Chapter 1: Crash-landing
The pilot turned back and smirked at Paula and Noel.
"How are you girls?" he asked.
"It's getting boring," Paula replied and slumped into her seat.
Noel hemmed, then took out a comb and brushed her curly brown hair.
The little Cessna rocked slightly and tilted. The pilot studied the dials. The engine started to whir louder.
"Problem?" Paula asked and looked fearfully at the vast expanse of water below them.
"No, it's just turbulence," the pilot said. "What are you gonna do in Hawaii?"
"Business. We are reporters," Paula said smugly.
"I was sure that you were models. Such pretty girls, you know!"
"You are wrong," Noel said curtly to the pilot. "Are you scared of flying, Paula?"
"No," she replied.
"Are you sure?" Noel pressed on.
"Of course, I'm sure."
Noel smiled knowingly and looked out. The shadow of the plane was sliding over the flat surface of the ocean. The sun was gleaming happily. She started to muse upon sunny beaches and cold cocktails. At the same time, Paula, feeling tense and scared, could not think of anything except the end of the flight.
It came quite unexpectedly. The engine chugged a couple of times and stopped.
"It's not possible! Someone has messed up my plane!" the pilot cried out.
Paula's face grew pale. Her blue eyes goggled. She clutched the armrests and whimpered. Noel shifted nervously in her seat. The plane was gradually losing altitude. The pilot was frantically switching on and off something.
"There is an island out there," Noel cried.
The pilot saw it and veered.
"Is there a landing- strip," Paula asked.
The pilot chuckled nervously. Paula closed her eyes and shuddered.
"Fasten your seat belts!" he ordered.
A minute later the plane reached the small island. Only cliffs, palms and coastline. No people or buildings in sight. The plane was no more then 30 feet above the ground when a tall palm loomed ahead. The right wing cut its top off. Paula and Noel started to scream. The plane lurched.
"We had to land on the beach," the pilot cried.
These were his last words. A cliff cut into the cockpit and decapitated him. Then it ripped up the fuselage. The plane rolled over a couple of times and disintegrated.
Chapter 2: On the Beach
The first thing Paula became aware of was the noise of the surf. She opened her eyes and saw pieces of the fuselage scattered around her. The sand felt hot under her. A palm tree was on fire in the distance. For a moment, she felt happy that she was still alive. Then the pain hit her like a huge wave. She gasped. Her bottom was hurting terribly. Propping herself up on her elbows, she saw that her right leg was twisted unnaturally inward. Although the short skirt was covering the deformity, she could see that her hip joint was not in its natural place.
"Please, help me!" Paula cried out.
A bird twittered mockingly. She looked around. The plane had completely disintegrated. The burning palm fell noisily on the sand. There was no sign that the island was populated. No ships or boats on the horizon either.
Then she saw Noel. She was lying on her side no more than ten meters away. Her wide-open brown eyes looked glazed.
"Oh, God!" Paula exclaimed.
Noel's lips twitched.
"Oh, dear! Noel! Are you all right?"
"Am I looking all right?" Noel mumbled, then her features contorted.
Paula noticed that Noel's thighs are bruised. Her right one was bent at a weird angle. Her blue cotton skirt was torn, revealing her panties.
"It looks like your right leg is broken," Paula said.
"My thighs hurt like hell," Noel uttered, "You don't look in a very good condition too."
"My bottom hurts and I think my hip joint is dislocated," Paula replied.
"Too bad. I thought that you would be able to help me. Have you seen my pumps?"
"I have lost my pumps." Noel said and closed her eyes.
Paula saw that Noel's feet are bare. One of her black pumps was wallowing in the sand nearby.
"I don't think you need them right now."
"Yeah. I am thirsty and I feel dizzy. Is it... getting dark?"
"Noel, Noel! Please don't die!" Paula cried.
"You need me? Hard to believe. I am of little use to you now."
"Noel, you are scaring me. Do not give yourself up! The pilot will save us."
"Sorry. The pilot is death."
"How could you know that?"
"I saw his severed hand down there," Noel said and pointed at the shoreline.
"They will find us."
"No one heard me as I was crying for help. You were unconscious then."
Paula lied on her back and looked up at the sky. Her eyes moistened. She wiped the tears off with the back of her hand. Her right wrist was swollen. The sling of her high heel was digging into her left ankle. She took a deep breath and sat up with difficulty, moaning with pain.
"Noel, look at me! I managed to sit up. You can do it yourself. "
"What's the purpose?" Noel asked.
"You are scaring me. Lying like that... motionless. We should do something!"
"I don't feel my legs, Paula. Don't count on me. "
"Yeah. Your legs are broken but we should crawl under the palms. The sun will kill us here."
"I did enough damage. Leave me alone!"
"What do you mean?" Paula asked.
"I tried to crawl to you when you were unconscious. I crawled nearly fifty meters. Then something snapped in my back. I heard it. Nasty sound. I can't wiggle my toes anymore," Noel explained.
"You think your back is broken?"
"But you said your thighs hurt. So you have sensitivity there."
Noel's face brightened.
"You think I am not paralyzed?" she asked.
"I am not a doctor but maybe the pain is a good sign."
"Do you think I should try crawling again?" Noel asked with trembling voice.
"No. Stay where you are! I am coming."
Paula turned gingerly on her side, then on her stomach. A shooting pain stabbed her pelvis. She tightened her lips, stifling the cry. A minute later, when the pain abated, she started crawling. The pointed toes of her sling back shoes dug into the sand, furrowing it. Her left ankle was on fire. As she was halfway through, already gasping for breath, she stopped to rest. Noel casted an anxious glance at her.
"You don't look well, Paula," Noel said, "Better stay where you are."
As Paula got close enough, Noel reached out and took her hand.
"Thank you so much. I don't want to die alone," she said.
"No one is going to die, Noel" Paula rejoined.
"I want to be prepared. I won't be able to bear the suffering much longer."
"Shut up! We are too young to die. Let me see your back!"
Paula drew herself closer, pulled Noel's tank top up so that to expose her injured back. There was no blood. Only huge bluish swelling. Just above her waist, two or three of her vertebrae looked caved in.
"What?" Noel asked.
"It is not that bad," Paula said.
"It feels as if a nail has been hammered in my spinal cord. Every movement is an agony."
"You still can't wiggle your toes?" Paula asked and looked at Noel's bent thighs."
Paula caressed Noel's cheek, wiped the tear that was about to trickle down, then moaning, sat up and reached down to unbuckle the sling of her left shoe. The pain in her pelvis and the dislocation of her hip joint made the task impossible.
"My hands are fine. Let me help you," Noel said.
Paula pulled herself back so that Noel to be able to reach her feet. Noel clumsily unbuckled the sling of the left shoe, freeing the swollen ankle.
"Your ankle is so puffed up," Noel said,"... and your heel looks... crushed."
"Crushed?" Paula asked.
"Judging by the deformity it's definitely broken."
"Do you want me to pull your right leg? I might be able to set the dislocated joint," Noel proposed.
"Do it!" Paula answered without hesitation.
Noel tugged a couple of times but nothing happened. Only the pain gnawed deeper into Paula's groin.
"Sorry, I am too weak, "Noel said, then the pain in her broken spine became unbearable, and she collapsed.
"Noel! Noel! Do you here me?"
Noel didn't answer. Paula burst into sobs. Two hours later she lost consciousness too.
Chapter 3: In Plaster
Paula knew that she is still alive. She felt cool air blowing softly and she heard someone talking. The words were not audible though. It looked as if they were coming from far away. After a couple of unsuccessful attempts, she finally managed to open her eyes. An IV line was attached to her left arm. White plaster cast was covering her right hand and forearm. Using the cast, she gently brushed a stray blond lock of hair away. Her blue eyes popped out. At first, she saw her bare breasts. That surprised her and made her feel uncomfortable. Then she noticed the white plaster cast. It started just below her breasts. Covering her abdomen, it narrowed at her slender waist, then widened following the contours of her hips. She reached down and touched her private parts. They were exposed, surrounded by the padded edges of the cast. Startled, Paula withdrew her hand and gazed at her legs. The cast was masterfully molded over her hips and thighs. Her left leg was casted all the way down to the tips of her toes. It was hanging in a sling high above the bed. Her right thigh was casted too. The plaster reached down to her knee. Her bare right foot was left to rest on the bed. A bar was molded a couple of inches above her knees, keeping her casted thighs wide apart. She lifted her right foot and stirred her ankle, then lowered her foot again. Then she stirred her shoulders to check how tight the cast was. Its embrace was more unyielding than she expected. She felt protected, and at the same time, vulnerable. Happy that she is alive and afraid of the prospects of long-term immobility. At least the pain was under control now. She felt only soreness in her pelvis.
The memories of the crash flooded Paula's brain. Noel! What had happened to her? Was she alive? She looked around her. Noel was lying on her bed, a bed that was surrounded by strange-looking medical equipment. Paula wondered if she looks the same way as Noel. The thought made her feel uncomfortable.
Noel didn't answer. Her eyes were closed; her face was pale but somehow relaxed. Paula studied Noel's face for a wile then looked at her body. The cast started just under her armpits and was covering her body entirely, except her feet. There was something strange about Noel's arms. They were not casted, not even bandaged. Despite that they were elevated and tied to the frame that was attached to the bed. Paula had never seen someone so helpless as Noel. Her slim body was virtually engulfed by the massive cast. The enormity of the cast made her bare feet look unnaturally small. Paula noticed that Noel's casted legs were elevated even higher than her left one. The spreader bar that was molded between her ankles added to her helplessness. "She is a lot more immobilized than me" Paula thought. "She can only move her feet". Then she remembered the terrible spine injury Noel had suffered, and fixed her gaze on Noel's feet. They were turned slightly inwards, motionless and limp. Paula stared at Noel's toes for a minute but noting changed. Her toes looked dead. There was not even a slight twitch "Is she paralyzed? I don't like her very much, and should not be so concerned about her but... Why I think about her now! Maybe I am as badly injured as her! I have to talk to the doctor." Paula wiggled her toes, and despite the pain that erupted, she smiled contentedly. "There must be a button somewhere. I have to call the doctors. I need to know..." There wasn't any button. She tried to turn and check the wall behind her. The cast stopped her. The futile attempt caused a persistent throbbing in her injured pelvis. Paula realized that she is as helpless as Noel. Her eyes welled with tears.