Mariah's world went pitch black. Her perception of time began to distort as space contorted and stretched around her. She felt like she was wandering in the void for ages until she saw a fleck of light. The particle gradually enlarged as blurry shapes started to form around it until it became something recognizable. It was a memory from back when she was five, spending the day at the Maryland Zoo with her mom and dad. From there on out, Mariah saw her life flash before her eyes. From her years in school, the friends she made throughout her life, her bat mitzvah, the time she graduated high school, the butterflies in her stomach when someone told her how he felt about her, the time when her uncle showed her how to repair a TV, and boarding the plane which would end up leading to her death. Am I dead? Mariah asks herself. How can that be if I'm thinking and …" Mariah then felt a twinge of pain in her head. Her muscles ached and her neck felt like a busted pipe. Mariah felt as though she was floating and spinning in zero-gravity. She was coming to her senses slowly but surely. She began to hear voices from the void. They sounded garbled, like they were speaking underwater. She felt fingers prying her eyelids open and she saw a bright light from her right eye to her left. Her vision began to come back into focus. What she was seeing was just a regular flashlight. As Mariah squirmed in the seat slightly, she felt very heavy. Her entire body ached yet simultaneously felt numb. She finally heard a voice clear as day, "Is she gonna be okay?"

It was Annie! Mariah felt her hand being squeezed as she heard another voice respond. "She's okay. Just knocked out. She bumped her head pretty badly, but there is no concussion or any other injuries." The voice droned on about Mariah's condition in a matter of fact way, the same way a professional doctor would.

"Is there anything else you can do?" Annie's question was curtly responded with, "There isn't anything wrong with her, she'll wake up momentarily. There are others who do need medical treatment. Please excuse me." Annie tried to convince the doctor to stay, but he wasn't having it.

All Annie could think to herself was; What if she doesn't wake up? What if she has some kind of problem that you can't see?! She thought of the first time she met Mariah as her freshman roommate, bar hopping on New Year's Eve, the times they went to the school plays and musicals. She also remembered the time when Mariah let her stay with her parents when fleeing her ex-boyfriend and when she helped her get a restraining order against him. "Annie?" Antoinette turned to face Mariah and let out a huge sigh of relief. She gives her a hug and Mariah could feel the worry that had been building up at her expense washing away. Mariah still felt as though she was hit by a freight train and this wasn't helping to relieve her suffering. She didn't mind though and reciprocated Annie's embrace. After a bit, Mariah lets go and asks, "What happened?"

"We hit some rough air," Annie says somewhat quietly, "Then a bright light came out of nowhere…" She was starting to breathe heavily as she was speaking, "Then suddenly the wing was on fire!" She pauses for a moment. Mariah looked into her face and saw that she was on the verge of tears. "… Holy shit!" She finally musters to say. Mariah did the best she could to calm her friend down. After a few minutes Annie calmed down and continued, "I saw the whole thing through my window!"

Annie recounted the crash to the best of her memory. "After the blinding flash of light, everyone saw that the wing had caught fire. Everyone began to panic even as the pilot tried to calm everyone down and told us to brace for an emergency landing. That didn't stop anyone from freaking out though. We began to calm down as we prepared to land. The plane landed on some water to cushion the momentum before stopping at the lake's bank. Once the plane was planted on the shore, everyone got off the plane immediately – there were some people who were unconscious who had to be carried out."

Mariah cycled through terror, surprise, and relief in the span of a minute. She didn't know what to say, her head was still cloudy from her head trauma. With no words coming to mind, she simply hugged Annie closer. Mariah could feel Annie's relief oozing onto her as Annie trembled in her arms. Mariah felt the heat of her breath as breathed in and out to calm her nerves, with mixed results. Annie then asks, "Do you think everything's going to be okay?"

"I hope so," Mariah replies, "I can't say for sure though." She was terrified. She had never been in a situation like this before. Mariah was used to coming up with solutions a thousand miles per hour. But now her mind was blank. She wasn't sure what was worse: Surviving a plane crash in the middle of God-knows-where or not being able to see a way out of the predicament. She looked around at the other passengers. Everyone was panicking. "I don't think that the majority of us have any survival skills… or knowledge on the wilderness. Oh crap… Wait… we should in Pennsylvania. There should at least be a town nearby that could help us out."

Annie perks up at this. "Hey, you just gave me an idea! We should call nine-one-one and have someone rescue us!" She scrambles for her phone in her purse along with several other people who had the same idea.

"This is weird, I'm not getting any signal," someone says. Mariah searched through the crowd to find the pilot, hoping that maybe he had answers. When she found him, he was trying to calm the crowd. Mariah maneuvered her way through the throng to him. She found a particularly vocal group surrounding him, bombarding him with the same questions over and over again.

"What happened?"

"What's going on?"

"Where are we?"

"What will happen to us?"

"Will we be okay?"

Mariah watched the pilot try to answer their questions. The co-pilot tried to help answer their questions the best he could, the questions kept coming at them like a tsunami however. The flight attendants attempted to assuage the crowd's fears, but to no avail. They were doing an admirable job considering how astronomically rare an event like this was. Mariah walks back toward Annie, who was pacing around frantically – still holding onto her phone. Annie suddenly stops and looks toward Mariah, "Find out anything?"

Mariah shakes her head. "Nada. I went to try and see what was up. There was a crowd that was asking the same questions over and over before the pilot and the co-pilot could even answer." Mariah could see Annie tense up at this. She looks blankly at Mariah, then she looks at the ground and starts tearing up. Mariah puts her arm over her shoulder. "Hey, don't cry. I'm sure everything will turn out okay." Mariah tried thinking up of ways they could alleviate their stress, but nothing came to mind.

Annie looks at her and asks, "H-how?"

Mariah stares blankly. She did not know how she could answer such a simple question. All she knew was that they were stranded somewhere in the United States, her friend was panicking, and she was developing a migraine – which was distracting her from coming up with any kind of meaningful solutions. All she could manage was a shrug and an, "I'm not sure."

Suddenly the pilot calls out, "May I have your attention everyone?"

The crowd's volume rapidly died down and the co-pilot continued, "As of present, we do not know our precise location, although we are positive that we are somewhere in Allegheny National Forest. We are also unsure of how exactly the airplane wing got damaged. What we can be certain of is we are out of commission for the time being since no one is responding to our radio signals. Fortunately, we have a radio beacon that still functions. What we will need to do is send out another signal and ration our remaining food. Once we set up the beacon all we have to do is wait patiently for the rescue team to arrive." He takes a deep breath to steady himself before continuing. "Everything will be fine. There is nothing to worry about."

Mariah wasn't entirely convinced that he believed that, though she chose to keep it to herself. Despite the extensive safety training the crew must have gone through, it was clear that they have never been in an actual crisis. Still, they were doing a remarkable job considering the circumstances.

She looked around at the other passengers and noticed that they were still on edge though trying to remain calm. It became more apparent with every passing second. Some people chose to relax by reading. Some people choose to immerse themselves in music. Others tried having conversations with other people, seeking comfort in the community. Mariah didn't do any of these things. She tried as hard as she could to distract herself, but to no avail. The throbbing sensation in her head intensified a bit and she instinctively rubs the left side of her head. Something was missing – something was making her jittery. It made her fidgety to the point where everyone around her was noticeably concerned by her conduct.

She suddenly felt a hand on her shoulder. "M?" It was Annie looking deeply worried, "Are you okay?"

Mariah broke from her uneasy reverie. "I… I don't know…" She responded at a loss for words once again. "I think I need to sit down and take some deep breaths." She bends down to sit criss-crossed on the ground.

Annie kneels next to her. "Do you need some Advil? I got some in my suitcase."

Mariah responds by nodding her head, Annie tells her to stay where she was, and she heads back inside the plane with a flight attendant. She came back within roughly five minutes with her baggage as well as Mariah's bookbag and duffle bag. "I figured I could get your stuff while I was in there," Annie says as she hands Mariah her bags.

"Thanks," responds Mariah. Curious as to how long it has been, she reaches into her book bag to claim her phone. After carefully pulling it out of its pocket, she gazes at its screen. There is a crack on the screen. Granted, it was very thin and barely noticeable. But it was still there. She realized that it must have appeared during the crash. The time stated that it had been two hours into the flight. She checked the time 20 minutes into the flight, the pilot announced that they reached cruising altitude 30 minutes in. So, they must have been waiting at least an hour and thirty minutes to be rescued. Knowing that they had to be in a national forest, Mariah wondered if someone saw the plane going down and if they were doing anything about it. The accident could have taken them off course though, so maybe no one saw. Instinctively, she checked her phone's battery charge. It was at 90%.

Suddenly, her mind clicked back into place. Electricity wasn't going to last forever, and when they ran out and if they still haven't been rescued… Mariah immediately got up and rushed over to the co-pilot. "Miss, I'm sorry but I have to ask you to return to where you were sitting." He says to her.

"Okay. But I just have one question. What are we going to do when we run out of power?"

The co-pilot crosses his arms and hesitates for a moment. "Hmm…That's a good question. I'll bring it up with the pilot and we'll figure out what we can do. Then I'll get back to you."

Mariah walks back to where her friend is and sits down. Annie by that point found the medicine deep within her suitcase and gave Mariah a pill. After taking it, she told Annie about her concern with the power. To which she agreed and advised Mariah to turn off her phone to conserve power.

After a short discussion with the co-pilot, the pilot bellows out, "May I have your attention everyone," The chatter from the passengers dies down as the pilot continues, "We have a limited supply of electricity and as such we need to ration it as best as possible. If in the event we run out and we still haven't been rescued, we will have to take more drastic measures." The passengers tensed up at the last part. "We figured it would be most efficient to divide ourselves into several groups. That way we can specialize and be more organized. Thus, increasing our chances of survival. We can have one group in charge of creating a signal. Another group in charge of food. And another group in charge of crafting or building shelter. Again, this is if in the event we run out of power for the radio signal, refrigeration for the food or any other absolute necessity. But, just to be prepared for such an event, we should create groups based on what skills we have."

Just as Mariah was wondering how the pilot could determine individual skill sets, the pilot continues, "People with hunting skills go to my right. People with gathering skills go to my left. People with crafting skills go into the center. If there is anyone who is uncertain on where to go, come see me or the co-pilot and we'll help you figure out the best group for you."


8/9/2020: Originally edited by Fenrir013 and me. I decided to split this chapter into two after I received feedback on it reading like two chapters. I also edited it slightly, though I will still probably modify it further in the future. I am rewriting some of what I have already written in previous chapters before I move on to the newest one.