Mid-air

Mid-air

A Story by R J Fuller
"

Could you escape when confronted with the unexpected? How well could you assist others?

"
It was all over. She knew it was. She closed her eyes to try to rest, but opened them again, upon seeing the investment of the past seven years. She took a deep breath and stared into the billowy white clouds outlined in blue. She still saw the happiness, the joy, the struggles and her utter denial to it all being over, her fight, until she realized she was the only one fighting. 

She listened to the idle chatter of some other passengers around her, but none served to really distract her or gain her attention. Her head was hurting. She reached into her purse and retrieved some aspirin. All she had. 

"Excuse me, stewardess?"

"Yes, ma'm?"

"May I have some water to take with my aspirin?"

"Certainly, ma'm."

"You got a headache?" the little boy across from her asked. She smiled and nodded to him, but said nothing. He went back to his tablet. 

She received her water and promptly took the pills. They couldn't work fast enough, she thought. She slowly inhaled again. Gradually, she allowed herself to close her eyes. 

She hadn't had her eyes closed for ten seconds when it occurred. She struck the back of the seat in front of her and hard. All to be heard was the screams filling the fuselage, followed by protests and fear and confusion. Everything not strapped down one way or another was hurtled forward with crashes, in some instances as dangerous projectiles. Shouts of panic were suddenly heard, insisting the plane obviously was going to crash. 

Slowly she sat back. She gasped for air from where the belt had pulled her. She looked around, dazed. There wasn't much to be heard worth paying attention to in the plane, so she looked out the window and still saw the white clouds and blue sky, silently billowing by. 

"Where's the co-pilot? Where's the co-pilot?" a young fellow was yelling. The flight attendants were about the only people not seated when the incident took place, so they were thrown the hardest. One of them was trying to speak to the man, but he seemed to be having none of it. 

"What happened?" the child across from her asked, looking a bit shellshocked. He not only lost his tablet, but obviously his glasses as well. 

"I don't know," she said to him. "Are you hurt? Are you okay?"

"It twisted, . . . " he started, rubbing his elbow, "but didn't . . . "

She looked out the window again, expecting to see the ground approaching at a fast rate or something, but still only viewed the white clouds. 

"Shut up! Shut up!" another man was saying. They were all hysterical, but no one was listening to anyone else. 

"Please, sit down!"

"Help me! I need help!" 

A couple of the men were storming toward the cockpit door. The flight attendants were to injured to stop them to any extent. 

"What are they going to do?" the boy asked her. 

"I don't know," she replied. "Just stay calm and remain in your seat. What's your name?"

"Jareshwar," he replied. 

"Jareshwar, I'm Druvestene. Are you traveling alone?" 

"Uh-huh," he replied, rubbing his eye. 

"Okay, you stay with me. Let's just see . . . "

She stopped talking when she saw the men at the cockpit door, yelling and banging on it, turning the handle trying to open it. People were in turn calling for them to stop. She unfastened her seatbelt so she could stand and see better. Jareshwar began to do the same. 

"No, no," she said. "Just stay there until I see what is happening." 

She sat back and looked out the window again. Slowly moving clouds flowed by like molasses. She stood again to see over everyone else standing and fussing to try to get some idea of what was happening. 

"What are they doing?" Jareshwar asked. 

"Just stay still," she said. "They don't know what . . . "

That was when she heard the loud bang on the door with the men throwing their shoulder into it to get it open and the door gave way. Those closest to the door screamed at what happened next and for Druvestene, what little she did see, it was apparent what happened. She put her hand to her mouth and more collapsed than sat back down. 

"Oh, Lord," she gasped.

"What is it? What happened?" Jareshwar cried. 

She reached over and took his hand to settle him down. She looked up toward the ceiling and gulped, trying to find air. Why didn't those air masks fall, she was beginning to wonder. Someone piled by down the aisle and knocked her arm away from Jareshwar. Someone else then followed. A woman behind them was started to panic. 

"Oh, my God!" someone toward the front was yelling. 

Slowly she stood again to see what she viewed before. Was it really what had happened? Air was now pouring in, blowing in, like a strong wind. She looked to the back, then turned forward again. Pandemonium still continued at the front of the plane, at the cockpit door. She clutched her hand to her throat as she saw bright light pouring through the open cockpit door with people still muliing about. 

"They fell! They fell!" was heard being yelled now. 

"What's going on?" Druvestene asked a man who came walking toward the back. 

"The pilots aren't there," he gasped. 

"What?" 

"Two guys fell getting the door to the cockpit opened. There's no cockpit up there."

Druvestene sat down again and looked at Jareshwar, who stared back at her. 

"Where is the pilot?" he asked her. 

"I don't know." 

"We got to open the doors," a passenger was screaming.

"Somehow we got to land the plane!" another one yelled. 

Druvestene looked out the window once more as she heard the cabin door being opened. Frightened screams and cries filled the air once more. 

"Listen! Listen!" someone was shouting, but no one was. 

"We got to get off the plane!"

Terrified screams once again took over as passengers sought to exit the plane by standing precariously on the wing. Some weren't managing so well. 

This was when Druvestene comprehended what they were seeing. She couldn't detect it from her vantage point, but others were trying to master some control over the situation. 

"Jareshwar," she called to him. "Jareshwar, something is wrong."

"What is it? What's going on?"

"Jareshwar, I know this is going to sound strange, but the plane doesn't seem to be moving."

"Are we falling?"

"No," she replied. "That isn't happening either. We're just sitting up in the air."

Jareshwar looked around as best he could to try to see what was going on, but being a child and not having his glasses, he couldn't see much more than her. 

"What are we going to do?" he asked her. 

"I don't know," she said, "but just remain seated so when we do get a chance to do something, I'll know where you are." 

"Let's start evacuating," someone said. 

"Tell them to get off the wing!" 

Druvestene looked out the opposite window on Jareshwar's side to see people moving out on the wing, barely keeping their balance, trying to take a selfie pic, slowly venturing further and further out in the process to get as much of the plane as possible in the shot. With the strong wind blowing at this height, they would be swept off and plunge to the ground. People were screaming as loud as they could for others wandering onto the wing to come back into the cockpit, but many of them didn't seem to be listening. 

"Why aren't we moving?" was another fretful proclamation. 

"What did we hit? It smashed off the cockpit and killed the pilots."

"Those people are falling out there! Somebody do something!" 

Druvestene looked over at Jareshwar, unable to see and just as confused as everyone else. 

"Jareshwar," she said, "just don't move." 

"Calm down! Everybody, just calm down!"

"We're floating in the air! We can float in the air."

Druvestene now realized this was why people were wandering out onto the wing so carelessly. Once they comprehended the plane wasn't moving and was suspended in mid-air, they decided they would be the same and unfortunately were realizing otherwise all too late. 

"Oh, my God! That man fell!" 

"Somebody do something! He fell off! We got to save him!" 

Druvestene closed her eyes and put her hand to her mouth. Were people just not getting sufficient oxygen now in their predicament? 

"Oh my God! She fell off the wing!" 

"We're going to start evacuation procedures immediately!" 

People were wanting out of what they perceived as a still plane, but just didn't seem to understand they were not on the ground. She had no idea what could be causing this phenomenon, but the main concern seemed to be not panicking as so many others seemed to be doing. 

"Get off the plane!"

Jareshwar looked at Druvestene and she once more reached over and placed her hand on his arm for consolation. Once more, there was commotion taking place just outside the absent cockpit. 

"What are you doing?"

"We're going to land the plane!"

"The cockpit isn't there!" 

"There's got to be some way to land the plane in there!" 

"Stop it! The cockpit isn't there!" 

"Don't tell me what to do!" the man said as his final words before he too sailed out into the open sky. 

Now there was a new concept; the luggage. Rage permeated once more as people pulled at the opening to the cargo below, struggling and straining to gain access, then seeing what they could find. As best as Druvestene could grasp, the hold was intact, so once again people were pulling at the loading door as tho there was a chance it would honestly be closer to the ground. 

More people were forcing their way into the cargo hold, for what reason Druvestene could not imagine, but that was when she realized she'd have to make a move to save herself. Everyone else was literally falling apart and not remaining calm and any attempt to offer as a suggestion what she wanted to do would damage any hope she might have of an escape. She looked back at the unopened cockpit door. If she blew this, then she had no idea what might happen next. She watched a young flight attendant standing toward the back. She decided this would have to be the person she takes into her confidence. 

"Jareshwar," she said calmly, "I need you to stay right here."

She slowly stood up, then contemplated the distance between the cabin door and flight attendant and Jareshwar. No, she decided, she better take him with her. 

"On second thought, Jareshwar, come with me."

He unhooked his seatbelt and stood beside her. She grabbed his hand and held tight. Someone pushed by her, almost causing her to release him and even in such a confined space, she suspected that would be unfortunate. Gradually, ever so carefully, she reached the area where the flight attendant stood. 

"Miss, I need your help."

The flight attendant looked at her cautiously. 

"I don't know what to do, ma'm." 

"Just listen to me," Druvestene whispered. "Our best bet is going to be the inflatable ramp on the door beside you. All we can do is detach it and try to ride it down."

The attendant covered her mouth. It sounded impossible, but for whatever was happening, it made sense. 

"Oh my God, they're going to kill each other," someone cried from the luggage compartment. Obviously things weren't going well there. 

"Druvestene, what's . . . "

"It's all right, Jareshwar," she told him, then she turned back to the attendant. "If we don't do this quickly, then we'll have people grabbing hold of the ramp and potentially causing it to fall faster."

The attendant reached to the door, then turned back to Druvestene.

"How many people are you planning on taking?"

"Me, you and Jareshwar here, and I guess anybody else if they are fast enough and can hold on. 

"Oh my God, they've started a fire in the cargo hold!" 

That was all the attendant and Druvestene needed to hear. The attendant immediately hit the door, opened it and was hit with a gust of air blowing in. The other passengers were startled, but many couldn't see what was going on. The attendant opened the slide to inflate and was prepared to detach it. 

"It could actually hold more than the three of us," the attendant said. Druvestene agreed, but how could they decide without the hysteria endangering them further. 

The view from the slide looking down over several thousand feet in the air was stunning. Jareshwar wasn't even looking. Druvestene was just about to guide him onto the slide, when a passenger instinctively leapt to the slide and made his way down, finding all the open sky at the end. 

"We got go now," Druvestene said to the attendant. No one else seemed up to thinking about what to do. She motioned Jareshwar to the slide and he hollered in protest. 

"I'll hold you, Jareshwar," she said. "It'll be just like a balloon ride." 

Terrified, he allwed her to lead him on to the slide and she slowly made her way down it, careful not to go in a freefall. She inched further and further down, all but cradling Jareshwar agains her. As she somewhat expected, and actually hoped, other minds seemed to be wanting to do the same and were calm enough to give it a chance. A heavy-set bald man in a suit started down on the other side. With the wind making it difficult to hear, something ruptured in the cargo hold. The attendant seemed to decide that was enough and got on the slide and pulled the disconnect apparatus. Someone stood at the door, but made no move to join them on the slide, as if to see how they managed and then venture to one of the other doors. Tho none of them were looking, sure enough, another slide was already being dispatched at another exit. 

The first slide detached sailed in the air, spiraling a bit, rocking at times, tipping with the occupants thinking they might pour out, but such was not the case. The each looked their own way, clutching or straddling the slide as necessary. Jareshwar held Druvestene around the waist as tight as he could and she in turn held him in place as best she could so he didn't slip. 

It was nothing like a balloon ride. 

It seemed to take an eternity to even get near the ground. Druvestene wished there was some way she could guide the silly thing toward water, but she didn't dare even look up. Any sudden shift in position could jeopardize her or Jareshwar. The other two people seemed to detect the same thing. 

After still more plummeting, the man managed to speak up. 

"We're almost on the ground!" he shouted. 

Druvestene wondered if there was some way they could soften the landing, but deduced that was too much to ask for. 

"Hold on, Jareshwar!" she said to him. 

They hit hard, with the slide rupturing in the process before it flew up and tipped out anyone who didn't hold on tight enough. The man sailed off the slide and Druvestene found herself set free as well. Jareshwar held on to her, but he likewise was tossed. 

Druvestene came to a stop, as did the slide. She looked up, unsure of what to do or where they might be. People were gathering around. 

"Don't move," someone said. "We've called an ambulance."

She could hear faint sirens slowly drawing nearer. She didn't want to move for fear of what injuries she might have sustained. Then she remembered Jareshwar. 

"Jareshwar!" she yelled. It took no time for him to respond. 

"I'm right here," he said, now moving over into her view where she could see him. She looked at him rather perplexed, then smiled. 

"You're okay?" she asked. It was then she became aware of dampness on her legs. It must be blood. She didn't feel anything and feared that meant at best her legs were damaged. 

"We landed in a fountain," Jareshwar exclaimed. "We landed in a fountain."

Druvestene now managed to pull herself up and look around. The slide was completely deflated. The moisture on her legs came from the water in the fountain. She pulled herself upright. 

"Don't move, Miss. The ambulance is here," someone said. 

Druvestene saw the flight attendant not far away, also sitting up. The ambulances pulled near and the stretchers were pulled out. 

"Was he on the plane? Were you on the plane, son?" a paramedic asked Jareshwar. 

"Uh-huh," he answered. "We rode down on the slide." 

"Well, come here, young man. Let's make sure you are okay." 

The poor man who also came down on the slide came off into the fountain. Fortunately, many people on the ground retrieved him as quickly as possible. He was hurt, but would survive. Paramedics likewise were tending to him. 

Druvestene was carefully picked up and put on a stretcher. She looked to the flight attendant and gave her a smile. The attendant in turn came back with a faint smile. They were all exhausted. 

"I'll see you at the hospital, Jareshwar," she said. 

"Are you okay, Druvestene?" he called to her. "We made it down, didn't we?"

"Yes, Jareshwar, we did," she answered. 

Lying back on the stretcher, Druvestene was now able to look up, high in the sky, and way off in the distance, she saw a black streak going across the sky. That must be the plane, she thought. Why was it staying up there? 

"We came from that plane," she told no one in particular. 

"Yes, ma'm," the paramedic said, "we know. Once you get checked out, I'm sure someone will be wanting to talk to you and the others about what is going on up there."

But she didn't know what was going on up there. She didn't know what had happened or how. It was all seeming like a dream now, something from make-believe. Even riding the slide down was nothing but a story she had been told, not something that was real. 

"The people still in the plane, . . . " she managed to say. 

"All we know so far is some others rode down on another escape slide with less successful results," the medic told her, "but you don't concern yourself with that, ma'm."

Druvestene thought about the plane, suspended in the air, burning. Would it fall as it burned? How long would it stay up there? and what become of the pilots and the cockpit? 

As she closed her eyes, Druvestene wondered if she should have tried to get anyone else on the slide. She remembered the fellow at the door who watched them descend. She didn't know if he made his way up to inflate the other slide she saw as they plunged downward, but she wondered if the passengers piled onto it, causing a problem. She couldn't think of how it might turn out for them. She was confronted with the unknown and saw herself and those she could manage to get out safely, even if it was only the four of them. 

But they were on the ground now; the flight attendant, the man, young Jareshwar and herself. They were safe. 

© 2021 R J Fuller


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Added on February 8, 2021
Last Updated on February 8, 2021
Tags: passengers, plane, slide, pilots, panic, hysteria, escape