Cochina left the plane wreckage at sunrise. She was off to do her own hunting. I ate a breakfast of nuts and berries and made a mental note to go fishing later today.
I thought about what Alden Johnson had said about this island not being on the maps. That’s what our pilot had said, too. “He-llo! I haven’t seen that before,” he had said. It’s funny how these things play over and over in your head.
After Papa’s illness and death, Grandma thought Eric and I needed a trip. There was an event at the Southeast Avian Conservatory. Eric loved birds. He was so excited. Grandma found a private pilot to take us there. I would have preferred to stay at home but Eric couldn’t go without me. I had to laugh as I boarded the plane (Cochino, as the pilot called it) because both Eric and Grandma each presented me with a journal as a “thank you for going” gift. What was I going to do with 2 journals on such a short weekend?
The flight was wonderful until a storm drove the pilot off-course. “Sorry, kids,” the pilot said. “Cochino and I have to go around this one. Don’t worry, though. I’ll have us back on track in no time.” He tried to call the tiny airport, but the radio didn’t work. He told us it had something to do with the storm and not to worry.
The storm was big. We went far out of our way. Then something was wrong with the plane. I was scared. The pilot asked me to help – to flip some levers and turn some knobs. I did. It wasn’t working.
Suddenly, the pilot exclaimed, with some hope in his voice, “He-llo! I haven’t seen that before. Hey, Ariana, open that map!”
I did as he asked. He reached one finger over to the map and circled the area where we supposedly were. “You see any land here?” he asked.
Nothing. Nothing on that map but ocean blue. But I clearly saw an island rising out of the ocean in front of us.
“Well, never mind. It, at least, gives us a place to land,” the pilot said.
And then the plane made an awful noise and went deathly silent. Then engines were dead. The pilot frantically tried to restart them.
“Hang on, kids, this might be a rough landing.”
We were coming in too fast. He couldn’t steer. He couldn’t pull up. He couldn’t do anything. “Mayday! Mayday!” he called, even though our radio still didn’t work.
There were trees…rocks. I screamed. There was a sound – a horrible sound – as the metal plane collided with the trees. And everything went black for me.
I woke up. “Eric!” I screamed. Everything around me was crushed. A thick branch reached through the windshield and pinned me to my seat. Blood has somewhat dried on my face and I couldn’t move my wrist without a stabbing pain. I struggled to free myself from the branch. “Eric!” I screamed again. I moved the branch a little and caught sight of the pilot. He was dead. A sob caught in my throat and I kicked free of the branch, screaming Eric’s name.
I searched the crumpled aircraft but he wasn’t there. “Eric?” I called, sobbing. Desperately I searched around the plane. “Eric!”
And then I saw him, lying in the tangled grasses. I ran to him, tripping and stumbling over unseen vines and limbs. My brother. “Eric,” I screamed again, wanting him to hear me. My eyes told me what my heart didn’t want to believe. He was gone. “No, no, no, no, no,” I cried and screamed his name again and again. And I clung to him and cried.
[Wet spots blotting and streaking the page]