“How did this happen?” she whispered, her energy all drained all of a sudden. “What happened?”
Michael opened his arms and wrapped them around her. Bianca fought to free herself but her movements were sluggish and Michael held her fast and tight. She gave up.
“I don’t want a hug, I want an explanation,” she said, her face lodged in the space between Michael’s neck and his shoulder.
“We’re dead, honey. We’re dead.” He spoke quietly, gently. “I guess we have to stay close to the plane because we died on it.”
Bianca found a spare reservoir of strength enough to push herself back so she could face him.
“We died on it?”
Michael nodded, glancing over her head at the others who had slowly walked up to them and were now watching him.
“That white light. I think that was it.”
Bianca turned. Rob was nodding. Samantha was crying quietly but now a sob escaped her throat. Gabrielle looked at her and put an arm around her shoulders. Charles wore a forced, twisted smile on his lips.
“So that was it,” he said.
“I think so,” Michael said.
“Was it another plane? Did we crash into something? Did we blow up?” Rob asked after a while.
Michael shook his head.
“Let go, please,” Bianca said. He released her.
“What’s wrong with Gary?” Samantha said. The tears were drying up and she spotted the boy still sitting on the beach, head hung, not moving.
“Gary’s sad. He misses his mother and he doesn’t understand why she’s not here with him if we all died.”
“Why isn’t she? Why isn’t everyone?” Gabrielle said. “This has to be the weirdest part. How come we’re here and the others aren’t? We must have all died, right? I mean, it happened in the air, whatever it was. What are the chances of survival in this sort of accident?” Her eyes bore into Bianca and Michael.
“We don’t know what happened exactly, so it’s hard to talk about survival chances,” Bianca said.
“Okay, let’s say we crashed into another plane,” Gabrielle pressed on. “What would be our chances of survival?”
“Zero,” Bianca said.
“What about… something less deadly? I don’t know, decompression or something?”
“Where are you going with this?” Rob said, frowning.
“I have an idea,” Gabrielle said. “Well?”
“Decompression doesn’t have to be fatal for everyone on the plane,” Bianca said with a shrug. “But it depends. Also, it’s very noticeable and if we had experienced decompression we would have done something about it. I don’t remember decompression. ”
“Yeah, I don’t either but maybe our memories have been wiped out after death. So,” Gabrielle said, bright-eyed, “It is possible that everyone else survived and we were the only ones who died, isn’t it?”
Bianca stared at her for a moment. She then threw her hands up in the air.
“Anything is possible,” she said with an exasperated sigh. “Absolutely anything is possible, including a plane becoming invisible because, as we now suspect, it was actually the ghost of a plane, with the ghosts of those who died on it. But,” she raised her index finger, “the plane cannot be the ghost of itself because if most of the people survived, the plane has to have survived, too.” She paused for a breath of air. “I could go on and it won’t become any clearer. It will only become more confusing. So let’s work with what we have, okay?”
“What do we have?” Charles asked. He was looking at the boy who hadn’t moved at all since they came back. “Actually, excuse me, I want to go see how Gary is doing. You go on.”
“What do we have?” Rob said.
“Michael?” Bianca said and crossed her arms. “Would you?”
“Okay.” Michael stepped around her to face the others. “We have a plane. I think we can all agree on that? Right. We also have, well, ourselves.”
“And we’re breathing,” Samantha said. “Whatever Gary says, I am sure as hell breathing and I have a heart beat, and I have a pulse.”
“We all do,” Michael said. “What Gary meant was that he’d held his breath since we got ashore. He could hold his breath indefinitely without passing out.” He sighed. “Which, coupled with the fact you came back to the beach without meaning to, suggests we no longer share the plane of the living with the rest of the world.”
“Oh, wow, you’re a real poet,” Gabrielle said and laughed. The laughter was forced and hollow.
“It’s not his fault we’re… We’re where we are now,” Bianca said.
“I don’t care whose fault it is, his or yours, or someone else’s. I will never see my daughters again and I’m having a problem with that idea,” Gabrielle said. Her voice cracked on the last word. Rob hugged her. She turned and hid her face in his chest. Her body shuddered with the first sob.
“We’ll, um, give you some privacy,” Michael said. He took Bianca’s hand and tugged on it. “Come on, let’s go.”
Bianca turned reluctantly and started walking.
“I’m sorry,” Bianca said as they walked slowly along the shore. “I never thought about… who we leave behind.”
“It’s not your fault,” Michael said.
“And what if it is? What if I did something wrong?”
“We would know, Beans.” He stopped and put his hands on her shoulder in that age-old gesture of encouragement that looks so lame until you need it. “We would know if we did something wrong.”
“I think I need to cry,” she said. Her voice was thick, head hung low, suddenly too heavy. She put a hand on Michael’s chest. “I need to cry but I don’t want you to comfort me, okay? Please.”
“Okay,” he said and let go of her. Bianca rushed across the shore to a rock she barely discerned through the blur or tears. She went around the rock and slid down on the ground, sobbing. She stayed there, shuddering with the weight of reality, until she was sure she had no more tears left in her. Until she was sure she could face this reality without breaking down.
“Better?” Michael asked when she returned on the beach. Everyone had gathered in a loose group but Michael, who stood a little way away, watching the rock where Bianca’d hidden.
“Yes,” she said and kissed him on the cheek. She wasn’t quite sure why she did it. It just seemed like the natural thing to do. Maybe the shock was making her seek human contact. She had to be careful. “Thank you for not insisting on comforting me. I just had to get all the emotions out of the way.”
“You’ve never liked me seeing you cry,” he said with a shrug. “So, are the emotions out of the way?”
She nodded. Then she smiled.
“So, what do we do now, Captain?” Michael asked with a grin.
“We get this plane out of the water so we have somewhere to sleep,” she said.