This isn't happening. Things like this don't happen to people like me. I sit on a log and look up at the canopy of trees hovering over me. I glance around, seeing only other confused faces glance at me. It's quiet. The loudest quiet I've ever heard. My head floods with thought and I close my eyes, pushing back frantic images. I inhale my surroundings, trying desperately to make sense of the silent riot occurring all around me.
My attention is drawn to a noise. My eyes wander, searching for the source. It sounds like the cry of a small animal; it sounds too familiar to be dangerous. It becomes louder and I recognize the innocent scream. I rise from the dead stump and hurry towards the sound. It has stopped but still it echoes in my mind. A bright whiteness washes over me and I find myself sitting uncomfortably in my adjustable seat.
A newspaper sits in my lap but I'm too anxious to notice. Something is wrong, I can sense it. My ears perk up at an obnoxious noise. It sounds like the cry of a small animal. Aside from my aisle is an infant. A smile runs across my face, hiding my fear.
My feet strike the ground, launching me faster heading for the sound. Finally I reach it, almost wishing I hadn't. Here lies a mother, child in hand and a red stream flowing down her lifeless face. The bundle in her arms screams again, snapping me back into reality. Taking the infant in my arms, I silently pray for our survival. I retreat to the small clearing to find the same glances staring back at me. I take a glimpse, surveying the scattered items laying on the earthy floor. I see a small first aid kit lying open by a sapling. It is empty except for a roll of white gauze. I take it in my hands, swiftly wrapping it around the small child and hoping the warmth of the thin fabric will turn purple lips back to a healthy hue. I hold the newborn to my chest and wrap it further in my own clothes.
"We'll never make it." A nameless voice utters, stabbing the silence. I glance up and glare at the thought. "It's too cold, we have no supplies. We'll never make it." He repeats.
Ignoring the obvious truth I recall the items I carried with me on the flight. Things useless every day, but now could determine life or death. A small pocket knife, given to me by my grandfather just before he died, a complimentary air map I had tucked in my pocket after reading it before take off; and a bottle of whiskey I had held in my hand, taking sips to calm my nerves. My keys jingle in my pocket and I pull them out. On my key chain, a free flashlight I received from a catalogue order. I read the name on the smooth plastic cover, "LifeLight". I laugh at it's simple irony.
While rummaging through my pocket I discover a familiar object. My metallic zippo lighter. I stroke the smooth metal with my thumb. I wish I had a cigarette. I was angered to find my lighter was out of fluid when I went to light one just before take off. I needed that cigarette. Something was wrong, I could sense it. I could sense it then, hours before the crash and still now I wish I hadn't boarded flight 579, non stop to Victoria, Canada. I despised the name. Why I went I still couldn't say. It was on a flight just as this one that my grandfather had been killed.
Shaking my head I pull myself back into existence I look down at the child. Sleeping soundly next to my heart I support it with my hand and notice a ring I had placed on my finger a few days ago. On it was a miniature compass I had received as a boy.
"What are you looking at?" Says the man again. The voice belonging to him began to irritate me. I had failed to notice how long I'd been staring.
Taking leadership, I stood amidst the other passengers. "We have to collect the items thrown from the crash. There may be something that could help us." The words had barely fallen off my lips when the voice interrupted.
"Nothing can help us. We'll die out here before anyone notices we're gone." "That's enough." I demand. "We have to hope. The simplest item can have a thousand uses. Now," I continue, "Everyone gather what we have and we'll see what we can do. If we stick together, we just might make it long enough to be rescued." The people begin to move, collecting items and returning them to the clearing. I focus on the child in my arms. It's fist was in a ball, lips curled around it's thumb. I notice a gold chain around it's tiny wrist. The chain was linked by an engraved bar and I struggle to read it's scribbled words. They came in to focus. I read them out loud, "Olivia Rose." I feel my heart melt looking at her small round face and her rosy cheeks. I repeated the name, "Olivia Rose." "I found this!" An excited voice chants. I glance to meet the eyes of the speaker, finding only the barrel of a gun. I turn, protecting the infant from the stranger.
Angered, I reply. "For God's sake use your head. It could be loaded." "It is." There was the voice again. "It belongs to me." I wasn't surprised that the gun was his. What did surprise me was that he managed to smuggle it aboard. "The name's Johnson. Detective Johnson of the Chicago P.D." Another voice emerges from the crowd. "You shouldn't be carrying that around, it's dangerous." "It will be useful. We can protect ourselves and maybe find food." He says it as though he was prepared with a response.
I survey the items distributed on the clearing floor. I raise my head, finding the others looking to me for guidance. I clear my throat as if I have something to say. I wish there was something I could say. There are no words to better the situation.
"I know it's not much," I begin, "but these few things just might save us." As soon as I heard the words I knew it was all a lie. I lied for their hope. I lied for mine.
I review their faces as they stand around me. "There are fourteen of us." I say, swallowing my disbelief. "If we stick together and use our heads, we have a chance." They remain silent. Even in silence I can hear them laugh. They laugh at my false confidence.
I shake off my evil thoughts and proceed. "Does everyone have an extra set of clothing?" I receive a majority of nods from the crowd. "Good. It'll get much colder by night fall. I suggest you bundle up as much as possible." I turn my attention to my left; a tall man, muscular with broad shoulders. His face stares without emotion. "Johnson. I trust you know how to operate that pistol?" I ask.
"Yes, sir." He replies. Even in those few words I can taste his bitter sarcasm.
"We'll hunt as soon as possible, before dark breaks. I'll ask a few men to accompany Johnson and me." A few step up, bravely joining our small army. Before leaving I slowly step towards an attractive woman I had noticed sitting in front of me during the flight. I pull Olivia from the warmth of my chest and deliver her into the hands of the woman. She quietly scoops the child in her arms and cradles her slowly. I almost leave without words but stop to make a request. "Please take care of her." The woman nods, holding Olivia's tiny hand against her palm and rubs her translucent skin.
Finding it almost impossible to leave, I turn and walk away from the clearing. On my way I lean down to gather a coil of rope that I assume had been thrown from the plane. Tucking it under my arm, I continue to lead. The small cavalry falls in line behind me as we step into the unknown wood.
We crouch silently in the brush, using our ears and eyes to search. Johnson stoops in front of me, gun in hand. He sweeps away my leadership as if it were dust. Suddenly, a noise appears. Our eyes widen at the sight of a bush dancing in colorful movement. "Something is over there." Johnson whispers.
"Shoot it!" A voice from behind implies. "Who knows if we'll be able to find something else." "Great idea." Johnson says, "And scare away every other animal in the area. It could be a rabbit." The creature pokes it's horned snout between the leaves. "My god," I say in a startled tone, "it's a boar." "Food for a few days." Johnson says. "Now, shut the hell up before we all get killed." Johnson raises his arm, aiming at the beast. He squints an eye and squeezes the trigger. A fast explosion and it's over. We wait in silence for sounds of death. Glancing at the animal I see it's coarse fur stained with blood. It lays dead with it's eyes wide open.
"Nice shot." I say, directing my words at Johnson.
"Lucky shot." He answers, looking down at the corpse, "That thing could have killed us." He pauses, reflecting I suppose. "How are you going to get us back to the opening? We walked for quite some time before we stopped." I look down at the compass ring on my finger. "We began walking east." I begin, "We'll just leave headed west." I use the rope to form a noose around the boar's neck. "Everyone grab the rope. It'll take some strength to pull." It took almost twice as long to reach the clearing, dragging the creature behind us. The sun was beginning to sink below the trees and cast an orange glow on the ground. Upon returning, we find that the women we're already preparing for our arrival. They had created a cooking spit from ski poles a passenger had left behind, greasing it with shortening and supporting it with broken branches.
We were pleased with their contribution but disappointed to find no way to cook our meal. "If only we had some way to make a fire." Someone suggests.
"We could rub two sticks together." Johnson says. Again I taste his bitter sarcasm. A few laughs emerged from the group.
Recalling the items in my pocket, I reach in and pull out my trusty lighter.
Another woman had been watching me and exclaims at the sight of the shiny silver metal. "We're saved!" "Almost." I reply, "It's out of fluid." I can see the disappointment in their eyes. Sitting down to celebrate my failure, I discover a ball of steel wool sitting between my feet. I pick it up and roll it in my palm. "This could be useful." I think to myself and begin to search my pocket. A bottle emerges.
"Perfect!" Johnson shouts, snatching the objects from my grasp. He splashes whiskey everywhere, soaking the ball in his hand. Using the lighter he begins to flick the lid with his thumb. He gets nothing the first time. Second, third, forth and still nothing. Then as if by the very hand of the devil, a spark! It quickly expands, igniting the ball into brilliant yellow flames.
"Quickly!" He screams, "Get some leaves together under that pole." We obediently do as he asks. He drops the ball into the heap and the flames roll happily in the pile earth. Our first triumph.
Standing over the beast knife in hand, I slice into it's flesh, spilling blood over the leaves under my feet. Taking the heavily greased pole into my grasp, I stab the creature and slowly slide the smooth steel tube through it's innards. The end of the pole is exposed, covered in shiny red liquid. Looking down at the exposed stomach, I conclude that the creature was female. I pick up the whiskey bottle laying beside me and swallow it's last few drops. Holding it up to the animals chest, I grab it's teat and squeeze a few drops of pearly white milk into the bottle. I apply more pressure and liquid continues to stream from it's breast. After squeezing the last drop from her, I screw the lid back on the glass bottle. It takes the muscle of a few men to lift the boar on to the spit engulfed in flames.
I gently fan the fire with the map from my pocket. Thinking to myself I say, "This fire won't last. We can't go looking for wood until morning." "Will this work?" The voice I didn't recognize, but the face I knew too well. She cradles Olivia in her arms and holds out her hand, offering me a newspaper. "We found plenty of these. They must have given them out on the flight. Do you think it would work?" Her beautiful eyes burn through me.
I smile, "I think it just might do the trick." Later that night, after dining on burned dry meat, I sat on the same dead stump with Olivia in my arms. Darkness has washed over the once blue sky and I struggle to see her innocent face. I reach for my keys and push the small button on my flashlight, illuminating her round face with the artificial glow. Pulling the bottle out of my coat pocket, I curl my fingers around the cap and rotate it. With a few turns the cap falls into my palm. I put the rim to Olivia's small lips and slowly tilt the bottle, allowing her to sip the warm milk. Suddenly, I was joined by the woman. There she was again, her face lit up with the glow of the fire. Her beauty almost made me forget everything that was happening. She has a devilish grin on her face and her eyes twinkled in delight. "After that dinner I'm sure everyone would prefer something sweeter." My expression turns to confusion. "What do you mean?" I ask.
Under her coat she holds a box. I can't think of what it is until I read the label. "Hershey's?" I ask with a smile on my face. "Where did you find these?" "I was going to save them for myself," she explains, "but there are enough to share." Her smile was warm enough to allow me to forget the cold weather. I become distracted by Olivia's quiet gurgling.
Looking into her deep brown eyes I find the hope to survive.