They were in complete synchrony. There was no need for Bianca to instruct him when to prepare for takeoff. He felt the plane as deeply as she did. And it made the load of it lighter as with a deeper roar the engines propelled the plane into the air and more of the milky fog. Bianca had chanced a quick look before closing her eyes again but the hardest part of the task now behind them she opened them and kept them open. She was one with the plane. She didn’t need the visual deprivation. They were one with the plane. Michael let go of her hand and leaned back into his seat with a sigh.
“Everything all right?” she asked. He looked okay but that didn’t mean he couldn’t burst an aneurism at any moment.
“Just a bit of a headache,” Michael said. “From the novelty of the experience, I guess.”
The cabin was once again quiet. Bianca hoped the wail hadn’t come from one of her crew. They could not lose anyone else, not now, maybe not ever. They needed each other. She needed them all.
“So, where are we going?”
“Do you know where we are?”
Michael made a face.
“I might have an idea but you wouldn’t like it.”
“Go on. Time-space tear in the air?”
“Good,” Michael said with an appreciative nod. “That was very good, actually, rhyme and all. I was thinking an inter-dimensional portal but a time-space tear in the air also makes sense. We’re not in our world, in any case.”
“Then we need to go back to our world. How well do you remember the route from the investigation?”
“Ah, well, I don’t have it memorized mile by mile because it never occurred to me I’d need to be following it. I do remember the investigators assumed they’d flown in a straight line for quite a while after they did a few loops over Malaysia.”
This didn’t help. The Indian Ocean was huge. There were many directions they could fly into in a straight line and for quite a while. And the white fog still stuck to the windscreen. There was not even a trace of sky anywhere in their field of vision and this was making Bianca nervous. She kept leading the plane higher and higher, only briefly asking herself whether there was a ceiling for aircraft in this nowhere.
“How high do you think we are?” Michael asked with too casual a voice.
“Are you reading my thoughts now?”
“No but I may be feeling them,” he said. “Or tasting them. It’s strange. But not unpleasant.”
Bianca rolled her eyes. Tasting thoughts was a good way of describing it. She could taste Michael’s thoughts as well. He was excited about flying a plane with his mind and wondering if they would be able to get back home. It was shapes rather than thoughts, shapes and tastes – the slightly bitter taste of longing and the sweetness of adventure, and now knowing where they were going, which was a little sour but in a good way.
“Afterlife is certainly more exciting than I expected,” she said finally. “But to answer your question I don’t know how high we are. Based on the time since takeoff we should be approaching cruising altitude but I want to go higher until I see some sky.”
“I know and I agree. Let’s go higher.”
The nose of the 777 pointed up and gravity or whatever passed for gravity here pulled them against their seats. They were climbing but the fog was still with them. Bianca tried not to peer too hard through it as she willed it into disappearing the way she had willed the plane into flying. The fog stayed where it was – all around them.
Someone knocked on the door. Michael turned to open it.
“I don’t know what you two are doing but you need to do it faster,” Gabrielle blurted out. She was breathing fast as if she’d run here. Or as if she’d been scared out of her wits.
“What happened?” Bianca asked.
“They’re still disappearing. About two dozen people so far. Gary had a meltdown, Sam is sitting with him, holding him so he doesn’t see people fall apart into dust. The priest is having some long discussion with the captain and I don’t know what to do. There’s no tunnel. As soon as someone wakes up they disappear. What the hell are we supposed to do, then?”
“Get them to a place where they won’t disappear,” Michael said.
“Yeah, that’s what I thought,” Gabrielle said with a sigh and pushed her glasses up her nose. “Hurry up, okay? Something tells me when they’re all gone it’s our turn.”
Without a word Bianca made the plane climb higher still. The way out could be up rather than forward. They needed to get out of the fog.
Michael sat in silence, adding his energy to the climb. There could be a flight ceiling or they could be free to go as high as they wanted. In any case they were about to find out because Bianca’s instincts told her they were a lot higher than the altitudes where passenger aircraft normally flew. It was weirdly exciting. They couldn’t die again. But maybe they could disappear like the passengers in the cabin behind then. The thought floated up in Bianca’s mind as the plane broke through the fog and into clear blue. For the third time in her extended life, Bianca blacked out.
You can get the full book here.