It's nighttime. Time to go.
I wait until I can no longer hear Mother moving about. When her bedroom door shuts with a click, I rise up out of bed like some phantom out of horror movies. I open the window noiselessly and slip out, shutting it behind me as I go. My thick, loose side braid falls over my shoulder, and for a startled moment I think it is some animal dropped from the tree above me. Then I realize it is just my messy brown mop of hair.
My bicycle rests against the side of the house, waiting. I climb on and stretch my limbs before pushing myself along the ground toward the gate. As I gain speed, I begin to pedal, savoring the rush of cool night air past my face. It is October, and a mild chill pervades the atmosphere. I can think of no better time to be out at night.
My hands steer the familiar path down the street. I crest the top of a small rise in the road and take my legs off the pedal, soaring down the incline. A small laugh bubbles up inside me that dies when I remember where I am going.
Soon I am out of the residential area, heading for the woods and the mountainside. I close my eyes for a while, letting my practiced hands do the directing without having to rely on my eyesight. My glasses fall to the ground, but I do not stop to pick them up. My legs get cold through my flimsy pajama pants. I am exhilarated. I am invincible. I can feel myself giving up to the high of the night.
I yawn, and the cold air sears the back of my throat. Finally, I see it—the cliffside. The site the religious fanatics in town call 'Sinners' Point'. I wonder morbidly how many other bodies lie at the bottom in those dense forests, besides the one I never want to see. I do not slow down, and for a couple of moments I fantasize about sailing over the cliff and straight on to the moon I see rising above the other peaks.
Then I see him.
There is a man there. He is a blurry silhouette near the trees, a lone shadow creeping across the ground. He is looking up toward the moon, and the shock of his presence causes me to slam my foot against the ground, trying desperately to stop.
Pain sears up my leg, but I do not make a sound. Thankfully, I am just far enough away that the sound of the spinning bike tires will not reach him. I climb off my bike and immediately sit down, unable to walk. My ankle is bent at a crazy angle and I want to scream, but I do not dare. I want my glasses desperately so I can see him better.
The silhouette stands as it is for a long time. I begin to wonder if it's a statue, and I start to rise cautiously when I see it move. He walks to the edge of the cliff, and suddenly I know with a dreadful certainty what will happen. I also know I want to stop it. It makes no sense. I hate myself for this impulse, for being too weak to stop myself, for being a hypocrite, and for a thousand other reasons.
He pauses at the very edge of the cliff, looking down, and suddenly I know how he feels. He is scared. He is overwhelmed with self-hatred and he wants to cry, but he is past tears. He wants to die with honor, not like a coward—but he wants to die. He sees the branches sticking out of the cliff, down, down, down, until the rocky face is swallowed by the dense foliage at the bottom. No one has explored those forests in many years except the spirits of the dead. He worries that even with such a long fall, he will not die. He worries that perhaps this is the wrong decision. Perhaps life will give him another chance.
Slumped on the ground behind him, I can see these thoughts flick through his mind with frightening clarity. They frighten me until I am shaking, both with the fear and the cold. I try to quieten my thoughts and decide how to proceed.
There is no need. The man leans back from the cliff edge, and for a heartbeat, I see him, his outline clear against the rising moon. His right foot catches on a rock, and the silhouette disappears as he pitches headlong over the cliff.
I gasp, a choked sound mixed with shock and tears. For a moment, I forget the pain in my ankle. My heart weeps for the stranger who believed that life would give him another chance, in vain.
This is the way the world ends/Not with a bang but a whimper, I think. A horror of the cliff suddenly grips me and I try to crawl back with my hands, wincing in pain as my ankle protests. It's swelling, turning blue.
I take one last look at the cliff, and I know I will never come back. That the long nights spent here debating my life, and the nights spent leaning over the edge looking for my father's body, are over. I do not want to know what he was thinking anymore. I do not want to know if he went out with a bang or a whimper. I do not want to see Sinners' Point ever again.
With shaking fingers, I take out my cell phone and unlock it, the blue light eerie in the night. I dial and hold the phone to my ear. "H-Hello, Mother? Mother, I'm at Sinners' Point—y-yes, yes, I'm okay, I think I've broken my ankle though, c-c-can you come get me?" The tears finally escape. "I'm so sorry, Mother…"