No, no, no, no. This couldn't be happening. The flight was suppose to land at six o’clock, giving Clara an hour to make it to her connection. She’d be off the plane and waiting in the lobby for her next by at least six thirty. She’d have time to kill.
She would have no time to kill. She may not even make her connection. The plane landed promptly at six twenty. That’s alright, she thought, as long as we’re off of here soon, I’ll have plenty of time.
Only it was seven fifteen and they were still sitting in the plane at the gate.
Maybe her connection had been delayed. Maybe she could still make it.
Clara had never minded flying. Loved it even. It was in her blood, as her father was a pilot. She had longed to learn once, and he was going to teach her. They never got the chance before his own plane crashed.
Clara had never been fond of her father, so she didn’t mind. Flying was the one and only thing she shared. Her mother called her a monster for not crying at his funeral, but she was too distracted fighting the persistent urge to smile to pay her any attention.
She had flown a thousand times, which is how she knew something about flight 732 was definitely off. She could over look the chill the other passengers gave her, and she could over look the snacks she had not been offered, but taking forty minutes to offload was not excusable.
“Excuse me,” she said finally, tapping a passing flight attendant on the shoulder. The lighting was doing no one on the plane any favors. They all, even Clara, seemed to have greying skin and paling hair. It made the attendant, Sophia, look ashen and weak, like she might collapse at any moment.
Though she looked at her, thought about acknowledging, she instead ran off and said nothing.
Sophia knew something was wrong.
“The passengers will start to get angry,” she scolded another attendant, Joseph. She couldn’t recall ever meeting him before, which is strange. She usually knows her crew. She didn’t even remember him boarding the plane with them. But he had to of, right?
“That is not your concern, Mrs. Averia. The pilot will take care of them.” Sophia knew the pilot, Sam Dinnes, very well. Better than she would’ve like to admit. Sam and her has spent a summer together three years ago. Flights to Paris and Rome with a couple hours in each. It was a whirlwind.
Until she found out about his wife.
“If you say so.” She wasn’t so sure he would take care of anything, so she thought it best to ask him herself. She nodded a goodbye to Joseph, so did nothing but look at her unkindly. Joseph unnerved her more than she cared to admit. His skin was grey, but his eyes were bright green, not unlike her own. They were familiar, but she was certain she never met him before in her life.
She heard complaining as she made her way up the center isle and only made the mistake of looking back to one girl. She loved her job, and she loved talking to the passengers, but for some reason she was in a hurry to see the captain.
She was only a step away from the cockpit when he appeared.
“The pilot is busy. He will attend to the passengers momentarily.” Joseph stood, blocking the door. But how had he got in front of her, she wondered.
“Excuse me, but you do not speak for the pilot.” Jospeh was in no position of authority over her, so she reached out to push him aside. Jospeh wasn’t tall or very strong looking at all, so it was a shock when he didn’t move.
“The pilot is busy,” he repeated. “He will attend to the passengers momentarily.”
The man in seat twenty-one B could not sit still. He was jumpy, and could focus on nothing but the faces around him. Waiting, waiting, waiting…
There was nothing to wait for. No new face would appear. Her face wouldn’t appear. He had been assured. The pills kept her away. The pills, the pills.
Where were his pills?
He felt numbly around his pocket for the little orange container. The childproof lock had bested him many times before, but he’d open it on the first try this time.
Where were his pills?
They weren’t in his pocket. They were never not in his pocket. Did he forget them? He had been told not to travel alone, but who would’ve come with him?
She was dead.
She was dead, but could never die. No, she was not dead. How could she be when she is everywhere? She was every face in every crowd, she was laying in his bed, she was watching him right now.
So where was she?
He looked around again and clicked his tongue to the roof of his mouth. A nervous tick. Why should he be nervous? She wasn’t here, so he didn’t have to be nervous. No, she wasn’t here.
Oh, but she is. How could he be so stupid? How could he have let them convince him. That she wasn’t here? That she wasn’t anywhere? They were wrong. They were all wrong. She would get him.
T i c k T o c k.
He wouldn’t let her get him.
“Sir, I need you to sit down.” She isn’t her. She isn’t her, so be nice.
“No, ma’am. Thank you though. I need to get off the plane.”
“We’re all trying to get off the plane. It will only be another minute.”
“I don’t have another minute. You’re wrong. We’re not all trying to get off the plane. She doesn’t want to. She doesn’t want me to. Which is why I have to, see? So please let me off.”
“Who is she?”
“DON’T SAY HER NAME!” The flight attendant squeals as he grabs her shoulders and shakes them hard. If she said her name, she’d be next. He didn’t want that for the young girl. No, he didn’t want that. She’s just a young girl. A young girl. And he was shaking her way too hard.
“Oh,” he gasps, realizing what he’s done. She’s not her. “I’m sorry miss, but you must not say her name.” The attendant runs off.
“Hey, man! What’s your issue! You crazy or something? Keep your hands off of her.” He clicked his tongue to the roof of his mouth. He did not like to be called crazy.
“Oh no, sir. I was trying to help her.”
“Oh, yeah, it sure looked like it.” He was in his face now. He didn’t like it when people got in her personal space.
Happy place, he reminded himself before he started to freak out. Happy place. Happy place happy place happy place happy place happy place happy place happy place happy place happy place happy place happy place happy place happy place.
There is no place left on earth that is happy when she’s around. And she was; he knew it.
He was right.
“The pilot has an announcement to make, and we will be offloading the plane shortly.” Clara sighed in relief. Finally. She’d lost hope that her plane had been delayed and she could make it. Even if it had been delayed, it was most likely long gone. If she was lucky, she could book a later flight though. Not too late, hopefully. Tonight was a special night. Thomas would be waiting for her at the Ronald Raegan Airport. He’d take her home, she’s be safe. He was the only one who ever tired to protect het. Otherwise, she was on her own. She didn’t mind. She was strong. She’d have to be for what would come next.
She’d break the news to him tonight. They had been married three months ago; she was now three months pregnant. She had just found out on the work trip she was coming home from.
She’d hate to have to keep the secret another night if she couldn’t make another flight, but she insisted on telling him in person.
Instead of making an announcement over the loud speaker, the pilot came out to talk to the plane full of people.
No, no, no, no, no.
Julian Parker had been a father of three, two girls and a boy, and had a loving wife. He was a successful man. A pilot. He loved to fly, and he passed that down to only one of his kids. One of his daughters had always hated to fly, but his son flat out refused to step on a plane, especially after what happened to his father.
One of his daughters was just like him.
He wasn’t supposed to see her so soon.
“That isn’t Sam,” Sophia says in accusation to Joseph, as if he had thrown the old pilot overboard and replaced him with whoever this guy was. Jospeh didn’t shirt, didn’t smile, didn’t even blink.
There is something wrong with Joseph. There is something wrong with the pilot.
“Good evening, folks.” Whoever this man was, he surely had the commercial voice of a pilot. The type of voice that people want to listen to for reason while they’re flying thousands of feet in the air. “I apologize for the delay, but I have a bit more of bad news. None of you will be going where you intended anytime soon. There is a nasty snowstorm outside, and all travel will be impossible. The airport is making as many accommodations as possible.”
There’s a chorus of groans. Only a few people, including Sophia, seem to get it.
There is no snow. So what is this lie about?
“Don’t worry, Sophie. We’ll be home soon.” Startled by the voice and the nickname, Sophia turned around quickly to face Joseph.
He was smiling.
She had never let anyone call her Sophie, not since…
Joey was nine when he died. Car accident. His sister had been in the car and his mom was driving, on the way home from school. The car T-boned them on Joey’s side, and he prayed. Please God, let Mommy and Sissy be okay.
And they were, but Joey was not.
“Joey?” Sophia asks, realizing now why his eyes were familiar.
She had met him, and she had to say goodbye to him ten years ago.
“Sorry for earlier, but they’d have gotten real mad at me if you figured out who I was before you were supposed to. Wanna go home?” Tears sprung to her eyes as he offered a hand out for her to take. She knew then what had happened, and she didn’t care. She was glad. This was where she belonged.
“Yes, Joey. Let’s go hone.
She had found him. She always found him. She promised him that she always would.
“NO!” He shouted, falling backwards and crawling away as fast as he possibly could. But he was a big man in a small space, and didn’t make it far.
“It’s alright. It’s over now. Let’s go home.” She extended a hand for him to take. He curled up into a ball, closed his eyes, and just began to cry. Why had he been cursed in this cruel, cruel way. The doctors were right, she wasn’t real, but all the same, she was his torturer. She didn’t mean to be. She just couldn’t leave him alone. “Jim, it’s alright. You can come with me. I don’t have to chase you anymore. We can finally stay together.”
June Lavyard died a year ago today. Heart attack. Her husband rushed her to the hospital. No one could save her. Her husband lost it. He began to see visions of her everywhere. Doctor after doctor called him crazy and gave him new meds. He was told that she was a figment of his imagination, a cruel joke he was playing on himself due to his longing to have her again. But he would never get to see her again, get to hold her again. They’d never be together again. He broke.
He was healed.
Clara couldn’t believe her eyes. It was a trick. She was as sure of the fact that her dad could not have flown this plane as she was sure there was no snow outside. The flight was now chaos, demanding the attention of the pilot and flight attendants. Only all of the flight attendants seem to have disappeared, and now the pilot was heading for Clara.
No, no, no, no, no. That couldn’t possibly be her dad. And even if it was, she didn’t want to see him. She didn’t have to see him. He was dead. Dead. Dead. Dead. You don’t see dead people.
Unless you, too, are dead.
“No,” she whispers to herself, placing a protective hand on her stomach. If she was dead, so was her baby. She would not let her baby die. It was her job to protect her, not that she as it sure it was a her. Her intuition told her it was. Boy or girl, she was going to protect him the way her parents never protected her.
Her dad opened his mouth to speak, but she never got the chance to hear what he would say.
An excerpt from the New York Times: “Today’s headline leaves millions of people all over the word devastated. Flight 732 crashed at 6:10 p.m. on May 12, 2022. There were only five survivors. Among them were the pilot, Sam Dinnes, and four passengers, who were not willing to give their identities to the media. Our sources tell us that one of the surviving passengers was pregnant. The baby survived as well as the mother.”