When I was younger, about nine years old, I had a friend named Adam. He and I attended middle school in Brooklyn, and we became friends since we shared many interests and classes. It was hard to hang out, though, because Adam actually lived in Manhattan. This meant we could only hangout on weekends, when his parents could pick us up and drive us to his house. It became a usual thing for the pair of us, and of course, the trips there were never exciting. But there would be one trip that would always be burned into my memory...
Brooklyn and Manhattan were separated by the East River, notorious for being an easy accessible suicide jump just from the bridges. I knew of these "jumps" as a child, but I could never imagine what bad things really did flow through that river. It happened during January, on a Friday, slightly cold with a hint of sun. Perfect for a day to hang with a best friend.
Adam had come over to my house after school, while in wait for his parents. When they arrived, Adam suggested that I sleepover so we could "study for a big test", though we'd really just watch TV and movies all day as usual. Both his mom and dad agreed, as did mine, and we left after I collected some sleepover materials. The trip was always slow and boring, as he and I didn't have much to talk about, except crack some dumb and immature jokes once in a while. His mom and dad weren't talkers much either, as they hardly even paid attention to their own son. We didn't mind the ride so much, and just as we entered the Brooklyn Bridge, we had time to explore the city with our eyes.
I was examining some cars in my own dull state, when I noticed Adam was trying to look very close through his window. I leaned over and asked him what he was looking at.
He replied, "There's something in the water."
I was puzzled at first. How could he really see what was in the river? Girders and columns blocked much of the scenery, but fortunately there was some steady traffic so we could fix our view.
"Right there, just in the middle," he said. I started to look at where he pointed... and I saw something there, sticking out like a dot in the murky river. I couldn't see it well and neither did Adam, but it was just noticeable. Then, something strange occurred after a few minutes of examination. Something we heard.
A whisper - very small, almost non-existent - spoke in our heads. Just as we heard it, my throat tightened a bit, becoming sort of dry. I knew we both felt the same way, because we scratched our throats after. When we returned our gaze to the dot, it disappeared. Gone just after a few seconds of turning our heads.
We were puzzled by the unusual event, and became silent as we drove over the bridge. After finishing our travel on the bridge, our car traveled onto what I believe was the FDR Drive. At this point, the event still worried us, but Adam continued to look at the water. This time we were closer, just on the right side of the Drive, looking over the stone railing into the river. More traffic caused us to stay still again. Though we could finally examine the water better now, I was unsure of continuing our search. I feared what we looked at could be another jumper, which scared me good then. Suddenly, Adam tugged my shoulder and pointed at the water once again.
We could see a head more clearly now, placed differently from our view on the bridge. It was closer now, close enough to see. At first, all we could see was the head, blonde hair flowing on top of the water's surface. Then, it began to rise. The head popped up slowly, and then some shoulders, and finally, a bit of chest to see. Soon, we were looking at the body of a blonde boy, no older than us, appearing somewhat emaciated and bruised. As soon as we caught a good glimpse of him, our throats turned dry again, and I quenched for water...
The boy had a sad appearance on his face; dirty blonde hair covered his right eye, wearing a sloppy frown, and his body was covered in blue bruises while bones stuck out slightly in questionable places. Adam and I were speechless from this image, and we said nothing, even more astonished that nobody seemed to notice him. The boy looked directly at us with his sad state, and soon reached out to us with a weak and bony arm. His mouth formed words and he spoke... and we heard perfectly this time, unlike the whisper from before.
"Swim with me... Swim with me..."
A small ring began in my head as he recited those words, giving me a nice ache along with my dry throat, causing me to squirm in my seat restlessly. Soon, I found myself inching towards Adam's side, and Adam stuck his head against the window, with his jaw hanging open. Then we heard a small pop as the car door unlocked itself. Next, without even a sound, the door opened up slightly. It was right when we unhooked our seat belts, that Adam's dad noticed and stopped us.
"Hey! What are you doing? Close that door and stay in your seats!"
The car moved ahead as traffic steadied down, and we did as he said, snapping out of our delusion. When we dared to look back at the water, the boy was gone yet again...
We reached his home later and said nothing for the rest of the day. I wanted to discuss what happened so badly, but Adam stayed as expressionless as I did. When I was driven back home the next day, I dared not to look at the river again.
For me, things turned back to normal again after some time. School work and some new friends I made had allowed me to free my mind of that day, but not so much for Adam. He never seemed the same after that, always looking as worried as he did during the trip over the drive. I tried to ask him what was wrong over time, but he would just ignore me. It was one day when we were paired as math partners that he spoke to me about his troubles. And they were just what I feared.
"I still see him sometimes..."
I just wanted to forget about that moment and everything and Adam himself, so I didn't reply at all. I was too scared to. The next events, though, would have changed my judgement back then.
I learned about it at school first, and later on the news. Adam jumped into the East River, and his body hadn't been found yet. Hearing that during first period class had stunned me, and I felt like throwing up. A bunch of students in my class began to weep from the news, even though they hardly ever talked to him, while I sat there, scared as shit. Immediately when I returned home, I turned on the news channel. His story was still a major headline. The supposed story went that his father was crossing the FDR Drive and that without noticing, Adam had opened the car door, moved through traffic, and jumped out into the river from the railing. All of this occurred without his dad ever hearing or noticing. The most damning part, though, was that just as Adam jumped into the river, people looked over the railing to see him... but he was found nowhere in radius of his jump. His body just disappeared.
I couldn't bear to watch the rest of the story. But just as I was about to change channel, a breaking news report was alerted. The headline read: New Discovery Made - Young Boy's Body Found After Day Long Search
I was sort of relieved to know that they found him, hoping that maybe he washed up without harm. I knew the fall from the Drive could not have killed him, since it was only a few feet. Then the report was stated. Adam's body was found heavily mutilated beyond belief. His head was turned back 360 degrees, while certain bones in his body were contorted and broken to poke out. I turned off the news after this information was given.
For many years, I would never talk about this or the event I experienced with Adam on the drive. Whoever or whatever that was in the river had something to do with it, I had no doubts in my mind. Crossing over the bridge after that would forever be a haunting experience for me. Something drew me back, however. Either sheer curiosity or stupidity had gotten me to embark a search on the bridge. I looked up more in depth about the history of suicide on the bridges, but I could never find something more than what I already knew. The idea to look into the water crossed my mind, and though I really tried to persuade myself not to, I couldn't bear to never know the reason behind everything that occurred. Maybe I could find my answers there...
So, one day, I packed a pair of binoculars in my backpack and traveled on the walkway of the Brooklyn Bridge, facing the side that pointed to the FDR Drive. As no one passed by, I would peek quick looks into the river, desperately searching for something. No luck during the first hours, and soon daylight began to run out. Sunset was deep in motion, and I was ready to call it a day, feeling somewhat relieved that I spotted nothing. Just before I left, and as I was given more space, I took one last look with the binoculars.
A small head appeared in the middle of the river. The head was roughly the same size as the blonde boy from before, but this time with brown hair. I stood still and quivered at the sight. Maybe this time it's a real jumper? I thought helplessly.
No such luck. In a matter of seconds, the head rose from the water and looked at my direction. Something irked me even more than the first experience. The head was backwards, as the chest was forward facing me. The head turned back suddenly after a cringing turnaround.
It was Adam.
My throat tightened, and the ringing began. I couldn't take my eyes off of him. He spoke to me in a whisper.
"Swim with me..."
But he wasn't mouthing those words. The body of Adam only made two mouth movements, not matching up with the whisper. I tried to decipher what he was really saying, and then it hit me...
My dry throat ached even harder while the ring stayed in pace. I couldn't take it much longer, as I felt my mind was being slowly grinded down by a cheese grater. Suddenly, more bodies appeared around Adam. Men, women, children...
"Swim with me... Swim with me..."
The whisper became a moan, the moan became a voice, the voice became a crowd. I examined each person and they all appeared to not even closely say what it sounded like. I could hear small whispers now.
Soon, I noticed they formed a circle, all centered around... the blonde boy.
The blonde boy's body was a bit higher now from the water's surface, but his lower half looked blacker and now less human. His once-blonde hair was covered in a debris of red dirt, and mud, and you could hardly tell his roots anymore. What scared me the most was his face. His pitiful frown had now turned into a full-sized grin with shark-like teeth. His eyes warped black.
He spoke the only three words in the crowd. He was the ONLY one saying it. Everything turned into his voice, and cracked into the most non-human sound I've ever heard.
"Stay with me in hell and rot forever."
All I could remember were my eyes sliding into my skull, as everything faded around me. I blacked out afterwards.
I awoke hours later to the sound of an ambulance, and found myself inside one. When I reached the hospital, they told me everything that occurred after I "blacked out." A man had passed me looking out into the river, but stopped to ask me what I was doing. He said I appeared to be dizzy from looking out of my binoculars, and all of a sudden... I tried to climb over the railing. The man held me back and did his best to pull me off the railing, and soon he yanked hard enough, but I fell and hit my head on a rail.
I was given some psychiatric treatment and therapy for my "suicide attempt." They continued over and over again asking me what was my reason to jump. I never explained this story. Why?
Because no one would ever believe me. Who would believe something like this? What's the point? I was released eventually, and it would be very long until I left my home again.
Years later, when I did, I returned to the bridge yet again. Not to look into the water, but to cross it. It was a way for me to say, "fuck you" to whatever that thing was. It claimed the life of my friend, and tried to kill ME. I climbed over without stopping or hesitating. I made it across fine.
As I finished crossing though, I heard something in my ear. Not a whisper, not a moan... but a giggle. He - it - was laughing at me. Not because he failed claiming me, but because he knew he succeeded once before, and would continue to succeed for many times to come.
Every single time I pass that river, or that bridge, I hear the giggle. I cry harder every time, and yearn more and more to just end it all and jump...