Plane Crash with Kim Kardashian
Just before our plane crashed on the side of a mountain in Argentina, my attention was caught by a woman walking down the aisle.
I was in the last row. She emerged from first class, parting the curtain with a confident whisk. Dark ponytail, dark eyes, form-fitting clothing. She passed by me with a flowery scent, and entered one of the bathrooms. I remember thinking, Why is she allowed to come back and use these, but I can’t go up there and use those?—then we hit.
The noise of it, my god. Imagine the sound of an 18-wheeler rolling down a cliff, but bigger, louder. The tail separated on the first impact, a glancing blow off a ridge, and this was in fact what saved the two of us…sunlight and snow thundered into the cabin, and a dense odor of pine trees, and the front of the plane folded impossibly to the right and then was gone.
The tail section slid to a halt, still upright. I was sitting in the only row of seats still attached to it. In fact, I was the only one still belted into a seat. A few people lay on the ground nearby, quite dead. I unclicked and stepped down into snow.
A trail of luggage, detached seats, people and blood led off to the right…debris peppered bright snow leading up to a deep scar in the earth. The scar looked like a giant shovel had scooped into the ground, exposing clean, dark soil, until it fell blindly off the edge of a cliff. The rest of the plane was down there somewhere. I listened for voices, or any noise at all, but there was nothing.
Kim Kardashian emerged from the bathroom.
Her clothes were unruffled. The ponytail was intact. She was quite small, smaller than you would think. She came toward me, delicate, voluptuous. She reached out and touched my forehead.
“You’re bleeding,” she said.
I reached up and touched blood. “Am I cut?” I said, bowing towards her.
She inspected my head. “I don’t see any wounds.”
I looked back at my seat. There was a large swash of blood that had landed on the wall right above it. “Aha. It must be from that.”
Kim looked over. “Yes,” she said. “It’s someone else’s blood. It got on you.”
“Good,” I said. “Good.” I thought for a moment. “I mean, obviously it isn’t good for the person.”
“I know what you mean.”
We shook hands, and I told her my name.
“Nice to meet you, Wes,” said Kim. She did not offer her name.
“Ha, well,” I said, “I know who you are. Obviously.”
“People always do.” She looked with focus at the scene around us, taking it in, and turned back to me. “Listen, Wes. We have to have the talk. Just in case.”
She put a hand on my shoulder. “It could make the difference between she who lives and he who dies.”
“What do you mean?”
“I’m talking about doing what we need to do to survive.”
I was starting to catch her meaning, but I didn’t want to say it.
“Let’s not sugarcoat it. We might have to eat people.”
“There’s enough food on the plane,” I said. “They’ll find us soon. Planes have the little thingy. The thingamajig.”
“The black box,” Kim said. “We’re deep in Argentina. We’re in Patagonia. Do you know what that means?”
“No,” I admitted. I thought Patagonia was a kind of jacket.
“It means we’re in the middle of nowhere.” She squeezed my shoulder. “I just want us to acknowledge the issue. If we have to do it—and I pray to God we don’t—let’s just knuckle down, and do what we have to do.”
“Okay,” I said. “If it comes to that.”
She seemed satisfied. I pulled out my cell phone. No bars. “Do they have 911 in Argentina?” I asked. Kim said she didn’t know and took out her cell. We both dialed 911—nothing. I looked out over the vista before us—evergreens, wisping snow, stern faces of gray rock.
“Do you think rescue planes can pick up cell phone signals?” I said.
“I don’t think so.” She sounded like she knew what she was talking about. “Sometimes we carry a portable cell tower when we travel, but the range is pretty limited. It’s more for security than range.”
“You have your own cell tower?”
“Yeah. I mean, it’s not literally a tower, but it’s basically a tower. It’s called The Booth.”
God. That sounded so cool.
“Let’s keep our cells off to save power,” she said, “but turn them on if we see a plane or a helicopter.”
That sounded like the right thing to do.
There was a small pantry in the tail section. Kim thought this one was for the crew and the main pantry had gone over the cliff with the rest of the plane. If we went sparingly, two people could have about ten days of food. The little white cardboard boxes had come through the crash fairly intact, offering a selection of standard fare: a bland-looking lasagna, a Texas-style pulled pork, and chicken with red sauce. We split one of the porks and drank sodas.
“So,” said Kim, “the rest of the plane just went right over the edge.”
“It must be down there somewhere.”
We walked down along the dirt scar to the cliff’s verge. There were some dead people on the way. At the edge, the cliff dropped off into an extremely deep ravine. There was no sign of the plane in the dense, snow-clustered trees below.
Erecting a wall of debris to seal off the tail into a shelter took some time. We proceeded more easily once we found winter wear in the luggage—gloves, hats, a man’s winter jacket for me, and a garment bag with a stylish white parka for Kim.
“Canada Goose,” Kim said, shrugging herself into it. “I’ve always liked these, but they won’t let me wear them.”
“Who tells Kim Kardashian she can’t wear something?”
“It’s a contract conflict. It’s annoying. Kylie’s allowed.” She took a few steps back from me, and spun around slowly. “What do you think?”
“It looks great,” I said.
“This was on a Sports Illustrated cover. Remember? Kate Upton. 2013.”
“Who’s Kate Upton?”
She sighed. “She was important for a while. She was a reassertion of something that had gone underground. A certain girl-next-door-ness. A certain passivity that men, unfortunately, respond to. I learned something from her.”
The shelter was taking shape. We lined up seats and suitcases into a fairly solid wall of debris, closing off the tail from the elements. Kim had the idea to make space inside for a small fire pit, with an exit hole for smoke. We stored the boxes of food outside, in a stopgap fridge we sculpted out of snow. There were quite a few airplane blankets for warmth.
I stood a few paces back, looking at the structure.
“Don’t you think the wind is going to come through this stuff?” I said.
“We’re going to pack snow around the outside, dumbass,” said Kim, and gave me a glare.
That stung. “Okay,” I said. “That makes sense.” I hadn’t thought of using snow that way.
“For insulation,” Kim said.
“I get it.”
“We have to keep on task, Wes. We have to keep focused.”
“I know,” I said. “But treating each other with respect is important. We’re going to get through this with respect.”
“I agree,” she said. “I apologize, please forgive me, etcetera, and now let’s get back to work.” She picked up a handful of snow and started. She looked at me to now also start.
I’m not a fan of passive-aggressive apologies, but I decided to set aside the feeling of dislike rising inside me. I began packing snow.
Next morning, I woke up thinking about the dead people.
“I think,” I said, as we ate chicken with red sauce, warmed over the fire, “we should move the dead people. To somewhere like a gravesite. And say a prayer maybe. I feel like we should do that.”
“Let’s find a little clearing and stack them up in it. We’ll call it the Meat Locker,” Kim said.
I felt shocked by her language. I told her as much.
“I’m using black humor as a shield,” she said.
“Oh,” I said.
“It helps distance us from the reality of our situation.”
“Oh,” I said. “Okay.” I hadn’t thought of it that way.
Neither of us wanted to look at the tableau vivant of frozen bodies, which by now had icicles of blood drooping from their wounds, but we got to work. There were nine in all. Some were not intact. After reuniting parts with mains, we dragged them to a clearing down the hill from the tail. We laid them side-by-side in a way that felt ceremonial, covering them with airplane blankets, weighting the blankets down with large stones. We did a moment of silence. Kim, a devout Christian, suggested making a small cross for each person, but I worried that some of them might be Jews or Muslims or atheists. We settled on the idea of one large cross standing at the entrance to the clearing.
Kim got down on all fours in the snow, and with great focus assembled a cross from two sturdy branches and various strips of ripped clothing. We’d found a hunting knife in one of the suitcases, which was very welcome, and she used it now to shape the branches. She hovered over the cross, taking her time, testing its stability. I watched from the edge of the clearing. There was that famous rear-end, bobbing around in expensive yoga pants. I made myself turn away; I said a prayer for the dead. Kim finished the cross and banged it into the ground. I wasn’t a Christian, but it seemed fitting to use some sort of religious symbol to designate the space as “holy.”
A week went by. No sign of a plane. No helicopters. Nothing.
We began an even stricter rationing system.
In the second week, I made a friend. A friend I kept hidden from Kim. In these situations you have to create energizing secrets for yourself, to keep your sense of self from dissolving under the endless hours of drudge work—even if that work is a prerequisite for morale and survival.
One day I saw this suitcase. Upon ejection from the plane, it had lodged in a wall of glacial ice. It was hanging open, and I could see there was a stuffed animal in it, a Pound Puppy. I just had to get this dog down. After a few jumps—the suitcase was up as high as a basketball net—I managed to snag him. I named him Wufis. He was chocolate brown, and had upward-looking eyes, one of which was charmingly framed by a black eye patch.
I started to talk to Wufis. A lot. Never when Kim was around; if she caught me talking to a stuffed animal, morale would take a big hit. But when I was alone, I liked telling him what had happened that day, what tasks still needed to be done, what disagreements I’d had with Kim. He lent me his ears, his two long cloth ears, and I poured my stress into them. I know that we all want other people to listen to us in this life, but there is a lot to be said for having an inanimate object listen.
I was outside gathering wood, chatting with Wufis, when I heard Kim’s voice.
“Wait a second,” she said. This was a few days after I found him. “Hold up. Were you just talking to that stuffed animal?”
I’d thought she was in the tail, asleep. I set Wufis down.
“No,” I said, doing that thing where you know the other person knows you’re lying, but you still go ahead and lie.
“You’re worrying me,” she said. “We need to stay focused.”
“We are focused. I’m doing good. I was just goofing around.”
She looked at me. “Don’t ever do that again.”
That made me mad. I picked Wufis back up. I cradled him in my arms, rocking him back and forth. “Kim says we have to stop talking.”
Kim grabbed him and threw him off into the woods. She said, “Don’t,” very loudly.
“You know what’s wrong with you?” I said.
She stared at me. “No. Tell me, Wes. Tell me what’s wrong with me.”
“You think that just because you ‘made it,’ everything you do is perfect. You think whatever you decide is the right decision.”
She went back in the tail.
“Miss Successful,” I muttered. “Miss Can’t-Be-Wrong.” I quietly retrieved Wufis and hid him in a suitcase.
Days went by. Most days were the same now: Kim and I, sitting around the fire, mutually annoyed.
I stared into the fire and tried to think of something completely unrelated to our predicament. “So Chinese is a pretty strange language,” I said.
“Well. It’s strange from a Western point of view.”
“Sure. I just mean, wow, that kind of writing is so different.”
She stared into the flames, with those chocolate eyes and smoky-looking eyeshadow.
“What I’m saying is,” I said, “they don’t have an alphabet. Instead they have these sort-of pictures of things.”
“Actually, Chinese does have an alphabet.”
“I don’t think so. I don’t think they have symbols that stand for sounds. I think they have pictures of things.”
“They have an alphabet.”
“I don’t think so,” I said, feeling a little jolt of anger. “Maybe I’ll go ask Wufis if he knows.”
We melted snow for water.
“You know, it’s shit like that,” she said.
“Shit like what?”
“Shit like talking about the Chinese language. I mean, just, all the silly stuff you talk about and think about. That shit is the reason you’ll never make it.”
“Who says I want to ‘make it’?” I gave the phrase air quotes.
“Everyone wants to make it,” she said. “But you don’t have what it takes. You can’t stop the stream of stupid crap running through your head.”
I felt a rage kindling inside me. She was correct. I did want to make it. At what, exactly, I wasn’t sure. “Okay,” I said, “so you’ve made it. And now you think you’re better than everyone.”
“I don’t think I’m better,” she said. “I just am.”
“That’s nice. That’s a really nice sentiment.”
“You’ll never make it because you keep thinking about everything. Thinking, thinking. Thinking about whether you can make it or not.”
“Fine, I’m never going to make it. I’m never going to be on your level, Kim.”
She rolled her eyes. “Even worse. Now you’ve accepted you’ll never make it.” She poked at the fire with the hunting knife. “I wish I had a different disaster partner.”
I thought to myself: Wufis is my real disaster partner.
“I ate the last of the food,” Kim announced.
“Are you serious? Why would you do that?”
“Because I was really hungry. And because it’s more important for me to survive.”
“Great. Great to hear that.”
“It was a pulled pork, and you know what? It was delicious.”
The pork was my favorite of the three dishes, and somehow this made it worse. “We’re going to die,” I said. I felt sure of it.
“Shut up,” she said.
“Let’s just go lie down in the Meat Locker and call it good.”
We listened to the crackles of the fire.
Within a day of the food being finished, we felt like we were starving. Rationally, we knew we had a while, but a desperate hunger was there right away.
“The rescue,” Kim said, tending the fire, “will be tomorrow.”
“Of course it will,” I said. “But let’s remember that you, on the first day, said we should have ‘the talk.’ And we had it. And now we might have to actually knuckle down and do the thing. So let’s remember that.”
“I remember,” Kim said.
“Okay then,” I said.
Like robots released from central control in a sci-fi film, we rose to our feet at the same time, went outside, and searched every suitcase and bag with rabid thoroughness, trying to find overlooked scraps of food. There was nothing. We went back in the tail and melted more snow. I napped to try to escape the hunger. I dreamed of a milkshake. A chocolate milkshake, huge, and also there was a huge burger that a vague person brought to me and smilingly said would be free, if I could finish it in under five minutes.
I woke up. I looked across the fire at Kim.
As usual, she did not have the appearance of a person in the middle of a survival crisis. She was tastefully made up; there was lip gloss, the brows were crisp. The ponytail was concise and unerring. I was dismayed to feel lust for her. There was no denying that she possessed a strange, otherworldly beauty. It was not a creation of magazine editors or Photoshop.
She popped something in her mouth. Something white. It looked like cotton candy.
I realized she was holding my Pound Puppy. In her other hand, the hunting knife. She’d cut a hole in Wufis’s stomach. She was pulling his stuffing out and eating it.
“What are you doing?” I said in a quiet voice.
“This is better than nothing,” she said. “At least it fills your stomach.”
“I am friends with that dog!” I yelled, snatching him from her, and staring at the wound she’d inflicted.
In a calm voice, smiling, she said, “You seem out of control. Right now, you appear to me to be out of control.”
“There’s plenty of food in the Meat Locker!” I screamed.
As if in answer to my scream, a deep, loud hissing began.
We stopped and listened.
The sound was high on the mountain. It got louder. There were cracks. Booms. The hissing became a roar.
“Avalanche,” said Kim, and I realized she was right, as she so often was, and the tail-structure now lifted up over our heads, like it was lighter than air, and my body was picked up and hurled through torrents of snow, then everything went calm and dark.
I was pinned in a very bad position. My ankle was touching my cheek. I had a moment of panic that I might be trapped for good like this, but the snow was still moving a little, slowly, shifting in a better direction for my legs, and the pain started to relax. The snow shifted with a slow, eerie motion, a grinding of vast gears. My head popped out into air and sunlight, followed by my arms. I was still holding onto Wufis. I must have had a death grip on him.
I pulled myself out and tumbled down a bank of snow. A terrible cramp surged along the length of my leg. I hobbled to my feet. After a minute, I could walk.
I saw I was now much further downhill than even the clearing where the dead people were. That whole area was completely covered. Our camp too, all of it was under snow, maybe fifteen feet. Where was Kim? The plane’s tail was visible, tilted over to one side now, filled with snow. I started to walk toward it, limping, skirting the edge of the avalanche.
Coming up to the tail, I could see her legs. The black yoga pants. I came closer.
She was dead. She was pinned under one of the tail’s wings. A stabilizer had landed precisely across the small of her back. There wasn’t a lot of blood, at least not that I could see, but I could tell she’d been severed—the top half was too far off to one side. Fortunately, there was a lot of snow and I couldn’t see too many details. Her hand was still clasping the hunting knife.
I sat on the ground for a time, setting Wufis beside me.
My adrenaline died down. I began to feel the cold again.
Hunger returned, piercingly.
So now I had nothing…Kim was gone, the tail-structure was destroyed, the dead people were buried under tons of snow. There was nowhere to sleep, there was no food.
I stared at Kim’s buttocks.
There they were. Perfectly preserved. Fresh. My stomach rumbled.
Taking the knife, I cut out just a little bit, a small cube. My body told me it was okay to do this. I put the cube of flesh in my mouth. I chewed, and after a few tries, swallowed. There was no doubt it was satisfying to my body—I could feel the nutrients being absorbed right away, fueling me, keeping me going. There would be consequences if I ever made it back to the normal world, but for now, this was okay.
I carved out a second cube, larger. I put it in my mouth and began to chew.