I'd lost count of the times I'd stared death in the face. fortunately, it didn't seem to like the look of me.
At least, that was before I met Luke Runner.
For starters, there was no chance I could forget the last time I’d been on an aeroplane.
Our throats was hoarse from screaming, I remember that: a hideous sensation, as though somebody as stuffed dry leaves down my oesophagus until I couldn’t breathe any more, let alone make a sound.
The men and women had been on the plane from the beginning. One of them brushed against me as I sat down, their medical uniform rubbing against my skin. God knows why they wore those – if they were going to kiss us better, it would be with the muzzle of a rifle. Cold iron against the side of my head, the rim of the gun stroking around my ear. It’s not a feeling one forgets.
They worked their way up the aisle almost methodically, as if this whole thing had been carefully planned, which I suppose in a way it had. One bullet per passenger was obviously their scheme, and maybe a couple extra for the pilots, to make sure they weren’t flying anything any time soon. Every single one of those men and women carried a gun clenched in their white fingers, though some seemed more hesitant to shoot than others, and some of them looked as terrified as I was, which was pretty damn terrified. They were about ten metres from where Dad and Gerry and I were. We couldn’t move, trapped in our little row of seats. There was nowhere to run.
Then, with force that flung us from our seats, the plane suddenly tilted downwards to a soundtrack of gunshots from the main cabin. It was a sharp nosedive that brought fresh terror, and unguarded fear along with it, and it was then I started screaming like I’d never screamed before, when I looked out of the window and instead of fields and trees and lakes I could just see sky sky sky. I was yelling out for Dad, and for the mother I never knew, and maybe even just a little bit for my brother.
And the men were getting closer. I ducked down behind my seat, scraping against the cheap leather, and looked through the gap – sickened, but unable to turn away. And then, quite suddenly, I was pulled up by my coat along with Dad and my brother.
I screamed again, the noise rattling in my throat, as cold metal pressed against the side of my head. “Somebody help me!”
“Phew, you’re not one of them. For God’s sake, shut up!” said a female voice loudly, warm breath in my ear, and the gun was removed.
“Don’t kill me, please don’t kill me…” I pleaded, unable to see her from my position, “Just don’t, please…”
“Let me go!” I heard Gerry yelling angrily, and I recall Dad struggling beside me.
The woman swore. “I’m trying to help you! Quick, or they’ll see what we’re doing!” I was yanked round into a standing position, and looked up to see the small, dark-haired woman who’d been sitting next to me looking absolutely exasperated. She suddenly passed all of us what looked strangely like rucksacks. “This a parachute. I’ve got one, too.”
“Oh my God, oh my God, I can’t…” I muttered, but Dad and Gerry were already strapping theirs on.
“Come on, Tally!” Dad yelled at me over everybody else’s shouts.
She pressed the parachute into my hands firmly. “You can, you can. Okay, I’m going to open that door and we’re going to jump. You pull that toggle when you need the parachute to open. Just do it.”
And she ran to the other side of the plane, somehow without the terrorists seeing her and shooting her down, and pulled open the door. The cabin filled with noise, and with the terrorists distracted by the disturbance, we hurried across the aisle after the woman. She looked at me, and smiled suddenly. “I’ll see you down there.” And she jumped. Just like that. Like there was nothing to it.
“You too.” I said to the empty air, and followed suit, with Dad and Gerry close behind.
I never saw her again.
"The functional disenchantment, the sweet habit of each other, had begun to put lines around her mouth, lines that looked like quotation marks - as if everything she said had already been said before."