This week’s Writer’s Carnival Team challenge : SOLE SURVIVOR. You’re a sole survivor of a plane crash and are stranded on a desert island, or so you thought. Write this using no less than 500 words.
*WARNING: Four instances of profanity*
Breaking through the membrane of the dome caused the aircraft to jolt. A little like a needle pushing its way through jello, the moment when the fuselage cleared the skin of the biosphere habitat enclosing the city of London always caused a catapult effect.
My head remained slammed back into my headrest until the plane hit Mach One and the acceleration eased. Ink blots crowded my vision when the blood rushed to the back of my brain and training exercises kicked in as I took deep cleansing breaths. Staring straight ahead, the glossy lacquered finish of Ed’s helmet in the front seat came back into focus. The clipped voice in my ear sounded crystal clear.
“Jack, verify our coordinates to Outpost Delta. Call sign ‘Phoenix’.”
Fighting against the unrelenting G-force, I forced my chin down, reading the data from the cuff wrapped around my wrist. My fingers felt like they’d been inflated by a bicycle pump as I mis-keyed the verification code. The onboard computer beeped.
“Jack? Coordinates man, get your shit together.”
Swearing softly, I got it on the second attempt.
The thin membrane of my gloves gave my skin a metallic sheen as I tapped the six digit coordinate reference into the console and hit ‘transmit’. Got it.
“Roger, that, Ed…”
My teeth snapped shut, narrowly avoiding taking a lump out of my tongue, as the craft lurched. The undulating sands of the desert below rushed up into view.
“Pull up: pull up: pull up…”
The reasonable tone of the automated voice was strangely calming. That’s it, you don’t have to die, just ‘pull up’. Easy.
Instinctively, I followed the command, gripping the joystick and pulling back. The descent slowed, but our calm companion was unimpressed.
“Pull up: pull up: pull up…”
“Hold tight, Jack.” Ed’s equally calm voice crackled in my ear. Never had the gulf between us been clearer. My third supply delivery mission to Outpost Delta was outshone by his eighty third expedition. At least I was in safe hands.
The plane bucked as Ed switched to vertical thrusters and engaged air brakes. The din of rattling metal subsided as our speed dropped. The craft was dropping too, falling like a stone being pelted toward the ground.
“Ed, what’s going on?” My cuff-console showed ‘code red’ status on both port side engines. My helmet hissed as I activated the thermoseal and switched to in-suit oxygen supply. If the fuel tanks ruptured on impact, I’d need the oxygen boost to react quickly.
The desert dunes rushed up in a blur of wet beige. The plane’s nose flared at the last moment, dumping the rear end down hard into the rubble strewn desert. Even with the landing gear engaged, the shock absorbers sent a jolt up my spine.
Ed sat still as a corpse and panic clawed through my chest until I heard his snort of relief.
“What the fuck, Ed?”
“Engine two and four cut out on us. The air reading said borderline for debris, but it must still be dirty from last night’s rainstorm.”
Tapping the settings on the cuff-console, I shifted through the helmet viewing modes. Thirty times magnification showed grains of sand floating in the air like boulders in zero gravity.
The metal fuselage vibrated as Ed ran the vortex-clean programme, dust pluming around the craft at the sudden blast of whining fans. I scanned the terrain, anxiously looking for tell-tale signs of electric blue carapaces, and the ten seconds wait for the cycle to complete felt like a lifetime.
I shook my head, and then realized that was useless. “Nothing. C’mon, get us the Hell out of here, Ed.” The only life forms out here in the desert stemmed from mutated reptile and insect DNA. Three hundred years after the meteor strike the temperatures on Earth were stable and on the climb at last. The impact caused the predicted ‘Ice Age Scenario’ and warm blooded life forms had only survived if they made it inside the domes.
Ed fired up the engines. I sat listened to the engine note sliding up through the octaves, the sandstorm erupting around us becoming thicker with each passing second.
“Green to go, on my mark, three, two, one.” Ed’s calm voice spoke into my earpiece.
I grimaced as, pulling on the joystick, my head compressed into my shoulders when vertical lift shot us upward like an elevator in a shaft. My stomach contents rammed up into my diaphragm as Ed switched to cruise mode and the plane surged forward.
I studied the craft calibration readings. The amber alerts were to be expected. Green would be better. The light on the right rear landing-gear hatch clicked to red and a prickle of unease trickled through me.
The splintering sound made me flinch. The blue sky above disappeared behind a shroud of glittering cracks, the canopy overhead shattering like ice smashed by a hammer. A gasp burned in my lungs at the same moment as the plane pitched forward. I looked past Ed’s juddering helmet at dark grey sea where harsh sunlight cast a carpet of diamonds.
“Ed,” I shouted.
All I picked up in my earpiece was gargling breaths. Something spattered my visor and I knew it was blood. Pushing hard on my joystick, knowing both control rods needed to move together to make a vertical landing, I banked left, and at least swapped the seascape for land. I took deep slow breaths as the oxygen rich mixture in my helmet made me light headed.
Reaching down between my legs, grappling beneath my seat, my fingers closed over the thick metal D ring. Yanking hard, the metal studs around the canopy made a gunshot crack of explosives discharging, and my backside burned as the ejector seat compressed my flesh, driving me up into the gusting wind.
The sensation of free falling made me feel sick. I couldn’t focus on anything to stop the scenery whipping around. A red hot poker of pain rammed up into the base of my skull and my world went black.
In what felt like nano-seconds later, I opened my eyes and stared into an orange sky. Did Ed make it? The data skidding across my retina bio-screen said my vital signs were within normal range. The sting in my elbow crease lined up with the analgesic shot the data recorded as delivered. My body rocked gently inside the cushioned embrace of the suit’s impact inflated compartments. I pulled the plug from the valve on my hip, groaning as the suit deflated and knotted clumps of wet sand pressed into my shoulder blades.
Where’s Ed? One tap on my console replaced the orange filter of my visor with the glare of sunlight. Black smoke billowed in the air and the black-suited shape of Ed’s crumpled body lay about twenty feet away. I grunted as I rolled over, freezing as an electric blue light pierced the ash grey fringes of the smoke clouds. The chittering sound of grating mandibles crackled in my ears.
“Shit…” That red light came back to haunt me like a taunting demonic eye. The fucker must have hitched a ride. Flattening down on my belly, I commando crawled across the wet ground into the shadow thrown by outcrops of jagged rock.
Rolling over, I shuffled my shoulders in the soft wet sand, burrowing in deeper scooping the cold slush over my body. Body heat was my enemy. The added weight of my suit made it easier to sink lower into the silt until I was almost submerged. My helmet sighed as I hit the pressure seal and the sludge of wet sand covered my visor.
Even beneath the ground I heard the sickening sound of grating bone. I blocked out the image of Ed. My retina screen glowed in the dark with the electric blue of optimised scotopic response. Ironic. Radioactivity residues give these suckers the same blue glow that our eyes can’t miss, and yet, still they come out of nowhere. I stopped thinking and listened.
Nothing. And then the sand erupted around me and there was nothing but slicing pain.