Three notes before the adventure begins!
1. For those of you who haven't read the later books, or haven't read the books in a while, or haven't read the books at all, fear not! I've provided exposition just for you!
2. For those who have read all of the books, please note that this is from 2004*, so I did not include the prequels. After attempting to read the prequels, I'm more than happy to not include them. :P
3. Disclaimer: If you recognize it from Left Behind, it's not mine.
That said, enjoy!
Chapter 1 – The Sixth Trumpet Judgment
Catalina Pavenic was awakened by a flight attendant urgently shaking her arm.
"Excuse me," said the frightened girl, "but I think we're going to die."
"What?" Catalina sat up groggily, trying to take stock of her surroundings. She was a passenger on a Boeing 747 heading from Pittsburgh to Romania. Towards home, or what was left of it. Before she had left for the airport, Mitzi and Brian had hugged her goodbye and insisted that she call them if she needed anything at all. She had arrived early, boarded with little hassle, and nestled comfortably into her seat, thinking how nice it was to have someone else piloting the plane for once.
Now, woken abruptly, the first thing she did was peer out the window, half-expecting to see them plummeting into the Atlantic Ocean. Nothing outside seemed amiss. The sky was bright if a little cloudy. She rubbed the sleep out of her eyes, dimly noticing that the person behind her seemed to be having a coughing fit.
"I'm sorry," said Catalina, smiling embarrassedly. "Maybe my English isn't as good as I thought. I thought you said we're going to die."
"We are!" The girl wrung her hands. "I know I shouldn't be telling you this, but you're the only one who can help me!"
Fully awake, Catalina became aware that the man behind her wasn't the only one coughing. Most people on the plane seemed to be choking. This didn't make any sense. She was breathing fine, and so was the girl in front of her. She tried not to panic. There had to be an explanation.
"Sit down," said Catalina calmly to the girl, as the plane was starting to rumble. It seemed like mild turbulence, nothing serious. The girl sat down nervously in the seat next to her. She was a tiny blonde with wide eyes, barely eighteen. She couldn't be much older than Catalina had been when she started flying. "What's your name, sweetheart?"
"Michelle," said the flight attendant.
"Ok, Michelle. Can you tell me what's happening?"
"I don't know," Michelle said. "I looked out the window and there were these horse things in the sky. I thought I was going crazy at first, but then I saw them again, and then everybody started choking."
Horse things? What was she talking about? Catalina glanced out the window, but all she could see were a few puffy clouds and the faded ground far below.
Before she could inquire further, the plane tilted crazily, sending Catalina sprawling against the window.
"La naiba!" swore Catalina. "Is anyone piloting this thing?"
She had meant it rhetorically, but the blond girl burst into tears and shook her head. "The pilots are passed out! I don't know if they're breathing!"
Catalina froze. She knew the men who were piloting this plane. They were good men, both of them. Oh Lord, why now? she prayed desperately. I don't need this today.
"Are they trapped in the cockpit?" she said.
"No, one of them opened the door before he passed out." Michelle sniffled. "I think he was trying to escape the smoke."
What smoke? thought Catalina. Out loud she said, "Don't worry, sweetheart. I'll get this plane landed safely. You just do your job and make sure everyone is ok." She stood up and headed towards the cockpit. Michelle tagged after her.
"You can land the plane?" she said in awe.
Catalina bit her lip. She had never landed a 747. She was much more familiar with 737s, comfortable passenger planes that were hardly a third of the size of their gargantuan cousins. But she was not going to mention this to Michelle, who was already nearly crying, or to the passengers, some of whom might not live long enough for tears.
"Of course I can," she said. "Isn't that why you asked for my help? Because I'm a pilot?"
The girl shook her head. "I asked because I saw you were a Believer," she said. "I didn't know you were a pilot. I guess God was looking out for us today."
"Yeah, I guess," Catalina forced a smile. That thought would have been a lot more comforting a week ago.
Catalina made her way to the cockpit. One of the pilots had had the foresight to unlock the cockpit door. He was slumped just on the other side. The other pilot was still in his seat, unconscious. Catalina felt both of their pulses. She hadn't taken a first aide class in years, but she thought she detected a faint beat in each of them.
"Well the good news is, they're both alive," she told Michelle. I think. "Whatever it was that was choking them didn't stick around long enough to finish the job."
"It's those horse things," Michelle quivered. "They come in spurts. They breathe out, like, poisonous gas or something. And then they go away."
The horse things again. She looked out the window again, half-expecting to see a brigade of horses snorting yellow mustard gas into the air. Again, though, the sky was empty.
It sounded crazy, but Catalina had seen too many crazy things lately to disbelieve the girl's story. Giant locusts with painful stingers, rivers turning to blood, earthquakes and comets and flaming hail … Well, it was the Apocalypse, what did she expect? Even the mark on her forehead was a reminder of the final cosmic battle that was currently ensuing between Good and Evil. All of God's people had been marked with ashen crosses that could never be washed off, like divinely mandated tattoos. Nonbelievers could not see them, and you could not see your own. You could see others Christians' marks, though, and they could see yours. It was a way of identifying who your allies were in a world where Christianity was becoming increasingly more dangerous. The mark on Catalina's forehead was how Michelle had known what she was.
Incidentally, the prophecies foretold that followers of the Antichrist would one day bear marks on their foreheads as well. No one could bear both marks. When that day came, Christians would be punished for not taking the Antichrist's mark. Catalina had been dreading it for quite some time.
Now, with a plane full of choking passengers and the sky around them possibly teeming with invisible horse things, she wondered if she'd even live that long.
A/N – Tune in next Friday to find out if everyone dies! But first R&R! Constructive criticism is welcome, but please be nice. Also, if there are any pilots/aviation buffs out there who would like to beta the next few chapters, I'd be eternally grateful.
*A word of explanation: This is a rewrite of a story I started back in 2004. I was going to post the finished version for the Rapture back on May 21st, but the project ended up turning into something much (much much) longer than I anticipated. So I reserved its release for October 21st instead! I'll post a new chapter every Thursday night until the world ends or until I run out of chapters.