My name is Finn Jupiter – a Prologue (unedited, first draft version)

‘Amy, I’m going to have to call you back,’ Finn Jupiter said as she crossed the school’s parking lot. ‘People are running. They never run.’

She killed the call and stabbed the phone into her pocket. Hurrying through the gate, she spotted one of her brother’s young friends and reached out an arm to stop him.

‘Whoa, Brian … what’s going on?’

The junior’s eyes seemed to have given up on blinking. His words bottlenecked and then poured out all at once. ‘Senior— There’s a s—senior on the roof. They’re saying he’s going to jump.’

‘Who is it?’

‘I—I’m not sure,’ he choked. ‘Somebody Davids. Peter or … Paul Davids. I don’t know—’

And then Brian was gone, swallowed up by the surging crowd.

Finn felt a twinge in her chest. Paul Davids was that guy. Every high school had at least one. The teenager who was a little uncoordinated. A little more overweight. Hair and speech always two styles out of date. Clothes chosen for function rather than form. Like so many of his type, there was nothing fundamentally wrong with him. He was funny and smart. Maybe even leave a dent in the world smart. That is, if he didn’t leave an actual dent in the world first. Paul Davids just wasn’t cut out for the Hunger Games of high school.

Finn straightened up and took a breath. ‘Fuck.

And then she was running.

 

#

 

Wading out into the quad, Finn looked up and honed in on the oblong figure of Paul Davids teetering on top of Marlow’s main building, seven floors north. His face was turned up to the sun and, at first, Finn thought he was clenching a sweatshirt in his hand. She frowned when she realised what it was.

‘Oh shit, Paul,’ she whispered.

She was trying to absorb as much information as possible, attempting to construct a scenario in her mind, when a voice called out to her. ‘Tell me it’s a cry for help, Finn. Please. I can’t live with this fuckshow in my head.’

Finn turned and spotted her best friend, Samantha, pushing through the crowd.

After they had embraced, Finn stood back and offered Sam an uncertain look.

‘What’ve you seen?’ Sam asked.

‘Look. I’ve only just got here—’

‘Don’t give me that. You’ve already worked it out.’

‘Sam, please. I don’t have fucking superpowers.’

‘Yeah. Yeah. Just tell me what you’ve seen.’

Finn took a moment and then looked up at Paul. She hesitated before she spoke. ‘His left hand.’

Sam followed her gaze. ‘What is that? A scarf?’

‘It’s a pillowslip.’

‘Okay? Doesn’t exactly look like he’s in the mood for sleeping.’

‘He’s going to pull it over his head before he jumps. That’s why he has the duct tape in his back left pocket. He’s going to use the tape to make a seal around his neck. So the pillowslip stays on.’

Jesus. Why?’

Finn shrugged. ‘Heads explode, Sam.’

Sam’s face seemed to twitch at the comment.

‘Look at the building. The entrance. The windows.’

Sam craned her neck to see beyond a cluster of students.

‘He’s chained up the doors. Put locks on the windows. You don’t do that if you’re looking for help.’

Jesus. So you’re telling me this is for real?’

Finn nodded. ‘See how he’s looking up at the sky?’

‘Uh-huh.’

‘He’s saying his goodbyes. Or asking for forgiveness.’

It was all too much for Sam to cope with. She cupped her hands over her mouth. ‘Somebody has to fucking do something.’

Before Finn could respond, a loud hailer crackled to life. She turned and spotted the harassed figure of Principal Michael Lamb climbing up onto a plastic chair. Poor bastard, she thought. He wasn’t equipped for this. He was barely equipped to get dressed in the morning. As she waited to hear what he had to say, she scanned the 300-strong crowd and guessed that at least half the students were filming Paul on their phones. Then she picked up on some of the voices around her. Most were urging Paul to back away from the edge, to think about what he was doing, but others were less compassionate. One such voice belonged to Troy Alexander. Marlow’s hockey captain and self-appointed ring-leader of arseholes. He was practically begging Paul to jump.

‘Look at that piece of shit,’ Sam said, shaking her head.

‘Yeah. I’d rather not.’

Michael Lamb cleared his throat and then spoke into the loudhailer.

‘PLEASE, MR DAVIDS, COME DOWN FROM THERE. WHATEVER YOUR ISSUE IS, WE CAN SORT IT OUT. SUICIDE IS NEVER THE ANSWER. YOU HAVE MY WORD AS THE PRINCIPAL OF THIS SCHOOL THAT WE WILL GET YOU THROUGH THIS. RAISE YOUR HAND IF YOU CAN HEAR ME.’

Finn was studying Paul’s body language and could tell he wasn’t listening. He had his mind set on oblivion and nothing that anyone said to him from the ground was going to make the slightest difference. Something needed to impact on him. And fast.

‘Look at him. He’s completely zoned out,’ Sam said, her voice breaking. ‘It’s not going to work.’

Finn turned to the building and ran her eyes over the ivy-like array of pipes and drains that clung to its westerly wall. ‘I need to get up there. He might listen to me.’

Sam began to nod but then shook her head. ‘How? You said it yourself. He’s locked up the place. He’s not going to wait around—’

‘I said up … not in.’

It took a moment for Sam to understand what she meant. ‘Finn, no. No! That’s a fucking terrible idea. Forget it.’

‘It’s an easy climb. I could do it in my sleep.’

‘Really? And if you slip? There’s no rope. You don’t have wings, Finn—’

‘He’s going to fucking jump, Sam. He’s going to die in front of you. In front of everyone.’

‘Jesus … hold on. Please, Finn. Just think about it for a second. I’ve got a really bad feeling about this. Let’s wait for the cops to get here—’

‘You said it yourself. He’s not going to hang around. There isn’t time. I’ve got to do this.’

Before Sam could protest any further, Finn turned away and ran for the building.

 

#

 

She was barely a yard off the ground when a face in the crowd spotted her. ‘Jupiter’s climbing the building!’

At once, dozens of camera phones swung in her direction. They were followed swiftly by the sound of the loudhailer. ‘FINN JUPITER, WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU’RE DOING? GET DOWN FROM THERE! THE SITUATION IS BAD ENOUGH. WE DO NOT NEED YOU ADDING TO IT!’

Grateful that it was a dry morning, Finn wedged the fingers of her left hand into the narrow space between a row of bricks and then wrapped her right hand around a drainage pipe. Then she hoisted herself up towards the second floor. As she repeated the move to gain another yard, she glanced up and saw that Paul was now watching her as well.

Good, she thought. If you’re watching you’re not jumping.

Reaching a narrow ledge on the third floor, she looked over her shoulder and noticed that the crowd’s energy had changed. Most of the comments and chants had stopped; people seemed to be holding their breath. A mosaic of mobile phones glinted up at her. However this played out, one thing was certain: this shit was going to trend on social media.

Compared to Finn’s regular climbs in The Rockies, this was reasonably straightforward. The footholds and finger grips were all adequate and the pipes felt solidly attached to their brackets. Still, Finn knew that in the world of free climbing a single lapse in judgement would turn a straightforward ascent into a death plunge. And, in this case, ten million hits online.

Reaching up for the metal window frame on the fifth floor, she glanced up at Paul and decided to call out to him. ‘I’m not going to come near you, Paul. I just want to tell you about this amazing idea I’ve had. Okay?’

Paul did not reply, but was unable to take his eyes off her. He seemed transfixed by what she was doing. Of all the permutations he had dreamed up in his planning, having the most beautiful senior in school climbing up the side of the building had clearly not occurred to him.

Back on the ground, Principal Lamb was growing increasingly desperate. ‘JUST SIT THERE, FINN! PLEASE. EMERGENCY SERVICES ARE ON THEIR WAY!’

Sam, in turn, could barely watch. Squinting through her fingers, her nails were digging into the side of her face.

Looking for her next grip, Finn realised it was just out of her grasp. A metal pipe jutted out away from the building some twenty inches beyond her reach. Weighing up her options, she knew that – slim as she was – she couldn’t fit through the small cottage pane windows beside her and there was no other way up to the sixth floor. There was simply nothing for it. If she wanted to make it up to the roof, she would have to jump off the ledge and make the catch. If she had been standing on the ground she was sure she’d make the catch nine times out of ten. But the ground was a hundred feet below her. And that changed everything.

Feeling the sweat prickle her hands, she took a moment to steady herself. The crowd murmur began to grow as students worked out for themselves what she was about to attempt. The loudhailer wasn’t far behind. ‘NO, FINN. NO! DON’T EVEN THINK ABOUT IT!’

Wiping her fingers on the back of her denims, Finn slowed her breathing and willed an injection of strength into her hands and shoulders. She zeroed in on the pipe and allowed all her other thoughts to fall away. Then she filled her lungs, bent her knees, and launched herself into the air.

Heading up and away from the building, her hands stretched out for the pipe. As the moment spread out in her mind, she could feel her body leaving the safety of the building and drifting out over the crowd. She held her breath as her right hand wrapped around the pipe. Her left hand followed an instant later and she began to pull herself up.

The crowd cheered as Finn hauled her legs up onto the sixth floor ledge. As the adrenaline surged through her, Finn lifted her foot onto a windowsill and stretched up for the lip of the roof.

‘You’re out of your mind,’ Paul Davids called out to her. His eyes were wide with a mix of shock and disbelief. He was standing barely twenty feet away from her. ‘I can’t believe you just did that.’

Finn took a moment to catch her breath and then sat down on the edge of the roof, her legs dangling over the crowd. ‘Wasn’t so bad. Except for that jump. I’m not going to lie. Shit got a bit real there.’

‘W—Why’d you come up here? I’m not changing my mind about this, Finn. I’m ending my life today and there’s nothing you or anyone else can do about it.’

Finn looked back at him, seemingly unperturbed by his statement. ‘Seeing that I’ve come all this way for you, Paul, can you at least tell me why?’

‘Why?’ he replied, shaking his head as if the reasons were beyond obvious. ‘Because I don’t belong here. In this school … in this world. I don’t have any friends. I get the crap beaten out of me most days. Nobody gives a shit about me. My own parents couldn’t care if I lived or died. I don’t have any brothers or sisters. It’s pointless. All of it.’

‘I give a shit about you.’

The words seemed to knock Paul back a fraction. ‘No, you don’t.’

‘Really? Then why’d I just risk my life to get up here?’

‘Maybe … you’re looking for attention,’ he began, but swallowed his words. He knew Finn well enough to know that she cared very little of what other people thought of her. It was one of the many things he admired about her.

‘You like computers don’t you, Paul? You’re always on that tablet of yours.’

Paul frowned at the question. ‘What’s that got to do with anything?’

‘What do you do when a programme times out or our shitty internet freezes up your OS?’

‘What does that—’

‘Humour me, Paul. What do you do?’

Paul thought for a second. ‘I reboot it.’

‘Exactly,’ Finn replied, lifting to her feet. ‘So, instead of ending your life … why don’t you just reboot it?’

‘What are you talking about?’

‘It’s simple, Paul. This school is full of arseholes. It’s a fucking ocean of arseholes. Chances are if we both jumped right now we’d do the planet a favour and take out at least four or five of them. The fact that you’re surrounded by arseholes has absolutely nothing to do with who you are. And, yes, it sucks that you’ve got shitty parents, but so does half the planet. It doesn’t mean you get to off yourself.’

‘Finn—’

‘So here’s my amazing idea. Why don’t you leave Victory? Today. Catch a train. Sleep on someone’s couch. Find another school. You’ll get a scholarship in like ten seconds. Or if you’re fed up with school, drop out. Rob a fucking bank. It doesn’t matter. Just start again somewhere else without the sad backstory. You know what I would do if I were you? I’d get a haircut. Buy my clothes from stores that only stock cool shit. I’d change my name. Hit the gym. Maybe needle up with some steroids. And the first person who gave me any shit I’d punch in the throat.’

Paul Davids could only stare back at her.

‘Nothing you’ve had to put up with so far is worth ending your life over. You know who you really are, Paul? I’ll tell you. You’re that awkward, but really smart guy who has a fucking nightmare at school, but then turns things around in a big way. You go to a shit hot university where nobody cares about your past. You invent something that the world doesn’t even know it needs yet. You print money for a few years and then marry a girl with perfect tits. You have three Disney-level children. And you live happily ever after. But only if you have the balls to step away from the edge. If anything’s going to die today, Paul, let it be your back story. Toss it the fuck over. Reboot your life.’

Paul hesitated then opened his mouth. ‘I … I’m sorry, but … I—I’ve made my decision. You can’t stop me.’

‘Actually, Paul. I already have.’

‘What?’

‘You’re up here partly because you think nobody cares about you. Well, I’ve proved that wrong. I also know you’re a decent person. And I know you like me. Maybe more than a little bit. I have a pretty decent arse. Think I don’t know that?’

Paul’s mouth opened a fraction then closed.

‘But there’s something you don’t know about me. You see, for whatever reason, I notice things. Most things, actually. I pick them up at twice the speed of everyone else. I know exactly why you’re holding a pillowslip. Why you have a roll of duct tape in your pocket. I’m guessing you’ve also written a suicide note which is likely stashed in your left pocket because you’re left-handed. You see there are very few things that get past me. Don’t get me wrong, insight can be a proper pain in the arse, but right now it’s going to save your life. Both our lives, actually.’

‘I don’t understand.’

‘So here’s the endgame.’ Finn looked down at her trainers and inched her toes over the edge. ‘I’m betting that you won’t do anything to hurt me and I’ve decided that I won’t live with your death in my head. I’d much prefer to watch you turn your life around. So this is what it comes down to: I want you to imagine that there’s a rope between us. Because, believe me Paul, there is. It’s tied around our waists. If you jump … you’ll take me with you. Consider this the world’s first game of suicide chicken.’

‘Suicide chicken?’

‘Uh-huh.’

‘Y—You’re bluffing. You wouldn’t do it.’

‘How long have we known each other? English class? Junior High? You know my reputation, Paul. You know me. And I’ve made a decision that either we both get out of this hot mess or neither of us do. And I really don’t want to die yet. I want to climb the Matterhorn. Have a daughter. You wouldn’t kill my unborn child, would you, Paul?’ she asked, and then inched her trainers even further off the edge.

Paul felt his arms extend towards her. ‘Wait … no. Finn, hold on. You can’t do this. This is completely fucked up. You’re … you’re…

‘I’m kidnapping your suicide. I know. It’s fucking genius.’

Finn shifted forward another fraction and could feel her balance pivoting on the edge. She had to windmill her arms to stop from falling. The crowd screamed when they thought she was going over. ‘You have to rescue me, Paul.’

‘Finn, please!’

‘Come on, Paul. Now. Stop fucking around.’

Paul felt like he was standing outside his body. Nothing made sense anymore. He felt himself looking down for the rope around his waist.

‘Paul, hurry. The wind’s picking up. Don’t let me fall. You’re not a murderer. I know you. You’re a good guy.’

Shaking his head, then nodding, then shaking his head again, Paul glanced at his legs and watched his right foot step away from the edge.

‘Keep going. I can feel it,’ Finn called back. ‘More.’

Paul’s left foot pulled back. Now only the tips of Finn’s trainers were over the edge.

‘That’s it. Almost there.’

Back on the ground, Finn’s younger brother, Dylan, watched as Paul Davids stepped away from the edge and dropped to his knees. As Finn ran over to him, and as cheers and applause exploded from the crowd, Dylan felt a hand graze the back of his arm. He turned around to see Maya, a new girl in his class. She looked at him in a daze.

W—Who … is that girl?’

close
Facebook IconTwitter IconSt. Martin's PressSt. Martin's PressSt. Martin's Press