I lean over the edge and my view is consumed with a hundred foot plummet to death. The shoreline is made up of broken rocks and large boulders, with pieces of wood scattered throughout. The ocean creates waves that crash against the cliff, only to be dragged out and hurtled back. It never ends, allowing the sound of the sea to wash over me.
A shiver flies down my spine as the thought of falling fills my head. I have been here so many times, but I am only scared this time. It’s funny how something doesn’t terrify you until it’s your turn to face it.
I quickly take a step back from the edge and look up to the sky above, hoping the thoughts and the fear will disperse before the test. The sun hasn’t risen but I know it will come soon enough. The ocean shimmers from the moving sun as the darkness of the night sky starts to turn a bright orange. The stars still try to shimmer through the brightness that creeps into the sky.
It won’t be long now before the test begins.
I turn around to see my family waiting along with me. They have come from all over to congratulate me on my day, and some of them I haven’t seen for years. They have separated themselves throughout the backfield of Nana and Grandad's house as if we do not share the same blood. It is sad to see that not everyone feels welcome here.
At the far edges of the field lies the forest that separates our house from that of our neighbours, and that’s where I see my cousins from Egypt: Monica and Nadia. They lean against the trees to keep themselves upright. They watch us from afar as they eat their morning snack to protect the rest of us from contracting the bird flu. But when it comes time for my test they will come over and watch. Although they are sick, they will want to give me as much encouragement as we have given to everyone else.
On the outskirts of the stone walkway stands my aunt and uncle from Australia: Ava and Oliver. They seem to look as ill as Monica and Nadia, yet they have not gotten the flu. I walk over to them and notice a bandage on Oliver’s arm. He holds his arm very carefully.
“Oliver, are you okay?” I ask
“Yeah, we just had a bad flight here,” Oliver answers.
“Oh no, did you hit anything?” I say.
“There was a flock of seagulls,” Ava says, which surprises me. She is normally a shy person, and for her to even speak to me is shocking.
“That must have hurt–” I start to say before my arm feels like it’s yanked from its socket.
I look down and see my cousin from my dad’s side, Alexis. She is only a toddler, but we can all tell that she is going to be a great fighter one day. I pick her up and place her on my hip.
“Well, what are you doing walking around? Aren’t you supposed to be staying with your dad?” I ask.
“Daddy’s talking with Uncle Mike,” Alexis answers, pointing over to them.
I follow her finger to see them sitting on the bench, not far from Nana and Grandad. Uncle David has his arm around Uncle Mike. I see tears fall and I feel so bad for him. He has been living alone ever since Aunt Patty passed away last year, and I can’t blame him. Patty was his high school sweetheart; she was his whole family.
“What about Liam?” I ask as I look back at her.
“He’s playing with cousin Sean,” Alexis states.
“How’s your arm, Oliver?” Isabella asks with her Spanish accent as she walks over with Nicolás. She carefully grabs Oliver’s arm and takes off the bandage to look at the cut. There is a large gash that runs along his arm; it is from his wrist to his elbow.
“Better,” Oliver answers.
“You’ll have to clean the wound every morning and night, and you’ll…” Isabella starts to explain but I start walking away as Alexis places her head on my shoulder so she can’t see it.
“Did you ask if you could play too?” I ask.
“No,” she answers.
“Well, why don’t we go and ask then?”
I look into the field and see them lying on the grass. They lay on their backs to make their toy planes fly around in the sky. They are typical five-year-old boys. I walk over to them and stand at their feet.
“Hey guys, whatcha doing?” I say, tapping each of their feet.
“Playing with our planes,” Sean answers.
“Can Alexis and I join?” I ask.
“No, we only have two planes,” Liam states, wanting to hurt his little sister.
“Well, can we lie down with you guys?” I say.
“I guess,” Sean says.
I lie down beside Sean and place Alexis on my stomach. She immediately starts pretending her own hands are planes and starts quickly swerving them around, making me smile. I only wish my eyesight was that easily manipulated by imagination. I put my arms around her stomach, so she doesn’t fall as I look around at my other family members.
In the corner of my eye, I can see Aunt Jen taking care of baby Charlie. She jumps around to keep Charlie happy so she won’t have to take Uncle David away from Mike. I can hear Charlie screaming with laughter as I see the resemblance of his father in him. I smile until I realize that I may never see him grow up, or any of my other younger cousins grow up. I may never see the rest of my family after today.
“How’s your eighteenth birthday been so far, Teagan?” Emily, my cousin from Britain, asks as she lies down beside me.
“Not that bad,” I say, knowing I won’t be able to get anything out.
“Don’t worry, Teagan, you will do great,” Emily says, seeing my flushed face. “You are a pure blood, so you have a better chance of surviving . . . You are going to pass the test. I have faith in you.”
All I can do is nod because either way, my life will never be the same. If I don’t pass, I’m gone from this world forever. If I pass, I will be part of the family, but I will lose every friend that I have ever had growing up. And it’s not even my choice if I fail or pass; the universe decides if I am worthy.
“Come on, Teagan. It’s time,” my brother, Todd, states as he walks to my feet.
“Okay… Alexis, I need to go now, but you can stay right beside cousin Sean. Okay?” I explain as I carefully get up and place her beside Sean.
“Okay,” she says oblivious to what is to come.
I leave her with Sean and Liam as I follow Todd and Emily to the rest of the older cousins. Emily’s brothers, Alfie, Luca, and Callum, stand with my other brother Tommy at the edge of the cliff, just feet away from where my death might take place. Alfie, Luca, Emily, Todd, and Tommy have all gone through the test, whereas Callum and I are the only ones left to take it. He has his in a couple of months, which I hope I will be able to attend.
“We will see you on the other side,” Alfie and Luca state, nodding to me before leaving and heading to their places.
“You’ll have to tell me how it goes. These buggers won’t tell me jack,” Callum explains before rushing to catch up with his brothers. Emily just nods at me before following him.
I look over at Tommy and he smiles, but I can see through the lie, while Todd just stands on the edge. I still remember when the three of us were kids; we were always so close. Nothing came between us.
“Billy’s Burgers joint tonight?” Todd asks, putting his hand in the middle of the three of us.
“Hell yeah. I’m craving some of his burgers,” Tommy answers, adding his hand to Todd’s.
“If I make it out alive, why not,” I state and place my hand on top of Tommy’s.
I look at both of them. It may not always seem like they love me but right now I know we love each other. I take a deep breath before they go their own ways and I head to the cliff that is marked by the stones. I can see the peak of the sun emerge from the ocean. The warmth that radiates from its light almost takes away the fear that has settled within me.
“Make Mom proud,” Dad states before he places something in my hand and falls backward over the cliff.
I open my hand and realize it’s mom’s necklace, the one that has been passed down through generations. It is a blue stone that has been crafted into a gem, marked with the initials of my five times over great-grandmother. It is hung on a long silver chain, which I can still remember playing with it when I was a kid. It seemed like my mom never took it off.
“I’ll see you on the other side,” Todd says as he pats me on the shoulder, while I wipe away my tears.
“Too slow,” Tommy states before he pushes Todd off the cliff and they both follow my dad’s fall. I can hear Tommy screaming all the way down. He has always been one of the radicals, I guess it’s why he fits in with Alfie, Luca, and Callum so well.
I take a deep breath as I place the necklace over my head and lay it over my old shirt. And with the sun’s light finally reaching the top of the cliff, it shines, almost glimmering.
I lean over the edge one last time and see the rocky bottom; a fifty-fifty chance that it will be my end. I take a few steps back, and without allowing myself a second thought I run off the edge of the cliff, following my brothers.
The wind races at me as I am barely able to open my eyes, but I do and see my worst fear approach. The rocky shoreline gets closer as I watch more waves crash against the boulders before receding. I can smell the saltiness of the ocean air even stronger now, but all I can focus on is my beating heart that races faster than I ever thought possible. I have never been this scared in my life.
Before I meet my death, pain sears through my back. The pain is excruciating: it’s as if my bones are reforming and breaking themselves apart. I take a deep breath as the rocks get bigger. I quickly close my eyes, not wanting to see my own death. I can feel the wind still racing at me as I get ready for the impact.
“I’m sorry, Mom,” I state as I grab hold of the gem and tighten my hand around it.
I feel a quick jolt before the wind stops and I feel as though I am hung in complete darkness. I feel the warmth radiate within me and I feel as though I am on a cloud. I guess I died.
I try to relax my body, but I feel a big splash and I am soaked in water. I carefully open my eyes and find myself just above the shoreline. I realize that I have vertically straightened myself out. I am faced with the sun that has now risen above the water and its reflection is fully formed in the water.
I look down and realize that my shoes are just inches from a sharp rock, but I also notice that my feet bob up and down. I quickly look behind me and see something white move up and down in rhythm to my bobbing. I concentrate on it and see the white feathers, then recognize the long wingspan.
“Welcome to the sky, Teagan,” a soft voice echoes.
Marli is an aspiring writer in the Professional Writing Program. On the off chance that she isn’t writing, she is playing card games, reading, or hanging out at the nearest Tim Horton’s with her friends.