TUBE, DRAFT 1, CHAPTER 44 (EXCERPT)
Olesya drifted in and out of haze, her vision blurry. She glimpsed the bright colors of a blanket that she was being wrapped in, by a rosy-cheeked smiling young man. He said something to her, too fast to understand. Too bright. The colors, the blanket. Too red, orange-red, flaming. Olesya squinted. She felt a tug. She was being lifted up on a stretcher attached to a wench, swaying in the air.
And there is was, right under her feet and a bit to the left. As small as a toy, discarded, forgotten, as if she decided to throw it out the window into the snow. The TUBE locomotive, its head right on the edge of a gorge.
If it didn’t derail, I’d be buried in the abyss below.
“I’m sorry, papa,” she whispered. “I did what I could.”
A pair of strong arms hefted her inside a warm helicopter cabin. “There you go,” said the smiling young man. “Feeling okay?”
“I’m fine,” muttered Olesya, “thank you so much.” Her head pounded.
The light. Turn off the light, please. It’s too crisp, too colorful. Too red? How can it be too red? And there is this buzzing again. It must be the blades, the helicopter blades. Why won’t they stop?
It got hot in the cabin, and a faint whiff of something burning crept up Olesya’s nostrils. Panicking, she kicked at the blanket, trying to get it off her legs. Her legs were baking. Sweat slicked her skin like oil.
It’s too hot, it’s getting too hot. I must have a fever.
“Hot,” she croaked. “Too hot.”
She waited for the young man to answer, but he didn’t. Sweat rolled into her eyes and stung. She scrunched up her face and rubbed it with the backs of her hands, flicking off the moisture. The day gradually came into focus, and she felt a stab in her stomach.
“Mitya,” she blinked, trying to make sense of the double images tripling and dancing and smudging over her retina. “Where are you? Are you here?” She closed her eyes and opened them again, wide.
The joy, the relief, the vivacity she started to feel after being rescued oozed out of her in a strangled gasp.
“Oh God, no...no no no no no...”
She wasn’t sitting in a helicopter cabin. There was no cabin, and no helicopter for that matter. It was a product of her boiling mind. She was sitting inside the overturned locomotive cab, having climbed in through the shattered front window. Or maybe someone helped her in.