He never hit the ground.

I learned this only upon arrival with the authorities, scrambling out of the ambulance with the response team to inspect the scene. Once the jump has been made it’s a sure bet that there’s nothing to save, and yet the hospital always gets the first call. I know most of the medics think it’s a pain, but I like the thrill of the drive. Rolling up, it’s clear what drew the extra onlookers this time.

Somebody caught him, or tried to. Huge mess, and twice the body count. Nobody is a winner in a catch situation. Gotta wonder what goes through their head in that quick minute. The good samaritan’s final stand? Or maybe they’re a jumper on their way to a jump? Now there’s a strange shortcut. Either way, I’ll never understand them.

“Fucking idiot!” Someone sobs from behind the police tape. So he’d been in a group. The catcher, the volunteer collateral. No use looking them over. If someone ever died of grief they never came to the ER about it.

“Jerry, have a look at this.” I turn to address the call. My name is not Jerry. Jerry is the overweight paramedic who wheezes as he descends from the ambulance carriage. How can hospital personnel live unhealthy lives while taking care of the sick and dying? I’ll never understand them.

Walking closer, I see the speaker lifting the hand of the jumper from the pavement. Soft, unnatural noises issue as weight is lifted from the ruined catcher. A softer, natural noise occurs moments later as the man groans.

“Shit—we’ve got a breather!” Jerry gasps, rushing back to the ambulance as his uniform rides up on him. Why am I so unfocused today? I glance back down at the “survivor” and frown. He’ll be lucky to make it to the hospital. Even a rookie like me could see that. It only takes one death to get a hang of the gut feeling. I’m fresher than most of the others; younger, too. Maybe it’s my cynicism that’s helped me last this long. My Pa always said I could be a real hard ass.

“Is the spine really intact?” a female EMT whispers. Another answers with a “hurry up” and they hoist him up into the vehicle.

The corpse-turned-breather has made no further noise or sign of activity. Has anyone even checked his pulse? I can sense the desperate throb of his heart, pumping blood into bits that can’t handle it. The sobbing has stopped. I turn for a moment to see that the onlookers have been waved away. There were so many a few minutes ago when there were two corpses in the street. Why are humans so enthralled by death? It’s the first thing the big guys warn you about, but it’s still unnerving.

Humans. I’ll never understand them.

I slip into the ambulance as the doors are pulled shut. He’s not making it to the hospital.

Amber Ross is a freshman Honors Cartooning student originally from Pennsylvania. She aspires to become a part of the comic/graphic novel industry after she graduates. Her drawings are published in this issue of The Match Factory.