The One With the Crash

Part One

Chandler sat down on the small charter plane, cursing himself for taking this trip. This was his punishment, he thought, for going on this damn trip on his 3-year anniversary with Monica.

He hated flying, and really hated these small planes. But it was the only way he was going to get to Seattle on time. His plane from New York had landed in Portland two hours ago, and he had tried everything he could think of to avoid getting on this tiny plane.  He pulled out his cell phone and tried calling Monica again. He hated the way he'd left things with her. She was upset with his decision to go on the trip. They'd had a huge fight, something that was rare for them. Monica had refused to see Chandler off at the airport, and he'd refused to even say goodbye.

Suddenly, Chandler heard a loud alarm going off in the plane's cockpit, only a few feet away.   Before he could ask the pilots what was wrong, the plane took a tremendous dip, and something under the right wing exploded. Chandler grabbed his cell phone and dialed home.

Monica had managed to vent most of her frustration with Chandler on the apartment. It was spotless.  She sank down into the sofa, exhausted.

"Hey Mon," Rachel said, as she and Joey walked in.

"Happy Anniversary!" said Joey.

"Where's Chandler?"

"Not here," said Monica bitterly.

Before Rachel could ask why, Ross and Phoebe entered.

"Hey" Ross said.

"Where's Chandler?"

"Not here!" yelled Monica.

"Wow, did you two have a fight or something?" Ross said, backing away from his temperamental sister.

Monica sank down into the sofa again, and huffed noisily.

"You mean the perfect couple does actually fight?" Rachel said sarcastically.

Monica was getting sick of Rachel's snide comments.

"What is your problem Rachel?"

"What?"

"Is it jealousy? Is that it?" Monica yelled.

"What? Hey, don't yell at me, I didn't abandon you on your anniversary."

Monica was so mad she could scream. The palpable tension was broken by the telephone.

"Hello" said Joey. "Hey Chandler! We were just talking about you...kinda."

Monica groaned. She could not talk to Chandler right now. She grabbed her coat and left, slamming the door.

"Joey!" Chandler screamed into the phone. "I need to talk to Monica!"

Joey ran out into the hall to catch Monica, but she was nowhere to be seen.

"She's gone, man."

"Is, um, Ross there?" Chandler asked. He knew that if he told Joey he was about to crash, Joey would freak out and probably drop the phone.

Instead of handing the phone to Ross, Joey hit the speakerphone button.

"Ross?"

"Hey Chandler," Ross said.

"Hey Chandler!" Phoebe added.

"Am I on speakerphone?"

"Yup." Joey said.

Chandler sighed. "Okay, look, I need you to do me a favor."

They all huddled around the phone, eager to hear Chandler's plan to get back into Monica's good graces.

"I need you to tell Monica that I love her, and that I am sorry."

There was a loud crashing sound, as Chandler struggled to continue.

"Look, my plane is going down, and I don't know if I will...."

Another booming sound.

"Please tell Monica..."

Another crash.

"That I love her, and I am SO sorry."

The phone line went dead. The four friends sat there, stunned. The phone clicked, and the sound of the dial tone filled the room.

Monica walked back into the apartment.

"You know Rachel, I.... what the hell?" she said, as she turned off the speakerphone.

"Why were you guys listening to the dial tone?"

Joey stood up, covered his mouth with his hand, and ran to the bathroom. He couldn't believe he had just listened to his best friend die.

"What's going on?" Monica asked.

"Mon," Ross said, "its Chandler."

Monica sighed with irritation. "What, did he call to apologize for being an ass?"

"Yeah, he um, called to say that he loves you, and that he's sorry," Ross said.

"Yeah right."

"Mon," Phoebe said. "His plane.... it just.... Mon I think he just crashed."

Monica looked at her friends. This was a sick joke. But all of them looked at her so intently. Rachel had tears streaming down her face. The faint sound of Joey throwing up in the bathroom told Monica that this was no joke.

"He wanted to tell you himself..." Ross repeated quietly. "We couldn't find you."

Monica looked at her brother, with tears in her eyes. Suddenly, her head was filled with images of Chandler, from the first time they had met at her parents house, all those years ago, to the look on his face when she read her wedding vows, to the smile that spread across his face last month when she'd told him she was pregnant. In a split second, she saw her entire life with Chandler, and a second later, the image of him crashing to the Earth, as the plane that was carrying him shattered into a million pieces around him.

Then everything went black, as she collapsed onto the floor.

When Chandler woke up, his face was in the dirt. His entire body was wracked with pain. He struggled to turn onto his back, still unable to lift his head. He opened his eyes. It was pitch black. He blinked furiously, forcing his eyes to dilate.   He could now make out the silhouettes of several trees. Trees. He was surrounded by gigantic Redwood trees.  A cool breeze kicked up, and Chandler suddenly felt something tugging on his shoulders. He winced with pain.  He forced his head around to find out what was pulling at him. As his eyes focused more he could see a large red tarp floating in a nearby tree. It was a parachute.

Phoebe had been on the phone with the airline for over an hour, and she was getting increasingly agitated.  She had been put on hold five times, by five different people. She knew that they were giving her the runaround, because they had no idea what was going on.  Ross, Rachel, Joey and Monica were glued to the television, flipping back and forth from the local news to CNN and back.  So far there was no news of a major airline crash. Maybe the plane never went down after all.  Monica's head was spinning. She was lying on the couch, still in shock over what had happened hours earlier.  Phoebe was finally able to get information from the airline. She found out that Chandler had landed in Portland, before boarding a small charter plane for Seattle. The plane dropped out of the sky somewhere over Olympia, but the pilots had given the wrong coordinates, and the rescuers were having trouble finding the wreckage.  Monica listened to Phoebe, her head ringing. This wasn't really happening. She kept praying that she would wake up.

The early morning sun shone on Chandler's face, waking him from what he'd hoped was a really bad dream. No such luck.  The morning air was cold, and the moisture in the air made it seem even colder. Chandler shivered, as he tried once again to stand up. His head was spinning. He touched his head, and felt the dried blood and dirt that had caked up in his sandy brown hair. He looked around, for any sign of the pilots, or even the plane. Silence filled the air. He was totally alone, and very lost. "Hello?" he yelled into the silence. He walked around his crash site, trying to recall what had happened to him. It had taken him nearly an hour to negotiate his parachute out of the towering Redwood.

His right arm was all but useless, since Chandler had broken it in the fall. He'd managed to make a poor excuse for a splint out of a broken tree branch, but his arm was still throbbing. Suddenly, a dizzy spell hit, and Chandler had to grab onto a tree in order to balance himself. When he opened his eyes, he tried to focus on the tree he was hanging on to.  He noticed his wedding band, covered with dirt and blood. He sat down, and wondered if he would ever get to see Monica again.

Gloria, an airport representative, met the gang at the airport. She escorted them to the hotel and after they had checked in, she took them to a local seafood restaurant, to explain the situation.

She's very professional, Ross thought to himself, I wonder if this is her full-time job, talking to victims' families.

Gloria explained that they had found the wreckage, but had thus far found no sign of Chandler. They had, however found the bodies of one of the two pilots, and, she added tentatively, parts of the other pilot. This sent shivers up Rachel's spine.  She glanced at Monica, who still seemed to be in total shock. Monica's eerie lack of emotion since finding out about the crash was starting to scare Rachel.

Monica lay awake in the hotel room, her head pounding. She hadn't slept in days. Her mind kept wandering back to the last time she saw Chandler. They'd fought. She had said some awful things. He couldn't be dead, he just couldn't be. They could not leave things like this. There were still so many other things to say.

Chandler was trying his hardest to get to sleep. The hard ground seemed to get harder every minute. His head was spinning.  He thought about Monica. What was she thinking now? Did she think he was dead? He couldn't imagine how he would handle the situation if he were in Monica's shoes. He missed her so much. His thoughts were interrupted when a sharp clap of thunder roared across the sky. The raindrops started coming down soon after, and Chandler realized that he needed to find shelter fast.  He slowly got up, careful not to aggravate his broken arm. He began searching for a place to wait out the impending storm.  He wandered toward what looked like a small hill. As he wandered closer, he could see what looked like a small cave.  It was pitch-black inside. He poked his head in, to try to get a feel of the size of the cavern. Suddenly, his electric blue eyes met a set of gleaming, yellow eyes. Chandler froze with terror. Suddenly, the creature inside the cave let out a ferocious, ear-peeling roar. Chandler had watched enough of The Discovery Channel to know that he was face-to-face with a very large bear.

Monica watched the raindrops hit the hotel window, like small, transparent pebbles. She wondered if Chandler was out in the rain, freezing and drenched. Suddenly, and without reason, Monica recalled a rainy day that she and Chandler spent together, back in New York;

It was a Sunday, and Monica had planned on cleaning the apartment while Chandler and the guys went to a baseball game.  The game was postponed due to rain, so Chandler and Monica spent the day snuggled up on the couch, talking.  That day, Chandler asked her what her biggest fear was. She told him, that she was terrified that one day she would wake up, and he wouldn't be there. He looked at her intently.

"I will always be here, Sweetheart. Never doubt that."

A clap of thunder jolted Monica from her daydream. She looked at the empty bed in front of her, and realized that her greatest fear had come to pass.