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Flight into Chaos
By Kevin Grubbe
Wednesday, April 30, 2008
Rated "PG13" by the Author.
A French Canadian woman finds herself the victim while trying to help survivors of a devastating hurricane. When you're done, go buy "Hunted by Chaos", the story of Kelly's boyfriend and his dog. It's available here : http://www.mysticmoonpress.com/bookstore/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=71&products_id=317
Kelly was annoyed at being disturbed from her slumber by someone poking her ribs. She moved her elbow to stop the irritation and rolled over. A hand began stroking her hair as she struggled to hold on to sleep. A voice whispered in her ear.
“Kelly, honey, wake up”
“One more minute.”
The hand moved to her shoulder and shook her gently, sleep evaporated and annoyance turned to anger.
“Honey, it's the foundation, they need you.”
She was still groggy and his words didn't mean much to her. She just wanted more sleep.
“What time is it?”
“It's about three a.m.”
“Who needs me?”
“The foundation, they need you right away.”
Her thoughts slowly came together, understanding creeping in from the corners of her mind. She forced her eyes to open. The room was dimly lit by a small lamp on the bedside table. Rolling to her back, John came into view. She smiled up at him and stretched like a satisfied cat.
“Hey hon. you wore me out last night.”
He chuckled as he leaned down to kiss her forehead.
“You weren't too bad yourself.”
She rubbed her eyes and ran a hand through her tangled hair. Her fingers caught in one of the more severe knots. He ran a rough hand down her nude body coming to rest on her belly. It felt hot on her already warm flesh. She didn't want to get out of bed, and he was making it more difficult for her.
Kelly rolled to face him, pressing her body against his. His muscles felt firm beneath her slight fingers. She let out a low groan of pleasure and frustration.
“You have time for a little good morning loving?”
“You tempt me sir, but if they're calling at this hour, it must be important.”
He stuck his lip out in a pout and slid a hand to her butt, pressing himself insistently against her. Placing a hand on his hard chest, she gently disengaged herself from his embrace.
“I have to get ready; I need a shower before I go in.”
“All right, I'll make some coffee.”
“No, you have to work tomorrow, go back to sleep.”
“I won't argue, but I expect you to pick up where we left off when you get back.”
She smiled and winked at him. Sliding out of bed, the floor was cold. She found her slippers and then walked downstairs to the bathroom. It was a quick shower; she brushed her hair and skipped makeup. Going back upstairs she snuck into their room. John was snoring soundly; it hadn't taken long for him to fall asleep. She was slightly jealous. Slipping into some jeans, she grabbed on of his shirts as she always did when leaving for a few days. She grabbed the bag she routinely kept packed and jumped in her car.
She thumbed the switch to dial the airfield on speakerphone and ensured everyone was ready for her. She flicked end on the phone and concentrated on driving. It would take her forty minutes to reach the airport. The days ahead would be long and arduous. Again she thought of that warm bed and the man she loved. She was proud of the work she did, but that didn't make nights like this much easier. Still, once she saw the looks on those people’s faces, all of it would be worthwhile.
The streets were almost completely devoid of life, she saw only two cars the entire trip. Pulling up to the main building, Tammy was waiting at the door. They hugged and then walked to the briefing room. Tammy had been a good friend for many years now. Her blonde hair was perfectly styled and her makeup impeccable as always. She wore designer clothes and had originally gotten involved with the foundation out of boredom. Over the years, her mild interest had evolved into absolute devotion. She had a good heart though only her closest friends knew where to look for it.
Kelly remembered when Tammy had first started. She had been a spoiled rich girl who didn't like getting dirty. Through the years they had struggled together in the mud and debris from several disasters. She had now worked herself into a position of importance and now dealt with politicians. Kelly was happy to do what she considered real work, although she would never say that to Tammy.
“Thanks for getting here so quickly Kelly.”
“You know me, always ready to go.”
“Yes, I remember. How is John?”
“Sleeping peacefully, thanks for asking. What's this all about?”
“You must have heard about it on the news. Hurricane Josephine finally hit. Barbados has been devastated. We've got your plane loaded; you'll set down in Florida for refueling along the way.”
“Wow, I always wanted to go to Barbados.”
“I'm afraid it won't be much of a holiday for you. Most of the island is in chaos. They are clearing the landing strip now, and should be able to find some accommodations for you once you arrive. The U.S. military already has two planes in the air and will provide security for the relief staff.”
She reviewed the flight plan that Tammy handed her.
“You coming along this time?”
“You know how much I enjoyed working in the field, but I have to stay behind to ensure we continue to get supplies.”
“Yes, you sure did enjoy the muck. When do I leave?”
“Right away, you plane is fueled up and loaded. Dennis will drive you to the hanger.”
They hugged again and Kelly followed Dennis to the waiting jeep. Once in the hanger she began her preflight check of the plane. She started by walking around the outside, then moved to the interior, verifying the cargo was secure. She sat in her seat and finished the final check, radioed for clearance and then taxied out the runway.
A few short minutes later and the plane leapt off the ground like a frightened bird. It had taken far longer than usual to reach take-off speed due to the extra weight. She increased her altitude and leveled off according to the flight plan. Engaging the autopilot she stretched in her seat and then sniffed the shirt. She was instantly home sick after inhaling Johns scent.
It was a long flight with a routine refueling in Florida. As she approached the island of Barbados a deep fear washed over her. The weather was still very bad, dark clouds hung over it with strong winds blowing wildly. The island itself was dark brown as was the surrounding ocean. Only small bits of green and some of the larger buildings were visible through the thick mud.
She lowered to the specified approach altitude and could make out more detail. The runway was dirty, but appeared to be clear of muck and debris. She radioed the tower and announced her arrival. A soldier responded and gave her clearance to land.
The wind buffeted her tiny plane, causing it to drop suddenly several times throughout the descent. It was a good thing she hadn't grabbed something to eat before leaving. Kelly was normally the first one sent in, though usually it was after the weather had cleared. She would have to speak with Tammy about this when she got back.
The landing had been touch and go but finally the wheels hit pavement with a squawk. A wave of relief washed over her, having accomplished the difficult landing. She taxied down the runway, stopping near the large green tents set up by the military.
Kelly shutdown the engines and climbed out of the plane. The stench was suffocating when combined with the oppressive heat of the Bajan summer. It felt like walking up to a burning building as waves after wave of hot air pressed against her. Several men in green fatigues carrying frightening rifles marched up to her.
“Right this way miss.”
They escorted her to the largest of the tents where an older man stood bent over a map. His hair was black with splashes of gray. His eyes held a sad wisdom much like Johns fathers eyes, though somewhat colder. He didn't look up as she entered, but began to speak.
“You are the Canadian relief pilot?”
“Yes sir, when can I get started?”
“I am afraid it is much too dangerous outside the airport. You will assist with offloading your supplies and my men will see to their distribution.”
“That's not normally the way these things go. I have been doing this for a few years; I think I can handle it. You could send some men with me if it will make you feel better.”
“This is not a normal relief effort; there has been a lot of rioting. We can't guarantee your safety if you leave this facility.”
“What facility, a few tents on the tarmac?”
“There is a security fence around this area. We are safe within it's boundary but outside is a very different story.”
“I am sure there won't be any problems. Let's start with the situation; do you have any evacuation centers set up?”
“There are two hotels where we are gathering the survivors. One is on the south shore, another on the north. I must insist on a full escort at all times while outside of the airport.”
“No problem, I'm here to help, not cause trouble.”
“I'll have a truck brought around to carry you and your supplies to the southern center. Is there anything else I can do for you?”
“No, that should cover it.”
“Good, I'm very busy; you'll excuse me if I don't see you off.”
He waved his hand and the soldiers escorted her out of the tent. She opened the plane and entrapped the cargo net. The truck arrived a few moments later and some men got out to help her unload. It took a few hours to get everything into the truck.
The truck sloshed through the mud coating the road. Kelly sat it the cab with two soldiers; two more rode in the back with the supplies. She dreamt of her home and John's handsome face. His strong arms holding her and the feeling of comfort it brought. Only a few hours had passed but it seemed like a lifetime ago.
She looked past the soldier to see what remain of the landscape. Everything was buried in mud and palm leaves. The small houses looked more like tribal hunts now.
The truck trundled along, larger tourist oriented buildings stuck up out of the mud like fingers reaching for freedom. Several quaint restaurants could be seen and she imagined for a moment what this country had looked like before the hurricane. It would have been a lovely place.
They pulled into a large resort; the multistory building had originally been white. It looked like a tremendously posh establishment. The kind of place John's sister would likely stay at. She and John had never been able to afford places like this one. They much preferred the down to earth lifestyle of working class people, though most everyone they knew were the complete opposite.
She frowned as the truck came to a stop. There was a large line of people, both tourists and residents. The supplies she brought would not be enough to help everyone. Suddenly she was glad the soldiers were here to keep the peace. Several groups of people stepped out of line and approached the truck. The soldiers lowered their weapons and gave orders for the crowd to stand back.
The people ignored their warnings and tried jumping on the truck. Some soldiers came out of the hotel entrance to aid trucks arrival. The throng on people pressed forward, stopping the truck and trapping them. Kelly jumped as a shot was fired from behind her. The people stepped back from the truck screaming in fear. The soldiers who had come out to greet them directed them to a loading area. Soon more troops arrived from inside the building and surrounded them. The group quickly unloaded the truck while Kelly went inside.
People crowded the main lounge of the resort wailing in sorrow. They were dirty and scared. The stench in the room was far worse than she had smelled before. Her throat clenched and tears threatened to flow freely, so sad was the plight of these people. There was no organization to the chaos, people simply sat waiting for something to happen.
“Who's in charge here soldier?”
The young man who stood guard near the entrance pointed to another man by the check-in desk. Mud sucked at her boots as she crossed the floor.
“Soldier, are you in charge?”
“Yes m'am. Lieutenant Henderson.”
“Lieutenant, why are all of these people just milling about. What are you doing to help them?”
“Our orders are the rescue survivors and oversee the safety of said survivors.”
“So you're not doing anything, where is your commanding officer?”
“He's out with the rescue teams; we're spread too thin until more troops arrive.”
“You mind if I get these people sheltered and fed?”
“Be my guest, I'm sure it would make our job easier.”
It was all she could do to contain her rage. Soldier or not, he was still a human being! She marched around behind the desk and found a map of the hotel. She got the Lieutenant's attention and discussed which areas had been damaged, which had been searched at all. Quickly she formulated a plan and jumped up on the desk.
“Can I have your attention please?”
The murmur of the crowd settled down but the quiet crying did not stop.
“I need volunteers to assist me. If you are uninjured, we really need your help. Please come over to the desk so that we can get things started.”
She jumped back down to the floor and laid the map across the desk. Three men and two women came over. She greeted them warming, secreting wishing more had been willing to help.
“Okay everyone, we need food, as well as clean dry places for people to rest. I'd like you two to check out the kitchen. You two to search each floor above this one and bring back every sheet and blanket you find, here is the manager’s key card. Finally you search the bottom level here and check every room, start with the dinning room and the event rooms. If they are clean we will need to start moving people into them.”
She had grouped each of the girls with one of the men and set them to task. She went over to where the soldiers were bringing in the first of the crates. The heat was unbearable; she missed the air conditioning of her plane.
After an hour the truck was unloaded and the volunteers had finished with their chores. She gave out instructions, escorting people into the clean rooms and allowing the line to file completely into the building. They got to work in the kitchen making food for everyone, while some more volunteers joined their ranks and began cleaning more rooms. Soon the makeshift evacuation center was running smoothly. Everyone had been fed and made as comfortable as conditions would allow.
Kelly excused herself hours later and headed out of the hotel, it smelled better outside. She needed some time to collect her thoughts. It was rewarding work, knowing you were helping people in need, but it was very taxing physically and emotionally. The ocean was still a deep brown rather than the normal vibrant blue. She walked along the beach, each step a struggle against the debris and ever present mud.
The soldiers were around the building, guarding the safety of those inside. Only six months ago she had been chastising John for getting shot in the line of duty. The horror of the event still echoed through her. Now here she was in a foreign country surrounded by guns. It was acceptable that she should risk her life, but he was not allowed to. She felt slightly hypocritical, though she wouldn't admit it to John.
She tied her hair up in a ponytail to air out the back of her neck. She was sticky with sweat and covered in grime from a hard days work. A large mirror lay on the shore, remarkably unbroken. She looked down into it; sad brown eyes stared back at her. She barely recognized herself in the reflection. Her hair was matted with who knew what and stray wisps stuck out at various places.
Tears welled up in those big brown eyes as she watched them. The image wavered as the tears dripped off her cheeks and onto the mirror. So many families affected by this disaster. So many children without parents, husbands without wives, wives without anyone. It was devastating, but she had seen this before and knew it would pass. She wasn't sure why it was affecting her so strongly this time. Kelly fell to her knees in weary resignation. She was too tired to go back there just now; she would rest and have a good cry first.
Kelly came back awake, her face was against something hard and she was cold. Opening her eyes she saw nothing but blackness. She wondered if she had really opened her eyes at all. She sat up and the slimy mud oozed beneath her. There was light in the distance, they had gotten the generator working at the hotel. She smiled, knowing it would provide relief for many of the people housed there.
The wind suddenly increased and whipped her hair about. She stood up, seeing the reflected light in the mirror she had lay on. She felt better after the long rest, though they were probably very worried about her. The wind grew in intensity as she struggled to make her way back down the beach. Waves slammed into the shore, splashing her with warm water.
She was able to make out the form of soldiers still standing guard. They were little more than silhouettes, but she recognized them. She got closer as the wind hit a furious pitch, trees and other debris started moving. Slowly realization dawned on her as the soldiers scrambled back into the building. She could hear shouts and cries coming from the resort.
“Hey, over here!”
Her cries were drowned out by the raging winds. Now she fought to move forward not only due to the mud, but the wind. She leaned into the wind at an angle that would have been comical if not for the dire situation. She managed to reach a nearby boulder and grabbed hold of it. Luckily it was large enough to be secure but thin enough for her hands to clasp on the far side.
As the howling wind increased in speed, her legs raised off the ground. It decreased slightly and she was dropped to the muddy beach then lifted again. The storm hit full force as her body flapped like a flag in the wind. Rain fell like tiny needles on her skin. She screamed for help, but knew nobody could walk in this turmoil. She heard a loud crack which at first she mistook for a tree limb snapping. Pain flashed up her spine as she continued to be pummeled by the barrage.
She now knew something had broken, but couldn't figure out what as pain coursed through her. It was definitely her lower body, but it was so intense she couldn't pinpoint it.
The storm continued and she knew now that there was no escape. She would die on this beach. John might never find out what happened to her. She hadn't told anyone where she was going; just that she needed some air. Thoughts of him kept her strong and she tightened her grip on the boulder. She would survive if only long enough to see his loving eyes one last time.
Kelly didn't know how long had passed before the storm abated but it seemed like an eternity. She lay covered in the mud, unable to move. By the throbbing in her left shin, she could now tell where the break had been.
She struggled to lift her head, but it wouldn't budge. She was stuck, who knew how deep. There was a little air left between her and the rock, but she knew it would run out eventually. She fought with all her strength until the pain in her leg was too intense. She wept in terror and hopelessness.
As Kelly calmed down and accepted her faint the air ran out.
She struggled to inhale, but each breath did nothing to alleviate the suffocating feeling.
Consciousness faded as she became light headed from the lack of oxygen.
Her body convulsed in desperation.
She felt her eyes roll back in her head.
Then the mud moved.
Air rushed in and she could breathe again. Hands grabbed her and she cried out in pain.
The hands released her and water was poured on her face. She realized her eyes had been squeezed shut tightly. She opened them now, the bright light burned her eyes and she shut them quickly.
The light faded and she opened her eyes again. A soldier knelling beside her was lit by several flashlights. His lips were moving but she couldn't hear him.
“I can't hear you. My leg is broken I think.”
His mouth moved again and he moved his hands as if to say this one or that one.
“The left one.”
He nodded and held up his hand in a stop gesture. Maybe he wanted her to stay still? She couldn't move anyway. A sharp pain stuck in her arm and within seconds she was feeling happy. Happy to lie in the mud and do nothing.
She floated up as the hands took her again and she was placed on her back.
Then she floated up again, without the help of their hands. She wavered in and out of consciousness for awhile until John stood there looking down at her.
“What are you doing here John?”
He smiled so wide she thought his cheeks might rip.
“It's okay, you're home now honey. How do you feel?”
“Home, how did I get home? I was just on the beach.”
“That was two days ago. Gary flew you back. Your leg was broken.”
“I knew that much, why couldn't I hear the soldiers?”
“Oh, it was just mud; it took them awhile to get your ears unclogged.”
“What happened, was it another storm?”
“Yes, right on the heels of Hurricane Josephine was a tropical storm. Tammy feels horrible for sending you in there.”
“Not as bad as she will after I get hold of her. They should have warned us, she should have known.”
“It appears the storm formed suddenly, and you disappeared for a few hours according to the soldiers. They couldn't find you to give you the warning.”
“That makes sense I guess, can we go home?”
“In a couple of days, now that you're awake, we can get you up and walking. I was really worried about you.”
“I was worried about me too.”
“Well, you have to get better soon, your sister is on her way and I don't think I'll survive the visit if you're not around to keep her under control.”
She laughed, “Monique will be good, I'll tell her to behave.”
“What happened to my plane?”
“Gary flew it back with you, and then caught a lift with someone else to go back for his plane. Although you're grounded until you recover.”
“What about the people, they need my help.”
“The recovery efforts are going fine. The soldiers and people you helped all signed this huge card. It reads ' Kelly, you are like a guardian angel. You flew to us in our time of need and taught us to care for each other. You have restored our faith in humanity and proved there are good people left. We hope you get better soon, all our thoughts are with you.' So just lay back and enjoy the rest.”
Tears filled her eyes at the touching sentiment. Even though they were still there suffering, they were thinking of her.
“That is so beautiful! That's why I do this job, I feel as though I 'm changing the world, a little bit at a time.”
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