It started off as a casual observation here and there. It was always something like a streetlight turning on right as I approached, a test I hadn't studied for being cancelled the day of, meeting a new friend by accidently bumping into them, little things like that. I didn't think much of it at the time, and I certainly had no idea what those little chances would lead to for me and for the world.
It started off (as cliche as it sounds) just like any other day when I followed my parents onto the plane. We were finishing up our Winter Break vacation and I couldn't wait to be back home and relaxing with my family. It was a bit too chaotic at the airport for my tastes, as many other families were also waiting at the gates for our plane to begin loading passengers. I pushed back my long dark brown hair, grunting in frustration. My hair was very thin, but I had a lot of it, and it served as a nuisance more often than not.
I looked over to my father who was checking the latest football game scores on his phone. He had a fantasy football team and always checked the scores without fail, and judging from the look on his face, his team was definitely not doing as well as he had hoped early that day. I decided I would ask him about the rest of our travel plans so I wasn't confused when we landed at the next airport for our connecting flight.
"Hey Dad, I have a question for you. Got a sec'?" Dad looked up as I spoke, a small smile spreading across his face as he regarded me.
"Hey, Honey Bunches, what's up?" That was one of his pet names he had for me, and as embarrassing as it was to be called that when I was with my friends, when it was just us it made me feel special to have that relationship and connection with him.
"What's the plan for when we reach the next airport? Do we have time in-between or are we gonna have to make a mad dash to the next gate?" I was curious because although our airport experiences so far had been more relaxed and unrushed thanks to my mom's expert booking skills, I felt that our luck had to run out at some point.
"I as your father have always promised to not lie to you, if possible," Dad's face turned serious as he said this, placing the back of his hand to his forehead and leaning back dramatically, "but unfortunately for us, it's gonna be as fast as molasses in the winter!"
I stared at him for a second and opened my mouth to respond, but before a sound had even left my mouth, my father continued, "I'm kidding kiddo, we actually are gonna have to sprint as fast as we can to the next plane as the flight times are gonna be really close."
I closed my mouth and laughed, knowing that my father had a flair for the dramatics and deciding that we would probably have to make sure not to lag at the airport and to get to the next gate as quickly as possible but probably not full on racing like in the movies that played on the TV.
My mother had taken a trip to the bathroom and returned as we bickered back and forth over who was slower of the two of us.
"Alright kids, that's enough. You both know I'm the quickest!" My dad and I both dropped our jaws and made the same disbelieving face before looking at each other and bursting in laughing fits. Mom joined in and we were just about to start back at it again when they announced that they would now start boarding passengers.
Fighting now not important, we grabbed our gear and got into line. The group we were flying with was very diverse. I heard a family behind me speaking in what might have been Chinese and a large family in front of me was discussing something quickly amongst themselves in what was most likely Spanish. The group was eager to get on and everyone began getting everything figured out quickly.
As my turn to approach neared, my nerves began to stir. For all of my previous flights all of my family had sat in the same row together, but for this flight, the airline had experienced a freak glitch in their system, and no one could book group tickets. As a result of everyone trying to buy tickets for this flight at the same time, many families were split up and spread all over the plane, and ours was no different.
A large part of me was scared I would be sitting next to some creepy old person or a really annoying small kid who would cry. I checked my ticket seat row and number again and stepped onto the plane. I slowly walked through the plane and when I got to my row, I found a kid from the large Latino family in front of me was sitting in the window seat. He looked up as I stopped, and I showed him that my seat was next to his by showing him my ticket. He glanced at it, looked at the seat, and then with a wide smile pat the seat in a "Welcome here," kind of gesture.
I smiled back at him and then placed my bag in the compartment above and sat down next to him. People continued by, and soon enough a girl stopped at our row. Both the boy and I were looking out the window, but the click of the overhead compartment drew our attention. The girl was also around our age and said something in a language that sounded like Chinese and then showed us her ticket, informing us she was our last seatmate. We looked at each other, then both gave her a smile and gestured to the seat. She smiled back and sat down.
Even though none of us could understand each other, we were all happy that by chance we had gotten what seemed to be nice seat mates for our trip. The rows in the front and back continued to fill and soon everyone was boarded and awaiting takeoff. The engines roared and the plane pushed back from the airport. The airplane turned and taxied to the runway where it paused.
I always got nervous when planes began to takeoff because the sudden lurch in my stomach made me shiver in fear. As the plane engines roared, I heard a small gasp from both sides of me. I glanced to either side and noticed that both of my row mates appeared to be just as nervous, if not more so, than I was. I slowly reached my hands out to each of theirs which had death grips on their seats and gripped them in my own. They both jumped at the touch and looked at me.
We looked back and forth at each other, communicating through our eyes that we were feeling the same thing, and leaned back into our seats. As the plane took off, we kept a firm grip on each other, and it was a surreal experience because I felt comforted by the touch even if I didn't know who these other kids were.
The plane eventually got to its cruising speed and leveled off and we let go of each other's hands. The flight after that was uneventful. We all had earbuds in and were playing games or watching movies while the plane continued to soar through the air. Suddenly a load roar filled the cabin, and a thick fog filled the air. Everything not tied down begin to fly through the air and a horrific wind whipped through the cabin. I loved planes and learning about them and this seemed to be what was called an explosive decompression. Panicking, the air stewardesses began to suddenly yell above the wind that everyone needed to try and move to the front of the plane if possible.
Confused we all looked around and tried to figure out what the problem was and as I glanced towards the back of the plane my blood ran cold. There was a giant hole a row or two behind us and it appeared to be slowly growing and creeping towards us. The other passengers further back quickly unbuckled and keeping a grip on the seats around them began moving up the plane.
As we waited for our row to go, I felt a hand grip mine. I jumped a bit and turned to see the boy had reached for my hand. I gripped his hand back and felt my other hand reach out on its own to grab the hand of the girls once more. She squeezed my hand back and I felt reassured that we would be ok and that we had each other to rely on.
The pilots had sent the plane into a steep dive as soon as the explosion hit the plane, racing to get everyone to a breathable level before everyone began to have trouble breathing. This had also meant that everyone trying to get away from the explosion basically fell towards the front of the plane and it made the evacuation go much quicker. It was finally our turn and we all squeezed hands once more and began filing out of our row together. Right as the boy left our seat row the plane gave a shudder.
By chance, no turbulence or shaking had occurred, but by some stroke of bad luck, the plane suddenly lurched and sent the three of us falling back towards the giant hole in the side of the plane. We screamed as we stumbled, and although other passengers desperately tried to grab onto us, one more erratic swing sent the three of us falling out of the plane and towards the water below. I screamed as we raced towards the ocean that was much closer than I had thought. With a start I realized that the other's hands were still in mine, and they were also screaming as we fell. I couldn't believe what was happening to us and as we fell, I simply had one thought flying through my mind.
What were the odds I would die like this?