Thursday, October 31, 2019
Bad Flight- A Halloween Story
It’s going to be a bad flight.
I sit on the plane, seat 45C, hands shaking, and it hasn’t even taken off yet. I want a drink, but I know it’s too early to ask for one. I’ll have to wait until we’re in the air at least, otherwise, I’ll look like some kind of lush.
For the fifteenth time, I wish I’d spent the extra money for a first-class ticket, as the obese lady next to me elbows my arm off the armrest for the third time. She smells like she hasn’t washed in a week, and her body odor gags me. I feel light-headed and panicky, wondering how I’m going to make it through the whole flight. It’s going to be a bad one, I know, as if it’s already happened. There’s no doubt, no hope, just a sure knowledge that the next four hours are going to be like living in hell in a long, metal tube with no air and lots of fear.
It’s ten o’clock at night. The plane was supposed to leave at eight but got delayed somewhere, like Boston or something, where it had to wait on the tarmac for an hour while another plane used its gate or something stupid like that. Always an excuse, always with the ‘we’re so sorry for the delay’, but in reality, they couldn’t give a flying fuck. We’re cattle, just move along, get into the corral, keep quiet, just keep chewing your cud and don’t complain.
Flying; I think about how my knuckles turn white as I grip the armrests every time, how the sweat bursts onto my forehead, how clammy I feel as the plane begins to slowly roll, and then pick up speed, and then lurch off the ground, my heart going with it. I curse Wilbur and Orville; why couldn’t they have just left well enough alone? Man wasn’t meant to lift off into the air, that’s for the birds. When man goes up, he must come down, and that happens when the plane’s nose turns earthwards because some idiot ground crew guy forgot to tighten a bolt. The plane heads into a sickening dive while everyone on board screams, out of their minds with terror. Masks drop out of the ceiling. People desperately grab them, like they are some kind of salvation, some god that is going to keep them alive.
And your life flashes before your eyes, but you don’t watch the film because all you can think about is the ground rushing up to turn you into a fireball of agony and twisted metal.
You see why I don’t fly much? But I have to, because of my work. I don’t have any choice. The train takes too long but then trains derail all the time, crashing in fiery explosions of twisted steel and body parts. And driving, well, there are so many drunks and high people on the road, you take your life into your hands every time you leave your driveway. If I had my choice, I’d stay in my house, work from home and never go out into this crazy world. But here I am, sitting in a long metal tube on top of two huge engines filled with jet fuel, next to a hundred other idiots, rolling the dice with our lives.
My heart jumps as I hear the engines start. The stewardess starts her spiel, and as always it fills me with dread, because I know it means we’re leaving soon. “If cabin pressure drops, a mask will fall out of the overhead”. And everybody here will start screaming. When will she finish, so I can get a drink?
I notice the fat lady next to me isn’t listening, in fact, she’s asleep. I envy the big, fat slob, no worries in her mind, except when she’s getting her next Big Mac. If the plane starts going down, it’ll crash before her pea brain even understands what’s going on, and she’ll die in ignorant bliss. How nice it must be to be mentally deficient in this world, no worries, have somebody else do everything for you, like feed you and wipe your ass. Never knowing what a fucked-up world it is.
The plane lurches. It’s rolling. I grip the armrests, and my toes tingle, slowly working up my legs, making me go numb. I have to pee like I always do the minute I’m trapped and can do nothing about it, like my body is my enemy just waiting for a chance to make me uncomfortable.
Finally, she’s done with her inane blathering, and I wave her over. I ask in as calm a tone as I can for a drink, a whiskey, anything. I hope she can see how nervous I am. An oriental lady, she smiles and pats my arm, like I’m some kind of doddering old man, and says, “now just relax, it’s going to be fine. We can’t serve you until we’ve reached cruising altitude. Just close your eyes and I’ll be back in a few minutes.”
Like she’s my mother or something; I want to grab her by her little stupid blue tie, pull her down to my face and slap the shit out of her, but I just set my jaw and try to smile back, not show how much I hate her at the moment.
The plane picks up speed. My stomach twists and some gross bile squirts its way out of my stomach and into my mouth. The plane bounces and everybody in the cabin bounce up and down with it, like stupid puppets. I pee my pants a little, I can’t help it. A moan escapes my lips, and the guy in front of me turns and eyes me. I glare at him. Mind your own business, Jackass.
The plane lifts off in a sickening heave upwards. I feel my stomach rise up like it’s in zero gravity, and the breakfast burrito I ate works its way back up and threatens to come all the way back to my mouth. It seems like an eternity as we sit there, nose pointed up at some crazy angle as if the plane just can’t make it to where it’s going and any minute will give up and plummet down again.
Finally, we must have made it to where we’re supposed to be, because the plane levels off just slightly, though it still continues upwards to who knows what crazy height. My ears pop, another horrible feeling, and my stomach settles down but feeling odd, like somebody beat it like a lump of dough. I say a silent thanks to whatever insane god runs this world.
But now we’re up, and we have to come down. How long until we’re at cruising altitude and I can get a drink?
The guy on my left is a tiny squirt, thankfully. Some Italian or other greasy type, wavy black hair that looks like it was bathed in olive oil. He’s busy watching a movie, Jungle Book or something. He’s wearing a suit, making him look like an Italian Charlie Chaplin. I can’t complain about him too much. We fought for the armrest at first, but when I didn’t budge he gave up and now sits with his arms folded, like a good wimp.
I decided my only choice is to close my eyes, try not to breathe in the Fat Lady from the Circus’ smell and try to sleep, pretending I don’t feel every bump and dip the plane takes that makes my stomach roll and my heart skip a beat.
I wake up, amazed that I actually did sleep some. My mouth feels like somebody shoved a sock in it, one the fat lady was wearing. The air in these planes is not fit for human consumption, something regurgitated out of a stale can. I try not to think about all the germs floating in it, or how much of other people’s bad breath I’m taking in.
I figure we must be at cruising altitude now. I look around for the waitress/stewardess. I notice fat lady is awake; naturally, since it looks like they brought the snacks around while I was snoozing. She’s eating the peanuts like she hasn’t eaten in a week, shoving them in her mouth like somebody’s fighting her for them. Of course, the only good thing about the lousy flight, and I missed it.
I look at my watch. It’s midnight, straight up. I look out the window, past Olive Boy who is busy trying to get his bag of peanuts open. It’s a beautiful night, the sky is clear and the moon is shining bright, a full moon, yellow and bright. I begin to think I might survive the flight after all. After I have a drink. Where is that god-damned stewardess?
Suddenly the little greasy guy jumps up like somebody zapped him with an electrode. Despite my discomfort, it forces a smile on my face. I think how fun it would be to really shock the guy and watch him yelp as he jumps.
“Please, I need to leave right now,” he says.
I chuckle, the first good laugh I’ve had in a while, thinking, ‘good luck getting past Mount Fat Lady’. Suddenly the guy’s face contorts and he grabs his collar. He pulls on his tie like it’s choking him.
My good mood disappears to be replaced by anger. Great, this guy’s got some foreign disease or something. I’m going to get the plague or Ebola or something. If I don’t have the worst luck in the world, I don’t know who does. The guy starts thrashing about, writhing, like he’s possessed or something. I turn to Fatso and say, ‘hey, let this guy out’. She frowns at me like I just threatened to steal her hot dog, and just sits there. Meanwhile, the guy is breaking into a sweat and his face is turning colors.
The stewardess finally makes an appearance, far down the aisle. She must have woken up from her nap, or joining the Mile High Club or something. I wave frantically at her, but suddenly Italian Boy leaps over me and squeezes his way past Miss Mountain, no easy feat. He runs up the aisle and is gone faster than my eye can even track him. For a little guy, he could move.
Boy, when you gotta go, you gotta go. Miss Fatty looks at me. It strikes us both as hilarious, and we chuckle at each other. For a moment, we share a moment of comradery, as if we really were of the same species. She keeps smiling at me while I go back to waving at the stewardess, thinking, ‘how can you smile smelling like that?’
There is a god; the stewardess sees me and as slow as a new ice age ambles her way down the aisle to me, chit-chatting with every single person in the aisle seats along the way.
“Hello sir, would you like your snack now?”
“No, Miss, I’d like a drink, no make that two. Whiskey straight up, no ice.” And a nose clamp, I think, but don’t say. She nods, and her eyes say, ‘lush in seat 45C’. She turns around and leaves, and I think that maybe, just maybe, if I get drunk enough, I can wash this crappy flight from my memory.
Then something happens that is so strange, so bizarre, that it’s one of those moments when suddenly you feel like you’ve instantly been transported into a dream.
It’s a sound. It comes from up ahead in the plane, muffled and yet somehow so sharp and unusual that it feels like it’s being made right next to me.
It’s a HOWL. That’s right, a howl. Not a bark, not a yell, but a god-damned HOWL. It sounds like the type a wolf would make, but there’s something different in it, almost like a man trying to imitate a wolf, but well, one that is a wolf, does that make any sense?
The sound is so singular, so bizarre, that everybody in the whole plan stops talking, and there is instant silence. For a brief second, it’s like staring at an oil painting of a scene in a plane, where everybody is looking forward, at something.
Then it’s as if someone turned a relief valve. They all chuckle and laugh. They all grin and talk and I can tell it’s all about the SOUND. One guy says, ‘turn down the movie’, and people around him laugh. A little girl, five or something, says, ‘that was scary!’ No shit, Sherlock, bright kid you have there.
Some asshole trying to scare everybody. Probably drunk off his ass. I wish I was. I’m about to get irritated again because my drink is taking so long when I hear a commotion upfront.
There’s banging, and people running, and then people SCREAMING. It’s the kind that says some really BAD SHIT is going down. My insides, well trained as they are, instantly tense up and my pee reflex starts in, right on time. Everybody stops talking again, and their smiles are once again replaced with fearful looks.
Is it a terrorist? Somebody brought a bomb on board. It would just be my luck, to get on the one flight they picked to fly into the Capitol building today.
But a little voice inside me, the one that always knows about the bad things that are about to happen to me before I do, says, ‘It’s not a terrorist’. Then it tells me that I’ve just stepped into the worst nightmare I could even imagine. It tells me that I’m about to be scared beyond my ability to think, and that I’m going to die.
Without knowing why, I go from just nervous to out of my mind scared to death. Then I hear a louder scream. It’s a woman’s, and I know without even thinking about it that it’s the stewardess. After that scream the whole front section of the plane fills with screams, and I think, ‘whatever it is, keep it up there!’
Then I hear the SNARL. I think, ‘somebody’s dog got loose’, but as soon as I do, I know with a sinking feeling that it’s not a dog.
People around me start to panic now. They get up out of their seats, like chickens with their heads cut off, not knowing what to do, just doing something, running in circles or talking nonsense to each other. Some run to the back of the plane. But where is there to go? We’re all trapped in a long metal tube, thousands of feet in the air, trapped and just waiting for our doom. At least I’ve forgotten about my fear of flying.
It walks in then, padding its way past the curtain, its gleaming fangs and long, furry snout dripping with blood, its yellow eyes full of dark pleasure. With strange dark humor, I think, ‘it’s the little Italian man from my row’. I know because there are still pieces of his suit wrapped around it.
It’s a werewolf, just like in the movies. Only in real life, he’s ugly as looking into a tomb full of maggots and ‘scare the shit out of you’ terrifying. He stands there, looking at us, knowing we’re helpless. He’s sizing up who he wants to eat first. The passengers scream and throw up their hands and hug each other. A fat lot of good any of it will do now.
I knew it was going to be a bad flight; I just didn’t know how bad, until now.