I popped the chute but nothing happened…


“ONE-THOUSAND, TWO-THOUSAND, THREE-THOUSAND, PULL!” I shouted above the din of the air that battered at my face and rattled my jump-suit about me. I held my breath then expecting the familiar gut-wrench of the chute flowering above me…but nothing happened.
   I’m six-thousand feet up and it’s a glorious clear blue sky all around, that piercing, shard-sharp clarity of air that you only get at altitude. But suddenly I’m not noticing it anymore, I’m reaching for the spare.
   “It’s OK,” I say to myself. “I’ve done this so many times in training. Just grab the handle for the secondary and tug. I do. This time, the whole thing just comes away in my hand. Stunned, I stare stupidly at it for a second, blinking behind my McMurdo eyewear. My eyes are looking at the ends of the strap and a tiny corner of my forebrain mutters “it’s been cut,” but the survival machinery inside my head, the animal stutters and blanks out rational thought.
   “Fuck!” The word comes suddenly from somewhere.
   “FUCK!” Again, louder this time.
   The khaki earth looms.
   “Godnogodnogodnohoho-DaniDani!” Then suddenly something in my head begins to tick, like a wound-down clock that shaken stirs back into progress round the face. My hands scrabble at the strap release. I punch one off and claw the second as I grasp the left strap with my other hand.
   Below, the Thames unwinds, unconcerned and unheeding, growing larger somewhat.
   Somehow I manage to blink the tears away enough to see the flap and rip an opening so I tear the drag-chute from it’s place and clutch the pack and “OOOF” it’s nearly ripped from me. Claw like, I curl my fingers tighter round the webbing and drift awkwardly towards a field of oil-seed rape.

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