This is the first time I have ever tried writing a piece of fiction to share. I am understandably nervous about the prospect of rejection and ridicule. Luckily I am emboldened by the feedback I have received from previous postings about family memories, poetry, photography and Ronovan’s Haiku challenge. So nothing gained shall be my mantra.
For two days, the 757 has occupied the runway, commanding the attention of the world. The great Rolls Royce engines stood silent, yearning for the sky. Camera lenses capture the unmoving exterior of the plane, the stillness broken only by the sudden drop of a body to the tarmac below the cargo door.
The latest body was identified only as
“Number 24” “Number 26” by the press, continuing the two-hour cycle between killings.
To the outside world, it seemed so surreal. The rear exit door would open and a body would tumble out. A few minutes later an armored vehicle would approach, towing a steel canopy allowing medics to retrieve the lifeless corpse under metal cover. It was an intricately choreographed dance preformed without words or music for a captivated national television audience.
Oddly there has been no contact with the hijackers, no list of demands, and no proclamation of a righteous cause. It was a silent picture, punctuated by rhythmic death.
Unseen by the public were the 200 remaining passengers and flight crew. Mixed in were the 6 hijackers who brandished weapons and bombs planted by a confederate who worked for a catering company, providing pre-packaged passenger meals. They had waited till the plane was airborne before retrieving their automatic weapons. Once armed, they rounded up the flight attendants and brought them to the closed cockpit door and began shooting them in their knees, within sight of the locked door. The sound of their screaming could be heard throughout the plane. Only than did the hijackers demand to have the door opened or they would kill the wounded attendants, one by one.
After the sounds of two more shots, the cockpit door opened and the pilots surrendered. They were given orders to return to the Dallas airport to await new instructions.
Upon landing they taxied to the middle of the runway and shut down the engines. Then the first of the two attendant bodies were thrown from the plane, followed by the second, two hours later. The next four victims were chosen at random every two hours, with no attention to age race or sex. Then the hijackers added an additional cruel twist. They threatened to start killing children unless the passengers themselves chose each new sacrifice to their unknown cause. So it had gone for the next 36 hours.
I was one of the remaining prisoners who could easily be chosen to be executed next. I could be Next! I remember our decision to place our names and seat numbers into a bag of potential sacrifices. In exchange we were given a promise from the hijackers to allow the 25 children under 16 to not be included in this macabre lottery.
Each succeeding lottery brought the same sense of terror, relief and shame. Terror that I might be chosen, followed by relief that I wasn’t, than shame at my realization that someone else had been selected and was about to die.
As the time approached for the next lottery, the cabin of the airplane was calm with soft sobs filling the air. The remaining untreated attendants who had been shot, had long ago passed out from blood loss and were tossed into the galley where they awaited their almost certain death. The smell of their blood was in the air. It reminding me of the butcher shop our family lived above in our small town in North Dakota. The salty sweet smell reminded me of the pleasures of youth, but at the same time caused me to be repulsed at the senseless slaughter of these innocent humans.
I thought to myself if I were to die it should be for some noble cause, but these people had not given us a reason for their actions. It appeared they were soldiers following orders from some barbaric group. Perhaps if I thought they were avenging some atrocity it would make more sense, but no words were exchanged as the next name was drawn.
They called out a seat number and a name and I thanked God it wasn’t me. Then a young woman screamed “No!” and buried her head into her sister’s shoulder. The hijackers came down the aisle and grabbed her by the hair. A big white bearded male dragged her to the back of the plane and she continued to scream until a shot rang out.
The rear door opened and “Number 25” fell from the plane.
I and a number of people vomited from the horror of the show. It was not the first time I had thrown up and I was sure it wouldn’t be the last. My mind went into a type of shock; friends I had known in childhood surrounded me. They offered me comfort as I drifted with the memories of the old school yard. Rodney and Paul spoke to me for the first time since their death in that car/train accident on the way to the junior high game. They told me I would be okay, that this was only one part of me.
I fell asleep for the first time in over forty-eight hours and dreamed of my parents.
I woke from the deep slumber as I heard my name and seat number called. I was confused, was I still dreaming? The big white man grabbed my shoulder and pulled me to my feet and shoved me to the rear of the plane. I fell to the floor in front of an open cargo door.
and as I looked up to see his gun posed in front of pointed at my face then it went off and he smiled at me.
“Number 26” fell from the plane.