Thursday, January 24, 2008


The trip home to Seattle was a complete nightmare. Twice the plane they were on hit lunch-launching turbulence, once just as the meals were being served, littering the plane and passengers with chicken cacciatore and vegetarian curry and limp plastic cutlery. Clearly neither the pilots nor the crew had any idea that they were in for a bumpy ride -- the seatbelt sign wasn't lit, hot meals were being handed around, full cups of coffee and tea were being poured. Then the plane dropped out of the sky, or at least out of the top of it to somewhere in the middle of it, and the air was full of food and flight attendants. There was a lot of shouting and scrabbling and then the plane righted itself again, and there was a long bit of silence while everyone decided what to say next.

"Ladies and gentlemen," came an amazingly clear voice over the intercom. "We're not entirely sure what happened just there; we maybe hit an air pocket. All's well now, though, so we'll get everyone cleaned up and get back up to altitude. Skies look clear from here forward. We apologize for the incident, and please feel free to send the airlines your dry cleaning bill. And do be careful when you take your overhead luggage down. Things have moved a bit, I'd bet."

There was some light, forgiving laughter as people dabbed at the stains on their clothes, exaggeratedly wiped fake (and genuine) sweat from their foreheads and silently congratulated themselves on having kept calm. Compass unwrapped Mark's fingers from around her arm, dug her own fingernails out of his leg.

"You OK?" he asked her.

"OK," she answered. "You?"

"Hoping that woman in the fur coat in first class ordered the curry."

"And a glass of red wine."

"Hell, the whole bottle!"

They laughed, relaxed, accepted the proffered free glass of champagne from a flight attendant who looked like she’d been colored in by a feral two-year-old with Tourettes.

The second time the plane dropped was just as unexpected as the first. Awakened from a doze, Compass stared at a pillow that was lodged against the ceiling of the plane, idly wondering how it’d gotten there and why her stomach had crawled up into her mouth. By the time she woke up enough to understand what was happening, it was over. The voice on the intercom made no attempt to be jovial this time.

“Folks, we really don’t know what’s happening here. There’s nothing on our instruments to explain the drops, no equipment failure, no meteorological conditions that make sense of it, so to be on the safe side, we’re going to put down at the nearest airport and see if we can’t find you a smoother ride home.”

In record time, they were on the ground in Spokane. The line of fire trucks and other emergency vehicles panicked a few people, but the plane set down safely, though a tire blew after they’d been sitting on the runway a few minutes waiting for a set of stairs to arrive. As they departed the plane, one of the passengers turned to a flight attendant: “Is this plane cursed or something?”

“Well, if it wasn’t, it sure is now,” the attendant muttered. "I took care of that."

The people around her laughed, a little, but the passenger’s question hit Compass right in the gut.“Did we do that?” she asked Mark, once they were far enough away to not be overheard.

“I don’t know,” he said, and shrugged his backpack higher on his shoulder. “Ordinarily I’d say let’s not be superstitious, but why don’t we take a bus the rest of the way?”

After the third tire blew, this time high on a mountain pass, they shifted the emerald from his pack to hers, and all was quiet the rest of the way.


NuclearToast said...

That's one killer emerald. Compass had better not recite the Lost numbers around it!

Ash said...

Good mini chapter! Thanks! "feral two-year-old with Tourettes" = LOL! :)