“Rafa, what’s going on” Roger asked the Spaniard fondly.
“Is alright, Roger. But - don’t like this plane, si? is too small?” The Spaniard was huddled on his seat, his earphones on, he was nervously knocking his knees together for the past 20 minutes.
Roger and Andy, grinned at each other, but then Andy rolled his eyes. “Remind me again why we agreed to this?”
“Come on.” Roger shrugged. “It’s just a promotion thing, you rather go swim with Crocodiles?.”
Andy snorted. “You mean Dolphins, and yes.” He grimaced. “Remind me to thank Murray and Ferrer for retiring from this thing. Really, how did I get stuck as the third seed in this tournament and ended up doing THIS, being flown off to a secret location for a promotional shoot? I thought dropping out of the top 5 came with some benefits”
Roger laughed, an easy laugh. “Shut up, how much did you get in appearance fee?”
Andy snorted. “Less than half of what you got, I’m sure.”
Roger shrugged. “What I heard was is that they’ve built a court which looks like it’s on Aladin’s flying carpet, and we’re suppose to play like doubles on that.”
Andy cocked an eyebrow “There’s three of us”
Roger waved a hand. “I think one of local wild-card players is waiting on the site. It’s supposedly huge, so it’s out of the city. No one told you those details?”
Andy grimaced. “Honestly, I didn’t care that much. I just didn’t think it’s going to a long flight.”
Roger glanced again toward Rafa, who was curled in his seat, looking down on the vast desert and valleys underneath them, still involved with his earphones. ”I didn’t remember he had issues with flying.”
Andy rolled his eyes. “Is there something he doesn’t have issues with? The guy is a bundle of issues.”
Roger’s upper lip curled up, but he nudged Andy. “Stop that, this IS a tiny plane, though.”
He glanced toward the pilot cabin. “I’m going to ask the pilot how long we’re going to be, I didn’t think we’re going to go so far from Dubai itself, I still need to practice today. And the terrain looks rough, I’m not familiar enough with that part of the emirates, I’ve never flown over these parts, I don’t think. I’m not quite sure where we are.”
Roger unbuckled himself and got up, and walked two steps toward the pilot cabin, when the plane suddenly jumped. Roger stumbled, falling down on one knee with a startled gasp, reaching out to stabilize himself.. Both Andy and Rafa got out of their chairs to aid him, Andy pulled him up. “You okay, man?”
“Yeah. Yeah. Christ, what was that?”
“Air pocket” Andy said. “Has to be.”
“Si.” Rafa frowned, “I want to land already.”
Roger exhaled. “Yeah, I do too, kinda. Odd that we’re not there yet, I was going to ask the pil-”
Roger never got the chance to finish the sentence, before the small plane lurched violently to the left, then to the right. The three of them, standing in the middle of the plane, were thrown into the side of the plane, then to the other. Roger groaned as the air escaped from his lungs in a rush as he hit the side of the plane, and he could feel his mouth filling with blood. His ears were ringing, but beyond that there were Andy’s frantic swearing, and Rafa’s cries in Spanish. Roger found himself thrown on top of a chair and he sank into it and buckled himself in.. Then the voice of the engine was gone, and the plane started to drop. He looked frantically around. Andy was just in front of him, on the floor, holding on the leg of a chair, his eyes wide and startled. Rafa was further behind him, on the floor of the plane, one leg stuck behind the beverages bar. He wasn’t moving. “Rafa!” He cried out. “Rafael!”
The Plane tilted further forward, and Andy was losing his grip on the chair, Roger could see the muscles in his hand tensing as he struggled to hold on. Roger unbuckled himself, held on to his chair on one hand, and reached out to Andy with the other. “Andy, Take it!”
Andy made a grab at his hand, but then the plaen tilted again, and he lost his grip completely. Roger was knocked out of his chair as well, and found himself on the floor. He was rolling, rolling forward, uncontrollably. And he could almost hear the rush of the wind against the wings of the plane before they came head into the ground with a loud grind, and then he knew no more.
Andy did not lose consciousness, not really. He was wide awake when the plane crashed, hurling him around forcefully, when the noise finally stopped, he took a moment to appreciate to he was, in fact alive, before the pain in his left leg and left wrist hit him.. He cried out in pain, a cry that intensified into a scream as he look down, and realized with horror that the leg was indeed broken. The position of his feet, below the ankle, was bent to the left, unnaturally and horrifyingly so. The pain of it, and most of all the way it looked, was horrible. After a moment, he forced himself to slow down his breathing and turn the cries into gasps of pain. The silence, the silence was frightening. “Ah- Roger! Oh FUCKING CHRIST. Roger! Rafa!! Ah-Ah-Ah fuckkkk...”
The body of the plane was tilted oddly on the ground, and he was caught at the very beginning of the plane, near the pilot cabin, with his back turned to the rest of the plane. He held on to a nearby chair, and forced himself to try and turn around, using his right hand. He didn’t think his left wrist was broken, badly sprained, maybe. Still, he couldn’t use that hand at all. He cried out again and again as he twisted his body backwards. His body was drenched in cold sweat, and he tried to keep his breaths shallow, to prevent fainting.
When he finally managed the spin, he noticed Roger right away. Just 5-6 feets behind him, on the floor, unconscious, and fuckohfuck, bleeding from the head. “ShitShitShit. Roger! Roger! Ohfuck.”
It was a short distance, but it might have been a mile. He closed his eyes, allowed his body to fall on the floor, and then dragged himself back on his elbows. He let out shuddering sounds of pain as his ankle dragged against the floor, and there were black dots behind his eyes, dancing. “Comeon, Roddick.” He mumbled.”Don’t pass out, don’t pass out. Fucking don’t.”
When he finally got near Roger, he positioned himself with his back against the side of the plane, and fought the urge to throw up. With a trembling hand, he reached out to Roger’s neck, to check for pulse, and let out a sigh of relief when the pulse seemed strong. He touched Roger’s shoulder. “Roger. Dude, I need you to wake up, right fucking now.” At the touch, Roger stirred slightly, and turned.
Andy realized with a start his face were banged up as well. A Broken nose, for sure. Roger groaned in pain. “Roger, can you hear me? Can you wake up?”
Roger, cried out, something in Swiss German.
Andy touched his shoulder again. “Roger. We’ve crashed. Tell me you’re lucid, man. Roger - We’ve crashed. The fucking plane crashed.” He was babbling, he knew, but he couldn’t help it.
Roger lied there, moaning, for a long moment, Then lifted his head slightly to throw up on the floor, right next to them. Andy put a rough hand on his chin, to make sure Roger would not choke on his own bile. Roger panted and moaned. Then, after a moment. “Andy?”
“Yeah” Andy said, utter relief in his voice to hear Roger coherent. “Yeah. That’s me. Roger we’ve crashed. We’re fucked, this is not good.” He doubled over in pain.
Roger coughed, let out a single voice of pain, then said. “I - know. I know. Oh God. Oh God.”
After a moment. “I’m scared to open my eyes, my face feels like...and my head hurts so much”
Andy said. “You’re nose - it’s broken good., and you’re head, it’s bleeding. Most likely you have a a concussion.” Roger face twisted in pain. “I think I cracked ribs, too. I can - feel them - *moving*” He swore, again and again, in Swiss German. “I’m just going to lie here for a second. Are you okay?”
Andy grimaced in pain. “No. My ankle a mess, so is my wrist. I can barely move, and it fucking hurts. Try to see if you can see straight and sit. Come on. Fucking do it, Roger, right now.”
Roger blinked, and opened his eyes. Then his face curled in a grimace and he threw up again.
Andy swore inaudibly, but Roger braced himself on the floor, and opened his eyes again, and looked at Andy. his gaze was glassy, and he was white as a sheet. Then he looked down at Andy’s ankle and his mouth opened his horror. “And-”
“Yeah, I know, it’s fucked. Don’t look too much, I’m trying not to look.”
There was a moment of silence, then Roger asked, in a small voice. “Where’s... shit, Andy - where’s Rafa?”
Andy swallowed. “I don’-I don’t know. I don’t know.He’s not - he’s not IN here.”
Roger, slowly, looked around. “What do you mean? How can he no-”
“I think - I think he got thrown, outside. of the plane. When we crashed. Look, see how that part is all shattered. I called out, I didn’t - he didn’t reply. He’s not in here. I haven’t heard shit from the pilot, either. Nothing - nothing was moving in there.”
Roger looked at him, his eyes wide and horrified at the implications. He then glanced toward the pilot cabin. “I think his name is Ali” He whispered. He braced himself. “Ali!”
He dragged himself to his hunches, shuddering in pain. Andy looked at him. “You’re going to look?”
Roger nodded, silently, his eyes wide. he crawled the couple of feet until the cabin door, groaning with pain in every move, and tried to open it. It was jammed. “Shit. It’s stuck.”
He took a deep breath, and tried to put more of his weight behind it, to pull the door. He cried out in pain, and the door didn’t move. He whimpered. “Christ, I can’t move it, I can’t put any weight against it to open.”
Andy was helpless to help him. “Okay. Forget it. Come back here. We’ll figure it out in a moment.”
Roger moved back toward him, and pulled himself, slowly and painfully, to a sitting position next to him. There were tears of pain streaming down Roger’s cheeks. He swallowed. “We have - Andy, Rafa - we have to look outside.”
Andy took a long sniff. “This place smells like.. it’s smells like fuel, Roger. We have to *get* outside. Shit Shit Shit.”
“Maybe we can have a better look at the cabin from outside. But first we have to go.” He looked at his ankle, and closed his eyes. At the other end, the cabin was shattered, but it was a long way for someone with a broken ankle and a broken wrist, and if Roger couldn't use his own weight and open the cabin's door due to his cracked ribs, then no way he was dragging Andy, who was heavier than Roger, that distance. Roger looked at him, pale. “Can you get there?”
Andy gritted his teeth. “I- I don’t know. I can’t move this fucking ankle.” Roger looked around. His tennis bag was nearby, his contents spilling out. He reached out with a groan, and pulled out a racquet and bandanna. He looked at Andy, who nodded.”This could work.” Roger put the racquet next to Andy’s leg, and looked at him questioningly. Andy wiped the sweat from his face, and looked back at Roger, who looked as shaky as he did. “Can you maybe, try to grab it - like grab both the ankle and the leg and lift them together? Then slid the racquet underneath it?” He was panting already from the mere thought.
Roger looked at Andy and shook his head panicky.”I - Andy, this is going - “
“I fucking know it’s going to hurt! burning in here would hurt more. Do it! I can’t lift it myself.”
Roger nodded, biting his lower lip. “O.K. Shit. O.K. Count of three, okay?”
Andy nodded abruptly. “Yeah. Yeah.”
“O.K. One. Two - “ At the count of two, Roger grabbed Andy’s ankle and leg, and moved them both to the racquet. Andy screamed in pain, long and drawn out, and Roger let out a huge groan of pain as he felt the movement in his entire rib cage. They were both panting harshly, and when Andy finally opened his eyes, nausea was under control, he found himself looking at a face as tortured as his own. “Come on, tie it. Hard.”
Roger moved to wipe his face, but Andy caught his arm. “Your nose. Careful. Don’t touch anything, Just tie it..”
Roger, with dexterity only he could muster at a time like this, or so Andy thought, tied the knot quickly and with as minimum pain, immobilizing both the leg and the ankle to the racquet. had to bent down slightly to manage the knot, and his face were the color of ash by the time he was done. Andy tried to move the leg, and found it incredibly painful, but manageable. “That's - impressive. How did you learn to do that?" "Swiss boy scouts" Andy would have smiled at that, but instead her said. " Lets do it - Wait. You got a water bottle in your bag?”
“Take it, I didn’t have any in mine.”
Roger reached out for the water, then tucked it in his pants.
Slowly, they both started the crawl to the other side of the plane. Roger pushed himself out of the broken side of the plane to the soft sand, warm, sand underneath his legs with a mighty groan, and then, sinking his teeth well into his bottom lip, stood up, leaned against the plane, grabbed Andy by the torso, and with a cry of pain pulled him out. Both them cried out as they fell on the sand next to each other. Roger’s hand dug into the sand, the pain in his cracked ribs was beyond anything he experienced. Andy, too, was shaky next to him. Repressing on shouts of agony. Several moments later, Andy took a long breath. “Okay. Okay. We’re okay. Lets move a little.
The moved a few more meters, away from the plane, Andy dragged himself on one hand, Roger has managed an upright position, his head was pounding hard, but the bleeding has stopped, and his vision has cleared. Once they’ve stopped, Roger looked around. Nothing but vast emptiness of dunes and mountains, and 15 meters or so away, a man was lying on the sand. “Rafa” Roger mouthed almost silently, then opened his mouth to call out his name. “Rafa?!” The name came out choked and hoarse, and foreign to his own ears. There was no movement. Roger looked at Andy helplessly, he was shaking. “I can’t look. Jesus Christ.I can’t look.”
Andy’s expression was hollow and twisted. “I know. I know. Go look.” Andy almost whispered. “We gotta see. Roger, fucking-Rog.. Go look at him.”
Roger looked at him for a long moment, then nodded. Slowly, he stumbled on the dunes, his ribs crying out in pain. When he was a meter or two away. He stopped, then sank to his knees with a choked and wordless cry. Rafael Nadal was lying on his back, his head twisted in an unnatural angle, and his eyes. Those brown, expressive eyes were open, in a blank look that only death could ever bring them.