Everyone on the beach looked up. Michael burst out laughing.
“Get the plane out? How are we going to do this?” Rob said. Gabrielle and he sat on the ground a few feet from Charles and Gary. Samantha stood nearby, watching the afternoon sun’s slanting rays on the water. Now she turned to look at Bianca, as wide-eyed as everyone else.
“You want to get the plane out of this?” She pointed to the lake.
“Yes,” Bianca said with a nod. “I can do it. I can make it come out.”
“This is getting crazier by the hour,” Charles declared and stood up. “I want to watch. How about you, Gary?”
Gary shook his head without looking up. He’d wrapped his arms around his legs, his left wrist locked in the grip of his right hand. The knuckles on the right hand had paled with the force of the squeeze.
“Come on,” Charles said softly. “Let’s watch how our captain will bring the plane out of the water. Not many people get to see something like this.”
“Yeah, I want to see this,” Rob said and jumped on his feet. He extended a hand to Gabrielle. “Come on, get up. Let’s make some memories.”
Gabrielle brushed off an errant tear, sniffed and took his hand.
“If it’s boring you’ll never hear the last of it.”
Rob laughed and hugged her. Gary looked up at the laughing couple.
“Come on,” Michael said and offered the boy his hand. He ignored it and got to his feet on his own.
The group gathered behind Michael, all eyes on Bianca, who stepped closer to the water, as close as she could without getting her feet wetter, and froze in place. She fixed her eyes on the smooth, glass-like surface and concentrated. The plane was laying there below the water, resting, silt beginning to collect on the floor through the emergency exits. Bianca took the yoke in her mind and gripped it tight. Then she pulled as hard as she could. Lips pursed, eyes staring at the water fixedly, she pulled her plane higher and higher.
“I can’t believe this,” Rob murmured when the white nose popped above the water followed by the fuselage, the wings and finally the tail and the landing gear. “It’s visible again! It’s visible!”
The plane, white, with the gold and blue logo of Skyhigh, hovered above the water, all thirty-one metres and thirty-seven tonnes of it, like the biggest, fattest dragonfly in the world.
“How is she doing this?” Samantha whispered. Nobody answered. Unlike the others who couldn’t tear their eyes off the impossible sight, Michael was watching Bianca. She stood completely still, her face pale, hands curled into fists by her sides. She wasn’t breathing.
The plane hovered over the water for a few more seconds and glided forward, to the rocky shore. That part of the shore, unlike the one where the survivors had swum to, was larger and flatter, with no outcrops. The plane landed graciously, as if a giant hand had picked it up and placed it on dry land. Without a sound, Bianca folded into a heap on the ground.
“Shit!” Michael rushed to her. He took her head in his lap and checked for a pulse. “Stupid fuck,” he muttered and let go of her hand.
“Is she alive?” Gabrielle said. They had all gathered around, all worried.
Michael took a deep breath, let it out and only then looked up at the woman.
“Did you really ask me this?”
Gabrielle drew back as if he’d hit her.
“Hey, we still don’t know exactly what’s happening,” Rob said.
“No, she’s not alive. She has no pulse.” Michael declared and proceeded to slap her lightly. “Come on, Beanie, wake up.”
“It was probably all the exertion,” Charles said. “Getting a whole plane out of the water can’t be easy.”
“Could you please take a step back, all of you?” Michael waved the hand he was using to slap Bianca back into consciousness. “Please. I’ll handle this.”
The others did as told, with Gary lingering a bit longer but then joining them a couple of feet away. Bianca was as still as a corpse but Michael was not letting her stay that way. When he saw the slaps were not working as fast as he expected, he leaned in and whispered into her ear.
“Wherever you are, come back. Come back because there’s no way I can deal with all this myself. I’ll just let them fade away and die. You’re the captain. We’re all your responsibility.” He winced at the last words. “So you don’t get to leave the party early. You’re in charge of the party.” He paused and rubbed his forehead with his knuckles. “How the hell did you get that plane out of a lake, Beans?”
Bianca remained still, heavy, and silent. Michael slapped her cheeks a couple of more times and then simply sat cradling the upper part of her body. The others watched from a distance but did not speak. A minute passed, then another and a couple more. Michael pinched the bridge of his nose and squeezed his eyes shut.
“What are we going to do now?” Samantha said to no one in particular. “Are we all going to die?”
“We are already dead!” Michael yelled. Samantha jumped and the body in his lap stirred. “Beans? Beanie?” He stroked her cheek. Bianca’s arm rose to her head and landed on her forehead. She let out a soft groan and opened her eyes.