30 comments

Historical Fiction Thriller

[Voice message found in a mobile phone]


Life is a mystery, isn’t it? One day we are in control of everything, taking exams, passing tests, choosing which job interview to attend. And then, if we work hard, we move up in our career, step by step.


But the whole time, there’s a parallel universe that we don't control that affects us strongly. Our boyfriends get transferred to different cities, our employers go bankrupt, our friends get sick.


I’ve made the right choices my entire life. I was polite to others, took care of my parents and grandparents, helped my brother’s studies, went to a good university, said all the right things in job interviews. Now, I’m on a plane that might be crashing, and cancelling out every right choice I've made in my life. Then, there’s probably some classmate of mine back home in Tianjin that made all the wrong choices who is safely behind a cash register at a 7/11, watching funny cat videos and planning what he's going to eat for dinner.


Maybe Muslims have the right idea. It’s all in god’s hands. Chinese, we aren’t religious, maybe we're missing something. Who knows? If things in our history took a different turn, our way of thinking might be different today.


I've always enjoyed flights. They were a time I could forget my worries. Nothing bad ever happens on a flight. No one ever loses their job or goes to the hospital. It's when I get off, that's when I need to think about things like the results of my next pap smear, whether Jia and I are actually good together or not. I don't know where I'm going with this...


Sorry, the pilot is announcing something, I need to listen.


[end of message]


**


Michael felt saddened reading the transcript of the message, knowing its writer was dead. The message was one of many that had been recovered by the FAA. More accurately, by the US Navy who had located the wreckage of MH370 and delivered it to the FAA looking for answers. The case had become political, so they brought him in as an outsider. A Professor of Air Safety at the University of Illinois, he was considered an independent party. But he was sure people on the internet wouldn't believe that. Conspiracy theorists now dominate the discourse.


Michael refilled his coffee and got down to reading the other recovered messages. Someone had translated and transcribed them from all the various devices they found within the wreckage of MH370.


**


[Email draft found on a mobile phone]


To: Carl

The pilot came over the intercom and said there was a serious problem with the airplane, and we might want to write a message to our loved ones. I don’t have anything to write on, so I’m typing this into an email. Maybe it will get sent out if I don’t make it out of here somehow. I am an optimist and have never been afraid of airplanes. Statistically, they are far safer than cars. As my older brother, I appreciate all the things you taught me. Especially…trying to think what to say…


**


[Unsent SMS message found on a mobile phone]


To: my husband


If you are reading this, you must already know my Malaysian flight had something go wrong. Everyone is in a panic, and no one is telling us anything.


I wish we could watch the dragonflies at sunset on that hill above the Sungai Besi campus again


I don't know if I will ever see you again, but I want you to know that I love you. You have been my rock and my support, and I am grateful for every moment we have spent together.


Please take care of yourself and our family. I hope to see you soon.


Your wife, Kasih


**


[Message found in an email on a recovered laptop]


To: Freescale Semiconductor

From: John Anderson


The pilot has announced he’s no longer in control of the airplane. That’s all he’s told us so far. The technology we are carrying has military applications. I am wondering if we are the target. And if they might hijack the plane and take us to a third country, Afghanistan, Iran, or North Korea, if that’s possible.


From the pilot's announcement, it’s not clear if the plane has been hijacked, or if somehow the flight control system has been taken over from outside.


** 


[Message found on mobile phone]


To: Malaysian Civil Aviation Authority

From: Co-pilot of MH370


The man who is supposed to be my teacher has locked me out of the cockpit. It’s likely he will depressurize the cabin. No matter what happens, you must hold Captain Shah responsible.


** 


[Message found in cockpit flight recorder]


This is the pilot of Malaysia three seven zero. The cockpit controls have stopped responding to all commands. After banking sharply, we are now at three five thousand feet heading of 343 degrees, flying on autopilot.


I don’t know how loss of all controls is possible. We have tried everything in the Boeing 777 operations manual to restart the flight control system. We will continue to attempt to reboot the system.


I would like the Malaysian Civil Aviation Authority to know I have done my best for our 239 passengers and cabin crew. 


**


[Message found in a mobile phone]


To: The Head of the Iranian National Guard 

From: A loyal citizen


We sought to avenge the downing of Iranian flight 655.


I’m sorry our plan didn’t work. As we had anticipated, the co-pilot did open the door to let a young woman into the cockpit. I followed her as if moving forward to use the toilet. At the moment she entered, I wedged my foot in and pushed my way into the cockpit.


With the pilot strapped to his chair, it was easy to incapacitate the co-pilot, and then shove the young woman out of the cockpit, locking myself in with the pilot. Reza made his way to the electronic compartment and deactivated the transponder.


Threatening force, I asked the pilot to steer the plane toward Diego Garcia. I told him we would land there and seek international news coverage to make a stand for the freedom of the island from the US military. I told him the names of his family members and that our group was watching them as we speak.


Looking back, I suspect the pilot didn’t believe my story.


He assured me we were heading toward Diego Garcia, showed me his instruments. Six hours later, the plane alarms began to go off. When I asked him what they meant, he said the airplane was running out of fuel.


When I asked if we were close to Diego Garcia, he shook his head no.


**


[Message found in a notebook]


Tanam selasih di tengah padang,

 Sudah bertangkai diurung semut,

Kita kasih orang tak sayang,

 Halai-balai tempurung hanyut.


[English translation]

I planted sweet-basil in mid-field

 Grown, it swarmed with ants,

I loved but am not loved,

 I am all confused and helpless.


**


[Message written on the inside of an in-flight magazine]


Everything I wrote previously was a lie. I wanted to imagine how things could be in a different world.


[end of message]

August 23, 2023 02:30

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30 comments

Delbert Griffith
09:57 Aug 25, 2023

Dude! This was great! I really feel like you told the story of modern humanity with just a few email messages and such. It's almost meta but it's all fantastic, my friend. The philosophers have nothing on you! LOL Cheers!

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10:08 Aug 25, 2023

oh thanks! this was a quicky writing idea i had after watching the netflix mh370 documentary.. I got so confused trying to decide the correct conspiracy theory, I decided to go with schrodingers cat that they could all possibly exist at once,...until somebody finds that flight recorder. So often the spur of the moment writing ideas work out, and the long laboriously plotted stories plod along. Already wrote a long story this week, but then was thinking about the film "Letters from Iwo Jima" and how emotional that scenario was, and this idea...

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Katy B
16:28 Aug 25, 2023

Really incredible format here, I love it!

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02:04 Aug 28, 2023

thanks katy!

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Helen A Smith
10:05 Sep 01, 2023

Final moments as experienced by human beings in the form of emails in a catastrophic situation. I found it incredibly moving and insightful the way you depict the lack of control humans actually have. That the idea of control is an illusion. Also, well done for getting two great stories out in one week!

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14:31 Sep 01, 2023

Thanks, I must have been hyper last week. Happy to have gotten two very different stories out. Thx tor reading

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Gary Phipps
18:51 Aug 31, 2023

This was great. It really paints the picture of humans in their desperate moments and how most of us will come to some sort of peace when things go badly and it might be the end. Seeing the different perspectives and personalities really made it real to me.

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06:31 Sep 01, 2023

Thanks for reading. I'm happy to hear the drama of the characters came out more than the airplane conspiracy theories. Everyone is driven by different things, I tried to show that in the different voices of the passengers.

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Kimberly Walker
04:24 Aug 31, 2023

Wow!

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06:29 Sep 01, 2023

thx!

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S Fevre
18:33 Aug 28, 2023

A moving and interesting read, these letters to loved ones will stay with me. A unique human take on a tragedy.

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06:29 Sep 01, 2023

Thanks for reading;)

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Wendy M
07:19 Aug 28, 2023

I found this quite heart-wrenching, a small summary of a lost life; I planted sweet-basil in mid-field Grown, it swarmed with ants, I loved but am not loved, I am all confused and helpless. I've wondered how I would feel/behave if something like this happened to me, this is a powerful story on more than one level

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06:29 Sep 01, 2023

Thanks Wendy. Yeah I was thinking that, really hard to know how one would react.

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Marty B
01:52 Aug 28, 2023

The multiple solutions to what happened to flight MH370 threw me until the last entry. The intermixing of letters/messages/ calls to loved ones was heartbreaking. this line resonated with me as so true 'But the whole time, there’s a parallel universe that we don't control that affects us' We all make plans, assume our efforts make or break us, but it is Luck that is in control, when we get on the wrong plane, step in the right coffee shop, answer this job request vs. that one. We are at that the whim of fate (or god, or destiny), specks o...

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02:04 Aug 28, 2023

Thanks marty. I'm pretty convinced the pilot did it, but there are still some problems with that theory, and an aborted hijacking is also a possibility. Anyway hope they find the flight recorder someday ! I started becoming a conspiracy theorist while writing this haha. Its pretty crazy the ideas people come up with that don't really make sense. Happy my opening litfic letter resonated. I was thinking of how I know someone who was complaing about how he made all the right decisions but got really unlucky in his career, and it felt so unfair...

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Kristin Johnson
18:15 Aug 27, 2023

I love the concept of including these, like the voice mail messages on United Flight 93. I love the Malaysian language inclusion. I see you watched MH370 from Netflix! I wonder if we will ever really know what happened.

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02:08 Aug 28, 2023

Thx Kristin! Yeah, I really wanted to add some Malaysian culture to this, as it can so easily be left out. I did some reading about the country, and find they are a very non-confrontational people, that often soften difficult situations by speaking in little sayings and poetry, and wanted to include that. The meaning of them are often very subtle metaphors. Very poetic versions of our rough english sayings like "shit happens" or "there's many fish in the sea..." Yes, just watched MH370 on Netflix, so much want them to find the plane to gi...

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Kristin Johnson
17:53 Aug 28, 2023

I spent time in Malaysia long before the flight disappeared. Loved the experience. They are the midwesterners of SE Asia.

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Myranda Marie
18:16 Aug 26, 2023

Great read.

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02:08 Aug 28, 2023

thx!

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Jonathan Page
23:11 Aug 24, 2023

Wow!!! Incredible work.

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01:32 Aug 25, 2023

Thanks, really didnt know if this works but wanted to bring up some of the stuff in the new netflix show.

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Lily Finch
14:04 Aug 23, 2023

Scott, interesting idea. Kind of Twilight Zonish. I enjoyed reading the lies. It was fun to be in another world, a different world. LF6

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04:36 Aug 26, 2023

Thx for reading all the lies;)

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02:31 Aug 23, 2023

Another story idea I had that I'm still working on. Not sure if this is inappropriate in anyway but feels enough time has passed and there have been many programs on television dramatizing the possible causes of the missing flight.

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Amanda Lieser
23:26 Sep 28, 2023

Hi Scott! The format was breathtakingly heartbreaking for this story. It was one of those I needed to read and then re read again. It’s so frightening and infuriating to not truly understand what happened to something like this famous flight. We all naturally fill in the gaps. You captured that sentiment well-leaving us with plenty to ponder on. Nice work on this one!!

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Ken Cartisano
01:15 Sep 02, 2023

Brilliant concept, excellent execution.

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Unknown User
23:50 Aug 31, 2023

<removed by user>

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06:31 Sep 01, 2023

Thx for reading and commenting Joe.

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