No, no, no, no, no.
How could she have been so stupid? How could she have not seen this coming?
Of course Sarah had tricked them. Of course she had stranded them in the Pit with no way back.
She should have just taken the device while Sarah’s hands had been tied. Now there was no way back home, and no way to rescue Chelsea.
Tears stung her eyes as she slammed her fist into the wall, the pain splintering through her knuckles.
Jen approached, placing a gentle hand on Naomi’s arm.
“Hey,” said Jen. “It’ll be okay.”
Naomi shrugged off Jen’s hand.
“No, it won’t. Don’t you get it? Without that stupid device, there’s no way out of here. We’re stranded in this place.”
“Aw, don’t be a Negative Neville. There’s always a way out. We’ll find it.” Jen produced her cell phone from her pocket. “Maybe we can call someone for help.”
“You really don’t understand what’s going on, do you?” said Naomi.
“Oh, right. Other dimension. No service. Doy!” Jen slapped her forehead. “Still, we’ll find some way out. I know we can do it.”
“No,” said Naomi. “We can’t.”
“Well,” said Jen, “maybe we should focus on finding Chelsea first. Then we can figure out the whole ‘getting home’ thing.”
Naomi shrugged. Jen did have a point. Finding Chelsea was still a priority.
“Fine,” said Naomi. “Let’s go.”
She turned to Falcon, who was watching them with a confused expression. Oops. She had gotten so wrapped up in her emotions, she’d forgotten to communicate to him.
‘Find C,’ she finger-spelled.
Then, she gestured for him and Jen to follow and headed for the nearest door.
After the day he’d had, it would have been an understatement to say that the break he was taking was well-deserved.
Lachlan and Sam sat side-by-side on the plane wing, their legs dangling off the side. Sam wore a brown leather aviator-style jacket Lachlan had found in the plane. Lachlan had considered keeping it for himself, but he’d decided Sam needed to stay warm more than he did. Besides, this way he’d be able to give Sam a hard time about it later.
The jacket probably wouldn’t have fit Lachlan anyway. It was a bit snug on Sam, but it suited him well.
“You sure?” Sam had said when Lachlan had given him the jacket. “You’re probably cold too.”
“Nah,” Lachlan had said. “You keep it. It almost makes you look cool, and you need all the help you can get in that department.”
Sam had told him to shut up, but he’d accepted the jacket anyway.
Lachlan gnawed on a strip of strange jerky they’d found in the plane, while Sam fidgeted with a bunch of small, spherical magnets, clumsily arranging them into pentagons with one hand and sticking the finished shapes to the wing. Nikola lay draped over Lachlan’s lap, staring at the jerky he was eating with large, pleading eyes.
Nikola hadn’t had much success leaping up onto the wing next to them, so he had instead levitated into Lachlan’s lap and settled there. The fact that Lachlan had hardly noticed this was a testament to how many unbelievable things he’d seen that day.
“Okay, your turn,” said Lachlan. “Truth or dare?”
“Truth,” said Sam.
“Oh, come on, Samurai. You’ve picked ‘truth’ every time. Live a little.”
Lachlan took a bite of the jerky, then gave another piece to Nikola. The jerky had an odd taste and smell, bad enough that Sam had refused to touch it, but Lachlan was almost too hungry to care. He sipped the mystery liquor to get rid of the taste.
“You’re going to make me do something stupid, like lick the plane or put my underpants on my head.”
“Then I stand by my choice,” said Sam. “Truth.”
“Oh, come on,” said Lachlan. “You’re no fun.”
“Fine,” said Sam. “I’ll pick ‘dare’ this time. But I reserve the right to refuse anything too idiotic.”
“I dare you to put your underpants on your head and lick the plane,” said Lachlan.
“Ha ha.” Sam set aside a magnet pentagon and started on a new one. “I’m not doing that.”
“At least I didn’t dare you to lick your underpants and put the plane on your head.”
“You’re an imbecile,” said Sam.
“Few lesser men can comprehend my brilliant mind.” Lachlan shook his head with mock-disappointment. “Fine. I’ll go easy on you in my infinite benevolence. I dare you to eat some of this weird jerky.”
Sam frowned at the jerky and scrunched up his nose.
“That stuff smells nasty. I’d rather put the plane on my head.”
“Well, unfortunately for you, seeing as I highly doubt you’re capable of lifting roughly two tons of metal onto your head, it’s either the jerky or the underpants on the head thing.”
“I pick truth,” said Sam.
“That’s not how the game works.”
“I pick truth.”
“Alright, but this place isn’t exactly chock full of food options. If I were you, I’d consider readjusting my standards for what I consider edible.”
“I physically cannot ingest something that smells like that,” said Sam. “Or something that’s that violent a shade of pink.”
“I’m not sure how you can smell anything over the blood smell.”
“The fact that we’re surrounded by the smell of congealing blood and I’m still finding this jerky more unpleasant is just a testament to its nastiness.”
“Fair enough, but don’t come crying to me if you die of starvation.”
“I’d be dead.” Sam squinted. “It would be physically impossible for me to ‘come crying’ to you or anyone else.”
“Come on,” said Lachlan. “Mmmm. Delicious jerky.”
Lachlan waved a strip of the jerky near Sam’s face. Sam recoiled, scrunching up his face into such a funny expression, Lachlan couldn’t resist waving the jerky even closer.
With a movement so forceful it startled Lachlan, Sam shoved his magnets into his pocket, stuck out his tongue, and practically fell face first onto the wing. He lost his balance, exclaiming in surprise as he slid off the wing, falling to the ground.
Nikola looked down at Sam, his ears perked in concentration. Sam stopped in mid-air, hovering about a meter above the ground.
Lachlan stared at him.
“What… in the name of fuck was that?”
“I was licking the plane. I was licking the plane and then I fell. Shut up.”
Sam tightened his lips as though he was trying to fix Lachlan with a serious expression, but a laugh escaped him.
Whatever Sam had just done had been one of the stupidest, most nonsensical things Lachlan had ever seen a sober person do, but he couldn’t suppress a laugh either.
“You–you told me to!” Sam laughed. “I–the jerky was in my face, and I–you–“
Lachlan dissolved into a laughing fit.
“You licked a plane! You–you licked a fucking plane!”
Sam bobbed up and down in the air as laughter racked his body.
“I did! I licked a plane! I licked a plane and now a dog is making me levitate!”
Nikola looked between them, his large brown eyes full of confusion and concern. He broke concentration to reach up and lick Lachlan’s chin, and Sam toppled to the ground. He fell far enough that it must have hurt, but he continued laughing as he pulled himself into a sitting position.
“I licked a plane!”
“You did! You’re a plane-licker!”
Lachlan braced his hand on the plane’s wing to steady himself as he shook with laughter. It was the kind of laughter that was so intense it didn’t make a sound, the kind that usually came from consuming far more alcohol than had been in the little metal flask.
It made him think of Naomi, the first time they’d met in person. She’d had her first ever drink with him because it had been legal for her in Australia, and she’d gotten drunker after the one drink than he would have after five. She’d seen a paper napkin that she’d thought was a weird shape and doubled over the bar, tears streaming down her face, laughing with such intensity it was almost scary. She’d been so embarrassed about it the next day. She still got mad when he brought it up, which he often did.
A tear ran down his cheek and he wondered if he looked as crazed as she had.
Thinking about Naomi reminded him that he might never see any of his friends again, but somehow, that thought only made his laughter more intense.
Sam stood up and leaned forward against the edge of the wing. His laughter had begun to die down, but as Lachlan’s laughter increased, Sam’s came back in full force. He grabbed the wing with his good hand to steady himself.
All the insanity of the day, all the hopelessness, the terror, the blood, the sheer unbelievably of everything came pouring out of them at once.
They were in another reality! Three women had tried to devour them alive! They’d seen a guy step out of a talking squid covered in skulls! They were covered in blood, sitting on an airplane with a super-powered dog on top of an infinite building, and they might never see their homes again, and to top it all off, Sam was a plane-licker!
There was nothing they could do except laugh.