Quantum by Roxanne Lambie
by Roxanne Lambie
Seventeen-year-old student pilot, Willow Ryan, can be in two places at once, but she doesn't know it.
While on a solo flight, she is transported from Texas to Ireland where she meets a stunning Irish local, Liam Tyl. During her visits, he tries to help her unravel the mystery of how she appears and disappears, but their time together is always short lived.
At home, she has no memory of Liam or her travels to Ireland. There are chunks of time that she can't account for--moments with her friends and family. Most importantly, memories with her ailing Mom that can't be replaced.
Liam reaches out to her through letters, and together they discover there are two versions of Willow. Now she must learn how to navigate between her two realities without losing the new love in her life or her family back home. An accident proves that she may be too much like Schrödinger's cat, and leaves Liam and Willow both questioning her survival.
By Roxanne Lambie
“Flight—terminate as soon as practical.” I read the checklist out loud so I wouldn’t leave anything out. Plus, hearing myself talk made me feel like I wasn’t totally alone. My whole body shivered when I read it, knowing I didn’t have much time. Goosebumps pricked my skin.
Think. What should I do? I’d gone over this scenario with my flight instructor, Paul.
As soon as I saw the flashing red light that initially warned me, I switched off everything I could think of that I positively didn’t need. Position lights, strobe lights, transponder, secondary radio, and navigation radio. Outside, the sky loomed like a dark black hole. The storm to the north had moved much quicker than I ever would have imagined. Losing the alternator meant operating on battery power alone, and I wasn’t sure how long that would last before I lost all electrical power. Without any power, I wouldn’t be able to talk to anyone on the radio, but more importantly I would lose some of my instruments and all of my lights.
How could this all be happening at once? I didn’t feel ready for this kind of responsibility. Why did I pick today of all days when I knew there was even a shred of possibility of bad weather? Why did I take any chances? A few minutes earlier I had been so proud of myself. Off on my first solo cross-country flight at seventeen years old as I worked toward my dream of getting a pilot’s license.
I radioed in to the controllers to let them know what was going on. “Albuquerque Center. This is Cessna Eight Nine Zero Romeo Golf. I have an alternator failure…and…I will need to land as soon as possible.” How long did I have before everything went dead and I wouldn’t even be able to talk on the radio? How long before I had no help at all? It could be less than fifteen minutes.
They responded quickly. “Cessna Eight Nine Zero Romeo Golf are you requiring any assistance?”
What should I do? My mind was blank from fear. “Umm…affirmative.” I wasn’t sure what else to say.
The air felt cold. Too cold. I shivered even though sweat dripped down my neck. I pushed my long brown hair off my shoulders, wishing I had brought something to put it up in. My head was swimming and my hands shook. I blew out a long, steady breath and tried to refocus on the immediate tasks at hand—one at a time—so I didn’t get overwhelmed.
I wouldn’t make it all the way to Truth or Consequences, and turning around and going to Las Cruces would be about the same distance so that was out of the question too. I pulled out my map. Luckily I had been tracking my flight all along, so I knew exactly where I was. It occurred to me that planning to such detail had been a smart idea after all. I was extremely thankful in the knowledge that I could pinpoint my location.
There was an airport just west of my position. That would have to do. I contemplated the only information that I had immediately available, which is what was on the map. I got the frequency and the runway length. In an airplane this small it usually wasn’t an issue, but I was glad it wasn’t a grass field. I had a book in my backpack that contained more detailed information, but I didn’t have time for that. I knew what I needed to know.
Albuquerque Center came back through my headset loudly “Cessna Zero Romeo Golf, state your current position and intentions.”
“Um,” I stuttered. “I’m at 12,000 feet. Um…approximately ten miles from DUCAS intersection. I am going to try to go to Hatch and land there.”
“Cessna Zero Romeo Golf, are you declaring an emergency at this time?”
I couldn’t believe I had to do this. “Yes.”
“Zero Romeo Golf, we will send emergency men and equipment as soon as possible. They are not on site but a call will be made immediately.”
Lightning flashed, and it wasn’t in the distance any more. How could the weather turn this quickly? I couldn’t believe my bad luck. I was surprised at how calm I sounded on the radio because I sure wasn’t calm at all on the inside. Sweat dripped down the front of my shirt. My skin crawled, and I couldn’t stop my hands from shaking.
A million thoughts ran through my head. Would I make it down before losing the battery? How upset was Paul going to be? What about the weather? It started to rain, ever so slightly. It wasn’t the rain I was worried about though. It was the lightning that continuously flashed across the sky. Even if I didn’t have the alternator failure, I would’ve never kept going on my current course. Sheets of rain poured a few miles ahead. Was that dark downpour headed my direction? The sky was menacing.
If I only had the weather to deal with I probably could’ve made it back to Las Cruces. At least that was an airport I was familiar with, and someone would be there. I had never been to Hatch, and I was totally unfamiliar with the airport. How I wished I were on the ground right now looking up instead of the other way around. I had never wished so much for anything in my life. I gripped the yoke. My palms were slick with sweat, which made it hard to hold it steady.
“Cessna Eight Nine Zero Romeo Golf, how do you hear this transmission?”
“Oh no,” I whispered to myself. I hadn’t responded to the controllers’ last transmission. They were the only ones that I had to talk to. The only ones that could help me right now. How could I be so panicked? Calm down. Let them know you’re still here. My breaths came out like gulps of air.
“Zero…Romeo Golf. I can hear you loud and clear. The weather…it’s getting bad here. I’ve already turned to the west, and I am looking for the airport.” I tried to sound as confident as possible. Maybe I would convince myself if I sounded the part.
“Zero Romeo Golf we are showing moderate to heavy precipitation at your two o’clock, five miles.”
“I am only getting light rain, but lots of lightning.”
“Zero Romeo Golf, let us know when you get the Hatch airport in sight. The frequency for the pilot-controlled lighting and traffic is one-two-two point nine.”
I searched for the airport, but I didn’t have it in sight yet. I should be seeing it soon if I had my position right when I started my turn. The controllers would tell me if I wasn’t even close, though. Or would they? I wasn’t sure. The light rain made it difficult for me to see clearly. My heart raced and my thoughts weren’t making any sense. I needed to calm myself down.
Breathe. Relax. Breathe. I repeated it over and over in my head. One thing at a time.
I switched the radio to 122.9 and clicked my mic seven times to turn on the airport lights as high as they would go, in the hopes that I would spot the runway. A whimper escaped my mouth. Nothing. Where was the airport? I announced myself just in case there was some other person crazy enough to be flying in this weather.
“H…Hatch traffic. This is Cessna Eight Nine Zero Romeo Golf. I have an emergency, and I am inbound for landing.” I waited for a moment, but there was no response. No one to answer me and make it all better. I had to count on myself. No one else was going to help talk me down. No one else was going to suddenly appear in the seat next to me and take over for me. My eyes started to well up. Not now. Pull yourself together. It’s the only way this plane is getting to the ground in one piece.
I switched back to Albuquerque Center. “Zero Romeo Golf. I have the frequency and I am looking for the airport.” I tried to respond to the controller calmly, as if I did this sort of thing every day.
I glanced over the emergency checklist one last time to make sure I hadn’t missed anything, then picked up the regular checklist to prepare for landing. I needed to slow the airplane down a bit. Getting to Hatch quickly was important, but if it was close I might only have one chance of landing before the weather got beyond-a-doubt ugly, and I didn’t want to be too fast when I got there. The all too frequent flashes of light reminded me every second just how badly I wanted to be on the ground. They weren’t way off in the distance anymore, the way they look when you might think it’s pretty to watch a storm. The lightning was close enough that I heard the crack of thunder almost immediately after each flash, and it made me startle every time. I slowed the airplane and made sure that everything was ready.
Finally, I spotted what appeared to be runway lights just off the left side of the airplane. Oh, thank you. I let out a huge breath. My muscles felt weak. Even though it was only midafternoon, dark clouds blocked the usual sunshine and left me in near darkness. In a way, I was thankful. At least the lights made it easier to find the airport. How hard is the wind blowing on the ground? It was forecast to be light and variable all day, but I knew better. There was no way it was calm on the ground.
As if he could read my thoughts, the controller interrupted the silence, “Cessna Eight Nine Zero Romeo Golf, the weather at Hatch is ten miles visibility, wind is three-one-zero at nine knots, gusting fifteen and light rain.”
Totally doable, I told myself. “Zero Romeo Golf. I have the field in sight. Thank you for the weather.”
I repeated the mantra in my head. Breathe. Relax. You can do this. You have to do this. I wasn’t okay with any of this though. The alternator failure. The rain. The wind. The lightning. But I was the only one who could get the airplane down. My parents kept creeping into my thoughts, especially my dad and our conversation from this morning when I told him that there was a tiny chance of storms. “Okay,” he had said. “I’ll just be glad when it’s over and you’re back home safe. I don’t care if you think you’re all grown up, Willow. I will always worry.” Did he know that it was raining up here? Was he looking at the sky right now, worried?
Thinking about all that wasn’t helping. I had to do whatever it took to get the airplane on the ground safely. I could figure the rest out later. I needed to focus on the tasks at hand, so I continued to slow the airplane. I took a quick look at the checklist again and prepared for landing. I was headed straight for the airport. It wasn’t far away at all. It was time to turn and parallel the runway. The blue taxi lights were clearly visible now that I was closer. The airport seemed eerily vacant. As I continued, the rain picked up, and the sky grew more ominous.
I turned one last time toward the runway. It would only be a couple of minutes more and I would be on the ground. Just a couple short minutes. I could do this. Almost over. I tried to quiet my thoughts and pretend it was just like any other day I had practiced landings.
The airplane was a mere couple hundred feet above the ground. Then the brightest flash of them all made my heart leap into my throat. It felt as if lightning had struck right beside me. White covered everything. It’s all I saw, and the sound that came with it was deafening. I couldn’t breathe for a moment. The airplane was still in one piece. Nothing was on fire. It was dark in the airplane though and I was more alone than ever, desperate to be on the ground.
I tried to steady my hands as I guided the airplane down. Tears welled up in my eyes.
“Don’t do this Willow! Not now. Keep it together!” I shouted to myself. Just a few more feet and you’ll be on the ground.
I’m not sure of the exact second the wheels touched down. All I knew is that I had safely made it to the ground. In the time it took to blow out a single breath, everything went black.
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