“I really don’t think we thought this through” I said, staring nervously at the wide expanse of open ocean stretching out to the misty horizon in front of us.
“It’ll be fine,” Kristy said, pulling the small seatbelt across her waist and buckling it at the front. “Just make sure you’re all strapped in and there won’t be any worries. Jace showed me how to drive it a million times, I’ve got this.” She boasted, playing idly with the controls in front of her.
I bit my bottom lip worriedly, my shaky hands once again pulling the small suicide seatbelt even tighter across my lap. Kristy’s partner Jace had come up with the bright idea of constructing this open roofed airplane. The front (except for Kristy’s controls) was completely open and vulnerable. The four of us girls sat side by side, strapped in only by a small seatbelt, ready to face to the great unknown for Kristy’s first solo flight.
I took a deep breath as she started the engine, my lungs becoming clogged with petrol as the back propellers thrust a surge of polluted air around us. Coughing and spluttering, I gripped the side of my chair so tightly I couldn’t feel my fingers and squeezed my eyes shut. I couldn’t stand to watch the take off when everything was so open.
My hair, ripped from its ponytail, lashed at my face in the fierce windstorm surrounding us. I could feel my stomach falling as we began to lift slowly into the air. Clutching the chair arms even tighter, I prayed I wouldn’t loose my stomach there and then on the floor. Kristy’s loud whoops and Stacey’s light, tinkling laughter filled the air as we sprung forward, released from the land and free to roam the seas from incredible heights. Small drops of water fought through my waves of hair to moisten my face; their droplets merging with my nervous beads of perspiration and serving as an ever constant reminder of where I was – which honestly, was front and centre of a death trap.
Moaning, I fought to keep control of my stomach as we began to level out. Stacey and Carly were talking excitedly beside me, exclaiming with delight at all they could see. I tried to no avail to open my eyes. Nope. My body just refused to let me behold the wide expanse of ocean that was surely to become my deathbed. Forcing myself to peek through, I managed to pry one eye partially open, quickly squeezing it closed again as I saw how high we were. Just a few more hours… I just had to make it through a few more hours and we’d arrive at the island for our girls weekend – which would be amazing. Then I would catch a boat back to shore. No way in hell was I getting back on this deadly contraption!
Relaxing my eyelids, I let myself ease back in the seat slightly, never letting go of the armrest. I focused on the suns rays as they caressed my skin and marveled at how quickly it dried the small spots of water on my face into small deposits of salt. I breathed deeply, the odour of petrol now mixed with the fresh, salty aroma of the ocean. I could almost imagine I was just sitting in the bow of a boat and perfectly safe.
I felt the engine slow beneath my feet and prised my eyes open to see what as happening. We were only a few meters from the water now and looming ahead of us was a crack between two large boulders jutting from the depths of the ocean.
“This will take us through to the river” Kristy called out over the wind, “we’ll be at the campsite soon.” Exhaling in relief, I started to actually relax a little more knowing I was a little closer to the ocean and had less chance of dying if we fell from the sky. I glanced over at Kristy; her brow scrunched in concentration as she slowly and carefully meandered the contraption between the cliffs. Stacey, Carly and myself all exclaimed at delight as we flew through. The walls of the boulders stretched high above us, letting only a sliver of sunlight penetrate the water far below. The walls were rough and covered in small green vines and deep aubergine flowers which seemed luminescent in the shadows. The water below us flowed clear and green, and from our vantage point we could see small, colourful fish swimming and jumping. It truly was spectacular and definitely made up for the initial horror of the trip.
Kristy gunned the engine once more as we reached the end of the pass, yelling out to us all to hold on. Frantically I yelled to her to stop what she was doing, it was too fast, too high. Laughing, she looked over at me and replied, “live a little! It’s just one flip, I’ve got this!”
Flip? FLIP!? “ARE YOU INSANE?” I screamed as she took us higher and higher, tilting us until we were staring straight at the sky.
And then it happened. The engine stalled. Squeezing my eyes shut, I screamed in horror as we fell faster and faster towards the water below us. The first shock of water wasn’t too bad, the bottom of the vehicle took most of the brunt. I struggled to get my seatbelt undone and fought against the tugging of the water as it fought to suck me down into its dark, murky depths of death. Finally pulling my seatbelt loose, I thrashed through the current to make it to the surface. Small, white dots blurred my vision, my lungs burnt to breaking point.
And then there was air. I gasped in the fresh, crisp air of life, sobbing in relief I was alive. I knew I never should have come. Splashing around, I looked for the others. Kristy and Carly were both meters from me, but Stacey was nowhere to be seen.
“STACEY?” I called, looking around frantically. “Stacey?” Kristy and Carly joined in looking for her. Taking a deep breath, I dived back under. Spotting her bright red hair still linked to the vehicle, I dove into the depths I had been so scared of only moments before. Her face was relaxed and peaceful, her body limp, still held tight to her chair by that stupid suicide belt. Grasping the belt, I yanked it off her lap and pulled her to the surface with me praying frantically I had gotten to her quick enough to save her.
Swimming towards the shore of the river blindly, I pulled Stacey along. My tears were mixed with the salt water and I couldn’t tell if the rivulets of water streaming down my face were mine or the rivers. It didn’t matter. Hands pulled us out of the water, and I found myself laying next to Stacey, panting for breath as someone administered CPR. Hearing her cough and splutter, I rolled over laughing in relief that we were all ok. It was only then I got a look at our saviours.
Long, dark hair trailed down her back in a messy mass of curls. Her clothing was old and tattered, her feet bare and dirty. Behind her stood a group of people – all the same.
“I guess you’re not here to save us.” She said.
Laying back down, I started at the clear, blue sky. We didn’t die. But it looked like we would never be found again.
Photo credit: Norm Shockley Sr www.normshockley.com