Chapter One: In Which Jessie Falls From The Sky

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My world lurched violently, without warning. I gripped the scratchy fabric of the airplane seat hard with my nails. When the plane began a prolonged, bone-rattling shake, I bit my lip between my teeth and prayed to taste blood. It would be a distraction, at least.

"This is your c-captain speaking..." the woman said over the intercom. Though it was meant to be reassuring, her shivering voice was anything but. I screwed my eyes shut, felt my heart rising against the back of my throat, tasted fear - tangy and coppery, bile and blood. There was a thundering in the inside of my ears. She had been so warm and reassuring when we'd taken off. Now, I could barely understand what she was saying - oh, it was clear enough to hear, but my brain wasn't, no, didn't want to register it.

I caught the words "turbulence" and "unexpected" and "just off Gibraltar."

So far off course? I thought in a surge of startled shock. That's nowhere near Paris!

I had been desperate for this week's vacation, a chance to just unwind before I had to start the long hard slog of turning my newly granted Bachelor's degree in sociology into some kind of rewarding career. A week to climb the Eiffel tower, to drink a whole bottle of cheap French wine on my own, to smoke small black cigarettes on the Champs Elysses, to have as many one night stands with unique and beautiful French girls as possible. Or boys. Hell, at this point, I wasn't picky.

To kiss anyone ever at all again would be good enough.

A child screamed two rows away.

The plane shook again, hard and sharp, snapping us up into the air like damp dish rags. The seatbelt dug hard against my hip bones.

I just wanted live, to experience life in the City of Lights, if only for a ridiculously short time.

I just wanted to live.

The plane snapped the other way and we were all thrown hard against the sky. I finally tasted blood. It wasn't half the distraction I had hoped for.

* * *

Something hot and wet in my mouth. Too salty. I coughed, tried to suck in air, and got seawater instead.

Crashed!

I flailed. I think my fingers brushed dry air, but maybe it was my feet. Maybe it was a trick. Which way was up? I hung suspended in the water, ballooned out my cheeks. I used to do this as a kid; front flip into the community swimming pool, crash through the chlorinated glory of summer time relief, topsy turvy, let myself float like a fly on a spider's web near the bottom until the oxygen in my lungs bubbled upwards, told me which way the surface was. A light kick and I would be in the air.

But it wasn't working.

Crushing. It hurt so much.

Maybe I was too deep to bubble up. Maybe I wasn't filled with enough air. I panicked, flailing, unable to stay still for fear of wasting seconds, precious surface-reaching seconds. I opened my eyes. The salt stung. Shadows loomed around me, and I couldn't tell in my oxygen-deprived haze if they were seats or pieces of wings, or fish, or corpses.

The water stopped being cold.

No, no! I thought. I refuse! Anything, anything at all but this!

Another swirling blot of darkness passed so near to my face that I swatted at it reflexively. It was a strange and stupid reflex to give into while slowly dying, but the human body is a bizarre machine. The thing was slick and smooth and moving fast. My fingers tangled in some sort of line.

Jellyfish! I thought. I won't drown to death, I'll get stung! How's that for irony? But the sharpish tug I felt wasn't the jolting burn of a sting. It was more painful, my ring and pinkie fingers wrenched sideways. I felt, rather than heard, the pop.

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