Castaways Ch. 01byBlewWater69©
For Juliette, per your request.
Chapter One -- Mostly set-up.
The trip was meant to be a vacation for John. He had worked tirelessly on his latest articles for New Yorker magazine and felt he was due a break. He had thrown himself full time into his work since his wife died the year before of breast cancer at the tender age of thirty-nine. Their one son was a freshman at Hofstra University and very independent. He only called his old man when he needed money or advice. John had to track him down on his cell once a week just to say hello. For this reason, John didn't think Nick would miss him if he left for a week's R & R in the Caribbean.
Being a last minute deal, he arranged everything through an on-line web-site to get the best prices. He would fly from New York to Miami and then on to Barbados. His final stop was in Saint Lucia but he needed to get there via a short plane hop from Barbados. He was headed for a Sandals Resort on Saint Lucia.
The trip down was uneventful until they landed on Barbados. The medium sized Saab plane from Miami was full of vacationers like John. As they stepped off the plane, down the stairs to the tarmac, the heat of the winter tropics bathed everyone as they were ushered into the small airport to clear customs. It had been February in New York and the heat of the Tropics felt marvelous after the depressing New York winter. John finally got inside the poorly air conditioned building and into one of the two lines for customs. He was twenty people deep because his seat had been in the back of the plane. It took another twenty minutes before he was addressing the customs agent. He handed him his passport and plane ticket.
"You're a US citizen, Mister Morrison?" the agent asked.
"Where do you live in New York?" the agent questioned.
"In Queens, sir," John replied, wondering why the guy asked looking right at his address.
"Mets or Yankees?" the agent queried with a smile.
"Mets," John responded, smiling back.
"Have a fun vacation, Mr. Morrison."
Leaving the customs area with his bags, John noticed a young girl holding a sign for Saint Lucia. Several people were already standing with her laded with luggage of their own. John observed a handsome young couple that looked like newlyweds. From all the kissing going on between them, it was pretty obvious. There were two overweight Latino guys that looked like twins. They seemed to be with another guy of roughly the same height but thinner. He was doing most of the talking as the brothers listened. At nearly six-three, John was a good five to six inches taller than the three guys but thinner than the two Latino guys.
Standing nearby but on the other side of the girl with the sign were what looked like a mother and daughter team. They were gabbing away between them and somewhat detached from the immediate group. John eyed up the daughter first. She was a knock out. Blonde, blue eyed, and curves in all the right places. She was holding her winter jacket under her arm and had been prepared for the warmer climate with a tight fitting tank top underneath. Trying not to stare too badly, John let his eyes drift to the mother. She looked to be around forty like him and he could see where the daughter got her looks. She was beautiful, even at forty, and kept herself in excellent shape, something John appreciated. 'I wouldn't mind meeting her on this trip,' John thought as another couple joined the group.
They were maybe in their sixties and probably celebrating a thirtieth anniversary or something. They were not dressed for the warm weather and complaining of the heat in the building. Otherwise they looked like a cute older couple and made John miss Kathy all of a sudden. 'That could have been us in twenty years,' John thought.
Apparently they were all there now as the young girl with the sign welcomed them and told them to follow her to the plane. They exited the building not needing to go through security again and back out onto the tarmac from a different side of the building. Standing there was a World War II vintage American made version of a plane like the British de Havilland. It was an old prop plane converted into a passenger airline for this short flight to Saint Lucia. 'My god,' John thought, 'what an old bucket of bolts this is.' The same sentiments he could hear being voiced by the older couple near him.
They all dropped their luggage as instructed by an attendant, who was loading it into the belly of the old plane. The young girl led them to the back door and up a small staircase into the fuselage of the plane. The two Latinos and the other guy followed the honeymoon couple into the plane first. John let the older couple go first before he ducked low to step inside. Inside the plane, several of the seats had apparently been removed, no doubt due to wear and tear, and only one seat remained on each side. The leather of the once nice seats was cracked and faded with age.
The honeymooners and the older couple took the seats in the front. The Latinos and their friend took the middle seats, leaving only four in back for John and the mother and daughter team. John was surprised the plane had so few seats and wondered what they did if more people wanted to go to Saint Lucia on a given day. He sat in one of the back seats giving the mother and daughter their choice of seats across from each other or one in front of the other. The young girl had headphones on so it didn't look like they planned conversation. The mother sat in front of the daughter and the daughter sat across from John.
John heard the door close behind him and the cargo hold too, and then the left engine whined as it tried to kick over. The first attempt at starting it failed and John thought, 'Oh, boy, here we go.' But the next try worked and the ancient engine kicked over and eventually drummed to a smoother purr. The right was equally stubborn but soon joined the left at a smooth idle.
The pilots got the all clear and began to taxi down the runway. The plane had no air conditioning and it was getting stiflingly hot inside with the door closed. The pilot said something over the old speaker system that John could barely make out. It sounded like it would be cooler once they got airborne for the short twenty minute flight. John decided to just lay back and close his eyes for a short nap when he heard a voice close by.
"What did he say?" the pretty mother of the daughter across the aisle was asking nervously.
"It was hard to hear," John said, yelling over the loud engines, "but I think he said it would be twenty minutes to Saint Lucia and would cool off once we get airborne."
"Oh, okay," the mother responded with a weak smile.
She was beautiful and John welcomed the chance to talk with her, even if for such a brief time. Kathy and he had a loving relationship and he had missed her terribly this past year. They had an active sex life and he missed that too. He tried to think of other things as the pilot gunned the engines.
They had apparently reached the end of the runway and the pilot had been given the all clear for takeoff. He revved the old engines and the whole plane shook. The pretty lady looked over at John for assurance and he just nodded back everything was okay despite some reservations himself. Having been in the army he had been on a few older transport planes before but not for many years now.
The pilot released the brakes when the engines reached the proper RPMs for takeoff. The plane shook even more violently now and the pretty woman once again glanced in his direction. He smiled back which seemed to lessen her fear if only marginally. The old plane roared down the runway gathering speed. It seemed to take a long time but eventually the nose came up and then the back wheels left the ground too. They were airborne and quickly banked out over the water.
The exquisite blues and teals of the Caribbean waters were fantastic to watch as they banked to align with the direction to Saint Lucia. John couldn't wait to bask in the sun, drink his first rum punch, and catch up on his reading. Despite the vacation, he already had notes and reading to do for his next article for the New Yorker and another magazine. Happy thoughts of the fishing trip he planned to charter while in Saint Lucia made him smile also. He loved fishing and already had the names of several captains of charters on the island.
The pilot had been right and as they gained altitude the atmosphere inside the plane cooled to a manageable temperature. John could feel sweat running the line of his backbone and on the back of his long sleeve shirt from the warm leather seat. He tried to relax, if for no reason other than to aid the pretty lady across the way. She glanced in his direction a couple times. He hope it was because she found him handsome, like Kathy had always said, but the truth from her expression looked more like fear being abated.
They were about ten minutes out of Barbados and somewhat settled into the flight when John heard an explosion. He glanced out the window but couldn't see anything. The others in the plane were equally alarmed. The noise and shake had been loud enough to get the beautiful girl beside him to remove her headset. He heard her mother scream and quickly looked over. She was pointing out the window to her daughter and John could now see smoke billowing back from the right wing. The engine had obviously blown.
John tried to rationalize in his own mind if these old planes could fly on one engine like many of the modern jets, but wasn't sure. The smoke seemed to be get blacker and thicker, and he knew enough to know fire, if unextinquished on a plane could be deadly, especially with fuel in the wings. His nervousness was now boardering on that of the girl's mother across the way. The older lady in front was screaming to the pilot and the young wife was crying.
The pilot came over the loudspeaker but the damn thing was so ancient they couldn't hear much over the roar of the burning engine and the strain of the other. The plane was listing to the right and it was obvious the pilots were struggling to fight off the affects of the blown engine. They seemed to be able to get it to level out somewhat and the smoke was thinning due to the onboard automatic fire extinguishers, but then a huge shudder gripped the plane.
Everyone gasped or screamed again at that and John knew enough about planes to immediately fear something going wrong with the hydraulics. An old bucket like this one didn't have the built-in back-up systems upon back-up systems of the modern planes. If the hydraulics went on this plane, they were probably going down. John looked out his window for any sign of trouble but couldn't detect any. He yelled down the aisle as best he could over the din.
"Pull your seat belts tight," John screamed.
The women were all in states of shock and fear. Most were crying or praying or both. John thought about praying too when another strong shudder rocked the plane. He immediately glanced out the window and saw the left engine sputter to a halt. 'Oh, fuck,' he thought.
The plane began to nose down and slide to the right. The cloth curtain that separated the pilots from the passengers had somehow moved to the right enough to allow the passengers to see the pilots frantically working to control the plane. The pilot was pulling back hard on the wheel while the co-pilot frantically flipped switches, looking like he was trying to get anything to work. John could not see any lights on the dashboard but wasn't sure this old plane had anything more than gauges in the first place.
John looked out the window and the blue sea was coming up fast. The pilots seemed to be gaining somehow in leveling the angle of descent but they were obviously straining to hold the plane from going into a complete nosedive. John tried hard to recall his geography. He reasoned they were half way to Saint Lucia and tried to think of any island nearby that might have a runway. He could not. He thought Grenada was somewhere nearby but not closer than Saint Lucia.
The plane continued to lose altitude and John knew they were in big trouble. He could hear the pilot again over the loudspeaker but the words were strained, frantic, and mostly drowned out by the noise. He imagined he heard them say something about looking for a place to land. He looked out the window again and the water was coming up fast. He tried to recall the brief safety talk before takeoff about what to do in a water landing. Life jackets were in the overhead compartments he remembered.
The mother and daughter were crying beside him and looking occasionally at him for any sign of hope. He knew his face was probably telling them all they needed to know. He decided to try to help.
"Remember the life jackets are in the overhead bins," he yelled out for all to hear. "Before we hit lean down into a crouch position."
He glanced back down and the water was maybe 150 feet below them now. There was little doubt they were going down in the sea. He looked ahead to try to see what the pilots might be aiming at. He thought he saw the signs of a beach off the right side of the plane. Suddenly the plane lurched right and dove hard. The pilots had lost whatever minimal control they had. It only took seconds for them to hit.
The right wing hit the water first. It knifed into the waves and thrust the plane violently to the right before it sheared off. It ripped a huge gaping hole in the fuselage and the wife of the older couple was gone. Everyone screamed in horror until the impact to the front of the plane. The nose hit incredible hard and crushed under the force. The pilots were no more and the forward half of the plane broke, and folded back under the rest. In that split second, that seemed to last an eternity, John knew the newlyweds and the old man were gone too.
Something crushed the underside of the plane just to his right as the front end of the back part of the plane, the part they were still in, speared into the water. It hit something hard, flipped into a summersault, and then flipped again to land right side up. Water flooded the compartment from the forward section and the plane began to sink. There was no time for life jackets. John's neck ached bad from the whiplash and his legs hurt too but he managed to get his seat belt off. The water was filling the compartment quickly. He could see two of the guys in front of him trying to move too. John got his seat belt off as the water reached his waist. The daughter was groggy beside him but otherwise looked okay.
John slipped out of his seat into the water and went to the girl. He undid her seat belt and tried to roust her. She was in shock but otherwise unhurt. Her mother looked to be unconscious. John got the girl free and put his arm around her waist. He pulled her to the back door and opened the latch. He kicked at it with his foot despite some pain. On the third kick it gave way and dropped into the sea. He pulled her through the opening and they dropped into the sea just as a waved battered them back against the plane. John struggled to the surface still holding her.
They made their way around the tail of the plane fighting the waves. They were maybe twenty feet from shore. 'Thank god,' John thought. He dragged the girl with him to the shore line. They battled the surf up onto the beach. He half carried have dragged her about twenty feet up the beach and then dropped to the sand.
"My mother?" gasped the girl. "Where's my mother?"
"Wait here," John said, rising back up.
He headed back towards the plane and noticed it had settled further into the surf. He also saw the two Latinos and the other guy fighting around the tail in the waves. They seemed to be dragging one of the two brothers along. John ran into the waves and made his way back out to the plane. As he passed them coming ashore, he asked them where the woman was.
"Fuck her," the thinner, bossier of the three said. "She's probably drowned by now."
John dove into the waves and swam around the plane. He found the nearly submerged door and dove to go back in. He surfaced inside with only about two feet of breathing space left. He couldn't see anyone and dove beneath the water to look. The mother was still in her seat unconscious. He fought with her seat belt and got it undone; however, the mother didn't float freely. The plane was crushed below her feet and partly on the side and her leg was pinned. He had to surface again for air. He tried again, diving beneath the water and pulling hard on her underarms. He struggled and was nearly out of air when he managed to get her free. She was dead weight, yet buoyant in the water.
John pulled her to the doorway. He looked for any sign of life but couldn't see any. He dove with her out the door only to be smashed against the plane by a wave. He lost his grip on her for a second but got it back and pulled her to the surface. He had been a lifeguard in his high school days and tried to remember the exact technique to use for pulling an unconscious body through the water. He grabbed her across the chest and under the arm and swam towards shore. The waves helped propel them.
He crashed onto the shore with the woman and the daughter ran to help him. Together they pulled the woman onto the beach near where the other three guys just sat and watched.
"Is she going to be alright?" the young daughter asked frantically.
"I don't know," John replied. "She was underwater when I got to her and pinned in her seat."
They placed the woman on the sand and John tried mouth to mouth to clear her lungs. The poor daughter sobbed beside him and pleaded for her mother to wake up. He tried for a good ten minutes to get the woman to breath. He tried pushing on her chest. He tried pinching her nose and blowing air into her lungs but nothing worked. Finally, exhausted, he sat back.
"No, keep trying," the young girl screamed. "Mom."
"It's no use," John said sadly.
"Please, keep trying," the girl pleaded, crying.
John tried again knowing it was probably useless. It was. Another five minutes and not one indication of life. He felt for a pulse or heartbeat and there was none. He tried pounding on her chest to activate her heart but it was too late; she was dead. He had to sit back again.
"No," screamed the poor daughter. "No ... Mom ... Mom, wake up."
"I'm sorry," John offered.
"Oh, no," the girl sobbed uncontrollably now with her head down on her mother's chest.
"The old broad didn't make it, huh," the bossier of the three guys said, now standing nearby.
"Try to be a little more compassionate," John told him, glaring at the guy as the daughter cried hysterically.
"Yeah, okay, old man," the guy said turning back to his friends.
John sat there for a second but decided to leave the daughter to her grief for a little while. He got up and walked over to the guys. One of them was holding his right arm.
"You guys all okay?" John asked.
"Pacho here has a bum arm," the talkative one said. "Says it hurts to move it."
"I could look at it for him," John offered.
"Sure. Be my guest," the wise guy said.
John walked to Pacho. He didn't seem to understand English well but got the gist of what he wanted. John examined his arm. He could see a lump in the lower arm indicating a break. Fortunately for the guy it wasn't a compound fracture. Alone, on an island like this, with no medical help, that could be life threatening.
"Looks like he has a broken arm," John observed.
"That's what we thought."
"If we can't get medical help soon we may need to try and set it," John said. "Otherwise it might heal very poorly."
"Where are we anyway?" the leader asked.
"Somewhere about mid-way between Barbados and Saint Lucia is all I know. I think we verved north, off course, when the engine blew. How far is anyone's guess. We were airborne about five minutes after the explosion so we could be miles off course."