Chapter 3: Meet the Survivors
“Guess this is all there is.” I muttered, mostly to myself. I turned slowly with a deep sigh, pushing hard against my bleeding arm. A motion aimed as much at something to focus on as staunching the bleeding. I was not heartened by what I saw of my fellow survivors.
One was dressed as businessman. I vaguely recalled had spent much of the flight clacking away at his laptop’s keyboard. His formerly crisp clothes were slightly dirty, dirt and dust marring his suit’s bright black. I mentally chided myself for being so critical of him. After all, his bore fewer tears and stains than my own clothing. He watched the bird fly away with a strange and unreadable expression painting his face.
Another appeared to be a young woman, with a shock of bubblegum pink hair barely contained by a loose blue kerchief. There was a small satchel lying on the ground next to her. She was trying to look nonchalant and unfazed while quietly trying to calm her breathing and stop the bleeding from a cut across the middle of her forehead. I wanted a closer look to be certain, but it could wiait. The bleeding was slow enough to indicate a fairly minor head wound, despite the seeming large quantities of the red substance trickling down her face.
The last was someone I almost recognized. He was the man from before, the attendant that I had been so dismissive of, and he had collapsed against one of the nearby stones and was rubbing his shoulder while wincing. Since he was both close and in obvious pain, I stumbled over to him as best I could on the uneven and loose ground. “I’m a doctor.” Not quite true, technically, but close enough. “Where does it hurt?”
He looked up at me, eyebrow cocked in doubt, before attempting to shrug and wincing in pain. “Fuck… It’s my shoulder.” He winced and lifted his hand to reveal his shoulder to me. There was little apparent injury, with no bleeding or obviously broken bones, but his pain was obvious. Carefully prodding and poking around his joint, I found that the pain was likely a fracture of some kind on his collarbone and I told him such. He winced again and asked me, “Is there anything we can do about it?”
“About the pain? Probably not. Sorry…” My voice softened as I spoke, feeling legitimate regret that there was so little I could do about the direct pain. “We can fashion a makeshift sling for you, though. That will keep it from getting worse until we can get you to a hospital.”
“Fine, take my shirt. Use that.”
“No. It’s usually cold up in these mountains, and we have no idea where the nearest town is from here. We don’t want you removing layers if we can help it. Even if it does seem strangely temperate at the moment…” And it was. I had no idea if the strange sun had a part in this, but it felt like a spring afternoon on the plains and not the late winter in the mountains it should have been. I looked around, seeking any sufficiently large piece of cloth which we could safely use and not risk freeze to death without it if sanity suddenly returned to this place. My gaze fell on the young woman. I set a gentle hand on the attendant’s other shoulder and stood up, walking toward the young woman. “Your head okay?”
She looked up and raised an eyebrow. “No, you dumb bitch.” She had an accent, a faint British twinge that seemed somehow odd, or diminished, as if she had lived elsewhere just long enough for it to begin fading. She leaned forward, placing her hand more firmly against the wound.
“Here, let me take a look.” I kneeled down, to be eye level with her seated position. “I’m a doctor, trust me.”
The girl rolled her eyes and, but after a moment’s hesitation, she lifted her hand away from the wound. I carefully wiped away as much blood as I could with my sleeve, trying not to think of the possibility of disease. The cut looked superficial just as I had suspected. If not for head wounds so often looking worse than they were, it was unlikely that the cut would even be a major concern. Ideally, she would need stitches, but that was unlikely to happen anytime soon.
I smiled reassuringly. “It isn’t too bad. It looks worse than it is. You should be fine just letting it clot naturally. If you don’t mind using your bandanna, it would be a good idea to use it as a makeshift bandage for your head. It would save you the strain of having to use your hand.”
“Fine” She eyed me strangely as she pulled off her bandanna and rolled it tighter. As she wrapped the tightened fabric against her wound, she momentarily winced before hardening her features to minimize the emotion painted across her face. She looked at me in silence for a second before nodding slightly and saying, “Thanks.”
“Don’t worry about it. It’s kind of my job.” I smiled warmly, hesitating for a fraction of a second before asking the question that I had come to ask. “Can I ask a favor?”
The girl’s expression showed no surprise. She had expected this sort of request. “Figures. What do you want?” She eyed me suspiciously, clearly expecting the worst from me.
“That man,” I pointed behind me to the attendant, “Has a broken collarbone. It might get too cold out here for us to start tearing up clothes to make a sling, but if we don’t rig up something for him, his arm can only get worse.” I nodded towards the small satchel next to the girl’s feet. “Could I borrow your bag, to use as a sling for him? I promise you will get it back when we find a town and I can get some supplies to make him a proper one. Or, better yet, we can get him into a hospital and get it set properly.”
She looked me up and down, and glanced down at the bag by her feet. “There’s books in it.”
I looked down at the satchel. I hadn’t expected it to be empty, though I honestly had not thought about what to do with its contents. “I can carry some of them, then. We can each carry a few, if you have a lot. We just need something to hold that man’s arm for a while.
She stared, thinking. Finally, she nodded. “There’re only two in there. And my mp3 player, but I can just wear that…” She reached into the bag and pulled out a pile of papers, which she rolled up and put in her back pocket, and then she pulled a pair of books out, as well. She handed me one, a worn paperback copy of Homer’s Odyssey. I must have looked surprised, because she gave me an odd look and said, “What? It’s for my Classic Lit class. It’s my old copy from High School.” I saw her tuck the other book away, wedged into her jeans pocket before I could see it.
I shrugged and jammed the book into my empty pocket. It did not fit well, and a fair amount of it poked out from the top, but it would serve for now. I smiled and thanked the young woman again and grabbed up the now empty satchel then ran back to where the attendant was waiting. As I moved, I was cinching up the buckles of the satchel’s straps so that it would function as needed. With a little work and a lot of wincing he was finally set, with his arm hanging much more comfortably in the bag.
Finally, I looked over towards the businessman, who had thus far remained silent. He was simply standing were I first saw him, unmoving. If not for his breathing, I would be concerned that he had somehow died while standing. Instead, I began to worry about a possible breakdown. Plane crashes were traumatic enough, but when it transforms instead of crashes, it pushes the limits of what the human mind can deal with. Probably the only reason that I wasn’t a gibbering mess myself was that I hadn’t given myself enough time to truly process what had occurred. I had slipped in unconsciousness and I had panicked sure, but as soon as the events had come to a stop long enough to think, there were others to attend to. Injuries to treat and bleeding to staunch. As such, I was still too distracted for the enormity of the situation to have impacted me. This man, however, hadn’t been so preoccupied.
While I had been flitting around, tending to the injuries of others, I guess he had been trying to put together what had happened. I took a deep breath, knowing that a few minutes ago I had faced the same sort of trauma even if it hadn’t hit me yet. It could destroy anyone with enough sanity to break. I knew that we had to snap him out it and I could only hope that I could manage.
“Okay, now that we’ve patched ourselves up, I think we should get walking. We need to find the nearest town and there’s no telling how far off course we were when we… crashed.” I knew my misdirection wasn’t fooling anyone, but it was a comforting lie. “And if we’re going to be walking together for god-knows-how-long, we might as well get to know each other.” I sighed slightly, trying to conceal my own growing anxieties for the sake of the others.
“I’ll start. My name’s Susan Tan. I was on my way to Denver for a medical conference.” I didn’t need to add the fact that these plans were clearly no longer happening, or that I was hoping to find my first job at said convention. Neither of these facts would prove helpful in the grand scheme of things. Instead, I turned to the businessman and gestured for him to join in the conversation. “And you are…?”
“Uh…” He stammered at first, clearly still shaken, but it succeeded in grabbing his attention away from his thoughts. Just as I hoped it would “Tom. Tom Watts. I, uh, was, uhm, on my way to…” He trailed off, as if remembering where he had been going was painful to recall. “To, uhh, California. Los Angeles. I had a business meeting.”
I smiled reassuringly. “Don’t worry Tom. I’m sure everything will be fine. Once we find civilization again, I’m sure we can all get to where we were going.” I placed a gentle hand on his shoulder, and watched as his still trembling face broke into an uneasy smile. He was not okay, not yet, but he seemed to have been pulled from his self-destructive reverie. I then, without removing the hand from his shoulder, looked to the young woman and her bright pink hair and nodded to her. “And you?”
“Me?” She lifted an eyebrow and rolled her eyes, clearly annoyed at the very idea of such a juvenile introduction session being so worthlessly simple. “Name’s Bobbi. It’s short for something, but what don’t matter.” She leaned back and adjusted her bandanna slightly, barely holding back the signs of her faint wince as it shifted pressure on her head wound. “I was on my way to Denver. Taking a break from school for a while and I wanted to see the best slopes in the States. Guess I’m still seeing ‘em, just not in the way that I was expecting.” She laughed at her own joke, gesturing around at the strangely dark mountains beneath us.
Knowing that focusing too much on our surroundings could send the anxiety levels of the group back into dangerous territory; I quickly pulled the focus back into the group and the task at hand. I looked at the attendant, as he was slowly attempting to stand without putting undue strain on his aching arm. “And what’s your story? Besides dealing with rude doctors on a flight to Denver?” I smiled, hoping my self-deprecation would alleviate some more tension.
“Ow.” He muttered to himself at the sheer amount of pain that he was feeling, but he didn’t let it rise beyond a whisper in volume. He turned to look at me and the businessman, Tom, next to me. “Uh, my name’s Richard, Rick for short. I’m a flight attendant, but I live in Denver. This was my last flight of the day, I was on my way home to my family.”
“Family? You’re married?” Bobbi seemed surprised at Rick’s statement, though I didn’t know why.
“Yeah. And a kid. Why?”
“I don’t know, just seemed like the swinging’ bachelor sort to me. For some reason.” Her cheeks momentarily turned red, before she clamped her mask down again and hid the expression of embarrassment from her features.
“Well, alright then.” I didn’t want anyone getting too worked up at the moment, too much riding on each of us keeping things together. “It’s about time we get moving anyway. Tom’s trip and Rick’s family are waiting. All the more reason that we should get going as soon as we can.”
I glanced down the mountain, something that we had all been avoided thus far. Where we stood at that moment was relatively flat, enough that we could ignore just how far up a mountain we truly were. However, down below us, there was no clear path through the surprisingly sharp and jagged rocks. The dark black stones along the path promised a harsh journey, even if we could avoid the more treacherous points along the way.
With a deep exhale, and a firm grip on Tom’s arm, I started down the mountainside. I knew that my chosen direction was basically random. I hadn’t ever been to this area before now and honestly I wasn’t even sure which direction was north from here. I had no idea if there were any towns in the area, and if there were, where we would find them. No one said anything though, following my lead and hoping that I knew what I was doing. I only hoped that they would not realize just how clueless I truly was…