D. M. King
Chasers: Generation One
June 7, 2017
Please dont let me die. I whisper through the yellow oxygen mask strapped tightly around my nose. Small suitcases and carry-ons break free from the overhead compartments and spray aggressively about the cabin mimicking the rapid downward plunge of the brand new Boeing 787. Im not sure where we are on our flight back to Alpha, New York from England, but I know we havent flown quite long enough to be over land yet, which only means one thing. Atlantic Ocean. I brace myself fully in my seat, face-first into the crash pad---the pungent smell of carbon from the ear-splitting explosion still stuck in my nostrils.
A symphony of terror fills the air as 239 passengers vocalize their disapproval of the pilots flying abilities and accept their imminent demise. Were about to make contact with the swiftly tilting planet, and its as if time stands still for a moment then disintegrates like the charred wreckage of the massive plane. Brilliant flashes of glass shards race across my blurry vision, and I swear the forty-five year-old stockbroker named Larry sitting next to me takes one of them straight through his temple. His lifeblood splattering into my right ear and across my lips. More than likely my last supper. I strain to admit to myself.
I peek up for an instant just to survey the gruesome sight, still hanging nearly upside down in the aisle like a ride on the Nitro roller coaster at Six Flags. Barely able to keep my veggie omelet down at that point, pure darkness swallows me whole. Whoever said crash-landing on water is softer than landing on land must not have understood the laws of physics. Even at only five thousand feet, the impact forces the life right out of the airplanes lungs and all the rest of the passengers on board. All except me, Neal Champion, 17 year-old motherless teen, that is.
Eternal nothingness eventually gives way to sketchy deformed bodies scrambling back and forth above and around me. I blink my blue green eyes several times hoping to clear my vision, but for the time being Im still staring desperately into distortion. Hours or maybe days pass by before I lift my head and open my swollen eyes once again expecting a change of scenery. Soon shapes take form, and sideways people with masks and white coats appear upright now, like someone has finally fixed my vertical hold, and my television signal comes back.
Wha--? I struggle to speak with two tubes rammed down my throat and a clear mask over my mouth and nose.
Dont try to talk. Youre intubated. A machine is breathing for you. Best if you just lie still and let us do our jobs. Were trying to save your life, Mr. Champion.
I manage to squeak that word out slightly better than the first.
Plane crash. Coma. Collapsed lungs. Head trauma. I capture a few more words thrown my way. Otherwise, youre a mighty lucky kid. Rest. Well take care of you. The olive-skinned doctor assures.
Tears trickle down my burned cheeks and cloud my vision once again. Its so difficult to believe all I am hearing. The unforgettable sights and sounds of London still fresh in my mind. I glance at Dr. Zawis name tag and read Memorial Hospital, figure out that somehow Im unbelievably back in the states, and drift quietly back to sleep. Part of me expects to wake up soon and start walking and ordering meatloaf, but thats not exactly what happens.
Vaguely remembering the date of my flight, I sleep in and out for at least twenty days or more, I surmise, and awake to a series of annoying beeps and buzzes. I move my head from side to side hoping to catch a glimpse of a doctor or nurse, but incredibly the place is empty, or so I think. Still slowed by a painful headache and what appears to be a surgically repaired left wrist, I push the button to raise my bed and find the nurses alarm. One push. Nothing. Two pushes. Still no one.
My intravenous drip has long dried up, so I end some of the incessant noise by hitting stop on the machine. According to the fancy monitors, my heart rate seems normal enough along with my blood pressure, but wheres the staff? Why isnt there anybody taking care of me? I wonder. Not exactly sure of what will happen, I tug lightly at the tubes still clogging my airway. After a few short pulls I realize I no longer need to have a machine breathe for me, so I gradually disconnect it. Pulling the flexible tubing out of my lungs and throat resembles a sword swallower yanking steel from his jowls---it burning like I drank an entire bottle of rubbing alcohol straight. I watch my blood trickle down the side of the bed from the tubes and onto the tile, and thats when I jerk back with a start. Lying on the floor next to my bed is Dr. Zawi. My watery eyes blinking violently back and forth clearing some of the cobwebs still lodged in my brain, I swing my legs over the side of the bed and reach down to check his pulse. Hes still alive but barely. He looks like he hasnt slept for weeks. His dark Indian skin now pale and cold. I stretch for the half-full water pitcher on the food tray, open the lid, and splash him in the face with the lukewarm liquid. His eyes open for an instant then close.
Dr. Zawi! Please! Whats happened? Wake up! I slap him a few times in the face, but he never opens his eyes ever again. One last muffled word leaks out before he dies.
Letter? I question. Not as mobile as I need to be, I make a painful decision to break free of my final umbilical cord, separating myself from my IV. An extended burning travels slowly up my arm finally touching the part of my brain that reminds me that I have nerve endings. I scream in anguish for some help but to no avail. I am on my own---rich red plasma streaming down my unbroken arm as if Ive scratched it on a sharp nail. I tear some gauze from the cabinet over the sink and wrap white tape around my wound protecting my aching right arm from my self-inflicted ignorance. Like a drunk trying to do the tango, my wobbly legs still seeking my center of gravity, I stumble crazily around the room searching for a letter but find nothing. I take a quick glance at myself in a stainless steel surgical tray only to be disappointed.
Probably over a month since Ive shaved and still not much of a beard, but my blond faux hawk appears a shade longer now---my new eagle tattoo healing nicely on my shoulder. By the looks of things, I guess I wont have to worry too much about explaining that to Grandma should I ever make it home that is. How on earth Mom and Dad gave birth to this baby-faced, fair-haired son still amazes me. Im sure faulty genetics came into play with Dad a full-blooded Frenchman and Mom a Puerto Rican American. Heavy emphasis on the Puerto Rican part.