so to lunch
Seconds before, a bright crimson spray had exploded over the Perspex windscreen - streaming obscene fingers of feathers and congealing blood
but his scream remained a strangled chord of silence, throat dry with fear - while below the morning sunshine played on smooth silver water.
Now he gagged on a foul cocktail, dirty water spiced with oily gasoline spilling from ruptured fuel cells in the plane's crumpled wings
his passenger had no such problem
her terrified screaming came straight from hell.
Earlier, it had been a morning so full of promise.
Moments before - heart exploding, tasting sharply the copper juices of fear- he'd heaved the control column back to his chest. The plane reared skywards and he yawed the tail hard left with a panic stamp on the rudder pedal
a stupid way to die
But his panic reaction met with only partial success.
The big shite hawk had missed the windshield.
A three pound buzzard - slammed by an aircraft at one hundred knots - would have easily smashed the thin plastic windscreen and caved in his skull. Instead, the nose of the aircraft had taken the full impact
only fragments of bird had splattered onto the windscreen.
The world had spun in a crazy kaleidoscope of colour and confusion.
His whole body stinking with sour fear. Luckily, the big raptor missed smashing into his face, but it had stuffed itself into the engine air intake, blocking it
stopping the engine.
Violent evasive action in a plane not designed for aerobatic manoeuvres, had turned very wrong - viciously flick-rolling onto its back, his inexperienced stomach left far behind.
The world had dropped from under him, shoulder straps dragging him down - the plane rotating slowly at first, and then arrowing vertically ground wards twisting violently - throwing him against the cockpit wall
then plummeting lower.
Through the windscreen the earth revolved - a blurring tangle of green brown and grey with no recognisable shape. It had promised to be such a good day A big lake directly below.
He had felt helpless a passenger on a runaway big dipper. Never before had he been in a spinning aircraft. Each revolution lost seven hundred feet of altitude - he hadn't much height to start with, around two and a half thousand when he hit the soaring buzzard.
Again, he tried to scream but his dry throat still would not deliver, gagging instead, but no fluid emerged. He was too scared even to be sick.
Lower - lower. The rapidly spinning world showing more detail now - houses, a road - even individual trees - a small boat on the lake or was it the sea. And the noise, just the noise - the slipstream unnaturally loud - mocking him, and the pinging of stretched and tortured metal
a terrified woman next to him
Lurching from side to side, his seat belt and shoulder harness too loose - his body surrendering but eyes and brain still transfixed
fascinated by the bizarre nature of his imminent death.
His brain clutched at some half-remembered theory - spin recovery stuff he'd never practised - somehow his hands and feet had obeyed - full opposite rudder, control column forward
and the spin slowed
But still the lake had reached up to claim him
At best, it had to be a controlled crash. Fortunately he'd remembered to wrench open the canopy and slide it back.
Nothing had prepared him for the impact. The plane had decelerated in a few yards - spray pluming like the bow wave of a racing powerboat
then the nose dug in, looking for the lakebed. The plane refusing to float as the cockpit filling with water as they struggled to release their safety straps
stand on the seats and throw themselves clear.
The girl remembered the life raft; her pre-flight briefing had been thorough. Swimming strongly she'd pulled the toggle handle to inflate it even before she activated the air bottle in her own life jacket.
Fortunately, the raft floated the right way up. Emergency equipment carried for crossing the English Channel
not crashing into a lake in Kent
He had inflated his own life jacket and was swimming hard to catch the girl as she struggled to climb into the orange survival dinghy, her kicking feet propelling it further from him.
It might have been worse - in a Cessna or a Cherokee - its car type doors would have made escaping underneath much water more difficult - perhaps impossible
the Fuji, with its sliding canopy, had been the best choice.
The water tasted foul - petrol and oil leaking from the plane. The surface was covered with it.
Overhead another aircraft - a Cessna, circled. His friends from the flying club
on their way to Le Touquet in France for lunch.
The girl reached into the dingy for the emergency flares - to signal their exact position.
But his scream of warning still would not come
she was going to kill them both
She triggered the flare gun... its vivid red missile arching skywards - and twenty gallons of floating petrol exploded around them...
then he woke up...
As always, his bedclothes were saturated with the sweat of panic and fear. Still, his heart pounded with a rapid percussive thunder - his mouth tasted of sour copper - bitter and foul.
But the dream not always ended with his death
some nights he would glide safely down and land the powerless aircraft in a large field.
A more frightening version of the nightmare had them diving into the lake - the plane's nose digging deep until it flicked inverted
forcing him to escape under water.
A dark, wet hell of mud, putrefying detritus, bubbles, torn hands and cold bruised limbs - as he pushed upwards through clinging layers of slimy blanket weed - desperate for air, for sunlight
often he drowned
Fearful lest further sleep would restore the horror, Rod Hilton, switched on the bedside light and started to read Flyer magazine. He somehow had to overcome this fear of crashing an aircraft
his next flying lesson was booked for ten thirty that morning
Peter Hunter 2012
Extract from Peter Hunter's Time Of The Spider available on Kindleand in traditional book form from Amazon