Bianca snatched her shirt from the ground, put it on and started buttoning. Michael pulled his underwear and trousers on with no rush, leaving his own shirt last.
“Oh, come on!” Rob’s voice exploded in the still air.
Bianca tucked the shirt into her trousers and slid her shoes on.
“Come on.” She stood up ready to go but then stopped.
“Are you sure you’re okay? You’re not hearing that hum or whatever any more?”
Michael stood up and brushed dust off his knees.
“I don’t hear that hum.” He grinned and waved at Rob who had emerged from behind their rock, zipping his jeans. When he spotted Michael, Rob threw his arms in the air.
“Timing, man. Terrible timing.”
“Shut up,” Gabrielle said as she emerged after him trying to smooth her hair back. “There are people who need us.”
“And I need you,” Rob said as they started walking briskly to the plane. “How are my needs less important?”
Gabrielle sighed and shot him a look full of meaning.
“Okay, fine, dead people’s wishes first.”
By the time they got on the plane the itch was burning Bianca’s flesh and everyone was quiet and tense, even unhappy Rob.
“It feels worse than before,” Samantha said instead of a greeting. She was leaning over Marcello who was slumped in the aisle seat of the first row. “He’s been sick.”
“Sick how?” Bianca asked. There was no time for illnesses right now. They had to go, her whole body told her to go.
Michael stepped closer to peer at Marcello whose face had an ashen tint to it.
“Let me guess,” he said. “You don’t throw up often, do you? You don’t get sick easily?”
“How did you know?” the priest rasped and swallowed hard. “How did he know?” he asked Samantha.
Bianca nodded at Marcello and gestured Rob and Gabrielle, waiting behind her, to move along before she went into the cockpit. The itch was almost unbearable now.
“You’ll be fine,” Michael said behind her back. “It’s some side effect of this whole thing. We all had it. Not with vomiting but things that don’t normally happen to us. You just have to bear it. Okay, let’s go. Buckle up, everyone.”
Bianca was sitting in her seat with her eyes closed when Michael shut the door behind him and took his place.
“He’ll be all right,” he said and strapped himself in.
The engines purred in Bianca’s ears. She tipped her head first to the right, then the left, and opened her eyes. The 737 glided up like a bird, the sense of acceleration somewhere far away.
“Practice makes perfect,” Michael said. He was looking at her and he was smiling, Bianca could see it out of the corner of her eye. She nodded. “By the way, is it me or is the itch this time a lot—”
A blast of white light muted him, blinding Bianca, rendering her helpless for a disoriented moment. Screams and curses rose from the cabin.
“It’s happening again. How can it be happening again? I already died!” Gabrielle was more angry than scared. “What the hell is going on?”
“Help!” This was Marcello. “Help! Samantha is not feeling well. What is going on?”
“Take it easy,” Rob said. “It will all go away in a second. Just take it easy.”
“Are you all right? How can you be all right?” Incredulity joined Gabrielle’s anger.
“I was all right the first time, too. The exception proving the rule?”
“The first time? What first time?”
“When we died.” Samantha’s voice was tortured, slow. “We all had pains and aches we’d never had before.”
Sight returned as did sensation. Bianca was drenched in sweat and her heart was thumping like she had just sprinted uphill. And she wasn’t sitting in her seat. She was standing in front of the door to a cockpit but it wasn’t her cockpit. Michael was leaning on the wall next to her, his head in his hands. Gary was on her other side, staring at the cabin, and Samantha was sitting in one of the crew seats in the corner. Marcello, Gabrielle, and Rob stood in the aisle, also staring.
The plane was full and everyone on it appeared to be asleep. The sight made Bianca’s skin crawl but there was no time for shocks.
“How’s your head?” she murmured glancing at Michael.
He detached himself from the wall and looked around.
“It’s gone. It was the mother of all headaches but it’s gone now.”
“Let’s go and see what’s in there. Sam, are you all right?”
Samantha turned slowly and nodded. Then she nodded to the passengers, the question only in her eyes. Bianca shook her head.
“Why are they sleeping?” Marcello whispered. “Is this how this usually happens?”
“No,” Gary said in a clear voice. “They usually scream their heads off.”
Bianca put her hands on the door to the cockpit and tried to will it open. Everything about this trip was irregular. More surprises were almost certainly on the way. The plane was completely quiet, too, and this got on her nerves even more than the white light and the sweating. But maybe she could use her new abilities to minimise their effects.
The door wouldn’t move.
“Damn it,” Bianca murmured. She couldn’t push it open and she couldn’t pull it — there was no handle on the outside, of course.
“May I try?” Michael moved closer.
He took her place while she stepped back and glanced over the quiet cabin. Then he curled his hand into a fist and started banging on the door. Gabrielle jumped and Rob gasped. Gary looked at Bianca as if Michael had gone mad.
“Open up!” Michael said. “Open up or I’ll break it down.”
They all turned and waited, as if on cue, all eyes on the door. Nothing happened. Michael raised his hand again and swung it back. The door opened and a man peered out.
“Who are you?” he said. His voice was soft and quiet, the voice of a man woken from a deep sleep.
“We’re a rescue mission,” Michael said while Bianca wondered how to answer the question.
“You’ve come to save us?” the man asked, looking from him to Bianca.
“Yes,” she said.
“Finally,” the man said after he closed the door to the cockpit, where Bianca and Michael had squeezed themselves. The passengers in the cabin still appeared to be sleeping but Samantha had nodded when Bianca had opened her mouth to warn her and the others to be careful. There was no need for a warning. They knew what to do.
“What happened to you?” Michael said. Bianca was looking around but the cockpit told her nothing except this was a Boeing 777. Alarm shot through her for no reason that she could discern.
“I’m captain Imran,” the man said. “This is my first officer Azraai.”
“Hello,” the young man said. He was way too young to die. He was probably still in training when that had happened, whatever that was.
Bianca nodded at him.
The two men exchanged a look.
“We don’t know,” the captain said.
“What do you mean?” Michael peered through the windscreen but there was only milky fog there, wrapped tightly around the aircraft.
“We took off from Kuala Lumpur on time, everything was fine, the weather was calm and then there was this white light and we didn’t know where we were flying.”
Bianca’s mouth went dry.
“You took off from Kuala Lumpur?”
“And you were flying to Beijing.” She was not asking. She knew. Now she knew.
The captain and the first officer exchanged another look.
“How did you know?”
Michael’s eyes were boring a hole in her face so Bianca turned to him and nodded in response to his unspoken question.
“Wow,” Michael said quietly.
“What do you know about us?” Worry rippled the captain’s face.
“Nobody knows much about you except you’re the biggest mystery in the history of air travel,” Michael said. “You’re flight MH370.”
“Yes, we are,” captain Imran said and glanced in confusion to his first pilot. Azraai shrugged slowly.
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