In this excerpt, Brandy, a gold trader's daughter from Orange County, is recovering from a crash landing of her private plane into a forest in Oregon.
Nightfall came and Brandy was no closer to making fire than she’d been while unconscious. Indeed, she was now worse off as her efforts had yielded only sharp scrapes and bruises on her knuckles from trying to bang rocks together. When she got desperate, she’d even tried to hit her computer battery, though she didn’t have any clear ideas about how that might make a spark.
She had had luck with water, though. There was a stream not too far off.
But that was it. An entire day and nothing to show for it. She’d wandered in every direction as far as she felt comfortable going from the plane, but she never found any signs of food or of the rest of the airplane.
Brandy cursed her luck for the thousandth time that day and resisted the urge to punch the wall of the upturned cabin.
“Wouldn’t do any good,” she grumbled to the evergreen trees.
Brandy tore out as much of the stuffing as she could from the seats that were now on the ceiling and spent a long, cold night trying desperately to get warm enough inside the cabin. She woke for good at dawn deciding that she might want to try sleeping during the day and working at night for warmth.
By now, she had run out of good ideas as all of hers had come to fruitless ends. She was tired and hungry and quite frankly not used to being in situations where her ideas didn’t work out the way she wanted them to. She decided to give up.
Brandy was nothing if not logical. The trait helped in AP Economics and at her business ventures, not to mention keeping away from boy trouble. She could often find a clear solution that eluded others because she could see through seemingly complex problems to what really mattered. In the same way, she could see when a problem didn’t have a logical answer and would dispassionately give up trying to find one.
That’s where she was now. Nothing she tried worked. The tools she needed were not available, so there was nothing left to do but wait for alternate input, for the data set to change.
I’m just going to sit here, conserve energy, and wait for them to find me.
She glared for a while at the place where she’d tried to make fire, at the neat pile of wood she’d stacked, at the organized collection of personal items laid side-by-side in the cabin.
I have more wealth and technological innovation at my fingertips than any of those so-called “Indians” who lived here before, but what good is it to me out here?
Out here none of that matters.
All I want is a warm meal and a place to sleep.
I have nothing. I am nothing. Let the nothingness take me.
* * *
Brandy rested her head on her knees and frowned droopy-eyed at the ground. She didn’t think she’d fallen asleep or ever really closed her eyes, but she eventually noticed that the blurred colors before her eyes were whites, reds and yellows instead of browns, grays and greens.
Her eyes widened and shifted into focus as her head snapped up. A loud caw sounded as an unusual-looking seagull soared past her head, alighting on some nearby garbage.
She stood up suddenly and the trash beneath her shifted, sending her tumbling to the ground. She caught herself, but remained on her hands and knees, examining the writing on a package of crackers. It was familiar, like an old lullaby. She couldn’t immediately figure out why the writing was so strange, yet so familiar.
Then she remembered the colored blocks with those strange, squiggly letters and the children’s books her grandmother used to give her. This was the language of her home country, the one she spoke with her grandma and other distant relatives, but rarely read: Hindi.
She stood up and looked around from atop the garbage pile. There were the tin-roofed shacks she’d seen in movies and the skyline of a large, crystalline city in the distance.
No, it couldn’t be.
She looked around frantically and called out “Hey” to a little boy further down the trash pile before remembering to switch to Hindi.
“Suno!” she cried. The little boy looked up as she tripped down the hill towards him. “Where am I? What is this place?”
He tucked his chin in disbelief and looked up at her under thick, dark eyebrows.
“Sita, what are you talking about? This is Dharavi, you know that.”
The boy waggled his head a bit at the end, hoping his stating the obvious didn’t cause any offense, but he could see from her blank stare that she still didn’t understand. “Sita, mensaab must’ve hit you pretty hard, ya?”
“Dharavi,” she said, staring out at the skyline and continuing aloud in English. “It can’t be. How. It’s not possible. I was just in the forest.” She turned back to the boy and said in Hindi:
“I’m in Mumbai? In India?”
“Haa. Of course. Why are you talking so funny, Sita?”
She didn’t answer, but sunk back down onto a pile of garbage, muttering to herself.