Tripping Through The Triangle
By: HM Murdock (with a little help from AJ :-)
I'm going to go out on a limb here and tell you a story that is likely to keep me in this hospital for another ten years. Well, I ain't exactly telling it, am I? I'm writing it. Typing, actually. I'd rather use a pencil, but they don't like us to have sharp objects here. Where was I?
Oh, yeah... I was... no, not just me. We were... oh, hell. They only gave me a couple pieces of paper, so every dang little mistake I make is going to have to stay. Bear with me, I don't know who is ever going to get the chance to read this, I figure the worst that could happen is they decide I'm crazier than they already think I am. The best that could happen, they'd make a movie out of this and I'd get rich. So, away we go!
Me and some friends had just gotten done with a trip to Puerto Rico and I was flying us back to the States. Actually, I was a little disappointed. Okay, a lot disappointed. Not with the plane or anything, just the trip in general. But the plane... it was a small plane, kinda cute in it's own way, I suppose. There was just enough room in it for me and my three friends.
Let me tell you a little about them. My friends, I mean. First up, there was Hannibal, he was sitting in the copilot's seat beside me. He's kinda the boss, the big cheese, the great enchilada. He's the man with the plan. Cool and calm under pressure and totally fixated on the great adrenaline rush we like to call "The Jazz."
In the seat behind him sat Faceman. The Face. That Face! What a face! What can I say? The guy could talk the Pope out of the Vatican. Oh, man... I think I'm gonna have some fun trying to explain that last sentence to St. Peter on Judgment Day! Uh, anyway... Face has the looks, the charm, the pizzazz, the connections... and a distinct lack of good judgment when it comes to members of the opposite sex. For all the scams he pulls, you'd think he'd be able to spot a scam in a skirt...
My buddy BA was in the seat beside Face, just behind me. Not that BA was aware of that fact, mind you. The big guy can stand up against just about anything except the possibility of him and his thirty-five pounds of gold having to go up in anything with wings. Sometimes it takes a knock on his noggin to put him out, but this time we got him on the easy way... we drugged the mudsucker. I usually try to be far away when he wakes up.
Anyway, I was saying about how disappointed I was...
"Looks like smooth flying from here on out," I said to the two conscious men with me. A few wispy clouds in the far-off blue were the only thing in front of the small plane, the disappearing coast of Puerto Rico the only thing behind. I remember sighing.
"What's wrong?" Hannibal asked, glancing over at me.
"Oh, nothing..." I told him. "It just wasn't a very eventful trip. I mean, you coulda' left me at the VA and I'd have had a more exciting time than this..."
Face leaned forward in his seat. "Sometimes things work out better than planned, that's all," he said. "At least you had a chance to fly."
"Oh, yeah... blue skies, full tank, perfect plane..." I tilted my head back and looked at BA, who was in a peaceful tranquilizer-induced sleep. "Even the big guy is being good. I could be playing Pac-Man right now..."
"Be careful what you wish for," Hannibal said, taking the cigar out from between his teeth. "How long before we hit Miami?"
"Well, ideally we won't HIT Miami, but we should be there in about... four days."
"Four days?!" Face yelled.
I cracked a bit of a smile. "Granted, that is a liberal estimate."
Hannibal leaned back in his seat and grinned. "Just wake me if anything interesting happens," he said as he closed his eyes.
Face raised an eyebrow and sat back, pulling a book out of his duffel bag. Relaxing, he began to read about French wine.
"What's that for?" I asked him.
"I have a date this weekend with a lovely young..."
"Forget I asked," I cut in. I wasn't really interested in hearing another one of his tales of conquest.
"Fine..." he smirked at me. "I'll fill you in on Monday."
"With any luck I'll be in shock therapy that day."
As the passengers settled down, I found myself essentially alone with plane and sky. The thought crossed my mind to do a couple of flips or a steep dive to relieve the monotony of the flight, but in the end a rare spark of common sense convinced me to keep it on a steady course. Beside me, Hannibal began to snore softly. BA made a little noise like he was about to wake up, but he didn't. Face cleared his throat. I listened to his friends' myriad of noises as they mingled with the sound of the airplane and I began to hum. Of course, humming got boring so I began to sing softly.
"If you're lost, you can look and you will find me... time after time. If you fall I will catch you, I'll be waiting... time after time..."
"What?" I heard Face say.
"Time After Time..."
"Who sings that?"
"Right now, me..."
"Yeah, but who gets paid to sing it?"
"Oh. You know the rest?"
I turned around and looked at Face. "If I knew the rest I wouldn't just be singing the chorus, would I?"
"I, uh... I guess not," Face glanced past me at the sky outside the plane. "I thought you said it was going to be smooth flying."
"Smooth so far," I said as I turned back around. I actually jumped and swore when I saw what was in front of us. The sky had changed from a dusty baby blue into a wash of gray. A thunderhead seemed to be rising up out of the sea, itself, threatening to swallow the little plane up.
"Uh, Face..." I said as calmly as I could. "You better be sure the big guy is tied in plenty tight. Strap yourself in, too..."
Face checked BA's restraints and then tightened his own lap belt. After the man was sure he was in securely he reached forward and shook Hannibal enough for the older man to wake with a snort.
"What?" Hannibal asked drowsily.
"You'd better check your belt," Face said. "Murdock's wish is about to come true."
"No it ain't," I protested, trying to figure out a way around the looming storm. "This is just going to be a bit bumpier than anticipated, that's all."
A bolt of lightning slashed the sky in front of us and I aimed the bird up. Being beneath that mass of electricity-spewing clouds was my last choice, I was going to have to fight my way through the storm and try to get above it. Without even asking, Hannibal and Face knew what I was doing. Hannibal put a fresh cigar in his mouth and, out of the corner of my eye, I saw Faceman cross himself.
"What are you so worried about?" I asked him. "You scammed us the best plane in the..."
"Just fly, Murdock!" Face said in a near-yell.
I pushed the little plane up and up, trying to find a break in the clouds above us. It was a soup of gray all around, diffuse flashes of light evidence to the fact that there was plenty of lightning out there, too. For all I knew I could have been bringing us deeper into the heart of the storm. I was about to change my mind and head in a different direction when suddenly we broke free, bursting out of the thunderhead like a fish on an angler's hook. I took a deep breath and realized that I had been holding it that whole time. My head was swimming from the lack of oxygen... not that my head swimming was anything unusual, anyway.
Me and the guys looked around us... it was odd. I guess "odd" is a too-generic term to use for this, though. It was really, really unusual. The clouds below us didn't look like they should have, I can't describe it exactly, but they looked old... like someone had forgotten to dust them. Stranger still was the sky above us. I had expected to see blue skies and the sun, but what we got was more clouds. They were mirroring the ones below us. As strange as it sounds, everything the clouds below us did, the ones above us did, too... or vice-versa. I mean, who's to say? My point is that it looked to me as if we were caught between two mirrors.
I was strapped in, but not as tightly as the others. I began to feel something strange... like my butt was lifting up off the seat and my stomach began doing seven kinds of exotic dances.
I don't know what came over me just then, but I let go of the steering column. We stayed steady... we didn't even seem to be moving, just floating there. I heard a small noise from Face and looked around at him, Hannibal did, too. Face's book was drifting in the air about a foot from the overhead. We all looked over at BA, who was still sleeping peacefully. His arms floated gently up from his lap and his tons of gold chains drifted around his face. Hannibal let go of his cigar, which stayed right where he left it, hanging in the air.
"Hannibal..?" Face said uncertainly.
Hannibal turned to me. "Murdock, tell me this has happened to you before."
"Yeah, okay. But I'd be lying, colonel," I confessed. I was busy looking at my instruments. Speed, fuel, altitude...they all read zero. The compass was spinning counter-clockwise, like we were doing big doughnuts in the air. Everything else looked like we were sitting on the ground. The engines were still running, though, and the props were turning. I looked over at Hannibal, who gently nudged his floating cigar across the cabin. "How about you?" I asked.
"My first time," he said calmly.
Face was struggling with a big map that constantly threatened to float away. Eventually he got it folded up a bit and handed it to me. "Where would you say we are?" he asked, trying to sound as calm as Hannibal had been.
I took the map and a red pen and drew a flight path that I figured was reasonably accurate, given the fact that I was relying on dead reckoning. "I'd say right about here," I said, pointing to a little "X" I had drawn.
Faceman took back the map and stared at it for a few seconds, wrinkling his nose. He reached out and took the pen, too, pressing it to the paper and drawing three lines. Biting his lower lip, he turned the map around for me and Hannibal to see.
"Does this mean anything to you, Murdock?" he asked nervously.
I took the map and saw the shakily drawn triangle and knew what Face was getting at.
"Maybe," I said. "But I doubt it."
Hannibal took the map and stared a the little "X" drawn just inside the triangle. "This is us?" he asked. "Inside the..."
"Don't say it, colonel..." I said, snatching away the map. "We aren't in any trouble... really. Not yet. You keep mentioning it and maybe we will be, but not yet... not on my watch."
Face's book drifted between Hannibal and I. We both watched it and I rolled my eyes.
"Then explain that," Faceman said, pointing at the wandering reading material.
I stuttered a bit before I managed to get the words "I can't" out of my mouth. "But I have flown through this area time and time again... most of the time with you guys on board... and nothing has happened yet. I... okay, so maybe we are in the Bermuda Triangle. Maybe we are stuck. Maybe we are watching things float around our heads... but think about who your pilot is! I warned you guys that if you stayed around me too often you'd get it, too. It's like osmosis, you just can't help but draw the crazy in!"
"We'll worry about where we are or aren't later," Hannibal said, catching his cigar as it floated by. "And whether we are all crazy or not later, too. Right now what we need to do is get this bird down. Do you think you can do that, captain?"
"Right now I don't even know what is holding us up," I admitted. To illustrate, I pulled back on the steering column and then pushed it forward. Nothing happened to the little plane and the other two awake men shared a collective grimace with me. "We seem to be firmly mired in the air."
"Great... just great," Face said. "We're stuck. We're going to stay stuck here until BA wakes up, upon which time he will kill us and we won't have to worry about getting down."
"You're too pessimistic," Hannibal said. "This could be..."
Before he finished talking, the plane started to jerk and then I heard a clang. I looked out the window and watched as the props stopped turning suddenly, like when you were a kid and put a stick in the spokes of a bike wheel. The clouds below us began to draw nearer, but I didn't get the feeling that we were moving, it was more like they were coming up at us.
"Hold on, guys..." I said as I took hold of the steering column. "This could get bumpy."
I realized I was right when I saw the first bolt of lightning slash across our nose. I noticed that the colonel and Faceman were aware of that fact, too, when they both turned white-knuckle on the arms of their seats. Within the cloudbank the weight returned to us and Face's book fell onto his head, I heard him swear when it hit. BA's chains crashed back down onto his chest and he let out a little sound of surprise. He didn't wake up, though. Strangely, that was the biggest thing on my mind at the time.
"Watch where you're going!" Face yelled.
"I'd be happy to," I told him. "If I could see more than three inches in front of me!"
The small hairs on the back of my neck stood up and I recognized it as a static charge. Instinctively, I let go of the yoke and lifted my feet off the floor. A moment later the plane was enveloped in light. I wasn't sure if we had been hit by the lightning bolt or not, but it sure felt like it. I took back hold of the yoke and looked over at Hannibal. His head was bobbing like he was asleep... I glanced back and saw Faceman in the same position. Before I had the chance to check on their status, we burst below the clouds.
In an instant all the instruments began to register again and the engines started back up. With a loud kachunk, the props began to spin. I pulled the plane up hard just before we would've hit the water. I howled out loud... and damned if it didn't feel great!
The clouds above us parted and I saw the it wasn't daytime anymore. There was a quarter moon and about a billion stars shining down. I didn't stop to wonder what had become of the time, I just went to work checking and double-checking everything. The speed and altitude seemed right, the fuel was just about the same as it had been when we left Puerto Rico... all seemed fine with the plane. I looked over to Hannibal and gave him a shake. He woke with a start.
"What?" he said groggily. "Are we there yet, captain?"
I was a little surprised. "No, of course not..." I said as I looked out the cockpit window. Then I got another surprise: the bright lights of Miami were within my sight. "Well... we shouldn't be here. But here we are! You guys okay?"
Face grunted and stretched as he opened his eyes. "Geez... that was a long trip," he said between yawns.
"What do you mean about us being okay?" Hannibal asked, lighting up a cigar. "Why shouldn't we be?"
I shook my head and tried to push away a looming headache. "Don't you guys remember what just happened to us?" I asked. "The storm, the lightning... the things floating around the cabin!"
Face and Hannibal looked at one another and shrugged.
"You've been away from the VA for too long," Face said, smiling. "What time is it, anyway?"
I looked grudgingly at my watch... the second hand wasn't moving. "I don't know, my watch stopped."
Hannibal looked at his own watch and tapped it with a finger. "Hmm... mine, too."
That's weird," Face said.
"No! No, that is NOT weird!" I yelled. "Weird is what happened to us a few minutes ago!"
"Murdock," Hannibal said calmly. "What exactly are you talking about?"
I growled under my breath. "Face," I said. "Pick up that big map for me, will ya'?"
Face looked around the floor and picked up the map. "This one?"
"Yeah, now open it."
He unfolded the map and examined it. "And I'm looking for..?"
A big red triangle. A big red triangle that YOU drew."
"I see a triangle, but I didn't draw it," he said. "Is this some kind of joke?"
"Fine! Don't believe me! I know what happened... I remember it, even if you guys don't."
Hannibal put a hand on my shoulder and patted it gently. "I think that maybe you should get some rest after we land," he said.
I nodded in pseudo agreement and didn't say another word to my friends until after I landed the plane in Miami. Face and Hannibal helped the still-out-of-it BA out of the plane and put him into his van in the airport parking lot. I got into the driver's seat and drove us to the docks. After we were parked and me and the guys were in our positions, Hannibal broke open a vial of smelling salts and passed it under BA's nose. The big man snorted and fluttered his eyelids.
"Man..." BA said. "I feel like I've been sleeping for days."
"You have," Face said. "We took a boat... and a slow one at that."
"Wait... I remember something," BA said. "I remember you drugged me! You guys are going to pay! I don't fly! You drugged me and stuck me on an airplane, didn't you?!"
"BA..." Face said nervously. "I'm telling you... we, uh... we took a boat! You got sick... bad seafood! You went to the infirmary and they gave you some pills... but the pills didn't sit well with all the milk you drank and you slept the whole way! Honest! Would I lie to you?"
I saw Face grit his teeth and sit back as Hannibal put on his biggest smile yet that day.
"There is one way to settle this," BA said. "I'm going to go buy a paper... we left Puerto Rico on Thursday... if it is still Thursday or Friday I know we flew and you guys are going to pay!" He got out of the van and stalked over to a nearby newspaper machine.
"Great... just great," Face said, repeating the same words and tone of voice he had used earlier, yet couldn't seem to remember. "We're dead. He's going to see the date and know that we..."
BA's face appeared in the window suddenly and Faceman jumped back.
"I guess I owe you guys an apology," BA said, not sounding overly apologetic. He handed the paper to Hannibal and climbed into the driver's seat.
Hannibal looked at the paper and his eyes widened in surprise. "Murdock..." he began, but thought it better than to speak of the flight in front of BA. "Look, guys..." he said, pretending to smile. "It's Monday."
"What?!" Face tore the paper out of Hannibal's grip and looked at the date. "How..? What..? Murdock, when you said it was going to take four days I thought you were joking!"
"Murdock," Hannibal said, glancing at BA out of the corner of his eye. "You were saying something about something weird happening on the trip... care to elaborate?"
Beside me, Face was mumbling something about missing his big date.
"I was saying, Colonel..." I began. "That that is the last time I TRAVEL with you guys through the Bermuda Triangle..."