Window Jumper - second account

Nearly ten years after the event, I had an e-mail from a reader who was also involved. Apparently she had tried to contact me some time back but I must have missed her original e-mail, Anyway, I am pleased to add a different account of this event. Some of the details don't agree with my memories, but that's understandable.

This from Alexia Elliott.
Added 16th April 2009

*All the names have been changed to protect privacy

It is just after dawn. The wall-to-wall windows in the sixth-floor dancefloor reveal infinite layers of grey cloud, so textured and thick I feel like I could step off out of the window and into them… or maybe that's just the acid talking. But I'm not too high to know that stepping out of a 6th storey window could be fatal, and dead is the last thing I want to be right now. I'm coming up on a trip at a techno party at 7:00 in the morning, and that's as close to heaven as I need to get.

I close my eyes and stretch my arms out to embrace the dense tangle of sounds emanating from the speakers. Just then something big and clammy collides with my right hand, making me yank it back. I open my eyes in time to see the back of a shirtless man with long blonde dreads shoving his way through the crowd, leaving a path of startled dancers in his wake.

"Watch where you're going," I shout, not like he can hear me. Not like he'd bother stopping if he did. He's running for his life.

My irritation turns to confusion as I watch him race towards the far side of the room. The wall over there is nothing but floor to ceiling windows, panes thin and streaky with age. The early morning light filters through them, blurred by grime and smoky air.

The man flees towards them; I look around to see whom from, but there's no one and nothing after him. He just seems compelled forward by his own, inexplicable reasons. Too much speed, I think. Confusion quickly turns to horror as it dawns on me that the man's not slowing down as he reaches the windows. He seems to be accelerating. And that's when I realize - Oh my God, he's going to jump.

Even as I start to think the words, the man's airborne, body arcing like a flesh missile toward the glass. He hits it and it doesn't even hold for a split-second before ripping apart like tissue.

I flinch away and see Cassie standing beside me. She was dancing but has obviously stopped to stare, as well. Her eyes are wide and her hand's covering her mouth. Her mates - a circle of 'avin it chicks dancing around her - are doing the same. Their drug-addled, party-painted features are frozen in a contorted, silent screams. One or two of them might actually be screaming, but I can't hear them over the music.

Why doesn't someone turn the rig off? But then, it's only taken a couple of seconds for all this to happen. Maybe their sluggish, morning-after brains haven't worked it out yet. But me and Cassie have… the acid's slowed time down for all of us. For us, reality, this reality, is heightened, making each moment linger in exquisite horror.

I look back to the window and see the man has gotten stuck halfway through the pane, shards of glass tearing at his naked body like an angry mouth. He's flailing frantically, trying to propel himself out into those clouds and tearing himself on unfeeling teeth of glass.

Suddenly a second man rushes over from out of nowhere and throws his arms around the jumper's waist. He hauls him back inside, kicking and flailing, shouting incoherently all the way. Then the jumper's on the floor, the second man wrestling to keep him there so he doesn't hurt himself, or anyone else. The jumper almost breaks free, then he does and then he stands. A second later he looks down at himself, sees the blood erupting from what seem like a hundred gashes on his torso, face and arms. His eyes roll back into his head and then he falls.

"Oh no… no, no, no…" I hear Cassie moaning, as if she's just realized the same thing. Shaking her head and covering her eyes. Out of the corner of my eye I see people running... away from this nightmare…? Actually, a few of them are running towards the man, closing in around his prone body, to find out if there's anything they can do.

This isn't the impartial world, the distant and unhelpful world outside the squat's walls. In here, no one is a bystander, no one is just watching life go by in the blasé knowledge that someone else will clean the spills, tidy the mess, take the credit. This is off the mainstream grid, someplace authority and order don't exist. No one can just look away, they all share a responsibility in this. Don't they?

The crowd closing in around the man hides him from my view, so that all I can see are his legs, jerking feebly in time with the music. But he's not trying to dance like some of the people to the right of me still are. (They must not have realized what's happening, yet.)

I doubt there is anything I can do, other than dial 9-9-9, but I can see the faces of the people gathered around the man are looking more and more concerned by the second. Their expressions are all a combination of panic and horror. Something is very wrong with the man, more wrong than they thought, at first. That much is obvious. But I sort of don't want to know what. But… I know first Aid.

The thought is like one of those message bubbles you get from the Microsoft office assistant: cheery, helpful, and inconvenient as hell. Because… well, I'm tripping for fuck's sake. How could I think of doing First Aid on anyone? Just then a memory pops into my mind: Cassie telling me about the epilepsy fit she'd had at the party where we'd met, in Hackney Wick. She'd been there with a mate who was a mate who hadn't been able to help her… but someone else, who knew First Aid, had.

So I have to go. I can't even speculate what is going to happen when I got over there, but I just have to get over there, like, now.

I rise and glide towards the crowd huddled around the man, sucked into the vortex of panic pulsing from inside. I ask if everything's okay. The wide-eyed, helpless faces that turn to me don't answer; they just look blank or shake their heads. They're weary, soot-smeared, frightened. I feel so lucid compared to them. I can see right through their hysteria, their intoxication, and through my intoxication, too. I use this sudden focus to hone in on his face, contorted with agony, and then lower my gaze to the bloody pattern of cuts on his torso. I peer past the gore to the injuries beneath. Luckily, most of them are minor….

… most, except for one.

*****

Suddenly all I can think about is the way that Cassie' brilliance had faded when I'd told her we were going to a squat party, earlier tonight.
"Can't we go to a club or somewhere... nicer?" she'd asked as I steered her relentlessly towards the overlit Tube station. I'd rolled my eyes, sensing that she was about to go off on one of her annoying anti-party rants. "Squat parties can be so dodgy," she'd whined.

"Well they were good enough for you once," I snapped, "I can't see why they're not good enough for you, now." We'd walked on in silence.
The party had been halfway up Brick Lane from Whitechapel High Street, a big Industrial-era building with smog-blackened walls.

"Parties ain't the same as they used to be," Cassie moped as we joined the queue. "An' anyways, I'm meant to be quitting drugs. Remember?"

"Well this isn't really the best time to start, is it Cassie?" I laughed. The 30-odd people lined up in front of us were all rolling spliffs, gulping down extra-strength lager and necking pills or wraps of speed. Somebody was even doing lines off the pavement.

"It's just that some mates of mine were having a house party in Turnpike Lane," she continued, urgency creeping into her voice as we shuffled towards the front door. "Wouldn't you rather do that, Ada? Have a drink and a dance with some mates for a change? Some real mates?" (Cassie didn't consider people you did partied with to be real mates. I wondered where that left me.) I sighed irritably.

"Which mates are you talking about?" I asked. She had thousands of them.

"The ones from Slimelight." Those were the pretentious ones who swarmed round her whenever she was on the dancefloor, blotting her from my view like smoke.

"No."

Cassie's lips tightened into silence. She probably would have said something else, but the door had just swung open and bass throbbing out of it stopped her.

"Sounds good," I smiled.

Cassie sighed. "I guess so…"

Inside the building, we found six floors of sound. It was more than I'd hoped for and yet, there was a feeling in the air that took away my excitement. People were seemed too urgent, too tense. They spent most of the night cutting through the rooms, cross-sectioning the party's flow to wherever they were going, find whatever music or chemical they were after. It was partying on an industrial scale, and I wasn't sure that I liked it. Which only added weight to Cassie's premonition that something wasn't right here. It felt like everyone in the building was being piloted by a stronger force, a rollercoaster mood that bowled through every room.

Through the course of the night, we'd wound up the stairs to a roof top with a City view. Cassie was saying she was desperate for some fresh air, but a nervous woman was guarding the door, saying we couldn't go up 'for our own safety'. After that we returned to the sixth floor, to the building's only acid techno rig. We saw lots of faces we knew there, and for the first time that night we felt we could relax.

*****

"Does anyone have a shirt?" I shout over the music - which is still playing, but getting quieter. Why doesn't someone turn it down? Don't they realize what's happening over here? "Please, I need something to stop this bleeding!"

The other cuts are minor but the red, pulsing thing sticking out of the man's stomach is most definitely not. It looks like an artery and spurts blood at a frantic rate, in time with his racing heart. I try not to think about what it is. Whatever it is, it definitely belongs inside of him.

The red pool on the scuffed and utilitarian floor is spreading at an alarmingly speed, but the only people close enough to hear me are shaking their heads, eyes wide and helpless. They aren't being difficult; its just that they've all been on the dancefloor and are wearing the minimum amount of clothing.

Cursing, I get up and look all around the room, scanning it wildly. Everything is suddenly too-bright and too-big. Somewhere in the distance, people are still dancing but I'm too stressed to feel amazed. Closer by, a group of confused, lethargic kids are watching this drama unfold with gaping mouths. They look like they've just woken up, are still working out what's going on.

The horror of the situation blossoms on their faces as I run over to them and said a man was bleeding - badly. I point to a hoodie lying on top of one of their bags, beside them.

"Can you give me that?" I yell, "I need it to stop the blood!" They shrink away from me as if the word blood is going to stain them, shaking their heads and mumbling about getting their clothes dirty.

"Don't tell me you're worried about getting clothes dirty in a squat?" I gape. They must be in shock I tell myself… the seriousness of the situation can't have sunk in….

"Whatever," I snap. I don't have time for this.

I race past them, to where we left our pile of hoodies, jackets, and bags. My cardigan's sitting on top of the pile so I grab it and sprint back to Tim, pushing my way through the spectators then kneeling next to him again. All I can think is how unreal that - whatever it is looks as it pumps with its own independent rhythm. It's just a machine, I tell myself. It's easier to think of it that way.

I bundle sweater into a ball and press it over the wound, pressing down firmly but gently, like I learned to do in that St. John's Ambulance course. Keeping the pressure constant. After a few minutes, something interrupts my focus. It's the man who's cradling his head. He isn't saying, just watching me intently, his gaze burning into mine.

Finally he opens his mouth and says something.

"What?" I shout, unable to hear over the music.

"I said, you should go easy on the pressure." I stare at him like he's mad.

"I can't! It's stopping the blood."

The man swallows hard. "Yeah, but.... but I think he might have some glass inside of him." The man looks away, trying to hide his pained grimace from me.
Glass inside him?

I look at the man's face and see the pain contorting it; see the sweater with my hands pressing it down on it, and suddenly, the connection between both things dawns on me If there's glass inside this man, then maybe the pressure isn't helping; maybe it's making things worse. Maybe it's killing him… how the fuck should I know?
The intent circle of faces watching doesn't seem to have any answers. The colour is draining from the onlookers' faces even as it drains from the man and from the room itself. Even the music has faded, joining the general, tense, white-lipped hush. I hear people talking to paramedics on the phone. I hear the word 'bleeding' repeated over and over, once right next to the words 'to death'.

"Well what the fuck am I supposed to do now?" I mumble. "And where's the bloody ambulance?" A couple of people shrug and shake their heads.
Some sane, far away part of me speaks up, just then. Ada, you're on acid. You shouldn't be doing this on acid. I stand up, covering my eyes because the room looks fuzzy. All the voices have disintegrated into fractured, pulsing noise.

"Please," I say to someone next to me, handing them my cardigan. "Can you take over?" Then I blunder away. I get about ten feet away before someone grabs my shoulders and folds soft warmth around me. I don't need to look up to know it's Cassie.

"Cassie, he's dying!" I cry.

"I know..." she says, sniffling. "I ca-ca-can't watch!"

I hear myself babbling, "He's dying and I - I was trying to help him, but - but someone said he had glass inside of him." Saying the words out loud didn't make them sound any less horrible. "Cassie, I was just trying to do the right thing. Please tell me I did the right thing…please…"

I'm begging her for reassurance but when I look up, her face is blank. Her mouth's hanging slightly open, and she's speechless for the first time ever, in the whole history of our friendship.

"God, was that you?" she asks. She's trying to hide her horror and failing, badly.

"Don't say it like that!" I shout. "I was just trying to help. Tell me I helped!"

She puts a hand on my shoulder slowly, hesitantly. "I'm sure you were trying to help," she says diplomatically.
"Cassie!" I yelp. What kind of comfort is that?

"What," she retorts, looking gloomily away. "I said 'you were trying to help,' didn't I? And you were." She hesitates and then adds, "I guess."
Cassie stops and looks at me, her face softening with pity. "Don't worry about it, hon. You did what you could. We all did."

I start to argue again, but she muffles me by wrapping me in another hug. I stay there, immersed in threadbare sympathy, knowing that this is the best I can get right now. We don't talk; just cling to each other and wait. It feels like hours have gone by when the paramedics finally appear from the crowded stairwell. They hone in on the point of crisis, oblivious to the acid techno, the daylight-blanched room and its lurching, wasted inhabitants. As my eyes follow them, I accidentally glimpse the man lying on the floor, not moving anymore. My throat closes momentarily at the thought of what that means, and then I force my face into Cassie's shoulder again. A few minutes later, they're hoisting the stretcher like pallbearers, carrying it across the room and down the stairs, and me and Cassie drift away.

Just before we leave, a cop comes over and tries to interview me, with a pitying look on his face. But I barely notice his questions - was he pushed? Was there any violence involved?

"No," I keep saying, shaking my head sadly. The cop seems pleased but I wonder what the difference is… whether he was pushed or jumped, the result is still the same.

*****

On the tube home, Cassie and I are both silent. Every now and then I feel her giving me a look, but whenever I meet her eyes she drops them quickly, hiding her thoughts. It's not until much later, when I've stopped bawling, that I really think about that look and understand it.

I told you so," she was saying with her eyes. "I told you something like this would happen.

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