A/N:This project practically came out of nowhere, but it managed to enchanted me enough the past few days that I decided to foster it a bit and see where it goes. There's no defined plot yet, so it's just an experiment for now. I love the dynamic between Will, the alleged protagonist, and Henri, the other alleged protagonist, though, so I'm probably going to keep it around.
This story contains Scottish boys' boarding schools, young kids with disabilities, failed suicide, probably a bit of horror later on, and mild slash that is almost strictly platonic. Almost.
One last little thing: The Dead Letter refers to the main story between Will and Henri, which takes place at Cartwright School for Boys. A Boy Adrift is Henri's backstory, in first person and significantly shorter. They go together, but are independent of each other.
The Dead Letter and A Boy Adrift, Preface
The most blissful way you can die is by falling to your death.
I suppose, to anyone with two feet still safely planted on the ground, this probably seems a bit counter-intuitive. You actually have to be in the midst of the fall before you can understand how knowing you're eventually going to smash into the ground and shatter like a dropped wineglass could provide any modicum of comfort. After all, it is only once the floor has been whisked out from underneath you and you are too late to catch your balance again that you could ever understand how liberating hopelessness can be when your life is on the line.
The free fall, the sensation of weightlessness - it's a feeling which no phenomenon on earth can replicate, a thrilling sensation which can only be attained if you relinquish all thought that you are still in control of your own fate. Limited as I am in my knowledge of this borrowed language, it's scarcely nothing I can describe, largely because the only way to experience it usually ends in death. But in those moments, you are subject completely to the whims of gravity. Whatever way you turn or struggle, you are powerless to halt your descent, and the ground, giddy to have caught you off guard, rises up to embrace you with startling avarice. Your body relinquishes all responsibility, all concern for the weights that kept you mired in the ruts when you stood on solid ground, and, begrudgingly, your mind has to follow.
That is real freedom of the mind. Of course, all the usual regrets and lamentations come to you in those several seconds before impact, as they would in any common before-death panic. But things get dire, and suddenly your mind gives up on all rationality.
That's when you can really know fantasy: the ridiculous idea that a gust of wind will catch under your open arms as if they are wings and carry you over the parapets of comfort. That you are thin and intangible as a cloud of dust, and the wind can take you through to a powder kingdom of bliss far removed from the responsibilities of the world below.
The sensation is almost merciful, like God's way of apologising for the tragedy of errors that led you to your doom by showing you the best, most coveted, most secretive emotion he gifted mankind. They're the last seconds of bliss you will get before you are jolted into a painful end, for sure.
I nurtured a mantra of consolation in my last moments, and for once I actually wholeheartedly believed every ridiculous claim I made. Every waking moment of my life had been about consolation for me, every time I had shed a childish tear for the idea that the next days would not bring so much pain. Even this, my death, had been contrived as a consolation, a way to allay the fear of insignificance that haunted me by removing myself from the question altogether. Not was no exception: surely my weak structure would not be able to withstand such a fall. Surely every bone in my body would crack and shatter, be mashed into dust, crumble like old plaster. Surely the shock wave would send me spiralling instantly into the darkness. I can't deny it, I was proud of myself. I couldn't have chosen a better end for myself if I had consciously tried to.
But I was foolish to assume that things would be so easy. Things had never been that easy - that was what had led me to this very situation in the first place. I was one of the lucky ones, I suppose - as comedic as it seems to associate a degree of "luck" to these kinds of victims - the doomed ones - and as torturous as it was to be a "lucky" one in this case. Shock spared my mind from recognising most of my fall. I felt the force of impact on my body as I smashed into the ground, for sure, but my nerves gobbled it up and released it as waves of shudders along the length of my body, shaking my bones from their sockets. They'd always said I was a fragile child, shorter and smaller than the other children my age, certainly significantly less energetic. My mother could still hold me comfortably to her hip, or cradle me to her shoulder.
Rossignol, she sang. Mon petit rossignol. Were she only to see her little nightingale in flight now.
I remained acutely conscious in the moments after finally hitting the ground. It's a bizarre feeling, realising you have just fallen four stories and are due to die any moment. My neck remained remarkably intact, though I was certain my spine had not been so lucky. Certainly I could feel pain - and surely there was plenty of pain to feel, given the rigidity of the cement walk beneath my boneless corpse - but it wasn't the same kind of pain you would feel if fell rolled out of bed, or fell from your bike. It was a disjointed, spasmodic pain, almost... sparkling, in the way it crawled across my skin. Bubbly. Lights dazzled me as they danced before my eyes, and the last thing I saw - a line of old forest, dark and mysterious - was blotted out by cover of darkness brimming over with the light of the afternoon summer sun. No amount of blinking could dislodge it from my sight. My mind was a hopelessly indistinguishable jumble, fluctuating between a surge of incoherent thought and a complete emptiness originating from the tingling lower half of my body - or what was before the lower half of my body. What was now simply empty space.
That, of all, was the worst part - that sudden panic of feeling nothing where before there had been weight. I will admit, I wasted the last moments of my waking life tempering the roots of blasphemy: it was a cruel God who would keep me even partially aware in this transitional period of pain and regret, between the shock of the fall and death. I would be lying if I were to claim myself a devout believer, but the haze of post-impact paralysis could provide no other justification for why I should be subjected to this torture. It was empty pain, coming from nowhere yet at the same time everywhere, like poison of the blood. This was not the nothingness of falling: this was harsh and savage, and I simply wanted to let go. Yet this was the punishment of God, knowing the great sin I had committed.
The regret served to magnify the anguish tenfold. I began to doubt myself, the one thing I had told myself not to do when I stepped from that window ledge: I should not have done it. I should have told them the truth. I should have borne it with a smile and hidden myself behind my mother's skirts. And now it was too late; there were no second chances to opt for; I could not fall up into the past and reassemble myself on that ledge only moments ago - had so little an amount of time have really passed? My fall had felt like its own eternity.
My body retaliated. Despair gripped me, panic set my heart into a frenzy, and fear crushed and compressed my lungs to specks - or perhaps that was them deflating where my ribs had punctured them. Either way, my breathing became thin and devolved to pathetic gasps, too far apart to hold me in life until someone discovered me, I knew. Pain flared in my temples from a lack of breath - it was almost funny how insignificant it seemed in lieu of the more obvious, much more pressing issue of the total destruction of my lower body.
How I wished to have been one of the unlucky ones! What I would have given to have traded fates with the virtuous innocent whose falls are mistakes, those who deserve to keep living as the rest of us useless souls deserve swift, summary death. How eagerly I would have traded paralysis and the slimmest chance of survival for a snapped neck and quick outage. I felt betrayed: this was supposed to be my death. I had come these lengths to put an end to the frustrations and the cocoon of falsities around me, not wallow in self-pity and regret and choke to death.
I may have heard my mother scream, or perhaps my crazed mind simply conjured her voice in a desperate, final defence attempt to keep me aware. Eventually the air in my lungs ran dry, and, unable to force myself to gasp for more, I faded, finally, into emptiness.
Cruel is the world in which we have no control over our deaths.