#FridayFlash: Simple Geometry

Simple Geometry

by Tony Noland

13-C gripped the bolt head with fingers he could no longer feel, in an ice storm that made it impossible to see. It was easier to work if he kept his left eye closed. There was something in there, maybe a sliver of glass, maybe a shard of metal from the fuselage. Whatever it was made his eye fill with a weepy mucus that messed up his vision anyway, so after two days, he'd torn a sleeve from 14-E and tied a strip around his head to keep the eye closed and immobile.

The two hinge rails from the overhead luggage compartments were the straightest, stiffest things he could find. The cold metal dug into his fingers as he tightened the bolt at the top of the V. Before continuing his work, he had to limp forward and warm his hands by the fire he'd made in what was left of the food prep area. He couldn't remember if it was called a kitchen or a galley on an airplane, so he used the more neutral term he'd made up. Even now, even here, 13-C was a meticulous and careful man.

All of the crew members in the cockpit, everyone in first class and in the forward business class were crushed together, a solid mass of frozen meat among the wreckage. He assumed the people who'd been seated behind the wings were scattered on the mountainside below, but with that part of the plane gone, it was just an assumption. He and the other people in rows 12, 13, 14, 15 and 16 had fared better. It was only good fortune that those on the A-B-C side had done the best, since their impact had been cushioned by those in D-E-F. It was crazy blind luck that 13-C only had a fractured leg, a stabbed eye and a dislocated shoulder.

12-D, 14-A, 14-F and 16-F survived, but died within a couple of hours, in various degrees of agony. For two and a half days after the crash, 15-C sat and stared, blinking stupidly through his chopped hamburger facial wounds, saying nothing. When he died in the night, neither 13-C nor 16-A had noticed. They had their own troubles to bear, their own plans to make. 16-A had moaned and cried and prayed for three days before finally slipping into a coma; she died a few hours ago.

By the smoky plastic fire, 13-C ate packets of vegetarian lasagna and frozen croissants. He drank six little bottles of Smirnoff vodka, then six of Grey Goose vodka. When he could feel his hands again, he went back down to the ripped end of the plane and picked up his new tool.

He knew there was only one way to get out of there - it would take a miracle. 13-C wasn't a religious man, never had been, but even though it was a long shot, it was looking like prayers of supplication were his only hope.

No doubt, there was a formal prayer with a particular wording, but he didn't know it. The words of his prayer were simple and heartfelt; he hoped that was enough. Taking a final breath to steady himself, he hefted his tool and jabbed one end into 16-A's neck. The slushy, thick blood flowed and coated the cloth he'd wrapped around the steel. In the wide area by the escape door, where he'd exposed bare metal by tearing up the carpeting, he jabbed down with the sharpened end of the other leg. His crude compass traced smears in wide arcs on the frozen aluminum.

He'd had plenty of time to work out the geometry in his head. This had to be as perfect as he could make it.

16-A's praying hadn't done any good, but 13-C was going on the assumption that 16-A had been praying to the wrong god for salvation.

===== Feel free to comment on this or any other post.

UPDATE: Read the discussion of this story, and answer a question about it. 

UPDATE TO THE UPDATE: The people have spoken. Read the sequel to this story, "Complex Geometry".


  1. Fantastic! Wish there was more!

  2. He has a pretty sweet camp site going there.

  3. Another awesome entry. I loved the way it progressed. I liked figuring out his designation was a seat number.

  4. Thanks, everyone! John, remind me not to go camping with you.

  5. Nicely done. Hope there's more to this story. I'd love to see if that geometry worked out.

  6. Reminds me of the Occam's Razor section in Carl Sagan's Contact.

    Using Foucault's Pendulum as the arbiter, a man of science swings the pendulum back, releases it and knows through his scientific knowledge that the large iron ball will never reach a point further than from its release. The scientist is safe from harm.

    The man of faith is asked to repeat the experiment but with one small change: After releasing it, he must take a step forward and have faith in his God that he will be kept safe.

    Wonderful writing Tony. Hope the Shorty Award finds its way to your mantlepiece :D

  7. holy crappin' crap! that is some sick good flash!

  8. Uh-oh, I think the "god" that 13-C is calling up will make things plenty warm!

  9. So I fainted when we learned there was something horrid stuck in his eye, and had to finish reading when I woke up. (just kidding. Gah!)

    I hope the fractals can save him. :)

    Great horrific story, Tony.

  10. I love that everyone's name is the seat number on the plane. 13C has quite a task ahead of him.

  11. Your fiction never fails to gutpunch.

  12. Quite the vivid piece piece. I think I'll have nightmares, now. : )

  13. Nice job this week, Tony. I loved that even the mc doesn't have a name.

    As for your reply to John, I've actually said that exact same thing to him after his comment on my Friday the 13th flash.

  14. Very graphic but gripping, Tony. I like a lot of what you did here. I have one small quibble, in that I think 15-C would have been in too much pain to just sit in a stupor for 2 days. Then again, I've never been in a situation like that, so I don't know how someone with those kind of injuries would react. Very good story, though, as usual!

  15. @Four Part: I'd intended this to be a standalone. Tell you what, though... if you can get twenty people to comment a request for a sequel, I'll continue the story.

    @icb4: Thanks - if I do get the Shorty Award, I'll know who got the ball rolling!

    @fictdoodles: I love your comment!

    @FAR: Yeah, I'm kind of wondering what he's going to offer in trade for his salvation.

    @Gracie: He's in a tough spot, that's for sure. Hope the eye thing wasn't too nasty!

    @lara: Being reduced to an animal would be bad enough. Being reduced to a seat number is even worse.

    @aldersprig: Your fiction never fails to gutpunch. Thanks - so long as that means you'll be back for more?

    @Ezzy: You and Gracie can get together with a night light. 8-)

    @Danni: Thanks! This was a study in a man being driven to an extreme, but retaining his rationality and will to live. As for John... NO CAMPING.

  16. Nice gritty plane crash aftermath, the black magic reference gives a nice and unusual twist to the story.

  17. Count me as a "yes" vote for a sequel! But the odds seem to b against our poor friend 13c... I'm afraid it might not have a happy ending. Good flash, Tony!

  18. This is a sick ass flash! Love it! I don't think it's going to be cold for long. Just a hunch.

  19. Great flash! I thought it was going to be futuristic with his name but the plane crash seat designations were inspired. Gruesomely sticky and sick - I want to know what shape his geometry takes next!

  20. Bit of a latter-day Lovecraft here, really - with a splash more black humor. You really should be the next Rod Serling. Great stuff.

  21. As you can imagine Tony, this story is a tad close to the bone for an airline professional like myself, and this is one flight where I would have been happy working in economy. The amount of vodka 13c drank would certainly have numbed the horror somewhat. I also like the characters as seat number structure you used. It is just how it is in the business and so feels very authentic.

  22. Love how you made the piece emotionally distant by boiling everyone down to seat numbers. Gripping stuff. Sure, write the sequel. Peace...

  23. @John: I'm glad you liked it. I pictured 15-C as being in shock, with the stupor from massive head trauma. However, since I'm not a doctor, I'll admit that's entirely possible that this isn't realistic or even possible. Fortunately, we all get to make stuff up, don't we? Writers FTW!

    @Steve: Thanks! What I like about this piece (if I can comment on my own work) is that up to this point, there's no magic, just a guy in extremis who's going to put his faith in the power of prayer. This is all pure realism; the black magic is just implied.

    @PJ: One "yes", duly noted!

    @Maria: Thanks!

    @Kath: The depersonalization of the seat numbers adds insult to injury, doesn't it? And your vote is logged, too.

    @dijeratic: Wow, you are too kind! Lovecraft and Rod Serling are fantastic company to be in - thanks!

    @flyingscribbler: I've been on enough flights to overhear how the cabin crew refers to the passengers; I thought it would be an effective way creep-out to extend that normal practice into this horrible situation. It looks like I succeeded for you!

  24. Awesome, Tony! Excellent suspenseful writing and some great misdirection. I spent the whole story wondering where geometry came into the proceedings until I reached your final paragraph and accompanying graphic simultaneously; the pic was positioned perfectly to generate maximum impact on this particular computer monitor. I too wish there was more.

  25. Like others loved the way we realised why he was 13C. Not sure I like his solution to his problem!Very well paced...

  26. For a second, I thought this was scifi and the character name was his model number or something, but then it dawned on me with a real "a-ha!" moment. Great stuff.

  27. I may never fly again! Referring to your hero as 13-C reminds me of Dr. House and his team member "Thirteen." Maybe 13 is a lucky number--then again maybe not. Do tell us what happens next so we can find out.

  28. @Linda: I'm pleased that the number designation is working so well for everyone.

    @Sam: Thanks, Sam! I made sure to pin the graphic to the end of the story so you as the reader would see it just as 13-C started to draw it. Just a little bit of stagecraft to enhance the impact. 8-)

    @Virginia: I sometime withhold the names of characters for effect, although I wonder if it's an over the top literary device. I'm glad it worked for you here!

    @Icy: Thanks! It's funny, I didn't think of the fact that he might be mistaken for a robot or something initially. I guess I was so close to the story that I didn't see that interpretation. That might serve to enhance the all-to-human magical aspects, no? 8-)

    @Susan: The middle seats are statistically the safest seats in case of a crash. Safest, that is, in the sense that you're most likely to survive. Whether that's a good thing or not...

  29. Excellent story Tony, very gripping! I too would like to see what comes of 13-C. Loved that you name the characters only by their seats, by the way!

  30. Looks like our hero has enough smarts to possibly make it. Well written, with plenty of details to stimulate the imagination. Add my vote to the sequel.

  31. I really enjoyed the way the details unfolded in this story. Even more, I enjoyed the way it ended. Well, "ended" being a relative term. Where the narrative stopped, let's say. I'd love to read more on it, but am having fun filling in further details as well. Thanks, well done.

    Take care,

  32. Amusing use of seat names mirrors the way people talk on planes but rarely introduce their names. Clever ending.

  33. AHHH! That gave me the jibblies! Kind of want to see where 13-C ends up in three years if his little ceremony worked.

  34. @Mari: Thanks! I'll add your vote to the "yes" pool.

    @Stephen: He's an interesting guy, 13-C. Rational and ready to do what needs to be done.

    @Jessica: I'm glad you liked the pacing - I tried to do a measured reveal with this one.

    @AidanF: It's dehumanizing, isn't it? When they do introduce each other, it's typically first name only, which is only marginally better than seat number.

    @Monica: You'll never look at a compass the same way again!


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