“Are you sure you’re ready Robert? You’ve got two more years until you turn eighteen. You don’t have to do this now.” My father tells me. They’ve prepared the ceremony. The golden bracelet has been placed on a pedestal, and all of my blood relatives are kneeling around it. There are candles lit in the dark inner room, and everything is quite except for me and my father.
“Yes, the thing is calling to me. I know somewhere out there is a person in great pain, and it is my duty to relieve them of this burden.” I tell my father. He nods.
“It has been known to happen from time to time. Your mother was similarly called. I wish we had more time to complete your training, but the bracelet has yet to steer us wrong.” He lays his hands on my hand and murmurs a blessing.
“Go now son, you will be on our hearts and minds until you return.”
“Thank you father.” I say, and approach the pedestal. My brothers and sisters track me with their eyes as I approach, silently anticipating my next action. My extensive preparation for this event is evident in my outfit. I have a rope slung across my chest like a bandoleer, a survival jacket that can double as a tent, a fire starter, two days of rations, several knives, and all weather clothing. I am prepared for anything.
I stretch out my hand over the bracelet and pause, looking to my mother for the final words of the ceremony.
“Come back with your shield or on it.” She tells me.
“Yes mother.” I respond, and grasp the bracelet.
The light of the sun at noon is almost blinding after the dark room I’ve just come from and I have to shut my eyes. I feel something hard and artificial beneath my feet, probably concrete, maybe asphalt. There’s a strong breeze. I’m glad for my survival jacket. I hear nothing nearby, but there is the distant sound of traffic.
I feel my eyes have adjusted, and I open them just a crack to take in my surroundings. I know the first person I see is the one I must help.
I am on the top of a tall building, at least ten stories up from what little I can see. I’m the middle of a city, and on the edge of the building is a man, standing on his tip toes, and looking down in a very fatalistic manner.
I don’t have time to let my eyes finish adjusting. I act on instinct and run towards the man. Should I yell something? Would that frighten him? I don’t have time to think on it further, I can see him start to lean forward through the thin slit of my vision, and I lunge just in time to wrap one arm around his chest, and fall backwards, pulling him back onto the rooftop. We crash onto the concrete rooftop together.
“Stop it!” He yells, and tries to scramble up. I wrap my legs around him and grab onto his back so he can’t get up.
“Let me go!” He shouts again. He’s not giving up. He’s determined. I do the only thing I’ve been taught to do to suppress someone acting out of control, I put him in a chokehold. He gargles out several words that I can’t understand, and then he goes limp.
I count to two and the release the chokehold. He tales a few seconds, but then he comes around.
“Ow.” Is the first thing he says. Waking up from a chokehold hurts.
“Where am I?” Is the second. He’s dazed and confused.
“You’re alive brother. We will figure out the rest later.”
“I have no idea friend, you’ll really have to tell me later. Here, let’s go find someplace we can talk.” I suggest. He nods, observing his surroundings in a way befitting a man who’s just woken up from a nap. We find a stairwell and make our way down 12 stories to the street.
He’s understandably silent as he first wakes up, and then realizes what has transpired. I can tell he has realized what happened when he reaches the street and stops abruptly, staring at the spot on the roof he had occupied a minute ago.
I gently steer him towards a nearby park where we find a bench. It’s hard to find something to say. This was not what I had anticipated. My family told stories of leading groups of plane crash survivors through rain forests to safety, chopping snakes with machetes by night, and hunting for food during the day. Playing therapist was not something I had anticipated, or felt remotely qualified to do.
“So, how are you feeling?” I ask.
“Shocked I guess.” The jumper says. “The moment’s passed but I’m realizing what happened, or what almost happened.”
“Does that mean you’re feeling more….” I couldn’t find a gentle way to say more likely to stay alive.
“Not really.” He says. “I don’t have energy to try again, but I don’t really feel that different from before.” I had my work cut out for me. Well, the bracelet did take you to whoever needed you most, so it wasn’t like I was going to be handed something easy. I still couldn’t think of anything to say, so I went practical.
“Have you figured out where we are yet? I’m not from around here.” I tell him. He nods.
“Yeah, I figured it out once we hit the street.” That was something, at least we weren’t lost. I almost wish we were though. A little survival instinct could spice things up. Not that being lost in a city where there was food, water, and shelter on every corner ever gave you much of a survival instinct buzz, but at least it would be something.
Should I take him home? No, there was a good chance his home life was part of the problem. It was hard to tell with the bags under his eyes, and his depressed demeanor, but he looked to be about my age.
It had been too long since I had said something, but I still couldn’t figure out what to say.
“Let’s go for a walk.” I suggested, and stood up to lead by example. It wasn’t much, but walks usually made me feel better, maybe they would help him. He stands up to follow me wordlessly. I pick a random direction and start walking.
“You know this isn’t a good part of town.” He tells me. “It’s why I came here, figured people here would be used to dealing with the aftermath of well, you know.” He was giving some thought to his fellow man. That was something.
It was very frustrating being unable to find a way out of this situation. If I had to keep warm with just my body heat in the arctic, or swim twenty miles through shark infested waters I would have felt more comfortable. If the bracelet didn’t have an impeccable record for millennia I would’ve thought it was broken. How was a survivalist and a martial artist supposed to help a depressed man. The jumper certainly wasn’t volunteering any information.
There’s a loud crashing sound from an alley we’re walking by, and I drop to a crouch while drawing a knife. Halfway through the action I realize how silly it is to be drawing a knife in the middle of a city in broad daylight. What possible danger could there be?
It was good that I did, down the alley we can see three large men kicking a smaller man who’s in the fetal position with both hands over his head. The downed man is visibly bleeding, and the three large men aren’t stopping.
Having already drawn my weapon, my combat brain has kicked in, and I take in the situation. Two men on the far side of the downed intruder, one on the near side, confined alley, ample potential for improvised weapons among the trash that litters the place, and I have one man for support.
“We’ll rush them together. You take the guy closest to us. Kick him in the knees to drop him, and then punch him in the throat to down him. If that doesn’t down him, punch him in the chest directly below his sternum.” I tap my chest to indicate the point I’m referencing. “Go.” I order, and start running, hoping he follows.
My hopes are not met. There are no footsteps behind me. Well, at least he isn’t running away. After I deal with this situation I’ll take him out for a nice lunch or something.
I reach the three men and give a loud shout as I jump over the downed man while drawing a second knife. The shout is meant to make them look up, and to shock them into freezing for a half second. It accomplishes both these things, and as they look up, I strike two of them on the head with the pommels of my knives. The two men back paddle, clutching now bleeding foreheads. That’s bought me a few moments, now to see if I could completely take out the third man while the first two were recovering.
I start to turn, but not before I feel someone grab on my jacket and give it a yank. I’ve been too slow. The tug sets me off balance, and I trip over the downed man, hitting the pavement next to him.
I see the third thug standing over me. He raises his boot to drop on my face, but before he can finish the blow, he falls to his knees, and I see the jumper hit him in the throat. He decided to join after all!
The thug clutches at his throat while I roll to my feet, but he’s not downed, just momentarily stunned.
“Him in the chest.” I call over my shoulder, and make for the two thugs who I had struck on the head.
Both are still reeling, and a few quick strikes later, both are downed. I see, much to my satisfaction, that the third thug is also incapacitated for the moment. We check the downed man, and as he has no severe injuries we use his cell phone to call 911, before heading on our way. We don’t stay around to talk. Talking to police would get messy because I’m reasonably sure our handling of the situation was not entirely legal.
“That was incredible!” The jumper says. “I feel so alive!” It seemed I had found the solution to his depression.