“Hello, everyone. We will need to make an emergency landing, which you’re probably not surprised to hear. But there’s one thing you need to know. We’ll be landing in a lake.”
A “What?” from Gabrielle, “A lake?” from the older of the two men, and a “Wow!” from Gary clashed in the air. Michael was probably raising his hands now, as though he wanted to untangle the words but actually to calm the passengers down. Bianca’s lips twitched into a smile.
“It’s okay, it’s okay. This has been done a lot of times before. The thing to remember is to put on your life jackets on but not to inflate them. I repeat, do not inflate them inside the plane, okay? If you do, you’ll drown because you won’t be able to get out of the plane. Is that clear?”
Murmurs of agreement followed.
“Good. They are under your seats, so I’d recommend you take them out now, just to have them handy. But do not inflate them.”
“It would take me a while to find where to inflate them from,” Charles said, as he bent over to take the life jacket out of its place.
“Good point,” Michael said, pointing a finger at Charles. “Take your jackets out and feel for the small cylinder thing. That’s where you inflate it from, you just pull the plug. But do not—”
“Inflate them, yeah, okay. Isn’t the water here freezing cold here?” Gabrielle asked. She waved the invisible jacket. “How will this help us with that?”
“Yes, it probably is, which is why we’ll need to get out of it as quickly as we can. Can all of you swim?” He paused for a murmur of positive answers. “Good, then we won’t have to drag anyone out. Okay, that’s it, then. Life jackets on, do not inflate until plane is in the water, swim to shore as fast as you can. We’ll be there to help. We’ll make it. I promise. Now put the jackets on. Right now.”
He was back in the cockpit seconds later.
“How do they look?” Bianca asked.
“Scared.” Michael buckled up with a grim face.
“I gave them a promise I might not be able to keep.”
“Well,” she said and reached across the central panel to him. He took her hand. She squeezed. “If you’re right and we’re already dead you will keep it. We can’t die more than once, can we?” he squeezed her hand back but didn’t answer and didn’t smile.
“Let’s ride the wind.”
Bianca once again slipped into the plane’s mind, no longer finding it strange or unusual. She felt the wind blowing from the east and turned the plane so it flew into it. The lake was growing bigger and bluer as they descended on it. The peaks surrounding it also grew, sharp, grey, and devoid of any vegetation. Bianca rode the wind.
“Here we go,” Michael murmured when the ripples on the water became visible.
“Where’s your life jacket?” Bianca asked.
“Where’s yours?” he countered. “We’ll be fine.”
“Yes, we will,” Bianca said. The plane obeyed her every thought. It was easier than riding a bicycle. As easy as raising your hand to scratch your nose. The water was coming at them, fast. “Ready for ditching,” she said under her breath. A few seconds later the plane touched the water like a huge heavy bird and sank. Bianca was out of her seat before the water reached the windows, rushing out of the cockpit.
“Jackets on, belts off, now! Good,” she said faced with four wide-eyed people in life jackets who now all unclasped their belts. “Now we swim and we swim fast.” She ran on to where she knew without seeing that the front emergency exits waited, felt for the one on the right and opened it.
Michael was on her heels opening the left one. Freezing water gushed in and filled the cabin in seconds. Bianca was already out hovering by the exit as Michael pushed Gary through and inflated his jacket, then Rob and Gabrielle swam out, and finally Samantha and the old man made it through the emergency exit.
Bianca shot straight up, her lungs burning, her throat in agony for air. Working hard with her arms and her legs, she broke the surface of the lake and gulped air. Heads bobbed up and down around her. Michael was close by Gary, both swimming to the shore, and Rob and Gabrielle were not far behind. A splash to her right revealed the last remaining crew member of flight 311 and its oldest passenger. The bearded man was panting.
“Are you okay, sir?” Bianca asked, herself breathing heavily. The air was delicious.
“Yes, I’m okay, and my name’s Charles. Charles Stevens.”
“All right, Charles. Do you need help to swim ashore?” Samantha asked.
He shot her an indignant look.
“Of course not.”
He turned and began swimming with regular, majestic strokes. Bianca and Samantha watched him for a few seconds. Accidentally, they met each other’s eyes and burst into laughter that eventually made both cough. It took a while for them to reach the shore where the others were trying to get used to the thought they had, again, survived.