a true story: how I fell 30,000 feet and lived to talk about it

flying high at 30,000 ft

this is a story of how I fell 30,000 feet and lived to talk about it.

i’m not sure how it exactly happened, such details dwindle so quickly and become a blur when you’re face to face with a life-threatening situation, but early this morning i fell out of a passenger plane from thirty thousand feet and plummeted towards the city streets below.

this is it, i thought. these are the final few moments of my life.

my body tumbled and my limbs flailed against gushing gusts of air as i tried to steady myself. i somehow managed to correct my body’s position so i wasn’t flailing so wildly and out of control. as i gained composure i could see i wasn’t falling over the ocean, or the mountains, or even a grassy field; i was plunging straight towards the tall glass towers that dotted the matrix of a downtown metropolis. 

the cold air whipped my face and my eyes teared. the city zoomed closer as i sped faster and faster towards the city below. time slowed to a crawl. my mind, frantically tried to comprehend how to break my fall, should i be lucky enough to not die before i hit the ground.

so this is how i meet my end; a twisted and bloody pulp, splayed across busy downtown streets. in my final few breaths, i imagined how the scene might unfold. i could hear the gasps of passersby as they gagged in disgust at my mess. i could see the flashing lights from paramedics as they raced towards the scene, and from police as they stretched their yellow tape and directed traffic around my remains. i could hear the honks of thousands as commuters cursed my name from upsetting and disrupting their daily routine.

steel spires reached to the sky as i raced towards the ground. "which of these buildings will claim my life?", i thought. will i be impaled atop a church steeple, for all the city to see? will i bounce off a balcony on the thirtieth floor and ricochet off the next building beside, only to ping-pong back and forth, until i finally crumple into a bloody mess on the sidewalk below? or will i crash through the window of a car on its way to work? or will i plunge face first into frigid ocean waters, and with a single ploop, disappear, and go unnoticed, like a tiny stone being tossed into a stream?

mere seconds remained, my final countdown was on. i braced for impact. the bank towers of the financial district sped past me in a blur. lucikly i escaped being crucified on those gross monuments of money, so now it was only the road below who would claim me.

the streets would now know my name.

i accepted my fate and let my body go limp, no longer resisting my inevitable splat. i adjusted myself ever so slightly so i wouldn't impact into the sidewalk headfirst, and at the last moment i tucked and attempted a shoulder roll, something i once learned in a Judo class when i was ten years old.

i hit the ground hard. i didn't bounce and i didn't go splat. i crumpled into a ball and rolled. all of the air inside my lungs burst out from my mouth. i couldn't breathe, i gasped. i was stunned. my whole world went black, yet i still felt conscious and aware. was i alive? or had i gone beyond?

i didn't move. i let my body rest as i tried to tune my senses into wherever it was where i laid. i eventuly opened my eyes to saw a kaleidoscope of colours spinning and slowly fading in to focus.

"are you okay?", a voice said, coming from a blurry figure hovering over me.

"am i bleeding? am i broken? are my bones poking out from my flesh?”, i said.

“no, you look fine,” the voice said, “where did you come from? how did you land here?"

"i fell from the sky,” i said, “i spilled out from inside a plane.”

i closed my eyes and rested for a few more moments. or maybe it was minutes, or perhaps it was even hours. i’m not sure. when i finally pried my eyes open again there were no emergency crews around me. there was no crowd assembled, there were no flashing lights. there was no one. not even the voice who came to my aid remained at my side.

i’m alive. i survived. i’m not broken.

i pressed my hands against the pavement and slowly pushed myself up. i brushed the dirt from my clothes and plucked out some pebbles that haf sunken into my skin. i rose to my feet and gave myself a shake, stumbling a bit as i did. my head throbbed. i was dizzy and off balance.

my only thought was to contact my girlfriend who i hoped was still on the plane. i had to let her know i was ok. i had to contact the pilot somehow, i had to get a hold of the airline. i reached for my phone as i surveyed my whereabouts. this place looked all too familiar.

somehow, mysteriously, i had landed directly in front of the home where i once lived.

and with that final thought, i opened my eyes to find myself lying in bed at home, bewildered, flustered and confused. it was only a dream. but to me, it was real. it was as true as if it’d actually occurred.

our dreams can feel as tangible as conscious reality itself. the feelings and emotions we experience when under their spell are genuine, regardless of how hazy their circumstances might be, despite how twisted or magical the events might appear.

to us, the contents of our dreams are not fiction or fantasy, they actually happen. we experience them, and whether we were awake or not, to us, they are real. they become a true story we’ve lived through and learned from, a story we can pass on and share.

when i told my girlfriend of my early morning free-fall, she was stunned i didn’t wake myself before i hit the ground. “i’d never let myself come that close to dying in my dreams,” she said.

i almost never remember my dreams however, and when i do they’re rarely this vivid and realistic. but as terrifying as this one was, i wouldn’t quite call it a nightmare. i didn’t wake up fearful or upset. during the dream i was at peace with what was happening, i was ok with dying. it just seemed odd and unfortunate.

since i rarely ever bring stories back from my sleep, i’m not accustomed to being so consumed by their deciphering, analysis, and introspection as i am now. but this dream was different. i can recall my fall so intensely, in all of its terrifying and exhilarating detail, that hours later i can still feel the rush of the wind hurling past my face as if it had just happened.

in our dreams we become buoyant.

all our worldly problems disappear and become weightless as we float through our mind's inner eye. in our dreams our inner world effervesces; it’s where hidden, ignored, and unresolved secrets can bubble to the top for a few obscure seconds, before they tighten, congeal, and retreat against the dichotomy that defines our waking lives.

what do we do when our dreams turn black? where do we turn when our waking lives turn grey? what truths are exposed when our eyes close shut and our mind drifts away? do we tap into an uncanny intuition we’ll never understand? or is our subconscious simply entertaining itself with creative movies our mind makes, pulled together by random remnants from our memories?

do our dreams hint at deeper truths we’ve yet to reveal to our conscious self? does our sleeping mind know more about our true nature than when we’re awake? do our dreams have answers for all the problems we hope to unravel during the day?

every story should have a moral, but i’m not sure i've uncovered this one yet. i’m sure it has something to do with how our perspective shapes our realities, or how the contents of our thoughts shape our experiences. or perhaps it’s something much more personal and sinister, a looming beacon, a hint at what my ultimate destiny will unfold into.

it’s stunning to think of how little we actually know about that secret part of ourselves that lies asleep for a third of our lives.

what nightmares await underneath your pillow? what fantasies unfold when you close your eyes?

brian thompson