Jack dove forward to the controls, yanking back on the throttle to level the plane. The water was racing towards them, covering their entire plane of view. It fell away slightly as the plane began to ease up but it wasn’t enough. The wings groaned in protest. Somewhere, a piece of metal was stripped loose, shrieking as it was pulled from the craft. Jack continued to pull back, no longer concerned with the plane. A flash of lightning lit the sky, and Jack glimpsed the choppy waters below.
Madeline plowed into the water with a violent lurch, thrashing its contents within. Harold hollered in pain as a small toolbox crashed into his arm, spilling its contents hazardously into the air. Bodies tumbled in the air, smacking against one another and the unforgiving metal of the cramped cabin. There were ragged gasps and screams of agony.
When the movement stopped, it took a moment for Jack to find his bearings. Down was up. The floor and seats were now the ceiling; the controls and throttle were somewhere above. Cabin lights were sparking sporadically, offering fleeting glimpses of the mayhem at hand. Outside the windows lay a solid wall of water. A spider leg crack in the corner of the windshield was letting in a spout of water as wide as a finger. Time was running out.
Jack wiped his forehead with the back of his hand, feeling something warm and slick there. He didn’t have to look to know it was blood. But at least he was conscious. That was a miracle in itself. He coiled up from his position against the pilot’s seat and glanced back at the other two.
“Guys? Are you ok?” It was the strongest voice he could muster. Harold’s eyes were opened but he seemed to be in shock. Jack glanced him over quickly. There was blood everywhere. It was difficult to know how bad the injuries were.
“I can’t feel my arm,” Harold said in an eerily quiet voice. He lifted his right arm, and Jack could instantly tell it had been broken. It bent at an unnatural, sickening angle. But he’d live. Hopefully.
“Hyde?” Jack said, a little louder this time. He crawled towards the rear of the craft slowly, acutely aware of how quickly the shifting weight could cause new problems.
Hyde lay crumpled against the rear bulkhead, obviously unconscious. His face was smeared with blood. Jack pressed two fingers to his neck and closed his eyes.
“Is he… dead?” Harold stammered. Jack shook his head.
“No, but his pulse isn’t strong. We’ve gotta get out of here.”
Harold squeezed around Jack and tried the rear door handle with his good arm, cradling the other at his chest.
“It won’t budge, Jack,” Harold said after a few tries. Jack put his back against it and braced his legs on the opposite side of the cabin. They pushed together. But it was hopeless.
“What’s going on? Why isn’t the door opening? You think it’s broken?” Harold said with an expression of horror.
“I don’t know, It could be the water pressure against the outside.”
“Then what are we supposed to do? What if we can’t open it?”
“We’ll have to wait till the cabin fills with water. The pressure will start equalizing, then the door will open.”
Harold said nothing as he stared at Jack with wild eyes. Jack turned back to Hyde and began feeling his body for broken bones. A sharp snapping sound turned their attention back to the cockpit, where the crack was forcing its way across the windshield. A sheet of frigid water raced through it, spraying the interior.
“Oh god, oh god,” Harold began mumbling. “I’m going to die. This is it.”
Charlie and Naomi stepped into the guest cabin of Alden and Tomiko Yates at 4:45 AM. They’d been walking the entire night. The door was unlocked, as usual, and the bed was made. They took a steaming hot shower and tumbled drowsily into the sheets. They slept for only five hours, at which point they promptly woke, dressed, and resumed their trek through the mountains.
Taking the eastern trail around the Chipwa mountain range, Charlie and Naomi were able to reach the Gervis airstrip by four thirty that afternoon. Mack wasn’t in the best of moods when they traipsed into his hangar, but he seemed to understand that he wasn’t the only one facing loss. They shook hands, stood around a map and briefly discussed a flight plan, and then piled into his wife’s blue Aerielle. Within thirty minutes of their arrival at the hangar, they were in the air with the valley falling away slowly beneath them.
Mack Gervis asked about their runaways. Charlie explained the story obligingly, but his wife noted his exhaustion. She knew that more than anything, he wanted this to be over. Whichever way it went.
“Bad storm passed through here last night,” Mack finally said when Charlie had finished.
“Oh?” Naomi asked after a few moments of silence. Like Charlie, she didn’t feel much like talking, but if Mack wanted to make conversation they at least owed him that.
“Yeah, strong winds. I’d say thirty, maybe thirty-five mile an hour winds. Not good for a little plane like this.”
“They were flying a plane like this?” Naomi asked.
“Actually a bit smaller than this.”
Naomi tried to ignore the gnawing sensation in her gut. A plane crash in paradise? Could it even be possible? Would Jehovah let it happen? Then again, things had gone this far…
“Any ideas where they might be headed?”
Mack shrugged. “Who knows. If they were smart they would’ve landed at the first sign of trouble. That’s what any good pilot flying a small craft would do, Old World or New. It just isn’t sensible to take risks.”
“Where could they land?”
“There’re a few airstrips northeast from ours. The nearest is the McGaughlim strip. But I don’t think they landed there. I radioed them last night and they hadn’t seen or heard anything. After that it’s the Levlee strip. I couldn’t get a hold of them last night or today, so I say we head there first.”
Naomi gazed out the window as blue-green hills covered in evergreens rolled beneath her. The sun sat low on the horizon, casting a milky afternoon haze into the atmosphere. Even at seven thousand feet, the smell of autumn pines was strong and unmistakable. Eyelids heavy, Naomi slipped into a fog and dozed off.
It was another hour before she was stirred awake. Her husband’s hand was on her knee, shaking her to life. His face was grim. The plane banked, carving a wide arc into the sky. To the plane’s right and far below, lay a massive crystal blue lake. And there, in the center and far from shore, was the scattered wreckage of a solar plane.
The room was a blur. Blotches of color and light swayed and fused as a dull headache hammered away behind some dark fog. He moved his head, sending tendrils of hot pain lashing against his neck and shoulder. He grunted and gave up, resting his head back against the pillow. The fingers of his left hand bent and twitched, tapping against one another. That was good; things were at least working there. The same was not the case with his right hand, which was cold, stiff, and useless.
What had happened? Where was he? Harold’s mind scrambled to piece the fragments together. There’d been so much water. Cold, cold, rushing water. They were trapped in something. A car accident? No, it wasn’t that. There were controls, a cockpit. A small plane. Why had they been in a plane? And who were the others? Harold winced. It hurt to remember.
Harold attempted his vision again, opening his eyes a fraction and forcing himself to focus. He was lying in a large bed and covered in a dark blue sheet. Pictures on the wall, but too far to see clearly. Not yet. There was a smell in the air. Something familiar. Herbal. Fragrant. Pleasant.
Harold rotated his head slightly to the left, bracing for the pain. It came, but with less ferocity than at first. He let out a breath and opened his eyes, wider this time, and caught a dark figure. Someone sitting in a chair? Harold opened his mouth and tried to speak, but a quiet gasping noise was all that escaped his lips. The figure leaned forward, placing a hand on his shoulder.
“Easy, Harry, you don’t have the strength yet.” That voice. It struck a memory somewhere deep down, like a string plucked in a dark, empty corridor.
Who? Harold mouthed silently.
“In due time. For now, rest. You’ve been asleep for a whole day. Gather your strength.”
Harold tried to nod, but was unable. Instead he closed his eyes and was stolen away into sleep.