At least I’ll be CNN famous…
These are the first thoughts to stray through your head as the Facebook feed buzzes with the pre-canned click bait gossip of the flight you’re on. Situations like these–similar to a good shot of absinthe–tend to bring out the true colors in people. Already, the bigots and superstitious have rallied the gullible into a miasma of theories. Already the end-timers have posted their cataclysmic babble about the rapture. Already, the stakes are being drawn.
Yet, most concerning, there is a notable absence of you.
Your friends, your acquaintances, your people who you briefly met but looked attractive enough to validate Facebook certification for future creeping, all join in the whole slactivism shebang in the typical five-minute spurts of passion. But yet, none of the posts seem to mention you.
It’s troubling, if not a bit depressing. Surely one could gain likes with an easy reference to personal stakes? Are you not even worth that?
Even most news sites are clinical with their delivery. The top shared article appears to be how American Airlines stock could plummet with a disaster like this, the entire story embellished with allegories to a certain Malaysian incident.
You can’t even reply. The internet died, with the stubborn wi-fi bar feverishly searching again for that elusive signal. 11:48pm. Your social media history is already at three minutes ago and quickly losing relevance. The 24-hour news cycle and its constant demand for panic already begins to fade.
And you’re on the bloody flight.
You. Right now. On the very flight that is apparently fucked.
And yet nothing to show for it. The Red Eye has set the plane into darkness, with only the occasional flight attendant and baby offering any movement or noise. Your stomach is churning but that is status quo for American Airlines’ economy meals. You pressed the service button five minutes ago, but the aisle remains empty.
If there is a reason to worry, the staff is doing a very good job at hiding it.
Gossiping is off of the table as well. The man to your left snores louder than the 757’s engine, and his occupation of the aisle seat has evaporated your bathroom prospects. The woman to your right has enacted a defcon 4 level of sensory deprivation. Earplugs, sleep mask, and blanket ensures that the baby, yourself, and any other disturbances can kindly fuck off until landing, thank you very much.
Beyond her, the window. Beyond that, an impenetrable night sky.
You think about what you are going to do in Madrid. Or perhaps “were” is the appropriate word now. A typical twenty-something backpacking odyssey. Madrid, Paris, Amsterdam, London, Berlin, Venice, Rome. The whole Euro-trip blockbuster parade. The initial post-grad scrounging for careers turned up dry, so why not treat yourself in the meantime? Your three year relationship ended in a plot-twist involving your best friend, so why not throw yourself into the hostel life of sex and drugs and hippies?
A lurch. The plane shudders for a moment. The man besides you delivers one wet, croupy cough, but otherwise there’s no explicit reaction from the plane.
Another lurch, this one nearly sends your laptop careening off of the foldout plastic tray in front of you. This time you move to snap it shut, figuring it’ll be much safer in your bag than in the hands of American Airlines’ engineers.
That’s when you notice something.
Perhaps you could attribute it to your poor sense of time. The laptop itself is out of the question. Freshly bought two months ago. Absolutely no way Apple could be that egregious, right?
11:48 pm. You clutch your laptop, nails tap dancing along its edges, physically counting up to sixty now, each number getting a liberal pause.
11:48 pm. You’re at sixty-seven now before you realize it’s pointless. Either your laptop is broken, and Darren from the Genius Bar as well as Tim Cook himself are lying sacks of shit, or something really fucked up is going on.
Another lurch. A flash from the window. Something shines in the night sky. And it’s close. Far, far too close to your own plane. Your mind perhaps becomes a bit more flexible in its stance. Calmly looking past your neighbor in the window seat, you peer out.
There, practically kissing the wings of your own, is another flight.
Recoiling, the back of your head bounces off the shoulder of the man, conjuring up another volley of coughs. Your finger thrusts up, jabbing the ‘flight attendant’ button.
The wings are touching. In fact they appear to be merging. It has to be a trick of the eyes, but you can’t tell where one wing ends and another begins. They’re intertwined, the lights on the edges of their wings becoming a single neon smudge.
And yet, nothing. No shaking, no turbulence, no crashing. No sound. No other sensory presence of the other plane besides sight. You can only witness it with your eyes.
And then more lights. Beyond the plane beside you, slightly above it, there’s another flight. The same darkened silhouette, its presence only betrayed by the lights along its body.
You don’t even bother to jab at the ‘flight attendant’ button anymore. Your eyes are glued to the window, your chin is practically on the woman’s lap.
Beyond the plane, another one. And another one.
All of them on the same y-axis of sky, yet each one slightly above the last, curving upwards, similar to what one would see when staring down a hall of mirrors. Moving your head slightly to the right, then left, the illusion continues, the planes moving inversely to your own motions.
Can you even call it an illusion anymore?
“Can I help you?”
The voice startles you, sending your thoughts reeling back into the plane, back into your seat. The flight attendant stirs impatiently in the aisle.
“Please, I have to remind you that the seatbelt sign is on.”
Your eyes dart towards your laptop, still open.
You open your mouth to reply.
And that’s when the plane bursts open, peels of orange flame evaporating first class.