Falling in reverse
"Falling in reverse," Anthony Jackson said. He sighed as if he had just been asked to
arrange his own funeral. His knees were close together, leaving no gap between one another,
while his elbows rested on them and his clammy hands held on to each other firmly.
"Do you mean, rising? Or being lifted up? Perhaps, even floating?" Dr. Sonnell asked,
genuinely. She lifted the pen from her notebook and observed Anthony's behavior.
"No, no. I seriously mean falling in reverse."
Dr. Sonnell looked at her notebook, which only said those same words Anthony had
mentioned twice now.
‘Falling in reverse
She didn't write anything anymore. Instead, she took her time to try and think what
these words could mean, but with no luck.
"And why do you think that that is what you fear most?" she asked, considering that
perhaps directly asking him what these words meant wasn't the best way to go about it.
Rather, digging further and making him feel understood could shine a light on it. Anthony
sighed again and started nervously tapping with his right foot.
"I've thought about it a lot, you know," he started. "That at some point I'll be ready to
close my eyes for good and take that leap of faith, just for that leap to never end and for me to
fall in reverse. That I will have made a terrible decision and that that will be how our
punishment will start." Anthony ran his sweaty hands through his short, but greasy hair,
which he knew he should just get rid of by now. It was starting to look embarrassing. He
didn't even attempt to hide his receding hairline by wearing a hat or a wig, or whatever other
solution may have worked. Anthony didn't care for the way people perceived him. As much
was clear, not only from his hair, or lack of it rather, but even more so from his baggy, smelly,
terribly stained, and hasn't-been-ironed-for-at least-a-few-months clothes.
“I’m not sure I understand,” Dr. Sonnell said. She leaned back a little in her sofa chair,
brought her hand to her lips and stared, almost fascinated.
“It all started when God approached me.” Anthony’s foot started tapping even faster. He
really didn’t enjoy talking about what he had seen and heard, and wholeheartedly hoped Dr.
Sonnell would not push further. Except, that was her job, and Anthony knew that.
“God? What do you mean when you say He approached you?” she asked, as Anthony
expected she would.
“He told me,” Anthony started as sweat dripped down his forehead and the rest of his leg
started shaking nervously as well, “He told me that humanity was struggling. He told me that
I was the answer. That my actions would somehow show the world whether the struggle was
reversible, or that we, as a species, would be doomed.”
Dr. Sonnell didn’t blink. Anthony would’ve dared placing a bet on what she was thinking
right now. Except, what she thought was wrong. He wasn’t crazy. He knew, because he had
met crazy people. What he had seen and heard was real. But obviously, nobody believed him.
For the remainder of the session, Dr. Sonnell attempted to convince Anthony that he was
sick. Maybe, not with those exact words, but the questions she asked and the ‘solutions’ she
proposed clearly showed her intentions. Other than that, Dr. Sonnell didn't tell him anything
new. Nothing any of his previous therapists hadn’t told him, that was. Again, he wasn't crazy.
Anthony was sure that he wasn't. There was no escape for him, and for some reason God
wanted him to know that. God had chosen him specifically. Why him? He was merely a
middle school teacher. At least, he was several months ago, before he had his world thrown
inside out.
There was no easy way for Anthony to figure this out. As long as nobody would believe
him, he wouldn’t be able to get his answers with anyone’s help. There was only the hard way,
which, in Anthony's case, meant doing the exact thing he feared so much.
But today he had had enough of it. Anthony hadn’t slept all night, once again. How
could he, if humanity possibly depended on him?
He walked past his messy kitchen, his late wife would definitely have yelled at him for,
pointing aggressively at the dishwasher, screaming, and asking him why it was so hard for
him to properly clean up after himself. Anthony missed her. Even the pointless fights that
caused him to lash out at the children he taught. Maybe she would have believed him. Maybe
she would have been able to help him.
Anthony pat his dog, Billy, a beautiful golden retriever, as he put the leash around Billy's
neck. They were going to walk to the quarry, Anthony decided. From the very first day, those
few months ago, when he learned about his role in this inevitable truth, that quarry, south to
the Barre Town School Forest, where he enjoyed taking walks with his classes every now and
again, had seemed like the perfect place to find his answers.
Billy walked along, unknowingly, and explored all the new smells in their path. They had
never walked here together. It was far from home. It was beautiful, Anthony thought, but the
idea that Billy couldn’t properly admire its beauty, disappointed Anthony.
Billy smelled near the edge of the quarry and immediately rushed back to find comfort
near Anthony, as he noticed its depth, not eager to explore it further.
Anthony, however, didn’t budge.
“It’s okay, Billy,” he said. He crouched and gently patted Billy, after which he let go of
Billy’s leash. Tears ran down his cheeks, but he didn’t hesitate. This was the right thing to do.
“Be free, Billy-boy! Be free!” he yelled excitedly. Billy, not understanding what was going
on, continued exploring the unknown smells surrounding him.
Anthony snied and took one more glance in Billy’s direction, before carefully moving
over the fence, near the edge of the quarry. He sighed as he looked down and felt his stomach
"Dear God," he said. "If I step forward one more time and when the lights go out, and the
stars stop singing, my heart will know, that there is nothing for them to fear and tomorrow is
today, at least once more, for those that see the sun and the moon again."
Anthony stepped forward and as his right foot waited to hit something to divide its
weight on, it fell. And with it, Anthony fell, too.
He fell for several seconds or so. And as the end seemed nearer, he closed his eyes,
hoping for his words to have reached God. But when, after several more seconds, the wind
still swung by his ears and the feeling of falling hadn’t stopped yet, he opened his eyes once
more, and cried when he found that his fears had been real.
He was no longer falling down the quarry, nor was he back on the edge. He was
returning to the start of his leap of trust in God, but when he got close to it, he once again
fell down. And again, as he almost reached the ground, he fell up once more, for it all to
repeat again, all at the same speed, never seeming to end.
Anthony's fears were true, no matter who believed him. His crying slowly faded and
almost out of nowhere, he started laughing. Laughing like he hadn't done in years. He
exclaimed pure joy as he fell down the quarry for the sixth time, and he couldn't stop doing
so when he realized in how much trouble humanity really was.
Whatever it was that God meant, didn’t matter. Whatever it was that humanity was
doomed for, didn’t matter. Not to Anthony. Because now Anthony knew for sure. He wasn’t
crazy. After all this time, he was right.
Anthony was, in fact, falling in reverse.
by Jordi van der Plank