This story was written for a contest.  The only
requirement was that it had to be written by a
new, unpublished author.

Flight 213 was my first short story.

Flight 213
by Xander Riley

For a moment time stood still.  I could see the fear on the faces of those sitting nearest me.  I'm sure it matched the look on my own face.  It was as if I
were staring at a painting of the scene, seeing everything at once: the spilled drinks, the scattered food, the dropped briefcases, the oxygen masks
dangling from above.

All at once, things started moving - fast.  We must have dropped a couple hundred feet in the matter of a few seconds.  A few women began to
scream and everyone was scrambling to fasten their seatbelts.  We had no advance warning that anything was about to happen.  There was no
announcement to remain in our seats.

The plane shuddered violently, pitching from side to side.  Luggage flew from the compartments above our heads, becoming missiles of destruction
in the ill-fated cabin.  The drink cart sailed back and forth in the aisle before finally coming to rest against the unconscious body of a stewardess.  
The nose of Flight 213 dipped dramatically downward.

Many of the other passengers had passed out already, but I was lucky (or unlucky) enough to stay awake for the majority of the action.  A screech of
metal made me turn my head toward the back of the plane.  I really wish I hadn't looked.  But the memory will stay with me forever.

One moment they were there, the next moment they were gone.  I’ll never forget the look on their faces as they disappeared out the hole in the side
of the plane.  I’m not sure what caused that metallic screech, but something must have burst through the hull.  The last two rows of the plane were
sucked out, both seats and all.  Twelve people.  Eight adults and four children gone.  Their screams will haunt my dreams for the rest of my life.  
What a horrible way to die!

At least I assume that they died.  Could somebody actually survive a fall from that height into the ocean?  And if they lived, could they swim long
enough to reach land?  Were there sharks in this part of the ocean?  Were there any islands this far out?  All these thoughts raced through my head
in a flash, but I had bigger problems to think about now.

The plane began to plummet towards the ground.  Actually, toward the ocean.  The strain was unbearable.  That's when I finally blacked out.

*************************************************************************************************************

I'm not sure how long I was unconscious.  It was mid-afternoon when I woke up and the flight was during mid-morning.  I may have been out a few
hours, or it might have been a day or two.  However long it had been, I was starving and completely parched.

Looking to both sides, I saw nothing but bushes.  There really was an island this far out in the ocean!  My head started spinning, so I laid there for a
while with my eyes closed.  After about fifteen minutes, my head cleared enough for me to try moving again.  I struggled to sit up.

That was a big mistake!  Those weren't bushes on either side of me - they were the upper branches of a huge tree.  One that I happened to be
resting in - VERY high up.  My movements caused the branch to sway just enough for me to lose my balance.  I fell, crashing through the tree until I
finally struck another large branch.  It broke my fall.  It also broke my right leg.  I passed out again.

The next time I woke up, I remembered where I was and tried to remain still.  I'm sure that my mind was still foggy, but the pain in my back and leg
were keeping me sharp.  My first thought was to find a way out of the tree and make it down to the ground.  That was going to be very difficult with a
broken leg.  Maybe I could find some vines and climb down the "rope.”  I wasn't extremely strong in the upper body but I figured that desperate times
called for desperate measures.  The adrenaline pumping through my body might be sufficient to climb down to safety.

Luckily, there were vines everywhere.  It took a while to test those within reach to find some that were sturdy enough to support my weight and were
long enough to reach the next large branch beneath me.  It would be a long arduous process, but I was positive that I could make it.  Eventually.

After about two hours, I had made it down three branches.  At that rate, I should be on the ground by nightfall.  I continued to work my way downward,
taking rest breaks between each branch.  During one of those breaks, I noticed the smoke.

It was rising from a point past the tops of the trees that I could see from my height.  I assume it was the coast, though it could have been simply a
clearing in the forest.  My spirits lifted as I realized that it was probably a signal fire lit by other survivors of the crash.  Assuming that there
were
more survivors.  It could have been only the wreckage burning, but the smoke came from one single location.  That made me believe that it was man-
made.

I hurried my descent as fast as I could now that I had a destination to head for.  It would be difficult to locate the source of the fire during daylight
hours - it could be very dangerous to make the trek after dark.  That's when the larger predators come out, isn't it?  I had literally no idea what
animals were native to this part of the world, but my imagination had supplied me with plenty of vivid possibilities.  None of them good.

Dusk arrived before I finally reached the floor of the forest.  Once on the ground, I tried putting my weight on my leg, but it gave way beneath me.  
The pain was excruciating, but the good news was that it obviously was not a compound fracture.  It was definitely twisted and I probably tore some
ligaments - and now it was starting to swell.  At any rate, I could not walk on it.  I searched the area nearby until I found a branch that could be used
as a crutch for my leg.  But there was nothing I could do to relieve the pain in my back.

The trees were so dense that I could barely see the sky.  Though my mind was muddled, I had to rely on my sense of direction to tell me where the
smoke was located.  I started the struggle through the overgrown woods in the direction (hopefully!) of the smoke.

There was no warning when I reached the edge of the forest.  One second I was fighting my way through vines and underbrush, the next second I
was on open ground.  It wasn't a beach like I had hoped.  I could see the beach from here, but it was hundreds of feet below me.  The forest had
ended at a clearing on the edge of a cliff.  Thankfully, it was a large clearing, and I was far enough from the cliff to be safe from falling.

The view of the beach was slightly disconcerting, though.  There was no evidence of any human habitation down there.  It looked like your typical
deserted island.  But the clearing I was in contained a small cabin with smoke rising from the chimney.  No power poles or phone lines, but at least it
was shelter.  And where there’s smoke, there’s fire – where there’s fire, there’s usually a human being.  I prayed that they would know how to treat my
damaged leg and give me something for the pain in my back.  Or, better yet, call for a doctor.  Anyone who lived out here had to have some kind of
contact with civilization, right?

I hobbled up to the door of the cabin before I noticed a flash of color around the side of the building.  Slowly moving down to the end of the small
porch, I leaned over the railing and glanced down at the ground.  The owner wouldn't be much use to me - he was obviously dead.  His body was
lying on the ground in an impossible position - impossible for any living person.  There was no need to check for a pulse.  The wolves chewing on his
remains pretty much proved to me that he was beyond help.

One of the beasts looked up at me with fierce eyes and a bloody snarl that nearly froze my blood.  Retreat was the best option at this point.  The wolf
was smart enough to realize that - he tried to cut me off at the top of the porch steps.  But he wasn't counting on an armed opponent.  My impromptu
crutch took him by surprise.  With a pained yelp, he rolled down the steps to the ground.  I wasted no time in sealing myself inside the cabin.

That's when I noticed my mistake.  A crackling sound behind me set off my spidey-sense.  At first, I thought another wolf (or more than one) was
inside the cabin with me.  I turned slowly, expecting to see something with bared fangs or claws.  But there were no other animals inside.  Only a fire
that had spread from the fireplace to the rug and furniture.  I was trapped inside a burning building and surrounded by hungry wolves.  Talk about
"out of the frying pan and into the fire"!

Trying to put out the fire was no use.  Trust me, I tried.  But it had taken hold of the wooden structure and was not about to let go.  My only choices
seemed to be either stay here and burn to death, or face the wolves outside where I would at least have a fighting chance.  I chose the wolves.  If I
burned to death, it would just be giving the canines a cooked meal.

Gathering up my courage, I reached for the door handle and slowly pulled it open.  I peeked through the crack to see where the wolves were in
relation to my position, but they were out of sight around the corner.  I couldn't get close to the window to see the side of the yard with the wolves
because the flames covered that entire side of the room.  So, I stepped out onto the porch cautiously.

A gunshot!  And another one!  One of the wolves raced across the front yard, but a third shot took him down.  Then there was nothing but silence.  I
waited.  When the fire reached the front door of the cabin, I decided that it was time to move.  Move or die (or should I say, move or fry?).

I never heard anyone approach the cabin, but apparently, they had done so quietly.  When I rounded the corner (trying not to look at the owner's
ripped flesh), I saw a metallic device attached to the cabin wall.  I couldn't understand at first why anyone would attach a clock to the side of a log
cabin.

Then I noticed that it was counting down.  My brain was not operating on all cylinders, apparently.  I tried putting pressure on my right leg – that did
the trick!  The pain jolted me back to sharp focus.  I looked again at the contraption - the timer was ticking down from two minutes.  Whoever had
shot the wolves apparently did not want the cabin to be here.  And a fire must not have been sufficient for their needs.

Wasting no time, since there was none to waste, I hurried once again into the forest.  Well, I hurried as fast as I could with this damn crutch.  This
time I was careful to watch for wolves but there was no need.  I suppose all the animals ran away from the gunshots and the fire.  I was the only living
being in sight.  I made it to the edge of the forest and stood behind the largest tree I could find.  Then I waited for the blast.  I was not disappointed.  
The explosion rocked the trees around me and even started a few small fires.  There wasn't much left of the cabin.

I stood there watching as the remainder of the building burned.  The owner’s body burned, too.  The smell was horrible, but my stomach growled
despite my disgust.  I think that was the point where the events of the day finally caught up with me.  I sat on the ground with my back against the tree
that had protected me from the blast.  It had been one hell of a day.

That was the way they found me, asleep (unconscious?) against the trunk of that tree.  It was just blind luck that one of the dead owner's shoes had
landed ten feet away from me when the building blew up.  Not just his shoe, it was his whole foot.  The agents that were investigating the crime scene
had searched for the missing shoe and literally tripped over my crutch.

Of course, it looked suspicious that I was at the location of a murder.  And arson.  It only took two hours of questioning me before they believed my
story.  Well, at least they believed that I had no part in the operation at the cabin.  However, I learned a lot from them as they questioned me – things
that made me wonder what really happened.

Fate had been working overtime that day.  It seems that the reason Flight 213 initially started to descend had nothing to do with the hole in the side
of the plane – actually, that happened AFTER we started to go down.  It turns out that our flight was hijacked.  An attempted hijacking, anyway.  
When the pilot refused to land the plane, the hijacker shot the pilot and co-pilot, then the rest of the crew in the front of the plane.  He then opened
the door to parachute to the island below.

He was an unknown criminal with no record on file – no fingerprints, no name, no identity whatsoever.  The agents that questioned me only referred
to him as John Doe.  But there was obviously more to the story than what they were telling me because they had an agent following him.  That agent’
s body had not yet been discovered.

They would not release me until they were satisfied that all had been explained.  So, I became a ‘guest’ of the airport security.  That was fine by me.  
My ex-girlfriend worked security at that airport.  She waited for the right opportunity before sneaking into my room (my cell) to let me know what was
going on.

John Doe was an assassin.  He had been hired by the Taldonz crime family, supposedly by Alfonso Taldonz himself, the head of the drug cartel.  
Alfonso’s personal chef had turned against him; when the chef learned about the family business, he informed the CIA.  Now, the chef was hidden
somewhere under the witness protection plan.  John Doe discovered that Brad Renton (the chef) was hidden on an island.  As we flew overhead,
John saw the smoke from the cabin and tried to force the pilot to land.  When that failed, he killed the crew and parachuted anyway.

Chef Brad Renton was the man from the cabin.  Ironically, he had been cooking in the fireplace when he heard the plane overhead.  He rushed
outside and was hit by a piece of debris that had been sucked out of the plane.  The wolves had simply taken advantage of a free meal.  And Brad’s
untended gourmet supper soon burned.  It burned the entire house.

John Doe had landed on the island and made his way to the cabin to kill Chef Brad.  However, when he arrived, Brad was already dead.  He had also
become a gourmet meal for the local wildlife.  Knowing that Alfonso Taldonz would refuse to pay him, John Doe set the bomb to destroy all the
evidence.  Then he could claim responsibility and claim his paycheck.  Unfortunately, John never made it back to civilization.  His body was
discovered on the far side of the island.  Most of it was found.  The rest had already been devoured.  I guess the remaining wolf didn’t take kindly to
his kin being shot.

I was kept isolated for another two days while the investigation continued.  Sally, my ex-girlfriend, could not speak to me alone during that time.  
When she finally approached me again, I learned more of the sordid tale.

John Doe was not working alone.  His partner was none other than Shelton Taldonz, the eldest son of Alfonso.  He never made it to the island alive.  
His parachute failed to open – he plummeted to his death on the rocky beach.  When his body was finally discovered, it had been picked clean by the
seagulls and other scavengers.

Sally informed me that I would be released in a day or so.  They needed to locate Alfonso to question him about his involvement in the whole fiasco.  
But he was nowhere to be found.

‘A day or so’ turned into nearly a week.  Sally never came back to see me.  When I casually asked about her (pretending that I was only interested
because she was cute), all I received was a dirty look.  Her history with me had been revealed and she had been fired.  Now I was on my own.

They couldn’t hold me any longer without evidence, so I was released.  Able to go home at last!  The newspapers were still buzzing with stories about
the Taldonz family.  Not all of the facts were accurate, but they were close.  That’s also when I learned the real reason I was allowed to leave –
Alfonso was dead.

His body was identified in the plane wreckage.  He had been flying under a false name and was identified only by his fingerprints and dental record.  
His body was still strapped into his seat, but his head and his legs were later found miles away.  Apparently, he did not trust John Doe to handle the
job properly.  Or maybe he didn’t trust his own son, Shelton.  Either way, he followed them on the plane to make sure the job was done.

*************************************************************************************************************

Fate plays a part in everything that happens in this world.  Sometimes, it likes to have a little fun with us.  This was simply a case where Fate could tie
up all the loose ends at once.  Coincidence or Fate?  I suppose we’ll never know for sure.  The only thing I am sure of is that everything happens for
a reason.  It all works out for the best when the dust settles.

As for my story, my leg eventually healed but left me with a permanent limp that earned me the nickname "Hoppy.”  The airlines insurance awarded
me a substantial payoff - unfortunately, it will be tied up in court for quite a while.  Insurance companies are never satisfied when there are so many
underworld figures involved.  Thank goodness that I'm not desperate for cash.

Alfonso's death meant that the family business would be inherited by his only son, Shelton Taldonz.  However, since Shelton also died on the island,
the business would pass on to Shelton's only son, Randall.

Randall Taldonz was also on Flight 213.  He was the only survivor of that fateful day.  He now controls the largest crime family in the area and is
affectionately known as "Hoppy" to his friends.

The CIA is still investigating me, but they can't prove anything.  They seem to think that I planned to eliminate all the competition so that I could take
over the family business.  It's ludicrous to think that I could have masterminded such an intricate plot!  Isn't it?

© Copyright 2008 Xander Riley
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