The following is a short story I wrote when I was sixteen years old. After yesterday’s post about why faith and fiction are not mutually exclusive, this seemed like a good time to share it.
The story was inspired by my relationship with a boy who lived on my street… and yes, after writing this story, I did talk to my friend about Jesus.
What Tomorrow Brings
This high up in the atmosphere, the sky was a more perfect shade of blue, and the air seemed new and fresh. Clouds were nothing more than bundles of fine mist which rolled lazily by. Beneath them, the earth below was just like a picture from a book. The ground seemed to be separated into perfect squares, like multi-colored patches on an infinite quilt of soil. Tiny cars, hurrying among miniature buildings, reminded one of hard working ants scurrying about on their endless trails. Gazing at this scene from his airplane window, Josh Davidson wondered where all the little cars were going, and why they were in such a hurry to get there.
“Hey, Josh.” The voice pulled him from his reverie. Glancing towards the seat directly across from his own, Josh saw his friend, Taylor Jordan, motioning for him to look beside him. Following the direction of his friend’s eyes, the boy found a flight attendant leaning over into his seat. She had light brown hair and was wearing the airline’s standard blue and gray uniform.
“I said, would you like a pillow, sir?” She repeated with a knowing smile.
“Oh, uh, sure. I’m sorry.”
“That’s alright,” the young lady responded, handing him a small travel pillow. “You better enjoy the scenery while you’ve got it. We’ll be out over the ocean soon.”
Josh smiled. “Oh, ok. Thanks.”
Taylor was sporting a huge grin. “Man, I can’t believe we’re actually leaving the country! This is so cool!”
Josh laughed. “I know, this mission trip is really going to be great.” Joshua Davidson, a sixteen-year-old with blonde hair and a fair complexion, had been raised in church. He had wanted to go on a real mission trip ever since he could remember, and now it was finally happening. Taylor was only fourteen, but he lived in Josh’s neighborhood and the two had eventually become close friends. Josh suspected that Jordan was more curious about his beliefs than he wanted to let on. The sixteen-year-old had never managed to share his faith with his friend, though. He was just too afraid of pushing Taylor away from God and losing a friend in the process. When this mission trip came up, though, Josh had quickly invited his friend and had even helped him come up with the money. This was the perfect chance for Taylor to hear the gospel, and Josh just prayed that his friend would want to talk to him, or anyone else, about it. Just thinking about this gave him a surge of hope. This trip was already so exciting!
“Josh!” Taylor cut into the older teen’s thoughts. “You’re doing it again,” he said in annoyance.
Josh just smiled. “I’m sorry. I guess I’m just tired.”
This caused the younger boy to yawn. “Yeah, me too. Forget about the scenery, I’m taking a nap!”
Josh grinned. Leaning back into his brown, soft-cushioned seat, he decided that a nap wasn’t such a bad idea.
He was dreaming. It was a pleasant dream – he felt like he was swimming. It was warm and peaceful, and he just wanted to stay in this place forever. Then, somewhere in this deep flow of unconscious thought, he heard his name. Josh. There it was again. Wake up, Josh. Wake up, wake up…Please wake up, Josh. Wa – was it real, or – what was happening? What was happ…en…
Just like that, Josh jerked himself awake. He lifted his head and blinked several times, trying to focus. Across from him he caught sight of Taylor, who was staring at him, his brown eyes wide with fear. Confusion spread itself across the teen’s face. “Taylor, what’s going – “
Right then, out of nowhere, a loudspeaker crackled to life. Josh winced. It was so loud it was almost painful, and he just wanted to drift back to sleep. However, he sat up a little and forced himself to listen to the announcement, trying to make out the words. It was hard, and he was having trouble organizing his jumbled thoughts. He thought he recognized a few words though, like pilot…explosion…ocean…and okay. The boy shook his head. What was going on?
Suddenly the pilot was replaced by a woman’s voice. She was more clear, a little easier to understand. She was instructing them to “prepare for impact” by strapping on the lifejackets found under their seats, and then placing their heads between their knees. “Please remain calm,” she told them. The words “prepare for impact” stopped the boy cold. Prepare for impact. They were going down. It took a couple of minutes for the meaning behind this to start sinking in. Then, along with the rest of the crowd, the teen went into action.
As Josh fumbled underneath his chair, his shaky fingers finally grabbing hold of the lifejacket, he couldn’t help telling himself that it was over. It was over… it was all over. Funny, he had always imagined himself as being young, with his whole life ahead of him. He had been completely content to just sort of let life carry him along, promising himself that he’d do bigger and better things tomorrow, when he was a little older. Tomorrow. Now the boy had a sinking feeling that tomorrow might not come after all. He asked himself what he had done today, with the time he had already spent. Well, he knew that he had done a lot of things, but none of those things really seemed to matter right now. So what had he done that would matter? This list of his actions was much smaller. Oh, and he had planned on doing so much! But not, it was over. It was over.
“Josh! I – ” Taylor’s voice broke. Taylor. In that moment Josh was aware of his friend’s presence again. Then, his heart falling, he realized that he had been the one who had invited the boy on this trip, who had pressed him to come. Josh’s eyes darted over to find his friend, who was holding his head firmly between his knees. Was he okay? Would he be alright? He sounded so worried…
Suddenly the entire plane lurched, and the boys could hear passengers screaming all around them, their voices filled with terror. Josh focused on the lifejacket again, with a new sense of urgency this time. He tried frantically to get the slender, nylon straps undone, but no matter how hard he tried his hands just wouldn’t work. He could hear himself breathing heavily as he concentrated with his whole mind on undoing the straps. He had to get it, he had to! Perspiration broke out on the back of his neck, and though he heard himself cry out in frustration, he couldn’t tell if the sound had come from him or from someone else. He suddenly felt very dizzy… so, so dizzy…
In a flash the flight attendant was there beside him, the same one he had met earlier. She grabbed his lifejacket, and with a deftness which could only have come with years or practice, she got it open and strapped it onto him. After that the woman re-latched his seat belt and shoved his head between his knees.
“Stay down!” she yelled. Then she was gone.
They could feel the plane dropping now, and squeezing his eyes shut tightly, Josh knew he should pray. “Lord, help us. Please, please help us!” He knew it wasn’t much, but it was all he could think of at the time and the phrase kept running through his mind, over and over.
Although simple reason told him that the plane couldn’t be falling for too long, it felt like an eternity. Gripping the edge of his seat with all of his might, Josh tried to decipher the myriad of sounds hitting him from all directions. There were Taylor’s cries, screams from the other passengers, desperate cries for help, and the flight attendants’ clear voices, which were barking commands. They were falling, faster and faster, and after a while the noise starting running together until it became one terrible, high-pitched shriek. Josh felt his stomach drop and heard himself moan as the plane’s descent grew even steeper. It was like the worst rollercoaster ride of his life.
Then, without warning, the airplane slammed into the ocean’s surface, striking the water hard. Josh was thrown forward, his safety belt catching his chest and knocking the breath out of him. Struggling to breathe, the boy was violently knocked back and forth as the plane continued to plow through the sea before it finally began to lose speed. After a while the crashing had stopped, and the teenager heard nothing but a terrible ringing in his ears.
Pretty soon he sensed something moving around him, and he forced his eyes open. The first thing he looked for was Taylor, who was still bent over.
“Taylor,” the boy whispered. When nothing happened, his voice rose and he felt it crack. “Taylor!”
People were starting to stir, and one of the flight attendants was already moving down the aisle, checking on the passengers. Stay calm, just stay calm, the boy told himself. Unhooking his seat belt, he started to rise from his chair. His legs felt like rubber, and moving so soon made him feel a little queasy, but he still moved over to his friend and shook him gently. “Taylor, get up.” That was weird. His own voice sounded strange to him, like that of a small child.
The younger boy stirred and looked up. Josh inhaled sharply when he saw that his friend’s face was bleeding.
All of the sudden a shriek rose from the back of the plane, with electrifying results. Immediately people started squirming and chattering in alarm, all eyes toward the direction the sound had come from. No one was sure what the problem was, though.
One flight attendant walked back and cautiously began to slide the door which led to the tail of the plane open. As the door gave way, cold, black ocean water roared into the corridor, swirling around the woman’s ankles. Everyone saw it at once and a general cry rose from the crowd. The cold seawater moved fast, swishing between seats and splashing passengers in the face as it slid toward the nose of the plane.
That’s when Josh thought to look out of his window, only to find nothing but dark water. Part of the plane, at least, was completely submerged in the ocean. His heart pounding with fear, the teen leaned closer to Taylor.
“Are you okay?” He had to yell to be heard.
The fourteen-year-old nodded, tears sliding from his cheeks. Together the boys released the younger one’s seat belt and stood up shakily.
“You! Sit down!” A flight attendant spotted them and screamed.
Ignoring her, Josh tried to step out into the aisle. Seconds too late, he realized that the plane was positioned at a downward angle, nose-down. His feet were carried from under him by the fast-rushing water, and the boy landed hard on his back. The water numbed his body and tried to rush him away, but he instinctively lashed out and caught hold of the nearest chair, yanking himself up onto the soft cushion. Finding Taylor huddled on the ground next to the window, Josh made a splash as he slumped onto the wet floor next to him. The ice cold water continued to rush past them, soaking their pants and threatening to pull them underneath the padded chairs.
“Josh, I’m scared,” Taylor said in a low voice. His face was dead serious.
“I know. Me too.” Right then, Josh knew that this was it. He had always been aware of Taylor’s ned for God, but he had kept ignoring it. Now he knew that he had to tell his friend about Jesus, if he could do nothing else. He had to do it, and he had to do it now. “Taylor…” he began.
“It’s getting higher!” Someone screamed from behind them. Their words were edged with fear, causing even greater hysteria. The boys noticed that the water was indeed rising, having come up to swirl around their shoulders.
“We have to stand up again!” Josh shouted. Struggling together to free themselves of the water’s tug, they managed to stand upright. Then, Josh jumped as he felt a firm hand clamp down onto his shoulder. It was another airline worker, a man this time.
“You two, come with me!” he yelled in an authoritative tone. “We’re going to get you out of here!”
The man led the way into the aisle, and using the backs of the seats to help him keep his balance, he began to make his way toward the rear of the plane. Hesitating for just a moment, the boys stepped out from behind their chair and started to follow him. Grabbing seat after seat for support, they started out slowly. The water was up to their knees now, freezing their legs and making it hard to move much at all. The strong current tried to pull them under, but they clung to the anchored chairs in front of them for dear life, struggling to move forward and making an effort to keep up with the man ahead of them. All around them passengers were screaming, climbing over seats, going through luggage, and crying out for help. Some were even pounding on the windows, desperate to get out. Josh tried to shut the chaos from his thoughts, but that was impossible. Every time the boys caught hold of another seat, their hands wrung salt water from the thick cushions. As they fought their way down the narrow corridor, Josh thought about how walking on the soaked carpet beneath them felt like walking on a wet sponge. Slowly but surely, the overhead lights were beginning to flicker out. The prevailing darkness only emphasized the people’s sense of doom, and made the thought of begin trapped seem even more real.
“My baby! Someone please! Please help my baby!” a girl wailed.
Josh heard Taylor gasp and tried to glance back and find the weeping woman. Instead, he lost his grip and was quickly pulled into the roaring current. The cold sent shivers of pain coursing through his body. In panic, he started to flail about in all directions, when he felt something grip his wrist like a vise and yank him up. He gasped as he broke the surface, suddenly finding it hard to breathe. The male flight attendant kept pulling him forward until he was sure the teen had found his footing again.
“Don’t look back!” he screamed. “Just keep going! Keep moving!”
Surrounded by confusion, the teenagers did as they were told. They kept moving, kept struggling, for what felt like the longest time. Finally, they reached the back of the dying plane.
Stepping through what had once been a door, they found themselves in a small room, part of the aircraft’s tail. Their eyes were drawn to a spot where the mall met the floor. Here there was a gaping hole with jagged edges, the metal surrounding it scarred black from some type of explosion. Even though the water was already at chest level, with a deafening sound the ocean continued to pour itself into this opening, slowly filling the hollow craft. Catching the boys’ attention, the flight attendant pointed up, where there was an open hatch leading outside. Josh almost wanted to laugh when he saw the perfect blue sky, decorated with thick white clouds, peeking in at him.
Just outside there was another man, some kind of rescue person, who was trying to tell them something. However, the roar of the water made it hard to hear anything at all, let alone communicate. Finally, he cupped his hands and screamed at the top of his lungs, getting his message down to them.
“One more!” he was shouting. “Copter can hold one more! Rest’ll have to wait!”
Josh’s heart fell to the floor. The airline worker turned to them, as if trying to decide on something. The boys faced each other.
Josh had always wondered how he’d react to a situation like this, faced with a choice between life and death. Strangely, the thought of death didn’t frighten him. He knew he’d be in a far better place. He imagined a place where he was always warm and filled with endless peace. That sounded good. Taylor, however, wasn’t so sure, and that was something far more dangerous than any explosion or sinking plane.
Surprising even himself, Josh formed the word before anyone else could.
There was no response. Almost instantly, Josh grabbed his friend and pushed him toward the airline worker.
“I said go!” His voice was so hoarse.
With a look of understanding in his eyes, the male flight attendant took the fourteen-year-old and lifted him toward the open hatch. As the rescuer outside caught the boy’s arm and started to haul him up, the boys’ eyes met.
It was an eternal moment, one that would not be soon forgotten. Right then, both of them knew exactly what had just happened.
“I love you,” Taylor whispered, in tears, just before he was hoisted out of sight.
Wait! Josh wanted to scream. Wait, he had to tell Taylor something, he had to help him…if he didn’t make it, what would happen to his friend? Would he ever hear the gospel, or would he live the rest of his life just as confused as he was right now? Josh felt his eyes burning with tears. It had been his job to show the light of Christ to his friend, but he had kept putting it off, kept waiting until later. Now it was too late. Who could have known that it would end like this?
Ocean water began to splash itself into the open hatch. It started out as nothing more than a trickle, but made its way to a steady downpour. Staring at the warm sky for as long as he could, Josh did the only thing he could. He prayed. He prayed for courage, but he prayed mostly for his friend, whom he had failed so miserably.
Ending his prayer, the boy looked up. Suddenly he felt a strange, comforting presence. Even though he was wading in ice cold water, his body suddenly felt warm.
Soon the ocean had swallowed the floundering airplane, its waves folding over the tiny hatch, their only way of escape. Soon there wasn’t a trace of the crash, nothing to betray what had happened there. There was nothing but the gently rippling waves and the ocean’s crystal clear water, which sparkled in the sun. The horrible and unexpected turn of events that marked that day lingered only in the memories those who survived had carried out with them.
“Boast not thyself of tomorrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth.” – Proverbs 27:1