6 Years Earlier
Mike tentatively extended a hand toward the sleeping figure beside him. He hesitated for a moment, then gently shook the man’s shoulder. He swatted Mike's hand away with a faint, irritated murmur.
Undeterred, Mike leaned closer, his voice urgent. “Philip, wake up,” he urged, his words a soft but insistent plea. His fingers brushed against Philip's arm. “I think we have a problem.”
“What's going on?” Philip said, concerned.
“I had a dream. I was in your mom's house talking to her, and then suddenly there was this sudden flash of light and she disappeared. I think you should call her and make sure she's okay.”
“It's two-thirty in the morning, babe,” Philip replied, still groggy.
“Please, just call her,” Mike insisted. The vividness of his dream, coupled with the urgency he felt upon waking, had left him unsettled. Despite the late hour and Philip's grogginess, Mike's concern for June’s well-being was paramount, even more so than his own tiredness.
Philip hesitated, looking sceptical. “Do you really believe in that stuff?”
Mike's expression was serious. “I don't know, When I woke up I had this sense of loss. It felt so real. Just for my peace of mind, will you please call her?”
Philip sighed, “I'll give her a quick call.”
Philip pressed his mother’s number into his mobile phone and waited for an answer.
“Philip. This is an odd time to call,” June, his mother answered.
Relieved, Philip responded, “Hey, Mom. Sorry for waking you. Mike just had a strange dream, and is worried. Are you okay?”
She chuckled, “Oh, sweetie. I'm perfectly fine, don't you worry. Just a bit groggy from being woken up. Tell Mike not to stress.”
Philip's tension eased as he heard his mother's reassuring words. “Thanks. I'll let him know. Sorry again for waking you.”
“No problem, dear,” she replied warmly.
Turning to Mike, seated with his knees pressed up against his chin, Philip said, “She's alright. Just a little sleepy.”
Mike's relief was palpable as he nodded, “That's good to know.” A small smile tugged at the corners of his lips. “I was worried something might have happened to her.”
Philip's voice held a touch of affection as he suggested, “Now, let's get some sleep. Tomorrow's a long day.”
As they settled in, ready to drift off, Mike offered a light-hearted explanation for his earlier distress. “Maybe it's those muscle relaxant tabs,” he mused.
“How many did you take?” Philip said.
“Three? Your dosage is one every night.”
“One doesn’t help. Two is mild. Three puts me to sleep.”
“You’re flying out in a few hours to meet with Lauren, will you be okay?”
Mike sighed and closed his eyes, hoping the drowsiness would overcome him despite the unsettling thoughts that circled his mind. “I’ll be okay.”
Philip turned onto his side, eyeing Mike with concern. “You know, it's not healthy to rely on those tabs so heavily. You’ve been taking them since we moved here.”
“Everything here in Cape Town is so rushed. It’s like life is stuck in a speed frame of a movie.”
Philip nodded, understanding the pressures they both faced in their demanding jobs. Philip planned weddings and Mike flew a light plane. “Well, maybe after this meeting with Lauren, you can take some time to focus on your well-being. She's a valuable client, but your health should come first.”
“You're right,” Mike conceded. “I'll talk to her about possibly rescheduling some upcoming projects. I need to get this sleep thing under control.”
“I would have gone with you if it weren’t for the UNESCO celebration starting tomorrow.”
“Someone has to be there running the show,” Mike said. “You don't have to shoulder everything yourself. We're a team, and we should be able to rely on each other.”
Philip nodded, “I appreciate that. It's just... I've always been the one to handle these things.”
“You said you wanted to bring Emma on board. Any progress there?”
Philip shifted slightly. “I've been in touch with her, and she seems interested.”
Mike’s tired eyes brightened. “That's good to hear. Emma is sharp, and her organizational skills are top-notch. Having her share the load might just be what we need.”
“I think so too,” Mike agreed. “Her perspective is fresh, and she's not afraid to challenge the status quo. Plus, she's familiar with the kind of work we do. Now, let's both try to get some rest.”
As they settled in for the night, the weight of their responsibilities still hung in the air, but it felt somehow more manageable with the prospect of Emma's potential involvement. They settled into a comfortable silence, the room lit only by the soft glow of the white moon and the sound of waves lapping the shore, and soon both men fell asleep in each other’s arms.
The small airport buzzed with activity beneath the bright morning sun. Mike stood proudly beside his beloved Cessna 172, the "Skyhawk." It was a crisp, perfect day for flying, and he felt the thrill of the open skies calling.
As the Cessna rolled onto the runway, Mike's confidence shone through. He was an experienced pilot who felt at home in the sky. He held the control yoke firmly with gloved hands, feeling every little movement. He double-checked everything, listening to the engine's RPMs, smelling the familiar aviation fuel. He made sure the fuel selector was in the right position just by touch. He looked at the electrical meter to ensure everything worked fine, and he adjusted the radios and controls with his fingertips. His eyes scanned the warning lights to catch any issues. He paid close attention to the flight instruments, feeling the yoke's movements as he checked the airspeed, altitude, and other important details. He even closed his eyes briefly to mentally prepare for take-off, picturing the whole process in his mind. Eventually, he tapped the radio button and announced: “Tower, this is Mike Bravo Charlie Alpha I72, ready for take-off on Runway Four. Requesting clearance for departure.”
The tower responded briskly, crackling over the radio: “Mike Bravo Charlie Alpha 172, Tower here. You are cleared for take-off on Runway Four. Wind is north-easterly and calm. Maintain runway heading and altitude until further advised.”
Mike acknowledged: “Roger, Tower. Cleared for take-off on Runway Four. Will maintain runway heading and altitude. Mike Bravo Charlie Alpha 172, out.”
As Mike taxied the Cessna onto the runway, adrenaline coursing through him. The engines roared with anticipation as he advanced the throttle. The Cessna surged forward, accelerating down the runway. The sensation of speed built with every passing second.
He kept a steady hand on the control yoke, feeling the power of the plane beneath him. The world outside became a blur, and the runway stretched out before him. With a final check of his instruments, Mike eased the control yoke back, and the Cessna responded, gracefully leaving the ground. The runway fell away below him, and he was no longer bound to the earth.
Stealing a glance to his right, the tower stood as a distant sentinel. He was airborne. With every passing moment, the worries of the ground melted away, and he was one with the sky, climbing over Devil’s Peak.
The Cessna sliced through the sky, but then, like a bolt from the blue, chaos erupted. Warning lights blared crimson, and shrill alarms pierced the air as the horizontal stabiliser control malfunctioned, shattering the peace.
Mike’s brow furrowed in disbelief. "What the fuck!"
His heart raced, but he couldn't panic. With a surge of adrenaline he wrestled the control yoke, fighting to regain control. The aircraft wobbled and threatened to tilt dangerously.
Desperately, Mike throttled back, slowing the aircraft's furious ascent. His gloved hands trembled as he scrutinized the trim settings, praying for divine intervention.
Amid the frantic alarms, he locked eyes on the flight instruments, the altitude indicator guiding his every move. "Mayday! Mayday!" he called desperately into the radio. "Stabilizer's shot. I’m losing control!"
Above the tumultuous symphony of alarms and rattling controls, Mike lost his steely resolve. "This can't be happening!" Sweat trickled down his temple as he wrestled with the control yoke, his muscles straining against the defiant machine. The Cessna wobbled and tilted dangerously. Mike’s hands quivered as he fought to level the aircraft. "You can do this," he whispered, gritting his teeth. "You've got this!"
In the face of Mike's distress call and the unfolding emergency, ground control leaped into action. "172, this is Ground Control. We hear your distress call. Stay calm. Please confirm your current altitude and position?"
"Ground Control, this is 172. I’m at 3,000 feet, approximately 10 km’s northwest of the airport."
"Copy, 172. We're tracking your position. We're here to assist. First, can you attempt to reset the stabilizer control as per your aircraft's emergency procedures?"
"Roger that, Ground Control. Initiating reset now... No response, the stabilizer is still malfunctioning!"
"Understood, 172. We're declaring an emergency. You are cleared for an immediate return to the airport. Fly heading 180 to initiate your turn back to the runway."
Determined, Mike responded with; "Heading 180...Oh my God…"
"Mike Bravo Charlie Alpha 172, this is Ground Control. We've lost contact with you. Please respond. Over."
No response. Just static.
"All units, we have a potential emergency. Mike Bravo Charlie Alpha 172 has lost contact. Initiating emergency response protocol. Notify emergency services and dispatch search and rescue teams immediately. Get eyes on the last known position. Mike Bravo Charlie Alpha 172, if you can hear this message, transmit your location. Over…"
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