Full Stop... | By: Peter Hunter | | Category: Short Story - Adventure Bookmark and Share

Full Stop...

Full Stop… by Peter Hunter Seconds before bright a bright crimson spray had exploded over the Perspex windscreen - streaming obscene fingers of feathers and congealing blood… His scream had remained a strangled choke of silence, throat dry with fear - while below the morning sunshine played on smooth silver water. Now he gagged on a foul cocktail, dirty water spiced with oily gasoline spilling from ruptured fuel cells in the plane’s crumpled wings… His passenger had no such problem - her terrified scream was straight from hell. Earlier, it had been a morning so full of promise… Moments before, with mouth tasting sharply the copper juices of fear- he’d heaved the control column to his chest. The Fuji reared skywards as he yawed the tail hard left with a panic stamp on the rudder pedal. A stupid way to die… His panic reaction received only partial success. … the big shite hawk had missed the windshield… … but a three pound buzzard slammed by an aircraft doing one hundred knots - would easily smash the thin plastic windscreen and cave in his skull. Instead, the nose of the aircraft had taken the full impact. … only fragments of bird had splattered onto the windscreen… His world spun in a crazy kaleidoscope - colour and confusion. His whole body now stank with sour fear… Luckily, the big raptor missed smashing into his face, but had stuffed itself into the engine air intake, blocking it. Stopping the engine… Violent evasive action, in a plane not designed for aerobatics, had turned very wrong - viciously flick-rolling onto its back, his inexperienced stomach left far behind. The world dropped from under him, shoulder straps dragging him down - the plane rotating slowly at first, and then arrowing vertically ground wards twisting violently - throwing him against the cockpit wall. Plummeting lower… and lower… The earth revolved - a blurring tangle of green brown and grey - no recognisable shape. It had promised to be such a good day. … a big lake directly below… He was helpless – like a mere passenger on a runaway big dipper. Never before had he been in a spinning aircraft. Each revolution lost seven hundred feet of altitude but he hadn’t much height to start with - around two and a half thousand when he hit the soaring buzzard. He tried to scream but his dry throat still would not deliver, gagging instead, but no fluid emerged. He was too scared even to be sick… Lower… lower... The rapidly spinning world showing more detail now… Houses, a road - even individual trees - a small boat on the lake, or was it the sea. And the noise - the unnaturally loud slipstream mocking him - the pinging of stretched and tortured metal. The terrified woman next to him… Lurching from side to side, seat belt and shoulder harness too loose - his body surrendering but eyes and brain still transfixed. Fascinated by the bizarre nature of his imminent death… His brain struggled remembering some theory… spin recovery stuff he’d never practised. Somehow his hands and feet had obeyed… full opposite rudder, control column forward - the spin slowed. Then stopped… But still the lake had reached up to claim him. Too low… too late… At best, it would be a controlled crash. Fortunately he remembered to wrench open the canopy and slide it back. Nothing had prepared him for the impact… The 'plane had decelerated in a few yards - spray pluming like the bow wave of a racing powerboat. Then the nose dug in, looking for the lakebed… The 'plane refused to float - cockpit filling with water as they struggled to release their safety straps, to stand on the seats and jump clear. The girl remembered the life raft; her pre-flight briefing had been thorough. Swimming strongly she pulled the toggle handle to inflate it even before she activated the air bottle in her own life jacket. Fortunately, the raft floated the right way up… emergency equipment for crossing the Channel, not crashing into a lake in Kent… He inflated his own life jacket and was swimming hard to catch the girl as she struggled to climb into the orange survival dinghy… her kicking feet propelling it further from him. It might have been worse - in a Cessna or a Cherokee - their car type doors would have made escaping underneath water more difficult - perhaps impossible. The Fuji, with its sliding canopy, had been the better choice… The water tasted foul - petrol and oil from the plane. The surface was covered with it… Overhead a Cessna, circled - friends from the aero club, flying to Le Touquet for lunch. The girl reached into the dingy for the emergency flares to signal their exact position. His screamed warning still would not sound - she was going to kill them both… She triggered the flare gun... its vivid red missile arching skywards - and twenty gallons of floating petrol exploded around them... Then he woke up... As usual, his bedclothes were saturated with his sweat from panic and fear. His heart pounded with a rapid percussive thunder - his mouth tasting of sour copper - bitter and foul. The dream did not always end with death - some nights he would glide safely down and land the powerless aircraft in a large field… A more frightening version had them diving into the lake - the 'plane’s nose digging deep until it flicked inverted - forcing him to escape deep under water. A dark, wet hell of mud, putrefying detritus, bubbles reaching upwards, torn hands and cold, bruised limbs - as he struggled upwards through clinging layers of slimy blanket weed - desperate for air and sunlight. Often he drowned… Fearful lest that further sleep should restore the horror, Rod Hilton switched on the bedside light and started to read a flying magazine. He somehow had to overcome this fear of crashing an aircraft… His next flying lesson was booked for ten thirty that morning… End © Peter Hunter 2012

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