High board diver

Joseph Kittinger is falling through our atmosphere. Moments earlier he leapt from a high helium balloon. He is wearing a fully pressurized suit, without which his blood would boil, evaporate into steam, and swell his body to twice its size. A stabilizer chute trails behind him preventing him from spinning uncontrollably. A flat spin at these altitudes could reach two hundred revolutions per minute. The pressure seal in his right glove has broken, and he is in excruciating pain. This is the highest parachute jump in history, the world stretches out below, looking like a satellite image, it has a curve like a child’s globe.

Joseph Kittinger sprang from a high board thirty kilometres up, at the edge of space, the highest high board dive there ever was. Do the low board divers think of high board divers in order to quell their nerves? Do the high board divers think of Joseph Kittinger tearing towards the desert like a meteor?

When we were children we’d sleep hunched like cannonballers in our beds. Lightning could strike the house whilst we slept, and tear through the walls and the bedstead. So we kept our knees balled against our chests, like high board divers, and that way our toes could never complete the circuit with the storm outside, or brush against the scolding rubber of our hot water bottles.

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