Listen

Having a Laugh

 

by Patrick O’Connor

HE was falling. Not flying, falling. No wings, just outstretched arms desperately seeking something to hold on to.

Below him was a big black hole. He was falling towards it and he was screaming. Screaming so loud that he thought his lungs would burst. But the fall went on and on and there didn’t seem to be an end to it.

 

Rory woke with a jolt, covered in sweat and shaking like a leaf.

He got up and went to work – a mindless exercise in an anonymous call centre. But he couldn’t concentrate. On two occasions, his supervisor came over to ask if he was feeling poorly.  It was bad enough having to deal with the bland voices of the stupid people who called in but he had the other voice to contend with as well.

Rory knew what it was but hard as he tried, he couldn’t get it out of his head. Eventually he threw off his headphones and ran out of the building, gasping at the fresh air, taking big gulps to calm himself down.

Things were getting worse, he knew, and it had only been a couple of days. He thought about telling someone but who? Gaz and Tony had been there with him when it happened but were they having the same experiences?

They hadn’t mentioned anything in the pub last night and they would probably think him mad if he told them.

At the time they were just having a laugh, no harm in it. What happened wasn’t their fault. It was just a giggle that’s all. They never thought it would turn out the way it did.

He couldn’t go to his mum and dad, he couldn’t tell them what had happened. No way. They would be ashamed of him, he was certain of that. They’d say they didn’t bring him up to behave in that way.

They lads went clubbing that night, had plenty of beers as usual and chatted up a few women but his heart wasn’t in it. His thoughts were focussed on the voice, saying the same thing, over and over and over. Why wouldn’t it stop?

“Rory, are you all right mate?” asked Tony. He nodded but swiftly resumed the vacant look into space that had characterised his behaviour over the last couple of days. Even the incessant beat of the music in the club couldn’t spare him that damned voice.

Gaz bought another round and Rory swiftly consumed his pint. He noticed that his hands were shaking and after downing his beer in record time, raced back to the bar to get another one.

Soon it would be time to go home and sleep would be upon him. Sleep and that dream, that nightmare, falling, falling, falling. He couldn’t face that, he just couldn’t.

As the three of them staggered out of the club into the chill of a frosty, early January morning, Rory knew what he had to do.


ON another occasion Rory may have found the view over the city skyline breathtaking but not now. Now he was barely aware of it.

The multi-storey car park was virtually deserted  and no-one had noticed him make his way up to the very top.  He wondered where the lad had jumped from.

Gaz, Tony and him had enjoyed a boozy session in the Anchor that lunchtime. Was it only two days ago? They were noisy and exuberant but that was normal behaviour for lads wasn’t it. Not doing any harm, just having a laugh. You’re only young once and you have to make the most of it, that was his motto.

When they eventually left the pub, they saw a small crowd gathered below the car park. Their eyes joined the throng in gazing upwards where a young man was teetering on the edge of the top tier.

Someone was dialling 999 for the emergency services but for reasons he couldn’t explain now, Rory found the whole situation highly amusing.

“Go on then, jump you prat, get it over and done with, give us all a laugh,” he yelled, his speech slurred by five pints of Marston’s Pedigree, fortified only by a packet of cheese and onion crisps. Gaz and Tony started giggling and Rory reached for the camera button on his mobile phone.

“No, hold on mate, just let me get my camera sorted. Want to get you in mid-flight!”

More giggles from his mates but then someone in the crowd whispered: “Shut up, that’s disgusting”.

It really got Rory’s back up when people told him what to do, that’s why he hated school so much. Didn’t last too long at college either and his supervisor at work was already starting to get on his wick. Always someone who thinks he knows better.

No-one was telling him what to do today!

The sound of sirens could be heard emerging from the background but that didn’t stop him bellowing out: “Hey Superman, come on let’s see you fly!”

Rory’s pals roared in appreciation and then the youth jumped. There was a plopping sound as his body smashed onto the pavement only a few feet away and Rory’s face was splattered with blood.

The three of them paused momentarily, their expressions frozen with horror. And then they ran.


THE voice was getting louder now, more urgent. Rory could feel the wind whipping around his ears, his eyes watering.

He started to sob uncontrollably, his shoulders shaking. The voice was urging him on, telling him what to do, he had no choice, he knew that. As he stepped out into the void he felt an overwhelming surge of relief.

© Patrick O’Connor 2009