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the Delta

Janet Kuypers
(part 2 of a novel)

    Scientists on Earth couldn’t have calculated what would potentially happen to the planet, because no one had lived through anything like this — if it had ever happened before, there was never a written record of it.
    People didn’t consider that humanity knew about our planet before we had the technological skills to acquire that knowledge on our own. For example, people didn’t question why intricate maps of the Antarctic existed before we could discover that land ourselves. And people didn’t question why ancient calendars, when first created thousands of years ago, ended in December 21, 2012.
    No one questioned historically that civilizations resolved their understanding of the world through astronomy and understanding the heavens. People knew the historical significance astronomy had on cultures (they understood it after examining Stonehenge and the Egyptian pyramids, and they knew that when people did not have a more scientific understanding of the cosmos, it’s constancy gave it almost God-like qualities to the world). People didn’t question what the missing key was.
    People searched the sky for years with modern telescopes, searching for rogue comets that could potentially one day strike the Earth. People have researched the origins of our moon, and theorized that a no-longer-existing planet (theoretically named Orpheus) crashed into the Earth in it’s early development, and the scattered remains from Earth’s explosion later congealed to form our orbiting moon we have today. People worked so hard over the years to understand the future, but in missing pieces of their distant past, they couldn’t foresee the cataclysmic damage weather patterns and the cosmos would have on their planet.
    Astronomers had searched the cosmos in depth for over thirty years by 2012, searching for planets in our unending search for life outside of our planet. It had been about twenty-five years that scientists had used the array of telescopes that were stationed in outer space (so we could see more clearly without the Earth’s atmosphere hindering us). Astronomers also searched through the cosmos for comets and stray asteroids: there had been regular searches for these things to ensure that a foreign body’s path would never crash into our planet. After seeing the effect the comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 had when it hit Jupiter in July 1994 (where it hit the atmosphere and heated up, exploding into a fireball of extremely hot gas, before the gas and debris expanded, rising and cooling as it fell back toward the planet, spreading its destruction), we had a clearer picture of why we had to find a potential comet or meteor — because the effects could greatly alter the planet.
    People often discovered comets, but the frightening thing was that historically scientists only discovered comets after they were about to pass Earth. Translation: they were discovering them too late, every time.
    Good thing none of them were on a collision course with Earth.
    And no, a comet didn’t hit Earth on December 21, 2012, but scientists didn’t see the two comets that did come so close to Earth.
    The first comet struck through our orbit directly in 2007, which violently changed the oceans (causing a great number of Tsunamis and Hurricanes, bringing rise to increased tornados globally). This global change greatly affected the atmosphere as well, which brought on so many other weather problems. The moon had been pulling away fro the Earth in it’s orbit for years; the moon was slowly orbiting father away from the Earth every year. And this comet not only reacted with the Earth so much that many dormant volcanoes became active again, but also knocked the moon a little out of its own orbit, giving it a slightly more elliptical orbit for these next few hundred years, which also greatly affected our planet.
    After crossing the Kuiper Belt in it’s 1,622 year orbit with the sun, the second comet (in 2012) happened to break through the Asteroid Belt before it streaked near our planet — so close to our planet that it actually slightly altered the axis of Earth, and caused a slight slow-down of the Earth’s orbit. As the unnamed (because it was undiscovered) comet passed, the Earth also felt the pull of this comet, and as Earth started to adjust itself to the slight axis tilt, it’s plates started to move.
    Scientists discover around 2000 that the water level was slightly rising, and this was because the ice caps in Antarctica were starting to slowly melt. They thought they could explain this away by discovering other ice caps at other parts of Antarctica, but it wasn’t the answer, and the water level was actually rising.
    The moon’s distancing orbit to the Earth was having an effect on the climate on Earth as well. Liberals through the United States, for example, complained that humans were destroying the o-zone, while conservatives said there humans had no effect on it (methane gas from cow flatulence probably had more of an effect, they argued, and regular volcanic eruptions, even before the drastic increase in volcanic activity on the planet, had a much greater effect on the o-zone than humans). People had no way to tell if humans, had an effect on the o-zone, because people could not agree on the effects humans have on the o-zone, and people did not have records of Ozone, environmental and atmospheric activity over the past 100 years. People had no way to tell that humans did have an effect - albeit small. That effect, combined with the elevated water levels on the planet over time with the sudden change in atmospheric weather patterns, that caused the Earth to be ready for it’s sudden upheaval.


Time: 7:03AM, December 21, 2012 C.E.
Place: Aloha Airlines flight 2242, flying south over
the Pacific Ocean, trying to find their destination

    Justin watched Sydney walk down the aisle after she left the cockpit.
    He didn’t see her when she got out of the cockpit and put her right hand against the cabin wall as she ran her left hand through to hair. She didn’t know what to do to compose herself, and she didn’t know how to keep herself together after she started to put the pieces together of what had happened to the Earth after they started their flight.
    Justin continued to lean into the aisle and watch her walk toward him to take her seat.
    Sydney saw Justin there, and she stared back at him, as she started to figure out how to put herself together and say the right words.
    By the time Sydney got to her seat, Justin started to get up and tried to speak, before she cut him off. “You were in there a while, and—”
    “I was hearing everything about the weather, and what Eric and Brian were doing to get us through the storm.” She started budging her way into her seat, hoping her motion would also distract him from asking more questions. “It’s really amazing what they had to go through to save out lives.”
    “What did they do?”
    “They had to alter the flight course to try to go closer to the North Pole, and they had to increase their altitude by something like forty-four thousand feet, sometimes going as high as fifty thousand feet for a while.”
    “We were up that high?”
    “We’re still that high, we’re working our way down only now. Look out the window.”
    Justin turned to look out the little window, but he couldn’t see out the window well. “Here, look over here,” Sydney said as she offered her seat. “The storms seem far away, but the storms are still going on.”
    Justin started to switch seats with her, to get a better view out the window. “Do you think we’ll be able to land?”
    “I’m sure we’ll land. We’ll have to, or else we’ll run out of gas.” She just realized she was leaving more questions instead of answers and had to say something quickly to make everything sound better. “We’ll land somewhere, and we’ll be fine with gas. I was in the cockpit hearing about how they navigated through these storms the entire time without radio contact with any airports. So I’m sure we’ll get to an airport, and we’ll be fine.”
    Justin seemed appeased and turned his head toward the small rounded window. Sydney looked out the small amount of window space around Justin’s head. All she could see of the outside world was whiteness, no earth, just light, almost glowing around his head.

•••

    After staring blankly at the light the streamed in through the window for a few minutes, Shannon walked up from the back of the plane to check on Justin and Sydney in First Class. Shannon crouched nest to Sydney, who still stared out the window. Justin turned to look toward the aisle to see Shannon when he heard her step to their seats and crouch down. She was about to start whispering questions to them when she saw that Sydney still hadn’t moved.
    “I wanted to ask...” Shannon then nudged Sydney, who hadn’t acknowledged her presence. “Sydney?”
    Sydney perked her head up at the nudge and hearing her name. “Yeah?”
    “I was checking on how you were up front. Everything quiet here?”
    “Yeah, Everyone is resting in the back of the main cabin?”
    “Yeah, I think that now that the turbulence is down some, and after all this time, everyone’s just exhausted.”
    Justin but in. “Sydney said we had to fly this at like twelve to fifteen thousand feet higher than we normally fly to avoid the storms. I was just checking the view outside the window.”
    “Yeah, the pilot altered the course toward the North Pole more to avoid storms too,” Sydney added.
    “Wow,” Shannon answered. “Id that what you were thinking?”
    “What do you mean?” Sydney asked.
    “You didn’t even hear me come up to start to speak to you before. What were you thinking about?”
    “Oh,” Sydney answered. “I was just thinking about my apartment in New York. It’s like I’m only there four nights a month, so I share it with a ton of friends, and...” Sydney paused before finishing her sentence, “and I was just wondering what happened to them.”
    “What do you mean?”
    Sydney snapped herself out of what she was thinking. “I don’t know. I just never see them and I hope everyone’s doing well, that’s all.” She started thinking about taking care of the plane again, and started talking after a second. “We probably have about four hours of flight left. Gauging our stability in the air now, I think in a minute we can give everyone our apologies and start service small amounts of food.”
    Shannon agreed. “Yeah, we’ve got three hundred people on this flight that are either starving or sick from the flight, and I think that now that it’s light out, people are tired, but they’ll prefer a food offer.”
    “Okay,” Sydney then said, “Justin, you get materials ready here, Shannon, check the back cabins for food preps, let’s just use the half meals, and I’ll fill the rest of the crew in. Then I’ll get on the intercom and let everyone know we can start distributing small amounts of food.”

•••

    Ten minutes later, the passengers heard the static click of the intercom.
    “Ladies and Gentlemen, this is Sydney, and we wanted to apologize once again for the terrible weather and delays we have received on flight twenty-two forty-two. The captain wanted to inform everyone that they had radio problems and decided to change our route to head further north to avoid the weather problems. The captain also increased to altitude of this flight to, in essence, fly over the storms. We think this helped flight twenty-two forty-two keep its course through these weather conditions.
    I know some of you are hoping to rest, even though the sun has been up for about an hour now, but for those who are hungry, we believe that in spite of the remaining turbulence, we can get some of our foods to everyone. It’s still turbulent right now, so we do ask that you keep your seat belts fastened. We at Aloha Air want to apologize again for everything the weather has done to this flight, and we will be coming down the aisles for foods and beverages. After food is distributed, anyone from our crew can answer questions for you about information we currently have about this flight.”
    Click.
    Everyone heard her intercom click off, and no one knew how to react. Everyone on the flight felt exhausted, but most looked forward to some food.
    Sydney walked down the hall and checked with Courtney to make sure that she and Vince could do the food distribution in that portion of the plane before she walked straight to the cockpit and knocked on the closed door. She said with her head pressed against the door, “It’s Sydney,” before she heard the unlocking of the door and she was able to come in.
    She looked at the two men. “I hope what I said was okay.”
    “Yeah, I think so,” Brian interjected. “It’s not too turbulent out there now?”
    “Well, it’s still rough in the cabin, but it’s better than it was before. I came in here to ask what we should tell people, have you gotten thought to any airports yet, or do you know what we should tell them?”
    Eric took over and told her, “The next announcement needs to come from us, so I’ll give the next report to everyone. I may get something out to everyone within the next twenty or thirty minutes. After you hear me talk to the cabin, come back here and we can come up with a game plan to figure out what our next steps will be.”

•••

    For the next twenty-five minutes, Sydney did the best she could to help everyone in their seats to get comfortable. A number of people pressed their call buttons, but there wasn’t much anyone could tell them. The entire staff just did their best to let them know calmly that the captain will let everyone know what the landing plan is. People were wondering why the flight attendants didn’t know the plight plan, so the crew just had to repeatedly tell people that the captain had to go through a number of last-minute maneuvers to save the flight from the terrible storms.
    Then the cabin finally heard the click of the Intercom again.
     “This is Eric, your captain again. We all hope everyone is doing well after this arduous flight, but because of the weather problems at major airports along our path, we have had no radio communication with anyone on land since about one hour into this flight. Storms caused a lot of problems over a large area, so we have had to alter out flight by moving farther north and raising the altitude of this trip. Without radio, we have had to estimate coordinates while flying through the night in this flight.
    We are still unable to contact airports through radio communications.
    Now, because of our flight pattern on this trip, our southern flight and our slow descent of this plane has brought us to a different location than we anticipated. Looking sharply forward out the windows on the left side of the cabin, you can see a large landmass at the horizon edge. It is the closest land in sight for a safe landing, and we will land at an airport near the coast there to then repost our coordinates with the airports.
    Once again, we thank you so much for your tolerance and patience. Let us know if there is anything we can do to make the remainder of your flight more pleasant.”
    The entire cabin heard the click of Eric getting off the Intercom, and Sydney started to make the gesture to move toward the cockpit. But within two seconds she heard the Intercom click ‘on’ again, and Brian started to speak.
    “Ladies and Gentlemen, this is your copilot Brian. I just wanted to say that knowing how I have felt during manning this flight, that everyone out there deserves a prize for being so understanding throughout this flight. I know my stomach has been in knots during half of this long flight, so I can only imagine what you have been going through. I know we have not contacted Alaska Air by radio yet, but I’m sure they will do anything in their power to help everyone out after this tenuous flight.” The passengers listened to a slight pause before Brian spoke again. “I think we all deserve a Mai Tai after this trip...”
    It seemed as if the entire plane let out a slight laugh when the passengers heard this.
    “But if we’re too exhausted, maybe we can find another way to celebrate surviving this flight when we land,” Brian said, starting to almost chuckle as he spoke. “Thanks again for everything.”
    Click.

    Sydney listened to the final click and she almost bee-lined for the cockpit, passing two flight attendants on the way, letting them know that she’ll try to figure out what the next step for everyone is.

•••

    Eric and Brian had come up with a plan, and filled Sydney in on what to tell people. Sydney then made her way to every flight attendant working on flight 2242 to give then the details, so they would know of what to tell people. The next two hours were spent with the crew getting blankets for people, as well as glasses of water. Every 45 seconds, another call button would be pressed, and Justin, Courtney, Shannon or Sydney would explain everything they could to the concerned passengers.

    After almost two hours, the click of the radio for the crew came on, and Eric asked for Sydney to come to the cockpit. When she entered, Eric talked first.
    “Looking at the distance to the land, we should see streets and cities, but there’s not much of anything to see. Brian and I have been searching out there, and we can’t find any real signs of life there. We can spot some trees, but they look like there’s a line of trees in bad shape, and we can’t make out lights of buildings. At this distance, there look like lines for what might be roads, but we really can’t make out much more than that.”
    Eric looked at Sydney, and she said nothing. She just stared for a few seconds, and then she turned toward Brian. When he saw her turn to him, all he said was, “And there’s still no radio communication anywhere.”
    They sat in silence for close to a minute.
    Then she finally spoke. “What are you going to do?”
    We have to keep going that way until we find a place to land. I know this place can’t be uninhabited, so we should have radio communication before we even see the airport or details on land.”
    Sydney let 5 seconds pass before she spoke again. “Then why are you telling me this?”
    “We wanted you to know that we’ll do the talking with the passengers from now on about what we’re doing and where we’re going to land and how things are going. If people ask you, tell them you know as much as they do, and the captain is letting everyone know what’s going on as soon as they learn anything.”
    She looked at Brian. She thought he seemed calmer than before, but he still looked tense and nervous. So she faced him and said, “So, we’re clueless and screwed.”
    Brian looked at her for a second and answered, “Pretty much. We just can’t let everyone else know that.”
    As Sydney was about to leave, she asked if they would call her into the cockpit to let her know what was going on when they decide to do. “I won’t tell anyone,” she added, “...I just want to know, if you could let me know.”
    Eric nodded in understanding, and she left the cockpit to work on helping the passengers through this landing.

•••

    The next three hours on this flight were chaos to Sydney, but she couldn’t let anyone know of what she was thinking. The pilots in the cockpit were trying to figure out how to land a plane on a landmass they didn’t recognize, with no communication to anyone. They listened to three long sets of messages from the pilot and copilot during that time, and learned that because radio communications are still down from the storms and electrical activity in the atmosphere, they were still unable to contact an airport, but the captain showed confidence in his voice that they would get somewhere safe and everyone would be fine. Brian even manned the Intercom for one of the announcements, wanting to interject that although the water looks rough, it still looks beautiful out the window to see as their flight 2242 flies over the water.
    She saw a flashing on the radio b ox when she checked it after two and a half hours. It was a brief message for Sydney to report to the cockpit when she had the chance. She heard a passenger say as she walked by, “Excuse me —”
    She turned around, and a twenty-something man with chin-length dark brown hair was looking at her. “I’m sorry, did you call?” she asked.
    “Yes, I’m sorry, I hope I’m not bothering you.”
    “No, of course not,” she said, as the then started to crouch down to talk to him more closely. “What can I do for you?”
    The man started to lean forward, as if he was afraid to say what he thought too loudly. “I’ve just been really worried on this flight. Is everything okay?”
    “Other than the weather problems we’ve had on this flight, I couldn’t tell you of any other problems. Why?”
    “Well, I’ve flown to Hawaii a ton of times, and this flight has been a few hours longer than usual.”
    “Oh, do you live in Hawaii?”
    “I used to. Now I’m in a music school in New York. So I got back and forth a lot to see family.”
    “Well, I’m sure you can see your family once we land. I’m sorry the weather has caused so many problems, but everything should be fine after we land.”
    Sydney looked at this passenger; her eyes were almost locked into his before she turned to go back toward the cockpit. As she started to turn, she felt the man grab her arm before she heard him say, “I’m sorry. Miss?”
    She turned back to look at him. “Yes?”
    “What’s your name?”
    “Sydney. What’s yours?”
    “Trevor.”
    “Trevor, it’s very nice to meet you.” She put her opposite hand on his hand, which was still holding her arm. He looked to her hand on his as she spoke. “We’ll be okay. And call out my name when you see me if you need anything.”
    Trevor moved his hand off her arm, and their hands started to meet, so that they were almost holding hands. “Thanks, Sydney.”
    She smiled. “No problem, Trevor.”
    They squeezed what grip they had on each other’s hands before she turned around to head toward the cockpit.

•••

    Inside the cockpit, Eric told Sydney that although they were probably a half hour from landing at the shoreline, they could still see no signs of life. They had no radio communication, and they could see no signs of civilization — no roads, no lights, no buildings. “I’d expect to see the dots of cars at this height,” Brian said, “but there’s nothing there.”
    Sydney started blankly out the front windows of the cockpit before Brian spoke again.
     “...It looks like some forests are close to the shoreline, but half of the trees seem to be down.”
    Eric turned his head slightly to finish their thoughts. “This is why we haven’t called you in here for so long.”
    She stayed there for a moment, not moving, before she could finally speak. “Where are we going?”
    “Well,” Eric answered, “we’ll have to find a clear patch of land, I thought we’d try to fly in a bit to see if there is anything inland.”
    “...I think you should land a little closer to the water,” Sydney finally said.
    “Why?”
    “Because if we’ll have to stuck here, we might want to be near some water.”
    “Good plan,” Brian said. “That’s why we should have a woman in here for ideas every once in a while.”
    A few seconds passed before Sydney asked again, “Where are we going?”
    “Your solution is a good call,” Eric said. “We’ll find a space closer to the shoreline, so we’ll be safe.”
    Another moment of silence passed before Sydney answered very slightly, “That’s not what I meant.”
    Eric turned around to look at her, and he could see be the look on her face that she had the same fear and dread that he felt in his soul since this flight began.

•••

    The next thirty-five minutes of landing of flight 2242 was the most difficult landing anyone on that plane had ever been through. But then again, it was the last flight landing of any kind anyone would ever go through again.

•••

    Every four minutes the captain got on the Intercom to let the passengers and crew know of what they were planning to do. Justin and Sydney manned the first portion of the jet and tried to make sure everyone was as comfortable as possible. Shannon and Courtney managed the main cabin, and with assistance they were able to make sure everyone was securely in place and all of their carry-on baggage was stored away. They were sure all of the foodstuffs were packed away so nothing would spill in a crash landing.
    And everyone started becoming friends with the people next to them on the flight, because no one knew if they would successfully land. Charlie and Sue held each other’s hands. A traveler named Duane, started talking to Jim, who was going home to this wife for the holidays after working in the States. Helen tried to find solace by leaning her head on her husband Tim. Trevor talked to Kurt, the man next to him in first class, but would still look over to see who was walking past him, making sure everything was in order. Justin and Sydney both took care of any people concerned or worried about landing safely.
    As Justin needed to pass Sydney to help other people, he said, “You know, hearing the way you talk to the passengers here,” then he leaned into her and whispered in her ear, “you sound like... Florence Henderson.”
    “I what? Screw your Florence Henderson!”
    Justin was laughing, while trying to still whisper. “I mean, you sound like you could be a mom from the Brady Bunch.”
    Sydney sneered. “Sure I don’t sound more like Alice?”
    “Nah... You’re the type that people come to, but you sound like a mellow, stable thing.”
    “Mellow?”
    “Yeah, like a swami or something. Oh, girl, leave it alone...”
    “Now I’m a swami...”
    “I was just paying you a compliment!” Justin’s voice raised in his last line and half of the first class turned around to look at them. Sydney looked at the faces staring at her, and when she saw Trevor’s eyes, so said to the cabin, “He was telling me that I’m either like the mom from the Brady Bunch or a swami.”
    People started to laugh a little, so she had to continue. “...But I don’t have kids, and I drink. Oh, but at least I know about this plane. So if you need anything, ask any of us,” she said, smiling, as she tried to get back to cleaning the cabin.

•••

    Eric announced ten minutes before landing that because of a lack of radio communication and because of airport technical difficulties, they had no choice but to land on the ground. Eric didn’t tell them they would be trying to land the plane on the smoothest path of ground, because they couldn’t be sure if there were any roads in the area.
    Courtney and Sydney took turns announcing proper landing procedures, instructing everyone, if possible, to lean over their laps, holding their legs.
    People were afraid.
    There was still roughness in the air — not due to winds, but to clouds in the air, of dust still settling from the chaos of the night before.
    Most people leaned forward, holding their thighs, keeping their heads near their knees.

•••

    Eric and Brian talked to Sydney once before the final descent began, so she could tell the rest of the crew what to do when they finally touched ground. When flight 2242 finally landed, Sydney instructed people in all exit rows to calmly open the exits over the windows, while the flight crew removed the doors and set up the slides for people to be able to evacuate.

    When Sydney opened the exit door, she got her first look at the new world. She had to step back and put her hand to her face, because this was the first time she saw her destiny. Louie, one of the passengers who was right near the door, saw her lean back and he stood up to check on her.
    “Are you okay?” he asked.




Copyright
Chicago poet Janet Kuypers
All rights reserved. No material
may be reprinted without express permission.