Rob’s wife, Gabrielle, chose this moment to try and burst into the cockpit. She hit the door with her whole body and started banging on it with her fists until Michael opened. Her face was wet with tears and her eyes shot daggers but it was her mouth that made both pilots gape. It had a thick ring of cold sores in full, painful bloom.
“You said to report anything unusual, right? Well, here I am, reporting. I have never had cold sores in my life, never! What is happening here?”
The woman was breathing quickly, her chest hitching with the sobs she was controlling for now but it was only a matter of time before the levee broke.
“I’m sorry,” Bianca said. The woman had been arrogant but now she was suffering one of the worse minor pests of everyday life. Bianca herself was no stranger to cold sores and carried acyclovir in one form or another at all times. “I have a tube of Zovirax in my bag if you want some.”
The woman’s eyes became even bigger behind the glasses. For a moment she reminded Bianca of an anime character.
“If I want some?” she repeated quietly, incredulously. “What do you think?”
“Back to normal, then,” Bianca said, grinning. “Let me see.”
She glanced at Michael who, after the first look he’d given Gabrielle, had resumed watching the landscape, and turned to her bag, which she had set on the floor by her seat. It took a second to find it and open it.
“Here,” she said after some blind rummaging. What she felt in her hand was the tiny tube of Zovirax. No one could see it. “It’s not even open.”
Gabrielle reached out to take it with a shaky hand.
“Thank you. I’m sorry about my temper. I guess I’m going to excuse it with the situation.”
“That’s completely understandable. Anything else unusual back there?” Bianca asked as Gabrielle opened the invisible tube and squeezed an invisible string of Zovirax on the tip of her finger. Bianca watched what looked like a brilliant pantomime in fascination. Gabrielle did not want to treat her cold sores in what privacy the toilet could offer. She wanted to kill the infection right now. Bianca’s respect for the woman grew.
“Not at the moment,” Gabrielle said and winced. “God, this shit hurts.”
“It won’t hurt long, though,” Michael said, startling the woman.
“Well, it’s not cramps or a nosebleed. I’ve had these and I know they pass quickly. But cold sores?” She shrugged and continued spreading the medicine on the ring of raw viral wounds around her mouth.
“Let us know when they’re gone, please,” Michael said. “It might be important.”
“Really?” Gabrielle stopped spreading. “Important how?”
“Data-wise,” he said with a shrug. “When we land and we get rescued we would have to report everything that happened. That’s all.”
“You think we’re getting rescued? Did you manage to get in touch with anyone on the ground?” The cold sores left the spotlight. Gabrielle the journalist had a scoop.
“No,” Bianca said and shot Michael a warning glare. “But we are looking for a place to land and will attempt a landing as soon as we find that place. I’ll let you all know.”
“It won’t be long now,” Michael said, ignoring Bianca’s unspoken warning.
“Really? There’s just mountains all around.” Gabrielle gestured as if the other two couldn’t see the landscape.
“Let us worry about that,” Bianca said with another smile. “You can go back to your seat. I’ll let you know when you need to do something. Keep the Zovirax.”
Gabrielle eyed them both with a suspicious frown but did not press the matter.
“Thanks for this,” she told Bianca, waving her hand with pinched thumb and index finger in the air, before she turned and left. Bianca watched her walk back to her row and sit next to Rob.
“What was that? Data?”
“It’s good to keep a hope alive, don’t you think?” Michael said with a shrug. “So, when are we landing? And where?”
“I have no idea,” Bianca said after some thought. “If we are still on course we should definitely be out of the Alps and over Germany already. So I assume we’re not on course and we have no way of finding out what our new course is.”
“We’re flying in a circle,” Michael said. “That’s the only explanation that would make sense to you.”
“To me?” Bianca snorted. “What the hell is that supposed to mean?”
Michael’s face was a picture of solemnity. There was not a trace of anger or a hint of mockery.
“We’re either flying in large circles or we’re not really flying at all, which would follow from my initial theory of what has happened to the plane. And to us.”
“We could be flying in large circles, I suppose,” Bianca said, more thinking aloud, trying the idea for taste, than addressing him. Michael nodded, pursing his lips. “What is it now?”
“I knew you’d like that explanation better.”
That sadness she’d seen in him earlier was back and it was the thing that defused the bomb of anger whose fuse was burning close to the end.
“Michael, something is obviously wrong. What is it?”
“I told you, Beanie. I think we’re dead and I think you’re having trouble accepting that.”
“It’s a bit difficult to accept it given that we’re still breathing, people are having health problems, and we’re not at the pearly gates.”
It was Michael’s turn to snort but he snorted with laughter. Neither of them was religious but Bianca had always been more vocal about her non-religiousness. And Michael had always found it amusing.
“Well, look at it this way: if there was life after death, there could be anything else there as well, right?”
“Theoretically,” he said.
“Does really no one call you Mike?” she said. Michael’s eyebrows jumped up for a moment on this sudden change of topic and then settled back in their places.
“No one but you,” he said.
“But… how? I mean, Mike is so natural for anyone to use if they’re close enough to you.”
“I discourage them from getting close to me. Why is this suddenly so important?” His words became clipped and came out at a faster rate. Michael did not want to discuss the topic. Bianca raised one hand off the yoke to stop the anger from building up again. She was running out of energy for anger.