For this installment I used: Rivalry. Now I have only one word left. And there's two days: Monday and Tuesday. But I have some words left over from last Wednesday, and mostly the WfW are up somewhere around dinner time at my Tuesday.
The opening of the doors was rather anticlimactic. After a short bout of rivalry, Tom, the pilot, was given the honour. Co-pilot Hank, Allan, Father Paul, Granny T, Henny, Cordelia and a few other people stood close by as Tom opened the door. The rest stood further away, ready to grasp oxygen masks at the slightest sign of danger. A gentle swooshing sound was heard as some of the air from inside the plane escaped via the open door. Then the small group descended to the ground. The brown dusty earth clung to their shoes and while the air was hot and thin, it was breathable.
They stood squinting in the morning sun, looking at the brown, dusty soil, stretching ahead of them in soft waves.
"We can survive this." Allan said subdued, "but where are we."
The Pilot answered. "I do not know. Not exactly anyway. I stuck to the course as best I could, but whether we've reached the airport, overshot it or never did reach it. I am not sure. If you held me up with that infamous baseball bat I'd say we did not quite make it there. We were one hour and 12 minutes from touchdown as we began climbing. We did not stay airborne for an hour after that, but then again. Our speed was greater ... I'm positive we made it home. I saw land ahead, shortly before the Wave struck. By the way the altimeter still shows us at below sea level but not as far below than yesterday,. The air is returning."
"This tells me that some stretches of sea must be untouched, or at least still filled with water," Hank said. The true lungs of the Earth are not the Amazon forest or indeed any rain forests, the algae and sea weeds are producing most of the oxygen."
"I just hope 'are' is the right tense here," Tom said.
"Where would you go, and how." Tm asked Allan.
"I don't know why, but I'd go east and north. I believe in your not quite making it home, I think, and then north by east will take me home."
"Home is a strange word to use about this brown desert.
"My home is where my Mary is," Allan said.
Hank, the co-pilot spoke up: "I have another suggestion. "We should build some kind of sea going vessel, and then try sailing around. That way we can check if the sea is indeed dead, if there's some bodies of water left, and where the water has gone. And sailing was The means of transportation in days gone by. Land masses and forests divided people, water connected."
"God almighty! Look at the plane!" Allan said. To hear what Hank said he had turned around, and was now facing the plane. All paint had been scoured from the belly and sides of the plane, the landing gear and nose-wheel were missing. The big engines under the wings were missing too, and the wings were blackened around the edges where they had sat. The plane shone as a newly polished coin in the early morning light.
"The Wave did this?" Tom said and went pale. "If I had not climbed that fast ... or not jettisoned the fuel ... I begin to think we might be the only survivors after all."
"More cake and brandy, anyone?" Henny asked. The optimistic stewardess carried a tray. loaded wit cake and glasses and smiled at them.
Allan accepted both, and so did Tom. "Cheers!" Allan said extending his glass "To survival!"
"To survival!" the others echoed.
"Could we get to the luggage hatch, father Paul asked. "I'd like to see if there's anything left down there.
Tom and Hank unlocked the hatches to the cargo bay. They did not open smoothly, and much tucking and yanking was necessary to make them open, but finally they could get in. The suitcases were charred, blackened and frayed, and Allan feared for the contents. Father Paul, Allan, Cordelia, the two police types, and the hurting young man, who asked to be called by his real name, Robert instead of Ronny, made a human conveyor belt and transported all suitcases out onto the brown soil. Father Paul found his sturdy looking, brown and well used suitcase. Coffer he had called it, and it was a true treasure chest. Cookies, chocolates, candy, edibles of all sorts and kinds.
Allan opened his suitcase, and the pressure proof crate was still good as new.
"What's do you have in there?" Tom asked.
"A white Zinfandel from the year our eldest daughter was born. It's still intact - much to my surprise. I was going to join a party at her place when I arrived. Then small gifts for my grandkids, books, candy and such. Something for my Mary as well. And then the usual stuff: clothes, notes and books for a boring conference. Not really good for anything now."
Everybody came down from the pane and began opening their suitcases, checking for treasured belongings or chosen gifts. In all very few things had been broken or toasted.
"Don't you have anything packed, Tom." Father Paul asked.
"Not much, toothbrush, clothes, some money, a snack or two. It's up in the cockpit," Tom answered. "I was only going to have a stopover for 36 hours before flying back home again. Most of that time I would have spent sleeping, eating and working out. Traveling becomes routine you know. Just a job."
"And now my job is finding Mary." Allan said. "I think ..."
" I think," Tom said, "that we have to stick together, or at least in smaller groups. No man should face this great unknown on his own. But I have a suggestion."
They all gathered in a loose group with the captain, Allan and Hank in the middle.
"OK," Tom said, "I suggest we send out scouting groups, not now, tomorrow, but let's agree upon the groups and their mission now."
Most of the group nodded or in other ways indicated their assent, and Tom continued: "Hank, you and two or three more could go east of here. Allan you and a couple more go north, Henny, could you lead a group going south," She nodded, and Tom continued: "Robert would you care to take a group west?" He also nodded. "We have a compass for each group, still in working order. Try to find water, walk for two or three hours - until the sun is at its highest - then return back."