Happy Thanksgiving, US Reader Friends and New Subscribers! Let’s make a list of things we are thankful for, beginning with God’s great gift of salvation through Jesus Christ. Today, we have another Christian short story from David Telbat’s files. Enjoy!
by D.I. Telbat
“Ladies and gentlemen, this is the pilot speaking. We’ll be experiencing a little turbulence for the next hour. Please stay seated with your seat belts buckled. We’ll try to get you through this storm tonight as quickly and gently as possible. Thank you.”
The jet suddenly bounced through blackened clouds. The passengers gasped, and then chuckled at their own nervousness. Several drunken businessmen in first class gave a toast to the lightning out their dark windows.
“It’s just a storm, Trav,” Marci Spence said, comforting her thirty-year-old husband of four years. She patted his hand. “If I knew you were this jumpy on flights, I would’ve started coming on your business trips months ago. Just don’t ask me to give any of your slideshow presentations, though.”
Travis forced a smile at his pretty, blond wife. He flexed his tense hands.
“Would you believe it’s not the storm that’s bothering me?” He took a deep breath and glanced out the window. “We’re flying over Colorado sometime tonight. I promised myself I’d never come back here.”
“But you’re not coming back, Trav. You’re flying over the State of Colorado, not visiting the home of your troubled youth.”
“You’d rather I worry more about the storm?”
“Could you, please?” She kissed his cheek. “For me?”
Again, Travis forced a smile. The jet jumped and jostled the passengers again. An overhead compartment poured out its contents.
“I just haven’t thought of Dad for a while. Sometimes I wish—”
“Trav, do you really want to do this?” Her gaze was steady on his face. “Do you really want to talk about the drunk you had for a father? And how he would abandon you for days at a time at your mountain cabin? Yes, all that is bad stuff, Travis, but you fail to realize that it helped shape you into the man I love. It made you a good man, and it made you stronger, I think . . . until tonight.”
“Am I that bad? A real whiner, huh?” He squeezed her hand and exhaled old memories away. “You’re right. The past is the past. I need to just get over—”
An explosion under the starboard wing rocked the airliner. The passengers screamed and grasped wildly for the oxygen masks that sprang from the ceiling. An alarm sounded intermittently. The lights flickered as the jet pitched to the right.
Travis helped Marci slip the mask over her head, then donned his own. “Slow breaths, Babe,” he said, coaching Marci as she hyperventilated. He placed his hand on her belly to help her focus. She was six weeks pregnant. Her hand closed over his as he reassured her. “It’s okay. I’m here. We’re together.”
Chaos erupted in the cabin as the roof of the fuselage peeled away. Debris from the blown engine continued to damage the tail section. Wind tore through the passengers’ hair. Briefcases and purses were sucked into the black clouds.
Marci tried to turn her head to see the devastation, but Travis caught her chin with his hand. He felt the jet begin to dive. Someone nearby vomited, but Travis managed a brave smile, more genuine than he’d felt earlier.
“If we have to go, we go together,” he yelled, nodding. “Besides, the Lord has us in His hands.”
The terror in Marci’s eyes faded some as she looked into his eyes. She nodded back, though she probably couldn’t hear his words over the roar of wind, alarms, and screams.
The jet continued to dive. Travis guessed the impact was seconds away. He pulled Marci into his arms, and they held each other tightly, a prayer on their lips.
The impact came in stages as the pilot somehow pulled up at the last instant. Trees and rocks exploded and tore at the wings. The window at Travis’ elbow shattered and folded away as the fuselage was ripped back by a mountain ridge. They were thrown left and right, bruising them to the bone against their seat belts. A loud screech of metal against rock seemed to last for minutes, and then ended suddenly with a gentle bump.
Travis felt rain on his back. He held Marci at arm’s length and touched her face. In a flash of lightning, he saw she was alert and staring at him. He released his seat belt and stood to survey the damage around him. The ceiling of the plane was gone; it was a convertible now. None of the rows of seats seemed to be missing. He knew he had only a few seconds before shock and panic overtook the passengers. He drew his laptop from under the seat in front of him.
“Listen up!” He opened his computer and the screen illuminated his face. Frightened faces were drawn to the light and the confidence of his voice. “Help each other out of the plane. Move toward me, toward the left side of the plane. Follow my light. Let’s go to the trees over there.”
With one hand, he gripped Marci’s hand, and in his other, he held the laptop high. Leading the way over the remnants of the jet’s fuselage on the port side, Travis stepped onto the ground where the wing had once been attached. Patches of grass covered rugged granite.
“Follow me!” he yelled, holding the screen to face the passengers. He marched toward a stand of windswept pines. “Marci, keep everyone huddled together under the trees. I’ll find a few guys to help me go back for the wounded.”
“I can hold this.” She took the laptop and held it high. “We’re okay, right?”
He touched her face.
“This is just like taking care of the kids in the daycare. They’re just big kids, and they’re scared. You’re perfect for the job.”
She nodded proudly at her husband, and then turned toward the wave of people depending on her.
“Get under the trees, everyone! There’s less rain over here. And stay together!”
Travis recruited two men in suits who were not injured, and ventured back into the wreckage with them. Fires spotted the mountainside for a mile to the east where the rising sun was also beginning to glow.
In the wreckage, Travis found no dead, but many were too injured to move to the trees. They cried from their seats, hands reaching out for Travis and his two companions to help them.
“Broken leg,” Travis surmised after examining one woman. A row back, a man lay awkwardly in the aisle. “He’s got a pulse, but his back might be broken. Make a stretcher to move him. And get more people to come back and help us.”
“Are you a doctor?” a little girl asked him. He wrapped her arm in a makeshift sling as her mother held her.
“No, I’m just a computer salesman.”
Travis moved into the cockpit to find the pilot kneeling next to his unconscious copilot. The cockpit roof was missing, like the rest of the aircraft.
“There’s a first aid box against the wall that’s still standing,” the pilot said.
“We’re going to need a lot more than a little first aid kit.” Travis fetched the kit. The copilot had a gash on his skull above one ear, but Travis thought he would be okay.
“Some of these people have serious injuries and need medical attention soon. Any idea where we are?”
Lightning made both men jump. Off the port side, more volunteers were braving the weather to help the injured.
“Somewhere near the Utah-Colorado border. We’re off-course, but our bearing was still west.”
“Colorado?” Travis shielded his eyes from the downpour and waited for a flash of lightning, hoping to glimpse the landscape around them. “If you had to guess, have we left Colorado yet?”
“I’m not sure. It’s all wilderness, either way.” The pilot finished taping his man’s head. “Okay, help me carry him.”
“How long until emergency crews reach us?” Travis picked up the co-pilot’s legs. “I
need to know what to expect.”
“Depends on the storm. Our elevation is pretty high here. This weather is unpredictable. Search planes were probably already sent out, but this storm just took down our 747.”
“I get you.”
An hour later, Travis shivered as he tore off a length of t-shirt to wrap a man’s ribs. The sun had risen, but the clouds continued to shed moisture, though not as heavily as earlier.
In the dim light, Travis scanned the nearly two hundred men, women, and children in search of Marci. Almost everyone was seated on the forest floor now, huddled together for warmth, holding anything they could over their heads, trying to stay dry. The two men Travis had recruited were erecting a lean-to.
Travis spotted Marci tending a woman with an infant in her arms. The mother was not well, but the infant was sleeping contentedly under a bundle of clothes covered with plastic. Marci looked up and noticed Travis watching her. Their eyes held a second before they both smiled.
Marci left the mother and child with a flight attendant and met Travis at the edge of the trees. He hugged her tightly.
“Trav, you’re freezing! That suit isn’t enough for you.”
“I’m okay, just a little chilled.” He took her hand in his. “I’ll warm up after I start hiking.”
“Hiking? You can’t be serious. We’re in the middle of the mountains! The pilot doesn’t even know where we are. Where in the world would you hike to?”
“Come with me.”
Travis led Marci toward the plane, then turned and walked to the east, following the trail left by the wreckage. They stopped when they reached the ridge. The rain had lessened for the moment.
“That’s Harmony Peak over there,” Travis said, pointing to the north, and then he pointed west. “The town of Alimony is about 80 miles that way through some of the most rugged land on earth.” He turned toward the east. “But those two mountains there—see the one on the right? It’s a two hour hike to the ranger station just below the summit.”
“You . . . know where we are?”
“Remember how I never thought I’d return? I mean, I never wanted to come back to this place, Marci. Dad’s cabin was on the other side of Harmony Peak. Remember what you said on the plane about my past preparing me for who I am today? Well, the plane went down between these two ridges. I know this area and it’ll be hard to spot this wreckage from the sky. It could be weeks before we’re found. I have to take this chance. For all of us.”
“But that ranger station . . . ?”
“It has a radio. I used it before to report a forest fire. That was fifteen years ago, but things out here don’t change much.”
Tears welled in Marci’s eyes. She looked back at the people in the trees. Some were watching the two of them, surely wondering if they’d come up with a plan yet.
“We’re going be okay, aren’t we?”
“Absolutely. The Lord has had His hand on us the whole time. He had the storm put us down in the backyard I knew as a kid. I guess I’m supposed to face my past after all.”
Praise Note: On Nov 17, online newspaper Self-Publishing Today included David Telbat’s post “Rhino Poaching.” You can enjoy it through that title link, under the “World” section.
Note: Praise the Lord again! On 11/21, online newspaper Daily Writing Report included D.I. Telbat’s article, “COIL Character Corban Dowler, Willing to Forgive.” You can enjoy the great message through that title link under the “Stories” section.
UPDATES: 1) Dee continues to work on the website upgrade. You’ll be seeing changes in the near future.
3) David has written a novelette with a COIL connection called, Primary Objective: A Christian Rescue Mission. UPDATE: The new novelette can be found at your favorite e-tailers! Click the title link to check it out!
COMING UP: Next Monday, we have a book review of a pleasurable book David read recently: (More Than Just) A Fool In a Red Suit by Clay Conboy. This autobiography/memoir would be a great and encouraging gift to give at Christmas! I’ll provide links next week.