It was like a scene out of ‘Ground Hog Day’, I opened my eyes and there was my phone on the seat next to me and I would reach for it and then everything went gray and it would start all over again. Each time a little bit more was added to the set, this last time for some reason I caught myself staring at the brochure in the pocket of the seat in front of me, maybe because when I opened my eyes I had been slumped forward and it was the first thing that I focused on. Sometimes shorter, sometimes longer but this time the gray did not come or hadn’t come yet, I saw the seat, I saw my phone and then I felt a sharp, stabbing pain in my abs. The gray began to take me and then receded and the pain returned with a vengeance, I squeezed my eyes tightly shut and waited for some relief.
Still maintaining a shaky balance between pain and nothing I tried to gather my thoughts and ran over some of the details of the past day. I remembered eating doner kebabs at Pasha Turkish and washing them down with a couple of beers at the Boxing Cat before rolling my Smove back to the hotel to rest up for the flight back to Honolulu from Shanghai, twelve hours in the air and a twelve hour layover between. Flight, that was the last thing I remember, I put my thongs in my checked bag so I wouldn’t have to do the dance in security and boarded the plane barefooted. I must have nodded off right after boarding, I don’t recall us taking off, but we must have.
Rain wasn’t the respite I was looking for but the cooling flow of water on my head and shoulders did take my mind off of the pain in my belly. Opening my eyes again went badly. The rain was coming down from above, where the roof of the plane was supposed to be. The rain was also soaking my phone, still in the seat next to me but this time, instead of reaching for it I looked down to see what was wrong with me. We weren’t in the air any more, with the exception of the rain there was no sound, no engines, no people, nothing, we had crashed and in doing so I had been thrown side to side violently enough for the seat belt buckle to open a bit and close down on a bit of belly flab. A two inch white line revealed itself when I opened the buckle and quickly turned an angry, dark purple, at least it hadn’t broken the skin, I guess.
Inventory, inventory, inventory, that was my new agenda, an agenda for survival. Immediately it came to mind that barefoot was great for sleeping, not so much for walking away from a plane wreck, that would be a top priority. I couldn’t see out the window next to me but it appeared that the seat row in front of me was the only one left, just crushed metal in that direction. The seats to my right, across the aisle looked as if a giant hand had grabbed them at either end and pulled and twisted until only mangled metal and bits of cloth were left, an overcast sky replaced the windows of the plane on that side. I finally grabbed my phone off of the seat next to me and turned to look behind me, a near perfect circle of nothing where the tail of the plane had been. I was alone. I did take comfort in the fact that my seat was next to the emergency exit over the left wing, so there was that.
My little piece of heaven had no ceiling and no people, therefore no overhead compartments or anyone to help scrounge together some sort of survival gear, all I had on me was my phone. Aaaand, no service. The GPS worked but without internet the map function was useless, just numbers. I guessed I was on an island somewhere in the South China Sea between Vietnam and the Philippines, several hundred miles from my scheduled twelve hour layover in Hong Kong.
Turning the phone off to conserve the battery(why?) I crawled carefully over the twisted shreds of metal until I was standing on solid, if a little damp, ground. Other debris from the plane was likely strewn about and useful bits might be had before sunset if I was diligent in my search. There was no smoke marking any other sections of the aircraft, I thought that odd but widened my search. We had landed or at least come to rest in a smallish valley, undergrowth comparable to corn stalks or sugar cane, no real trees until you neared a sort of rise on three sides then a belt of canopied forest gave way to steeper rocky grades.
I wandered in a expanding oval of sorts until the overcast broke momentarily and the opening in the sky showed the faint hint of orange signaling the approach of sunset. Surprisingly my bare feet had been spared any rough treatment in my wanderings but fatigue and the onset of dehydration had me more than a little unsteady now. I turned my head at a far off noise just in time to see a glint of metal, just at the top of the foliage, a tiger had lost it’s footing on the smooth metal of the tail and hit the horizontal stabilizer loudly before sliding off onto the ground. A tiger.