School: Beeslack Community High School, Midlothian
The helicopter shivered beneath Ricardo's feet. The blades whipped the clouds like puffs of cream and the engine hummed along with the whispering wind. It was quiet- for a helicopter. Peaceful, almost.
Ricardo leaned over slightly, balancing on the balls of his feet, the tips of his scuffed boots dangerously close to the opened panel. He smiled. This was the end of the beginning; the beginning of the end.
The wind had beaten his dark hair into a swept-back shock and lashed at his face until his skin had tightened and his scrappy clothes hung loosely from his scrawny frame.
He was on the edge of the world.
"Vamos, chico," the pilot cried from the pulpit, "Si vas a saltar, tienes que saltar ahora!"
Ricardo nodded distantly. The pilot was hurrying him up, but Ricardo was far too mesmerised by the spinning planet beneath him. It looked like a painting. Like an abstract collage.
"Vamos, chico," the pilot called out again, "Salta o estoy girando el avión."
Sighing, Ricardo stood up and glanced at the two useless parachutes that most people used to make them feel less helpless, debating whether or not he would be needing them. He shook his head. He wasn't a coward afraid of the jump. He would do this the proper way.
He looked out into the pale purple sky and clenched his fists into tight balls. His nails dug into the sweaty palm of his hands, but the anticipation and anxiety brewing inside of him was screaming too loudly for the pain to be heard.
This is it.
And suddenly, he was running. He couldn't remember deciding to do it, but he was, and in a matter of seconds, he was on the brink.
Don't stop. Don't stop. Don't stop.
Ricardo felt weightless as he launched himself from the safety of the helicopter and into Madre Naturaleza's grasp; his life was in her hands now - either she had a plan for him, or she didn't.
He was breathless: the air had been tugged out of his lungs by the force of the writhing wind. Spreading his arms and legs out, Ricardo felt like a bird - like a god - like the Sagrada Madre herself.
He could see the world spinning, slowly growing larger and larger like a shot from a film. The ground was mostly yellow and brown, but holy fleckles of greed stood out vividly like emeralds in the heart of a dying cave. Blue-grey splashes gave away the watering holes, and the ocean was a vast carpet of dashing sapphire and aquamarine.
Soon, the net would appear.
The net stretched out over parts of what was once Spain. At twelve, you were flown in a helicopter to the brink of the world, and were forced to jump. If you died, you died, leaving a mess for the crows. But if you landed on one of the nets and lived, however, it meant Madre Naturaleza had incorporated you in her Gran Plan.
Ricardo squeezed his eyes shut and waited.
"Gracias a la Madre!" He called out to the world when he felt the net enfold his shaking body.