“How’s your hand?” said Lachlan.
“It doesn’t really hurt anymore.”
“Numbness probably isn’t a great sign,” said Lachlan. “I should probably have another look at it.”
“You keep saying that like you have any medical expertise.”
“Well, I’ve read books about first aid, and–“
“Oh. You’ve read books about it. Well, in that case,” said Sam. “Never fear, everyone. Doctor Chicken, MD is on the case, armed with his wealth of most-likely-inaccurate, text-based knowledge.”
“Well, alrighty then. Excuse me for graciously offering my help,” said Lachlan. “Besides, I don’t know about you, but I don’t see too many actual doctors around here.”
Sam shrugged again, rubbing his hands over his arms. He’d shed his blood-drenched shirt and now wore only a thin, white singlet that was now dotted with flecks of dark red. He had to have been cold.
“It doesn’t really matter, anyway. My hand feels fine.”
“Your fingers were just eaten off. You were delirious and barely conscious less than an hour ago. Your hand can’t possibly feel fine.”
“I don’t know what to tell you, man. My hand doesn’t hurt anymore.” Sam stopped walking and squinted at something ahead of him. “Hey. What’s that?”
Lachlan looked ahead of him. They’d come much closer to the speck on the horizon he’d noticed earlier–close enough to see that it was a small white plane.
“That would appear to be an aeroplane.”
“I don’t know what that is,” said Sam.
“You… don’t?” said Lachlan. “How much blood did you lose? It’s an aeroplane. You know–it’s got wings, it flies through the air. You can’t possibly tell me that doesn’t ring any bells.”
“Are you trying to say ‘airplane’?”
Sam smirked as though Lachlan was mispronouncing the word in some hilarious way.
“Sure.” Lachlan frowned at Sam. “If you want to pronounce it wrong.”
“I knew you weren’t the sharpest, but I can’t believe even you wouldn’t know the pronunciation of the word ‘airplane’.”
“And I can’t believe a brilliant engineer such as yourself wouldn’t know that it’s pronounced ‘aeroplane’.”
“It’s an airplane,” said Sam. “It flies through the air.”
“Yes, of course,” said Lachlan. “An airplane. Flown by an air-naught, performing air-batics, designed by an air-dynamicist.”
The boys continued their debate as they headed toward the plane.
“‘Airplane’ isn’t a real word,” said Lachlan as they approached the plane.
“Is so,” said Sam.
They were near enough to make out the plane’s details now. It was about eight meters longs, with a three-bladed propeller and a V-shaped tail. It was white with a dark blue accent stripe down the side, and though the fuselage was scratched and dented, the coat of paint still gleamed in the dim light.
“Is not,” said Lachlan as he ran his hand over the top of the wing.
“Is so,” said Sam.
“Tsk, tsk,” said Lachlan. “‘Is so.’ Such petty, childish bickering.”
“You were bickering childishly too,” said Sam.
“Eh.” Lachlan shrugged.
“Besides,” said Sam, “you started it.”
“Oh, right, and your saying ‘you started it’ makes you the epitome of maturity.”
Nikola sniffed one of the plane’s wheels warily, and Lachlan noticed the tires were almost completely shredded around their metal rims. Trailing behind the plane were gouges in the concrete that curved and wavered where the plane had skidded out of control.
“Looks like someone had a rough landing,” said Lachlan. “How did this get here?”
“That’s a actually a decent question,” said Sam. “It’s not a very big plane, but there’s no way it would’ve fit in the chamber I was in before I ended up here.”
Lachlan approached the plane’s doors, preparing to step onto the wing walk area. Sam put his good hand on Lachlan’s arm, stopping him.
“What are you doing?”
“What does it look like I’m doing, dingus?” said Lachlan. “I’m going to look inside. There could be something useful in there, like a first aid kit or information that could help us get home. Or a change of clothes, because I don’t know about you, but I am fucking freezing, and in case you haven’t noticed, we’re both covered in your blood, and I am absolutely going to spew if I have to smell it for one more second.”
“There might be another monster,” said Sam. “The last time you opened a door resulted in my fingers being eaten off.”
Sam did have a point.
“I’ll look in the window first,” said Lachlan.
Lachlan climbed onto the wing walk and peered into a window. The plane looked empty except for a bundle of blankets in one of the back seats, so he opened the door to the cockpit and sat in the pilot’s seat.
“All clear. No beasties or gremlins to be found in here.” Lachlan patted the seat beside him. “Come on in and have a seat, Samurai. You can be my first officer.”
Sam stood on the wing, leaning down to look through the door.
“First officer? Yeah, right. I’d be the captain.”
“In your dreams.” Lachlan reached for a headset lying on top of the cockpit controls. “Mayday, mayday, mayday. This is speedbird foxtrot-alpha-bravo. Our position is ‘fuck this,’ and our current heading is also ‘fuck this.'”
Sam climbed into the seat beside Lachlan and pulled the headset off his head.
“I thought you were getting in the plane to look for supplies, not to mess around.”
“I’ll have you know that I can do both,” said Lachlan.
He spotted a silver flask on top of the controls and reached for it.
“See? Look. Supplies.”
“Should we be concerned that we found that in the cockpit of an airplane? No wonder they crash landed,” said Sam. “That hardly counts as supplies, by the way.
“Speak for yourself.” Lachlan shrugged. “I, for one, could use a drink or 20 after the day I’ve had.”
Lachlan opened the flask and took a sip. It was a liquor he couldn’t identify, something with a pungent, bitter, herby taste. Whatever it was, the burning in his throat and chest told him it would do its job.
“Of course you’re into underage drinking,” said Sam. “That explains a lot about you.”
“Underage? I’m 18.”
“So? The legal drinking age is 21.”
“Not where I’m from, it’s not.”
Lachlan tried not to wince as he took another sip. He offered the flask to Sam, who waved it away.
“No way. That stuff will melt your brain.”
“That’s why I drink it,” said Lachlan.
“At least now I know what happened to all your brain cells,” said Sam.
“You know, it occurs to me that as much as I’d hate to waste this sweet, sweet alcohol, this would probably not do too shabby a job disinfecting your hand.”
“Disinfecting my hand is a waste?” said Sam.
“Yup,” said Lachlan, “but it’s a sacrifice I am graciously willing to make. Give me your hand.”
Sam frowned, but he held out his hand. Lachlan made a face as he unwound the blood-encrusted cloth strips from Sam’s hand, bracing himself for the grisly sight awaiting him. He stopped when he saw the skin under the makeshift bandages and congealed blood.
“What the motherfuck?”
“Uh oh,” said Sam. “Is it that bad?”
“No,” said Lachlan. “Just the opposite, in fact. Have a look for yourself.”
Sam squinted down at his hand, his brow scrunching up with confusion.
“Okay. That… is not normal.”
The stumps where his fingers had been were completely healed over, without even a trace of a scar.