BY HOGANDE KIAFULI
In memory of the lives lost in the Airlines PNG Dash 8 plane crash in Madang, and the MV Rabaul Queen ferry sinking
THE LONE HOSTESS HURRIED up the aisle to the front, and buckled herself into her seat. It was take-off time.
Then there was a small push, as if a giant thumb had slightly tapped it, and the Airlines PNG Dash 8 moved forward, gradually gaining speed.
Leaning comfortably back in his seat, Tunude peeped through the oval window and watched the buildings and parked planes move past. He knew that the plane was speeding along the runway of Jackson’s airport.
Suddenly a frightening yet pleasant sensation conquered him. He thought his heart was sinking. He held his breath briefly but let go in a sigh as the sensation disappeared. He looked out of the widow again, and saw the runway dropping back, waving goodbye to the plane. Have a pleasant ride, it seemed to say.
The sun smiled at the plane cruising through the cloudless sky. Trivial winds blew against the plane, vainly slowing its speed. For a moment, Tunude thought he was sitting on the sofa in a hotel room. Even the beautiful flight attendant serving him a glass of juice brought to memory the waitress who had served him at the hotel a few days ago, though her face makeup reminded him of a human toy that he had once owned as a child.
He took a sip from the juice, and was meditating the tasty orange flavour when a sudden jolt splashed some juice onto his trousers. He peeped out the window anxiously, but vast clouds of pure white stared back. He was inside a tiny blue capsule that was attempting to come out of thick white cotton.
The plane jolted, jarred and jounced as it pierced through the huge ball of clouds. It swayed, shook, and slowed as it turbulently battled with the clouds for a clear sky. The engine even made strange, scary noises that propelled fear into Tunude’s heart. Not of clouds, or death but the fear of the unknown.
After a good three minutes, the clouds disappeared, taking the turbulence with them. Tunude sighed in relief as blue sky reappeared. The cry of the engine was now soothing, but fear lingered in his heart. As if complementing the relief, the ‘Fasten Seatbelt’ sign illuminated and the plane dived towards Madang airport.
The landing was smooth, but the plane vibrated as it taxied along the runway, and to a stop. Finally it was time to disembark, so Tunude unbuckled, picked up his hand luggage and walked out. He forced a smile at the attendant, who parted her painted lips into a beautiful smile that vaporized all traces of fear.
Where was that wonderful smile when the plane jolted through the potholes in the sky, Tunude thought, to sedate my pounding heart and slow my speeding blood?
The driver of a white bus was waiting for Tunude. He placed his two green bags and his blue umbrella into the bus and slid the door shut. Lutheran Guest House, which was painted on the side of the bus, was revealed as the door slid shut. A few minutes later, they arrived at the wharf, where LuHealth was waiting to take him across the ocean to the small island he was headed to.
With Tunude now on board, LuHealth slowly pulled out of the wharf and headed for the open. The sky was empty, with only a few thin clouds scattered against the blue background. Straight above, but heading west was the lone sun, vaporising the clouds that stood its way. Fixing the potholes in the sky, aren’t you? Tunude mused.
The sea was also blue, but slightly darker than the sky. It was as serene as a child in the womb, but with the few low waves, not as smooth as a baby’s bottom. The boat cut through the waters, leaving waves and bubbles in its track. It looked as if the boat was creating clouds on the sea, where it traversed.
It was an enjoyable ride, surrounded with magnificent views that Tunude’s camera could not resist. About half an hour later, the silhouette of the destination island appeared on the horizon. It was a shade of green between two blues; the island sandwiched between the sky and the sea. In a few minutes, he would be it. The thought of stepping onto the island that he had heard about since childhood made joy leap in his heart.
But joy was silenced by a sudden gush of sensation, like that which he felt when the plane lifted off the ground. He quickly realised that a big wave had forced the boat upwards, and the boat was now free-falling behind it. With a loud thud that shook his heart, the boat landed on the water. He looked around to see if anyone had noticed his fright, but everyone seemed as calm as before. Fright, fight or flight, he chose all.
The sea was pregnant with waves as they neared the island. More armies of waves met them, as if to prevent them from reaching the island, but they submitted to the boat as it glided over them.
Some revolting waves however, sent the boat flying into the air, as if spitting it out of their mouth. Some splashed against the boat, forcing showers of sea water to rain over Tunude’s face. The waves rumbled under his feet, as they rocked the boat with their natural strength. Fear rose with the waves, and evaporated every pint of peace. It’s a seaquake to drown ya, fear told him.
The boat finally reached the shore, triumphant. Tunude was first to step off and onto the sand. He was greeted by a local, Sumerg, who had come to pick him up.
“Welcome to Karkar Island,” smiled Sumerg. “I’m sure you had an enjoyable ride here!”
“Sure, it was wonderful!” Truth fled. “But the potholes in the sea rumbled my heart to fear, and deprived my bladder of tears!” Truth returned.
Hogande Kiafuli (27) comes from the Lufa District of Eastern Highlands Province. He is a newly registered medical doctor who currently lives and works in Goroka. He writes occasionally and maintains a blog. Hogande says that writing is more than a hobby, he believes it’s a habit in which the creativities of the mind are inked onto pages. He also thinks that anyone can write, although only the smart ones write well