Long Way From Home by Melinda A. Di Lorenzo
(available for pre-order on Wednesday, November 14th, 2012)
At first when I opened my eyes, I thought that I'd gone blind. It was so dark that I couldn't even make out the outline of my own hand as I raised it in front of my face. I felt immediately and overwhelmingly frightened, and I waved my fingers frantically, trying to see them. I felt a scream building in the back of my throat. I let the yell out, and although I could feel the burn of my voice against my vocal cords, I couldn't hear the sound of it.
What the hell? I thought, suddenly more irritated than afraid.
Even though I couldn't see, I closed my eyes, sighing heavily in frustration. I made myself ignore the fact that while I could feel the air leaving my body, I couldn't actually hear it. I tried to remember what the last thing I'd been doing was, but my brain felt fuzzy.
Had I been drinking something? Yes. Vodka and orange juice to calm my nerves. I had taken a big sip and then put my head down awkwardly on a lumpy pillow.
I frowned. That didn't make any sense. My pillows at home were most definitely not lumpy.
I suddenly became aware that I could actually hear... something. A high-pitched whine that sounded like it was coming from all around me. I lifted my hand and placed it on my forehead. The pitch of the ringing was becoming unbearable. I covered my ears, and the noise became even worse.
"Dear God," I muttered as I realized that the sound was coming from within rather than from without.
I shook my head and the shrillness reverberated back and forth with the movement.
I wonder if I should stand up, I thought, and then added wryly, even though I just realized that I'm sitting down.
I opened my eyes again and strained against the darkness, willing myself to see. I tipped my head back and found that it was resting against a soft-backed chair. I looked up, and relief overwhelmed me. I could see pinpricks of light - stars - spread out above me.
It's night time, I thought. And I'm outside.
The knowledge was soothing, even as it was disturbing.
I tried to stand up, and realized that I couldn't. Something was pushing against my hips, fixing me to the spot. I glanced down automatically, but of course still couldn't really see a damned thing in the darkness. Sighing, I used my hands in place of my eyes. I felt around my waist and found that I was wearing a nylon lap belt. I ran my fingers along the cinched strap until they met with a cold, metal clasp. I tried to grasp it to pull it apart, but I had trouble getting a grip, and when I finally managed to get a satisfactory hold, the clasp jammed.
"Dammit!" I shouted, and was rewarded by the sound of my own voice.
Both underwater and very far away at the same time, but still my voice. It reassured me, and I tried with renewed vigour to make my hands co-operate but they really didn't want to do it.
I felt something warm and wet hit my wrist. I held my arm up and inhaled sharply. My eyes were finally adjusting to the dark and I could see, just a little. But it wasn't good. My hand looked like a whitish blob, and while I was momentarily thrilled to have some restored vision, I concluded immediately that the dark blotch marring the whitish blob was the source of the warm wetness.
Blood, I thought, disappointed and concerned that I hadn't felt any pain.
A rusty smell assaulted my nose, and I knew that it had to be coming from the fresh slice on my hand. I breathed in the scent, glad that at least one of my senses was working at full capacity. My deep inhale brought awareness of another odour - one that reminded me of burning hair.
Panic finally set in.
Outside. At night. Sliced hand. Something hair-like on fire. My brain made the list against my will.
I grabbed the seat belt, willing it to loosen. The blood on my wrist slid down my sleeve and I could feel it sticking to my sweater.
"Ohgodohgodohgod," I panted helplessly, over and over again.
Finally, I heard a snap and a click.
I flung my body forward, landing on something cold and soft. Snow.
This just gets better and better, I thought.
I forced myself up onto my knees. My body ached with the effort, and I realized that I hurt all over. I closed my eyes briefly, trying to block out the pain. When I opened them again, the sky seemed marginally brighter. I frowned, wondering if my vision was getting better, or if the sun was starting to come out already.
A noise was coming from somewhere around me, too. I knew it was loud because it was nearly drowning out the ringing in my ears.
The sky got even lighter, and my eyes widened as I took in the bleak landscape before me.
It was snowy. Very snowy. In fact, now that I could see, I realized that I was surrounded by white. I glanced around frantically. Fresh fallen snow on the ground under me. Snow-covered mountains in the distance. White as far as my vision could reach.
I started to shiver, as if the realization of my surroundings directly affected my physical reaction. My teeth started to chatter, and I worked to stop them. I looked up at the sky again. I could still see the stars pinpricking through the darkness, even though there seemed to be light all around me.
I only had time to be puzzled for a second or two before a hissing pop turned my attention to the chair where I'd been stuck just minutes earlier.
It was on fire. Really on fire. The seat back was engulfed in flames already, and the cushion was smoldering. My mouth dropped open, and I scurried backwards on my hands and knees.
The other noise - the one that wasn't coming from inside my head - was emanating from the burning chair, building to an intensity that made me cringe.
And then it erupted.
I gasped and threw my arms up to shield my body from the assault.
A hundred pieces of foam, fabric, and plastic exploded all around me. Bits of burning seat landed on my sweater, putting a hole right through the sleeve and scorching my arm.
There was a final, momentarily deafening pop, and then the ringing in my ears subsided completely. The only sound was the cheery crackle of an airplane seat burning to a crisp.
I stared at it forlornly, watching as bits of the seat floated down to the ground. And then the clasp of the seat belt that had given me so much trouble a few minutes earlier, came flying through the air, and cracked me solidly in the side of the head, making my vision swim, and the world faded away.