SearchThe impact throws my body against the back of the seat. Windows shatter and water bursts through the blown holes. I thrash against the unrelenting salt water as it sprays into my face. I gag on the taste and spit up as much as I can to keep from throwing up. Disgruntled flight attendants and passengers shove against emergency exits throughout the airplane. The one nearest us falls forward and a mountain of screaming people climb over each other to get out of the sinking plane first. I stand in my seat and hold tightly to Josephine’s hand. We had to get out of here. I pull her with me over the seat in front of us, and then squeeze and shove through the throng of desperate people vying for the exit. They trample each other and scream out words of agony and anger as more and more people cram into the exit. And then I feel Josephine’s hand slip out of mine. “Jos!” I turn around frantically, but her heart-shaped face had disappeared into the mass of soaked passengers. “No!” I scream as I’m pushed toward the exit.
At this point the flight attendants don’t attempt to open other exits. Instead, they try to regulate the flow of passengers through the only available exit. Their attempts fail miserably as the crowd grows every second with people filing in from the very front and back rows of the plane. How can one emergency exit possibly fit over two hundred people with how fast the airplane is sinking? The water circulates at my knees and more spews in by the second. But right now, I can’t think of my odds. I have to find Josephine.
“Jos?! Josephine! Where are you?!” But the roar of the water drowns out nearly all sound I utter.
The line for the exit begins to dwindle, and then it’s my turn to jump. But the exit is the last thing I want to see. I need Josephine. She needs me. Outside of the exit, I can’t make out anything. There’s only the sound of sloshing water and the shouts of people crying for help. With one last desperate attempt, I grab the jacket sleeve of the salt-and-pepper haired man behind me. Instead of helping myself, I pull us both into the darkness.
Suddenly I’m underwater, my insides nearly frozen on impact. The water is so cold that I can’t move, much less fight back to the top for air. The water pulls me side to side and pushes me deeper into the darkness. I flail my arms, but barely move from the cold. Just as my breath dwindles to the very last bit, my arms break the surface and I gasp for breath. A white cap crashes into me and pulls me back under. It spins me around and around like I’m on spin cycle in a washing machine, but this time I have an idea of which way is up. I find the surface once more and avoid the white caps that barely miss me each time. A suitcase floats a few feet away, and I grab on to it to keep afloat. The sea tries to tug me out farther from the sinking airplane, but as weak as I am, I won’t let it take me away. Josephine is still on that plane somewhere and I need to find her if that’s the last thing I did. I punch and slice at the water to get back to the fast-sinking plane. People everywhere are stranded in the ocean. They grab onto each other or onto suitcases and life jackets that flight attendants manage to chuck into the ocean. Ahead of me, the man I pulled into the ocean thrashes his arms around his head.
“Help! Help! I-I can’t swim!” he manages to choke out through mouthfuls of salt water. Suddenly a wave crashes over him and he doesn’t come back to the surface. I kick my legs with a new fervor. The water where he disappeared bubbles, and I reach my arm into the middle of it. I find his jacket collar, and this time instead of trying to hold on from falling out of the exit, I pull his jacket to save him from drowning. He gags and coughs up water and holds onto the suitcase to keep from falling back down. But the suitcase can’t hold both of us. I let go and keep swimming toward the airplane, but it’s ten times harder without the suitcase.
I finally reach the gargantuan wall. Flickering light pours out from the string of windows that spans out on both sides. The red and blue Air-France logo is half sunk and people fall from the emergency exit in masses. Stifled screams and whimpers manage to echo out above the sound of waves crashing against the glowing plane.
I grab for the indented frame of the nearest window. Part of it is busted in and cracked with water rushing in. I pound my fist against the window again and again, hoping that enough pieces will break off so I can somehow fit inside and find Josephine. But the window won’t budge. Instead, the jagged cracks scratch my skin, making my knuckles bleed and sting as salt water splashes into them.
“Josephine! Are you in there?!” I scream at the window, praying with all of my being that her face will suddenly appear in the window, or better yet, next to me in this desolate ocean. I keep slamming against the window even though it’s sinking faster than my heart. And then I begin to realize just how numb my legs are. It feels like thousands of little needles are stuck in my skin, and each wave manages to shove those needles even further into my legs. I feel the pain creeping up into my waist and onto my stomach. I try to push it back for fear that it might keep me from finding Josephine.
I move frantically to the next window, which is already half-submerged. Stifled sobs blur my eyes as I pound against the window, but the only thing I manage to do is smear blood on the frame. Suddenly, a gigantic wave rolls into me, shoving my body into the hard exterior with enough force to make me lightheaded. My grip on the window frame slips, and I make a wild grab for it again before the current sucks me away. I move over four or five more windows slowly, while water keeps pushing me against the plane wall and attempting to pull me away.
Now only a fourth of the window sticks out above the black ocean. Inside, a man holds his young son over his shoulders as he moves through chest-deep water.
“Josephine!” I try to shout through the window, but my voice doesn’t reach higher than a whisper. My whole body shakes and any second my jaw will unhinge from my chattering teeth. I try to stretch out my fingers, and move to the next window, but I forget how to move them. No. No, this can’t be happening. I yell at the window and let frustrated tears stream down my cheeks and blend with the seawater. I lean my head against the window and let full blown sobs rake through my chest. My eyes close. The numbness passes over my back and through my arms. Maybe it would be better if I just let the water take me. I wouldn’t have to worry about Josephine anymore…
Inch by inch the ocean takes the window completely under, and soon the only sign of the window’s existence is the faint glow of light emanating from the inside of the plane. I close my eyes and feel my grip on the frame slip little by little. My knees knock into the metal exterior in an almost rhythmic motion with the oncoming waves. I let the ocean tug at my feet, and just as my last finger unlatches from the airplane frame, a hand slams against the window from the inside.