SHORT STORY: FREEBALLING (FAN FICTION)

I’ve always wanted to write a fanfic story, but never thought I’d actually go through with the process. After several attempts and the encouraging feedback I’ve received from readers, I’m happy to announce I’ve finally completed my work. I’m a huge Backstreet Boys fan, and you might have noticed the influences in Bitter Perceptions (More on that another time), but killing off the band’s most popular member wasn’t easy. The story is part of the website Absolute Chaos’ 1000 Ways to Kill Nick Carter series, and as usual I added a humorous twist.

Please be aware that while the characters are based on real people, the story is fiction, and no harm is intended. Here is the story. Enjoy!

FREEBALLING

“Come on man, you’re gonna feel great afterwards, promise.” I gave my friend a reassuring smile and playfully patted his tense shoulder. “You decided to do this, and you can’t pull out now. Too late anyway, we’re already airborne. You won’t regret it though – the first time I jumped it was the…”

“Greatest feeling in the world…” He completed the sentence with me and chuckled nervously. “I know D, I know.”

Funny how he’d matured from an annoying prankster to a level-headed family guy who drove thousands of females wild with his onstage antics and that killer smile, yet behind that ripped keto physique lay a total scaredy-cat. Okay, he still pushed our buttons with his practical jokes, me especially – once a prankster always a prankster – but how could you hate the guy? After a few painful breakups and countless flings with celebrities and die-hard fans, he’d finally tied the knot with his girlfriend Lauren, and both were the proud parents of Odin, a cherubic fireball almost as mischievous as his old man. Despite these new chapters in his life, Nick Carter would forever remain the baby of the group, and once again my protective big brother side came into play.

“Just remember everything you were taught when you practised on that skateboard before we slipped into our jumpsuits and boarded this plane,” I encouraged. “Pretty soon you’ll be floating on sunshine with a beautiful green landscape stretching out in front of you, and you’ll feel like a superhero.”

Nick’s blue eyes lit up. “Superhero?” Clearly still a big kid, even at 37.

“Yeah. Anything to erase memories of that Cyber Crusaders crap, huh?” I laughed, referring to the cheesy webisode series Nick created in the height of our popularity. “Illusioneer…that was the best alias a comic freak like you could come up with for me?”

“Shut up, Howard.” He paused for a moment, and I wondered if he was still embarrassed by that badly-drawn, poorly scripted series, or still fearful of his latest adventure. “It’s a pity Kev still hasn’t acquired that pilot license he’s dreamed of for years, he probably would have flown us up here. The more the merrier, huh?” The tandem – Nick’s personal instructor – inspected Nick’s harness attached to his own buckles, and his student gave another smile. “Thanks for tagging along with me, Howie, I really needed the support of someone who’s actually done this before.” And who better than your long-suffering bandmate, I pondered.

In the height of the group’s popularity, Nick had established a charity dedicated to the conservation of marine life, raising thousands of dollars to protect dolphins and sharks, despite his perpetual fear of the latter. Always up for an adventure, he later turned his attention to the sky above the deep blue sea, although seagulls were the least of his concerns. Unlike Kevin and I, the other guys hated travelling in airplanes. How had Nick retained his usual goofy personality on the luxury 757 we hired for our 100-hour Black & Blue promotional tour towards the end of 2000? Nick soon grew accustomed to air travel – as a singer who regularly toured the world he had no alternative – but flying no longer provided our blonde hair-raiser with an adrenaline rush.

Maybe I should have kept my mouth shut when George Lopez asked us to reveal our bucket list plans on his talk show. Unlike AJ, B-Rok, and Nick (Kevin had briefly left the band to concentrate on fatherhood), I’d already fulfilled my wish when I went skydiving. Therapeutic, calming, scary. And satisfying. An experience I highly recommended, and Nick gradually took a keen interest. Like AJ, he had a reputation for starting what he never finished, and no-one guessed he’d order a premium package at a Florida skydiving club. Fans had posted messages encouraging their idol to go for it, but he still needed a hand to hold along the way. Anyone could sign up to float on cloud nine – quite literally – but going ahead with that adventure? That took real guts of steel.

“Maybe I shouldn’t freak out that much,” Nick announced, his voice audible over the roaring plane engine. “You know how some people wear their lucky underwear when they try something that scares them?”

I raised an eyebrow. “Yeah?”

“That’s for wimps, man. I’m gonna be freeballing. Totally commando, baby!”

“You’re crazy,” I sighed, shaking my head, although I couldn’t suppress a giggle. What else did I expect from an attention-seeker I’d known over twenty years? His statement certainly caught the attention of his tandem who looked uneasy at the thought of being strapped to a skydiving novice completely naked from the waist-down underneath his jumpsuit. He had nothing to fear – Nick would utter any crap for shock value.

“This is it Nick, 18,000 feet,” the tandem announced from behind, probably trying to block out any mental images. “Ready?”

“Hell, yeah. Let’s do this!”

Another instructor opened the entrance, and Nick stared at the world below behind the clouds, the fear from earlier steadily creeping back in.

“Oh, shit. Fuck!”

“Relax Frackolas,” I soothed, cracking up at my friend’s expletives. I also had a passion for adrenaline sports having just done a bungee jump in New Zealand, but I still recognised the feeling. “You’ll be fine, promise. Or would you rather you waited till Lance Bass did a Felix Baumgartner first?”

“Fuck, no!”

The tandem jumped out of the craft, Nick strapped in front of him, and I soon followed with my own instructor. The crisp, fresh breeze blew onto my face, jolting my senses. Therapeutic, calming, and satisfying, just as I remembered. Hopefully my bandmate was enjoying a similar experience, but instead I noticed Nick dropping down further, and I panicked. Why did I get the feeling something wasn’t right? He’d jumped first, but the chute still hadn’t burst open?

“Nicky!” No reply.

Wait a minute. Didn’t tandems carry extra parachutes in case of emergencies? Classic Nick, this prank had Candid Camera written all over it. I’d heard the TV series Punk’d was making a comeback – maybe the soft-spoken dude in with the bushy beard behind the controls was Ashton Kutcher in disguise. Come to think of it, did Ashton Kutcher even hold a pilot license?

Please God, let this be one of Nick’s crazy jokes, but forgive me when I strangle him. Please…

No sign of Nick when I landed. Weird. I’d seen him drift away in the air, but surely he hadn’t landed that far away from our designated zone? My heart now beating rapidly in my mouth, we searched frantically after the skydiving centre confirmed Nick and his tandem hadn’t landed in the area. Two hours passed and we still hadn’t spotted him hiding in the bushes waiting to jump out and yell “Psych!” with MTV filming the moment. I thought of calling Lauren back in LA to inform her of this confusing development when another instructor beckoned to me from a distance.

“Hey, Howie!” he called. “You need to see this. We’ve found him.”

Why did this welcome piece of information deliver bad vibes? It didn’t take long to discover why. I stared open-mouthed at the breaking news ticker tape running across the reception area’s flatscreen before collapsing on the floor, tears streaming down as the news-reader delivered the horrifying news:

“Two tandem skydivers – one believed to be pop singer Nick Carter of the Backstreet Boys – were mauled to death by German shepherds after landing in the middle of the Orlando Police Department Canine Training School this afternoon. Eye-witnesses claim they spotted the skydivers drifting out of control, but were unaware of their exact location when the brutal attack occurred…”

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