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Carl Deering was not happy.
Truth be told, Carl Deering was never happy. At least, that was what his doctor told him, one of the many issues Carl supposedly had. High blood pressure, high cholesterol. High everything that was bad, and low everything that was good.
Right now, Carl was on a flight to the Barbados from John F. Kennedy Airport, for a little getaway time. He needed it. He worked in a highly stressful job on Wall Street, one that caused extra much perspiration and worry.

Carl’s doctor had told him he needed a little relaxation, so he had booked this vacation. Despite the fact that he would be in the warm, sunny paradise in just a short matter of time, he was still miserable and grumpy. He was slightly overweight and was having a difficult time fitting into his seat, even though he was in first class. His back began to ache due to sitting for a while. Everything always seemed to hurt. He didn’t really like flying, so he didn’t do it much.

Suddenly, the plane began to bump. People, bags, and food were jostled about. The woman sitting next to Carl accidentally spilled her drink all over him.

Infuriated, Carl yelled at the woman in not-so-very-nice language to take more care in handling her beverage and stormed out of the seat. He walked in a huff to the front of the plane, ready to complain about the turbulence.

“Could you please-“ he began, upon reaching the cockpit.

“Radio! Radio is not working!” the copilot shouted at the pilot.

“Unidentified object fast approaching from the left!”

Through the window, Carl could make out a dark mass, hurtling towards them.

In a second, there was a loud noise, a violent shake, and Carl was jolted forcefully into a closet. The door slammed shut and locked, and the plane began to rapidly dive into the ground.
*






*







*

“Sorry, sorry,” apologized Austin Ellen, accidentally tripping over an overweight man in the aisle, who gave him a dirty look. The man was wearing a t-shirt from that monument with the presidents on it. What was it? Mount Speedless or something? Fastless?

Austin was trying to get to the back of the plane, where the bathroom was. He really needed to go.

Austin had finally reached the bathroom and was closing the door when the plane entered turbulence. After a few seconds, Austin was slammed into the wall of the small restroom, knocking him out. As he slipped out of consciousness, he heard something come over the intercom about an unidentified object and an emergency landing. Then, he blacked out.
*





*







*

When Carl woke up, he was surrounded in complete darkness. For a second, he completely forgot where he was. Then, he came to his senses. The flight. The crash. The dark mass through the window. What was that thing, anyway?

Carl remembered that he was slightly claustrophobic. Also, his tie was stuck on something. He began to struggle to detach it and get out of whatever was holding him. After a few minutes of flailing, kicking, and punching, the door finally burst open. And what he saw horrified him.

The plane was smoldering wreckage. It looked like it had broken in two, and burned up. No way had anybody survived. Except for him. Somehow, the closet he had been thrown in had been ejected from the plane and avoided the crash site.

What intrigued him was the other plane there. Not only was there one plane that had crashed, but another one, too.

That was what the plane had collided with. It was another plane. And it didn’t look like anyone had survived that one, either.

“Hey! You over there!” came a voice.
*




*







*

Austin peered at Carl Deering.

“What happened?” Austin asked.

“I think these planes hit each other, and we crashed. Were you on the flight to Barbados, from Continental?”

Austin shook his head.

“You weren’t? What were you on?” inquired Carl.

“I was going from Puerto Rico to Montreal via Southern Vista Airlines,” explained Austin. “I was in the bathroom when it went down. I don’t think that… I don’t think there’s anybody else.”

That realization sunk in. They were the only ones left.
Another realization sunk in: the fact that they had no idea of where they were.

“Where the hell are we?” asked Carl, sinking back into his crotchety personality. “And who the hell are you?”

“I’m Austin,” he said, offering his hand, which Carl ignored. “I’m a singer. I’m going to be the next-“

“Well, that’s just wonderful for you,” interrupted Carl, with a cross face on. “How are we going to get off this place?”

Austin sensed he was with a man with a short temper, so he decided to only speak to him when necessary. “I read in a book once that these kids stranded on an island picked the highest point and set a fire there so a ship might see them. We should do that.”

To Austin’s surprise, Carl actually agreed with him.

It wasn’t hard to pick out the highest spot on the island. There was a large mountain that loomed over them, a very imposing presence that looked like a big slab of rock. They both headed for it.

“What is that stuff?” asked Carl. He was pointing to the ground. For the first time, they both noticed it. It was like grass, but not really. Instead of in thin blades, it was in squares. And instead of green, it was greenish-blue.

“Trick of the light, probably,” dismissed Austin. In truth, he was really as freaked out by the odd plant as Carl was. But he just wanted to get to the top of the mountain as fast as he could and get out of this wretched place.

On the way up, Austin saw some other weird stuff, such as an animal that looked like a rabbit, except with antenna but about half the size of a normal rabbit. He saw other weird plants, long, oddly shaped, and with eerie colors.

Carl didn’t see any of this, because he was huffing and puffing, laboring to get up the mountain. Austin, who was 25 years old and in much better shape, wasn’t as bad off but he was having a little bit of a hard time because he had noticed from the get-go that the air was a bit thinner on this island than in normal places.

Even through the thin air, Austin began to sing. He was a singer by trade and he sang whenever he got nervous. Singing was his dream and the only thing he cared about. He was from Canada but he spoke fluent Spanish because of his time in Puerto Rico, a place where he had spent a few years but had left because his visa was up. He began singing a Puerto Rican folk song he had learned there.

“Would you shut up?” fumed Carl through wheezes. “There’s a reason you’re not making it as a singer, and it’s because you suck.”

“How do you know I’m not making it?”

“If you were, you wouldn’t be flying on Southern Vista Airlines or whatever the heck,” said Carl. “You’d be flying on some plane that people have actually heard of.”

Austin was about to say something, but he figured the energy could be more well spent climbing.

“Did you notice the sun?” said Carl, between huffs.

The sun, which had formerly been behind the clouds- dark, black clouds that were surprisingly not emitting rain- peeked out now. It wasn’t a bright yellow orb hanging over them. It was an enormous, red monstrosity that covered most of the sky.

Austin knew right then that this was not a good place. They needed to get away- fast.
*





*







*

When they reached the top of the mountain, they both realized something. They had forgotten wood for the fire.

Carl began screaming obscenities at Austin, so angry that he took a swing at him with his fist. He completely missed. His momentum carried his legs across the mountain’s short peak and over the edge of the other side of the mountain.

“CARL!” screamed Austin. He raced over to the spot where Carl had fallen and peered over. Carl was hurtling down the Stone Mountain. He soon reached a landing and stopped rolling.

Austin quickly got down the side to Carl. He was unconscious, but alive.

Austin soon became aware that he was standing on something that was carved. It looked an enormous- eyebrow?

Austin wanted to get a better look at this. He thought about trying to revive Carl, but he decided against it. That guy was annoying. He could fend for himself when he woke up.

He got down the mountain pretty quickly, and when he saw what this thing really was, he was shocked.

It was Teddy Roosevelt.

It was part of Mount Rushmore.

It was only Teddy Roosevelt, though. Washington, Lincoln, and Jefferson were missing, cut off or something. And Teddy was missing his nose. It looked extremely weathered as well, but it was definitely him.

What the heck…?

“Where am I?” asked Austin out loud.

When he looked to his right, he spotted a grand, cool- looking building. The walls were looked to be of an odd texture- not quite solid enough to be material, but not quite transparent enough to be a hologram. It felt to him that if he touched them, his fingers would pass right through them. And yet, not really. The color of it was something he had never seen before.
What really caught Austin’s eye, though, was the cornerstone, the block that had the year that the building was built.

4054.





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