Anderson sat in one of the remaining seats, looking out at the snow. “It’s coming down pretty heavy.” he remarked.
Three men sat around the fire, huddled under blankets. A blanket grunted.
Polanski came in, bringing in a gust of freezing air and snowflakes as he ducked under the tarp stretched over the hole in the forward half of the fuselage. “Looks like it’s getting heavier. Temperature’s droppin’.”
“See anything?” asked another huddled form.
“Nothin’ but white.” Polanski replied.
No one spoke for a while. The howling of the wild northern wind outside made up for the silence inside.
Anderson heard voices in the wind, demons or wolves or ghosts. Indian ghosts? This was their land up here in the far North. His grandmother had been Cherokee and had taught him about ghosts and the old ways.
Byrnes started a poker game, the murmurs of the players filling the void.
There had been more players in the first weeks. Ten had survived, although two of those had died the first week.
Then there were eight. Dupres had sat in a seat just in front of Anderson’s, listening to the wind. His wife and daughter had died in the crash. After three weeks, he had gotten up and walked outside and had never come back.
A week later, Mendoza left. They tried to stop him. He fought. They asked him why and he never spoke. They tied him to a seat, but he had a fingernail clipper in his pocket, and he chewed at the ropes with it until he got free. He left while the rest slept.
No one but Anderson listened to the wind. No one else wanted to know what it said.
Marcetti was sorting through the stack of boxes at the far end of the plane, moving each box with care. He looked up and called out “How about pork and beans for dinner?”
Byrnes snorted “Amani’s gonna fart all night.”
A big, black man with kinky hair cut close to the scalp grinned and farted loudly. That got a laugh out of them.
Except from Anderson. Staring out at the dark, he wished the others would be quiet. He wanted to hear what the voices said.
The ones who died in the crash were lying just outside. He could see the small mounds they made in the snow. A little more time and snow and you wouldn’t be able to see them at all. One hundred fifteen bodies. Maybe those were their voices he almost heard. Maybe they were angry that some had survived. Anderson shuddered at the thought. He got up and went back to help Marcetti with dinner.
Marcetti was whistling softly, something familiar, but Anderson couldn’t place it. Marcetti was a small man, quick and agile, always cheerful. He smiled as Anderson joined him. “How’s it goin’, big guy?” he asked.
Anderson shook his head. “Why are you so cheerful? We’re a thousand miles from civilization in a crashed jet liner in a blizzard with a hundred dead bodies lying just outside?”
Marcetti grinned. “Beats crying. Besides, I was thinking about my girlfriend. You should see her. This girl has got the…..”
Laughter from the poker players interrupted him as Byrnes raked in the pot. “You’re going to have to wait ‘til we get home for your money!” one man said.
Amani stood up, stretching. “You know what I’m gonna do when we get home? I’m goin’ down to Ozzie’s Steak House and get me the biggest goddam’ T-bone you ever saw with a gigantic baked potato with all the…..”
Anderson tuned out the rest of the talk, staring at Marcetti. Marcetti had been whistling “Amazing Grace”.
For long moments, Anderson stood still, eyes focused an eternity away. He could hear the voices more clearly now. His son’s little boy voice was calling with the rest of them: his grandmother, his mother, his little sister, his first wife, even his father.
Marcetti tried to get him to move, but the big man was like a statue. Marcetti finally just worked around him.
When dinner was ready, Anderson was still unmoving. The other five men ate their tiny ration of pork and beans and watched him.
Byrnes said “He’s gonna walk.”
Amani replied, “Twenty says he doesn’t.”
As they were licking their bowls, Anderson sighed. He straightened up. Without looking at any of the others, he walked forward, ducked under the tarp, and disappeared into the storm.
Five pairs of eyes remained focused on the tarp for several long minutes. Then Byrnes said, “How about a game of gin rummy for a change?”
Marcetti said “I don’t think so.” still looking at the tarp. He could hear the wind howling outside.
Amani said “I’m in.”
Polanski said “Me, too.”
The muttering and laughter of the players helped to keep the voices in the wind at bay.
Rhema Sayers is a retired ER doctor. She took up writing as a second career to keep busy. Along with two dogs and one husband, she lives in the desert near Tucson, Arizona, visited occasionally by other writers, friends, and their three adopted daughters.