Doctor Holly Rowan clutched at the armrests of the small commuter plane as it rocked side to side. The winds sweeping across the runway seemed to think the landing plane was a ping pong ball it could bounce around. Deadhorse, Alaska was flat and open to the winds that swept in from the arctic sea, making any landing hard. Flying wasn’t a problem for her. She had been in the Air Force and had flown in many different types of aircraft, and in all types of weather during her service.
But seeing the older, bright red Cessna 206H Stationair setting on the tarmac in Fairbanks, it’s single prop spinning, a fissure of dread had run through her. The plane looked dirty, battered and so… so small. Smaller than anything she’d ever flown on in her years in the Air Force.
The planed dipped to the left and her grip tightened to the point that her bluntly trimmed fingernails almost pierced the leather armrests. “Oh god… please just let us get on the ground in one piece.” A glance out of the window showed the plane just coming in over the end of the landing strip.
It rocked right for a second before leveling out. Holly released the breath she hadn’t even known she’d been holding as the plane touched down with some bumps and bounces. Once settled on the runway, it zipped toward a low roofed building midway down the tarmac. Holly pulled her cell phone from the large carry on bag she’d jammed under her seat and turned it on. She wanted to double check the information for last leg of her journey.
“Crap!” The plane made a bumpy right turn and her phone slipped through her fingers, thudding to the floor at her feet. Holly released a frustrated sigh and leaned forward to pick it up only to have it slide out of reach under her seat. “Shit!” She bit out and reached for buckle of the seatbelt that rested low across her hips. The plane was still moving but if she was careful…
“Excuse me?” The voice came from the seat behind her and she turned sideways in her seat, leaning over the arm rest to see a girl holding her phone. “I think you dropped this?”
“Thank you so much!” Holly took her phone back with a small smile. “I worried it would get stepped on, bouncing around like that.”
“Oh, no problem. I’m Jilly Rose.” The girl introduced herself with a bright grin that had Holly smiling for the first time since leaving Seattle. Jilly had boarded the small plane in Fairbanks, along with two men. The men had gotten off at Fort Yukon, leaving the two women to go on to Deadhorse.
“Holly Rowan.” Holly offered with a small smile. “Nice to meet you, Jilly Rose.” It had been a quiet flight from Fort Yukon to Deadhorse. Both women had been lost in their own thoughts while the pilot was busy flying the plane.
“Just Jilly will do.” There was a loud “click” from behind Holly as Jilly slid forward in her seat. “Only my mama calls me Jilly Rose.”
“Welcome to Deadhorse, Alaska.” The pilot, a grizzled old man of indiscriminate age, boomed from the open cockpit over the plane’s noise. “And let’s keep those seat belts buckled until we’ve stopped rolling, OK folks?” He paused. “That means you, Jilly Rose!” A loud sigh sounded from behind Holly, followed by an audible click.
Holly grasped the end of her seatbelt and tugged on it once, making sure it was snug across her hips. The terminal building grew bigger as the plane darted toward it not seeming to slow down at all. Holly braced herself, sure that the plane’s brakes didn’t work and they were going to crash through the building. At the last minute, the pilot jammed pedals to the floor and took a hard left, coming to an abrupt standstill ten feet from the low building. The propeller slowly came to a stop as the old pilot turned his seat to address his passengers.
“OK, folks, we’ll be on the ground about twenty minutes, long enough to take on fuel, then be back in the air to Barrow.” He turned the other way and shouldered the door next to his seat open and rushed around the plane to open the larger door. “This is your stop, Miss.” Holly took the hand he held out and stepped to the ground. She swayed as the solid ground seemed to rock for a moment under her feet before.
One gnarled hand of the old pilot wrapped around her arm, steadying her. “Are you alright, Miss?” Concern filled his voice and Holly looked at him, seeing that same concerned echoed in his eyes
“I’m fine,” She’d regained her equilibrium and smiled. “Everything just rocked for a second.”
“Yeah, that happens sometimes, when you’ve been cooped up for a while.”