Once, there was a man who walked a tightrope. He was an ordinary man, just like everyone else. He had it all. He had grown into a fine young man, lacking nothing. An education leading to a career leading to wealth leading to a stable family leading to children leading to children’s children — a fulfilled life to seek. When he was young, he watched his father walk the tightrope. In the last days of his life, his father relayed the truth to him. It was a burden to walk such a thing. That cruel thing.
When he was 35 years old and life had reached a sudden plateau, the man finally learned to walk the tightrope — the desire to learn had never occurred to him until then. Gusts of wind or his own doubt would make him lose his balance. But he remained on it. Even with the comfort of the cushions below, he managed to maintain himself. Some say he was born with natural talent.
For years, the man walked the tightrope amid his busy schedule. His nine-to-five job could not manage itself. Sometimes he would extend his lunch break to practice a new trick. He would set up the rope between two trees outside his work campus, greeting passersby and dog walkers. His children were proud of him. Other times, he dreaded being up there. He had mouths to feed and a wife to love. He’d want to fall, burn the rope, never walk again. But for practice’s sake, the rope got higher, the cushions lower and lower until finally gone altogether.
One day, while he was on the tightrope, he saw a woman down below him. He could not hear her at first, but her voice eventually reached his ears. Come down. In the heat of the sun, she was a wavering reed of baby blue gown and raven hair. He could not see her face. See, it is good. But the man did not come down. After all, he was in between two buildings. At night, he pondered what had happened. Could he survive that high a fall? What about his family? The next morning, he arose, walking across the tightrope once more. The woman’s voice from the day before echoed in his head. Come down. You have none to lose. Again, he refused. The third day, out of curiosity, he dropped a pebble. He saw it land. He heard it land too. It landed softly. It did not bounce into the street, under a passing car, but only feet away from where it landed. Its duty fulfilled. Perhaps I shall go, the man resolved. The woman in the baby blue dress was nowhere to be seen. The man leapt.
Esther Park is an emerging writer based in San Diego. She has studied flash fiction as an undergraduate at the University of California, San Diego.