1N 5 M1NUTE5

“If I had but five minutes to change the world I would start by altering every heartbeat”

5 minutes past 5 on the 5th of May.
That's when each of the plane crashes were. 1943. 1975. 2014. 2067. 2150.
Each crash has one survivor.
Each survivor must change the world.

This is my entry to the 'The Seventh Miss Hatfield' competition. I'm doing option 1.
~~~
Eternally grateful to MahoganyPumpkin™ for the cover (:

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2. Christina Jenson 05.05.1975

Christina Jenson 05.05.1975


When Mom said “You can’t wear those horrible old pants for your Granddad’s funeral,” I was disinclined to agree.


For one thing, I knew Mom couldn’t care less about the funeral of the father of her deceased husband. If she thought it was important, she wouldn’t have so explicitly labelled him as belonging to me rather than the pair of us.


For another, Mom had forgotten that it was those ‘horrible’ jeans that he’d taught me to ride horses in the previous summer. That was back before he started choking uncontrollably on his tobacco smoke.


He was old fashioned in many ways; he wore ties on Sundays and smoked from a pipe, he didn’t trust television and he employed a housekeeper to make him traditional steamed puddings to follow every meal. However he was more forward thinking in his attitude to me – his seventeen-year-old granddaughter – than you might have expected from a man who was part of the dwindling British aristocracy. I was certain that he alone wouldn’t have minded my wearing pants in church.


Of course, it’s not the dead who choose their funerals.


It was not until we were sheltering from thick and spluttery raindrops in the church doorway that I began to feel distinctly uncomfortable.


“They’re all wearing black – you could have told me I was supposed to,” I said to Mom and she tutted: “It’s a funeral Chrissy; wearing black is what people do. Normally they wear dresses too,” she frowned pointedly at my legs. The jean fabric was covered in sky-spittle they’d become shapeless since I’d bought them two years before. I began to accept that they might not have been the best attire.


The service was lengthy, with all the formalities and sentimentality you’d attribute to the Earl of Oxleigh – the man I’d privately called Pop. I struggled to recognise him in the speeches and memoirs. It was like the man they were remembering was a former version of the one I knew ; one that had got lost in the wandering corridors of his country estate. The man I knew had a passion for horses and seemed to care more about what they thought of him than what other people did. That was why it seemed wrong that here was his photograph being heralded as a man who did wonders for the village. I’d known him a month of summer ever year of my life and never once had he mentioned a need to impress the village he held the power for.


When Mom whispered “amen” to every prayer, it was with the utmost insincerity. I suppose I might have been a little bit insincere myself; I had, after all, rejected the idea of God on the day my father died. It would have been hypocritical to call her up on it, despite how much I longed to. I hated the way she’d addressed the whole issue; it was, like his will, a frustrating but necessary procedure that could not have been dismissed once his house keeper had mailed us the airline tickets. Coming back to England had mattered to me if not to her. It mattered to me because it meant a final goodbye to my childhood summers and a chance to try to hold them in my fingers one last time. It mattered to me because I was made up of scraps I’d collected here; of riding and of being rained on and of cream teas in the garden.


The coffin was shrouded in regal colour, with the pomp and circumstance of showy but clunky large flowers and I remembered Pop rubbing Lemon Balm between his fingers and holding them out for me to sniff. When they lowered it into the ground I remember how he let me play at digging his vegetable garden when I was in kindergarten and when they shut it off with the commemorative stone I remembered how he taught me to use sealing wax.


Mom said; “Let’s go back to the hotel – I can’t deal with the wake right now,” and I suppose that was when I remembered that we’d been through this all before with Dad and that she didn’t mean to be so rude about it she just couldn’t deal with it being repeated for his father who’d out-lived him.


“You can go,” I said. “I’ll find my own way back. This village is tiny anyway.”


 “It’s raining, Chrissy.”


 “It’s England, Mom.”

 

***


The rain became more consistent as I crouched by the grave. My hair was coiling and my jeans were stiffening as they soaked up the water. I registered it vaguely. On another day I might have cared more but, as the flowers moaned under the weight of the weeping sky, I noted these annoyances with bland detachment. I had the sort of attitude to myself that I might have adopted when observing a dissection in biology class.


Rain wasn’t so bad really; it was heavy and mournful and nothing else could really have felt appropriate for the setting. It made me feel kind of lonely which was, in a weird way, what I wanted. Mom and I had slipped apart when Dad died, beginning the very day of the event when she had telephoned to say that I wasn’t going to come home until after the funeral. I’d been too shocked to argue really and all Mom could talk about was how she didn’t want me to have to be involved. I suppose it was nice of her to try to protect me but it wasn’t so nice to return home two months later to find her estranged and altered. It wasn’t so nice to be told your father died in a Delta Airlines crash in Boston probably at the exact time you had been eating Sunday lunch. July the 31st 1973.


“You a fan, or something?” A brusque voice asked from behind me.


“Or something,” I replied as I jerked to my feet and turned around. It wasn’t as if I’d been doing anything wrong but I somehow felt like I’d been caught in the act of something and I jumped nervously away from the stone.


When the young man who stood there didn’t move I returned the question; “Are you a fan, or something?”


 He scoffed and scuffed his shoe in the dirt. “I’m not here to get teary over some posh has-been; I’m visiting my uncles.” He jerked his head to the two stones a little to my right. I peered at them and continued the conversation in an attempt to be polite. I didn’t really want to talk to the man – or maybe he was a boy – but it seemed rude not to at least sympathise over his loss.


“Alfred Haines, RAF” I read, “Is he your uncle?”


He looked a bit annoyed but he answered anyway; “No, not really, we just call him an uncle. He was a friend of my real uncle, I think.” He gestured to the second grave.


Jack Marshal, RAF
12th September 1919 – 23rd June 1943


“He died about seven weeks after his mate here but he seemed to think it was important that the poor sod got remembered. He paid for the grave and everything. My gran asked him why he did it and he apparently said that there were too many dead and not enough living to remember them. He said that nobody got forgotten easier than the common soldier – especially if they were kids because then authorities wanted to forget about them.”


I looked at Alfred Haines’ dates again and realised that he hadn’t even turned fifteen when he died.


“He really was young,” I said in surprise. I don’t really know why I was surprised because I knew that kids did fight. It was just weird to stand in a graveyard I was so familiar with and talk to a stranger about a dead child who wasn’t really anything to do with him.


The boy nodded; “Yeah, seems a bit pretentious though – those are his supposed last words.” He pointed at the inscription below the details. “I don’t even know why I keep coming back here; habit I suppose.”


“If I had but five minutes to change the world I would start by altering every heartbeat,” I pondered the words aloud.


“I can read too,” he snapped.


“Sorry. I just agree, it’s a weird thing for a fourteen-year-old to say.”


 “Yeah, well – I’ve given you your history lesson, you don’t have to hover around feeling sorry for me, the ‘poor guy with two dead uncles’ anymore.”


His bluntness upset me for some reason. I’d only tried to be polite and he had had nothing to offer in return, bar scarcely masked disapproval.


 “Oh don’t bother feeling sorry for me either,” I said waspishly. “The poor girl with a dead Granddad and an even deader Dad.” I shouted the latter at him, like it was his fault that there was too much fog at the Boston airport and his fault that Mom had banished me from her life that summer.


Then I stalked off, as though I still had dignity to maintain.

 

***


Mom kept saying how good it would be to get home. Which was stupid because it wouldn’t be. There was a time when both home and Oxleigh had seemed wonderful and welcoming and safe but, after July 31st 1973, that had stopped applying to life at home. Now I wasn’t even happy in Oxleigh and without Granddad I didn’t feel like I had enough reason or right to be there. I didn’t belong in England anymore but happiness was not a possibility back in America either. In America we lived and that was all. We coped. We didn’t enjoy coping.


She nudged me; “Look, we’re heading for the runway now, do your seat belt up.”


We didn’t have window seats so I didn’t get to watch the painted lines on the airstrip streaming along beside us until they all became one. That had been my favourite aspect of the flight over to England. I tried to imagine how fast the little wheels below us must have been spinning and wondered how they got to such a high rotational velocity so quickly. Obviously there was a powerful engine involved but it seemed sort of weird that the friction on the airstrip wasn’t great enough to hinder them.


I could feel the speed gathering, gathering and our momentum snowballing impossibly into the sky. We juddered off the strip but the whole airplane seemed laboured as though it was wounded and trying to heave itself into the sky. We bounced and jerked and Mom spilled the magazines sideways off her lap.


“Oh shit,” she said and then she tried to grab them back as if they were important.


Disquiet rippled through the plane, passengers gripped nervously to the arm rests. I strained with and then released my seat belt in order to get a glimpse of the sky that seemed to be falling all around us. There was a horrific sense of expectation – we all seemed to have read ahead in our stories and knew the inescapable ending – but nobody had anticipated it well enough to know what to do with themselves. Mom was still scrabbling around on the floor without having undone her seatbelt and the airplane retched and writhed.


The dip in the flight must have been inevitable from the minute we failed to fully take off but my stomach still did that nauseating thing of seeming to leave itself behind. People remembered how to scream. Mom sat up and panted. Her tongue was groping for final breaths; her face was cracking and dissolving. For some reason it felt like it was my fault.


“Oh shit,” she said again but this time the two words sounded completely different.


“I know, I know, I know.” I said, without knowing anything. My brain tried to think clearly but only slipped into a paralysis of fear. The emergency lighting was flashing pointlessly; it was so futile, really, to attempt anything.


“I know, I know, I know.”


Then the world was splintering and the plane spat me out.

 

***


The question was “How the hell did I survive?”


The answer was “I flew two hundred metres and landed in a shrubbery.”


I looked down at my legs and wished that I hadn’t because they didn’t look much like my legs. My jean shorts were half burnt off and my legs protruded from beneath them; thick with soot but unmistakably blistered. They looked a bit like they’d melted, or like they were a painting that had been left out to dry in the rain. My skin had whirled and shrivelled and been discoloured. I vomited.


I touched my face and realised that I no longer had a left ear or a left cheek.


I vomited again.


It was at that point that I remembered how much surviving a plane crash hurt. I also remembered that the only survivor from Dad’s plane crash had died six months later. I also realised that it was all slightly ironic.


Why aren’t I dead? What happened? I asked myself, void of any intention to try to work out how I was going to maintain my non-deadness.


Then a flood of other words and people penetrated my mind; like when you finally get a thunder storm. I suppose I probably would have physically reeled from the impact if I had been capable of that sort of movement. For some reason, the longer I lay, strewn aside, in the bushes, the heavier I felt. For some reason I tried to put my hands over my ears in an attempt to block out the multitude of unfamiliar voices: I’m alive. I’m bloody breathing for Christ’s-bloody-sake. I was meant to die; I was dying wasn’t I? Oh My God. Oh My God. Oh My God. I’m alive. They’re all dead. How? I had dreams. They’re all burning. Last Day. World’s End. We’re not supposed to live. We all die on the fifth of May.

 

What was stupid was that I only had one ear to cover but I used both hands anyway.


We probably got described as tragic - Mom, Dad and me - I suppose we at least all got to die from the same thing.

 

***


Christina Jenson was still staring at the thick, bubbling sky with her hands laxly cupping where her ears should have been when the ambulance located her body. The time was five minutes past five, which possibly made sense to somebody.

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