It’s been almost two months since the last time I posted an entry. I’m ashamed and feeling guilty about it because I always promised myself that writing – and the promotion of my writing – would be a priority, but here I am, placing it upon a burner far in the back, which may not even light, because I have become consumed with work and its corresponding extracurricular activities. I never thought I would delay a dream for a boring adult responsibility like employment. I never wanted to become boring or sell out. The question then becomes why am I doing it? I think it’s time to completely buck convention and go utterly transcendental. This summer, I plan to walk the entire eastern coast of the state of New Jersey using the East Coast Greenway. I was inspired by Thoreau, Emerson and Cheryl Strayed, author of her memoir Wild, which has been turned into a film of the same name starring Reese Witherspoon. Lately, I’ve been feeling like I need to get away to figure myself out. I became a stranger in the sense that I’ve been letting secondary elements control my emotions and ultimately make my decisions. As a result, I don’t exactly know what I want or who I am, and feeling lost is an awful and terrible feeling. I feel like a phony – like an imitation of an imitation – and I worry those I love and admire are getting sick of my narcissistic shenanigans.
I’ve got to get back to my basics; back to writing.
WRITING PROMPT #19: A man comes to believe that he is an emissary of God when he survives a plane crash in which all other passengers are killed.
Brian Johnson was laying upon a gurney, being rushed along the tarmac to the waiting ambulance. Its back doors were open, and its lights were flashing soundlessly in the frigid crispness of the December evening. Brian saw the distance to the ambulance shorten as he was gently jostled over the smooth pavement, rocked into a soothing kind of trance. He was eager to become numb and absent because after all, it had been one hell of a day. No one wakes up in the morning expecting to be the sole survivor of a plane crash, particularly one that smashes against the ground on the runway of the desired destination, so close to home.
The flight had been en route to Atlantic City, landing at the small airport. Passengers had been composed of family members traveling to reunite with other family members for the impending holiday. Brian had been one of the few singletons, and as such, he had been crammed into a row with a family just trying to survive. Luckily, he had the seat nearest the window. Beside him was a precious and precocious brunette who was about four years old. Next to her was a harried-looking mother with an infant cradled in her arms, and beside the mother was the exhausted father who also cradled an infant in his arms; twins. A small smile twitched Brian’s lips as he observed the family, quiet and tired, not talking to one another, and seemingly blissfully happy to be seated and finally ready to go. The little girl was bouncing a teddy on her knee, singing some nonsense song Brian had once known but had long forgotten upon leaving the playground so many years ago.
Some time after takeoff, Brian had adorned his ear buds, cranked the volume on his iPod, and fallen asleep. He was terrified of flying and only boarded planes when there was absolutely no other alternative, so he only survived when he slept through it. Surviving a flight had taken on a completely different meaning when Brian awoke to terrified screams. His eyes shot open and he savagely ripped the ear buds from his ears. Everything was shaking wildly; it was the worst turbulence Brian had ever experienced. He had only ever seen it in cliched horror films. He was looking this way and that, but found no answers or comfort, only faces grotesquely contorted into unadulterated terror. The oxygen mask suddenly fell before his face and Brian knew this was it. It was all ending and he wasn’t entirely sure how that knowledge made him feel. He turned to the family beside him, saw the mother and father enclose their infant children, and saw the little girl squeezing the teddy, sobbing. Without thinking about it, he encircled her in his arms and felt relieved when her tiny hands grabbed onto the fabric of his shirt.
And that was all he remembered.
Brian regained conscious on the ground. Everything ached and burned, and he only saw things in blurred images. He could smell smoke but he couldn’t hear anything over the sound of his own breathing. For an irrational moment, he wondered if he was under water. His legs and back felt wet, but then there were people standing above him, looking down with shocked faces. He was trying to tell them that he felt weird, and that he couldn’t hear, but they couldn’t seem to hear either. They went about their business as if he wasn’t screaming. He was lifted up and onto the gurney and he was being ushered to the waiting ambulance.
As Brian rolled right along, his head flopped to the side and he saw the sheets, the countless sheets covering the countless, mutilated bodies of his fellow passengers. One such sheet had a charred teddy bear beside it and Brian knew he should be dead. He should have died. But he didn’t, and Brian considered what that might mean. Maybe he had been spared. He thought back to late nights spent with his father on their screened-in back porch, where his father smoked like a chimney and pontificated at length about religion and politics and women and family and life and death and everything in between. He had once told his son that God had a plan for everyone and that everything happened for a reason. His father claimed that’s what the scientists really meant when they insisted that for every action, there was an equal and opposite reaction.
So the plane had gone down, and Brian was still breathing. What was God’s plan? Was Brian supposed to value life in a way he hadn’t? Because to be frank, he thought he had been living life to the fullest and if there was some part of it he wasn’t quite getting, then Brian thought the Big Man didn’t have to be so dramatic; a little subtlety never hurt anyone.
How to explain the dead little girl and the burned teddy bear. What was the rationale behind that? Then again, maybe that was why Brian had been spared, to figure it out. Maybe Brian was supposed to tell the world about the family beside him and their love to the very end and that protective instinct. Maybe such a story would inspire others, give them hope, and help Brian from feeling guilty.
But maybe it was just fucking chaos. Slipping in and out of consciousness, it was hard for Brian to tell.