Chapter 1… Pages 1, 2 and 3
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I hate to fly. Loathe it. Why I am a pilot, I have no idea. And I get a headache every time the ‘wherefore’s creep up, so… I try not to think about it. But the flying makes me queasy and the thought that I am wasting my time makes it worse. There are only three passengers this run. Three passengers in 36 seats. Ridiculous.
Why am I flying a mostly empty jet? Ow. Temple throb.
Why am I flying at all? Ow. OW.
Who are these people? Ow. Christ.
Don’t think about it. But, still…
Spooky guy up front, intensely scribbling in notebooks full of numbers. I’d wonder if he hadn’t washed in months except that he looks like he’s been showering with his clothes on.
Just over the wing, Susie Hippy-Dippy. Malaysian or Filipino or something. Smells like a burning rose-bush as she stares wide-eyed out the window. I’m fighting my instinct to like her… to trust her. Something in her is poisonous.
At the back, the professional. I guess. He’s just another kid. Mid-20′s. (They’re all so young.) Even sitting he flows and purposefully runs his eyes around the space. To me. To the Scribbler. To Sunshine Flowerpot. And then behind him as if he knows exactly where the spare parachutes are.
Smallest group so far. And creepiest. But there’s the lurking migraine again, so forget it.
I put my headphones back on. Where was I? For all my complaining, it’s not been a bad flight. Despite the disturbing passengers. Despite the storm that for whatever reason I can’t seem to get above… I’m already mostly through Peter Gabriel’s “POV”. Just a few more songs and we’ll be on the ground.
The digital readout says we make it all the way to 2 minutes, 32 seconds into track 09 before the shit hits the fan. Or rather, a person does. Somehow I hit someone. In midair. The body is headless. Its casually loosened tie flaps as it hangs on the glass for a second before sliding starboard into the turbine.
And, then, it’s gone… followed quickly by the engine.
Somewhere far below, the landscape had become hypnotic. For a long while it was empty. Empty. But now it felt as if they were driving through the same intersection over and over and three of the four riders fell into dozing quickly.
The beast in Manolo’s was full of way too much caffeine to nod off, despite boredom’s best efforts. She watched the others sleep fitfully as if she could buy and sell everyone of them, but wouldn’t unless she didn’t have an easier way of dispatch.
A gorgeous, equally stylish, Indian woman two seats forward had fallen asleep first. Her top of the line digital SLR must’ve taken a hundred photos before she realized the scene out of the windows was empty as hell and held no hope of getting any better. The epitome of ‘multicultural’, whatever journeys she’d been on finally caught up with her and the bus rocked her to sleep.
Across from her, another no-nonsense woman had drifted off as well. Her scent was liquid confidence mixed with a high-end cocktail lounge and the other passengers were glad when she fell to dreaming, because there was something about her that said, “I can’t predict myself. How can you hope to?”
She was also traveling exceptionally light, which was not necessarily a good sign.
The only male on the bus, besides the driver, sat directly behind the front doors. The slight Orthodox Jew was the last to board and seemed to take the seat simply so he wouldn’t have to look at anyone else on the trip. He fell asleep, face first, into a yellowed and beaten book of circles and spirals and sigils.
Regardless of how deeply the four passengers did or did not sleep, they all were wide awake once the perpetual rain hitting the windows suddenly went red.
Aubrey and Svetlana stared up at the hole in the ceiling. It made a tunnel through the floors above, already drizzle was wetting their dumbstruck faces.
Just seconds before, they and Cavendish locked the last of the bodies away. That left the three of them to breathe twitchy sighs of relief that would only last a moment.
A breeze had nudged the doors open an inch and the air suddenly screamed, a shadow rushing through the tiny gap. In an instant the man vanished, wrapped in darkness that tore through the mahogany and then steel and then brick and then plaster… And, finally, out into the night, stories above.
Somewhere along the way, Cavendish’s head came off. It bounced like a Keno-ball down the sudden chute, before hanging up on a bent piece of rebar between the first and second floors.
His dying eyes stared down at the two women with a very surprised expression, until his brain caught up with the body’s predicament and their light faded away.