I’ve never liked to fly. I’ve always felt like my vulnerabilities were exposed when I was so high in the air. My weaknesses are laid out plain as day, and there’s nothing I can do to cover them or strengthen them. Looking out the windows, I often see miles and miles of land below, and it makes me feel insignificant. The massive piece of land I see is only a microscopic fraction of what this Earth holds, and this Earth is an even smaller fraction of the universe. All of these things become increasingly obvious to me as I get closer to the stars. Because of this, I always sit in an aisle seat.
“This plane is going down,” the passenger sitting next to me blurts out.
“This plane is going down.”
I didn’t respond. The guy was crazy. He was sitting there with a thick book on his lap and a steaming cup of coffee in his tray’s cup holder. He had a sly smile on his face, and he spoke slowly and confidently and appeared to know what I was going to say before I even started to speak.
“The end is coming soon,” he said.
I turned my head toward him and gave a weak yet annoyed smile.
“The end is coming soon,” he repeated.
“Are you trying to cause trouble?”
“The trouble has already been caused, my friend. I am only here to save those who understand.”
“That you are causing the plane to crash.”
“You are causing the pla—“
“That’s enough for me,” I said, as I stood up and made my way to an empty seat near the back of the plane.
“I had to move, the guy next to me was driving me crazy,” I explained to the woman in the seat to my left. She smiled and went back to reading her magazine. Unfortunately, my new seat was a window seat. I glanced out the window. Far below was a column of smoke hovering above a burning house. I shuddered and pulled down the window shade. I closed my eyes and breathed in, calming my roused heart.
My nose took in the scent of coffee. I turned to my left, and there was the man who had talked to me earlier.
“This plane is going down,” he said once more.
“This plane is go—“
“I got that. What’s your problem?” I snapped, getting irritated.
“I have no problem. I am neither causing the plane to crash nor will I be on it when it does.”
“What, are you special or something?”
“I have taken the necessary steps to avoid being on this plane when it does crash.”
“Oh yeah?” I said sarcastically.
“Yes,” he replied. “Do you want to know what they are?”
“Do you really think I believe you?”
“Of course not.”
I turned my head back to the closed window. I wanted to punch this guy. I was at least going to tell him off.
“You know what?” I said, turning back to him. However, he was no longer there. The woman was back, and she was now peering at me like I was some kind of idiot. I sighed.
“Never mind.” I pushed my fists together, cracking all ten knuckles in one swift stroke.
It was nearly an hour into the flight when the skies started to darken. I turned on the overhead light and reached forward for a magazine. I pulled out a copy of Entertainment Weekly. I turned to the first page, and I nearly fell off my seat. There, on the inside cover, was the same strange man I had talked to earlier. His picture took up the whole left page, and he seemed to be glaring at me with the same sly smile I had seen before. On the right page, printed on a black background were large fiery red letters, spelling out “This plane is going down.”
I quickly flipped to the next page. On the left page was the same picture of the same guy, and on the right side were the same type of letters, but this time it spelled out “The end is coming soon.”
I continued to flip through the pages of the magazine. Each left page had the same picture, and each right page had a similar message, including “You are causing the plane to crash.” I screamed.
“Stewardess! Stewardess! STEWARDESS!”
I heard feet running and a woman’s voice saying “What is it, sir?”
“Look at this!”
I showed her the inside of the magazine. She blinked and scratched her head. I glanced at the magazine. There was an advertisement for a coffee company.
People were staring at me. I felt my face turning red.
“Ummm… coffee. Please.”
“Sir, we don’t serve coffee.”
“Would you like something else?”
“Just a cola, then.”
I sat back down, and leafed through the magazine. Sure enough, the pages appeared to be the inside of a regular magazine.
“Here you are, sir,” the stewardess said as she handed me a can of cola and a glass of ice.
I smelled the aroma of coffee.
“This plane is going down.” The man had reappeared next to me.
“Back off. I don’t know who you are or what you are or what you want. Go bother someone else.”
“I have already talked to other people and—“
“Shut up and leave me alone.”
“You want to be alone?”
“That is exactly what I try to prevent.”
The man snapped his fingers, and in his hand appeared a very small plastic airplane. He leaned over and dropped it in my cola.
“What do you think you’re doing?”
He snapped his fingers again, and a small flame appeared at the bottom of the glass. It spread like the carbonated liquid was its fuel, engulfing the entire glass, and the small plastic plane, in a matter of seconds. I screamed.
“Oh, that’s alright,” the woman who was once again sitting next to me said. She reached up and hit the stewardess button. “Things like this happen all the time on airplanes.” I looked down, and the cola had been spilled all over my lap, with no remains of the flame in sight.
The stewardess arrived and rolled her eyes when she looked at me. She brought me some paper towels, and I dried myself off as much as I could.
I excused myself to go to the restroom. I stood in front of the mirror for a few minutes, talking to myself.
“Get yourself together, man. You’ve been hallucinating or something. This flight will be over soon and you’ll get to sleep in your own bed again, and all this will be over.”
I stepped out of the restroom and noticed the woman who had been sitting next to me. She had moved a few seats back and to the other side. I sighed. Can’t blame her, I thought to myself. I walked back to my seat. My side of the row had emptied.
I sat down in the aisle seat of the empty row. I closed my eyes, and in a matter of minutes, was asleep.
I looked out the window expecting to see nothing. What I actually saw was war. There were soldiers running around, tanks, and other such types of weaponry. Military planes and helicopters were flying in every direction, some crashing to the ground. A fierce firefight was happening right below us. Bullets could be heard ricocheting off the sides of the aircraft.
A missile smashed into the tail of the airplane. We started spinning, and all I could hear was screaming. We landed with a jolt, but I knew I was doomed. The plan was on fire, and the flames were spreading quickly. I had no chance to escape.
From somewhere above the plane, a liquid fell upon us and began extinguishing the fire. It was not ordinary water, but I knew the aroma. It was coffee.
I jumped out of my sleep with a gasp.
“This plane is going down.”
I stared at him for several seconds, breathing heavily.
“I know what you saw.”
“What I saw where?”
“In your sleep.”
“You know what I dream?”
“I do. This plane will suffer a similar fate.”
“How would you know all this?”
“Worry not about how I know, only what I know. And I know this plane—“
“—this plane is going down, I know.”
“Do you know? Do you know that is what I was going to say or do you know that is what is going to happen?”
“I … I don’t know.”
“So I see.”
He leaned in close to me, and started to whisper.
“The pilot is dead.”’
“The pilot is dead.”
“What?” I repeated, this time louder.
“Speak softly. Do not create an uproar, especially because you would be the target.”
I stared at him.
“Before he died, he locked the door to the cabin. No one else was in there. Now no one can get through the door. The plane is descending, and mountains are ahead. We have thirty-eight minutes.”
“We’ve got to do something.”
“We can do nothing to stop the descent. We do not have the tools to get through the door.”
“I don’t understand how this all happened.”
“Remember I told you that you are causing the plane to crash?”
“That is still true.”
“Because you cheated on your wife.”
I blinked. “What?”
“Last night, you met a woman at a bar. You took her to your hotel room and you slept with her. You decided that since you were on a business trip, no one would be hurt by what you did.”
“Remember, it is the what I know, not the how I know.”
“You’re right. I did do that. But how could that have anything to do with this?”
“You contracted a disease last night from your one-night lover. This rare skin disease spread throughout your body overnight. It is incredibly contagious and can be spread by contact. Including— “
“—shaking his hand.”
“But why is he dead?”
“Many different things may have been at work.”
“So I did do it… through my mistake, I caused the plane to go down.”
I started to cry. “Damn me and my selfishness! My stupidity! Why must I be the way I am? Why must the mistake of one condemn the rest?”
“There is still hope.”
He cupped his hands together, and slowly a parachute appeared between them. “Wear this.”
He picked up the large thick book, and opened it to a page in the middle. He appeared to write something down, then closed the book and looked at me. Smiling, he said, “You will be saved. Just never forget about the parachute. Never take it off. For if you do, that may be the moment the plane crashes.”
“What will happen to the others?”
“Everyone on this plane was given the same choice you were. Not all of them chose the same.” With that, he disappeared.
I quickly strapped the parachute on, and sat back in my seat. A feeling of safety fell over me. I no longer had worries.
“What are you doing?” A woman from behind me blurted. “Why are you wearing a parachute? What an idiot!” She started laughing, as did the other passengers in her row. I sighed. I glanced to the side, and noticed a woman in her early twenties sitting in the seat across from me. She had her legs bent up in front of her with her arms around them. On her back was a parachute. I slowly made my way over to her.
She had a tear rolling down her face. She looked at me, and smiled.
“I did it. I stole the pilot’s wallet. Pick-pocketed him in the airport not two hours before the flight. Kept the money and tossed everything else. I guess there was medicine in there. Turns out he had some major skin allergy that he needed that medicine for. Normally he’s okay without it for a couple days. Something else really bad must have happened too.”
“It wasn’t only you though,” a thick voice from behind us said. The large bearded man stood and turned to the side, revealing the parachute strapped to his back.
“It was all of us,” the elderly woman beside him said. “We all played a part in it. Some of us are being saved because we accepted what we had done, and we believed we could be saved.”
I started to cry, and so did the other three.
I heard a voice in my head say “It is time.” The expressions on the faces of the three others showed they also had heard it. We all stood up, as did several other parachute-bearing passengers, and instinctively formed a line to the exit row with me at the front. Suddenly the exit row door ripped itself off the hinges, flinging itself down to the rocky ground below.
A woman sitting in the exit row yelled out, “What’s going on?”
“That we were causing the plane to crash.”
Her eyes and mouth widened, and she stepped backwards and fell into her chair.
“The crazy man was right?!”
I nodded. “It is time,” I said, and I jumped out of the plane. After pulling the ripcord and releasing the parachute, I looked up to see several other parachutes gliding through the air. Higher above, the woman peered her head out of the exit row door, looking towards the front of the plane. She screamed.
I looked up when I heard the explosion. The plane smashed into the side of the mountain, emitting a ball of fire high into the sky. Two miles away, I landed safely on the ground, with the parachute falling behind me.