This story is by Tia Oshel and was part of our 2016 Winter Writing Contest. You can find all the Winter Writing Contest stories here.
“Xander! Xander! Xander!” a hoard of fans and media chanted as I ascended the staircase into my private plane. I paused on the top step, turning for one final photo-op before boarding (they always eat that up).
“Why does my plane smell like cleaning supplies?” I asked, wrinkling my nose in distaste; making a display of waving the foul air away from my face before plopping down onto my plush leather couch.
“Damn, the paparazzi are foaming at the mouth out there; this tour is going to be huge!” Dennis exclaimed, stepping up into the cabin behind my publicist and stylist.
“Unbelievable. My pores look disgusting on the cover of People. Why would you let them publish this photo of me?” I complained, thrusting my phone into Dennis’s face. Frowning, Dennis pushed the phone away.
“You look flawless.” He insisted, but I had already tuned my manager out.
Ignoring the captain’s introduction to the flight and Dennis’s request to map out our tour agenda for the umpteenth time; I pulled open my front screen camera and continued to analyze my skin, it really was flawless and I refused to let the six hours of recycled air dry it out. When we arrived in Seattle I fully intended to emerge radiant and camera ready; no doubt the media would be waiting to cover the inaugural entrance of my world tour.
As we flew over the Caribou-Targhee National Forest my entourage and I were startled by the sound of moaning metal and a violent jolt.
“Probably just some turbulence.” My pug-nosed publicist suggested apprehensively. The fasten seatbelt sign clicked on.
Mere minutes later the plane rattled again, a blinking red light appeared overhead, and tiny yellow oxygen masks fell from the ceiling. An overhead voice began to yell.
“WE ARE GOING DOWN, BRACE FOR IMPACT. I REPEAT. WE ARE GOING DOWN.” Wide-eyed, my staff members began to shriek, frantically trying to buckle into their seats; I sat doe-eyed on the couch, frozen in place.
“Xander!” I heard in the distance, “XANDER! Snap out of it!” Dennis screamed at full volume. Suddenly the plane took an abrupt tip downward, my stomach flipped as if I were on the descent of the world’s tallest roller coaster. Dennis fell sideways onto the floor as I struggled to grasp the situation at hand. Scrambling, I barely managed to click the lock of my seat belt in place as gravity fought to pull my body into the side of the couch.
Mournfully, I watched the bottles of champagne we had been planning to toast the start of the tour with roll across the floor and shatter against the Captain’s door. Risking a look out my window I could only see a blur whizzing past my eyes, my ears began to pop, the roar of the plane deafening.
Around me my staff was sobbing, praying, and screaming. Amongst all of the chaos, I suddenly felt elated; this kind of drama would propel me to the top of the A-List. Everyone was going to know my name. I caught myself smiling as the world went dark.
My eyes fluttered open, my ears were ringing. “Dennis, Dennis” I whined, wrestling the seat belt again. I threw my head back with an exasperated sigh. “Hello, anyone? I need help!” I called out, finally managing to break free. Unexpectedly I dropped down onto something stiff. Moaning at a sudden wave of pain I clutched my ribs. Turning onto my better side I found myself face-to-face with a motionless Dennis, a large cylindrical piece of metal protruding from his stomach. Horrified, I squealed and turned away from my disfigured manager.
Looking around, I saw the remnants of my plane smashed into the hillside, a few yards away flames flickered around one of the wings. Stumbling forward I nearly tripped over the pug-nosed publicist, I’d never even bothered to remember her name but now suddenly here among the debris I found myself sobbing for the woman who had suffered a fatal blow.
My throat felt like sandpaper, my sobs quickly evolved into a coughing fit. Leaning back against a chunk of metal I scanned the wreckage for my stylist, or the cooler storing my mineral water. Poking out from beneath a cluster of scraps I spotted his mauve hair; scurrying over to the man’s side I kneeled, the stylist’s fingers twitched.
“Oh thank goodness you’re alive! What do we do? Dennis is DEAD!” I whimpered, grasping his hand.
“My…legs” he moaned, his legs were pinned beneath the flashy sound system I had insisted was worth the expense. I jumped up, attempting to push the equipment over but my designer shoes slid against the dirt and I fell face down. I tried again to move the stereo with the same outcome. Frustrated, I stomped away from the trapped man, who had passed out again.
Submitting to a wave of panic and anxiety I tried to wrap my mind around the reality that I had survived the plane crash only to die alone, in the wild. My anxiety morphed into a full-on temper tantrum when I hurled a stone towards the tree directly in front of me and missed by a wide margin.
“Gahhh!” I fumed, “I’ll WALK then.”
Disoriented, cold, and parched I stomped into the forest hoping I’d discover a rural Starbucks along the way.
It didn’t take long for me to lose my bearings; time became an obscure concept. I trudged through the forest scavenging for berries where I could; twice I consumed rotten or poisoned vegetation which only accelerated my starvation. After several failed attempts at hunting I gave up entirely; even if I had managed to kill a squirrel or rabbit I had no idea how to clean or cook game, I was incapable of even creating a single spark or flame.
During the night I was forced to curl up under the cover of spiky bushes, trembling and blue-lipped. The first couple days I think I heard the rumble of low-flying planes, but no one had come to my rescue and my sense of direction left something to be desired.
I tried my best to stay positive by reassuring myself someone would find me, that it was only a matter of time until I would either emerge triumphant from the trees or stumble across a group of rugged mountain campers. I occupied myself with rehearsing the spiel I would give my fans that undoubtedly were crushed at this tragic loss to the world, but my vanity did nothing the satisfy the ache in my stomach.
“Why do people think nature is fun?” I complained, swatting a bug, “THERE’S NOTHING HERE!”
Each time I stopped at a stream I was more appalled by my appearance than the last; my hair was irrecoverably knotted, my eyes had sunken deep into my face; my stomach curled at the thought of all the Botox it would take to repair the damage done to my beautiful skin.
After what felt like a lifetime, but in reality had only been eight days, I found myself standing atop a hill overlooking the crash site. As I shuffled down the slope my hopes plummeted, there were tire marks in the dirt; someone had come, and I had missed the ride. The bulk of the mess was cleaned up, the bodies removed; only the large pieces of the plane were left behind and of course, me.
I fell to my knees, my head in my hands, sobbing. My misery was disrupted by a plastic bag rattling in the wind, looking towards the sky I cursed the responders for not arriving sooner, for not trying harder to find me.
“How was I to know when they’d arrive?” I screamed, “it could’ve taken days for you people to find me what else could I have done? I had no choice but to go and fend for myself. And look, I’m still here” I continued to yell, spinning around, “alive because I survived.” I paused, falling back to my knees, surveying the desolate site. “I’m still here,” I repeated regretfully.
I jumped to my feet, ignoring the dizziness; I would use the tire tracks as the guide I’d needed all along and follow the lead to civilization; thoughts of warm showers, green smoothies, and cinnamon-honey face masks driving each of my steps.
As the sun began to lower I pushed myself harder to follow the tracks barely visible now in the dwindling daylight, my body screamed in protest with every step. Soon my vision was blurring, each step was deliberate and forced, my tongue felt shriveled, but I managed to smooth out my hair as best I could with what little remaining saliva I had left.
At long last, I spotted my first glimpse of city lights but my body had hit its limit and with one final spike in adrenaline, I crumbled to the ground in the most unglamorous of ways.