The Fall From Grace

David Rhee

There’s an odd smell in the air, rank trash on the Bridge mixed with the earthy, fresh-after rains smells and the irresistible scent of food and aromatics wafting over from the Strip. The summer night is humid and hot, the air soupy. He can hear the distant sound of music and the constant roar of traffic. There’s an overwhelming beam of light shining on him. Jonathan blinks his eyes open in a daze, looking up at the source of the light, a streetlight with bugs flitting in and out. He tries to get up by grabbing the base of the light, but his hand passes through like a hot knife through butter.

He blinks a few times. ‘What happened?’ he thinks.

As he glances down, he notices his arm is transparent. The outline of his arm is glowing with a faint greenish tint, and he can see everything on his arm, down to that tattoo he got of a cartoon Bull, which happened because he was dared to by his brother. Yet, he can also see right through it to the wooded floor of the Bridge. He stares at the scuffed floor dotted with dried gum and trash through his arm.

‘My phone? Where is it?’ He mutters while frantically searching his body, his hands passing through his legs. Shocked, he stumbles forward, off-balance. He falls, but instead of gravity taking its toll, he just floats. He dashes over to one of the silvery metal support beams. As he steadies himself and stares into the beam, a 5’10 white man stares back at him. He has a fairly short beard, with overgrown curly hair coating the top of his head, his shirt dirty, the Nirvana logo faded and fallen, jeans ripped, soiled, and paint-splattered. His legs are shimmering in the reflection like a mirage.

‘Who the hell is that?’ Jonathan wonders, his face completely pale.

‘Jesus, I’m a ghost!’ Jonathan cries.

‘Mark! Oh my God, does he know?’

He flies across the Bridge. ‘I have to get to Mark. I have to get to him,’ Jonathan gasps as he realizes he’s seven feet above the ground.

He floats above the walkway, passing through cables, towards the ramp where Grace Bridge feeds into the Strip on Central Street. He reaches the ramp, but he can’t pass. It’s like running into a brick wall. Well, a steel wall. He roams all over the Bridge across partially rusted steel beams, with orange spots dotting the guard rails, and down to the plaques on the legs of the Bridge. Johnny stares at the bronze plaques, reading out the words illuminated by moonlight, ‘Grace Bridge 1891. Constructed with Carnegie Steel… Repaired by WPA…1934…The Hope of The City.’

He groans. It feels like his skin is boiling, and his head is about to crumble. No matter where he went, from the clouds down to the waterbed, he simply could not pass. His chest starts to hurt. After a few minutes of struggling to push through what feels like steel molasses, eventually, he finds himself back in the center of the Bridge.

 “What now?!” Jonathan screams into the night.

Defeated, Jonathan slumps against the cold steel of the Bridge and stares as the sun peeks up with people making their morning commute. He doesn’t remember how long he stays there, watching the sun come and go. He has to find Mark, something that won’t happen by sitting on his ass. So he gets up to try and find a way.

Once he had something to occupy him, he got used to the weirdness of it, Being dead, that is, all real fast, though. Although not having to eat, sleep, shit, or need anything is kinda cool, he misses the taste of a good greasy burger and some fries. Now that got him thinking about late-night burgers with his brother after tests, exams, and other things he misses from his old life. He wants a shave, and a fresh suit, to cast off the persona and become his old successful self. He needs something to ground him. There’s a constant pull upward, both physical and mental. It’s much easier to float above the ground, and sometimes he finds himself subconsciously doing it. He also needs to ground his thoughts to focus on specific things of the now. The best way he could describe the pull is the Earth trying to sweep away his unnatural existence.

His brother deserves closure. At the very least, he wants to say goodbye to Mark. And so does he. He wants to know, to know if it is okay for him to pass on.

The early morning came, and mist was coating the Bridge. Jonathan waits in the middle as the crowd starts to come in. First, it’s the commuters heading to work. Jonathan sympathizes with them the most, knowing firsthand the grind of waking up to beat the rush. Then, a couple of hours later, a storm of children drags their tired parents on the next great adventure. But, as the day went on and the sun went down, there was still no sign of Mark.

‘Why hasn’t he shown up yet? Surely, he’s moved on from now; it’s been, what, like, a month at this point? Being a financial advisor requires him to come across this Bridge from his apartment. Mark’s too much of a creature of habit to not come at exactly 8:30 for his morning coffee. Then he takes 16th street to CastleWall, where he works, sipping exactly every half-block.’ Jonathan wonders.

It’s like clockwork, every single day, every single week. Mark also had this weird ritual every time he crossed the Bridge, where he would knock on the bridge beam at the halfway mark precisely three times. The last time they were together on their commute, they talked about housing prices….’ Jonathan reminisces, falling back into his memories.

Then Jonathan remembers.

‘I was supposed to help him move that day! He moved places!!’ Jonathan went as pale as well, a ghost.

‘He has to pass through eventually!’ Jonathan exclaims, a new fire lit in his eyes.

‘No matter who you were, you traveled across Grace Bridge at one point. Come on, Mark, where are you?’ Jonathan mumbles to himself, eyes roving over the masses going about their day for the fifth day in a row. Every day waiting on the Bridge is another day where the pull hurts even more, increasing every minute he stays on the Bridge.

While Johnny plays the waiting game, he sort of just exists in the spot where he jumped. Grace Bridge connects the financial district and The Strip, a place filled with restaurants and stores. The Grace Bridge is walkable and usually crowded during the day. So, he develops a new hobby, watching many kinds of people cross the Bridge. It passes the long days and nights well enough, he supposes.

His moment in the spotlight finally came one July afternoon, about 1 month since he woke up. A little girl is holding a stuffed giraffe. She’s around 4’1 with tanned skin, almond-shaped eyes, little dimples, and proud cheekbones framed by black bangs. She is standing by herself, desperately calling out for her mommy and daddy. The masses are out on a cool summer day with a clear sunny sky. Cotton candy is carried by children consuming more sugar than they usually are allowed, with their tired parents chaperoning over them.

The little girl’s cries are drowned out by the crowd’s roar. It took a few minutes of searching, but Johnny noticed a pair of frantic parents desperately calling out for their baby.

He floats like Tinkerbell down towards the child and whispers into her ear, “Take a left now.”

She swings around, looking for the voice in her ear. “Daddy, was that you? Where are you??”

“I’m not your dad, kid. I am going to help you find him, though. Is that okay with you?”

The little girl furiously nods up and down, “Sure, mister! Although…Where are you talking to me from? I can’t see anyone….”

She looks around, searching for the stranger’s voice.

Jonathan chuckles, “Don’t worry about it. Long story short, I’m a ghost.”

The girl’s eyes lit up, “Wow, a ghost!! That’s so cool, Mr. Ghost! Do you haunt people?! Can you flicker the lights on and off? I can’t believe I’m talking to a ghost!!”

She shrieks and is overcome with excitement.

Johnny sighs in amusement, “First things first, no, I don’t haunt people. Now, let’s get you back to your parents. I’m sure mom and dad are worried sick. In a few seconds, take a left.”

 After a few seconds, she follows his directions and takes a left.

For three minutes or so, Jonathan guides her through the crowd.

“Go straight past those men in the yellow and black tracksuits, then take a right when the lady with the alligator purse passes you,” he whispers into the child’s ear.

Eventually, they reach her parents, standing by the exit of the Bridge leading to waterfront stores. Her parents are ecstatic, sobbing in their joy.

They were reaching the bounds of where he could go, but he had to see the kid off. Jonathan waves goodbye and the child calls out, “Thank you, Mr. Ghost Man!”

The girl’s dad startles, fearing that she may have suffered unseen trauma, whispering to his wife, “I think we should get her checked out for Schizophrenia.”

It is roughly about 2 months. 3 days, 6 hours, and 2 minutes AD when the next person tries to jump. She is a blond woman in her twenties, tall, 5’6, wearing a thin red dress cut at her knees. Her mascara is running down her face. There is a slight sway to her step as she walks with her head down, staring at her phone, intently scrolling through social media. Johnny watches her walk without a care in the world, as he had in what seemed like so long ago. She is so absorbed in her screen that she doesn’t notice the man walking across the Bridge and bumps into him. She stops at the place where he is “haunting,” for lack of a better word. With a sinking feeling in his stomach, he watches her peer at the safety fence. He knows that look. He, too, had worn that empty look. The city’s neon lights reflect off of the muddy puddles congregating in potholes. Nobody except a few addicts shifting through the trash on the Bridge, a symptom of a Sunday night. Everyone else is at home, with their loved ones, preparing for the work week to begin or for school. She looks up and around, pulls out her phone, and sends a few final messages before climbing onto the railing.

The woman swung one leg onto the railing. Like he did. First, the right leg, then the left one. She grasps the metal bar and stands on shaking legs. His leg had also shaken back then, shaky from his continuous need to drink.

He tries. “Please,” he whispers in her ear, “Don’t do this. It isn’t worth it. Trust me, I know what you feel right now, but it isn’t worth losing your entire future.”

“Shut up. I don’t wanna hear it,” She slurs.

“It hurts too, you know,” he tries again, the words burning his throat.

She shakes her head and mumbles, “Must be the alcohol. Maybe I’m going crazy.”

“It isn’t just a plummet and a quick death,” he tells her. “Your lungs will burn as the frigid water floods in, and your ribs will feel like someone took a hammer to them. So please don’t do this.”

“I don’t wanna do this anymore. I miss youuu sis,” the woman weeps out.

“Please,” he begs desperately.

He remembers people whispering, shouting, crying, and begging him not to jump. People who were just going about their day reacted with shock and horror. Then, an older couple tried to talk him down with soothing words about his future and how leaving would hurt the people he left behind. At that point, however, he simply didn’t care anymore. Immediately, the pedestrians began to gasp and scream. He feels powerless. Utterly powerless. It must have been what that couple felt.

But he’s Johnny, and his brother always called him stubborn. He reaches deep, deep inside his core, and pushes with everything he can muster. It hurts like hell. He’s never tried to do something this great, this flashy. But he still pushes, and he pushes hard.

Johnny opens his eyes to the cloudy sky, the sounds of a local news crew, sirens, and the low hum of a crowd.

“‘It was a miracle that saved her,” the local reporter gushes. He continues, “Hope Smith said a ghost managed to push her away from the edge of the Bridge right before she jumped. However, authorities say she was intoxicated at the time. She said that after the ghost had interfered and talked to her, witnesses ran over to help her. Ms. Smith is recovering at the local hospital where friends and family say she will also be treated for depression.”

It was another 4 months, 6 days, 2 hours, and 35 minutes before the next jumper. He saved that guy by talking to him about his family and the future. Then another in 5 months, 10 days, 18 hours, and 24 minutes AD. Jonathan saved her by pushing her back from the railing and listening to her rant about her life until she calmed down. The jumpers came randomly, with no order, no pattern, but they came. One after another and another and another and another.

Jonathan saves them all through words or actions. It hurts every time.

Jonathan is becoming a hero. Stories of a ghost talking to people appear more frequently. The Bridge became more traveled at night now, with his presence.

These long winter nights made the days warp together in a confusing haze.

The days and nights all blend until three years have passed.

Every single day for three years, Jonathan had examined every single man who even vaguely resembled his brother.

He has given up hope of seeing his brother again.

One day, there was a man, one day, during a warm summer night. He walks with a decided purpose in his step, his eyes clear and focused. The man was 5’11, wearing a thin jacket over his t-shirt.

The man stops by the halfway point bridge beam and hesitantly raises a fist. He moves after a moment and knocks three times on the metal.


The man stops, lifting a cigarette with shaking hands to his face. He gets out his lighter, flicks on the flame, and holds it close to the cig. It didn’t light as his hands kept shaking the flame away. It takes him three tries to finally get that sweet hit of nicotine and the release of stress that comes with it. Jonathan’s brother’s face is alight through the glow of the cig, casting a shadow onto the rusty railing he is leaning on.

He takes a deep breath of the cigarette smoke and tosses the butt into the water.

He hangs his head, eyes downcast. The man–Mark– sighs and starts to take off his shoes.

Mark glances over the edge, folding his jacket into a neat pile on top of his shoes. He walks up to the guard fence, taking a couple of breaths.

Johnny isn’t going to lose his brother.

Mark clampers up onto the railing, pulling himself up onto the bar.

The brothers close their eyes and act.

Mark falls back and forcefully rockets back onto the Bridge, the wind getting knocked out of him.

Johnny taps his little brother on the shoulder and whispers into his ear, “Hey, Mark.”

Mark, wheezing, has his mouth wide open in shock.

Johnny keeps talking, “How’ve you been, Mark?”

Mark gasps out, “Johnny? But you’re dead! I was at your funeral!”

“Well, I couldn’t pass on without saying goodbye for the last time.”

“No. No way this is happening. A hallucination?” Mark begins to mutter to himself.

“HEY! I’m right here!” Johnny yells.

Mark stares at the air where Johnny is before his eyes widen in recognition.

Mark whispers, “Oh my god, you’re real.”

Johnny sighs, “Took you long enough, huh? Goddamn, it is good to see you.”

Johnny pauses, then laughs.

“You know, after waiting so long, you’d think I’d have some speech prepared. I don’t have time left for a speech either way. What took you so long anyway?”

Mark chuckles, “I moved away after your death. Spent some time soul-searching. Come back here to confront your death. Never expected to see your stubborn ass.”

Johnny smiles, “I guess it’s because you’re related to me? I don’t know. Whatever. I’m glad. You look good. That’s good to know. I love you, Mark. I hope you know that.”

Mark replies, “I always knew Johnny.”

Johnny grins from ear to ear, waving goodbye before finally embracing the pull.