The first thing he noticed was how bright the sun was. Even with his eyes closed, it was so strong, it pierced his eyelids and ran straight up into his brain.
He was on the ground. His hands felt grass and…
This isnt right, he thought. This isnt a plane. I’m supposed to be on a plane, headed to Disneyland. What am I —
They’d been in the air for about an hour, flying over the water. There were perhaps forty or fifty people, sparsely distributed throughout the cabin. He’d been chatting with the air steward, a perfectly nice guy from Chicago who couldnt wait to get home that night. The plane suddenly dropped. The steward grinned, “Dont worry about that; just some rough air.” Doc watched as he walked back to the galley. Then —
He painfully rose up to one elbow. Nothing seemed to be broken, only slightly bruised. He opened his eyes to see a lush, semi-tropical forest, filled with curious vines and grasses whose size dwarfed any he’d seen before. What the — ?
Then he heard it, off in the distance, what sounded like… rumbling or burning or… something. A column of black smoke rose over the trees. And… people? Did the plane crash?
No, that’s ridiculous. If the plane crashed, certainly he wouldnt be lying here on the grass, looking up at the sun, and wondering why he was here and not at Disneyland.
But what was the smoke? And why was he lying on the ground?
He stood, on unsteady feet, grabbing a thick vine for stability. He was in a small clearing, one surrounded by unnaturally large exotic plants, giant leafy things that seemed to tower into the sky. Just beyond them, a large sandy beach that fronted an endless expanse of ocean. And on the beach —
— the remnants of a fuselage, part of a wing, a gigantic motor that was inexplicably still spinning, slowly, slowly, even as thick black smoke rose from within. The beach was littered with suitcases, seats, people. Bewildered, he started for the beach, then lurched to a stop when the tail of the plane suddenly fell from the sky and smashed into the ocean.
Wait. What the hell was —
Ray. He needed to call Ray. Ray would be worried sick if he didnt call. He reached into his pocket for his phone… only to find it smashed and broken. He stared at it, as though maybe if he shook it, it would somehow magically fix itself, and —
“You okay?” Paul. The steward’s name was Paul. Even with the bloody gash on his forehead, Paul would know what to do. He’s paid to know what to do, Doc thought giddily. “You okay?” the man repeated.
“I’m fine, I think. What happened?”
“Looks like we had a bit of an accident,” said Paul. “C’mon, this way.” Paul disappeared into the brush. With no other options presenting themselves, Doc followed. Reaching the sand, Paul started to run, racing past the remnants of the plane and towards a stand of palm trees. Underneath, a small group of people — some injured, but amazingly, many more not — had gathered. “Okay, people,” he shouted, “listen up. It looks like we’re all accounted for. Anyone here got a phone?”
A woman — Doc remembered her: a gift importer from Winnipeg — nodded. “I do, but there’s no signal.”
“Well, if nothing else, the plane’s sending out a distress signal, so someone out there will hear it, eventually.”
“Eventually?” someone in the crowd shouted.
“I dont know if we’re still on the flight path or not. All we can do for now is just — ” He suddenly stopped, staring beyond the crowd.
A heavyset man in an ill-fitting suit was running through the bush towards them, waving a pink, fleshy hand. “Hallo!” he shouted with a grin. Huffing, he stopped, resting his hands on his knees as his barrel-sized frame gasped for breath. “Whew! Guess I’m out of shape, huh!” he laughed, then stood. “So, everyone okay? Good! Well, let’s all sit down for a moment.”
“Excuse me,” Paul said, “who are you?”
“Me? Oh! Sorry. Chris McIlheney, Federal Emergency Management. We’re here to rescue you.”