I knew this was a bad idea.
Take a sea plane, they said. It’ll be fun, they said.
Well, they were wrong.
Falling off a cliff probably would have been more entertaining.
In truth, it started out alright…
“Welcome, Dr Beauchamp!” The small captain greeted me. “Captain Yi Tien Cho, at your service.”
Captain Cho had come highly recommended by my last hostess on Narudhoo, and many others before her, so I took a chance.
I had been travelling around the lesser known islands of the Maldives for a few months now, offering medical care to those otherwise unable to afford it. My Uncle Lamb had sadly passed away the previous year and I – being his only living relative – had received a few properties along with a substantial sum of money.
I no longer found the joy I once had working day and night in the sterile halls of the ER, it all seemed to remind me of the night Lamb died. I had been examining another patient, two beds over, when my best, and only, friend Geillis came rushing over to inform me the man that had just been brought in was my uncle.
He had been on his way to the pub when a drunk driver had ran a red light and straight into the driver’s side.
I had tried to go help, or to at least hold his hand. But I was dragged back by a nearby nurse as they wheeled him down the corridor for surgery. His bloodied hand grabbed hold of mine as he passed, and I managed to slap on a smile for his sake.
It was the last time I saw him conscious.
The next, lying still in a hospital bed, hooked up to various wires and tubes. He already looked as if he were dead, the only evidence to the contrary was the steady beating of the machine by his side. Confirming his heart was still going, but his brain was not.
I sat at his side for hours, just holding his limp hand in mine; wishing he had just stayed in the house that night, thinking of all the things we still had to do together and the people that would miss him. But mostly, the fact I was now completely and utterly alone in the world.
Eventually, the doctor came around and asked me off my plans.
Lamb had told me many times he did not want to be kept on life support if there was no chance of him waking, which there wasn’t, so I obeyed his wishes.
It wasn’t long before the rhythmic beating of the heart rate monitor faded to a flatline. He was gone.
Geillis took me home that night and I haven’t set foot in the hospital since. I sent my resignation by e-mail and took the next flight out.
I dearly missed Lamb, but I know in my heart he’s in a better place now, with my parents. I too was now in a better place, tending to the less fortunate. It wasn’t the same as in London; run off my feet, forgetting my patients name the second I left them and certainly not enough time to form friendships with any of them. But here it was different; I did have the chance to get to know my patients and had formed lifelong friendships with many of them, but more importantly I had the chance to stick around to see them heal.
I had met some pretty amazing people in the last 8 months, and seen many amazing things. Yet, I knew I must return home to the life I left behind, no matter how lonely it is.
So that’s the reason I’m about to board a sea plane back to Malé.
“Pleasure to meet you, Captain Cho, I’ve heard great things from many.” I said with a smile. He had begun walking away from the small plane on the water and up the wooden walkway to meet me. The plane was no bigger than a bus, with only a few windows down each side and a wing on either end. It was pretty much a miniature version of a normal plane – aside from the fact it had two floats to keep it above water instead of wheels.
“Ah, I’m glad to hear so, got to keep a good name to attract the pretty ladies such as yourself.” He expressed, bending down to kiss my hand.
“Captain, you do flatter me.” I responded. “So, is she ready to go then?”
“Yes, the checks have been finished, all we need to do is get your luggage put on and we can set off.”
“Well, that could take a while, I do have a lot of stuff.” I answered, I had many suitcases with me, most filled with medical supplies and whatnot – apparently operating a pop up hospital took up a lot of room.
“Never fear, my dear, we have plenty of room for it. You are my only passenger for this flight, so the luggage area is completely empty for the moment.” Captain Cho said as he made a move for a dark blue suitcase.
“Glad to hear it. Shall we?” I asked. We quickly developed a system of getting the bags onto the plane; I would roll them along the wooden walkway, and he would carry them into their spot on the plane. We made conversation between us as we worked and I ended up learning a lot more than I originally did about planes. You know what they say, every day’s a school day.
Before long we had everything in place and ready to take to the sky.
Captain Cho gave me a brief safety presentation, in case of an emergency, once on the plane and directed me to a seat near the front.
“I feel as if I’m on my very own private jet here, all I need is a bottle of champagne and I’ll be set.” I laughed. The plane did have a surprisingly modern interior considering it was a seaplane.
“Ah, I may be able to remedy that.” He said as he nodded to a fridge at the back of the plane. “Go take a look.”
“Alright.” I answered as I got up and walked to the small fridge. Upon opening it I was greeted by a bottle of Canti prosecco.
“Didn’t peg you for a Canti man, Captain Cho.” I shouted from the back.
“And you would be correct, my dear. I don’t touch the stuff, but I have found many of my passengers enjoy a drink from time to time.” He replied.
“Well, it appears you are correct.” I said as I popped open the bottle.
“Glad to be so, Dr Beauchamp. Now, if you wouldn’t mind taking a seat, we shall be off.” He said with a small smile.
“Of course.” I answered as I moved towards the seat closest to the front.
A minute later I heard the rumbling off the engine as Captain Cho got the plane in position, a bit further away from shore, to take off. It was fairly quick and before I knew it we had took to the skies.
We went nowhere near as high as a normal plane would go, which gave me a rare opportunity to see the beauty of the islands we passed. I had appreciated the magnificence of the golden beaches from below, yet from above it was almost a completely different world.
Little islands rise from the dark blue water like droplets of turquoise pearls, in all different shapes and sizes. Hundreds, if not thousands of them, scattered as far as the eye can see.
I’ll miss all these little islands when I return home, I had travelled to so many of them these past months. Seen things the dark and gloomy streets of London couldn’t hold a candle to.
The only downside to these gorgeous islands is I don’t have my best friend, Geillis.
I had asked her many times to come with me; to get out of the hospital, live a little, see the world. Yet she refused me time and time again, claiming she’d miss the hustle and bustle of city life. I had my suspicions there may be another reason for her not wanting to join me, but I know she’ll tell me when she’s ready to.
Maybe I can convince her to come with me on my next trip.
“What do you think of the views? Ever seen anything like it?” Captain Cho inquired.
“No, I was just thinking that actually. Not a chance of seeing this where I’m from.” I replied.
“Well, you must take advantage of it while you can. Come sit up front for a bit.”
“Are you sure? I won’t be a distraction to you?” I asked.
“No, don’t worry, we’re just gliding for the moment anyway.” He waved me over.
“If you insist, Captain.” I made my way over and sat in the seat beside him but didn’t strap myself in, I wouldn’t be sitting there for long anyway.
“How long have you been in the flying business, Captain?” I questioned, taking a sip from the prosecco.
“Oh, a good 20 years now, started out flying based in Wuhan, which was fulfilling enough, but came to visit an old friend here and ended up meeting the love of my life. Bought this one and have been out here ever since.” He responded. “What about you, Dr Beauchamp, what’s your story?”
“Sadly not as exciting as yours; I was born and raised in London, went to medical school and then worked my way up the ranks at St Marys Hospital to become a trauma surgeon.” I revealed.
“London’s a way away from the Maldives, how did you end up here?” He asked, stretching an arm out over the scenery, I noticed it had started to rain and the wind seemed to be picking up as well.
“My Uncle sadly passed away last year, and I decided I needed to get out of London for a while. I knew there were people here in need of medical care, so I packed my life up and made my way over.” I recounted.
“I’m sorry to hear about your uncle, but it was kind of you to devote your time to help others.” He smiled to me. “What takes you back to London? A Mr Beauchamp waiting for you on the other end?
“No, I haven’t found the one just yet. But once I do, I’ll be back with him to meet yours.” I proclaimed.
“Well, I’d happily welcome you back to our islands, but I’m afraid you won’t be able to meet my wife. She left this earth two years past.” He told me softly.
“My condolences, Captain Cho. I’m sure she must have been a kind lady if you loved her.” I said sorrowfully.
“Yes, she was.” He replied.
“What was her name?” I asked while looking out the window, the weather was definitely getting worse now; thundering clouds could be seen above us, raindrops the size of golf balls were dropping on the window and the plane was even starting to rattle about a bit.
“A lovely name for a lovely wo-” I started, but was cut off as the plane lurched downwards causing me to go upwards, hitting my head off of the roof of the plane since I wasn’t strapped in. “Fuck!”
An alarm started ringing in the background, and I looked down to see there was pieces of glass, from the now smashed prosecco glass, sticking out of my leg.
“Dr Beauchamp! Can you hear me?” I could dimly hear Captain Cho shouting from beside me. “Put your seatbelt on!”
I attempted to twist my right arm up to grab it, but was met with a shooting pain across my shoulder when I tried. I made a second attempt with my left and successfully managed to pull it down far enough to secure it in place.
“Wha-, what happened?” I asked incoherently, my head was beginning to throb and I could hear the blood pounding in my ears.
“It seems the weather has taken a turn for the worse, I’ll have to try put her down!” He shouted to me.
We were virtually being thrown about in the air now, as if big hands were just shaking our small plane around. The water below didn’t look much better as we approached, the wind had gotten to it too. The once still blue waters were now filled with choppy and unruly waves. It certainly didn’t seem a great place to land a plane.
As if reading my mind, Captain Cho said: “I doubt it’ll be an easy landing, try make your way to the back of the plane, it’s safer there.”
“Alright.” I replied. I did as told and unbuckled myself with shaky hands to get myself to the back end of the plane. The pain in my shoulder only worsened as I limped to the back, but I eventually made it and buckled my seatbelt.
I looked out my window to the right to see we were rapidly approaching the afore mentioned waves and blanched. I glanced down at my leg to assess the damage, thankfully none of the shards had come loose, as they were stopping the blood from flowing out, but I tore off a piece of fabric from the curtains and wrapped it around the top of my thigh just in case.
Remembering the safety instruction from earlier, I placed my hands flat on the seat in front of me and put my head on top of those and prayed for a safe landing.
Initially, the plane glided just on top of the waves and I thought everything was going to be fine. I was wrong.
As Captain Cho tried to lower the plane further, something must of jutted out of the water as the plane began spinning round to the left. I brought my hands up to my head and tried to make myself as small as I could in my seat to avoid further damage.
I sat there for what felt like hours, just praying for the damn plane to stop spinning – it wasn’t exactly helping my head.
I lifted my head to see everything in the cabin was getting thrown about by the motion; safety brochures, stray papers and even a random pair of shoes. I stuck my head out into the isle and shouted on Captain Cho over the noise of the chaos.
“Captain Cho! Are you hurt?” I screamed and received no answer. “Captain Cho? Can you hear me?”
All of a sudden there was a noise behind me and I turned round to see the door holding in my luggage opened. A big, black suitcase came hurtling towards me before I had time to pull my head back in.
I just squeezed my eyes shut and hoped for a quick death.
I woke sometime later to find I hadn’t died.
I looked around to see I was still in the flying death-trap, that had thankfully came to a halt, but there was now water leaking in from the front of the plane.
I attempted to get out of my seat, but was stopped in place by the forgotten pain in my arm – which was now back with a vengeance. “Bloody hell.”
I managed to pry myself out of my seat and stumbled towards the cockpit. “Captain Cho? Are you alright?” I asked before finding out the reason he hadn’t been answering. He was dead.
“Oh my God! Oh my God!” There was a long piece of driftwood sticking out of his chest and continued towards and through the window. The piece of wood, that must have been what had caused us to start spinning earlier, now provided another problem. It had smashed the window and was letting in a considerable amount of water.
I stretched out my left arm to his neck to check if he was definitely dead, he was. At least he’s with Margaret now, I thought.
“Right, what to do now?” I thought aloud. I lifted my uninjured arm to my head to feel a new gash had appeared on my forehead, the suitcase, and around the middle of my scalp I found the wound I had received earlier. I continued the search down to my right shoulder, definitely dislocated, but there wasn’t too much I could for that at the moment. I tightened the tourniquet I had earlier secured on my leg to ensure it wouldn’t come off if I moved around too much.
“Okay, okay… lifejackets!” I realised. I quickly located them near the back of the plane and carefully manoeuvred it over my injured shoulder. The cabin was slowly starting to fill up with more water now, up to my ankles at some parts of the plane.
The pain in my head had only worsened as I moved and I could feel blood slowly trickling down my face, but I done my best to ignore it.
I reached the door of the plane only to realise I had no idea how to open it, so I turned around and began the search for a safety leaflet.
“Aha! Found you.” I exclaimed with my first smile since the crash.
The water was now up around my knees and I needed to get out fast. I studied the card and tried to copy the steps on the door in front of me, I must have been doing something right because I pulled on a lever and the door pushed open slightly.
I forced it open as much as possible, the push of the incoming water making it difficult to push open the entire way, and jumped/walked out of the fast sinking plane. Leaving Captain Cho behind.
The storm had now subsided to just a bit of rain and the occasional gust of wind, so I was definitely safer in the water than back in the plane.
The water wasn’t as cold as I initially thought it would be, but it wasn’t exactly warm either. I quickly evaluated my surroundings, and I noticed an island far off in the distance.
I tried to start swimming towards the dot in the horizon, but between the life jacket and my shoulder, all I looked to be doing was wildly waving my good arm around in the water.
Having no other options, I began to shout.
“Help! Somebody help!” I screamed, to no avail.
“Anyone, please! Help!” I cried. There was no-one coming. I screamed for nearly half an hour before my voice gave out.
The throbbing in my head could no longer be ignored and my eyesight had developed dark spots around the edges.
And for the second time that day, I let my eyes shut.
But, the same as before, they opened again.
I felt strong hands lifting me from the water. At first I believed it to be the arms of angels, coming to take me up to heaven and away from the horrid events of the afternoon. But then I heard someone shout; “She’s alive!”
So much for heaven, I thought.
“Can ye hear me, lass? Are ye hurt?” The strange voice asked, making my ears to ring more than before. Someone gave me a brief shake to the shoulders, causing me to cry out in pain.
My eyes fluttered open to see the face of a man, a mere few inches from my own, staring at me intently.
“S-stop. Scr-reaming.” I managed to cough out. My eyes began to adjust and I was unsure if I was actually right in my earlier prediction. The man looked like a God. Locks of fiery auburn hair were flapping rather wildly around the most beautifully sculpted face I had ever seen.
“Sorry.” He whispered. “Can ye tell me where it hurts? Yer shoulder’s no’ looking the best.” His observation was probably quite accurate, but I couldn’t raise my head enough to check for myself.
“Everywhere.” I croaked out.
“Disloc-cated shoulder. P-probably conussssed.” I slurred my words, it was an effort to even keep my eyes open, never mind talking.
“Aye, wouldna take a genius tae figure that oot.” He replied. “Can ye tell me yer name?”
“Claire.” I answered.
“Nice tae meet ye, Claire. I’m Jamie, James Fraser.” He said, giving my left hand a small squeeze.
“Where… are we?” I asked. I was lying on something comfortable, a couch maybe? But I could still see the blue sky above us, apparently the storm had stopped while I was out.
“Yer on our boat, we saw yer plane come down an’ thought tae come help.” He replied. “We’ll take ye back to Velaa tae get ye seen to, alright?”
“Okay.” I said, closing my eyes yet again.
“I’ll keep ye safe, rest a bit.”
I gave him a small “mmhm.” To let him know I heard him and then proceeded to do as he said.
I knew I should at least try to stay awake since I was likely concussed, but I let myself drift off to the land of dreams. Truly believing that he would keep me safe.