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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3. Tessa Davies 05.05.2014


Tessa Davies 05.05.2014


It was my first ever proper party.


By that I mean that it was the first party that I had been to where we all got drunk and tried to impress each other without parental supervision. What actually happened was that we all looked like idiots but none of us could see that when the beer we were chucking back was obscuring our vision.


It was my cousin Nat’s eighteenth and so my parents had said I could go because, to their knowledge, Nat was a responsible adult who was going to university soon and was therefore unlikely to introduce me into the dangers of any sort of addiction. To be honest, I was a bit of a wreck walking over there; my conscience writhing and doubts meddling with my determination to do something teenagery. I knew it wasn’t going to be the civilised affair that my parents thought it might because I had been with him when he bought the drinks. I was going mostly because he and his younger sister Dani had talked me into it and partly because Mum had spent all day nagging me about maths revision and so I felt that I had to react in the only appropriate way and go slightly off the rails.


There were two reasons why Mum was so obsessed with my revision. One was that she wanted me to get eleven A* GCSEs more than I did myself. The other was that she was feeling guilty about dragging me out of school for a family holiday the next week. We were leaving the day after the party – May the fifth – and I was going to have to meet them at the airport which we all found as terrifying as each other.


I suppose the truth is that I was pretty unexciting for a sixteen-year-old. My birthday party had consisted of watching Mean Girls with some friends on our cranky old DVD player while most people’s sixteenth’s had now disappeared from memory, avalanched away by alcohol. I was on good terms, generally speaking, with both parents. I played with my younger sister. I sat quietly in school, soaking up what people told me to remember, and the teachers sort of worshipped me because I’d handed in every single piece of homework on time. I’d never been drunk. I’d never travelled far by myself. I’d never had a cigarette waved beneath my nose.


“Oh my God! You actually came!” my cousin Dani squealed as I shuffled up the path. Each slab I inched across was one of my last chances to return home and wrap myself safely in a duvet.
She grabbed my hand and pulled me up towards the house which left me without much choice.  She was wearing a dress so small and tight that it was possibly actually a t-shirt for seven-year-olds and I realised I looked about twelve in my skater skirt and crop-top. Too young to be seized by the pounding swell of popular music and too young to actually lift the beer can that Nat tossed me to my lips.


I couldn’t have felt less at home if I’d tried and it was pretty weird really because I couldn’t help thinking that I’d sat and eaten Viennese Whirls on the sofa that was now a writhing mess of two teenage bodies. It was a distinctly uncomfortable thought.


In an attempt to blindfold myself to the surreal world I’d entered, I poured the contents of the can down my throat and then picked up another even though my oesophagus seemed to be cringing at the very thought. I couldn’t really believe myself because I swore I’d never drink anything more than the weekly sip of communion wine but I suppose that parties are the best places to loose oneself and, in the feverish moment, I wanted nothing more than total oblivion. I wanted to be fearless enough to drag myself into the haze of woven bodies, fearless enough to stop caring about GCSEs and getting a train the next day. I wanted to do something that Mum would deem unthinkable, even if she’d never know I’d done it.


I suppose, really, I just wanted to excuse myself for the night and have a stab at playing somebody else. Somebody cool, somebody popular, somebody who let the alcohol take them where it chose.

 

***


“Dare,” I said and I was kind of cold and tired but my head was so blurry and my common sense so numb that I registered that without interest.


We had staggered our way down to the church yard: Dani, Nat, Drunk Friends and me. The night had rolled in with a front of mist and we swayed amongst the gravestones, bottles and occasional “fucks” and “shits.” I was possibly the youngest but we’d lost sense of age; we only knew that we were undefeatable, invinsible and younger than we’d ever be again. We seemed to be bathing in the fogged-out moon; our slurred thoughts sliding through the sky above our heads.


Nat stood up and grabbed the nearly-empty vodka bottle from his mate. I don’t think he realised that I was his cousin as he peed into it and tossed it to me. I don’t think he remembered that he’d bought me ‘Jane Eyre’ for my birthday and ‘Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee’ for Christmas. I doubt he really knew anything at that point aside from how funny he was and how clever and how liberated and exulted the party had left him.


“Drink this,” he challenged and I missed the bottle by at least forty centimetres. A little leaked onto the night-greyed grass. The graves rang with laughter – perhaps I was the one making it.
I raised it so that the urine caught a glimpse of starlight and then rushed it to my lips; swigging it down like blackcurrant squash until my body threatened to turn itself inside out.


They were cheering. Applauding. Me. I’d done it. I was pedestalled.

 

***


 I retched suddenly; my stomach seizing and clenching and pulsing so that I was flushed and shaking. Then I felt the unstoppable wave of vomit, rolling acidly up my gullet and then breaking over my tongue so that my mouth was hot and my teeth tasted rank and Dani’s tiny little dress was splattered with pinpricks of Sunday lunch and vodka and Nat’s urea.


“Oh my God, are you a fucking idiot, Tessa? What the fuck is wrong with you?” Dani turned around and slapped me around the face. I knew people did stupid out-of-control things when they were drunk but I hadn’t expected my bubbly and personable cousin to lash out at me in such a way. I groaned – spitting puke from between my teeth – and cradled my face.


“I just drank a bottle of piss.”


“Well you’re the one who asked for a fucking dare!”


And then everyone was laughing again but it was directed at me and people were haggling for a “bitch fight”. They shouted and staggered until all their faces became one sneering mesh and I could feel bile rising in my throat again. I tried to grab Dani for support but she shook me off:

“You’re so fucking pathetic; why the fuck are you even here? You’re just a little, dumb-as-fuck kid.”


I decided not to tell her that I was there because she’d insisted, because she’d dragged me into the party a few hours earlier. I decided that I was also there because I’d thought it was a good idea and she’d agreed that it was. Instead I turned and scratched my way out of the cage of bodies until my steps were lolling and caroseling between the graves; too drunk and exhausted to manage straight lines.


I choked and coughed out an apparent tsunami of bile-laced puke over one of the gravestones and then I leant against it, bracing my forearms as though about to do a press up but hanging my head so that acrid saliva dribbled between my lips and splatted down the peppered stone. Vomit clung to patches of lichen and filled the inscription and I waited for my limbs to stop shaking. I was sweaty but cold suddenly:


Alfred Haines, RAF.
17th December 1928 – 5th May 1943

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


I read it despite the darkness because, for those collected minutes, reading a blacked-out grave seemed to be the most important thing I could do.


I sort of registered that it was funny that he’d died on the 5th May because that was tomorrow – no – today – Midnight must have been long gone, I decided.


Then I sort of registered that the 5th of May meant Mum and Dad and Rochelle and the airport and I began to stagger towards Oxleigh Station, reaching in my pocket in the unlikely hope that my 16-25 railcard was still tucked there.

 

***


I disembarked the train at the airport with my breath still tasting of alcohol and vomit. A killer headache had taken route over the course of the journey and was squirming its way deeper; unreachable and jarring.


My family had come to greet me on the platform which might have been nice of them if the circumstances had been different. The truth is that when it is 6:23 am and your body is reeling with your first ever hangover, there is nothing particularly wonderful about anything. I was pretty certain that the truth about the party would be obvious but I still avoided looking at them in case I gave something away. They didn’t say anything but that meant very little.


My parents were not the sort of parents who launched into arguments in busy airports.


I took the first queue as an opportunity to get away from them and their disapproving silence. Grabbing fresh clothes and a toothbrush from my bag, I dived into the nearest toilets and locked myself into the only available cubicle.


I emerged and horrified myself with the girl I saw in the mirror. I couldn’t help thinking that there was something ethereal about her, her skin pale as the morning light. Her eyes had dark shadows under them; so dark it is was though someone had drawn them there with accidental heavy-handedness. Her hair hung lankly; in tangled clumps that splayed out across her shoulders. Under the weird toilet lighting it looked fairer than usual so that my whole reflection seemed to get lost in the brash, cream décor of the room. It was not really surprising that my welcome had been so stony and I wished I could have tried to fix my reflection whilst alone on the train. Splashing water on my face only seemed to earn me disconcerted looks from the other women using the mirrors to retouch their early-morning concealer.


I was a complete mess.

 

***


“Oh my God! Shut up!” I snapped at Rochelle who’d been singing for most of the flight. “Seriously, grow up, you’re eleven – stop acting like a five-year-old.”


She just flashed her gappy teeth and leaned right up to me, unhooking my earphones: “Do you wanna build a snowman?” she half sung, half whispered and I snapped my fingers tight around her wrist in retaliation.


 “I’ve never broken a wrist before,” I growled. “But trust me, I know the theory.”


She settled back in her seat and wriggled around. I supposed eleven probably was an awkward age to deal with a three hour flight; she must have been too old to distract with soft toys and colouring books but our parents had not yet indulged her in the luxuries of an iPod, deeming year 6 “too early”. She was also not quite old enough to have grown self-conscious and so clearly thought little of holding a Disney-songs-marathon in public. I was not, however, in the mood or the practise of feeling sorry for her and angled my chin pointedly in the opposite direction.


I rammed my headphones firmly back in and surfed through several songs that I didn’t actually like very much anymore. I kept every song I’d ever downloaded, for some stupid reason. It kind of felt like deleting the songs I’d like four years previously would be to delete my former self. Like, as long as I listened to the same music occasionally, I could still keep touch with my twelve-year-old self. I frequently sickened myself with my nostalgia.


As much as I was not renowned in the department of Empathising With Younger Siblings, she was not famed for her work at Keeping The Peace With Older Siblings.


In a way, my threat to break her wrist was a bit of a game to her, mostly because she knew that I would never actually break her wrist and partly because she was a pocket-sized brat who wore 1 Direction t-shirts with pride and thought that being cool and being stupid were one and the same. Me being moody and hung-over and generally odious was something new for her to test; like when you get a new teacher and the class has to push them just to see where the boundaries are. She wanted to experiment with how far I was capable of taking my frustration and how much of an explosion could be sparked when you laced together fireworks.


GUESS WHAT TESSA?


She scribbled on a page of notebook.

When I didn’t respond to the paper under my nose, she retrieved it and added beneath it.


DO YOU WANNA BUILD A SNOWMAN?


I grabbed the pen from her. It was hot and slippery where she’d gripped it so I held it by the end and wrote with such erratic ferocity that the FUCK OFF I inked tore the paper. It was almost illegible but not quite illegible enough for her eyes not to round and her lips not to part for a silent “oh”. She stared, disbelieving, at my crime as it sprawled across the ruled lines and margin.


I snapped off the song I was enforcing upon myself but kept my earphones in so she’d think that I wasn’t listening to her.


“Tessa! That’s rude.” She said reproachfully. “You can’t say words like that. It’s bad. You’re so naughty,” then she was giggling at my rebelliousness and looking at me like she hadn’t really seen me before. Perhaps she was seeing someone else. There had been so many firsts for me in the past twelve hours – including my first swear word that I’d done more than think – that I wasn’t sure I really did qualify as the same person.


“I won’t tell mummy,” she decided eventually and that was pretty truthful really because those were the last things she said.

 

***


The air blasted apart around us. Mum and Dad fell out of the sky but we seemed to soar, suspended for a weirdly exhilarating heart-beat.


I know it was wrong to call a plane crash exhilarating but it was so unexpected, so bizarre that it was sort of like being at a crazily dangerous theme park. My pulse exploded forwards and I screamed like the roller-coaster had dipped away beneath me.


Then the ground seemed to grasp me from nowhere and I rolled helplessly in a tangle of imploded momentum.


Oh My God. Oh My God. Oh My God. I’m alive. They’re all dead. How?


I couldn’t understand how a crash could be so sudden; all I knew was that plane crashes were rare and given the number of successful flights, the odds of being in one are pretty extraordinary. It was too abrupt; like our lives had all been running on a power supply for which the switch had now been flicked.


Out of the seeping corner of my eye, I saw a hunk of debris smash though the smoked sky and engulf my sister.


No.


I tried to sit up but only achieved a sticky, head-grinding twitch.


Then it was like other people were tumbling into my head:


I’m alive. I’m bloody breathing for Christ’s-bloody-sake. I was meant to die; I was dying wasn’t I? Why aren’t I dead? What happened? 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.


And, in a way, it was actually funny, because I remembered the 3am version of the Oxleigh Graveyard and the dead RAF guy it contained – dead on May-the-freaking-fifth. And, in a way, I actually laughed.

 

***


When a local farmer found Tessa Davies in one of his fields he looked at her broken, face with its twisted hollow laugh and said “Merde.”


He consulted his watch and said to his brother. “Quelle coïncidence ! l’heure est cinq heures cinq.”

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