“I brought donuts!”
“You got any with sprinkles?”
The men stood in the clearing at the edge of the cliff. It was a cold morning, and the air smelled of crisp frost. They jammed their hands in their jacket pockets, breath fogging in the air. Dense walls of forest hugged the precipice on either side of the small clearing where they gathered. The newcomer opened his box of donuts, and several of the men walked over to him. There were around fifteen of them, and they were jittery in the cold morning air.
“How much do I owe ya?” one said.
The man who brought the donuts shrugged.
Another shoved the first man on the shoulder. “I didn’t figure you could afford to pay anyway Markie! You get that raise yet?” There was much laughter from the men at this.
“Screw off Jimmy, would I have come this week if I’d gotten a fuckin’ raise?”
“Shoulda brought some coffee, my fuckin face is half frozen solid.”
This from a tall, thin man with a sharp nose and blotchy, red skin. This was his fourth month. Nobody really liked him, but the men never drove anyone away. They all knew how much the it meant to each of them to be here.
The man with the donuts scowled. “I’ll be sure to take orders next time, your highness.”
A couple of the men who hadn’t eaten any donuts squatted on their heels, rubbing their hands together to keep warm. It was their first time, and they were scared. They figured anyone would be scared the first time, but that didn’t change the fact that they were the only ones there for the first time and therefore the only ones scared as hell.
One stood and went to the edge of the cliff, looked over. Thick fog swirled below, hiding any sign of the ground. If there even was a ground. His friend got to his feet.
“It’ll be easy Bo. Just like flipping a switch.”
Kyle was trying to be the brave, but his words sounded hollow and he knew it. He thought he knew what he was doing here, but now he wasn’t so sure. Bo had found the ad online six months ago, but they hadn’t had the courage to show until now. Maybe we should’ve waited longer. Things aren’t that bad yet, are they? He kicked at the ground, tried to breath some life into his numb hands. I mean sure, Bo’s got that stuff with his wife and we’re out of cash, but is it worth it? Is it worth anything? But no, it was time. They’d waited for years for this, their whole lives really, when Kyle thought about it. The last six months had been just hard enough to finally give them the gall to show up.
Bo looked down at the mist below for a moment. “Flipping a switch, huh? I hope so, man.”
They stood for a few minutes without speaking after that. Kyle felt a hand on his shoulder. He turned to see a short man standing behind him, smiling.
“New guys?” The man said it like he already knew the answer.
He was fat, with short, jet black hair and a tightly trimmed goatee. Circular glasses perched on a red nose, the lenses almost comically small.
“Yeah, this is our first time. I’m Kyle, this is Bo.”
They shook hands. “Jeff. And let me tell you, it’s worth it. I was scared too, way more than you are, guaranteed. Hell, I even pissed myself.” He laughed. “But after the first time you realize it’s nothing.” He gestured to the men standing around them. “These guys have been coming here for months, some for years. And look how excited they are! I can’t wait. If I didn’t come every month I don’t know where I’d be right now. Gotta get my fix. Anyways, just stay calm. Everybody feels the same their first time, I swear.”
Kyle tried to smile but he felt like it came out as more of a leer. Jeff laughed, clapped him on the back, and left to get another donut.
A few minutes later, a bearded man in a long leather jacket spoke.
“Any new guys today?”
Bo raised his hand. “Me and him. It’s our first time.”
The fear that Kyle had been holding back burst out. It overran the barricades, slaughtered the sleeping guards at their posts. He was terrified. The man in the jacket grinned.
“Well let’s move fast then people. We all remember how the first time goes, right?”
There was a murmur of agreement. A man next to Kyle nudged him.
“Better to get it over with quick.”
Kyle tried to respond but his words stuck in his throat. In the end he just swallowed, nodding.
“Rock n’ roll people!” The man in the leather jacket was already gone, his voice echoing up from the void below. There was a chorus of yells and whoops as the men around them followed, charging off the cliff. Jeff dove off headfirst, tongue trailing out of his mouth like a dog. Kyle looked at Bo. He watched his friend’s breath frosting in the cold. Bo nodded. Rock and roll.
The mass of men hurtled down through the mist. The frozen air stung his face. Kyle hit the ground so fast he didn’t feel a thing.