Today's Reading

ALLISON

Breathe. Breathe.

My eyes open. A canopy of trees above. A flock of birds stare down before taking flight.

I survived.

He might have, too.

I have to see. I pick my way through the wreckage on bare feet. Where are my shoes? It doesn't matter. Bits of twisted metal everywhere. One of the wings lodged in the V of a nearby tree. A roll of toilet paper draped across the branches. The cabin is a tin can sliced open, exposing two rows of cream leather seats. I take a step closer and peer inside.

He is there, chest slumped over the controls.

"Hello?" My voice is startling in my ears. "Can you hear me?"

Silence. The engine hisses. The gasoline ticks into the grass.

Into the cabin. Avoid the jagged rim. He is still holding the radio transmitter in his hand, the cable severed. I nudge him, gently. His body falls against the side of the cabin.

His face is missing.

Out. Out.

I retch, then sit. Focus.

Here are the facts: I am alone. I am on a mountain. The plane I was on has crashed. My body is covered in bruises and cuts and my left leg has a wound that will soon become infected if I don't clean it. My finger is strained or broken and quickly swelling. I have very little food and water. The sun is still high but it will be dark in a few hours and my only shelter is a twisted hulk of metal that could, at any minute, explode.

I feel sick with fear. I want, very badly, to lie back on the bank of grass and let my heavy eyelids close. I wonder what it will be like to die. Will it be like the tilt and drop of sleep? Will there be a light to follow, or just the dark?

Stop.

I don't want to die. What I need is a plan.

You have to go.

The voice in my head is urgent, insistent.

Youhavetogoyouhavetogoyouhavetogo.

Stay alive.

My overnight bag. In a tree. Tug it down. Ignore the searing pain in my shoulder. I plunge through the clothes I'd packed for a weekend in Chicago. Out go the cocktail dresses, the spindly heels, the flimsy bra, and two pairs of lacy underwear. Gym gear. Thank God. Something useful. Off goes the cotton dress, the ridiculous bra and underwear. Do not think about the bruises blooming on your thighs. Do not think about the lacerations on your hips. Do not think about that crooked pinkie finger and the worrying blue cast it is taking on. Do not think about the blood all over your white dress, your stomach, your thighs. Do not think. Move. Tug on the running leggings, the sports bra, the socks, the freebie T-shirt from some 10K.

My phone. I have to find my phone. Where is it? I scan the debris field.

Nothing.

Move. Move. The expensive bottle of perfume, the shampoo and conditioner, the precleanse oil, the cream cleanser and exfoliator, the separate lotions for body, face, hands, under eyes: gone. The hair dryer and the curling iron: gone. Wait. The cords. Jerk free and save. The empty toner bottle, the mirrored compact, and the travel-size bottle of hair spray. All useful. Maybe. Put them to one side. Out go the deodorant and the makeup and the hairbrush. The lip balm goes into one of the bag's zippered pockets.

The bag's weight is manageable. On to his suitcase. A Turnbull & Asser sleeve peeking through a tear in the lining. A spare T-shirt. His Harvard sweatshirt goes on. Do not think about how much it smells like him. God, it smells like him.
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