Approx. 4,000 words
Let’s shorten his name and call him Tali. He walks between the passenger aisle knowing he will be in heaven soon. Tali believes, or was told to believe what he is doing is what Allah wants from him. He passes more and more faces; he sees their futures, from glaring reflections as they look out the windows as if the windows were crystal balls. He has no remorse. He walks between the waves of flesh like Moses parting the sea.
An old man, ninety or so, with failing hanging curtains of skin, and no hope for what life has left for him, looks Tali’s way and into his eyes. An overweight woman hidden behind glasses is passed, she’s maybe a semi-celebrity, or at least thinks she’s one. A little freckly girl very anxious and kicking the back of the chair of a patient Asian man on headphones- maybe pretending to himself he is already in flight and entering choppy air, or make believing he is a Kamikaze pilot going down or entering battle. There are quiet well mannered Hispanic boys with faded haircuts, both without parents, maybe orphans, maybe omens sitting quietly hiding their evils and intentions to the next orphanage headmaster. Tali sees something beautiful now, something he is promised to have in abundance in the after life after his tasks are finished- a young Arabian woman, beautiful as a princess. She is the only other person to look back at him. They were the same. Tali gazes into her large twinkling brown eyes for a moment almost stumbling over his feet. Then he looks away. He can see she continues staring, but knows he cannot be tempted by such Earthly pleasures. To him he denies love, the woman is part of hell and that is how she will stay. Tali sits and closes his eyes.
Tali opens his eyes an hour later. The stewardess with the square, metal cart is handing a couple their last orange juice fix disregarding sleep to invite such entertaining stares into the clouds. The second thing Tali notices is the back of the Arabian woman’s hair. How dare she show her face to other men without a shawl, Tali thought? The cart is now beside Tali and as the fresh cut flowers in a vase for décor, and the sliced lemons in a bowl hit his nose, it lets him imagine what her hair must smell like. The cart is pushed again releasing another gust and Tali now imagines himself approach her, undoing her bun in her hair and letting the long flowing strands run free. He runs his hands through her silky hair. But how can she wear such American clothing and be so talkative to others, she must be a whore, Tali thought.
The woman sees Tali from the corner of her eye. She now turns completely around and looks back at him. Their eyes attach again like magnets; the metal cart between them the puller. Tali gives himself two more seconds of sin before reaching hold of his medallion and kissing it instead. He looks away from her leaving her eyes wanting more.
“Juice? Coffee?” The stewardess asked. “Water or Soda?”
“No thank you”, replied Tali. The stewardess with her skirt split fashionably in the back turns to others. Tali’s eyes are now pulled to the steel cart. There is something coming from the ice bucket, a fly maybe? No. It comes out a little more, it is bigger than a fly; it’s a fingertip. A charcoaled black finger with a brown rotted fingernail rises. Now other fingers come out. The cold ice doesn’t affect the fingers; the hand rises like hot magma out of a vent in the depths of the freezing ocean bottom. The fingers wrap themselves around the brim of the bucket. The grip tightens as if this hand is pulling up the rest of the monstrous body up through this tiny opening. Tali looks in shock, but kisses his medallion as if he has seen things like this before. He was taught by his parents of some mythical being with certain beliefs, rules and standards that would protect him always, and there are tasks to be done in order to receive rewards. Tali doesn’t follow the rules of the Earth he is based, nor follow right or wrong. He follows the teachings of some sandstone writing by peasants thousands of years ago, writing he hadn’t studied or seen by his own eyes, only told to him by his parents since he was a child. Belief is a way of life. He looks back up and sees the ice cubes overflow and spill out more and more as the entity beneath slides its way to the top. His praying must have worked. The cart is bumped and the hand vanishes. A little black girl in purple shorts and a white shirt with a picture of a singer on it falls to the ground. She was running down the aisle towards the bathroom until she hit her knee on the cart and interrupted Tali’s vision.
“Owwww”, the little girl cries as she is now on her knees. Tali sees the stewardess arguing with an obese, grumpy man behind her about wanting a third serving of dinner. The girl tries to stand up but falls back down. The people sitting across from Tali are sleeping. The teen in front of them is listening to headphones. Tali doesn’t help the little girl. He just sits and watches her in need, wondering who will come and help her up. An eighty-year-old woman sitting behind Tali diagonally is trying to stand to come and help the girl, but her and her husband cannot figure out the seatbelt. The little girl tries to stand again, grabbing hold of Tali’s leg with her hands. He squirms awkwardly, and his upper torso leans away as if the little girl was caked in leprosy. She looks up at Tali with tears in her eyes that her boo-boo is shooting to her nerves and on to her brain. Tali looks back at her emotionless, and could care less. After turning down the decency to help a crying child, now Tali sees the girl change as if she had had leprosy. Her dark skin grows mountainous bumps and rips bloody rivers. Her bloody knee begins to gape open wider and spew maggots. The hands gripping his leg turn to mush and snap backwards. Her long hair dies, curls and snaps off. Her eyes are sucked in through her skull and vanish. Tali’s eyes grow in fear. He kisses his trinket as if it were his only flashlight as he travels a lonely path through darkened woods as the sounds of devils come near.
Someone approaches, the Arabic woman. She bends and picks up the girl. Another woman comes quickly behind her- the little girl’s mother.
“Sorry about that”. The mother says. “I keep telling her to not get out of her seat”.
The Arabic woman hands the child to her mother. “My knee”, the girl whines. “Ahhh, my knee hurts”.
“Let me see”. The mother says looking at her knee. “It’s fine, it’s what you get for not listening to me”. The mother lifts the girl up by her arm and wails on her behind.
“But mommy it hurts”.
“Something else is gonna’ hurt a lot more if you don’t get in your seat”.
The Arabic woman turns to Tali’s now quieted air as the loudness of the scene moves down the aisle.
“Hello, my name is Bareche”. She puts her hand out to Tali, not condemning or even noticing his actions of ill-mannered cowardice.
Tali reaches out his hand and smiles. He smiles not because of Bareche’s big heart or big eyes. He thought of how her nipples had probably looked behind her blouse- maybe dark and jumbled with dots like chocolate cookies, but he forbid himself such thoughts on this Earth, they were forbidden.
“Poor kid”. She said starting a conversation. “Her knee will be okay. So? Where are you headed?”
“Vacation”, Tali replies in a monotone.
“Oh, hey do you mind if I sit with you, it’s pretty boring up there”.
Tali didn’t have anyone next to him. “I’d rather not”, he said.
“Come on, don’t be shy”. She pushes her way past him and into the seat. “So, what’s your name?”
“Wow, that’s a mouth full. What letters didn’t you use?” Bareche smiles. Tali doesn’t.
“I’m sorry” Bareche adds. “I didn’t mean to make fun of you. I think you’re handsome though. Do you think I’m pretty?”
Tali looks away from her and continues to act disinterested. She seems unconcerned about his rude behavior. She is apparently infatuated with his dark handsomeness and chooses to overlook his demeanor. Tali has this beautiful woman flirting with him, but decides to ignore her for the reward of some imaginary dream of twelve virgins. Tali hears something, a creaking sound as if a futuristic vampire began to lift its plastic polymer coffin lid. The overhead compartment across from him was opening slowly. The interior darkness fleeing as the fingers of light reach inward, Tali sees inside. A full-grown man resides there, wedged inside. Maybe it’s not actually human. Patches of fine bleached hair over flesh, limbs that appeared snapped like kindling in order to fit a seven-foot tall adult human male into an airplane’s overhead compartment. There was no face only a flat bloody canvas as if someone had taken its face for a drag behind a motorcycle. Tali kisses the thing around his neck and whispers under his breath.
“Big religious nut?” Bareche states.
Tali doesn’t reply. He keeps his lids shut and his lips glued and puckered, tasting the battery acid sting of the cheap, aged bronze.
“You know, all that really matters is being a good person. I stopped believing in Santa when I was about six. I guess if you really want to believe in something, believe that there is a council high up in the stars, they’re not perfect, but they watch everything you do”.
Tali looks up and the sees the broken, twisted, fetal positioned creature begin to pull shut the creaking, plastic lid of its unusual tomb.
Several feet away hidden by a curtain, the closed cockpit door is seen at the front of the airplane. There is a tiny device stuck to the ceiling. The knob on the cockpit door begins to move as if someone was about to leave.
Suddenly Tali gets a vibration on his leg. He grabs his leg without delay. His pager is going off. Tali stands quickly and runs from his seat and down the aisle without thought. Bareche watches him sprint to the front of the plane.
Once one of the pilots opens the cockpit door and is about to close it on his way to the bathroom, Tali comes diving into him. Tali violently enters the cockpit. He snaps the pilot’s neck and moves quickly to one of the two remaining. Tali moves like a well-oiled, pre-programmed piece of machinery. He was a living, breathing weapon and the only threat on the plane. His only aid was a tiny piece of technology devised to hear with. A stewardess runs to help, Tali turns and strikes, breaking her nose and rendering her unconscious. He now closes the cockpit door.
Bareche stands and walks towards the front of the plane. Everyone is in a frenzy wondering why an Arab man ran to the front of the plane, and why an Arab woman is following. The lights in the plane shut off plunging everyone into darkness except for the eerie moonlight filtering in through dozens of unshuttered windows. Bareche moves faster knowing something is wrong. The cries of children and hushed words of worried grandparents are heard. An emergency lighting system kicks on bathing the airplanes interior in a glow of red. Bareche approaches the cockpit and observes an unconscious, bloody stewardess on the floor in front of the closed door.
“Tali!” She shouts. “Are you in there? What are you doing?”
Tali sits patiently flying the plane with three dead pilots around him. He hears Bareche, but doesn’t care.
“Tali! You can’t do this. Please! There are little babies aboard, and people who don’t know anything about what you’re doing or involved in any way. Innocents! Tali! Innocents!”
Looking down she sees bubbling blood around the woman’s nostrils; this incites her anger and terrifies her at the same time. Spared by her aggressive nature and the flow of adrenaline induced by fear and rage she pounds her fists against the cold, thick steel of the door. A few curious and either brave or stupid passengers stand behind her watching. She pounds harder on the door and awaits a response. Obscured by the glow of the red light more people gather behind her.
Not one of the onlookers steps forward or offers any assistance to Bareche. Maybe they’ve already given up, assuming they will never get beyond the heavy door. Maybe they still don’t understand the situation and are just stupidly gawking. Maybe they are too scared to try to fight for their own lives. She pounds again and yet again. Inside Tali sits in the control seat laughing and shouts “There’s no way you can get in. Don’t punish your fists. Relax and welcome Allah”.
“Allah? Who the fuck is Allah? Have you met him?” She says from the other side of the door.
Tali’s brain filters the muffled words sent through his ears. The sounds he had just previously been mostly dismissing as whining pleading sounds of futility now took a different tone in Tali’s mind. Something he had not anticipated that he would ever hear from someone such as her- a threat!
“Tali, I promise you that if you do not open this door and let me in, I will get in anyway. Let me in now and you will suffer only half the pain I’m capable of inflicting. Make me force my way in and you will beg for death that will not come”.
Tali sits still, still smiling, but not smiling with his full wide grin. He is slightly confused about what she said and how confident she sounded in her delivery. Tali doesn’t respond. Then the banging started again. Bareche is now kicking the door, first at intervals to annoy him, but now they become more frequent. Tali sits wondering why she endures such pain from her foot.
“Stop that!” Tali says amusing himself. “You don’t want to get stress fracture”.
Bareche continues kicking with the same foot. She now grabs the walls and lifts herself up for more leverage to put more force into her kick with each swing. Whack…whack. Went the solid door like a tiny woodpecker pecking away at the thick bark of a Sequoia or more like a brick wall of a school. Nestled comfortably in the pilot’s seat, sealed away from foolishness, Tali heads towards new coordinates. The pounding continues to a point that makes Tali turn and look at the door. There is a dent forming.
“What?” Tali tells himself. “How can that be?”
Outside the door, Bareche keeps swinging and battering the door with her one foot. A few splatters of blood shoot out from her shoe by her pant leg and out the sides of the now loosened sole of her shoe. Whack…whack…whack.
She kicks harder and faster. The momentum and precision of her swing allows this. Another whack snaps her foot at the ankle, but she keeps pounding away. Whack…whack.
Her foot now busts off and hangs from just a piece of skin and strand of cloth from her sock. Bareche isn’t in pain; her rage and adrenaline must be overwhelming it. She doesn’t stop for a second, even as she breathes heavily out of breath. Her foot is a tool now. Whack…whack. The end of her tibia bone drives into the specially made steel door like a battering ram. Tali watches as the bending dent grows. He can’t imagine what heavy, blunt object on the plane could be strong enough to do that type of damage. He puts the plane on autopilot and slowly rises, almost cautiously and now afraid.
“I’m coming for you Tali”. Her voice tells him. Here voice had changed, she sounds sick, her voice was deep and heavy. It was almost creepy, if he hadn’t seen what Bareche had looked like on the plane with his own eyes he would shudder.
Bareche’s fleshy pulp end of her tibia hammers again bashing away at the door. Her thin tibia bone bends with each blow, and then eventually snaps leaving the dense fibula alone on its quest. Another hard swing splits the fibula at the tip making it sharp. The next swing she gets stuck in the door as the marrow oozes through onto the door. She pulls her leg from the gash in the steel. The bone grinds and screeches on its way out.
Tali looks closer at the door and watches some jagged, bloody, white knife leaving the newly opened tear in the cockpit door. Once it exits, he only briefly glimpses through the opening before the object again pierces the steel. Whack…whack…whack…whack.
Her leg bone is used like an axe now and she doesn’t relent. She swings and stabs the hole wider. The hole is large enough to stick a head through. Tali watches worried with the sounds whack…whack…whack- opening an entry into his space. The leg jams again; this time up to the good part of the shin, but Tali doesn’t know that. He is dumbfounded. He is worried about the passengers rising against him. He worries some security personnel may fire a gun through the torn door. He will not fail in his mission to direct the plane to crash and destroy a mass of people. He can’t fail. That is not what is supposed to happen. He thinks Bareche may have figured a way in. He is unaware of the gruesome scene on the opposite side of the door. Bareche is using herself. The shin leaves blood and chunks of meat falling from the twisted metal.
Tali looks through the hole. Bareche is not in sight, but the people behind her are. They look at him from a distance. They glow red and their faces have changed and look mad, almost insane, their eyes’ sockets hollowed black. This must all be another vision, Tali thought. Now Tali sees Bareche climbing up between the two walls, a human can opener her leg torn, battered and bloody. She still has one left if this one fails. Worst of all is her face, the face of a monstrosity, a horrible beast of some kind. Thin green horns rose out of the sockets of her once pretty eyes leaving just fleshy open sores. Nearly panting like some bizarre beast. Saliva drips from her large mouth, which holds rows of dagger-like teeth. She licks her lips and the glint in her eyes affirms his thought that she is a hungry, savage animal about to feed. Drool runs over her now hair covered chin. As she speaks, her rage causes her words to come out with a lisp.
“Talith…iam..cominth…thu…geth…youuuuu”. She sticks her pointed tongue at him then bites it off, as she is in too much of a hurry to get to Tali. Focusing all her energy she swings her body- whack…whack…bam…bam.
“This cannot be real”, Tali said. He is now terrified as he cannot shake himself from his vision. None of his prayers have ever briefly interrupted it; even kissing his medallion has failed to end the nightmare. Sitting in the pilot’s chair outwardly Tali appears calm, but that was far from what is really going on in Tali’s mind. Tali is so upset his stomach is chirring as he stands to pace back and forth and calm himself. He feels coldness across his entire body. He feels his groin area with his hand and realizes he has actually urinated in his pants. This is something Tali has not done since he was a baby.
The pounding has ceased and the little room became engulfed in darkness as the red emergency light was eclipsed by the plane’s passengers. Tali looked up and saw that the passengers were not human at all. They crowded in and a pungent, putrid stench filled Tali’s nostrils. The smell was a thousand times worse than if a thousand rotting corpses surrounded him. The smell was so thick it seemed to coat his tongue in a paint of stink as the air filled his lungs. It became difficult to breath as the stinking heaviness filled them.
The only illumination comes from the dim control panel. The dark nighttime wind slams against the windshield, but there is no glow from the moon, only blackness beyond. Dim reflection from the cabin side of the windshield reveals the horrors that stand behind him. The demon he met as Bareche stands there as does the one-time passengers whom are now sickly, emaciated, old creatures that are large hideous monsters. And then there are the short, more frightenly looking things to be looked upon- the ugly evil things that were once children, their dark skin was peely looking and loose.
The clouds are split. Some of the city at night’s light creeps in. Out the windshield hundreds of feet below is the city of Chicago. The things too horrid for Tali to turn and face are waiting by his shoulders. In dread fear Tali turns to face his inevitable fate.
He sits calm because his heart has permitted him. He wishes his heart would fail in one stinging squeeze, but it doesn’t, he is here for the torture. The charcoaled black, hot, steaming hand of Bareche moves past his earlobe burning it. A long brown fingernail points to what is seen from the windshield, bits and pieces of debris from a recent plane crash surrounded by emergency lights of fire trucks, ambulances, police cars, and chaos. Tali wants to deny to himself the truth of what is happening. He feels frozen in disbelief and the plane he is about to crash just a couple of hundred feet away from the ground seems to be moving, but at the same time seems to never crash. He could see his past out the window, a past where he aimed and killed a plane full of innocent people. Children, babies, fathers, mothers, grandparents, the pilot who begged Tali to stop, pleading that this act will leave his two remaining children orphans as he told his sad story. Tali now remembers a few faces he had looked at on the plane, besides his overwhelming fear he is actually beginning to feel some regret for those he killed, those who are behind him, but its now too late. His deed is done and done well and there is no turning back. Tali acted and acted drastically all under the pretense of doing the work of God, a being he claimed to know the wishes of.
Now, here in the flesh is the true Allah, he exists and is all-powerful. He is the alpha and the omega and he is not happy with Tali’s most recent actions. Tali’s gamble to destroy a mafia owned casino with the airplane was a loss. Concerns of mafia tortures such as hand and knee breaking, flesh searing, and blowtorch burning pared to what concerns Tali now had. Tali could not help but to feel confusion, he was so sure Allah would be grateful for destruction of a casino. He felt that Allah would not care if innocents must also die. If only Tali had lived out his short life being good to await what came in the afterlife- he wouldn’t be in this position. Tali has infinity to experience the rath of God over and over and over.
Her hot breath brushes across Tali’s face as she speaks into his ear the last word that he will ever hear. The only sounds that will reach Tali’s brain through his ears from this moment forth will be Tali’s own screams, and those screams cannot be heard from torn missing ears; they will be felt. “Conthratulathions…Talith. Allah…whoever he isth…must be proud of you”.
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