This is the first time I have ever flown first class. It is also the last flight I ever intend to take. You would think that the universe would adapt to this and give a dying girl an enjoyable final journey. Some part of me hopes that the next world operates under these, more kind and generous, sorts of rules.
Let’s get this out of the way first. Yes, I am going to kill myself. No it is not something you will talk me out of with a comment, regardless of how intelligent and deeply life affirming you think it is. I arrive in Atlanta at 3pm and head to my Airbnb. I will then call Katy, take a bath, drink some wine, then pop all of the Oxy that Katy can muster for me. I haven’t seen her in over five years, but I knew she’d get me what I needed. “Come through” Katy was a high school legend, then a college legend. I’m sure that whatever form her life has taken now, she will, in fact, still come through for me.
At least it’s my choice. At least the world doesn’t get to consume me fully. It cannot take my death from me, though it is trying to do so quite expediently. Three months is a gamble for me at this point. The tumors in my brain are inviting their friends and extended family at a rapid pace. I know what is in store for me. And I also know that I can choose to die as myself. As I chose. It won’t be done to me.
And here we are, the last of my savings spent on this final flight, and he sits next to me. His odor preceded him by at least two rows. This is saying something in first class. I was shocked when he took a seat next to mine, my eyes unconsciously darting to the flight attendant.
“Hello, Hello, Hullo and Hi. Plane lady”
The sneer was on my lips before I realized it and I eyed the man up and down as he sat. His weathered skin and facial growth were reminiscent of the homeless and his unkempt hair was greasy, shifting and falling of its own accord. But the suit he wore must have run in the tens of thousands and he sported a sapphire watch clearly worth even more. My former life on wall street had made me somewhat of an expert at gauging net worth with a glance. This person simply did not compute.
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry. Not a plain woman, no. An airplane woman. Like in the sky. Hopping from cloud to cloud.” He puppeted his explanation with his leathery hands.
I politely said hello and immediately started digging through my bag. I was cautious to clearly dis-invite any further conversation. Not only was his odor overpowering, but he was clearly drunk or high. I pulled the unread novel from my carry-on whose intended function was to give people the “book-off”. I pretended to read throughout takeoff.
It did not keep me from feeling his every jittery move against my arm. Or overhearing every comment he made to those around him. Nor did it relax me to have his attention elsewhere. I had wanted this flight to be calm, meditative, reflective. Instead it was plagued by this wreck of a person.
Things got worse once food was served. The man hopped in his seat a couple of times and grabbed the strip of tinfoil that he had specifically requested. I watched out of the corner of my eye as he pulled out a small leather satchel and piled what looked like powdered incense onto the foil. He then retrieved a glass tube from his interior jacket pocket, put a lighter under the foil and began inhale through the tube.
I couldn’t believe my eyes. This guy was chasing the dragon, sitting in first class. I was too shocked to call out for an attendant. After a second hit he looked up at me, his eyes suddenly become shards of glacier ice.
“By now. Plain girl”. His smile was crooked.
The light shifted as I tore my gaze from his. Not just the light. Everything shifted. I had been so focused on his face, I hadn’t noticed that my entire surroundings had been ripped away and replaced. My feet spoke up and told me that I was standing. My face reported the slight breeze. This gave me the sensation of falling as my mind attempted to piece together what must have occurred between being on the plane and now. Then my stomach succeeded in gaining my full attention as I retched on the pavement at my feet.
“Why are you here Plane girl?” He seemed genuinely perplexed. “Took the ride then? Is that how you do it? Took my ride?”
I recovered slowly and turned my back on him to examine my surroundings. I was standing in the middle of a street. More accurately, it was what had once been a street. The vegetation was certainly winning the battle here and had for some time. Everything around me was destroyed. Abandoned. It looked like it had been for decades. But it wasn’t just that.
To my left was the overgrown remains of a store marked “IVE & D ME”. I could see an old style soda counter through the patchwork of ferns overtaking the storefront. The remains of the cars around me all looked like they were from the movie Grease. This street looked like it had perished in the 1950’s and simply never recovered.
“Where the hell are we?” I spun to face him.
“One of the other places. That’s all. All that’s important. I gotta go though lady. Gogo with the get go…. so…” He looked at me expectantly. As if he were trying to abandon a dog, waiting for me to walk away.
“You did something to me. That smoke. You got me high. What did you do to me?”
“Nono. That’s my way, airplane lady. Nice lady. That’s how I twist and turn. No one else. Not you either. My way took me. Don’t know what took you.”
“You’ve been here before?”
“Nono. Not here here. Wait plane lady…. This your first trip trip? You been to Other before? Others before?”
“Nono.” I mocked his voice. This was insane. I had no idea where I was, how I had gotten here and my only way of finding out was through this spastic madman. Being someone who is rapidly dying, it was amazing just how lost I suddenly felt.
“Ohno. Oh no. Sorry airplane lady. The trip trip is rough and wrinkly. To start. At first.” He turned his back to me peering down the street for so long that I soon joined him, looking for whatever he was so interested in.
“It’s coming coming!” The man grabbed me like a vice and jerked me from the pavement.
A second later I was nursing a severely bruised arm behind the soda counter of the Five & Dime. I followed his lead and peered over the counter out onto the street before us. Suddenly it was a flurry of activity. Men running and trampling children. A woman ripping her babies from a stroller and trying to hold its bouncing head still as they darted away. A car crashed into the storefront across the street.
And then I saw them. The things chasing them. They were a blur of hair, leather, horns and fangs. Low to the ground but with arched backs, almost like a protective ferret. They were fast. Beyond fast. I saw a man eviscerated mid-stride before I could remotely comprehended what had been chasing him. Over and over it happened. The storefront was a movie screen framing a film where greasers and full time housewives were torn to ribbons and scattered in the blink of an eye. It was only after the blood stopped falling that the predatory creatures would slow for a moment to complete their gruesome detail work.
Time passed. The activity outside began to dwindle. The sun began to set, but the shock remained. I felt disconnected in a way that I cannot even begin to describe. I’d not moved a muscle for some time before the man spoke up.
“Eaters moved on I think. Eatin’s done and we should sleep.” He proceeded to gather some detritus, the content of which I refused to think about, and made us a makeshift nest behind the counter. He even found a fairly serviceable tarp in the back room to create a ceiling above our carved out space.
“Where are we?” I tried again as we lay facing each other.
“Another place airplane girl. You twisted. Twisted from your world. Don’t know how. For me I gotta let go. Full stop let go. Like black out everything that everything ever ever was, anytime and no place. That’s how I twist. I see our world is all negligence. Then I twist out. It’s ok plain girl. You can come. Come with me to the funny house. The key is in the funny house. Then I help you home. Back on the plain plane. ” He smiled and closed his eyes as the remaining light faded.
I don’t remember closing mine. But I must have since the sun is rising as I write this. The man is still still snoring beside me. I’m hoping to get answers today and will continue to journal whatever I find.