by Jeromy Cox
Chapter One – Flight Plans
Part A – Flight Plans
Cooper woke from a dream of sparks and straps and figures bound to chairs as the car sped down the 163 and then banked up to join the 5 freeway. They passed the old El Cortez hotel and instead of continuing on the freeway, the car exited on Hawthorne and curved around and down through Little Italy. Cooper checked the car stereo to see that it was early. 5:46 in the morning. A dark and cold morning still filled with headlights. They continued past Mona Lisa’s, which made one’s stomach growl. At the bottom of the hill, the car turned right with the Star of India and a number of sailboats on the left. They were now surrounded by a flood of taxi cabs all streaming in the same direction past Palm trees on either side of the street. They continued past Orange buzzing helicopters gearing up at the Coast Guard station. These were the same helicopters Cooper, as a child, saw from his fathers house, peering through his father’s telescope. His father had a place across and above the now approaching Lindbergh Field. Though it was dark out, one could make out the strange mural of Charles Lindbergh on the side of the commuter terminal. In the large painting, Lindbergh stands inexplicably holding a toy plane, which made one think of his missing child. Cooper never liked that painting.
“Too soon?” he said. Her silence was answer enough.
Cooper was getting good at pushing Wendy’s buttons. He knew where all of them hid. He knew exactly which buttons to push, in which sequence and at the exact right moment, to win an argument. Pride is not what he should have been feeling. They had been fighting all morning. Heck, for days. None of the arguments were really worth remembering. It’s as if these were all smaller tertiary arguments tumbling towards one larger boiling argument.
Parking was a nightmare. The need to find parking as close as possible to the entrance brought out the best in people, thought Cooper. The sarcasm was high with a chance of pettiness. Wendy really was doing Cooper a favor. She normally wouldn’t wake until eleven or twelve. She was a late sleeper. They found parking and he wrestled his three bags from the trunk of the car. Wendy started a long phone conversation that Cooper didn’t really care about. He insisted that the two of them rush through the parking lot, even though they were quite early. His flight wasn’t scheduled to take off until a little after nine.
The airport was much busier than he had expected. A number of people were returning home from the holidays. There were lots of military returning home. Some were being welcomed home by young lovers in short skirts. They would jump into the young service mens arms and spin like dervishes. Others were welcomed by the joyful hugging and crying of mothers. Some had no greeters at all. Self important business men scurried about. Busy immigrant workers polished, swept and cleaned quite near everything in sight. There were no white people cleaning, not even one. Coincidentally, Cooper overheard an upset gentlemen’s portion of a conversation, complaining about the lack of jobs and his fear of immigrants. Another man with a hobble did his best to push an older lady in a wheel chair.
Cooper had always loved the airport. This had always been true. Women, whom he loved, always seemed to dress up for the airport. You could tell they wanted to look their best for that special someone on the other side. Fresh faces for long unseen relatives and lovers. All manner of reasons. Beautiful girls, everywhere.
Cooper, himself, had dressed up. An expensive new Tommy Bahama dress shirt over an expensive t-shirt from Banana Republic. A tuft of his charcoal black hair escaped out the front of his new cap from the Village Hat Shop. He wore freshly pressed dress pants and of course, because it was Cooper, he had to wear some inappropriately brightly colored sneakers that spoiled the entire attempt and screamed, “Attention, attention. I’m looking for attention.”
The two of them grab coffee’s at the all too expensive chain coffee stand. Well in actuality, Cooper got himself a mocha. The coffee habit was new to him. He’d avoided most vices up until this point in life, but he was really indulging in this whole new coffee experience. Sure, mochas were more of a kids drink, but this was all new to him, like this quickly approaching job interview. This new job opportunity was in New York. They were actually flying him out for the interview. He was really going to have to fake that this type of thing was normal to him, because it was not. In fact, together, the couple were about two paychecks away from eviction. Wendy would be fine. Her parents were well off enough and would always be there for her in case of an emergency. Childishly, Cooper was jealous and resented this fact. He should have been happy for her… but he wasn’t. That’s Cooper.
The clicking of heels on the gold speckled fifties style flooring, raised Coopers head. A beautiful brunette woman briskly walked across the terminal. She bounced in all the right places, Cooper thought. Gorgeous. Wendy, at this precise moment, broke from her phone conversation, to ask him his flight number. Did she catch him devouring the bouncy brunette who’s cleavage was now fully on display as she bent to fix her luggage? Cooper snapped, “There isn’t a flight number. I just now the it’s supposed to be at this gate. It’s a chartered flight.” Cooper blurted loudly and all too defensively. “I’m supposed to meet someone.”, he finished. Wendy, brushed his attitude off and returned to her own thoughts. People watching was fun for Cooper. Voyeurism seemed low enough on the perversion list, if there were such a thing. A blonde had so many purposeful holes in her designer jeans, that it seemed it would have been much easier to just have gone with shorts. Near the entrance, a large Caribbean man helped people find their way. Three boys chased each other, playing Cowboys and Indians. This all seemed like a television sitcom put on just for him. The chalk like music being pumped through the airport was interrupted by a rotation of security announcements that appeared at regular intervals.
Just then, Cooper noticed a tall lanky gentleman dressed, chauffeur like, in all black except for his alarmingly loud silver belt buckle that he hooked his thumb around to rest his left hand on his hip. The man wore some kind of gold pin that looked like an eagle holding a cluster of arrows. He was holding a small white sign that simply read, CTP. Cooper jumped up to make his way to the man with the sign. Wendy, startled from her boyfriends abrupt burst of energy, exclaimed, “Where are you going?” Cooper stopped, pointed and said “The guy with the sign.” The closer Cooper got to the bald man in the suit, the more he recognized how terrifying his weathered countenance was. He also looked sickly. His approach slowed as the man bent for a significant hack. The sound of the man’s cough was disgusting. As the man finished coughing and rose to his full 6’5″ plus height, Cooper’s cracked smile came into view. “What?” Barked the old man. “CTP.” Cooper muttered. The first letter came out rather meek, but he finished with a strong attempt at bravado. The entirety of the three letters came out rather sing songy. Obviously, Cooper wasn’t good with strangers. The old man coughed again as he wiped his lower lip. With the same hand he reached into his coat pocket and pulled out a kerchief and moved it to his other jacket pocket as if that was not what he was looking for. He then rustled back into the previous pocket to rest a large plastic card. It looked to be a weathered, almost chewed upon, blue and gold boarding pass. Before Cooper could even begin to fathom how disgusting this current action was, the old man was foisting the placard into Cooper’s stunned hand. The germs that swam through Cooper’s imagination stupefied the moment. He just stood there, staring down at his infected hand. His head was filled with dread and silence. All of the airport noise dissipated. Everything was quiet. The only sound he could make out was his own breathing. The silence was blown away by an explosive and loud tearing sneeze from the man. The sounds of the airport all rushed back into real time, at once, and Cooper couldn’t make out what the sickly man said. “Zit or pear?” It sounded like. “What?” Cooper asked. His disgust had shaken loose a hint of confidence. The old man leaned down and shouted “Sit over there.” Pointing a gnarled finger to a corner near some windows overlooking the tarmac. “Your flight number is 1937. Sit over there.” the man finished, ghastly.
Cooper turned quickly and made in the direction of the window seats. He could hear the large man behind him breaking out into a coughing attack. Cooper looked down to the boarding pass while avoiding the small toddler crossing his path. He could barely make out the weathered “W” on the card. The rest of the type was far to small and worn to decipher. He thought he could make out the word “Palomino”, but really, no. He then narrowly dodged the attractive woman dressed in all black. Cooper turned, continuing to walk backwards, to check out her knee high black leather biker boots. Nice.
He stumbled past Wendy as if he had forgotten her. She rose and collapsed her phone, fluidly slipping it into her bag as she slung it across her shoulder. “Cooper, wait up. Where are you going?” She raised her gate to catch up with him. Cooper half turned and muttered under his breath, “that guy was being an asshole. I had to tell him off.” Wendy turned and squinted to see the woman dressed in black trying to help the tall man bent over coughing.
He wasn’t a germaphobe, that was just disgusting, Cooper assured and kept telling himself.
As the two of them went to sit, Wendy chose the one seat that made Cooper have to sit next to an old hippie lady and her potted plant taking up a full seat. Wendy did this on purpose, Cooper thought to himself. He nestled into his leather seat, trying to avoid making eye contact with the stranger.
“Do you want a bagel?” Wendy asked.
“No, I’m fine.” he huffed.
Wendy shrugged her shoulders and walked off. Why fight for a seat when you’re just going to get up in a few seconds to race off to buy a bagel, Cooper wondered At this point, it would be too obvious and awkward to get up and move one seat over away from the lady. Perhaps, she would leave him alone.
Promptly, the older hippie woman tried her best to strike up a conversation. She went on about how flying used to be fun or this about that. He finally got a chance to really look at her and it just reassured his judgements. Her neck, which he imagined was all leathery and tortoise like, was covered in silver and turquoise jewelry. As she continued to blather, she started to remind him of Shirley McClaine or Bette Midler with a hint of Mr.T. On her hands, she also wore these huge turquoise rings and she jangled as she moved. Good luck with the metal detector, Cooper thought to himself. Something else was bothering him. There was a wheeze that escaped from deep within her after each exhale or when she finished a sentence. This aggravated Cooper to no end.
At this point, he was tuning out most every thing she was saying. His mind floated to thoughts of peanuts an wether he would get a seat with enough leg room. Tuning her out worked fine for awhile until he realized there was a pause in her, until recently, ceaseless chatter. He looked to her. Damn it, he thought. She had asked him a question. Wasn’t she? A question he wasn’t paying the slightest attention to. Quick, rewind the last couple of sentences. Nothing. Something. Something about what he does. His job?
“Uuuh… I’m a writer.” Cooper threw out like a fly fisherman. He was trying not to sound condescending while actually he was being condescending. Or was it conceit? Either way, in his mind, he was above this conversation and he just felt trapped by his own autonomic decency.
“Oh, so am I.” She piped.
“I’m on my way to a job interview. I’m primarily a secretary, but they needed someone with creative writing skills…. blah blah blah.”
Cooper waited for her to take a breath and interjected with a resounding “Exactly.” Nodding and rolling his head in a patronizing fashion.
Something had changed. Though she wouldn’t show it, she’d grown agitated and ticked off. Something he had said, or the way he looked. That’s when he looked down and noticed the woman had the same kind of boarding pass. Blue and gold with small type, only, hers read in large type “C”. And hers didn’t look mangled and chewed. This just aggravated him even more.
Wendy returned with a toasty bagel and a healthy disposition. She stood there, reveling in Cooper’s discomfort. One of the older woman’s wild gesticulations careened her massive purse into his hand and knocked it and his phone, ID and boarding pass to the floor. The contents of her purse splayed out everywhere in front of them like a crime scene at a Phish concert. Simultaneously and instinctually, they both bent over to retrieve the fallen items and seriously bonked their heads. With the proximity change, Cooper noticed that she smelled of pot roast, and not an appetizing one, at that. The kind of pot roast you have to pick at over and over again, so as not to offend the chef. “Why me?” he thought. Wendy, of course, found this all too hilarious, but she did her best to keep it all in as she sat.
“Oh Wendy, this is uh…” his brain scattered for a recollection of the woman’s name. Quick, what was it? This was his big chance to pawn the old broad off onto his unsuspecting girlfriend. The woman’s face wasn’t helping. Far from helping. She was still sour about something.
“Carol, my dear.” she offered dryly, reaching across Cooper to extend her hand to Wendy.
Cooper reached down and picked through the mass of Carol’s belongings, on the ground, to retrieve his things.
“I am a writer. I have an intimate relation with words.” Carol shared with Wendy. This thought grossed Cooper out for some reason.
“You see, I have a pet peeve of sorts. I loathe the word “exactly.” Carol, sat cross legged on the floor and gathering her things. She returned them to her purse as she continued her tirade “So finite, so sure, so dismissive. A conversational tool to end someone else’s speech. Nothing, and I mean nothing, is rarely so precise. Half the time, the other person hasn’t even finished speaking. This was basically a trick to commandeer or highjack a conversation.”
“Exactly.” Cooper dramatically blurted. He couldn’t help himself.
Wendy shot him a look and shook her head as she turned to commiserate with her new best friend, Carol. Wendy chimed in with “Oh, I agree.” This started a conversation that Cooper wanted to be no part of. He rose and panned the room, looking for a restroom.
On the way to the restroom, Cooper made mental notes of the tomboy in the tight baseball shirt he passed. The all too affectionate giggling girls at the Sbarro, sitting beneath the large plasma screen showing a cheesy seventies movie with OJ and James Brolin. The Russian looking woman in the fur cap being hit on by the skycap. So many beautiful women. Was he really going to break up with Wendy? Should he do it before he gets on the plane? Was he selling out by taking this job in New York? It wasn’t exactly a ticket to any creative writing honors, but it was a job where he could write every day and his current writing career wasn’t exactly taking flight. If he did get this job, he would surely be have to move to the Big Apple, which excited him greatly. He’d never been. Wendy had not been so excited. She had no desire to leave her family and friends for a far off land. To say there had been some arguments would most likely start an argument. Come to think of it, it was probably best she didn’t come along. Besides, it would be good for her. She was younger than Cooper and in all honesty, she’s was really out of his league. Unfortunately, she was born with an all to easily extinguishable self esteem. Wendy doesn’t want to move to New York.
Cooper dodged an exiting pilot as he entered the tile and stainless steel restroom. The smell of urine covered in cleaning solvent invaded his nostrils as he shimmied up to an open urinal. A rush of thoughts flooded his mind. Cooper was mad and felt out of control. It felt like the world was always pushing him up to a big bowl of cynicism, and as much as he fought it and tried to resist, the world was winning. His convictions, morales, beliefs and hopes were all readying to abandon him and fly away. Something wasn’t right about this trip. If he took this job, it would surely break them apart and crush her heart. She may even be suicidal. How would that look? Break up with the girl, jump on a plane and she ends herself. Maybe he should just go home with Wendy and work things out. Find another way to answer all of the bills. Really work out all those arguments and find out what was truly going on. Reasonable thoughts soon flushed away and Cooper found himself washing his hands. He was lost in his head. He didn’t notice the attendant asking him a question or that his phone was chirping at him. He just stood there, bent over a wash basin washing his hands and staring vaccantly. When he looked into the mirror, he didn’t see himself. He saw someone else. Someone he was losing recognition with. “Who’s right?”
Cooper returned from the bathroom and plopped himself down next to Wendy who was staring at her phone.
“Is the crazy woman gone?” Cooper smiled.
“You can be such a dick.” Wendy sighed. “What? What?! She was creepy and smelled. Sue me.”
“She was a nice person. She was flying to New york as well.” Wendy said.
Cooper nabbed Wendy’s bagel and took an all too big of a bite. She tried to stop him and missed. “I asked you if you wanted one. Why didn’t you…” before she could finish Cooper exclaimed. “Uh, is this cinnamon raisin? I hate cinnamon raisin.” He attempted to return it to Wendy’s hand but she knocked the bagel back onto his shirt. The sour cream acted as an adherent, for a moment. The bagel then fell to his lap. Wendy quickly stood up and stormed off. Cooper, looking down to his crotch, called out “Wendy.” He removed the sticky bagel and jogged after Wendy. “Wendy. Wait up. Where are you going.” He caught up to her and turned her around. She was crying. Why? “Babe, what’s the matter?”
“Nothing’s the matter.” she lied.
“Look, I can’t handle this right now. Everything is going to be okay.” Cooper sighed.
“Is it Coop?” her gaze blasted through his head. More serious than he’d ever seen her. Inside, he trembled.
“Look, everything is going to be fine. I’ll do this job interview and then we’ll figure things out after that. Look, I probably won’t even get past the first interview… wait.” A thought had come over him and wiped his mind like a clean slate. He turned and looked off. “Did you say that lady was going on a job interview?” Wendy couldn’t believe him. Her skin turned ice cold with anger. “Coop, this is the part where you really pay attention to me and don’t get side tracked. This is a telling moment on how much or wether you even love me or not.”
“I love you babe. I love you so much, but… but, that lady. She’s on the same flight as me. I think we’re interviewing for the same job.” Cooper, slumping back into his chair, was now onto a whole different emotion. Strangely, this some how had a sobering effect on Wendy.
“Well then, you better bring your A game. It sounded like she really knew her stuff.”
Cooper laughed, looking around, and then laughed again, as if to chase off such a ridiculous idea. He could write circles around the woman. What could she write? Pot brownie recipe’s? Unfortunately for Cooper’s confidence, Wendy looked serious.
Just then, the two of them noticed a commotion. A woman, far off, gasped. There was a group of people crowded around something near the entrance that was making a lot of noise and some airport security raced towards it. A woman screamed “Someone help.”
“Now boarding, flight 1937. That’s flight 1937. Again, now pre-boarding flight 1937.” came across the intercom. “We’re taking boarding passes A through C. Please make your way to the gate.” the message continued. That was Cooper’s flight. Wendy was still intrigued by the distress occurring near the restrooms. Cooper looked to make sure he had his phone and his boarding pass, wishing it were a lower letter, which he knew it was not. Maybe if he looked at it again, it would miraculously change. Something like when you push the elevator button over and over again, hoping that one last push has more weight than another. Wait. Wait a moment. The boarding pass read “C”. “C” and not “W”. Magic. No. No, this was was not magic, this was the old lady’s pass. Cooper just stood there looking down at it, confused. He then slowly raised his head and then looked around. His head ratcheted back and forth scanning the terminal, not really wanting to find her. Blonde in biker boots, military guys, Carribean guy. Nothing. She was nowhere to be seen. An out. A genuine break. He must have looked stupid or something, because Wendy asked what he was thinking or doing. Cooper let slip, “This isn’t my boarding pass, it’s the old lady’s.”
“Carol? That’s Carol’s boarding pass?” Wendy worriedly asked and continued, “We have to find her and return it to her.”
“What? No, no. If I have hers, than she has mine.” Cooper pled. He then looked to the gate and noticed two passengers had been let through. “There going to board and this early pass is going to go to waste. I don’t want to confuse things.” Cooper squirmed.
“Cooper, wait right here. I’ll go find her. Don’t move.”
Cooper couldn’t believe Wendy was taking her side. “Wendy, she’s the competition. She’s the enemy. I need to get this job and any advantage…” Wendy cut him off. “Will you relax. She’s an older woman. She’s not your mortal enemy.”The stress and emotion was obviously getting to Cooper. He probably wasn’t paying attention to Wendy anymore.
“Wait here. I’ll find her.” she asked. She could tell she was losing him and she got serious. “Is this how you would treat me when we get older?”
Cooper had no idea what this meant. He should stay put. He should get his luggage. He should definitely stay put, but the boarding pass. Wendy gave up on him and began to slowly walk away to go look for Carol. Without releasing a sound, from about twenty feet off, she mouthed the word “stay.” All Cooper could do was answer with a silent “I love you.” Wendy turned and disappeared into the crowd.
The intercom squelched “Last call for boarding passes A through C.”
Wendy passed the crowd of people, she was so worried and so certain it was Carol lying on the floor. Had she slipped and fallen onto the old fifties granite speckled floor? A security officer was pushing people back that were rubber necking, trying to get a glimpse. A tandem of paramedics approached with a rolling gurney. The security guards pushed even more and this gave Wendy a chance to see who was lying on the ground. A tall old man dressed in black. Someone was already, unsuccessfully, trying to give him CPR. He was as white as the floor he lied on. This gave Wendy the shivers. She felt clammy as if all of the blood had drained from her body. Uh oh. Light headed. She needed to sit down. She turned to see a row of rocking chairs the airport set out as a novelty. That would be a good place to sit. Then she noticed Carol was sitting in one of the rocking chairs, feverishly tearing her purse apart like rabid wolverine. Things flew. Wendy raced to her side and tried to interrupt her actions. Carol was mumbling to her self. “Where is it? This can’t be. Who did this to me?” Wendy wrestled to stop Carol’s violent hands. “I’m so stupid” Carol cried. She violently hit herself on the thigh. “Carol no, it’s alright. It’ going to be alright.” Wendy pleaded.
Carol turned and bored into Wendy with a deathly stare. “Are you kidding me? I have the wrong boarding pass. Everything is far from alright.” Her voice sounded like sizzling bacon. Wendy looked down to see Carol’s right hand tightening it’s grip on her purse. Tighter and tighter to the point the hand looked broken and unreal. The sound of the leather collapsing was disturbing. Wendy was now afraid to tell Carol that Cooper mistakenly had Carol’s pass, but she did. Carol’s stress streaked face relaxed a bit and then a bit more, like huge pieces of ice falling from a dying glacier. “Bring me to him.” Carol demanded.
The two of them raced off past the rising gurney, through a crowd and towards where Coop was supposed to be. Supposed to be.
Cooper was further off at the gate talking with an attendant.
“Sir, we already called you ten minutes ago. We’ve already let the other passengers on.” said the attendant.
Cooper rather nervously, “I know, I know. I had to take a leak.” This is not how Cooper normally talked and it sounded like it. Then again, Cooper normally didn’t lie. He cocked his head and half smiled as if to endear himself. The attendant asked another female attendant to come and help. She was stacked, thought Cooper. Not a good thought to have. Even worse is that he was staring and now, finally he was looking her in the eyes. Cooper continued to try and lie and assuage himself onto the plane when his gaze shifted a bit. He could see something in the reflection of the large window that overlooked the tarmac. Wendy and the old lady. His eyes scrunched up and his shoulder s lifted. He turned to see them approaching, walking alongside the line that had formed to board the plane. Wendy looked pissed. Why was he so in love with her right now? At this moment. It didn’t make any sense. Her cute ball of a nose. The little vests she wore. Her nutmeg skin color. Her beautiful, beautiful face. The same face that was angry and marching towards him. The attendant behind him was asking him “Sir this and Sir that” or some nonsense. Cooper took a deep breath in and sighed and closed his eyes. A split second of calm. When he opened his eyes, he expected reality to be upon him. Instead, the female attendant was gone and the original attendant was asking him to step through the door. He looked back to find Wendy and realized it wasn’t good. One of the other passengers in line thought Wendy and the old lady were trying to take cuts and let them know about it. A huge argument erupted and Wendy was trying to stop the old lady from getting decked. Whoah. Spoke to soon. The old lady landed a haymaker on the passenger. The attendants were now trying to rest them apart. Screaming. Beyond that commotion, Cooper could make out the old man, that had given him his boarding pass, on a gurney as it wheeled past. The man looked dead. For some reason, this made Cooper cough. Like when you see someone else yawn, and then you yawn. Right there, did you yawn?
Cooper strangely turned and walked towards the door in what felt like slow motion. He opened the door and and a rush of exterior wind and noise rushed in like a banshee. And light, so much light, blinded him. Cooper forced the door even more and pushed through to the outside.
Part B – Tarmac
The sunlight streaking across the top of the airport was blinding. Cooper shielded his eyes and nearly toppled down the stairs to the oil stained tarmac below. Cooper thought the door would open onto one of those suspended tunnel ways. No, he was to walk down the ever so steep and rickety transportable stairs to the actual tarmac. The roar of jets taking off was literally deafening. Cooper couldn’t cover his ears because of the three bags that he was holding. He clenched his ticket and I.D. between his teeth, trying not to touch his lips or tongue to them. In uncomfortable situations , Cooper would often hum the Beatles song, Obladi Oblada, to himself. He wasn’t really aware he was doing it, but it sure helped to calm his nerves. The wind picked up from a passing DC-9 and his ticket began to flap and beat him about the face. The precarious stairs creaked and swayed with each measured step down. He must have been thirty feet up in the air. Hmmm hmmm hmm, hmmm hmm hmm.
Reaching the safety of the ground, Cooper let’s out a fist pumping “yeah” in his head . There’s a red carpet of sorts that leads from the stairs, past a cart for non carry on luggage, to a small canopy near a set of stairs leading to the plane. The plane looked smaller than a normal plane, but larger than a private jet. Something in between. They were really going all out. How much does it cost to charter things like this, Cooper thought to himself. He dropped off one of his bags to a baggage handler with really bushy mutton chops. The man wore huge orange noise canceling headphones and was dressed in a blue all in one Dickie with a name tag that read Denny. Cooper smiled at Denny. Denny returned a look questioning Cooper’s gender, or at least that’s what it felt like to Cooper. He made his way further along the carpet to the canopy which was now violently blowing from the wind and exhaust of passing planes. There were two men in front of him beginning to board the plane. Cooper climbed the stairs and made his way on to the plane.
His eyes adjusted to the darkness of the plane interior and started to realize that this plane looked somewhat old and unfamiliar. The style just looked dated. Perhaps the fake wood paneling passed as swank and expensive in the seventies, but now it just looked worn and tacky. The plane didn’t look this bad from the outside, but now that he was making his way down the aisle, he couldn’t help but think, “Will this thing fly?”
Surprisingly, there were already a number of other people already on the plane. The first four rows were obviously first class but didn’t really have any seat markings like a number or letter. The people sitting there looked sort of uneasy and tired. One lady who looked all fancy had a small white dog in her lap. Cooper picked up his pace. He couldn’t stand first class. Of course, Cooper had never ridden in first class, so time would tell. Passing a strangely placed bathroom and through a curtain, Cooper felt a cascade of joy pour over him. The entire rear section of the plane was completely empty. Sure, the seats would soon enough fill up with a throng of annoying travelers, but for this moment, Cooper could hold onto the dream of a cabin all to himself. He couldn’t count how many times he had been the only person in a theater (yes, Cooper loved to go to the movies by himself) and just as the movie was to start, in would walk some loud couple or a family of savages. This was bucket list material that made Cooper smile as he relaxed into his seat. A window seat at that.
The bathroom was right in front of his seats, so there wasn’t a drop down tray or a place to put his laptop bag. He reached into the bag and retrieved his computer and a Trail Mix bar. “Crap! Did I remember my power cord? Where is it?” Cooper wondered. He opened the tattered gold colored curtains that covered the small window. He could see more people approaching the plane and he could see his other bag atop the luggage cart. It was precariously balanced… no it wasn’t. Just at that moment, it fell to the ground. Thank god, nothing important was in there.
He looked in the pouch in front of him. The plastic coated safety one sheet was missing. There was a copy of some generic magazine entitled Galaxy with a picture of the new Mexican president on the cover. He thumbed through all of the innocuous articles until he got to a wad of used gum stuck to some of the pages. The arm rests were a bit sticky and the air smelled smoky and gross. He was bored beyond belief but couldn’t find anything to hold his interest. He ventured opening his laptop and listening to some music or get some writing done, but he wanted to ration his battery life. He had brought a book for the flight, but the truth is, he’d only crack it for ten minutes to look learned and well read to other passengers. He should be brushing up on CTP, the company he was interviewing with later that evening. He had heard that it was important to know as much as possible about your potential employer before you even entered the building. Somehow, this preparedness would serve him in the interview, but it all just sounded boring.
Where was everyone? Where were the stewardesses? His second favorite thing about airports. Surely, they would be taking off soon, where were the rest of the passengers? He pulled back the window curtain again. Ooohhh. A long line of passengers. A number of the people in line were dressed in matching track suits. They looked like a basketball team or something and there was a commotion holding up the line. He could make out a plant shaking back and forth. It was the old lady. It looked like they were trying to wrestle her ivy from her. Oh great. They removed her from the line and the rest of the passengers began to stream towards the plane. There were mostly men in the line. No, they actually were all men. That’s no fun. Cooper liked to imagine romances with some of the female passengers. Oh well. This made him think of Wendy and how mad she looked.
He could see that the old lady, minus her plant, was still arguing and pushing her way towards the plane. Cooper imagined her making a stink about their exchanged passes and he didn’t want any part of it. Maybe he could hide out in the bathroom for a few minutes until she boarded and found a seat. Before he could finish his thought, he was in the bathroom sliding the safety of the occupied latch closed. He sat, knowing this might take a few minutes. Still bored, he opened his new phone to see if there were any new messages. The phone was so new that he was unfamiliar with the varying icons an buttons. One icon looked familiar enough, a new text. How do you access it? He now heard noises and could make out mumbled pleasantries between the hustle of boarding passengers. He then heard a louder perhaps heavier passenger board. Was this the old woman? Did she finally board? Wait, it sounded like she sat, just on the other side of the bathroom wall. In his seat? He would have to move all his stuff. Using her boarding pass wasn’t turning out to be worth it after all. Cooper decided to man up and face his impending reality. He exited the bathroom still transfixed by his inability to figure out how to retrieve his new text, that was apparently sent around a half an hour ago. He turned and looked up, completely expecting to find the old woman sitting in his seat, smugly. What he found, instead, was a large mountain of a man sitting in the middle seat, beside Cooper’s window seat. Cooper half smiled as he attempted to slide or pass over the impressive man. The gentlemen just looked back with these piercing steel grey eyes. Copper looked rather comical trying to navigate over the man without touching him. Unfortunately, the man wasn’t helping any by bending his knees to one side or at least standing up. He sat there, unmoving, with faded blue Levi’s, a shirt that looked like an expensive white designer peasant shirt and a nice light colored suede coat draped over his folded hands that lay in his lap. The man must have been cold. Cooper plopped down and made himself comfortable. He wrestled with his phone some more before attempting to make conversation with his new neighbor. “I’m terrible with these new phones.” Cooper offered. The other man barely moved. Copper readjusted his position and began to extend a hand, offering “How rude? My name is Cooper Du…” Cooper stopped himself, realizing his new row mate was having no part of Cooper’s small talk. He returned to his labyrinth of a phone. A number of buttons were pushed and a few seconds passed by, when the deep and low utterance came “Try using the center circle as a toggle.” And with that, the conversation had ended, but an olive branch had been extended. Cooper applied the advice and quickly realized that this granted him access to a whole slew of new menus and answers. Looking down, still buried in retrieving his text, Cooper said “Thank you.” “No problem.” Came quickly and assuredly.
Just as Cooper was opening his text, another, even larger man entered through the curtains separating the bathroom and first class from the rear cabin. The big bearded man in a fur coat looked to Cooper and then the man seated in the middle, whom Cooper now realized had a huge long braid of raven black hair that sank down beneath his back and the seat. The furry man now looked down to his boarding pass, dismayed. The furry man shook his head and let slip out “really?” Apparently unhappy with his seating. Whatever. A beautiful sultry voice came “Excuse me, can I get by?” The large bearded man huffed and tried to squeeze in pushing Cooper’s neighbor into him. Trying to squeeze by the giant furry man was the chick dressed in all black with the biker boots. She caught Cooper staring at her with a huge and stupid looking grin. Cooper blushed. She looked like she could kick his ass. That was hot, thought Cooper. She passed by and continued on towards the back of the plane. The large man beside Cooper relaxed back in his seat. Cooper let slip the most awkward question. “Is that your cologne? It smells great.” Uh. Cooper was always letting out strange thoughts and ideas before he could stop himself. This would surely make the rest of the flight uncomfortable. “It’s sage.” answered the man. Cooper was taken back that the man seemed un-phased by Cooper’s strange question. Cooper returned his attention to the now open text on his phone. It was from Wendy. Really?
The text began. “Cooper, you know that I love you, but I can’t do this anymore. The fighting and the arguments. I’m just not happy anymore. It’s over.” And that was it. He sat there, frozen like a rock, letting it all sink in. Wendy was breaking up with him? No, she did break up with him. How could she be doing this? They loved each other. How could she? All the great times they shared together. Their pets. He was going to get this job to support them. He loved her so much. This last thought cracked him up inside. Even a whimper may have slipped out. He could feel tears streaming down his face that weren’t actually there. What was with this day? Cooper’s eyes began to squint and then his brain began to crack and question. Was this text real? Was she really that mad about how he treated the old lady. Wait, the time on the text was from much earlier. It didn’t make sense as Copper rewound the events in his head. This text was sent sometime before the run in with the old lady after they arrived at the airport. How long had she been planning this? Cooper now started to grow angry. How could she? The nerve. This reading of the text and subsequent realizations all took a few seconds, but it felt like a lifetime. On a subconscious level, during this time, Cooper’s peripheral attention was picking up on the large furry man taking off his fur jacket and stowing it along with his patchwork leather bag. He was also removing what looked like but couldn’t possibly have been a giant knife in a similar patchwork fur and leather sheath. This couldn’t be. Coopers preoccupied conscious wouldn’t allow the subconscious information to register.
Cooper felt dead. Unworthy. Useless. Hopeless. Less. So sad. The trip didn’t matter anymore. Rushing off the plane to try an salvage anything was out of the question. Cooper had known Wendy long enough to realize what her exact words meant. So sad. Lost in his thoughts, Cooper subconscious was again asking for attention. The furry man was going on about whether they finally took care of the old broad.
This didn’t mean much to Cooper as he again pulled back the small worm gold window curtain. Instinctually wanting to look to where he last saw Wendy. Like driving by an ex lovers home and sitting outside wondering why and what had happened. As Cooper peered out and back up to the terminal where Wendy should be, surprisingly there she was. They locked eyes from a great distance. The world melted away and Wendy stood at the large window pane, just staring back, coldly. Cooper was melancholy and motionless. It’s as if some sort of trust or treaty had been broken. She couldn’t wait until he got back? She had to spoil this important day for him? So selfish. How could she? Wendy just stood there nearly motionless. There was a slight tsk of pity in her stance. From this far away, she looked like a small doll in a toy house. Cooper, again was missing the boat.
Cooper’s attention is drawn from the moment by a disturbance on the tarmac. Near the baggage cart. A fight. The baggage handler, Denny, was in a struggle with the old lady. She hadn’t boarded the plane? Denny was treating her pretty rough. Too rough. Cooper should say something. This was getting out of hand, but Cooper didn’t want to get involved with any of this. Was no one else seeing this? All of the basketball players had boarded by now. The fuel truck was blocking Wendy and the other people in the terminal from seeing anything. Just ignore it, Cooper repeated to himself like a mantra. Ooooohhhhhh. He decked her. A full on punch. He hit the lady. She’s on the ground. Cooper tried to hum his troubles away but he couldn’t control his body language from displaying his anxiety and distress. His fingers were driving into the fake coated wood arm rests. Two other ground crew in navy blue jump suits approached, not to aid the situation, but to worsen it. Denny pulled out what looked like a flash light. He swung his arm down violently, causing the flash light to telescope into a baton. Cooper was now lost in the confusion of it all. Denny raised the baton and brought it down on the old lady’s head so hard, Cooper was surprised it didn’t open like a melon. Cooper had reached his limit and turned to plead for help. Before, he could begin to speak, he felt his hand being grabbed by a strong weathered grip. Cooper looked to his hand and realized his neighbors hand had slipped out from underneath the suede jacket. The left hand dragged the right hand along with it, due to the shackles that were tying them together. What kind of nonsense was going on? Cooper looked to his neighbors face, which he now realized was an Indian face. Not red dot but Native American. The indian shook his head and mouthed the word, “no.” Why hadn’t Cooper noticed the man was Native American. I guess he didn’t pay much attention to such things. Cooper didn’t know what to think. The old woman was brought on board, bleeding and complaining. They dragged her past Cooper’s row and he swore she turned and looked at him. Cooper thought he was going to be sick. Somehow, the indians voice came across soothing. “The name’s Moppet. But you can call me Dead Eagle.” Cooper looked to the hand being extended to shake. It looked twenty years older than the man extending it. Cooper shook his hand and then he doesn’t remember much. The doors closed. The plane began to taxi and then made it’s way up into the sky.
Cooper woke up groggy. He was like a baby rubbing his eyes and looking around for a mother. All he found were steel grey eyes staring back at him. “Did all that just happen?” Moppet nodded yes. The fat furry man was snoring like a saw mill. Cooper looked out the window to see huge thunder heads hundreds of miles away. There were a few people talking further back, but the cabin was surprisingly quiet. “I got you a Ginger Ale.” Moppet said as he produced a green can. Cooper took it from his new friends shackled hands. Cooper thought of asking, but then again, did he really want to know at this point. “I thought I was going to be sick.” Cooper said. “Me too.” Cooper opened the can and threw back a swig of the drink. The smell hit him but not in time. “Ack.” dryly escaped from Cooper. “is that alcohol.?” came from his closed throat. “I told you. It’s ale.” Cooper shook his head and looked at Moppet like he was crazy. A disgusting inaudible volume of gas climbed and leapt out of Cooper’s throat. It tasted horrible. Cooper rubbed his forehead as if he was trying to push normalcy back into place. The plane jostled a bit from some turbulence and Cooper tightened up. “I’m not good with turbulence.” Cooper stammered. “Who is?” returned Moppet.
A “bong” sound came over the intercom and Cooper could see what looked like a fasten seat belt sign light up. The sign was much too small for anyone behind him to really see. Only because Cooper was close to it, could he make it out. It was a small triangle that read C-T-P. The c and the p were on either side of the triangle and the p was in the center of the triangle. Cooper noticed that the blinking light had also captured Moppet’s attention. He seemed more tense. Cooper started to wonder and then asked out loud, “How long have we been up?” Moppet answered. “Long enough.”
Cooper heard some people walking down the aisle from the back of the plane, so he turned curiously. It was that beautiful woman in all black again. Oh my god, she was gorgeous. She looked in his direction and smiled. Following closely behind her was a guy, dressed just like her. He looked like a male model or an Olympic swimmer. She drew back the curtain that separated the cabins. She again looked to Cooper and winked. Then her and the handsome guy dressed just like her opened and began retrieving things from the cabinets opposite the bathroom. Strange things. A thin barrel like contraption made up of shiny gold pipes held together by matte black discs. A second one was being withdrawn, only the gold parts were much more worn. Now, Cooper was recognizing them for what they truly were, Gatling guns. His eyes nearly leaped out of his head. What was going on? They continued to pull out what looked like old timey diving suits and helmets and no one on the plane was phased by any of this, as if it were routine. They stood there and started pulling the suits on. Cooper craned his neck to double check that no one else was taken aback by this. The two of them completed suiting up, helping each other with clasps and straps. Cooper couldn’t help but stare as they made their way to the center of the plane. Long tubes coming off the top of their helmets trailed behind them like tails. The taller male “diver” reached up and started to unwind what looked like a submarine port hole in the ceiling. Cooper hadn’t noticed this before, but really, before he could put all this uncanny information together, this massive rush of air was hitting him and the other passengers. The plane made a sudden dip and recovery. Cooper nearly crashed his head into the wall in front of him. It took all of Cooper’s strength to turn and see the two “soldiers” at the port hole. The only thing he caught was a small glimpse of the females foot pull up and through the closing port hole. The hatch closed behind them and Cooper’s ears popped like you wouldn’t believe.
You could hear the two soldiers climbing across the top of the plane, slowly and deliberately. Latching noises and the sounds of whipping cables careened around the outside of the cabin. A thud on the other side of the plane and then an accompanying sister thud on Cooper’s side of the plane pulled his attention out the window and onto the wing. He really had to stretch his neck to look back at the left wing of the plane. A steel cable whipped about like a serpent. And then the craziest thing happened. The female, in her diving suit, was traversing the wing along a steel cable. The four foot Gatling gun was strapped to her back . Slowly, one step at a time, she moved further and further onto the wing. Cooper pulled his eyes back into the plane. He stared, wide eyed, straight forward at the blank wall. He couldn’t bare to watch. He knew, at any moment, she was going to be whisked off the wing into the massive thunder head clouds. His breathing was rather short and quick. His eyes began to ping pong back and forth in their sockets. This must be what a panic attack felt like. This wasn’t fun. Against the better judgement of the reasonable portions of his brain, Cooper looked back out the window just in time to see the woman slip and nearly fall off the wing. He held his breath for a second until he realized that this was routine to her and she confidently rose and continued to a circular ring on the middle of the wing. The plane began to descend a bit and the as of yet unheard pilot came over the intercom “Saddle up.” This provoked a “Wooooo” from the bearded man an a couple of yips and hollers from some of the basketball team. Cooper looked to Moppet for a measure of assuredness. He sat calmly and quietly, zen like, with his eyes closed. Breathing totally normal. Cooper looked back to the wing to see her kneeling at the circle in the wing. She locked herself in to the wing and pulled on a latch towards the front of the wing. The ring pulled up and a series of semi transparent plexi glass ribs that followed behind the ring like an accordion. She pulled it up and over her head like a tortoise shell. She locked the ring down and just at once, the small dome began to spin around like a turret. Come to think of it, not like a turret, this actually was a turret. With that realization, out came the nose of the Gatling gun through a long vertical slit in the accordion turret.
Cooper sat back in his seat. What kind of madness was this? Cooper tried to reason to himself that he had just got on some type of military plane by mistake. Perhaps this was just part of their maneuvers. A drill. Or were these mercenaries on their way to the horn of Africa? Why couldn’t this day start over? The descent increased and with it the turbulence picked up. As if on time, an accusatory, loud and resounding “You!” Came from the back of the plane.
Cooper recognized the voice and, in hind sight, he shouldn’t have turned around. There was the old lady, battered and bruised, coming down the aisle way. A crooked finger pointing in his direction. Time to take the medicine thought Cooper. And with that, beneath the scream of “Where’s my boarding pass?” Moppet leaned in close to Cooper and half whispered “Remember, landing is not dying.” and with that, in one fluid motion, he was up and at the woman’s throat, somehow, with the large furry mans knife. Immediately, most of the rest of the passengers stood and brandished what looked like varying types of revolvers. The cocking and arming of these pointed weapons sounded like a symphony of impending carnage. The Indian spun around the aisle with the old woman like a Rodgers an Astair film. About this point is when the Gatling guns on the wings opened up and the plane began to take fire. Large rounds, from an unknown source, were tearing into the plane.
About this point, Cooper was starting to regret not believing in God. All manner of prayers rustled off his lips. Make it stop, make it stop, make it stop was the basic gist of it all. All Cooper wanted was to be back in bed with Wendy. He wanted the two of them to be naked and in love beneath the covers. Instead, he crouched beneath a hail of bullets an hollers.
Part C – Inbound
Torn metal and shattering glass showered the cabin. The plane went into a dive through some clouds and then abruptly leveled out. Cinnamon raisin bagel tried to escape through one of Cooper’s nostrils. He removed a chunk of partially digested breakfast from his face and shook his head. He peered over his seat to see everyone still trying to shoot Moppet who was escaping through the hatch in the ceiling. Cooper looked out the window to see Moppet scaling the wing towards the turret. Moppet had the large knife in his teeth. The turret was firing in the opposite direction at something beneath the plane. The gun made a Vvvvvrrrrrrpp sound as it fired. A stream of gold metal casings rooster tailed out the back of the turret. As Moppet approached the woman from behind, one of the basketball players directly behind Cooper broke out a window and shoved a revolver out. He tried shooting Moppet, but couldn’t get a good angle. The gunfire alerted the woman in the turret and she spun around to take aim at Moppet, who at this point, was nearly on top of her. A cloud of black smoke was now pouring into the interior of the plane and it made it difficult to see, let alone, breathe. If the woman in the turret fired, she would surely hit the fuselage of the plane. Moppet didn’t wait to find out. He cut a cable or wire to the turret and then jumped off the wing. Cooper pressed his forehead further into the window and tried to look down and see the indian’s fall. All he could see were patches of fluffy clouds whisk by. Beneath the clouds, the red and orange of a desert floor racing by. Two streaking red lights flew in and out of view at impossible speeds. If these were the enemy, they were much faster.
The wing turret with the woman in it, was now not working properly. The woman struggled to open the turret with little success. Fiery hot tracer rounds streaked past the wing getting closer and closer. Cooper had read about these glowing rounds used to track trajectories of gunfire when he was younger, in a book about Vietnam. The woman tried putting her fist through the plexiglass of the turret to escape. When this didn’t work, she tried using her elbow. The tracers drew closer. The woman pounded and pounded. The turret burst open enough for the woman to try and squeeze her way out. She got as far as her hips and got stuck. The plane banked hard to the right and then back in attempt to evade the increasing fire from below. The woman forced herself out tearing her pants and upper thigh. Cooper couldn’t hear her scream but he could see it on her face. Seemingly oblivious, the furry man started laughing to himself and let out “Isn’t this a hoot?” The woman, now on the wing, grabbed hold of the steel cable and started to make her way across the wing like a Himalayan Sherpa in a snow storm. This strangers safety seemed to embody Coopers last hold on sanity, and with that thought, the red tracer fire and its brethren tore through the wing near its connection to the body of the plane. The wing began to fall away as the woman leapt in a futile attempt at self preservation. She fell away as did Coopers hopes. Cooper reared around to scream at the furry man “We just lost a wing!” The furry man, confused by Cooper’s confusion, simply replied “Relax, that’s why we have two.” Cooper, dumbfounded, shifted eyes forward and then out the window to the missing wing. Clouds streaked by like a beautiful Turner painting. Somehow, they were still flying. How could he argue with the furry mans logic?
There were so many holes in the plane, the winds played the plane like a piccolo. The whistles were fairly deafening. The gunfire seemed to have ceased but Cooper couldn’t relax. He couldn’t breathe correctly. There was no one this plane that Cooper could relate to anymore. The crazy Indian had escaped through a porthole, the smiling woman on the wing was blown away and the old woman was no where to be seen. The remaining passengers all seemed inhuman. Or was it the opposite? Cooper now stared down as desert topography. This was still earth, wasn’t it? Maybe he should just jump off the plane. It couldn’t be much worse. The intercom tried to spark to life. It obviously had been damaged in the fire fight. The pilot’s voice was coming in and out and garbled at best. What pearls of wisdom could he possibly have to share? The voice came on a bit stronger, “Sorry for the little bit of turbulence we had back there. We should have you on the ground in no time.” This struck Cooper as hilarious as he wondered, “Yeah, but in how many pieces?” The pilot continued “…and with a proper tail wind, maybe we can get you to your final destination, just a little bit early.” He sounded like a well trained weatherman.
The furry man leaned over and said to Cooper “You were really crying like a baby back there. First flight?” Copper didn’t feel like answering any questions. The furry man pried some more “My name’s Flambeau, but my friends call me Fromage.” The furry man, Flambeau, laughed to himself, heartily. “That was a joke. My friends don’t really call me Fromage. Heh Heh.” the large man added. Cooper couldn’t handle anymore of this ridiculousness. His body shuddered with anxiety. Flambeau eyed Cooper up and down. Sizing him up. Something was very peculiar and strange about this bird.
The ground looked rather close. In fact, t appeared it was getting closer. Shrubs and cacti flew past beneath them. Cooper saw something that looked like a burned out plane wreckage, but they were moving so fast, he couldn’t verify it. Perhaps it was just an outcropping of rocks. The nearness to the ground was getting scary. Cooper turned to ask the Flambeau why they were flying so low but before he could say anything, his neighbor was already answering. He held out his hand flat and bounced it up and down as if to simulate the planes buffeting and said “Under the radar.” This didn’t reassure Cooper. The intercom crackled on again “Okay pardoners. Here we go.” Flambeau bay smiled really big and arched his eye brows. The whites of his eyes were huge. “This is the fun part.” said Flambeau. Cooper looked frightened. The plane began to shake and rattle. Flambeau laughed to himself. The plane violently pulled up hard and started a steep accelerated climb. It felt like an Apollo launch. Incoming gunfire erupted once again. They were climbing t0o high and too fast. Was this thing going to shake apart. Is this how he was going to die? Were they flying him to heaven personally? Where were the drop down oxygen masks. Cooper fixed on the blinking CTP sign and then squeezed his eyes shut tight. “Make it stop.” Cooper pleaded. The plane was no longer taking gunfire and it appeared they were reaching a natural zenith. The plane slowed, leveled and then hung what felt like motionlessness. Cooper cracked his left eye open to try and sneak a peek out the window. Was that the curvature of the earth? Was that space? Oh, god. Everything seemed quiet. Too quiet, and with that the plane began to drop. Cooper’s trail mix bar sailed past his face. He barely caught his laptop bag as it tried to leave on it’s own accord. He clutched the bag to his chest tight like a teddy bear as the hellacious descent commenced.
The plane violently pitched as they fell from the sky. It was hard to hear over the rushing wind sounds, but the intercom had rattled on again. It was the pilot talking with his co-pilot. It sounded like they had left their microphones on, on accident. “What do you mean the coils aren’t open?” Came the Captain. “It’s the new system. It’s not communicating with the coils properly.” Came the other voice, presumably the co-pilot. Flambeau looked worried.” Damn it, open that gate or were gonna hit those coils like a bug Zapper.” Shouted the Captain. “Do it now!” He shouted. Cooper could hear this loud enough from the cabin. Red tracer fire just outside the window lit up the interior of the cabin like a demonic Christmas tree. “First coil unlocked.” Came the copilot. “Maybe tell me when you have the other five down.” Hail CTP.” The Captain yelled. “Still silence, Captain. It’s the new precautions. Hey, the inter…” and with that the intercom went dead. Flambeau leaned over and shared “If they don’t get those coils open, were history.” Fine, Cooper thought. Just end this nightmare. The angle was so steep that Cooper hadn’t realized the ground had arrived. The pull up and leveling out drove Cooper hard back and down into his seat. It felt like his brian was in the top of his throat. He could hear others on the plane losing their lunches. The smells that were accumulating in the cabin, left nothing to be imagined. The plane was sweeping into a ravine and new gunfire was now coming from directly behind them. They were being chased. Brightly orange canyon faces were now on either side of the plane. A bullet or some kind of projectile whizzed past Copper’s head and through the bathroom wall in front of him. Water was spraying through the new entrance hole. Cooper sank lower into his seat. Just when it seemed to be it’s worst, the gunfire stopped.
Just like that, there was calm. The roaring wind turned into a mere breeze. The plane transitioned from its own power of flight to what seemed like a gliding or hovering from an unknown power source. It’s as if they were floating on magnets. Flambeau undid his belt buckle and let out a huge sigh. Cooper was shaking. His nerves were completely shot. The sounds of people standing and opening the damaged over head bins could be heard as Cooper buried his face in his hands . Cooper looked up in time to see Flambeau pulling his belly up and down as if to air it out. The plane passed between two towers that must have been the coils the pilot had been talking about. After they had completely passed, the huge towers lit up with popping arcing blue electricity. Huge arcs that looked like lightning danced about the towers. The air within the plane them felt charged. The black hair on Cooper’s arm stood on end. Accompanied by some light violin and oboe music, the Captain’s voice came over an apparently now, properly functioning intercom “Good afternoon everyone. This is your Captain speaking. Again, sorry for the turbulence back there. We had some technical difficulties we had to take care of, but we’ve arrived slightly ahead of schedule as I had hoped. The weather here is a brisk 84 degrees, so I hope you packed those swim trunks.” This made Flambeau laugh. “We should have you on deck in the next five to ten minutes. Have a great day and thank you for flying Federal Airlines.” Cooper pouted and tried to ignore everything that had transpired. Out the window, they passed more coil towers and an abundance of what look like abandoned log structures built into the cliffs. Atop the wooden structures were these massive cannon batteries like you would see on an old battleship. Most looked like they had been fire bombed or shot up. There were also burnt out wrecks of what resembled snow mobiles and planes littering the desert rocks below Every once and awhile, Cooper would catch a glimpse of a river, but most of the time it was directly beneath them and out of view. Cooper had seen too much over the last couple of hours, and the things he was seeing were having little effect on him. Sensory overload, if you will. Reality seemed permanently warped. Flambeau, speaking out loud, posited “these new coils are great.” Cooper had decided he had had enough. He unlatched his buckle and slid past Flambeau, slightly knocking knees. Cooper took in a deep breath and then exhaled, letting it all out, like he had learned in his Yoga class.
Cooper stood and made his way past Flambeau. He pulled back the curtain to the forward cabin and walked through. Somehow, the forward cabin seemed undamaged and serene. A number of the passengers were drinking Mimosas, Mojitos and what looked like Mint Juleps. The violin and oboe music was much clearer and more serene up here. Cooper could see the door to the cockpit was open and the pilots were busily operating all manner of knobs and levers. The fancy woman seated in the first row scratched the top of her fuzzy white dogs head. Upon a closer look, Copper realized it wasn’t a dog at all. It was a baby white seal. Perhaps, Cooper should have stayed in his seat. Cooper pressed on and into the cockpit. “Excuse me, Captain.” Cooper tried sounding demonstrative like the time he asked for a refund at the fish taco place because he asked for no cilantro special sauce and they still put some on. There was no response from either pilot as they were busy talking into their head sets and flying the plane. The plane was now rising and directly out the front of the cockpit window, Cooper could see, what from this distance looked like, tiny construction workers removing old burnt up timbers from the side of a massive cliff face. Cooper was now less interested in getting answers and more captivated by what he was seeing. As they rose, perpendicular to the orange striated cliff face, they passed very close by what can at best be best described as a floating naval mine. Like the kind you would see in Work War I or World War II. Cooper couldn’t remember which. He now recognized that the cockpit had a sun or moon roof of sorts, directly above him and the pilots. Through this window, Cooper could see more of the spiked mines, blast points on the cliff face in front of them, more timbers being removed, a dark opening in the cliff face further up and just above that, a large bank of massive windows in the shape of a triangle. Sunlight was brightly glaring off of all that glass. Cooper could now see a plane fly out of the dark opening, followed by the nose of a large blimp. A blimp? At the rate they were moving, soon they would be level with the dark opening, but they seemed to be on a collision course with the tail of the blimp. The blimp or dirigible was very long and the gondola portion looked like a World War I tank with many turrets and cannons. Large bolts held the iron sidings on. Just then, a faint sound of small arms gunfire could barely be heard and then a massive explosion followed by the thundering sound from it. The pilots looked up through the moon roof, not seeing Cooper. The flames from the explosion looked dangerously close to the dirigible. Transfixed by the goings on above them, the next thing all three of them in the cockpit saw were small figures throwing them selves off the ledge of the dark opening they were now nearing. The figures grew larger and louder as they fell towards the plane. They were screaming, but not in terror, more like a battle cry. One of the figures flew past the left side of the cockpit. The next figure flew by the right side of the cockpit. The second falling figure drew Cooper’s attention away from the moon roof. A third figure landed directly on top of the moon roof, cracking it like a car windshield. Both pilots struggled to retrieve their side arms with comical effects. Cooper looked directly into the eyes of a man recently beaten and scarred. His eyes were surrounded in black like a raccoon. Those eyes were full of hatred and intentions. Something seemed familiar about this man. It was hard to make out between the cracked glass, but the man was raising what Cooper thought was a Tomahawk but turned out to just be a large wrench. The large wrench came smashing down and through the moon roof. The glass showered the three men and then the sounds of gunfire and near misses whizzed by. Through the broken open window, Cooper could see the tortured man look up and then jump off and away from the top of the plane. Near the edge of the dark hole, small figures of men shooting rifles down towards the plane could be seen. The dirigible still had not cleared the dark hole above them. Narrowly missing the dirigible and rising above and over the men with rifles, a large runway and hangar came into view.
This dark hole was a cave hangar carved out of the orange sherbet cliff face. Life teamed within. Shot up, flight 1937 floated into the darkness. As Cooper’s eyes adjusted, he could sort of make out a number of different kinds of planes, moored to the sides of the cave. Some old, some newer and some down right unrecognizable. Other planes were exiting as Cooper’s plane floated further into the hangar. Cooper saw what looked like a Japanese Zero covered in cobwebs begin to taxi down the runway. And then, out of the darkness, a massive plane that resembled the Spruce Goose approached. Small in comparison, Cooper’s plane floated just underneath it’s great left wing as it gained speed and whooshed out of the cave. Cooper just marveled at what he was seeing. He know recognized the ground crew was wearing similar jump suits to the Basket Ball team. He started to realize that what they were wearing was actually more of a uniform. Navy blue top and lighter blue pants with gold stripes running down the outsides of the arms and legs. That’s when it hit him. These outfits looked like the cavalry meets the Beastie Boys. The pilot turned and finally noticed Cooper. The Captain pulled off his head phones and shooed Cooper away with a wave of his hand. The pilots were wearing similar uniforms. Curious. Cooper turned to return to his seat. Everyone looked different now as he walked up the aisle. It was like he was on an episode of Bonanza if the Wu-Tang Clan had made a guest appearances. Why hadn’t he realized this before. Cooper passed through the curtain and squeezed past Flambeau. He plopped himself into his seat and let out a deep breath. Cooper could feel the plane descending for a landing. Everyone else on the plane were excited and anxious to exit the plane. Cooper was not. The landing was very smooth and all the passengers stood and cued up to get off the plane. A few of the passengers were injured or were helping the injured. A smell of iron was thick in the air. “We’re here.” Flambeau offered. Cooper returned him a defeated and dismissive look. Flambeau shrugged his shoulders and got up to leave. Cooper tried to get lost in his thoughts but reality kept finding him.
Cooper thought of pulling back his window curtain and looking out the window, but his nerves pleaded with him not to. He held out for a few seconds and then, reluctantly, he drew the tattered gold curtains back. A throng of basketball players or soldiers or whatever they were milled about on the tarmac. Against the far wall, workers worked to remove a large graffiti tag that read “NWB”, or so Cooper thought. It was difficult to make out. Soapy water and bright paints trailed away beneath the feet of the workers.
“Hey!” Shouted the copilot, poking his glowering face through the curtains. “Get a move on, Pilgrim. They’ll be waiting for you.” Cooper thought about keeping to his seat and pouting, but he gave in. Cooper collected his things and exited the plane. It was fairly dark and the loud bugle that started playing made Cooper jump. All the passengers gathered mustered into order, forming five columns. Their cohesive precision was kinda impressive. Cooper felt like he should be doing something, but he didn’t really know what. The copilot passed by Cooper and looked back to plead “Come on. Hurry up.” The Copilot joined the end of one of the columns. In the distance from a well lit entry way, an number of silhouetted men entered the hangar and briskly marched towards the assembly of men. Four of the men stopped directly in front of the gathered men and a fifth man stormed over to Cooper. Before Cooper realized it, the man was in his face like a pit bull from hell.
“Get in line, meat bag!” Cooper opened his mouth but the yelling man filled the void with “Don’t fucking talk dick weed, get in line.” Cooper didn’t even see the yelling man’s hand before it was hitting the back of his head. Cooper, started moving towards the back row of people. The yelling man kicked him in the ass and yelled “Move it, move it, move it panty waste!” Cooper was now moving quickly and running awkwardly in fear of getting kicked in the ass again. He made it to the far end of the back line and and tried to mimic the posture of those around him. The yelling man returned to the front and lined up next to the other four men in what Cooper now was completely realizing were Cavalry uniforms. What the fuck?
© 2012 Jeromy Cox and Most Funnest Entertainment