INTO THE WILD
These good fellows don't belong to me but I promise when I'm done to pick um up, dust um off and with a kiss on the cheek return them safely home
How strange is this combination of proximity and separation. That ground - seconds away - thousands of miles away. ~Charles A. Lindbergh
A/N: It's been a while and I missed you guys. My muse has returned and I was very excited to crank out a first chapter again. Hope you enjoy.
"I can't believe I let you talk me into this," Roy moaned as they walked out on the tarmac towards the tiny plane.
Johnny was grinning from ear to ear and eagerly slapped him on the back, "Oh, come on Roy, this is gonna to be great!"
"Yea, great," Roy replied sarcastically. "A double shift, then four days of going non-stop and add that I'm sick, was it really too much to ask for a real plane to get home?"
Johnny scoffed at him. "Real plane. Roy, this is a real plane. Granted it's not a 747 but it'll get us home and besides, by going this way we got an extra day in Reno." He was obviously very pleased with himself.
Roy coughed again. "I just want to get home at this point."
"It's a cold partner, not the plague and you'll be home soon enough." Johnny looked back to the plane. "I've always wanted to learn to fly one of these." He started walking forward again. "I wonder if the pilot lets you in the cockpit."
"With the size of this thing I'm sure we're all in the cockpit," Roy muttered.
"Very funny, come on."
Once inside it appeared to hold about 20 passengers with only about half the seats being occupied.
"Welcome aboard flight 184 to Los Angeles."
"Well, thank you," Johnny leaned in to see the name tag, "Alison."
"Seating isn't assigned, so just find a comfortable place. We'll be leaving shortly."
Roy left the socialization to Johnny as he headed to the very back of the plane in hopes of finding a quiet spot where he could catch some sleep on the way home. There also seemed to be a bit more leg room in the back.
"All the way back here?" Johnny groaned.
"You heard her, seats aren't assigned, sit where you want," he replied as he put his bag overhead and proceeded to take the window seat.
Johnny didn't protest. He knew his friend was tired, sick and cranky. He quietly took the seat next to Roy and got comfortable. "Here, I won't use it." He passed the pillow with a smile.
Roy graciously took it with a nod of thanks.
Within a few minutes Alison introduced herself and began the safety routine as the pilot began detaching them from the stairs and preparing to seal the door.
"WAIT, WAIT," someone yelled from outside.
They watched as a disheveled man in his 40's jumped up the stairs and into the plane. He quickly found a seat as Alison helped him get his luggage in the overhead storage. She tried to also take his backpack.
"No, this stays with me," he grumbled.
"That's fine sir, just put it under your seat until after takeoff."
Roy looked around at the fellow passengers. Most had already started reading or had headphones on to listen to music. Johnny flipped through a magazine as he slipped the pillow under his stuffed up and aching head, and lastly pulled the window blind down closing his eyes for some much-needed rest.
Jostling of the plane awoke him to find Johnny up towards the front talking to Alison.
"Of course," he muttered with a cough and a chuckle.
An elderly couple to his right were looking through photo's, apparently of grandchildren, while a young married couple giggled, kissed and smooched seemingly oblivious to the world around them. The late arriving man was writing in a notebook as a single traveling young man slept in the seat beside him. The last passengers appeared to be a mother and older daughter who chatted quietly as they looked through a stack of postcards.
Raising his window blind he felt momentarily disoriented. "Johnny?"
Johnny looked back and then moved to the seat next to him. "Feel any better?"
"What time is it?"
"It's about 5, you barely fell asleep."
"Then why is it dark outside?"
"Well, they have to fly around a storm over the mountains."
Roy was trying to decide if this was concerning news or not, especially as the plane shook again. "Everything's okay?"
Johnny shrugged. "Alison says it is. Just might add about forty-five minutes to the flight."
Appeased for the moment Roy turned back over and tried to get back to sleep. No, he didn't feel any better at all.
Once again he found himself leaning against the wall talking to Alison. The cabin was dark due to the weather outside and most of the passengers were either sleeping or reading quietly. A stillness had fallen over the plane and he was bored. The young man named Mark had joined them.
"Are you from LA, Mark?" Johnny asked.
"No Sir, I'm headed to Parris Island. Going to be a Marine." The young man stood tall and proud.
"That's in the South, right?" Alison asked.
"South Carolina Ma'am. LA is a central meeting place before we head out."
"I wish you the best of luck then Mark," Johnny stood up and shook his hand.
"Thank you Sir. May I ask what you do?"
"Well, I'm a LA County Firefighter and Paramedic," Johnny said, equally as proud.
Mark nodded his head. "I almost became one myself."
"What stopped you?"
"My brother joined the Marines and I always looked up to him. So I decided after high school to follow him."
"Excuse me," a soft voice asked.
"What can I get for you Mrs. Baxter?" Alison asked the older woman.
"My daughter is feeling very queasy with all the turbulence and I wondered if you had some Ginger Ale she would sip on."
"Of course." She reached into the galley and produced the soda and a cup of ice for her. "I hope this helps some."
"Thank you dear. She's expecting and still in that early nausea phase."
"If that doesn't help we do have some motion sickness pills she can try."
"Thank you." Mrs. Baxter headed back to her seat and Mark his.
"I bet you meet a lot of nice folks this way."
Alison smiled. "Yes I really do."
"So, what's their story?" He nodded to the young couple.
"Kelly and Jack, newlyweds in Reno. Known each other since middle school." She paused. "God, they are too young," she laughed. "How's your friend feeling?"
"Like death warmed over I think. We work together and he is not a complainer so I know he feels pretty rotten."
"Well home soon at least."
"Is it 85 degrees yet?" This time he woke up to cold. The cabin temperature had dropped significantly.
Johnny looked over at Roy and chuckled. "You act like you've never been out of LA before."
Roy pulled out another tissue and blew his nose. "It's been a long weekend. And you still haven't answered why it's twenty degrees in here yet."
His tone dropped some. "We must be over the mountains and flying pretty low."
Roy's brow furrowed. "I thought we were going around it."
Johnny looked around quickly and lowered his voice. "I don't think there was enough fuel to go around the storm."
"Great." He tried to look out the window but was only greeted with sharp rain and dark skies. "All I ask is to get home."
If you asked Johnny the weekend had been perfection. A paid trip to Reno to attend the Emergency Medicine in the Field conference had given them some much-needed days off work and their demonstration on trauma care had gone off without a hitch.
Johnny frowned again when Roy blew his nose again as he inched closer to the opposite side of his seat. "I swear Roy, if you get me sick."
Roy rolled his eyes. "It's a cold Johnny, not the plague, remember?"
He stood up not sure about cold versus plague at this point. "I still don't want to get sick. I have a hot date this weekend."
Johnny shot a crooked smile at him, "Alison."
"Does she know of these plans?"
The smirk told all. "She will soon enough."
Even at twenty thousand feet, or wherever they were in the sky, Johnny could smooze a date from someone.
"I need something to drink."
Johnny stood up and started forward again.
"And see if they have any aspirin," Roy said before turning back to the window and trying to get back to sleep.
He moved down the narrow aisle, hips bumping into seats along the way as the plane occasionally jostled in the turbulent skies. Alison, the beautiful blue-eyed, blonde headed stewardess that had a smile to melt any man's heart stood at the ready up front. She was smart, funny, and Johnny just wanted to make sure he could see more of that smile in the future if possible.
"Hey," he said as he peeked around the corner.
"Hey Johnny," she said with a big grin. "What can I do for you?"
A loaded question, he thought. "Just a drink and my friend was wondering if you had any aspirin."
She reached into the small refrigerator and pulled out a soft drink for him, pouring it into a glass with ice.
"So, how often do you get to LA?"
"About 3 trips a month usually."
He nodded. "Well, if you get any time between flights I'd love to show you around the city."
"Oh you would?" She leaned back against the cabinet and smiled at him.
"Yea, I have the inside line on some very private beaches on the coast." He tipped his head with that look of 'trust me'.
She laughed. "I bet you do. Course, I would love some beach time. Never see that at home."
"Really? Where's home?"
"Don't laugh." She paused. "Iowa."
"Now, why would I laugh at that? I've only heard nice things about mid western girls."
"Iowa was where our third daughter was born."
Alison and Johnny looked up to see the elderly gentleman standing at the doorway.
"Really? What city?" Alison asked with a warm smile.
"Cedar Rapids. Went there for a job." He shook his head and smiled. "Oh how the Mrs. hated it. She grew up out East you know."
"How many years have you been married Mr. Winters?" Alison asked.
"This little trip celebrated 75 years for us."
"Congratulations!" They both chimed in at the same time.
"Wow, 75 years. That's really amazing Sir." Johnny said with admiration.
The older man patted his arm. "You find the right Mrs. and 75 years is a piece of cake son."
When he took his drink and headed back down the aisle they both felt a little speechless.
"Him and that bag," Alison said.
Johnny looked back to see the late man still clutching the backpack. "Must be important."
"Something. He's like a two-year old with a toy that refuses to share."
A sudden shake of the plane send her off-balance and into Johnny's arms. He quickly helped to back to her feet. "You okay?"
Her sweet smile had been replaced with a frown of worry. "Yes, thanks. Uhh, I better go check in with the Captain though."
Johnny nodded, wishing he could be in on that conversation. "Okay."
She turned to leave then quickly turned back. "Oh, hey, these are for your friend."
She handed him two aspirin. He chuckled. "Thanks."
Working his way back to his seat he took note of the rattled passengers. They were clearly not happy about the rough trip. Johnny had flown several times over the years and even though you got a smoother flight on a big jetliner, he still preferred the smaller planes for shorter trips.
"Everything okay?" Roy asked when he sat back down.
The "buckle your seat belt" sign came on as he passed the aspirin to his friend. "She sent these to you."
"Good," Roy muttered as he swallowed them with some water.
The next shudder of the plane was significant causing both medics to grasp the arm rests in earnest.
"Okay, that couldn't be good," Johnny mumbled quietly.
Roy was sitting up now and fully alert. He looked out the window where still nothing was visible. "Any idea where we are?"
Johnny shook his head. "No idea. Somewhere just outside LA I think."
Roy quietly calculated in his mind knowing the route had been changed due to the storm. He prayed his calculations were off.
The next jerk of the aircraft came with yells from passengers as the screeching sound of metal pierced everyone's ears. Roy stood up some and looked around for anyone in charge, but another shake threw him right back into his seat.
"Ladies and gentlemen, please put your seats in an upright position and make sure your seat belts are fastened. We are experiencing increased turbulence from the nearby storm. There is no reason to be alarmed so please stay calm and listen for directions. Thank you."
She turned and headed back to the small galley. It was obvious the passengers were anything but calm as the craft seemed to dive and lurch through the torrid air currents around them.
"Roy, I have a bad feeling about this."
The senior medic could hear the rising anxiety in Johnny's tone and he couldn't deny that the same thought wasn't racing through his own mind at this point. "Johnny, if anything happens these people are going to rely on us. We have to keep straight heads."
Johnny nodded. Yes, they were the trained professionals for emergencies. Whatever happened, they would be ready to help out. This mantra kept him calm. Only his white knuckles as they grasped the seat revealed his inner panic.
When the lightning stuck Roy felt it. Not just heard it crack in the air like a sizzling rod making impact. He felt the electric tingle surge through his body as if he had grasped the bolt out of the sky himself. His first instinct was to look over to Johnny.
"What the hell?!" Johnny yelped out.
Johnny nodded rapidly. "Yea, yea, I think so. Did you feel that?"
Roy stood up again and looked around the cabin. He looked for anyone showing signs of electrocution, but even though everyone seemed panicked and terrified, they were all breathing and alert. Immediately, Alison was at their sides, heading down the aisles checking on each passenger.
"Heads down between your knees, your seat is a flotation device. Don't get out of your seat."
The men didn't ask any questions. The unveiled panic was clear on her face. As she moved from their seats to the next ones Roy looked over to Johnny. "We're going to be okay Junior."
Johnny tried to bring up a smile. He even tried to speak but his words were drowned out by gut wrenching, metal shredding, and engine screaming sounds that pierced the air around them. Roy's stomach lurched as he felt the dramatic drop in altitude.
There was no denying their fate now. They were going down.