John Norton was enjoying this vacation more than any other he’d ever taken his family on. He’d already taken a hundred photos on the ride up the steep road that led to Machu Picchu. Marilyn and the children were on a narrow strip of grass with a breathtaking view of the main site and he wanted a picture of them together, so they posed as he backed up for the right shot.
“Be careful,” Marilyn warned.
“No problem. This isn’t nearly as dangerous as the Grand Canyon,” he replied as he got started taking photos, capturing their expressions.
“A dozen people fall into the Grand Canyon every year,” she responded with concern.
He took a small step backward and felt the cord that was strung around the site a foot above the ground against his left calf. Not wanting to lose the shot, he squatted and took a couple more images, but he lost his balance and had to throw his left foot further back until it caught on the rope and, without thinking, he deftly threw his right foot back to catch himself. Too late, he realized what he’d done.
John felt his body fall backward but, unworried, he continued taking photos. He would fall on the ground and look foolish. He’d done that before.
That’s not what happened.
There was no ground.
Time came to a stop for John as he saw Marilyn and the children recede from view, but he kept taking pictures. However, he would have to throw those out because all their faces were twisted in fear.
He had thirteen seconds to make his peace with God and whatever else he considered important because he was falling 1400 feet with nothing to stop him.
“What have I done?” was his first thought.
“You are a moron,” was his second.
His mind had thoughts of its own, like flapping his arms and legs like a fish out of water. He got control of his innate urges after five seconds and stopped trying to fly. He became calm and focused on the surreal sensation of freefall. He closed his eyes and watched his life flash before him.
He was in first grade, sitting on a bench next to a cute girl who wanted to share his bologna sandwich, so they ate together. He had part of her peanut butter sandwich and they became good friends. He thought he’d forgotten her name; it was Pamela. They had become more than best friends by the time they got to third grade, where they played doctor. He smiled at the memory of examining her anatomy closely and letting her examine his. By the time they entered puberty together, they were ready to do more than play.
“Yes,” he thought. “I learned about sex from Pamela and we did it a lot.” Those were fond and long-forgotten memories.
Then, memories of all the girls he’d known after Pamela flooded into his super-attenuated consciousness. He had never thought of himself as a womanizer, but it was plain to him now that he had been and still was. His mind was flooded with all the women he’d had sex with, telling them that he loved them, each and every one. And he had, or so he’d thought at the time. But now he knew he had just wanted to be a stud, someone who dominated every woman he met, and it had been fun. With his eyes closed tightly, he imagined their ample breasts in his hands and their bodies writhing in pleasure under his sexual assault.
That word brought another set of images, ones he would have preferred not to recall during his last moments. Still, he couldn’t help spending a few seconds recalling the women he’d forced himself on; he even remembered their names alphabetically: Adrienne, Cynthia, Elizabeth, Francine, Marilyn (yes, he had married a woman he had assaulted), Nona, Pamela (he had forced himself on her in high school), Tricia, Vanessa, and Zahra. He smiled at remembering raping Nona in his own house after a party. She had fought him at first but, as he’d suspected, she wanted it as badly as he and was moaning by the time he finished. None of them had accused him of rape, so they obviously had all wanted him as much he’d wanted them; they just needed encouragement.
After eight seconds, John’s thoughts got around to Marilyn. He had forced himself on her and she had turned out to be the woman who thought she could control him, and she’d tried; she’d let him assault her continuously until the previous night, when he’d taken her with as much prejudice as the first time they’d met. Another smile crept over his face as he recalled how many women he’d had since marrying Pamela. He’d always assumed that someone like her, a buxom blonde with a healthy libido, was having as much extramarital sex as himself. However, now, with death looming only seconds away, he admitted to himself that she had never cheated on him. He was the cheater. That had been a narrative he’d used to avoid controlling his wanton ways.
With time slipping out of his hands, he thought of the men he’d known. That didn’t take long because he had no friends, only acquaintances. He didn’t like men because he wasn’t gay; why spend social time with people you couldn’t have sex with?
John’s casual review of his life finally centered on his family. He didn’t love his wife, his children, his parents or his siblings. In fact, they were all a nuisance that got in the way of his real interest. He suddenly realized that recalling memories of his past life had aroused him as the end neared. His last seconds were spent in sexual bliss as he had the best orgasm of his life.
Fourteen-hundred feet above, Marilyn stared at the spot where, thirteen seconds before, John had been standing and took her children’s hands and pulled them close.
Then, a smile slowly crept over her face, before it spread into a grin.