By: Padmini Krishnan
I felt that something was not quite right as I boarded DSL-231. Vimmi seemed relaxed and her eyes shone with excitement. We were going home to Sheila.
I opened my laptop as soon as we settled down. After 10 minutes, Vimmi said, “You missed these figures.” pointing to an account on my open screen. She had been a Financial Consultant too, working with me. Now I went to the office all alone while Vimmi looked after Sheila, our child. Vimmi had refused to move away from our home in Singapore for the past four years. Her only outings were her daily walks with Sheila and visits to kids’ clinics. Eventually, I had persuaded her to accompany me to San Francisco, leaving Sheila with her mom. The plane jerked. We both held tightly to the armrests. Was the weather bad?
I smiled suddenly.
“I was thinking of your shopping spree yesterday. You were out window-shopping for 4 hours before you settled on a single piece of a nightgown.”
“Well, that is all I need for now.”
I focused on my laptop while Vimmi closed her eyes and leaned back on her seat. A few minutes later, dinner was served.
I snapped my eyes open, as the plane jerked violently. There was a commotion in our cabin.
“The cockpit is on fire.” someone shouted.
The flight assistant asked us to calm down, her face white.
Vimmi looked at me, her face conveying fear and anxiety. We held hands. For a moment, the flight seemed to move smoothly. Before we could sigh in relief, the flight jerked again. I peeped down my window seat. There was water as far as I could see.
“Pacific Ocean,” Vimmi whispered, terror in her eyes. I looked at our combined hands. The time on her watch showed 2 am. My ears rang as the plane sprung out of control, moving down at great speed. The monstrous Pacific Ocean seemed closer with every second. My aqua phobia resurfaced as I looked down. “My God! Not in here.”
My cabin was no longer in chaos. Instead, there was a deadly silence. My head spun as the right-wing of the flight dipped into the water. “Sheila!” Vimmi whispered, her eyes frozen. Then everything went blank.
Sheila held me tight. “Dad, I want to sleep next to you.” She felt so warm against the chill. I shivered, my whole body soaked, as I moved closer to Sheila. However, it was some other kid, not my daughter, his eyes locked on something beyond my face. I could see nothing but water all around. The sky was pink. I realized what he was and tried to pull off. “Vimmi!” I said her name aloud and the words that came through my chattering mouth sounded like gibberish. The wreckage which held me and the kid broke into two and he disappeared into the water. My left arm felt numb. I felt immense pain in my back and warm fluid seeping through some cut. I rested my head on the wreckage, desperate for some warmth. I could not move my legs as they were numb. I drifted off.
I was a kid now. I hurried to the play area, trying to avoid the swimming pool. Walter, a bully from the neighborhood, ran behind me and pushed me into the pool. I felt breathless as I struggled to pull myself to the surface.
“Push your hands and legs around.” someone shouted.
I woke up as some sharp sandpaper grazed across my back, drawing more painful fluid. It was a shark. Mercifully, the shark disappeared deep into the water. The pain now unbearable, I drifted out of consciousness.
“Daddy! Come back,” cried Sheila, lying down in a fetal position. She was as thin as ever, adamantly refusing to gain weight.
“Daddy!” she cried, feebly, the strength all gone from her voice. She closed her eyes.
I saw Vimmi’s terrified face. “Hold it together for Sheila,” she screamed. I pushed my legs with an effort. Vimmi disappeared. The movement of my legs against the water caused excruciating, unimaginable pain. My gibberish scared me. But, I shouted again. What light was that? It looked like a small boat. I wanted to leave my body; I wanted the pain to end. However, I did not want to die. Sheila needed me.
I awoke in a hospital room. Someone said, “Sole survivor from the crash…broke his arm…”
A nurse came to me, “How are you, sir?”
“I want to see my daughter, Sheila,” I said, hearing my voice clearly after a long time.