Prologue: The Day We Died
The question, "What happens after we die", has plagued the human mind since the beginning of mankind. Our fear of death has led us to theorize what happens. Many speak of a paradise for the good, and a misery for the bad, others talk of reincarnation- we die in one lifetime, and then we are reborn into another form, and it keeps happening over and over again until the end of time. Others think we just die. We decompose and our matter becomes part of the earth again to be reused for something else.
Having died once myself, I now know the answer. You do get reincarnated. And you do wake up in another world. However, that other world is neither Heaven nor Hell. That world you wake up in is Middle Earth.
My name is Millie. And this is the story of how my friends and I all died.
We joked about death in our group of ten quite often. I know that death is a serious thing and we probably should not be making jokes about it. But we did. It was perfectly normal in our group. I was never very fond of discussing death, as the thought often scared me. It was something very tangible and real to me. It could be just around the corner and you'd never know. When we're young, we think we're invincible, but… we're not. That is just a fact. Uggh, I'm getting paranoid just mentioning this. However, I was used to my group joking about it at this point, so I just dealt with it. Every time we mentioned such nihilism, though, it always ended with everyone saying "No one is allowed to die before me". It never for one second entered anyone's mind that we'd all die at the same time.
I remember it like it was yesterday. It was the summer of 2020. My nine group members, myself, and my younger sister, Katie, had gotten are tickets to fly to New Zealand for the Lord of the Rings tour. I would have taken both my sisters, but Bri, who was eighteen at the time, had recently moved out with her fiancé, so she was not going to join us.
So, Katie and I had packed our bags and our dad was driving us to the San Francisco airport to meet the rest of my group, so we could fly to New Zealand. Honestly, I loved to fly, but I was a bit nervous that we would be flying for so long over open ocean. (I learned later that I had every reason to be.)
However, those nerves were pushed to the back of my mind and instead I was filled with excitement over the fact that I was going to New Zealand with my big, weird family. We were staying in Hobbiton! I could hardly wait!
"Well, girls, here we are." My Dad said as he parked at the San Francisco airport at four o'clock in the morning, "Grab your belongings from the trunk."
I casted a gaze over my shoulder at my younger sister, "Ready Katie?"
She smiled, glancing up from her phone screen. "Yeah. I'm excited."
We got out of the car and grabbed our suitcases from the trunk and Dad closed and locked the trunk and all the doors. I texted my friend, Elise, that we had arrived.
My dad escorted us through the sliding glass doors into the big open part of the airport where we'd be meeting the rest of my group. Inside, it was quiet, and the lights were almost blinding. Our feet echoed across the smooth wooden floors as we walked.
I was glad it was not that crowded right now. It was still very early, and I was in no mood to deal with a crowd. I scanned my gaze around. I quickly spotted the tell-tale leather jacket and the head of short blue hair that belonged to Elise, one of my two best friends in the center of a small group that would slowly grow larger when everyone arrived.
"There they are!" I waved, smiling brightly. When she saw us, Elise returned the smile with her signature black lipstick.
"Have fun. Be safe." My dad hugged both me and my sister tightly. It was the tightest hug he'd given me in years. When he let go of me he said, "Don't forget to text your mother and I before the plane takes off and when you land."
"Don't worry, Dad, we will!" Katie reassured. With that, we turned and made our way towards my group, waving over our shoulders.
For some reason, I could not help but get this sudden feeling of melancholy…as if that would be the last time we'd ever see our dad smile at us…
"Hello~ darlings!" Elise sing-songed. She opened her arms to hug us.
"Hello darling!" I replied immediately. We hugged one another before I greeted everyone else with the same gesture.
There were five group members currently present:
There was Elise, the charming, pun-making, edgelord that everyone adored. Then there was Erika, Elise's platonic wife. Her hair was shorter than I last remembered it, and it was dyed teal, like a mermaid. She still wore glasses, even though I'm sure she had packed her contacts. The unusually tall person next to them was Zade, their smol/ platonic son. He had finally been able to grow his hair out, so it was a shaggy brown mess, making him look even more adorable. Alex, Erika and Elise's other spouse, as usual, was looking fabulous with their short, blonde, half-shaved hair and their androgynous appearance and dark-framed glasses. Finally, there was John. He was tall and broad, and his hair was still a short, blonde crew cut. He still had his thin wire-framed glasses too.
"So Becca, Elliott, Spencer, and Rick-senpai are the last ones to arrive as usual then." I scanned my gaze around for my other best friend in her bright pastels.
"Yep. Y'know how it is." Elise replied.
"Rick just texted me that he's almost here, and Elliott is on his way." Erika reported.
"Kk cool." I said.
"Are you guys excited for New Zealand!?" My cheerful younger sister addressed everyone.
"Oh yeah. It shall be lots of fun." John replied.
"I've wanted to visit New Zealand and take the Lord of the Rings tour since I was like, twelve." I said.
"I'm looking forward to staying in Hobbiton." Erika added, "The Shire is just so cute."
Everyone nodded in agreement. Then, we all went off on a tangent to begin one of our nonsensical nerd conversations while we waited for the rest of the group to file in.
Rick arrived first, with his short blonde hair, fedora, and cold and calculating demeanor as usual.
"Rick-senpai!" Immediately, everyone ran over to surround and greet him, which overwhelmed him and resulted in him shaking his head, yet smiling, as our antics would always amuse him.
"It's four o'clock in the morning, how can you all be so awake right now?"
"Because caffeine." Zade said.
"And much excite." Elise added.
Soon after him, Elliott rolled in on his fabulous wheelchair we had finally got around to painting like R2-D2, sporting his usual skeleton hoodie and his short brown crew cut.
"Hi guys!" he greeted everyone, before he rolled over to me, "Mother! It's been so long, how are you!?"
"I'm good, darling!" I said, leaning over his chair to hug him tightly.
"Are you excited to go to New Zealand?"
"…So we're just waiting on Spencer and Becca." Rick declared.
"Yep." Elise answered.
I sighed. I expected this. No matter what, that adorable pastel-wearing ditz always forgot about functions or was late to them. Naturally, Spencer was too, because they carpooled. He was her other best friend aside from me.
"Let's see…it is 4:33 right now." I said, looking at my phone, "We were all supposed to meet here at 4:15 so we could go through security together and be waiting at the gate by 4:45." I huffed, "Becca, honey, I love you…but when it comes to catching a plane, punctuality is key…" I said half to myself, "Where is my wife!?" I exclaimed to the rest of my group.
"I'm sure she'll be here soon." Alex reassured.
Almost on cue, quick footsteps and the sound of wheels rolling across the floor filled the air. We all turned to the direction of the sound. Becca and Spencer were hastily making their way toward us.
"Wifey!" I exclaimed. I ran full speed towards her and jumped into her arms for an embrace. She staggered back a bit to catch her balance before returning the gesture and pecking me on the forehead. I hadn't seen her in several weeks and I had missed her.
"You're freckles look so cute!" I squealed. (Spencer had recently started drawing purple, blue, and pink freckles on Becca's cheeks with face paint. It was just a thing he did.)
"Thanks babe." She replied, before she addressed the rest of the group, "Sorry I'm late. I slept in and then made waffles for breakfast." She said.
"It's okay, we expected that." Elise replied.
Our group conversed and caught up a bit before Erika and I got their attention.
"You guys got your tickets and passports?" I asked.
A murmur of "yeps, yeahs, yees" and other variations of the world "yes" filled the air.
"Then lets got through security!" I declared. And with that, our squad, all bunched up together, and still lost in conversations made our way to the next part of the airport experience.
It went smoothly for the most part, except when there was a bit of questioning regarding Becca's hot pink Allen Wrench. It set off the metal detectors, but that was it. We got through security without any additional trouble.
Yeah. I know our group is strange and the family dynamics do not make sense, but it was how we were. Rick had once said that our group was made of people who "have so much hatred for themselves but love each other unconditionally". That was the most accurate description of it. We'd been friends since sophomore year of high school- which was about six years. Even when everyone had gone away to separate colleges, we had used a Discord server to stay in contact with each other. We met up every summer and during breaks, because no one was letting anyone go. We were not so much friends as we were a big, weird family. I had never loved any human beings (besides for my sisters) as much as I loved them. And the thought of losing them was the worst thing in the world. However, that unpleasant thought always stayed kept in the back of my mind. Our bonds and our love for one another was so strong that I was confident that no matter how far apart we were, we'd always find our way back together again. I know it sounds sappy… but it is the truth.
Back to the present. We had taken the terminal tram to our boarding gate, and everyone was currently waiting in the seats for the flight attendants to announce our flight.
Everyone was engaged in pleasant, yet random conversation- which was usual for our group. I was talking to Erika and waiting with high anticipation. It was nearly time to board.
The voice on the loudspeaker interrupted the pleasant chatting.
"Service to New Zealand. Now seating…"
After the painfully slow boarding process and the safety speech that no one listened to, the plane finally took off. I was sitting in between Becca and my little sister, who was staring out the window like an excited child. She had never really flown much, and when she did there were long gaps between experiences. Each flight experience never ceased to be exciting for her. I personally found flying relaxing. Especially now, being surrounded by the group I loved so dearly. It was pleasant and the environment was wonderful. The flight was smooth the sky was blue…
We were flying over the ocean. I was dozing, and I barely heard the pilot warning us of slight turbulence.
The sky grew dark. The plane began to bounce and shake as the turbulence increased.
"We're flying close to a storm. It should be alright but the turbulence is going to get stronger." The pilot's voice over the loudspeaker warned.
Shake. Rumble. Shake. Bump.
The sky grew dark. The winds picked up. The speed increased. It began to rain. Thunder rumbled.
A feeling of unease settled over the entire plane, and the staff was murmuring quietly, yet worriedly amongst themselves.
My stomach began to churn. I squeezed Becca's hand, and I rubbed my sister's back. It was going to be just fine. Just…fine.
Then the storm hit.
The winds were violent. The heavy rain smacked against the glass. The plane was tossed about like a toy. It rocked and shook. It rumbled and rattled. The pilot fought to keep control while the flight attendants tried to keep the slowly panicking fliers at bay.
Suddenly, there was a bright flash of light and a crack. Lightning split through the sky. My side of plane suddenly dipped violently. One of the wings had been struck by lightning. The plane leaned heavily, staggering. There was another flash. This one hit the rudder. The lights flickered, glass broke. Power went out. Then the plane started plummeting towards the dark, open water.
Becca and I were squeezing each other hands tightly, Katie gripped my arm and back and hid her face in my shoulder as silent, stinging tears streamed down my face.
Screams filled the air, as everyone was tossed about in their seats and crashed into one another. My ears popped, my head began to spin. Above me, the violent thrashing, and shaking…like an earthquake…and the pressure from the plummet caused the luggage racks above me to come loose.
No! No! This not how I want to die! PLEASE GOD DON'T LET ME DIE! DON'T LET ME GO LIKE THIS! PLEASE….NO…
Someone…I think it was Rick…uttered the words, "I love you all", Before something smacked me in the skull and everything went black.