A Rough Ride
"We're going down!! Ha!" AJ teased Nick as he watched him buckle his seatbelt for the plane ride.
Annoyed, Nick snapped back, "God AJ, you know how I get nervous on planes, why do you do this everytime?"
"Cause I get a reaction out of you everytime!" AJ shot back.
"Guys, knock it off, okay?" Kevin yelled. He just wanted peace and quiet on the flight and he was getting tired of AJ and Nick bickering back and forth.
AJ looked back at Kevin over the top of his glasses. "Ok Dad, we'll be good boys."
Kevin sighed and pulled a book out of his bag. He settled back into his seat and prepared for a long trip home.
As Nick pulled the game boy out of it's case, he gave AJ a dirty look. AJ responded by flipping Nick off. Brian, looking at both of them having a petty fight, rolled his eyes.
"You know, guys, this is going to be a long flight, could you at least try and get along for an hour?" Brian asked.
Before Nick could respond, the plane was starting to take off. AJ started snickering when he noticed Nick's body tense up and his hands gripping the armrests on the chair.
"Argggh." AJ teased Nick making mock sounds of being frightened. Nick didn't give AJ the satisfaction of a response, he just swallowed and closed his eyes.
"AJ you do this to poor Nick every time, lighten up, would you? He hates flying as it is, but you are not making it any easier on him." Howie repremanded AJ.
"Yeah, oh well, whatever." AJ picked up a magazine and started reading.
Nick decided he was sleepy and adjusted his seat to take a nap and escape the comments from AJ and the fact that he was suspended in air at the mercy of four engines holding up tons of steel.
Nick was jerked awake from his sleep by the sound of AJ screaming. As Nick tried to ignore AJ he detected something was not right. The plane was shaking.
Before he could react, the next thing Nick realized was a cool breeze blowing over his face and something that felt like water dripping off his forehead.
Dazed, Nick looked around the plane from his seat. A huge, gaping hole was up towards the front where the pilot had been sitting. The wind played with the steel, making it flap back and forth as if it were as flimsy as white sheets on a clothesline instead of heavy duty steel.
Nick turned and looked at AJ, who had been sitting beside him when the flight began. He was slumped over to the side, unconscious.
Nick wiped the side of his forehead with the back of his hand. When he drew it back, it was covered in bright red blood.
"Oh my god, I'm bleeding!" Nick tried to keep calm. The sight of blood always made him nervous and sick to his stomach.
Hearing soft moans from behind him, Nick undid his seat belt and lifted himself up on his hands to look over the seat. He was shocked to see his friend Brian, dazed and bleeding.
"Brian?" Nick tried to call out to him, but all he could manage was a weak whisper, barely audible.
As Nick tried to stand up and go towards Brian, his left leg gave out, the pain was unbearable sending sharp surges up and down his body causing Nick to pass out.
Nick woke to find himself on the floor of the plane. He pulled himself up to a partial standing position and remembered not to put any weight on his left leg. Moving towards Brian, Nick let his left leg drag behind him, every step he made was more painful than the first.
In what seemed to take forever but was actually only a few minutes, Nick reached Brian. Nick placed his hands ontop of Brian's.
"Brian, are you okay?" Nick softly asked.
Brian's face was twisted in pain. He swallowed hard before answering in a painful voice that was barely above a whisper. "What happened?"
"Brian, the plane crashed." Nick replied, looking around the fuselage.
"How's....how's the rest..." Brian was finding it more and more difficult to speak. Nick sensing Brian's pain, put a hand heavily on his shoulder.
Nick was breathing heavily, gasping between words. The air that was coming into the plane was cold and the warmth of his breath hung in the cool air like misty clouds of smoke.
"I'm..gonna..check..on..them." As Nick prepared to look, he patted Brian's shoulder. "I'll..be..back."
Brian slowly nodded to signify that he had heard Nick. Nick half-walked/half-dragged himself towards the back of the plane where he remembered where Kevin was. Nick moved a few small pieces of the plane away and discovered Kevin underneath, unconscious. Nick pressed his fingers into the side of Kevin's neck, checking for a pulse. Once satisfied when he found one, Nick turned his attention towards finding Howie.
"Kev...is...okay." Nick said as he made his way past Brian.
Nick made his way towards where Howie was. Carefully moving small pieces of debris, Nick found Howie laying on the floor, his shirt soaked in blood. Looking around the plane, Nick saw pieces of material he could use to apply pressure to Howie's wound to slow the bleeding.
Howie weakly coughed, his lungs were filling with fluid.
"Howie...hang in...there." Nick gasped. He started to shiver, dressed only in jeans and a short sleeved football jersey, Nick was hardly dressed for the cool climate.
Nick focused his attention towards AJ. He remembered seeing him slumped over in his seat, appearing to be unconscious. Pulling himself next to AJ's seat, Nick pressed his fingers into the side of AJ's neck, checking for a pulse. Nick had moved his hand along different sides of AJ's neck in a desperate attempt to find the pulse, but was unsuccessful.
"Oh, god Brian." Nick called out. "AJ's...oh god." Nick couldn't bring himself to say the word dead. Just thinking it was so final. Nick didn't want to believe this was happening.
Nick spotted a rod laying on the floor. He slid over to it, picked it up and tried using it as a crutch for himself. This provided Nick with better mobility to get to the others to help them. He limped up towards the front of the plane to see what was left of it and to see if there were any way he could still be able to use the radio to signal for help.
Standing in the doorway, Nick looked out on miles of a forest of pine trees. The cockpit was completely gone, including the radio panels. The pilot and co-pilot were no where to be seen. The wind whistled as if mocking Nick in the predicament he now found himself in.
Turning around, Nick decided he needed to find blankets, anything for warmth. Howie was going into shock from his injuries and Nick knew that he had to keep him warm. Making his way around the scattered debris on the floor, Nick checked above the seats and was fortunate to find thick wool blankets still neatly folded and stored in the compartments. Pulling two blankets out and biting onto the edge of a small pillow with his teeth, he went directly over to Howie.
Nick gently lifted Howie's head and placed the pillow underneath it. Next, he covered Howie up with two of the thick blankets. Checking under Howie's shirt to see if the bleeding from his stomach wound had stopped, Nick was disappointed to find that the cloth he used was already soaked in blood.
Howie started coughing more frequently and Nick noted that Howie was starting to sweat and run a fever.
"Hang in there, Howie, just hang in there." Nick mentally prayed.
Nick got up and searched the other storage compartments for more blankets and found four more. He placed two on Brian and took the other two and covered Kevin up.
Brian quietly protested Nick's not taking a blanket for himself, but Nick dismissed Brian's protest saying he needed to take care of Howie and was keeping warm moving around.
The effects of hypothermia were playing with Nick. He rubbed his upper arms, hoping to stimulate warmth. While blowing into his cupped hands, Nick looked around for something to block the gaping hole that was allowing the cold air to come into the plane. All the blankets were used, he could pull furniture up to it, but he decided that was a stupid idea.
The stillness of the plane was interuppted by Howie's coughs, which were coming more and more frequently. Brian and Kevin were sleeping and Nick thought that their color appeared good, so that meant the blankets were helping them. Howie on the other hand was growing worse by the minute.
Leaning on the rod, Nick stood up and looked out the hole of the plane. It was starting to get dark, night would be falling soon and with night, a drop in temperatures was certain.
Sitting down next to Howie, Nick checked the fresh towel he had placed to see how it was holding up. It was saturated, Howie was quickly losing blood and Nick couldn't stop it.
Howie started to faintly smile. Nick smiled back at Howie. "Hey, how ya feeling, D?"
Howie laughed a small laugh and coughed. "That was pretty funny what you did Nicky." His voice was very weak, Nick had to lean close to hear.
"What's that D?" Nick replied, pulling the blankets up closer around Howie's neck and shoulders.
"When you put lemon juice in Bri's water bottle." Howie smiled.
Nick's mind searched for what Howie was talking about and then he quickly recalled. Howie was talking about the last stunt Nick pulled on Brian shortly before they left for this flight back home. Brian took a drink out of the bottle onstage, expecting to be refreshed and Howie and Nick watched as his face went from pleasant looking to extreme agony and then to anger when he realized that Nick had pulled on of his famous pranks.
"Yeah, D, that was pretty cool. You'll have to get better so we can do more." Nick said, rubbing his arms to keep warm.
Howie coughed again, this time is was harder and harsher. When Howie stopped, his eyes focused on Nick's face and then it appeared Howie was looking past Nick.
"Nick, someone's come to help us. She's right behind you." Howie said softly.
Nick turned and looked into the direction that Howie was looking at, and saw nothing.
"Howie, no one is there, you're seeing things." Nick stated as he rubbed his hands together.
Howie smiled and closed his eyes and drifted to sleep.
As Nick looked around the plane, his eyes fell on AJ's lifeless body, slumped over in his seat. Memories of AJ filled Nick's mind. He determined that it was ironic that AJ constantly teased Nick about his fear of flying and yet it was AJ that perished in the crash and not Nick.
Nick starting feeling overcome with drowsiness from being exposed to the cold. He fought off sleep, knowing that it would mean certain death, but lost the battle somewhere within an hour after the urge initially hit him.
As an oxygen mask was being placed over his nose and mouth, Nick woke up, dazed. A young female paramedic smiled at Nick. "Everything is gonna be okay, just rest."
There were so many questions Nick wanted to ask, but couldn't ask with the mask over his mouth. Nick settled for listening, but lost the ability to stay conscious and drifted back to sleep.
Nick awoke in a hospital room, enshrined in flowers. Looking towards the television that was set on MTV, his attention was drawn towards the news report that was on, when it flashed a picture of a crashed airplane:
This ultralight airplane was carrying the five members of the group, The Backstreet Boys when it crashed over the Smokie Mountains. The group was returning from their tour. Although Brian Littrell, Kevin Richardson and Nick Carter remain hospitalized for injuries from the crash and exposure to the cold, funerals for AJ McLean and Howie Dorough were held this afternoon. It is uncertain at the moment whether the remaining members of the group will continue.
"They each had a nice funeral."
Nick turned his head in the direction of the female voice.
Jane Carter stood off to the side of the room, tears stained her cheeks as she watched the television.
"Mom, oh, god, no! Not Howie too, I tried to save him, I really did." Nick started to apologize. Jane walked over to Nick's bed and held him in her arms.
"I know you did, honey, but it wasn't meant to be, Howie was hurt too badly." Jane tried to console Nick.
"But he laughed and he was talking, this wasn't supposed to happen, he was supposed to get better." Nick tried to reason out the reason for Howie dying, but came up empty.
"Shhh, Nick, calm down. There's nothing we can say or do to make sense out of this, but you have to put your trust and faith in God. Howie and AJ are both in Heaven now. Howie with his sister and AJ, well, he's probably torturing the Angels or begging God to let him keep at least one of his tattoos." Jane tried to inject humor into the situation.
Nick smiled at the thought of AJ chasing Angels in Heaven. He had to admit, the picture of that was funny.
"But, mom, I never got to say goodbye." Nick said sadly.
Jane smoothed the hair from his face. "I know sweetie, it's okay."