Chapter 3 Summary
Brian’s brain is consumed with a single thought after the engine stalls—he is going to die. As the plane goes into a very fast glide, Brian looks desperately out the windshield for a place to land, but all he sees before him are trees. Suddenly, slightly to the right of his flight path, he sees an L-shaped lake, which gives him a glimmer of hope. Brian begins to maneuver the plane tentatively. He first pulls back on the wheel to bring the nose up, but his adjustment also makes the plane slow dramatically and he is afraid the craft will stop altogether and plummet precipitously straight down onto the trees. He quickly pushes the wheel back in, and the speed of the plane increases a little bit but it continues to lose altitude. The rugged terrain ahead is densely wooded, and the lake seems completely out of reach.
Just when Brian is sure that he is going to crash into the forest, he comes upon “a channel of fallen trees, a wide place leading to the lake.” The plane drops into this space, and Brian eases back on the wheel and prepares himself for impact. He is momentarily blinded when the plane’s wings catch the pines at the edge of the clearing and are torn from the fuselage, and his head is slammed violently into the wheel. The plane, continuing its forward momentum, breaks through the trees and crashes into the lake, skipping once on a surface “as hard as concrete” before diving deep beneath the water.
Brian sees nothing but “blue, cold blue-green” all around him, and he hears someone screaming but does not realize he is making the sound. He instinctively claws at his seat-belt catch, tearing his nails loose but finally releasing it. His windbreaker catches on the jagged edges of glass as he pulls himself out of the shattered windshield, but he rips it loose, shredding it. Freed, Brian reaches desperately toward the surface of the lake, but it seems interminably far. Just when his lungs are about to burst and he begins to suck in water, Brian breaks into the light and somehow manages to swim to the shore.
When at last Brian’s hands clutch grass and brush and his chest rests on land, everything suddenly stops. Something seems to explode inside his head, and he spirals into another world, into nothingness.