That Fateful Day
This fic is written from the POV of young Lara Croft, reflecting on the final moments before the plane crash in Nepal that changed her life forever (going by the canon of Lara's initial biography as given with the first few TR games). - -
Nothing had changed in the two seconds it took for the plane to hit the earth.
And yet, everything had.
My fiance and I were cuddled up next to the window near the front, the background chatter of our friends of little meaning to us as we exchanged silent declarations of love. It was all so cliche, so sappy like the tales of summer love we had grown up on, but we were as happy as we could have been.
It's cruel how fate can sneak up on you, can rob you of everything in the blink of an eye.
If I had known it would end this way, would I have listened to what my friends were going on about behind me? Would I have joined in their light, mundane conversation, laughing along, dragging my fiance over to them in an effort to enjoy the comforts and pleasures of social life just one more time?
Would I have even told them if I'd have known? Could I have borne the looks of despair, the final prayers, the reflections of regret as they prepared for death?
Would they have even believed me? We were thousands of feet above the Himalayas, after all. Surely they'd believe me if I told them we were about to crash; such things were known to happen in such harsh conditions. But they were oblivious - travelling from oblivion to oblivion, blissful ignorance and blissful emptiness the only difference between the two oblivions.
Jen wouldn't have suffered too much - her neck snapped, and she died instantly. Susan and Penny suffered similar fates, their necks and backs smashed under each other's weight; Mike, Alan and Reginald all suffered fatal blows to the skull as their heads collided with the hard wall next to them. Even the pilot wasn't given a chance. I couldn't help but wonder how long it had taken them all to die, and how long it took my fiance to do so, with a wound that looked the most devastating of all. He, like all my other friends who were on the plane that day, would have at least been blessed enough to have barely felt any pain as they passed.
And me? I was the only passenger on the plane who wasn't so lucky.
One second the plane seemed to be soaring peacefully above the scattered clouds - the roar of the engine no hindrance to the collective sound of our loud voices as the buzz of the excitement of our skiing trip faded down to wonderment of what the future would bring - and I was relaxed in the gentle arms of my fiance, who by that point I was beginning to really take a shine to. Everything about the Earl was promising. For just another aristocrat, he had quite an awareness and sense of humour about him - a trait sorely under-appreciated amongst our kind. Not only could he have provided a life of wealth and security for me, but he would have always made me laugh too, if our time together on this trip had been anything to go by. Given the chance, we might have even been able to successfully raise a family in the way my parents always tried to prepare me for.
The next second changed it all. Our future, our entire lives as we had known it, all gone forever in the space of a second.
To this day I wonder if any of my friends knew, even for an instant, that they were doomed. If even my fiance had any time to reflect in the split second before his own final moment.
I myself barely retained any conscious memory of those two seconds - but it plays over and over in my dreams, all too often. His staring, unseeing face. His blood dripping down on me from the fatal wound over his shattered skull. The grey dimness of the struggling light. The strobe-like effect of the rupturing electricity around us in the still shadows of the wreckage.
But more than all of this, is the memory of the silence. The sort of silence that can only mean that no life is left. For an instant, I even doubted that my own life remained - the silence was all too convincing.
The plane had landed on its side, and the first thing I could remember feeling upon waking was the pull of the gravity in such an unnatural direction. Why would the downpull be towards the side wall of the plane?
As I painfully strained my bruised neck to look sideways, comprehension hit me. Or at least some semblance of it - I understood that the plane had crashed, that it was now lying sideways in a wreckage of crackling machinery; but what I refused to understand, was what was right there in front of me.
Perhaps it was the naivete that came with the fact that I had never in my life seen a dead body before, or even the fact that I was so young at the time that telling the two states apart came nowhere near as easily as it could have - but the entire time I sat there, side by side with the mangled corpse of my fiance looming over me, it took a terribly long time for me to realise that he was gone.
I was lying against the now horizontal side wall, my twisted seat belt tangled around me like I had been deliberately tied there. The beloved man who had been lovingly nestled beside me during the flight was now on top of me threateningly, crushing me with his weight - dead weight, I had refused to believe. His head was hanging down from where his seat belt restrained the rest of his body, and he was directly facing me, his head dripping with blood, his eyes fixing me with a look that went on forever.
I remember looking back at him with incredulity. He wasn't dead, he couldn't be dead - he was staring right at me. I wanted him to stop - wanted him to tell me why he just kept looking at me like that. But he wouldn't move his mouth - no matter how much I screamed at him to stop staring at me.
I'll never forget feeling myself coming apart second by second - the remnants of my old, innocent self beginning to gradually disintegrate with every moment I looked into his bloodied face, and heard my screams met only with more infuriating silence.
His seat belt suddenly came loose under his weight, and his looming form descended upon me. I screamed at him even louder, shrieked at him to get off me, the efforts to push him away only making him sink further. Couldn't he see how much he was crushing me? No sound came from his mouth, no understanding came to his frozen face even as I screamed and screamed.
I was so young. In mind, I was too young - too naive - to completely grasp the gravity of my situation. If I had been able to, I might not have been able to keep my sanity at all.
By the time I had finally admitted to myself that my fiance next to me had died, that I was the sole survivor of this nightmare on earth, I had already made my decision. The first choice made by the new Lara Croft was simply to live.
To live, live and keep on living. I could have never explained why at the time, but from that moment until the end of the second week spent in lost wilderness afterwards, my only instinct was to live.
Nothing had changed. I was still Lara Croft, daughter of Lord Henshingly, graduate of Wimbledon... I was still in the plane with my fiance and my college friends, the pilot sitting silently in the cockpit.
But everything had changed. I was the only member of the group whose heart still beat, who still retained life in a battered and broken body. Even the plane had abandoned me in favour of death, and joined my friends in broken oblivion as its ruined form lay on its side to serve as a graveyard for all who had lost their lives there.
The burden had been placed on me to carry on the memory of this fateful day, and to see it through to the end. To change every fibre of my being - as the old, innocent Lara Croft no longer had any place in this world. To accept that I could only ever live for myself now, to serve the interests of myself and not my parents, or family, or even a second betrothed. There would be none of that now; only the new Lara that lived and kept on living.
Live. I escaped from the plane's dead, still form with that one thought in mind, and even to this day it has never left me. It even overcame the grief I felt for my fiance and friends that I had lost.
How very peculiar fate can be.
NOTICE: This story is a work of fiction. Lara Croft, her likeness, and the Tomb Raider games are all copyright of EIDOS Interactive. There is no challenge to these copyrights intended by this story, as it is a
non-sanctioned, unofficial work of the author's own.