Publish Novellas 5 May 2021
EPISODE 1 – AIRBORNE
Exposing a flaw in public health records leads guests down a seemingly intractable path of despair in this thrilling story.
In The Cockpit
Jayson’s heart is pounding so hard, it’s nearly audible outside his body. He completes his flight checklist for the Cessna 172 in 30 minutes this time. It’s down from an hour on his maiden flight.
“Pull back on the throttle. Balance with the yoke. Keep pulling. That’s it. Do you feel that? Jayson, we’re airborne! Now look at your Vertical Speed Indicator and level us out,” says Chad, the flying instructor. “How’s that feel?”
“It feels great!” A collision of fear and exhilaration spikes Jayson’s adrenalin as the plane dips and rises. “How much longer before I get my recreational pilot license?”
“On an aircraft this size, you should be able to complete your preflight checklist in 15 minutes without rushing. There are other requirements. At your pace, it may take a few months. You’re making good progress though.”
After altitude practice over the Pacific Ocean, Chad has Jayson circle back to the airport. “We have permission to land. Now bring her down easy like you’ve done before.”
As a 27-year-old programmer, Jayson has a technical mind. But there is a big difference between staring at computer code and a three-dimensional skyline. Learning to fly on the weekends is a satisfying diversion.
Jayson picks up some Thai food on the way home from his lesson. He’s expanding his palate of cuisines, as he anticipates flying around the world.
A sweepstakes award letter is in the mailbox along with a new travel magazine and a credit card bill. He flips through some magazine photos of Thailand while eating Tom Yum Goong.
Then Jayson opens the sweepstakes envelope, expecting it to be junk mail. Trying to restrain excitement, it looks like he has won a trip. Photos of Kokomo Private Island resort are enticing.
Jayson examines the details while biting a piece of shrimp with chopsticks. The letter says that he qualifies for a 1-week, all-inclusive Fijian resort vacation. There is no cost for airfare to and from the island. Breakfast buffet, luau, nightly entertainment, and accommodations are all included.
His heart is racing as it does when he flies a plane through the clouds. Just for fun, he uses his new smartwatch to check his heart rate. All is fine.
“It looks like I’ll be canceling flying lessons next week!” he says gleefully out loud to an empty room.
Jayson is so excited that he phones Chad right away to reveal, “For my lesson next week, I’ll be flying over Fiji.” He then fills Chad in on the details.
On Monday, Jayson gets permission to take time off from work. Then he calls the number on the invitation to confirm. The operator, Aahna, says, “Tickets will arrive via overnight courier for Saturday morning departure.”
Jayson is thrilled. “This is real?”
“Yes, it is,” assures Aahna.
“I can hardly wait,” Jayson replies.
As you can tell, Jayson is easily excitable. He cannot get the trip off his mind all week. His boss recognizes the vacation is distracting his concentration, so she lets him go home early on Friday.
To The Airport
Saturday morning, Jayson uses a ride-share service to get to LAX with two large suitcases and one carry-on bag. One of the cases has a slightly smaller suitcase inside so he can bring back souvenirs.
According to the itinerary, there’s a stopover in Hawaii before transferring to an Embraer Legacy 650E private jet to Fiji. The first plane leaves Los Angeles at 6:20 AM. Jayson is in Hawaii by noon. A 2-hour stopover gives him time for a festive luau lunch.
The reception party spreads a feast with roasted pig, every kind of jumbo shrimp, the sweetest pineapple, and any exotic drink you can imagine. Hula dancers sway to ukulele music while singing. Impulsive Jayson even tries a few hula moves before the stopover ends too soon.
When he steps onto the Legacy 650E, he is in awe of the luxury. His training Cessna seats a maximum of four people. This plane can seat up to 14 passengers plus 2 pilots.
There are only two passengers on this plane, besides the two pilots and a flight attendant. In one of the plush leather seats is a 25 year-old female. Even with the gust of wind blowing her hair in disarray, she is quite attractive.
“Hello. My name is Jayson Kimble. And you are?”
“Hi Jayson, I’m Caroline Jackson. I didn’t realize I’d be sharing a cabin in Fiji,” she says in a playful tone to break the ice.
With a Cheshire grin, Jayson replies, “I’m certain we’ll have separate accommodations. But I could put in a request for a change if you like,” he says flirtatiously.
“That won’t be necessary, just yet. With your luau dance moves, I’ll keep your offer in mind though,” Caroline softly replies while averting her gaze.
Raising his eyebrows, Jayson remarks, “So, you were eying me at the luau? This sweepstakes trip gets better by the hour.”
“Oh, I won a sweepstakes too! I could hardly believe it. If the island is half as beautiful as the photos, I’ll be more than satisfied,” says Caroline with excitement.
🤗 Have you ever had a vacation that exceeded your expectations?
Still gawking at Caroline, “Everything is more beautiful in real life,” Jayson replies while sensing that he is taking the innuendoes too far. So he changes the subject.
“I’m excited to be on this beautiful airplane. I’ve been taking flying lessons for about a month. It’s probably why I qualify for the trip.”
The engine revs, as the plane slowly taxies the runway. “Hold steady, we are taking off,” Jayson says in a giddy voice. “I wish I was in the cockpit.”
“So you’re a pilot, who dances?” asks Caroline.
“Not really. There are a few more months before I get my license. But I’m more comfortable on this plane than a large commercial aircraft.” Tapping his digital smartwatch to view coordinates, Jayson interjects, “The itinerary says we should reach Fiji in 6 hours.”
“That’s an impressive-looking wristwatch. Does it tell you where we are on a map?” Caroline asks.
“It does. I’ve been closely following the journey since leaving my apartment in Santa Monica this morning,” Jayson replies excitedly, as he shows off some other features of the watch.
“I can see how that comes in handy for a pilot. But on this vacation, I hope to disconnect from technology,” Caroline replies.
“You’re probably right. As a programmer, I’m sort of a technology junkie, I guess. Are you in the travel business?”
“No, I foolishly married young,” Caroline says somberly. “Now I’m in the middle of a divorce. So I guess you can say that my career options are open at the moment.”
Feeling bad for not confirming her marital status from the beginning, Jayson tries to offer consolation. “Sorry to hear about your breakup.”
“Don’t be. It’s for the best. I don’t know why I qualify for a free vacation. But with all the turmoil in my life right now,” Caroline continues, “I welcome it.”
“For sure,” Jayson says with reassurance.
There’s a long awkward silence as they get airborne and take in spectacular views through the windows.
The flight attendant offers fresh coconut juice and says, “You need to stay hydrated at this altitude,” as she extends two coconuts with straws.
“That looks good, thank you,” both Jayson and Caroline say in unison while smiling at each other.
After a couple of minutes, the attendant says, “You should get some shuteye since it’s a long flight. There will be much activity when we land.”
Both passengers are already asleep for the duration of the flight.
In the pitch of night, the next thing Jayson and Caroline hear is, “Thanks for flying with us. Watch your step as you exit. Enjoy your stay.” The door opens, and they step off the plane.
Feeling groggy as they drag heavy legs toward faint lights in the dark distance, the co-pilot says, “Don’t worry about your bags, I’ll have them sent to your rooms.”
As they get closer to the tiki torches, the sound of tribal drums accompanies bizarre organ music. Everything seems much darker than you would expect from a festive resort—as if there’s a power outage or someone turned out the lights after hours.
At the entrance, Aahna meets the guests outside. “Welcome, I’m Aahna, we spoke on the phone. Was your flight comfortable?”
“Oh, yes! Hi Aahna…, a familiar voice. The flight was a little too comfortable. I’m afraid neither of us has the energy or appetite for another luau.”
Caroline then adds, “Perhaps it’s jet lag or all the food we ate, but I feel wiped out.”
“No problem. You’re already checked in. I’ll have a golf cart take you to your accommodations for the evening. Enjoy some fresh coconut juice to build your electrolytes,” Aahna offers. “You’ll feel better.”
In the golf cart, Caroline and Jayson blackout again after a few sips.
The next morning Jayson looks at his wrist to check his watch. But in its place are handcuffs. On the other side of the room, Caroline’s hands are also restrained.
Tearfully trembling while staring at the chains, Caroline asks, “What kind of deviant place is this?”