Grounded

This novel started with an idea I had after dropping my kids off to school. I was driving down the local bypass road, when a plane flew low overhead coming into land at Perth International Airport. Another hijacking was being reported on the news over the radio and I wondered what sort of chaos would ensure if every airlines in the world cancelled all flights in an show of solidarity to bring these hijackers to justice. And what if this cancellation of flights lasted for weeks, even months. In order to make this scenario feasible, it would need to be told through the eyes of a family affected personally by the worldwide shutdown. At this stage it is only an idea with a few words written, but I intend to get back to it some time into the future.

Present Day - Perth, Australia

 

‘Today Qantas has joined the movement to ground its entire international fleet inline with other major airlines across the globe. Virgin Atlantic lead the charge on Monday grounding all 40 of its cross-atlantic flights, with all its alliance partners following suit.’

           Richard Branson’s cheesy smile radiated from the square mage behind the attractive blonde anchor at the Channel 4 news desk. He looked ridiculously Jesus-like with his greying goatee and wispy locks. 

         ‘Qantas spokesperson Lyle McGee said that they would comply with UN sanctions to cease international flights and they have until midnight Friday to honour existing commitments. Priority will be given to passengers with extenuating circumstances who need to get back to Australia immediately. Extra flights will be put on to accommodate the expected rush of passengers who wish to get home amid the uncertainty of the length of this worldwide flights stoppage.

          As yet, no word has been given as to when the global strike will cease but all airlines are vowing to remain grounded until tighter security is implemented in all international airports and the masterminds behind this latest series of fatal hijackings are caught and bought to justice. 

            International criminal agencies are working around the clock on a worldwide scale to hunt down these killers and put an end to this large scale terror plot.

 

            Nicole stopped crumbing the chicken. She wiped her hands on the tea towel flung over her shoulder and sat down on the couch next to Matt. 

            ‘What the fuck is going on?’ She leant forward towards the massive tv screen on the wall. with her head supported by her hands.

             ‘It’ll never last, those greedy airline bastards, will be losing millions over this.’

              ‘Yeah, but they obviously have no choice. They’ll be losing money anyway, nobody’s brave enough to get on a plane these days.’

             ‘I don’t know, seems to me everyone’s going somewhere. People love a good price war and iI can’t see any real effects on the travel market one bit. It wouldn’t surprise me if its some global conspiracy.’

             ‘Matt!’

             ‘Look, until a Qantas plane gets blown out of the sky, Australian’s will keep travelling. You were only commenting the other day about many of your friends are in Bali at the moment?’

             ‘Yeah what about Amy and Chelsea?’

              ‘Honey, they’ve only been away a month, they’re not planning to be back until Christmas. This will all be over by then.’

               ‘Well I’m glad you’re so sure about it. But that’s our daughter over there and I for one am not comfortable with the state of world at the moment. I’m worried about them.’ Nicole stood up to make her way back to the schnitzel she was preparing for dinner and Matt followed her, stopping by the fridge to grab himself a beer and poured his wife another glass of wine.

              ‘Look, you were the one that encouraged her to do this. Get our there, see the world, you said. There’s more to the world that just Perth and Bali, you know.’

              ‘Yeah, I know, but I guess the world was a different place 30 years ago, when I was doing it.’ Nicole picked up her wine glass and took a sip.

             Matt leant on the granite surface of the island bench watching Nic dip the eggy chicken into breadcrumbs. ’Plus they’re backpacking through Europe, they’re not getting on any flights. They’ll be on buses and trains and probably hitch-hiking.’

               ‘Hitch-hiking, I hope not?’

               ‘I’m only joking love. Seriously–‘ Matt softened his tone. ‘I guarantee they’ll have caught these bastards in the next couple of weeks, and all systems will be back to normal. The worst that’ll happen to Amy and Chelsea, is few bad hangovers and food poisoning from a dodgy turkish kebab.’

 

***

 

A Few Weeks Earlier - Perth, Australia

 

‘Flight CPA383 from Hong Kong to Zurich, lost radio contact at 6.24am (GMT) with reports of a fireball seen above the skies of Munich, followed by dangerous debris falling into fields and neighbouring properties on the outskirts of the major European city. German authorities have been tasked with the morbid job of collecting the wreckage with the hope of finding the all important black box, in order to piece together the last moments of the Cathy Pacific flight. There were five Australians on board. 

In other news, the West Coast Eagles are preparing for tonight’s match against Essendon…’

 

             Laura turned the car engine off and walked up to the familiar front door carrying two bottles of red in one arm and a platter of selected cheeses and crackers in the other. She didn’t bother to knock, she walked straight in.

             ‘Uoo Hooo, I’m here.’ She called making her way into the spacious kitchen. She could hear the chaotic chatter of the other women, sitting outside under the patio, glasses in hand, laughter and voices escalating as they fought to be heard above each other. She found an empty wine glass on the granite stone bench top, as if it was waiting there specifically for her, poured in the red from one of the bottles she’d bought, then picked up her platter and headed out the back to join the throng.

 

             This was a Friday night ritual. The only part of the ritual that changed was who’s house was on the rota and whose husband was in the dog box this week. Nicole, Laura, Jules, Bec and Tess, had been friends for so long now, they could remember life before each other was in it.

 

             They’d met when their kids had started kindergarten. Nobody recalled who initiated the first gathering, all they knew was that every Friday (give or take a few here and there) for the last 15 years they were together, gas bagging, venting, celebrating or bragging. Sometimes, it was just for an hour, other times, it went on all night, with cars left on the driveway and Swan Taxi’s now on everyones speed dial. 

 

             They’d assess the damage of everyones hangover the following morning via text messages or group conversations on Facebook. The more hungover someone was, the less words were necessary , replaced by  emjoies, the hieroglyphics of the modern age. Sad face, spew face, grumpy husband face, back to bed face.

 

               In the early days, everyone was eager to be home by seven, to get the kids fed and bathed in time for bed, but as the little ones grew up, the Friday nights grew longer and the friendships became part of the DNA of their lives. The husbands no longer bothered with text messages asking when they’d be home or where they were. They simply adapted and enjoyed the peace and quiet it afforded them on a Friday evening. Sometimes, if they were feeling particular generous, they even offer to play taxi driver and do the circuit, dropping everyone home.

 

              But now, all the kids, Josh, Ethan, Charlie, Declan, Felix, Amy, Chelsea, Winnie, Cooper, Jake, Brianna and Lexi, were all but off their hands, and those Friday nights seemed quiet without the chaos of kids fighting over digital devices, dobbing on one another, stealing first kisses down the back of the garden and falling asleep together in one room, snuggled under donnas and in sleeping bags while the latest Avenger movie repeated itself all night in the theatre room. Meanwhile the Mum’s drained the wine supply and ate cheese, olives and left over chicken nuggets for their dinner, too engrossed in the conversation to worry about eating anything healthy.

 

             ‘What is going on with all these plane hijackings?’ Said Tess opening up the conversation like a quiz master laying down the category for the next round. ‘You must be a bit worried with your girls being overseas at the moment. Have you spoken to them?’ Tess continued, directing her comment to both Nicole and Laura. 

             ‘I had a message from Chelsea this morning on Facebook. Looks like they’re having a great time. They’re meeting lots of other travellers and she’s convinced me they are quite safe.’ Laura leaned across the table to grab a cracker and dipped it into the cashew and pesto dip.

            ’Yes, Amy sent me a text this morning too. They’re in Turkey at the moment, and she said not to worry if we don’t hear from for a day or two because the internet at the backpackers hostel is a bit hit and miss.’

            Tess nodded listening to the the mothers who’s daughters were best friends and currently travelling through Europe. 

             ‘I’ve always wanted to do ANZAC day in Gallipoli?’ Jules said, remembering Chelsea and Amy talking about what they had planned on their travel itinerary. ‘Its definitely on my bucket list.’ Jules was so fond of adding things to her bucket list, that the other women had taken to calling it Jules’s ‘Chuck it in List’.

            ‘Isn’t having a threesome also on your bucket list! Maybe you could tie the two together?’ Tess laughed.

             ‘Well what’s stopping you?’ Bec butted in.

             ‘Hijackings, thats what. I’m too scared to fly anywhere these days.’ Jules throwing her arms in the air as if to say, isn’t it obvious.

             ‘Maybe you could do a cruise.’

             ‘I’m not sure I’d want to cruise into Gallipoli. Look what happened to the last Australians to arrive there!’ They all laughed at Julie’s political incorrectness, wondering if there was any end to her repertoire of ill thought out comments. 

             ‘Anyway, Matt’s got a theory. He reckons, its not ISIS bombing these planes but the Americans. He’s been talking to someone at work who knows someone else, that says the terrorist targets are government officials with military intelligence regarding a new drone spy system the Pentagon have developed to find out what armoury of weapons is being stored by these middle Eastern countries. God knows where he gets these stories from, but the way he tells it, sounds sort of feasible.’

             ‘Yeah but what about all the innocent people that have to go down with them?’ Bec said.

             ‘They don’t give a shit about civilians. Its all war games and war mongering. I don’t get it either. I just wish it would stop. Get them all here, give them a wine and we’ll sort it out!’

             ‘Well we couldn’t fuck it up any more than the current politicians are doing.’

 

***

Present Day - Turkey

 

‘For fucks sake! The internet’s down again. I swear every time I go to that internet cafe, the fucking connection drops out as soon as I’m about to send an email or I want to check Facebook. And I never get my 5 lira back either’

             ‘So why do you keep going there then. There’s another one on the opposite side of the street.’ Amy rolled over onto her stomach on the bunk bed in the dormitory, waiting for Chelsea to admit why she kept going there.

             ‘Ahmet wants to know if we’ll be going back to The Happy Hole again tonight.’

             ‘Ahmet wants to know, does he? Since when did you find out his name?’

             ‘Since we got chatting about whether or not we’d be at that bar again tonight.’

             ‘Yeah, well don’t go falling in love on me, don’t forget we need to leave here on the 23rd to check into our accommodation in Gallipoli.’

             Chelsea poked her tongue out at Amy.

             ‘I’m serious Chels. I know what you’re like. I’ve known you since we were six. You love the dark, mysterious type but don’t go getting all gaga over Armad.’

            ‘It’s Ahmet, and I’m not going gaga at all. He’d just a really nice guy that wants to buy me a drink tonight.’

            ‘Oh well I guess you’ll get your 5 lira back then, after all.’ 

 

             Considering Amy and Chelsea both had the same sized backpack, Amy often wondered whether her friend had secret compartments or extra pockets, as she seemed to produce a new outfit for going out to bars in that Amy hadn’t seen before. She felt like she’d been rotating the same three t-shirts and shorts for the last four weeks, with only one dress that she hadn’t worn as yet as it felt a little dressy. 

             Chelsea was one of those girls that could wear a hessian sack and make it look fashionable.

To be continued....