by Daniel Harvell
Plot Summary:When seven strangers impossibly survive a horrific airplane crash, they find themselves changed in remarkable ways. The survivors are endowed with powers that defy explanation. Some are blessed. Some are cursed. Going their separate ways, they adapt their extraordinary "gifts" to their ordinary lives. The results, however, aren't always pretty -- particularly when one of them engages in a killing spree. With little more to go on than the psychic link that they all share, the survivors seek out one another to uncover the murderer and bring him or her to justice. The fireman, the grandmother, the psychiatric patient, the basketball player, the mute girl, the rich blonde, and the man in the wheelchair -- they all have secrets worth hiding. They can't trust each other. They can't even trust themselves.
Read the Prologue:Dakota Raintree was baffled as to what he’d done to earn this spot in fiery Hell—a place surely reserved for murderers, thieves and people that send Farmville requests on Facebook. He’d angrily spent the last half hour in line behind a foul-mouthed, stocky man with a bad comb-over, whose drooping pants revealed wildly inappropriate thong underwear.
When Dakota finally made it to the counter, he shoved his airplane ticket under the agent’s nose. Instead of a bark or an angry finger-shake, a smile blossomed on the woman’s face. She took an enormous whiff of the flight voucher, as if it were a bouquet of flowers. “Do I smell a hint of gingerbread? I’m glad to see that these long lines aren’t dampening your Christmas spirit,” she said with a toothy grin.
She slipped the ticket out of his hand and replaced it with a plastic toy snowman. With a squeeze, its tiny coal eyes bugged out at Dakota, who broke into laughter. He was suddenly as serene as a tabby cat, and for a moment, he thought he might even purr.
“Where to today, sir?” the agent asked Dakota without looking at his ticket. “Let me guess . . . D.C.?”
Dakota squinted at her nametag, which was mostly covered with blonde hair that was shaped a little too perfectly. “Am I that easy to read, Rhonda?”
She recoiled slightly, quickly looked down at her badge, but then went right back to her keyboard. “It’s the suit, sir. You look as if you’re ready to mix and mingle with people worth knowing.”
Producing his driver’s license, Dakota said, “Spending Christmas with my fiancé and her father, the Senator.”
“I’m sure it’ll be a lovely holiday, although maybe a little chilly with that blizzard they’re expecting. I bet you’re the warm weather type.”
He raised an eyebrow in agreement. “You’re right. I hate the cold. But we’re wrapping up wedding plans. Finally. Everything I’ve been working on is coming together.”
“Are we talking about a marriage or a business deal?”
Dakota opened his mouth, but the words hung in midair. At last he said, “Are we almost done here?”
Rhonda closed her eyes and gave him an almost imperceptible nod. She finished processing his paperwork and luggage, all the while humming Winter Wonderland. Handing him his ticket, she said, “Have an extraordinary flight, Dakota.”
Air Way Airlines’ Flight 300 left Atlanta’s Hartsfield International Airport on time at precisely 8:00 p.m. The woman sitting next to Dakota tried making small talk about her three ferrets, but he pulled out his headphones and immediately passed out.
Despite his unconscious state, he felt the intense bumps of turbulence and the hand of the woman next to him as she gripped his arm. The music continued to blare in his ears, but it suddenly vanished beneath the sounds of a deafening explosion. Dakota’s head began to spin—or was that the plane? His eyes flung open in time to see a flight attendant crash down the aisle. Dakota looked up to find a barrage of luggage barrel at him from above. He took several blows to the head, but it didn’t drown out the screaming from his fellow passengers. He felt his eyes close again, but against his will this time. His last thoughts were of his goals and well-laid plans, and how they were all going down.
When Dakota woke, he was enveloped in complete darkness. He smelled what he thought was burning flesh and wondered if this was Hell. The distant sounds of ambulances and fire trucks told him otherwise. He pushed against a sheet of metal that radiated heat but felt oddly cool. He heard someone whisper behind him, and he was suddenly overcome with a surge of strength. He broke through to open air and found himself standing in the middle of a field that was engulfed in a fiery blaze and littered with what had once been an airplane.
Local law enforcement, paramedics, firefighters and the Georgia State Patrol were scattered throughout the area. Many were just arriving, stumbling out of their vehicles and running searchlights over the blackened metal that blended into the inky night sky. Had there been daylight to work by, the airplane still would’ve been unrecognizable. Its torn hull was scattered across the field. Its jagged edges looked like the razor teeth of Godzilla. The cockpit had been crushed to a quarter of its original size.
Firemen lifted hoses from the red engines even though the flames were nearly dead now. Paramedics wheeled out gurneys, but slowly, as if they knew no one would need them. Radios and walkie-talkies squawked out orders and inquiries, but none of the rescue workers responded. They seemed in awe of the disaster’s magnitude.
Finally, Dakota found his voice and forced it past his choking throat. “We’re alive!” he called out.
An unshaven EMT jerked and frantically pointed to a large pile of charred metal behind which Dakota stood. Dozens of lights flashed to the area. There was complete silence as Dakota crawled over the broken and warped hull, and flashlight beams followed him like spotlights zeroing in on the star of a Broadway play. As he examined his soot-covered suit, he heard something shuffle behind him. He reached down and flipped over a panel, revealing a young girl. “We need help!” he yelled as he lifted her out of the rubble. Dakota didn’t wait for the firemen and paramedics to respond. He turned the wreckage upside down on his own, despite the weight and sizzling temperature of the metal hull. Barely a minute later, seven weary survivors, apparently unharmed, were dusting themselves off and eyeing one another. The paramedics tried helping them on to gurneys, but an elderly black woman smacked one of the young men on the hand, saying, “Can’t you see we’re fine, child?” As near as Dakota could tell, the surviving passengers stood without a single burn, cut or even bruise between them. The flesh of their fellow travelers was seared and gnarled, unrecognizable. No one was supposed to survive a crash like this. Some of the burly state troopers were weeping; others made the sign of the cross. A young cop’s knees buckled as Dakota walked past her. No one dared speak for a long time, but as the survivors were loaded into the ambulances, Dakota heard a few of the older men say what he’d been thinking all along. “How could anyone walk away from that?” Had one person survived, even beaten and battered, it would’ve been hailed a miracle. But when seven come away entirely unharmed? This was beyond miraculous, beyond impossible.