The van shook me back and forth, rattling my bones to the core. I took a deep breath and stared out the window. I felt as if I was as brave as a lion, but as dumb as a dodo. Looking at the beautiful scenery took my mind away from the fear gathering inside of me. It had been three days since my family and I arrived in New Zealand. We had been touring Queenstown, looking at their stores and trying their food; today, we would do the most stupid—and most awesome—thing in our lives. The van hit another bump and I looked up to see an open field with sheep grazing in it. Two small buildings stood out in the vast, rolling field. My sister, sitting next to me, leaned forward and smiled.
“Are you ready?” she asked. I nodded. Half of me was ready but the other half wasn’t.
The van pulled to a stop and the driver stood up. “Okay everyone, we are here,” she said as she slid the door open. Three other people got out in front of us, and then my family got out. I stepped out of the van and looked to my left. There was a waiting room, and to my right was the sign-in room. My family started to walk towards the sign-in building. I trailed behind, and looked at the field. That's when I had noticed dots falling from the sky. They got bigger and bigger as they came into my view.
“Jolie!” my mom said from the door to the building. I pulled myself away from the dots that fell out of the sky and ran over to my mother. As I walked into the building there was a front desk to my right, and merchandise to my left. All the way in the back was an open room with a sitting area in the middle. T.Vs were lined on the walls with pictures of different people flashed on the screens. I wandered over to them and looked at the people.
“I think these are the jumpers,” my sister said as she walked over to me.
“Yeah, did you see the guy that jumped 30,000 times?” I asked. She nodded. I could tell she was excited; her eyes shined and a smile wouldn’t leave her face. My mom came over and sat down on one of the chairs. I walked over to her and she smiled at me.
“I have so much adrenaline coursing through me, I feel like I’m going to die!” she said excitedly. I sat down next to her and held out my hand to show her, palm down. It shook violently.
My dad came over and sat down next to my mom and took her hand in his. He started to talk to her, but I wasn’t listening. Instead, I looked out the window and watched a small Cessna 182 Skylane plane turn into the field and pull up right outside where all the jumpers were folding the parachutes and drinking coffee. The lady at the front desk walked over to us with a paper in her hands.
“Richard?” she asked. My dad stood up and walked over to the lady. They started to talk and I watched as the lady nodded her head and pointed outside the double doors. My dad thanked her and walked back over to us.
The lady took us through the double doors and into the hanger. A blast of cold air blew into my face as we walked into the room. She led us over to the left to an open area where some lockers stood by a wall. We put our stuff in them and the lady handed us gray jumpsuits. I slipped it on and zipped it all the way to the middle of my neck. The lady walked up to me with a young man beside her. He was Brazilian, and my height, with a beard. “This is Will, he is going to be your jumper.”
I smiled at him, and he smiled back. “Alright, let's get you set up,” he said and gave me some gloves, goggles, and a white cap.
After we were all suited up we started to head to the plane. There were long metal benches that were bolted to the floor of the plane. Will slid in first, then I did; so did my family, one by one, till we were all squeezed in. Will started to pull, strap, tug, and hook my suit to his. I watched as all the other jumpers did the same thing to each member of my family. That’s when I felt the engines turn on and the plane move. I stared out the window and watched the lavish green fields swiftly go by us, as if I fast-forwarded a National Geographic documentary. The plane lifted from the ground and started its climb. We soon flew over Wakatipu lake, the beautiful ink blue water standing out from the snow-capped mountains that surrounded the lake.
“Are you nervous?” Will asked. I shook my head. I was surprised with myself because my heartbeat was steady and calm. “I’ve jumped almost 11,000 times and I’m nervous,” Will said thoughtfully. “Isn’t that ironic?”
I nodded. My eyes were glued to the window. We were passing over the Remarkables. It had snowed the other day so they were now white. The jumpers said that this was, by far, the most beautiful day to do it. They were right. It was breathtaking. Between the vibrant blue lake and snow-white mountains, we couldn’t have picked a better day.
“14,000 feet!” The pilot called back to us.
Will brought down an oxygen mask that hanged from the roof of the plane. He stretched it over my head so that the mask covered my nose and mouth. “Just breathe normally,” he said. The other jumpers did the same thing to my family. “We're right now dying,” he said with a laugh, “but we’re going to get higher.” He was right, at 14,000 feet the body starts to die. It didn’t comfort me, but it did keep my mind off of what was going the be happening in a few minutes.
“15,000 feet!” the pilot shouted.
My dad was first. The jumper slid the door open. The plane filled with a blast of ice cold wind. The jumper started to shout things at my dad. I couldn’t hear and my heart pounded in my ears. I watched my dad lean his head back onto the jumper’s shoulder. The light next to them was red--3!--my dad grabbed his straps covering his chest--2!--the jumper got into position--1!--the light turned green--they jumped out! I heard the voices of my family cheering him on along with my own voice.
My mom was next. The same pattern. The jumper got into position, my mom grabbed her straps, the light turned green. They jumped. My sister was next--moved into position--grabbed her straps--light turned green--they jumped. My turn.
Will slid us forward to the edge of the plane. My feet dangled off into the space between us and the earth lost somewhere far below us.
Will started to yell. “Put your head on my shoulder!” I did. “Glue your feet to the bottom of the plane!” My feet banged against the bottom of the plane. “Grab your straps.” My hands squeezed the straps. “Okay, here we go!” My heart started to pound like a drum. “Three!”
I shook like a leaf in the wind.
The fear to jump started flowing through my veins.
I’m really doing this!
We jumped. My stomach tightened and turned. My voice rung in the noise of 125 mph. I felt a light tap on my shoulder and I extended my arms to catch the wind. The butterflies in my stomach disappeared, my fear turned into pure happiness. The thrill of staring down at snow-capped mountains, ink blue water, and the green land below me raced through my body. I felt as if I was on cloud 9. The flight of feeling free. The ice cold wind burned my face but I didn’t care; I was on top of the world and no one could ever change that. I looked down and saw white dots scattered on the ground. They were sheep. Surrounding them were roads, farms, and small buildings. Cars raced below me looking like ants that were scurrying around an anthill, with green hills surrounding them and white blankets covering the mountains.
I looked down at the ground and watched as it started to come closer, but a sudden jerk slowed us to peace and quiet. The sound of wind and the frozen air all came to silence. I was still pumped on adrenaline, but I was at ease. I looked down at the ground still far below me. I looked up and smiled to myself. Though fear stared me down, I stared right back at it, and I conquered my fear to achieve my goal.
“Lift your legs,” Will said as we came into the landing zone. I obeyed his command and lifted my legs. He turned the parachute to the left and started to drift towards the ground. I felt my legs skid on the moist grass and come to a stop. “You just survived 15,000 feet, how do you feel?” Will asked me.
“Awesome!” I said. My other family members had already landed and were walking to the buildings. We got changed, went into the building, and got t-shirts for souvenirs.
“All right, we can go now,” the driver who brought us said. We all walked to the van and got in. The engine started and we turned onto the road and drove back. I leaned my head back and stared out the window with a smile on my face. I did it, and this memory would never leave my heart. The memory of seeing new heights, overcoming a fear, and realizing the achievements that came from it.
Finally, I could say I’ve been skydiving.
Jolie is a 14-year-old from Arizona.