boot either." said Gary as he began reeling something in. He quickly jerked his line out of the water and a small sunfish was on the end of his line. "There's nothing in this goddamned lake, I keep seeing these little bastards over here, but there not even interested in some easy food man." Alex said as he reeled his line in, and put his rod back in its case. "Alright, let's go for another dip, boys." Mike said, looking quite eager to go back in the water on such a humid day. "Let's go off the cliff again, that was awesome." Gary said as he was putting his fishing rod away.
Alex still didn't feel like jumping, even though he already had. He didn't bother telling the other guys though, just so that he didn't look like a coward or get made fun of. He didn't hate getting made fun of by Mike, because he could tell Mike was just kidding with him. Gary was the one that meant everything he said, and Alex hated it when Gary made fun of him.
When the boys had made their way along the path and through the trees on top of the cliff, and could finally see the rocky ledge and the water below, they started arguing about who was going to go first again. "Alex, you go first, or are you still pussy?" Gary said. "I don't really wanna go, why don't you go first then, Mike went first last time." Alex said, the familiar tone of fear and uncertainty returning to his voice. "I still went ahead of you, you are a pussy." Gary said.
Just as Alex was about to face his fear and jump off the cliff ahead of the other guys, he felt a push from behind him. He looked back, and saw Gary's face contorted by a sick grin. Alex tripped over a root at the edge of the cliff, and smashed his head on the rocky ledge before his limp, unconscious body fell forty-five feet into the water below. "You fucking asshole!" Mike screamed at Gary. He ran at Gary and struck him twice in the face, breaking his nose. Gary fell to the ground and quickly stood back up, ready to hit Mike back if he came at him again. "Shit man, oh shit, oh shit, is he alright?" Gary said holding back tears and trying to not throw up. His broken nose was gushing blood, but he paid no attention to it, he was too concerned with what happened to Alex. "How the hell should I know? You idiot, your always pushing him to do things.literally. And where the hell has it gotten him? If he's dead I'm telling the cops what really happened man, that's manslaughter, could even be considered murder." Mike said, his anger seeming to subside a little until he exploded, "MURDER!" and hit Gary again.
By now Gary couldn't even feel Mike's blows, if Mike had stabbed him or shot him he doubted he would feel that either. He slowly tried to stand up again, but collapsed and vomited. "I'm going in after him," said Mike. "No. I'm going in after him, it's my fault. It's my goddamned fault."
Gary rose and sauntered over to the edge of the cliff and jumped into the water. After looking under the water for Alex for roughly fifty seconds, Gary surfaced, and noticed Mike was also in the water now. "Oh God, oh my God, oh my God" was all Mike could say.
Gary thought Mike was simply scared that they might never find Alex and have to tell his parents what had happened. As he was about to dive back under to look for Alex some more, Gary spat out some of the water he had almost swallowed and noticed it was dark red. He felt inside his mouth, and couldn't feel any open wounds, so he spat again. Clear saliva shot out of Gary's mouth this time. Then he saw the water, its clear, blue pristine beauty had been stolen and replaced by this new coppery colour.
For the second time that day, Gary vomited. Alex's body was floating about 75 metres away, the reason the water was this new coppery colour was because of the blood flowing into the water from an eight inch gash on his forehead, above his right eye.
Mike was the one that swam over to get him. And after Gary had finished vomiting, he too swam over and they both dragged Alex out of the water onto dry land.
Mike told Gary to stay with Alex, until he had gone and brought Alex's clothes and got Gary's cell phone to call an ambulance.
While Gary waited all he could think about was what would happen if Alex died. He would have no chance of going away to school, his parents, friends and family would hate him. Mike already did. He might even face jail time for murder, as Mike had suggested. Oh Christ, Gary thought, his life would be a complete and utter mess, all his hopes and dreams crushed and burnt out like a cigarette under the heel of this one mistake.
Gary slowly started to sob. Alex awoke, and when he glanced at Gary he screamed, "HELP, SOMEBODY HELP, THE CRAZY BASTARD IS TRYING TO KILL ME! HELP! PLEASE!" and then he passed out again, from the intense pain that was pulsating through his head.
Gary began ripping his bathing suit into long pieces. He wrapped these pieces around Alex's head and tied them as tight as he could, so that at least some of the bleeding would stop. If Alex died of blood loss now, Gary swore to God he'd kill himself.
"What the hell was he yelling about?" Mike yelled at Gary as he came running back with Alex's backpack and the cell phone. "I don't know, he woke up for a few seconds, screamed and passed out again. I tied that bandage around his head; hopefully it'll help the bleeding." Gary said, his eyes red and puffy, tears rolling down his cheek and falling onto the grass. "I don't know, I just don't know man. All we can do now is get him out to the road, I told the ambulance that we were at the quarry out on the highway. They said give 'em ten minutes. You better hope to God he lives, because if he doesn't, I swear on his life I'll kill you. What the hell were you thinking?" Mike said, now in full rage again. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry man," Gary said as he began to cry again. "I swear I just meant for him to jump off the cliff. I didn't want this to happen. I didn't even think of this happening in my wildest dreams man. Oh God, I'm so sorry."
Mike and Gary put Alex's zip-up sweater on him so he wasn't as cold, and then hoisted him off the ground and walked through the paths in the forests towards the ambulance.
When they got to the highway, the ambulance was already pulled over at the side of the road. The paramedics put Alex on a gurney and slid him in the back of the ambulance with another paramedic.
When the paramedics asked if either of the boys wanted to ride with them, Gary was the first to say, "I will." "I'll meet you there," Mike said.
On the way to the hospital, the paramedic questioned Gary on what had happened and said that Alex might go into a coma. "No he won't," Gary said.
Alex's vital signs began to drop. The blip blip blip that was once his heart rate was now just a monotonous beeeeeep. As the paramedic began compressions, Gary reached out and grabbed a firm hold on Alex's hand.
He leaned closer to Alex and whispered, "Don't you fucking die on me man," As he began to cry again, his tears dripping from his face and falling upon Alex's hands.
Alex's heart rate returned to normal. Gary's grasped Alex's hands even firmer than before as the ambulance pulled up to the hospital's emergency drop off.