This story is by Linda Henson and was part of our 2020 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Jason felt his annoyance rapidly morphing into fury. The snow should have stopped by now and not have become a raging storm. Looking out of the window, he saw that it remained light. He had gone to the back to distance himself so that he could work without interruption. He planned to have all his closing arguments done by the time they landed in Aspen. His date was a model who very much wanted to marry him. A slow smile crept across his face.
His attention was abruptly snatched away by the drunken lurching of the copter. The shouting from the cockpit did not instill confidence. Pitched too high, the pilot’s frenzied voice spewed indecipherable sounds. Jason could not make out his words, but he knew that what he heard was fear. His two friends, Matt and Richard screamed too. They had been standing, but the fun-house movement of the copter forced them to sit down with white knuckles.
Jason started out of his seat, when he heard, “Mayday, Mayday, Mayday,” just an instant before they slammed into the side of the mountain like a wrecking ball.
Later. . .
Jason’s leg hurt with unspeakable pain. No feeling existed where his foot should have been. His back and pelvis were in agony. Something was wrong with his ribs because he could not take a deep breath. Unable to move, he could not find his phone. He called out the names of his friends, then the pilots. There was no response. Because the control wheel was two feet away from him, he had not really expected any. What had once been the front of the plane was now a tangled wall of metal and wires within his reach.
Jason could not move but he could see outside. Besides the obvious, there was something else very wrong. He wondered if he were hallucinating because the Rockies had become sinister. Inexplicably, they seemed to be alive.
As a toddler, Jason had always been contrary. When he was school age, he had been slim and brash and had had to use words to outwit the bullies. As he grew older and filled out, he could take on anyone, but preferred using words. It was inevitable that he become a litigator. In the courtroom, and in all things legal, he shone. He had made partner, and history, by the time he had reached 30. Unfortunately, he had never ceased to be contentious and manipulative.
With an insight rare for him, Jason recognized that the other people on the plane had not wanted to take this trip. Cunning and devious, Jason had convinced the pilots and his friends that leaving today was important to them. Now, they had all died in the crash. He had known Matt and Richard since elementary school, and they had been his only friends.
There was no one around for miles, he had no cell and he could not move. In the distance he heard wolves.
He held on to the hope that the mayday had been received and help had already been dispatched.
It was dark, cold, and lonely. It was a new and unwelcome experience for Jason to be helpless, powerless, and physically disabled. Jason’s eyes became blurred, then the tears came hot and heavy for an exceedingly long time.
The caretakers, who were watching him, were now curious about Jason. He presented an enigma. Never had he shown even a modicum of humanity. In the course of their work, Matt and Chauncey had encountered terrible people who had done awful things. However, those people usually possessed slivers of humanity. Jason had never shown a shred of compassion, empathy, or kindness. Right and wrong did not exist for him.
Matt and Chauncey saw Jason’s ability to sense the mountains as an extraordinarily positive benchmark. Of course, the mountains were sentient, though their sentience was different from that of humans.
They wondered whether his scalding, wrenching tears were because he was finally able to feel. They communicated telepathically, and while coming from different locations, they were reevaluating Jason.
Slumped over in pain and misery, Jason thought he felt a hand on his shoulder. Then he dismissed it as delusional. The hand was insistent, and he finally looked up to see two faces full of warmth and concern. Two people stood beside him wearing uniforms that he did not recognize.
“Hello Jason,” said one of them, “I’m Mark, and this is Chauncey. We are your caretakers. It’s time to leave.”
Jason exclaimed, “I can’t go anywhere, my leg and foot are. . .”
Confused, he stopped. In wonder, he said “Wait a minute, nothing hurts! I have no pain!”
He struggled to stand as his new friends helped disentangle him from the wreckage. He stood up marveling that his body felt normal.
Jason knew this was impossible and, in addition, it stretched beyond the limits of the imagination. “Mark and Chauncey,” he said, “Where are the others? Are they okay? How did you get here so fast? How have I healed?”
Mark and Chauncey exchanged a glance and Chauncey said, “We are only here for you. Let us not wait any longer.”
Jason, to take control, said, “I am not going anywhere until I check on my friends and the pilots. And I am going to need some explanations from you.” Looking around, he said, “How did you get here?”
“Okay, go look for your friends.” Mark huffed. “You have five minutes. If you are not ready to come with us then, you are welcome to stay here in the same condition as before. You had a mangled leg, a missing foot, nine broken ribs and a crushed pelvis.” He paused, and then added, “And yes, there do happen to be wolves in these mountains.”
Jason was astonished because no one had ever dared to confront him. He wanted to know how they knew about the wolves.
He thought perhaps they did not understand who he was. Pulling himself up to his full 6’2”, Jason said, “Listen guys, I need some answers. Fast.”
There was no response. “Who are you? Why are you here?” Jason watched them and saw neither irritation, nor any inclination to answer him.
Mark said, “You have three more minutes.”
Jason was stunned into silence. He went to the other side of the plane and stopped, paralyzed.
He was never going to find anyone. When they boarded, the helicopter had been roughly 35 feet in length. Now the copter had been compressed to about seven feet. Jason staggered, and stumbled because of the turmoil in his mind. He knew this could not be real, yet it was, he could see it. Jason gagged, and then he vomited. After some minutes, he gratefully accepted a wet cloth from Chauncey.
Mark came toward him, “Time to leave.” A new, vastly different Jason nodded and followed them.
Chauncey said, “How have you missed that everything you do has a consequence. Whatever you think, do, or say will have repercussions. How have you missed this?”
Mark asked, “Jason, what about the people you may have hurt?”
Jason said, “I hurt anybody I could because it always made me feel good. It was clear that I could do anything I wanted. Nobody could stop me. Repercussions and consequences were for other people.”
Mark asked, “Is it okay that Matt, Richard and the pilots died because of you?”
Rattled, Jason declared, “Because I cannot change what just happened, I suppose it must be all right.”
Flushed, he continued, “How the hell could I have known that we’d crash!”
“Ah, but what did you know? Tell me that!” Chauncey pursued. “The pilots had had storm warnings and did not want to take the flight today. Matt and Richard told you they had a bad feeling and were frightened. Everyone was telling you the same thing, which was not to go!”
A petulant Jason argued, “Listen, I was paying for the copter, and I wanted to finish my brief. I also needed to get away from my wife. I paid them extra!”
Matt continued, “The pilot has three children, the copilot, Matt and Richard each have two. Four wives lost their husbands and nine children lost their fathers. Do you see this as a devastating tragedy for these people?”
“Well, yes,” Jason offered, “But they will get over it, put it in the past, and move on.”
Matt and Chauncey had been communicating telepathically during the conversation with Jason. As one, they decided that there was no hope for Jason.
The rescue team arrived at daybreak. Their information said there had been five men on board.
The grotesquely mangled body of one man was easy to salvage. The other four bodies could not be extracted until they had air-lifted the crashed helicopter back to the center. Then there would be the time to discern what of the wreckage was human and what was steel.