You know the way they show you in the movies, when something drastic or important is happening, they give it to you in slow motion or even replay?
I was falling. In slow motion. I watched the ground’s details growing clearer. Green blurs separated into trees and grass. The details of rocks and river clarified from the steel-greys. Spinning slowly I was able to see the cirrus clouds in an otherwise bright, sunny sky. The plane flew away and I could still hear the laughter fading in the distance, exaggerated by the sense of stretching time. I could feel the cold rush as the air molecules brushed my skin, and leaked through my clothes. The brushing was hard but felt like slow waves. I watched my skin ripple weirdly with the continual impact. My ears heard the plane engine fading last, after the laughter was no longer audible, and then just the rush of the wind, a low roar.
Should I brace for impact? Surely I was already dead, my body just didn’t know it yet. My mind knew. They say your life flashes before your eyes in the moments before death, but I saw only the spinning skies retreating, the stretched cotton candy white clouds, the sun, and the earth, approaching slowly. I reflexively stretched my arms and legs, spreadeagled, fully resisting the wind, and I seemed to slow even more, somehow correcting the roll and yaw until I no longer spun. Looking down now, I saw water below me, moving slow. Somehow I was positioned between the crushing land masses and directly over a river. I knew hitting it still spreadeagled would kill me, so as it approached I curled up into a ball and turned myself head-up. If the shock of being beaten and thrown from a moving plane wasn’t enough, the water was very cold. I wished it were a dream, but instead I felt the shock of the water and for an instant, time resumed its’ normal course. Alive, somehow. No broken bones except in my hands from fighting back, although the skin on my back stung from the impact with the water.
Slow motion again, I uncoiled and tried for the surface. Somehow I had survived, so what else could go wrong? I broke the surface and gasped for air. It hurt. Apparently I’d broken a few ribs either hitting the water or from the beating on the plane. Or both. In the adrenaline of the moment I felt nothing until I finally tried to breathe. The water was cold but my skin adjusted to the temperature. The air above was tropical and hot. I swam toward the bank, making slow progress against the gentle current. My mind traced back to the fishing trips with dad. I spent more time, he said, scaring the fish than catching and cleaning them. And as I neared the edge of the river, I saw them. Piranha. I pushed myself up from the river, feeling the bites in slow motion again, on my arms and legs and torso. I felt the bites one at a time. If I weren’t already in shock from the fall and the landing, the bites surely threw me back into a state. Otherwise I would have been agonizingly aware of being filletted like a dying fish. The push-up seemed to take forever, finding my feet, another eternity, and stepping out of the water my legs moved like lead. I shook off the ravenous demon-fish, splashing them back into the water, leaving one flopping on the ground beside me.
I lay on the shore, breath aching, skin bleeding, and closed my eyes.
“Honey, wake up! You’re gross, and you almost hit me. You’re sweating up the bed. That must have been one hell of a nightmare.”