by Robert R. McCammon
Never Say Die
He was in the airplane again, falling towards the lights of Hollywood.
Seconds ago the craft had been a sleek silver beauty with two green-painted propellers, and now it was coming apart at the seams like wet cardboard. The controls went crazy, he couldn't hold the stick level, and as the airplane fell he clinched his parachute pack tighter around his chest and reached up to pop the canopy out. But the canopy was jammed shut, its hinges red with clots of rust. The propellers had seized up, and black smoke whirled from the engines. The plane nosed towards the squat, ugly buildings that lined Hollywood Boulevard, a scream of wind passing over the fuselage.
He didn't give up. That wasn't his way. He kept pressing against the canopy, trying to force the hinges, but they were locked tight. The buildings were coming up fast, and there was no way to turn the airplane because the rudder and ailerons were gone too. He was sweating under his green suit, his heart beating so hard he couldn't hear himself think. There had to be a way out of this; he was a never-say-die type of guy. His eyes in the slits of the green cowl ticked to the control panel, the jammed hinges, the dead stick, the smoking engines, back to the control panel in a frantic geometry.
The plane trembled; the port side engine was ripping away from the wing. His green boots kicked at the dead rudder pedals. Another mighty heave at the canopy, another jerk of the limp control stick—and then he knew his luck had, at long last, run out. It was all over.
Going down fast now, the wings started to tear away. Klieg lights swung back and forth over the boulevard, advertising somebody else's premiere. He marked where the plane was going to hit: a mustard-yellow five-floored brick building about eight blocks east of the Chinese Theatre. He was going to hit the top floor, go right into somebody's apartment. His hands in their green gloves clenched the armrests. No way out...no way out...
He didn't mourn for himself so much, but someone innocent was about to die, and that he couldn't bear. Maybe there was a child in that apartment, and he could do nothing but sit in his trap of straps and glass and watch the scene unfold. No, he decided as the sweat ran down his face. No, I can't kill a child. Not another one. I WON'T! This script has to be re-written. It wasn't fair, that no one had told him how this scene would end. Surely the director was still in control. Wasn't he? "Cut!" he called out as the mustard-yellow building filled up his horizon. "Cut" he said again, louder - then screamed it: "CUT!"
The airplane crashed into the building's fifth floor, and he was engulfed by a wall of fire and agony.
Go to Chapter 2: An Old Relic
Copyright © 1988 by Robert R. McCammon. All rights reserved. This story first appeared in the anthology Silver Scream, edited by David J. Schow and published by Dark Harvest in 1988. Reprinted with permission of the author.