Ugh, okay Bill, wuddya got for us this week?
Daniel sat down on a fallen trunk, pulling the bottle of melted snow out from inside his coat and drinking it down in a few swigs. It was warm from his body heat–which was a good thing, cold water being a hazard in these temperatures–and tasted wonderfully clear and clean.
The snowfall had picked up once more while they’d been climbing, filling the air with whiteness and obscuring the far distances, but Daniel hoped that by the time they got to the top of the ridge it would fall again.
Oh boy. Survivalism.
Bob is clearly struggling from the travelling and slowing Dan down, but he refuses to admit it because… who fucking cares at this point, he’s a dick alright?
Bob… took a pack of cigarettes out of his pocket and lit one, taking a long draw and blowing the smoke out into the air.
“Is that a good idea?”
“I don’t want to hear it.”
I bet if Bill keeps pointing out how unhealthy Bob is it’ll be soooo ironic when he survives. The way this book is going, I hope I don’t survive.
Dan looks down at the crash site, hoping to see smoke signals signifying that Kerry has woken up. But alas. Dan is feeling a lot of conflicting emotions right now, so naturally Bob complains about stupid shit.
He [Bob] said, “The rescue planes aren’t going to be able to see them from the air like this. They should start a signal fire. Make themselves visible. Something.”
Daniel could feel Bob looking at him. “There are smart people down there. Phil. Those two stewardesses. I’m sure they’ll know what to do when the weather clears.”
Yeah that’s the real brain trust right there. Wait a minute weren’t you screaming at that one stewardess a while ago for almost giving everyone hypothermia?
He glanced at Bob. “You should have left them with your cigarette lighter.”
“I’m sure I wasn’t the only smoker on the plane.”
I don’t even care anymore. I’m tired of puffing up a storm every time Bob endangers people’s lives for the sake of writing 101 straw-man shitboy tactics. I bet I’m supposed to be pissed because “ooo the terrible person keeps getting away with it” but I just…don’t care. I live in America, 2017, I’m practically numb to it. Is this book over yet?
Like any rational person, Dan tries to get Bob to go back down but Bob continues to have no motivation other than to annoy me.
So they keep going, Dan is sad, bla bla. They reach the top and, what do you know! There’s fucking nothing there.
He wanted to weep. He wanted to fall on his knees and scream into the wind, but there was no point. It would be a useless waste of precious energy, and he needed all he could manage.
He had only two choices: go on, or go back.
Next to him, Bob struggled to stand up in the wind and took in the scene below, dim in the fading light. “Well,” he said, taking in the scene, “looks like we’re fucked.”
These two are in two different books I swear. I guess it’s supposed to be funny or whatever. I just want someone to die so that something happens. As it stands, Dan and Bob go to make a fire and that’s the end of the chapter.
Back at Camp Phil, they’ve started to pre-emptively bury Kerry.
…Kerry, who lay still, her lashes dark against her cheeks, tucked under a layer of coats and blankets.
He [Phil] picked up her hand and peeled back her gloves, then his own, to check for frostbite–her skin was icy cold and pale. Phil rubbed her hands vigorously between his own for a minute or so each, hoping the friction and the movement would increase her circulation. … Her skin was softer than he anticipated, her forehead unlined with worry or age. He envied her that–her youth, her beauty. Her hopes, her future. And she was carrying Daniel’s baby.
This makes Phil sound like a woman scorned who wishes Daniel had filled her with his seed. Bobbo’s already taken that spot though, so, tough luck. You’ll just have to deal like the rest of us. Semen-less.
Sorry what were we talking about? I got semen on the brain.
For the first time since the crash, he thought, Maybe it would be all right if we were to die out here. Maybe there are worse things that could happen than closing your eyes and slipping away peacefully in your sleep.
As soon as he thought it, he looked down into Kerry’s face and knew it was wrong to give in. She deserved to live; her baby deserved to live. Phil was only feeling sorry for himself again.
I can’t wait for the sequel to this when Phil realizes how much of a little shit Jackson is and has to go back in time to prevent him from being born.
Phil takes a seat next to Kerry. He knows his injury is getting worse even though Bev has done her best to let him suffer in ignorance. Speak of the Devil, Bev comes over, still trying to warm up an IV for Kerry. Phil takes this moment to annoy someone else besides me with his depressing thoughts.
Phil shook his head gloomily. “That’s just it, though. I don’t have a wife or kids. If I don’t come back, would anyone really care?”
Beverly gave him a significant side-eye, and Phil could almost feel her weighing her words. “Has anyone ever told you you’re a bit of a pessimist?”
“People mention it from time to time, yes.”
She grinned. “There’s nothing that says just because your wife died that you couldn’t remarry. You could have a family still. You’re what, forty?”
“Plenty of time.”
HOLD UP. This whole time Phil’s been forty two??
Uh. Well, alright then. I mean maybe it was just me but I got the impression that Emily died when he was in his late twenties/early thirties. Mostly because he’s been behaving like a ten year old this whole time. It’s just really jarring to think he’s closer to Bob in age than Daniel and he’s been looking to Dan for advice and… Alright I’m probably over-thinking this. Now I just have to throw out my First Light fancast with Zach Woods as Phil.
Then Bev calls him of all things… an Eeyore. Maybe it’s not so ridiculous that Phil acts so young.
“The donkey from Winnie-the-Pooh.”
Wait what the fuck, you don’t know who Eeyore is, Phil? You’re sleeping outside the plane tonight.
[Bev] “The one who’s always walking around feeling sorry for himself.”
“I do not enjoy feeling sorry for myself!”
Sounds like someone who enjoys feeling sorry for himself would say…
Who the hell did Beverly think she was? He didn’t need a shrink, didn’t need her psychoanalyzing his worst traits, his ugliest fears.
Hate to burst your bubble, Phil, but all it takes is spending two minutes with you to realize how much of a loser you are.
“You think your losses are special,” Beverly went on. “Different from everyone else’s. That you’ve suffered more.”
“I never said that!”
“Not in so many words, no, but you wallow in self-pity like a pig in shit. You lost your wife. All right, that’s unfair, it’s horrible, but everyone loses their spouse sooner or later, don’t they?”
“Emily was only thirty-five!”
“Who gets to choose where and when? Nobody.” Beverly was talking loudly now, half the eyes of the plane on her. “Your plane crashed. That sucks. But look around you: everyone you see was in that crash, too. Not just you. You’re just acting like you were the only one. You survived. You didn’t die. A lot of people died, but not you.”
Yaaassssss, drag him!
What you got to say to that Phil?
“I know that. Thank you, Oprah.”
Bev tells him to shut up and start working on warming the IV’s because he fucking lost that battle. Phil continues to prove he doesn’t enjoy feeling sorry for himself by feeling sorry for himself and talking to his dead wife in his head. But then he decides to get a fire going so I guess that’s character development.
“We need a fire for this job,” he said. “With a fire we could get the bags thawed in no time.”
To his surprise, Beverly actually smiled at him, a genuine smile that broke over her face like the sun coming up. “If you really manage to get a fire going, the folks around here will elect you king.”
Bev’s lack of understanding of monarchical systems aside, it’s Fire-Phil to the rescue. He collects some of the dry pieces of paper and fire wood they stacked in the back of the plane. Kecia and Zach notice and start helping him out.
“First things first. We need a lighter, if that’s possible,” he said. “Can you ask around to see if one of the other passengers has one?”
I hope somewhere Bill is giving himself a pat on the back for that hefty helping of dramatic irony, cuz he’s the only one enjoying this at this point.
Despite it being against TSA regulation, Kecia goes to see if anyone had the good fortune of breaking the rules and bringing a lighter, before she inevitably fines them $300 for bringing a lighter on board. Phil starts digging out the snow so the fire has a place to sit.
Zach returns with supplies but Kecia and the other flight attendant, Amber, are unable to find a lighter. Damn these passengers for following regulations.
Then something seemed to come over her face. “Wait a minute,” she said. “One of the pilots was a smoker. He must have a lighter on him. If we could get in there…”
Amber grew quiet. If there was a lighter on one of the pilots, someone would have to get into the cockpit to retrieve it.
“I’ll go,” Phil said, before she could volunteer.
She laughed. “Why, because you’re a guy?”
Watch your mouth missy, Phil’s more of a feminist icon than you could ever hope to be.
“You’re hurt, though you’re trying your damnedest to hide it.”
“I’m not so bad.”
“Don’t be brave,” she said. …
Phil thought about arguing with her, but in fact she was right: the dull throbbing in his pelvis was growing alarmingly in size and seemed to get worse whenever he bent over or tried to sit down. … And he’d started pissing blood, the snow tinged pink whenever he went outside to relieve himself. He’d started covering it up with snow after, so no one would see, no one being Beverly.
I understand yearning for the sweet release of death more than anyone, but this is getting out of hand.
Later that night, with the help of the dead pilot’s lighter, Phil manages to get the fire going, huzzah!
That’s when the leeches start coming out.
Phil goes back in to get the IV bags and by the time he comes back people have crowded the fire and one of them pushes Zach onto the ground to get closer. Phil gets understandably pissed off and then…well this happens.
He stepped forward and tapped the man on the shoulder. “Excuse me,” he said. “We need to get through.”
The big man kept his head down and pretended not to hear him.
“You pushed this boy,” Phil said. “He has more right to be here than you do.”
Still nothing. Zach said, “Don’t worry about it.”
“I will. It’s not right. You helped me build this fire, and now it’s being taken over by people who were too scared or lazy to come out here and help us.”
The man stopped pretending he didn’t hear Phil. He turned around and said, “What did you say to me?”
“You heard me,” Phil said. “I built that fire. Now, move your ass.”
The bigger man turned away again. “It’s a nice fire. Thanks so much.”
“I didn’t build it for you to push this boy away. He helped me gather the materials for this fire. You didn’t. … We’ll take turns, twenty minutes each. But if you don’t help gather wood to keep it going, or if you let the fire go out, you won’t get to sit by it anymore.”
“What are you gonna do if we don’t move?” said another passenger….
Phil kept his hands in his pockets and said, “I can put out that fire.”
The huddled passengers lifted their heads to look at him. “What?” said the first man, the red-faced one.
“You heard me,” Phil said quietly.
He didn’t move, didn’t twitch. They would know he was serious, or they would pay the consequences.
“What do you say we kill you and take the lighter?” said one of them in a low voice.
I apologize for the quote block but I feel like it’s important to put as much as possible of this scene to highlight what’s really wrong with this book. Beyond the logical nitpicks and the bizarre choices. This might seem like an odd choice, because this is actually a decent scene with interesting conflict, but tell me: what is the name of the big guy? You don’t know, because Bill doesn’t know. I’ve mentioned over and over that nothing happens in this book, but that didn’t have to be true. We could have spent the whole story just spending three or four days post plane-crash, going through the survival struggle and anxiety. But we didn’t. We fucked around with Dan and Phil playing who can get Kerry to die faster.
We’ve spent this whole book with three characters (mostly two because I guess Kerry was so important she had to be absent for two thirds of it), a tiny scope, with one goal: keep Kerry alive. And now we’re expected to understand the dynamic of something much bigger with more complicated goals. It’s a different story entirely. But we’re only even seeing it just because we need Phil to look badass.
You get X amount of time (in this case pages) to tell your story and you better make sure you’re using every little bit of it to serve the story. But Bill just pads us with bullshit constantly. And at the end of the day it doesn’t freaking matter. Because Bill is a “New York Times Bestselling Author” and he probably wrote this in one draft.
Ok, enough demoralizing Creative Writing Seminar, I’ll get back to the memes.
Actually, I have one more little problem with this scene. Where did all these murderous people come from? No, I get it, that stressful situations like this can make people desperate. But I was under the impression that the most able-bodied people on the plane were Dan and Bill, and the rest were a smattering of helpless women™ and Zach. Where did these bullies come from? Why weren’t they the ones going to find help?
Ugh, whatever. Phil convinces them they’ll never find the lighter if they kill him and the bullies disperse.
He sat next to Kerry while Beverly worked to hook up the IV. He picked up her hand and held it wordlessly, Beverly watching him the whole time, waiting to see what he would do. “I can feel you watching me,” he said.
“I’m not.” The nurse was barely visible….
“You are. Might as well say what’s on your mind.”
“I was just thinking how wrong I was about you.”
Looks like Phil bought a last minute fastpass for character development.
She made a little huffing noise, almost a laugh, and said, “You were kind of amazing, really. I saw the whole thing. They could have killed you, but you didn’t back down.”
“Didn’t feel like it just then.”
“I was proud of you.”
“I know that sounds condescending, and I don’t mean it that way. I mean it was kind of thrilling to watch. To see another person stand up for someone else like that.”
I think Bev’s been away from her husband a liiiiittle too long.
And then Bev teases him about his tragic one-sided crush on Kerry because by this point if you haven’t figured out how this book is going to end, I can’t help you.
Come back next week, when the nightmarish mediocrity that is The NYT Bestsellers list will consume us whole.