The Comfort Zone

Entry by: Briergate

9th November 2016
The power of One

When Gillian approached the final bend before her destination, she could feel the muscles in her legs jiggling. Her car juddered a little, responding to the shaking transmitting to the accelerator pedal. She breathed in slowly, and then pursed her lips and exhaled, forcing air out in a quiet, determined 'woosh'.

Pulling into the car park, she climbed from the seat and locked the vehicle with a trembling hand. She hesitated for a moment, tucking her shirt in, smoothing her hair, breathing in, breathing out, before raising her head high, and striding towards the reception office.

She was careful to focus solely upon the smiling woman behind the desk, rather than allowing her eyes to seek out the bright posters and photographs embellishing every wall.

“Hello, my name’s Gill, I have a slot booked for half past ten today?”
The woman ran a chipped fingernail down a list in front of her, then grinned up at Gillian.

“I’ve got you down, Gill. Pop your details in the Visitor’s Book, and I’ll get things ready for you out there,” she said kindly. Gill tried to still her shaking hand as she wrote her name, placing a signature to a disclaimer which she didn’t read. She blocked out the conversation the receptionist was having over the phone.

If, she thought, I don’t think about it, I can do it.

“Awesome, thank you”, the woman grinned, gesturing towards the doorway behind her desk. “Put your stuff in one of the lockers, the guys are waiting for you!”

Gillian smiled back nervously, and headed through the door. As it closed behind her, she paused for a moment, controlling her breathing.

This. Is. It, she told herself. One chance. One.

Ahead of her, a sun-tanned athletic man was waiting to greet her, decked in a tartan lumberjack shirt and ripped jeans. Not, Gillian considered, the kind of guy you’d naturally trust with preventing your immediate death. Despite her negative thoughts, she stepped forward brightly, shaking his hand. She started a little as he laughed down at her, suddenly very aware of his strikingly handsome face.

“Gill? I’m Mark. You all set?”

Gill nodded, swallowing. Mark kept her hand for a moment longer than she would have expected, before leading her forward. She followed him, eyeing the roaring river beneath them as they climbed up, up, up an iron stair to a bridge so high above the river that the roar of the water receded.

“Mark? How high exactly is this?” Gillian asked, her voice squeaking slightly.

“A full 43 metres above the water line,” he replied. Gillian nodded, swallowing again. Mark grinned, patting her arm.

“Don’t worry about it, seriously. Just – don’t look down.”

Naturally, Gillian immediately peered over the iron ledge she was now standing upon. She felt herself sway as she stared down at the rapids below.

“Oh, shit. Shit. Shit. Shit,” she said.

“Hopefully not, Gill. Maybe just a sensation that you might, though?”

Gillian stood passively as Mark busied himself with some rope, tying her feet together in an intricate knot which looked extremely unreliable. Even if she had wanted to move, to back away, she was now unable to. Trussed and frightened, she stared at Mark to await direction.

“OK, so Gill. There’s nothing to it. You just pop your arms out like so-“ Mark demonstrated, pulling her inert hands in front of her. His warm grip made her blush, and she saw the soft ripple of muscle beneath his shirt.

“-and then, you dive, just as if you were diving into a swimming pool. OK?”

Gillian nodded, glanced down, then back to Mark. She. Was. Going. To. Die.

Mark smiled, and then helped her shuffle to the edge of the ledge. Gillian gripped the bar in terror, her knees shaking and stomach roiling with nerves.

“OK so I’m going to count to three, then you’re just going to dive in a moment, right?”

Gillian nodded.

“Would you like to touch the surface, be partially submerged, or completely submerged?” he asked innocently, in the same conversational tone someone would use if asking her how many sugars she wanted in her tea.

Gillian shrugged. What did it matter? She was going to die anyway.

“Submerged, then?”

Gillian nodded. Mark adjusted the rope, and then patted her shoulder one more time.


Gillian looked down at the swirling river below, and nodded once more.


She braced herself, moving further to the edge. She looked down at her tied feet, and suddenly smiled. The rush of terror she was feeling was familiar to her. It was the same sensation of imminent death which she’d experienced exactly one year to the day, when the lorry veered towards her on the motorway.


Gillian flexed her hands, preparing to let go, just as she had when the firefighters lifted her out of the wreck, and handed her over to the paramedics.


One. That was the number of people she had relied upon to find the strength to fight back, when they said she would never walk again. The percentage probability that she would ever leave the wheelchair and take steps unaided. The number of days she allowed herself to grieve, before rallying against a near-certain future of disability.

Gillian grinned, her eyes alight with excitement, and lifted her hands above her head. Taking one deep breath, she leaped.

She was weightless. She was flying. She soared up, then her body arced downwards. Sky, forests, mountains streamed past her wide eyes and she loosed a scream of exhilaration as the rapids below surged towards her, and then away. Up again, and then racing down.

God. It was incredible.

She was invincible. Alive. Alive.


The cool water enveloped her, and she flailed, seeking her way up to the surface. Strong arms reached out and gripped her, pulling her into the dinghy waiting for her descent.

Coughing, laughing and crying, Gillian allowed herself a moment to lie back in the boat, staring into the cloudless sky which she had just flown through.

One. It was all she needed. The prime number. The life she had to live.