Alright I can do this, we’re in the home stretch here people. We can get through this.
Let’s check in with Dan.
When Daniel woke in the morning in the hollow underneath the fir tree he’d chosen for their shelter, he caught a patch of blue sky through the boroughs and felt the first ray of hope he remembered for days… The storm had blown itself out at last, and instead of pushing on into the bush, he and Bob could return to the plane and the rest of the passengers to wait for rescue.
Wait holy shit is something actually happening?
He clambered onto his knees and parted the branches… but outside the shelter he saw a low gray sky still, the snow falling steadily. The blue he’d seen was nothing but a small break in the midst of the ongoing storm, gone in a few more seconds as if it had never happened.
Nope. False alarm. Back to our regularly scheduled misery it seems. Call me Nixon because I’ve resigned myself to this shit.
Well after that disappointment, Dan starts packing up what supplies they had and checking for any damage done in the night.
He picked up the blanket and tried to fold it, only then noticing that his own hands felt numb, the tips of his fingers strangely absent, as if they’d been amputated. He pulled the first layer of gloves off with his teeth, then the second layer, and there it was, just as he’d feared–a frosty whiteness at the tips of his first and middle fingers.
Note to anyone reading, do not google frostbite out of curiosity, you WILL vomit.
But I thought Dan was a savvy guy in the wilderness, he’d been in the woods that one time with suitable camping gear! What could have happened?
Bob had been the last awake, had promised to bank the fire the way Daniel had showed him, had sworn to wake Daniel up the moment he’d started to feel sleepy, but none of that had happened. He’d let it go out. Goddamn it all. Bob had let the fire burn out.
Oh my god oh my god oh my god. Are we finally going to have some conflict? Can we please please have a fight. I want a fight. Just a little one.
Dan begrudgingly wakes up Bob and I start getting the popcorn.
The tip of Bob’s nose and both cheeks were bright red, as if he, too, might be suffering the beginnings of frostbite, but Daniel wasn’t ready to let go of his anger just yet.
“Wait, what? What happened to the fire now?” Bob asked.
“It went out,” said Daniel. “You must have fallen asleep without waking me. Now my hands are frostbitten and we don’t have a fire to warm up to.”
“No, no,” Bob said. “I woke you up. I distinctly remember you saying you had the fire under control.”
“You never woke me, Bob.”
“I did, I know it.”
Either Bob is trying to pull off the greatest gaslighting ever or we’re in wendigo country my friends.
In a minute they had the fire going again, small and smoky, but significant, and Daniel put his hands out in front of it, feeling the skin on his fingers tingle and ache as they came back to life.
He stole a glance or two at Bob, who had leaned back to put his booted feet up to the fire and was now engaged in eating half of the last bag of pretzels….
Yessss Daniel, give in to your anger. Put Zach’s shoelaces to good use my friend.
Daniel’s boss didn’t look too healthy–pale and puckered, naked almost, like a turkey that’s been plucked and prepared for the pot.
Daniel felt a moment of regret–
the old man didn’t want to be here any more than Daniel did….
This was his whole idea in the first place what are you talking about GET ANGRY DAMN IT.
“So what’s the plan?” Bob asked, swallowing the last bite of pretzel and handing the rest of the bag to Daniel.
“I’m going to send you back to the others,” he said. “Go on back down the ridge and tell them I’m going on. If the weather breaks, I’ll head back in your direction, but until then I’m going to keep looking.”
Yes I’m laying it heavy with the P&R GIFs and no I don’t care
… Okay, okay I can work with this. At least we’ve been building this conflict a little. Now the stakes have been raised. We can actually have at it.
“You shouldn’t be out here by yourself. You need a backup.”
Excuse me did you miss the part where you gave him frostbite. The universe is sending you a message Bob. The call is coming from inside the house. And Daniel can’t answer it because his fingers don’t work.
Daniel wanted to answer that Bob was more of a noose around his neck than a helping hand, but he didn’t want to argue with his boss.
THIS IS THE PERFECT TIME TO ARGUE YOU RUBE
I bet if Bob was literally holding Daniel’s head under water Daniel would just let himself drown because fighting with Bob be too much work.
“I need you back there,” Daniel said. “Someone needs to be ready to light a signal fire if the weather clears up. They need someone to take charge.”
Who you said was incompetent a couple chapters ago. Dan, come on man, I’m believing in you right now, get mad, make him go back.
“…I’m not going back. I’m coming with you.”
Daniel sighed. He’d known the minute the old man opened his mouth what he would say.
“All right, then,” he said.
I’m about to McFreakin’ lose it, guys. This chapter is like a demented Groundhog Day. We’re just going to keep having the same argument with the same outcome over and over. Maybe this book is cursed. It steals the mind of whoever tries to read it and makes Bill all the more powerful. It’s genius. My brain truly feels like it’s been in a crash and is struggling to survive, but I’m not gonna tell anyone I’m peeing blood. I should have known, Bill’s gorgeous smolder was just too good to be true.
Okay, just focus. Gotta keep going.
Dan asks Bob for help-
cranking the cell phone charger. He’s guessing that they must be getting somewhat closer to civilization and therefore there could be a signal. They give it a go, but no luck. Dan is understandably upset by all this and continues to worry about getting Kerry help in time. And we come back to the same conclusion we already did last time: he has to keep going to find help.
Let’s move on to the next chapter and hopefully I won’t feel like my intelligence is being water-boarded.
The first half of this chapter is just Phil sitting and making sure Kerry doesn’t die. And Bev worries about him. That’s it. Four pages well spent.
The light outside was starting to go gray when Kerry’s eyes fluttered open.
Our seizing Princess Peach has awakened!
Remember, at the beginning of this whole charade pretending to be a novel Dan wanted Kerry telling the story. And she’s been unconscious for a good two-thirds of it. Kerry’s meant to be the emotional object for both Phil and Dan. She is their motivation, a literal sleeping beauty meant to make the two male leads do things (and she can’t even seem to get them to do that). Please wait until the end of this post before commenting threats against me for speaking about anything resembling feminism. It’s just common courtesy.
Anyway, woo, Kerry’s up.
She starts trying to cuddle with Phil because she’s cold, which makes Phil act like a twelve year old.
…but Phil froze, feeling her fingers moving against his side, up under the edge of his coat, holding on. She had just mistaken him for Daniel in her confused, half-asleep state. Still there was another, deeper part of him that wanted to think she knew exactly who she was embracing.
Don’t move. Don’t breathe.
He wanted very badly to take her in his arms, to kiss her, but he knew he couldn’t. She might still be sick, confused but he was not: he was acutely aware of the boundary wall going back up between them. He couldn’t let himself cross that divide.
Feminist Phil strikes again!
“Please,” she said, pulling him toward her.
Phil felt the wall crumbling, felt it turn into a landslide. He slid downward, stretching himself out along the floor next to her….
I’ve reduced myself to BBT GIFs, this is where we’re at now
Not. Even. One. Sentence.
He couldn’t make it one sentence.
Why did you do this to me Bill, is this about your mom? Did she not like you?
Phil cuddles with Kerry and is all “oh boy I gotta’ try to hide my boner.”
And that’s the end of the chapter. This is where I’d usually end it. But… no, that’s what Bill wants. We can’t let him win. I am not finishing this post until something freaking happens. Bill has plot blue-balled me for the last time.
I’m not crazy. I have to do this. It’s a matter of pride, a matter of good vs. evil!
… Aw shit it’s another Dan and Bob chapter… I just have to be strong.
Our dysfunctional duo is using the compass on Bob’s watch and the creek to head downstream. Dan continues to fluctuate between “Dammit Bob” and “Oh yeah my fianceé :(.”
The burn in Daniel’s own thighs was significant, and he started to feel more and more impatient that he’d allowed Bob to talk him into making the trek. There were more important things at stake here than one man’s pride, Daniel thought. There was Kerry, back at the crash site. Kerry with her brain swollen against her skull, the pressure building second by second, Kerry with their baby clinging to life inside her.
What is this whole “Bob talked me into it” crap? You volunteered to go. You have to get Kerry help, you’ll probably remind us all of that in the next few paragraphs.
All the rest of the day, they followed the ice downstream…. Occasionally they came across animal tracks, caribou or moose, and once Daniel and Bob caught each other’s eyes at the sight of a series of wolf tracks and scat, at the red blood of some small animal dead in the snow–rabbit, maybe. “Should we be worried?” Bob asked.
“There are almost no fatal wolf attacks in North America.”
THEIR NOSES ARE SHARPER THAN THEIR TEETH, DAN
They travel until nightfall and Bob complains about having to make a fire to the guy he gave frostbite. Daniel warms his hands a bit, knowing it’s likely not helping all that much but I mean, whatcha gonna’ do. He tries to rest and for some reason can’t seem to get comfortable. Alright then Princess Dan, sorry these aren’t the silk sheets you’re used to.
Instead, he pulls out the phone and tries to find signal again. Still, no luck. This is apparently the breaking point for Bob. Not the frostbite, the freaking phone.
[Bob] “You should get some rest. We can try again in the morning.”
“I’m always afraid there’s going to be signal somewhere, and I’ll miss it.”
“You won’t help her by wearing yourself out,” Bob said. “Come on, give me the phone.” He came out of the shelter and held out his hand to take it.
Daniel couldn’t quite believe what he was hearing. “What?”
“You need to quit thinking that thing is going to save us. The only thing that’s going to save us is finding people.”
Does Bob know what a phone does? For fuck’s sake Dan is trying to take his mind off his possibly dying fianceé and the fact that now he’ll never be a concert pianist, let him have his little delusion.
“It’s a distraction, nothing more. Give it here. I’ll keep it until morning. That way you won’t be tempted to look at it.”
“The hell you will,” Daniel said. “I’m not a kid who’s been sent to his room. It’s my phone, and I’ll be damned if you’ll take it away.”
“Put the phone away, Albrecht.”
Bob took another step, then another. Did he really think to take the phone away from Daniel by force? Just who, exactly, did Bob Packer think he was?
Bob was marching toward Daniel. “I said put that goddamn phone away.”
Daniel was holding the phone away, out of Bob’s reach. If the old man actually thought he was going to take it away, he had another thing coming. “No.”
Truly this is the battle of legends.
It’s no use Dan, I have the plot armor!
Bob grabbed at it. The phone flew through the air, the green glow of the screen illuminated momentarily against the snow and the trees and the darkness. It spun, then fell with a resounding crack on the ice.
I wash my hands of this. Lets see how Bill fucks this up.
“You sonofabitch,” Dan hissed.
“If you’d put it away like I’d asked, it would still be intact.”
“If you weren’t intent on always having the last say, it would still be intact,” Daniel said. “Now what will we do?”
“Same thing as we did before,” Bob said. “We go downstream. We find help. We bring it back to the others.”
“Goddamn you!” Daniel exclaimed. He was angrier than he’d ever been in his life.
“angrier than he’d ever been” oh go fuck yourself Bill. We both know you’re not going to actually commit to this. Might as well tell Dan to save his breath, he’s going to need it when he regrets raising his voice to Bob and has to suck him off in apology.
“I should have left you back at the wreck. You’ve been nothing but a problem for me since the minute we crashed.”
“I’m the problem,” said Bob, “when you’ve been kidding yourself about the phone this whole time?”
Does anyone wanna take a guess as to what Bob’s talking about? No? Fair enough.
Daniel couldn’t hear, his whole body was buzzing so with anger. He could see nothing but the sight of Bob’s red face in the snow, his cheeks and nose white with frostbite and his eyes small and black in his round face, and he’d never wanted to hit another person so much in his life.
He could do it, too–he imagined launching himself at Bob’s knees, taking the old man down, the two of them falling together in the snow, Daniel sitting on Bob’s chest and hitting him hard two, three times, the satisfying crunch of his knuckles hitting Bob’s nose until it bled.
But that wouldn’t help.
Let’s just take a moment, sit back, and process all of this nonsense.
I’m gonna be frank, throughout this journey the most I’ve gotten with this book is mildly irritated. It’s bad, sure, but it’s just another mediocre fiction beach read along hundreds of others. But this. This infuriates me. It’s insulting as a reader.
You know what this book is? This book is the guy with so little self-confidence that he has to make up these outrageous stories about how great and exciting his life is, but when someone calls him out on it, he backpedals.
Why write this book? I’m serious, why did Bill write this book? Why have it be about a plane crash and surviving in the Yukon when you’re clearly conflict-averse? We saw a little of this in the Phil Fire scene, but this is the cherry on top of the garbage sundae.
Dan doesn’t come off looking reasonable and kind to a fault; he’s a coward. He’s selfish, he’s willing to let Bob continue to ruin the chances of people’s survival because he doesn’t want to confront him. Because “it wouldn’t do any good.” Why did Phil look up to this guy? Ironically, when presented with conflict, Phil is the one that rose to the occasion, Dan has never done that. He acquiesces. His wedding, his job integrity, his fucking fianceé’s life, all kowtowed to Bob. Bill can tell us all he wants that Dan is a nice guy, that he’s doing the right thing, but Dan will never be the hero in this story.
Oh and here’s a little tip, Bill, telling us what could happen is not the same thing as ACTUALLY HAVING IT HAPPEN. It just shows us that you thought of a good scene to write and then said “nah fuck you guys” and are now dangling it in front of us.
That’s not even getting into the mess that is Bob. Bill has no sense of characterization, he just writes things, or rather, he tells us he writes things. Bob has no motivation that is consistent and is just confusing and frustrating to have around. And NO that does not make him a good antagonist. This isn’t Heath Ledger’s Joker. I guess he’s supposed to be a control freak but we never even really delve into that because Daniel never challenges him so we never learn anything or have a story. Every time he’s on the page its just a blob of frustration slowly killing Dan and me.
Let’s just… fucking move on with this. Christ.
But that wouldn’t help. It would just expend energy he didn’t have on a lost cause. So he did the next best thing instead.
“I quit, Bob.”
WHOOP DE FREAKING DOO
THAT’S REALLY GONNA MATTER WHEN YOU BOTH DIE
The two men curled up against each other in the small space of the shelter, using their body heat and the small fire to chase off the cold. Don’t think I’ll forget this. Not for a second.
That’s a real nice sentiment. Too bad Bill’s going to forget by the time he finishes this chapter because god knows he didn’t re-read this shit.
FINALLY, we get to the next chapter. For the first time in like… I don’t know, so many freaking chapters, we’re in Kerry’s perspective. So Kerry’s up and is understandably very disoriented and confused.
She remembered being in Alaska, the airport in Anchorage. She remembered talking to Daniel about something important. The wedding, she thought it was–and something else, something that nagged at her but that she couldn’t remember.
Phil said, “Daniel left to go find help.”
“Why? Shouldn’t he have stayed here with the rest of us? Wouldn’t that be safer?”
“He was scared. We all were. You wouldn’t wake up, and then Beverly said you might lose the baby…”
She stiffened. The baby–that was the thing she hadn’t remembered right away.
Don’t you hate it when you forget your body is infected with life? At least she got the luxury of forgetting Jackson. We can’t all have that.
Rising panic again, her breath coming fast and heavy, her heart shattering her ribs. “That’s why he left, wasn’t it? He thought we were in danger. The–the baby and me.”
She pulled herself up into a standing position. “If I wasn’t pregnant right now, he might not have gone at all, would he?”
Um, I mean you had some radical seizures, too. But like… k.
So Kerry starts panicking and Phil tries to calm her female hysteria, this time with 100% less violent shaking. Kerry staggers outside to get some air and stumbles upon the fire that the passengers have kept going under Phil’s watch.
“Who built this fire?” she asked the flight attendant.
“Phil did it, the day before yesterday,” said the other woman. Kecia–that was her name. “You should have seen him. He was trying to warm up that IV bag for you–it was a block of ice before he made that fire. But he was determined. … He was like a man on a mission, trying to warm up those IV bags.”
“Phil did it?” Phil Velez, her dour, pessimistic co-worker?
“And then when some of the other passengers tried to take over the fire… he chased them off. Said he’d put the fire out and let everyone freeze to death if they couldn’t learn to take turns with it.”
It’s a good thing that we have a Judy replacement to tell Kerry all the plot relevant things that happened while she was doing her best Vladimir Lenin impression.
She couldn’t think straight. Daniel was gone, and Phil had stayed behind to take care of her. Clearly the world had changed while she was asleep. Up was down, black was white, and Kerry Egan was no longer certain she knew anything of the world, or the people in it.
CATS WERE DOGS. FORKS WERE SPOONS. NINTENDO WAS NINTENDON’T.
No need to be so dramatic Kerry. I mean who could have foreseen Phil’s change? It’s not like you made a judgement call of him after one awkward sentence or something you dingleberry.
After spending some time by the fire, Kerry goes back inside and heads over to where Phil is practically wilting.
From across the plane, Kerry said, “You’re in a lot of pain?”
Phil looked up as if he hadn’t realized she was there. He pulled his shirt back down quickly, though Kerry had seen nothing more than an expanse of pale stomach marked by a purple bruise. “It’s been getting worse. I can feel it.”
“Is it bad?”
“Bad enough,” Beverly said, turning around to fix Phil with a steely glare. “And I know you’re peeing blood, so don’t bother trying to hide it anymore.” Then she stomped toward someone coughing near the rear of the plane.
Ha! How embarrassing. Your face must be as red as the snow you just peed in.
“What’s her problem?” Kerry asked.
He peed blood. That’s her problem. Also, you aren’t exactly in the Bahamas and some of us didn’t get to sleep through half the book.
[Phil] “She’s working without a net…. She’s worried she won’t be able to keep us all alive until we’re found.”
This struck Kerry as more insightful than she would have given Phil credit for, and again she found herself shifting her perceptions of him, her long-held assumptions.
Yes, we all know that having empathy is a foreign concept to you. To be fair, Kerry does admit that she was wrong and that she had been too proud to realize Phil was not literally Satan. She thanks him for doing the small favor of keeping her alive and then starts digging into his most painful memory.
“You had this happen before, didn’t you?”
He smiled, grimly. “I know a little something about it, yes.”
“So tell me,” she said.
“You don’t want to hear about my life.”
She waved her arms around, encompassing the plane, the passengers, the boredom and cold. “You have a better time to talk to me than now? Come on, let’s hear it.”
And so he told her about Emily, her diagnosis, her treatment.
How many times are people going to make Phil about his dead wife? Don’t they know if they say Emily’s name three times she comes to awkwardly shove herself into the story?
Kerry isn’t satisfied and wants to pour more salt into Phil’s old wounds, so she asks about the time Phil left Emily.
“Where did you go?”
He told her about driving to the lake. The towel, the stove, the fire–everything.
I love that now even Bill knows he’s wasting our time and has just started fast forwarding.
Kerry pities him, Phil whines that he’s not worthy of anything, Kerry indulges his insecurities and assures him that it’s okay, you know the deal by now.
And thus, I shall leave you all. I hope this has been an… enlightening experience. Because next time, we finish First Light.