Chapter 1: The Beginning
The air in the cabin had the crisp and clean quality that could only be found on the receiving end of a pressurized air filter. I took a deep lungful of the sterile air and sipped my beverage to calm my nerves. The pilot had announced our final approach and I knew that after landing there would be only a few short hours before the convention started. The idea made me jittery, as it was there that I was to meet my future employer.
The phone interview had gone off without a hitch. Even the video conference call had passed without incident. He had invited me to Denver to meet for one final interview. He had assured me it was merely a formality at this point, that it was nothing to worry about. Regardless my stomach roiled, unsettled and empty. It protested any amount of food or drink that I forced down my throat.
I looked around the cabin, watching as the attendants flitted about like hummingbirds and pausing only to tend the passengers. The passengers themselves were bedecked in a wild variety of styles. Business suits, jerseys, dresses both simple and elegant, in every color of the rainbow assaulted my nerve-wracked senses and I forced down the last of my caustic soda while staring at the calming grey of the floor beneath my feet.
Without looking up I gestured wildly to call over a young man in a crisp airline uniform. I did not give him time to ask, merely asked for another drink. I asked for something with alcohol in it and sent him on his way.
I wasn’t stupid, I knew that liquor wouldn’t help and it only ran the risk of ruining everything I had worked for over the years. I did not care. I was too rattled. I needed something to calm my nerves and there would be nothing better to be found on this plane.
The attendant returned, offering me a selection of tiny bottles. “Your choice, miss.” The attendant, a well groomed young man, seemed to have a level of sarcasm in his voice. I ignored it and pointed at a bottle. He merely smiled and set it before me, alongside a small glass of ice and waited patiently for me to send him on his way once more. I gave him no such indication.
I downed the drink straight for the bottle and asked for another, quickly reaching my third before the calming warmth spread through my limbs like a well tamed flame. Only then did I wave money in the attendant’s face and sent him away. I hoped I would not regret that choice.
Fortunately, I did not have time for my lingering worry to build. I was exhausted and worried, and I collapsed against the window with a deep sigh. Without thinking, I glanced out the window, staring down at the mountains below. I was alone with my thoughts. I watched the world below visibly shift.
I had to be imagining it. The ground below seemed to pulsate, like there was a shock wave coursing through the mountains and stones. I immediately passed it off as an effect of the liquor and my lingering stress. Then the pulse rocketed through the ground below once again and this time I feel it too. Against all odds, the wave which passed through the ground below was now passing through the plane as well.
I glanced worriedly around the cabin. Many of the people there were passively sitting, doing what they had been doing minutes ago, with no sign that they had even noticed anything. A few were looking around in confusion, mirroring my own surprise. A third pulse thrummed through the plane, warping the plane with a terrible grinding sound as it passed through. This time, it brought along a terrible nausea and a painful wrenching sensation in my stomach.
My head swam and liquids rose, bile splashed against the seat before me. I looked up and around the cabin; no one could have ignored the pulse this time. Many were ashen faced and wide-eyed, a few were wiping their mouths much the same as I. The attendants were rushing back to their seats in the rear where seat belts awaited them.
A fourth wave rippled through the plane and this time it brought a momentary darkness with it. Lights in the plane flickered and failed in the wake of the pulse. The nausea returned, but my stomach was now empty; so, nothing rose other than my unease. Others were not so lucky.
I heard the screams first. Panic rose as the threat of a crash certainly loomed before us. I looked out the window desperately, hoping that some answer to my growing confusion waited for me out there. All I saw were collapsing mountains and upended trees below. I watched helpless another wave roar towards us, leaving only time to brace myself before it struck. The screams stopped as the darkness returned. There was a horrible crunching sound and the sound of tearing metal. The cold night air rushed in to greet us and the terrible wind threatened to rip me from my seat.
My eyes flew open, I had instinctively shut them in my panic, to witness the impossible. The sun was rising ahead of me, despite having already risen a few hours before this madness. The sky was ablaze with a rainbow of colors, some explained by the strangely timed sunrise but others I had never seen painted the sky in impossible hues. The ground below me pulsed ever faster. The stones and snow now flew skyward in impossible geysers.
On either side, I could see some of the other passengers. Their mouths opened wide in silent screams as their voices were lost to the howling wind. Something else was wrong. This couldn’t be happening! The waves and the sun were strange enough, but something else was wrong. My mind raced. I tried and failed to understand what my eyes were seeing. A second later, it finally clicked what was bothering me. Where a plane had been, there was now a large bird. Suddenly, as if reality dared me to disbelieve, I felt the wind grab hold and attempt to fling me skyward.
Desperate grasping found enormous feathers and clung white-knuckled and terrified. The edges of my vision were tormented by the half seen glimpses of less fortunate or more foolish passengers that failed to grab hold of our impossible mount. I tried to ignore it, to force their horrible deaths from my mind. I could feel bad for them later.
I screamed. My throat burned as the wind ripped the noise from my lungs and left only a deafening roar to surround me. I felt the rumbling breath of the creature to which I clung. It reminded me of the impossible. What had moments ago been an unthinking and inanimate object of steel and glass was now a living and breathing creature. I could not cope and consciousness slipped away from me. The last thing I saw was my white knuckle grip on a feather larger than me.