Jerry had had his hair done like Jamie Jackson, but he wasn’t Jamie Jackson. Jerry’s hair was not like Jamie Jackson’s anymore. It was spread with the rest of him out across the rocks beneath the aptly named Suicide Ridge. Looking down there now, you couldn’t be blamed for having no idea Jerry had ever existed. “C’mon, Mike,” said Kenneth, “are you scared?”
Mike’s hair was plastered to his face underneath a knit cap. He shuddered under his thick jacket. “I don’t know, man, this seems like a bad idea.”
“Well, Mike,” Ken frowned “it’s dangerous, yeah, that’s kinda the point. How are ya gonna know if you’re like Jackson if you don’t find out?”
Mike crossed his arms against the cold, “but if I’m not like Jackson, I’ll be like Jerry.”
Ken rolled his eyes, “yeah, but it won’t matter then, will it? I mean, if God, er, or whoever he is, if he just lets you die, clearly you don’t matter.” Mike didn’t know what he was doing here. He’d been standing right here a week ago when Ken was convincing Jerry to jump. He asked the obvious question anyway, “Why don’t I matter?”
Ken kicked a rock off the off the edge of the cliff, as if just to see something fall off while he waited for Mike to jump. “Nobody cares about you, man! This guy, he controls everything! He won’t let Jamie Jackson die, and everybody knows it. If Jackson jumped off this cliff right now, a plane would come swooping down to catch him, or a wind would blow him so he falls in the ocean instead of on the rocks.”
“Or maybe he’d wake up in traction with a feeding tube down his neck.” Mike put his hands in his coat pockets.
“Naw, man. That’s boring. Jackson is clearly a main character. Who wants to watch a movie about some jerk who jumped off a cliff and ended up in traction?”
“You want to watch the movie about some jerk who jumped off a cliff and magically flew out to fall in the ocean.”
“Damn right. That’s what everybody in America tunes in to see every night when Jackson does his next death cheat.”
“People care about me.”
“People care about me. You said nobody cares about me.”
“Who? Who cares about you?”
“My parents do, idiot. They love me.” Mike realized his parents would be devastated if he ended up like Jerry.
“Oh yeah?” a smile wormed its way across Ken’s face, like he’d just figured out how he was going to win this argument, “tell me more about these parents of yours.”
“What?” Ken knew Mike’s parents, “you know my parents.”
“I do,” agreed Ken, “What do they look like?”
“Uhh,” Mike was baffled at this line of questioning, but he tried to conjure an image of his parents in his mind. He pulled the cap further down over his head. It seemed to be getting colder by the minute.
Ken tapped his wrist, “Well?”
Both of Mike’s parents were redheads like him. “They’re both redheads, like me.”
Ken nodded, “Oh, is that right? Tell me more.”
This was infuriating, “What do you want to know, Ken!? What’s the point of this stupid quiz?”
Ken’s smile opened into a full malignant grin, “what are their names?”
Michael’s parents names were Linea and Hurton. “Linea and Hurton, is that what this is all about? You just want to stop calling them Mike’s mom and Mike’s dad?”
It was a lame insult, and Ken ignored it. “Your redheaded parents Linea and Hurton didn’t have names until just now. They didn’t have red hair, or even exist until I brought them up. They won’t exist if you jump off and don’t survive. Don’t worry about what they think. All that matters is the creator and what he has planned.”
Michael was genuinely fearful now. He had to admit it was frighteningly difficult to remember any more details about his parents. They just looked like floating red wigs in the air with little labels “Linea” and “Hurton.” “I-” he stuttered, “Who are you?”
“I’m Ken, you’ve known me since Kindergarten.” Michael had known Ken since Kindergarten. “How many people have you led to this cliff?” Michael asked.
“Hundreds. Or maybe you’re the first. Does it matter?”
It didn’t matter. “It doesn’t matt-” Michael started to say, but caught himself. He had to leave. He had to go back to his parents, his real, whole parents who existed in flesh and blood.
But what if they didn’t? His zero-degree rated coat was not warm enough for the weather now. The wind whipped at his face, his nose stung and burned with each breath of icy air he sucked in. A fog obscured everything more than a hundred yards away. There was nothing besides Ken, Mike, and this cliff.
Mike was right next to the cliff. He could have sworn he was not that close before. Just one step and he could know if he was real. If there was anyone out there who was real and really cared about him. If he wasn’t…
Ken was right behind him. He seemed to hear his thoughts, and Michael felt his hot breath on his ear, “it’ll all be over anyway.” Michael reached a foot out over the precipice.
“Don’t do it!” came a voice from the fog. Michael looked back and saw a light. Ken frowned, “You’ll never know!” he snarled. Michael looked at Ken. He took his foot back onto solid ground. “Maybe I do know,” he said suddenly as the light grew brighter and a bright blue uniformed police officer came out of the mist. The sudden squall had died down and Mike was comfortable in his heavy coat. He walked toward the police officer, keeping his eyes on Ken, “Maybe God, or whoever he is, just showed me he does care.”
Ken stood stock still on the precipice, glaring ominously at the police officer, who eventually gave up trying to convince him to get in the car to be taken home. The officer turned away and said “you should know the window on your side doesn’t close all the way, kid,” before leading him to the passenger seat. As Mike and the officer drove away, Ken disappeared into the fog.
In a sudden fit of terror, Mike realized he thought of the officer as just a bright blue uniform. He looked over and saw him completely. He had dark skin and a long, narrow face with a square jaw. His nose was prominent and looked like it had been broken in the past. He hadn’t shaved in a few days, and his bright blue uniform was worn and had a mustard stain next to the right pocket. He saw Mike staring at him, and he smiled. “Hey, kid, you know that God loves you, right?” Mike knew now that God loved him and wouldn’t let him come to harm. On the long trip home, though, a chill wind blew through the window of the cop car. The question remained in Mike’s mind.
Who loved Jerry?