I got a really nice response to my last story so…. here’s another one.
Ernie was pale as he said ‘oohh daaamn!’ He was holding the joystick with bloodless fingers and I could only stare at them because, looking out the window meant I had to see at the planets surface coming up way too fast. And seeing, more clearly than anything, the last seconds of my life. I couldn’t face that.
‘Jay. Grab my hands on the stick and pull with me as hard as you can,’ hissed Ernie urgently. We struggled with the manual control. There had been a major flame-out of the onboard computer because of the meteor strike that hit the ship in the wrong place.
Afraid but ready to do anything to live, I jumped out of my seat, lent over Ernie’s armrest and clamped my hands over his. With my feet jammed against the stanchion of his seat I added extra leverage. I could feel the joystick begin to inch backward, to level out the shuttle ever so slightly. But not nearly enough.
We were still high over the forested escarpment that ran nearly eight hundred miles down the west coast of the largest continent. To the left was thirty miles of forest which slowly changed to savannah and then desert some eighty miles away. To the right I could see the fertile fields that started from the bottom of the escarpment to the ocean ten miles away.
There was no way we could move the joystick to land over the ocean or even the desert. We were heading straight into the forest belt and collision with the centuries old trees, many which stood close to three hundred feet tall. No soft landing there.
‘Pull!’ Ernie screamed and I pulled with all the might my fear lent me. The nose of the shuttle edged up another degree. ‘More you mongrel!’ yelled Ernie and I wasn’t sure if he meant me or the shuttle. Not that it mattered, I pulled with everything my body and mind possessed. Another degree and instead of heading straight down we now were coming in at 85 degrees. I quickly checked the altimeter and saw we were only 27,000 ft up and the dial was spinning to zero alarming fast. My heart beat frantically, I was sweating, panting and my head was starting to swim from the adrenalin overdose and holding my breath. I pulled harder than I ever thought possible.
Slowly, too slowly, the nose came up another few degrees.
We hit the tree tops angled at 55 degrees. I heard a noise like a thousand nails raking down a blackboard. Then everything went black.
I woke with an acrid smell tickling my nose-hairs. I made an effort to open my eyes but only one would respond. Myopic, I saw smoke, twisted metal and tree branches. Then I heard a moan.
‘Ernie?’ No response. I didn’t think I had moaned.
Slowly getting my elbows under me I managed to roll from my back to my side to come face to face with a bloody visage.
‘Ernie?’ I asked again and gently touched his shoulder. I could see he was still strapped into his seat but two blue orbs managed to blink and I knew he was still alive.
‘We need to get out of here!’ I knew it was a stupid understatement even as my banged up hands were undoing his seat belt. I moved my legs and quickly guessed nothing was broken, although I hurt all over. Ernie was not so lucky. His left shoulder looked funny so I got my arm under his right one and we both rose awkwardly together.
Ernie groaned again and when I looked into his eyes the left pupil was slightly dilated and I knew he was in trouble. But it would be worse if we didn’t get out of the wreck before it went up in a ball of flame.
Slowly but surely we worked our way out of the mess. Just as we were about to scramble out of the cockpit I saw Ernie’s flight bag, grabbed the strap an slung it over my head. I had no idea what was in it, but it might have something useful for survival. We needed to hang in until someone came to rescue us, always assuming people knew we had crashed and where.
It took quite some time to get a reasonable distance from the crash site with poor Ernie’s injuries. Every moment I expected a blast from behind would finish us. But we were just a tiny bit lucky. The shuttle didn’t blow.
An hour later we had gone about eight hundred feet and we hunkered down behind the trunk of a fallen tree. Panting I grabbed Ernie’s bag and rifled through it. Two chocolate bars, reports and a map.
‘Ernie, do you know exactly where we went down?’
‘Not really,’ he grumbled. ‘I was working on trying to fly.’
‘I hope someone comes soon,’ I said. ‘You don’t look too good.’
‘You want to be inside here with me,’ he joked half heartedly.
As I was studying the map, trying to remember any specific landmarks from the few panicky glimpses as we came down, I saw the name of the forest that surrounded us. Then, probably because of shock as well as surprise that we were still alive, I began to giggle. It grew into a full blown hysteria and I howled until it hurt. I couldn’t stop.
‘Jay! Hey Jay! What’s the matter?’ Ernie asked anxiously.
Getting partial control I said between bouts of giggles and wiping my eyes, ‘I just found the name of the forest. It lies between the coast and the desert. They gave it a suitable name.’ Giggles overtook me again.
Finally, I regained enough control to see Ernie’s worried features staring at me.
I took a deep breath and said as straight as I could, ‘Ernie, we are lost in “Translation”!’