LGW to JTR
LGW to JTR – A Life is Strange story.
For the passenger in 9D this flight is about to get a little strange.
This story takes place about 8 months after the events in Arcadia Bay.
When you take the plane you never know who you could end up sitting next to.
At the gate I can see our plane parked outside with the air bridge attached. The plane will soon become home for the next three and a half hours.
As we wait I notice people are busy with their phones or tablets – less common these days are printed books and newspapers, although I notice some people still have them. I wonder if books and newspapers will ever be considered “retro”
The gate agents have boarded people by row number, the rear of the aircraft first.
“Thank you for waiting ladies & gentlemen, we will now board rows 11 through to 1”
“Please have your passport and boarding pass ready for inspection”
Bag picked up, passport open, boarding pass displayed on my phone, I file into the queue and have a cursory glance to remember where I’m seated. 9D – aisle. I would normally choose a window seat but the flight was nearly full when I booked and there were just a few seats left.
As I step from the air bridge into the plane I smile, I love flying and being a bit of an “AvGeek” – an aviation geek – boarding a plane always makes me feel happy. It must be nice for the cabin crew to see someone smile as I bet they have to deal some thoroughly miserable people.
Reaching my seat I notice that 9E & F are yet to be occupied. I know this is going to be a full flight, Santorini is one of the most popular destinations in the Greek Islands. I dump my bag on my seat and tuck myself in so others can pass.
Soon enough the occupants of E & F appear, one of them looking at their phone still displaying their boarding pass and looking up at the seat numbers.
“This is us, lets get hella seated”
The girl has an American accent, I guess there are so many local dialects and phrases but I’ve never heard anyone use the word hella before. I move aside so they can put their bags into the overhead storage, grab what they need and settle into their seats.
The hella girl – who has blue hair which really suits her – climbs into the window seat while her friend takes the middle.
I sit down, find my seat belt, grabbing my tablet from my bag before putting it under the seat in front of me.
The other girl, sat next to me, seems reserved – tired even.
While we are getting seated our captain takes the time to introduce herself, the first officer, and the senior member of cabin crew. She briefly runs through our expected route to Santorini, the flying conditions en route, and the expected weather on arrival.
There are no air traffic delays and we are expecting to push back on time.
A voice comes over the PA “cabin crew thank you, boarding complete”
Then comes a familiar thud as a crew member shuts the heavy door, sealing us into this flying machine.
The air bridge is retracted back and we feel a slight jolt as the tug – the machine which pushes us back from the gate – starts to move us backwards.
“Cabin crew prepare doors for departure and cross check”
Seatbelt signs already illuminated, we’re ready to go.
The lights flicker slightly as the pilots begin the process of starting our engines. The APU, the little jet turbine located in the tail, is used to start the main engines and they start with low hum which gets louder and turns into a gentle whine. First the left, then the right.
The aircraft stops moving backwards and the tug is detached.
Hearing a click through the floor the brakes are released and we start taxiing to the runway. The girl sat next to me shivers slightly, the air conditioning has kicked in and the air nozzles in the panel above are dishing out a blast of cold air. Her friend reaches up to shut it off, and I hear her say “are you ok, Max?” – Max nods “yeah”
Maybe she doesn’t like flying. Not everyone does.
“Ladies and gentlemen, our primary concern is your safety. We will shortly demonstrate the safety features aboard this aircraft – your full attention at this time is greatly appreciated”
The cabin crew run through the safety demo, which I always give my full attention – I also glance over the safety card. The crew pass through the cabin for a final check before take-off.
Reaching up I also turn my air nozzle down – the air conditioning is now working very well under the power of the two modern turbofan jet engines.
The captain’s voice comes over the PA “Cabin crew seats for take-off please”
Taxiing doesn’t take long and soon we have turned onto the runway at London Gatwick – the worlds busiest single runway airport – and without delay the engines spool up to full power for take-off.
The power comes quickly and we are pushed back into our seats as the aircraft starts to accelerate down the runway. As the aircraft nose comes up I look right to catch a glimpse of the outside world disappearing below us.
I notice the girl sat next to me is looking ahead into space, and that her friend is holding her hand tight. I guess she really does hate flying.
There is a noise from below as the landing gear is retracted, and the engines throttle back – we don’t need as much power to climb out as we do during take-off.
The blue hair girl still has hold of her friend’s hand and I give her a “is she ok?” look – yeah, comes back via a little nod. I try to convey a look which says “cool..” and grab my tablet, I was going to read Airways – my favourite aviation magazine – but consider it maybe a bit rude if the person next to me is scared of flying.
Lucky I downloaded a newspaper earlier.
A boing noise – Seatbelts signs switched off, the familiar clicking through the cabin as people unfasten their belts.
The girl sat next to me seems more relaxed now and has rested her head on the shoulder of her friend.
“Max you should try and get some sleep, I’ll be here”
Max closes her eyes and the girl with blue hair quietly asks me “are you from England?”
“Yeah”, I reply, “I’m guessing you’re from the US?”
“Yeah, from Oregon”
“First trip to Santorini?”
“Its our first trip to Europe together, we wanted to see London and then go somewhere warm and relaxed – Santorini looks amazing, and is one of those must-visit places we’ve heard about”
We introduce ourselves and I learn she is called Chloe, and her friend as I already overheard is called Max.
“You’ll love Santorini – it’s so stunningly beautiful especially on the caldera”
“You’ve visited before?”
“Yeah, my wife and I try and visit at least once a year – its by far our favourite place”
“She isn’t travelling with you?”
“No”, I reply, “She’s been on business in Athens and has taken the ferry from there, we’re on Santorini for a week of chilling out before flying back to England”
“Cool, Max and I are looking forward to the same thing – we want to see some sights, but also just to relax. We need it.. she needs it.”
Meanwhile Max, it appears, has fallen asleep.
“Max doesn’t like flying?”
“Its not that, she’s fine with flying, its just been a hella strange year. We are lucky to be here”
“Will she be ok?”
“Yeah, I hope so”
A boing noise from the PA “Ladies and gentlemen we will shortly pass through the cabin with our drinks & food service: tea, coffee, soft drinks and alcohol are all available – please refer to your in-flight guide or feel free to ask a member of cabin crew if you have any questions”
Max opens her eyes, shifts in her seat slightly, and rests her head back on Chloe’s shoulder.
Chloe touches Max’s hand, I get the feeling these girls care a lot about each other.
The cabin crew pass down the aisle with the drinks service: The three of us all order coffee.
A bit later the cabin crew come around to collect empties, and then pass through with duty free sales.
Once the cabin service is over the WC’s become more accessible, Max asks me to excuse her and I get up to let her out. Seeing there is a queue already forming at the front of the plane I sit back down as Max might be a while.
I mention that she seems better now we’re in the air.
Looking towards Max making her way to the front of the plane, Chloe replies “Yeah, I think so..”
“Its pretty obvious you care about her, how long have you known each other?”
“Since we were kids, we were best friends but then Max’s family moved away” “She came back to study at a local college and we were reunited – our friendship picked up where it left off and then turned into something more, the something more surprised us both”
“That’s very cool, and really sweet if that doesn’t sound to..err..well..eugh”
“It doesn’t, its nice to meet someone who just accepts us despite our hella weirdness”
“We’re all weird in our own way”
I see Max returning from the front of the plane and get up to let her sit back down.
Once re seated Chloe asks her if she’s feeling better. Max looks towards Chloe and says “yeah, I’m going to try and get some more sleep”
Max settles in and rests her head on Chloe’s shoulder once more. Chloe tells Max that she’s given me the abridged Max & Chloe story – causing both Max and I to smile at each other.
Pretty soon Max is asleep again, but I notice its not peaceful sleep. She twitches her hand every so often and sometimes even reaches out slightly. Chloe is comforting her. There is no way I’m going to intrude by asking anything, but it is curious.
Then I feel something. I’m used to clear air turbulence – where air patterns change affecting the flight – you’ll get the odd bump, sometimes more, and in fact a plane flying through the air isn’t as smooth (in relation to, say, another plane on the same course) as you think. I once filmed another airliner which happened to be flying below and to the side of the plane I was on – it was surprising how much both planes were moving around.
But this is different. Its very subtle. Almost unnoticeable.
Its like something has grabbed the plane and is quickly stretching & releasing it a tiny amount. Its something from the corner of the eye, but you can never actually focus on.
Weird, I think, I look around and nobody else seems bothered about anything. Guess I could be tired too.
It also seems what I’m feeling happens exactly when Max’s hand reaches out. I figure that, logically, her hand reaching out is moving the seats slightly – they are bolted together & then bolted to the floor – and I’m feeling a vibration through that.
Max murmurs and I notice a tear rolling down her face. I look at Chloe who is 100% focused on Max. I wonder why she doesn’t wake her, but conclude this has happened before and Chloe must know what’s best for Max.
Hell, I think, what happened to her.. to them?
Then a slightly bigger jolt and Max wakes up.
She looks around and grabs Chloe’s hand, then she looks at me a bit embarrassed “sorry” she says.
“No problem, it looked like you were having a really bad dream – but Chloe was looking after you”
“some people, when they see me like that on planes and stuff, just think I’m a freak”
“I’ve known you for just a few hours, but I can absolutely say neither of you are freaks. In fact, I’m happy to have met you both”
Max shivers and says she’ll get her jumper from her bag, which is in the overhead locker.
I get up and offer to pass her bag, she says its the messenger bag but to be careful as her camera is in there.
Gently passing her bag down, she removes her camera – an old fashioned instant model – and gets out her jumper.
“wow, I’ve not seen one of those for ages”
“I like the kind of pictures it takes, I’m looking forward to using it on Santorini”
I tell her that she has to shoot the sunset over the caldera, its absolutely awesome but find a quiet spot “there are thousands of tourists and a lot with those silly selfie sticks” I say as Max laughs “not that I moan about tourists, because I am one, but.. those crappy selfie sticks are a menace”
“I bet you feel like saying go fuck your selfie stick” Chloe says and the three of us burst out laughing.
Max looks serious for a moment “when i was dreaming.. did.. anything happen?”
Chloe opens her eyes wide, like Max is about to say something she shouldn’t.
I speak quietly so only the girls can hear me: “To be honest I put it down to, when you were dreaming, vibrations carried through the seats. But I’m not sure, part of me thinks something else – I’ve no idea what – or why – but…” I stop talking.
Taking a moment to compose my thoughts “.. like I said I’ve known you for only a few hours but its obvious you care about each other.. and whatever happens those vibrations, lets agree its down to that, are forever our secret and that secret remains sealed inside this plane” “I don’t for one moment think it was the plane, or that the safety of the plane was affected, so I won’t be telling anyone.
The three of us nod, and then do fist bumps to seal the deal.
At that moment we hear the engines throttle back and feel the nose pitch down. We’ve begun our initial decent into Santorini and I can’t help thinking I’m going to miss Max & Chloe.
“Well here we go” just as I say that the pilots deploy the speed brakes, they act to increase drag – slowing the plane down.
The speed brakes are retracted again and we level off at our newly assigned altitude.
A boing from the PA and the “Fasten Seatbelts” signs are switched on.
“Ladies and gentlemen, as we have now begun our approach into Santorini the captain has switched on the seatbelt signs. Please return to your seats, and the wash rooms are now out of use”
“Before landing we will pass through the cabin for a final check, please ensure your tray tables are stowed and any baggage is stored under the seat in font of you or in an overhead locker. If seated in an emergency exit row please ensure all of your baggage is overhead and the floor is completely clear – thank you”
The captain’s voice comes over the PA “Thank you cabin crew, ten minutes to landing”
I wonder if we will use the northerly runway, the usual at Santorini, and fly a right hand circuit passing down the eastern side of the island.
The runway runs north-south and most flights land towards the north as the wind usually comes from that direction.
I hope it is the usual, as the girls will get a fantastic view of the island before we turn onto our final approach.
As we continue our descent into Santorini I hear the flaps being deployed, initially not much flap is used but as our speed decreases it calls for more stage of flap until they are set for our landing speed. Next a thump and we are hearing the rush of air through the landing gear as the wheels are lowered.
The captain’s voice on the PA “Cabin crew seats for landing”
Sure enough as we head south on our downwind leg, to the east of the island, the girls get the view I was hoping they would.
The caldera stretches out below the right hand side of the aircraft with the volcano and Thirassia in the distance.
Max and Chloe are holding hands and looking out of the window. Shortly after the aircraft turns right and comes around to its final approach.
Passing over Kamari, a popular beach resort on the island, the engines vary slightly to accommodate the fact that the land is warmer than the sea, the rising hot air creating more lift.
Within a few more seconds we are on the runway. Spoilers deployed to destroy lift keeping us firmly on the ground, the engines are roaring in reverse thrust as we slow down and taxi off the runway.
“Ladies and gentlemen welcome to Santorini where the time is 12:24, the outside temperature is a warm 36 degrees” “please remain seated with your seat belts fastened until the aircraft has come to a complete stop and the captain has switched off the seatbelt signs”
We taxi to the stand and the engines are shut down, the lights briefly flicker as power generation is transferred back to the APU. Flight over.
I can’t help getting a lump in my throat. I’m really going to miss those two. And I hope they will be ok – that Max will be ok with whatever that was, is, when she is sleeping.
“Cabin crew set doors to manual and cross check”
Doors open. But our own seal we agreed earlier will never be broken. It stays on this plane.
We get up, collect our various bits of hand luggage and file through the aisle of the aircraft. Down the steps and Into the heat of the Santorini day we walk across the tarmac and into the terminal building where we queue for passport control.
“Are you heading off to meet your wife?”
“Yeah, I’ll grab a taxi to our hotel”
“Cool, us too, we’ve booked a taxi to where we’re staying”
I wish I could rewind time, why didn’t any of us swap numbers?
Maybe it just wasn’t right, maybe everything about our encounter – not just what happened while Max was sleeping – needed to stay on that plane.
Once through passport control we wait for our luggage to be delivered to the reclaim belt.
Max says she needs to go to the bathroom and disappears across the concourse.
“I really am going to miss you both”
“Don’t” Chloe says “you’ve been hella amazing to us and you’ll make me cry”
“Amazing? all I did was sit next to you”
“You accepted us, didn’t think we were freaks and didn’t get weird when Max was.. well.. you know”
“Ok you’re going to make me cry too in a minute”
The baggage reclaim belt starts moving and just then Max reappears.
“what’s going on?” she says
“oh just..” Chloe says, and I can see she’s on the verge of tears
I decide not to say to Max I’m going to miss them as I think we’d all be there crying our eyes out while our bags go around the belt for another hour.
What is it about these girls – I wonder. Some people really do leave an impression on you.
Bags claimed we walk past the customs post, through the arrivals hall and back into the Santorini sunshine.
I guess this is it.
We hug. A group hug where none of us wants to let go.
And now we are crying. Fuck it. Who cares. The passengers from 9D, E & F.
“you two look after each other” “if anyone thinks.. well anything.. just tell them to go fuck their selfie stick” we all laugh.
As we say our final goodbyes Chloe comes back to me just one last time.
“She rewound time to save me” “actually fucking rewound time”
I look at the girl standing in front of me, and then at Max. I think about that flight, and what we agreed would stay on the plane.
My final words to Chloe are:
“I believe you”
Footnotes: whenever we move, we time travel. The fastest method of travel we have (without becoming astronauts) is flying and it has the greatest effect on us. The effect is tiny, but measurable. Back in 1971 scientists flew around the world with atomic clocks on board. When the results were compared with the synced atomic clocks on the ground there was a small difference.
Maybe Max has some of her powers still, and moving at over 500mph relative to the ground is just enough to trigger something!
LGW and JTR are the IATA codes for London Gatwick and Santorini airports.
For anyone interested in the science, you can geek out out here: