by Melanie Brown
Copyright © 2016 Melanie Brown
Mr. Walker is going to miss that job interview.
I shook my head to complete waking up from my short nap. I blinked a few times and then looked around the plane’s cabin at my fellow passengers. I grunted as I turned my attention to the window. With only about twelve passengers, the airline must be losing money on this flight.
Mountains look so different from this altitude than when you’re driving through them. I wished I was on my bike, blasting through those mountain roads. But ever since I broke my leg and pelvis in that accident a couple of months ago, it hurts too much to ride.
I leaned back in the seat and closed my eyes. The doctors had said I was lucky to be alive. If I’d been just one foot further back, I’d be dead right now instead flying to a job interview. I hoped that interview would go well. I really need a change of scenery.
The flight attendant stepped out from her little nook at the front of the plane where she’d been hiding. I studied her from top to bottom. She was a total knock-out with legs that went all the way up.
Smiling, she pulled a microphone from its holder and smiled out across the cabin. “Ladies and gentlemen. May I have your attention please? First, welcome aboard Entierro Airways.”
She stood there and smiled. I wondered why she’d speak to us now. I was sure we were at least an hour from our destination. A moment later, the cockpit door opened and one of the pilots stepped out and closed the door behind him. He stood next to the flight attendant.
Clicking the mic button again the flight attendant said, “I have good news and bad news. The good news is that this flight will be an hour shorter than expected. The bad news is that the pilot is going to fly us straight into that mountain side.”
I sat bolt upright. What the hell did she just say? The passengers were suddenly restless. There was a slight bump and it became obvious the nose of the plane lowered.
“What the fuck?!” yelled a passenger to my left. He was a rather large, burly guy that you wouldn’t want to meet in a dark alley. “What do you mean? Why don’t you stop him?”
The flight attendant said, “It’s free will. He’s committing suicide for the murder of his wife and two year old daughter from this morning. But at least he’s supposed to be here, but none of the rest of you are.”
“No shit!” shouted another man from behind me. “Why can’t I stand up? We need to stop the pilot!”
Smiling, the flight attendant said, “You can struggle if you want. None of your seat belts will unlock.” There was a small chorus of clinks and clanks as my fellow passengers jerked on their seatbelts.
A woman in front me, an escalating fear in her voice said, “Why? What is going on?”
The flight attendant continued to smile. She said, “We have a few minutes. I’m required to tell you anyway. All of you have cheated death. Every one of you should not be alive right now.” Rolling her eyes and looking very annoyed, she said, “You have *no* idea how hard it was to nudge and push and arrange to get the twelve of you on board an airliner with a suicidal pilot.”
The burly man across from me growled, “What do you mean we’re supposed to be dead?” He jerked violently against the seatbelt. He shouted, “Let us go! You have no right!”
The flight attendant frowned. She said, “I have every right, sir. It’s my job to maintain balance. You should have died on that operating table a little over a month ago. But the ambulance took an unexpected route and arrived at the hospital a few minutes sooner so the doctors were given a tiny window to save your life. And that threw us out of balance.”
A man from somewhere behind me shouted, “This is all bullshit! Who the hell are you? What do you mean we should be dead? That’s bullshit! If we crash, you’re dead too!”
The flight attendant smiled as if she was looking at a child. She said, “No. I won’t die. I’ll be stepping out right at the moment of impact. And the co-pilot here is with me. He had to leave the cockpit to give the pilot a chance to lock the door and start his descent.
“And I’m really sorry. I truly am. This is not my favorite type of assignment. But all of you were scheduled to die weeks ago. But you persisted in living. If we allowed you to cheat death, then we’d have to allow it for everyone, now wouldn’t we?”
The burly man again raged against his seatbelt and shouted, “You’re fucking nuts! Let us up!”
The guy in the seat right behind me said, “Miss! Please! I’m a pilot! I can fly this thing. Let us remove the pilot and I can land us all safely!”
The flight attendant frowned and addressed the man behind me. She said, “Just like the last plane you flew? You got into the pilot’s seat drunk and with the effects of partying all night. A hundred and thirty of your passengers died in the inevitable crash. A bizarre structural failure allowed you to survive while your co-pilot and crew died. None of them were scheduled to die that day. But we can’t bring them back. You caused us a lot of extra work.”
The flight attendant looked over at me and smiled broadly. She said, “I have to say I’m very sorry you’re on this flight Mr. Walker. Unlike everyone else in this plane, you’re a genuine hero. You were the one that was supposed to have been struck and killed by that city bus. But when that five year old girl was unexpectedly pushed in front of the bus, your quick action saved you both. You got broken bones, but you didn’t die like you were scheduled.”
Shocked that she would know my name and about the accident, I said, “I don’t understand. Why would I be scheduled to die? I never hurt anyone.”
Giving me a weak smile, the flight attendant said, “We’re not privy to the Grand Plan. I’m sorry.”
Addressing the whole cabin again, the flight attendant said, “We’re just seconds away from your final destination. None of this is personal. You just lived past your time. Thanks again for flying Entierro Airways.
“For the love of God, no!”
“Please stop this!”
“Let me out!”
And then we hit the mountain.
I had my eyes closed, braced for the impact that would kill us all.
There was silence.
I sat in my seat, eyes tightly closed.
“Mr. Walker. May I have a moment?”
I opened my eyes and the flight attendant was standing next to me in the aisle. The front of the aircraft was deforming and crumpling in front of me. Dirt and debris was suspended in the air all throughout the plane’s cabin. What people I could see were frozen in time, violently restrained by their seatbelts, expressions of horror on their faces.
The flight attendant smiled at me. She said, “Please get up, Mr. Walker. I have something to discuss with you.”
The seatbelt was no longer locked. I unbuckled it and stood nervously in the aisle next to the flight attendant. I was sweating profusely. Looking around, I noticed the co-pilot was no longer in the cabin.
“What do you want to talk about?” I asked staring at the crumpling bulkhead in front of me frozen in time. “It’s obvious we’re a heartbeat away from dying.”
Still smiling, she said, “That’s what I want to discuss. You see, Mr. Walker, you were scheduled to die and that would have been that. Free Will is sometimes a bitch and no one expected that little girl to be pushed into a death situation. That girl’s granddaughter plays an import role in the lives of hundreds of thousands of people in the future. Her death would have had a negative ripple effect through the near future. Saving her preserved that future. But it prevented you from dying.”
Still finding everything impossible to comprehend I said, “Then let me go. Call it even.”
The flight attendant shook her head. She said, “I can’t do that. You have to die. But I can do this. I can put you into the life of someone who is dying at this exact instant elsewhere. It’s their scheduled time. But because you helped us by saving that little girl, I can put you into their life and reschedule the collection of your soul for a later time.”
I shook my head. “This is too much. I can’t even believe I’m talking to you in a crashing airplane. And you’re saying you can put me in someone else’s body? Who? What?”
Frustrated, the flight attendant said, “Give me your answer now, Mr. Walker. The transfer must take place at the exact moment both of you die. I can’t say whose body you’ll wind up in. You can’t try to contact anyone in your current life or the deal ends. But I must know now.”
Not believing any of this was actually happening, I said, “Sure. Whatever. Do it. I don’t want to die.”
And then I was suddenly slammed against the mountain and engulfed in flames.
I was lying on some hard, rough surface. I had a pain in my knee and a terrible headache. I could hear voices around me, but they seemed distant and muffled. I couldn’t open my eyes.
I heard a voice shout from nearby, “Everyone stand back. The paramedics are on their way.”
I opened my eyes and saw a blurry image of legs and feet around me. The sky was dark, but it was brightly lit around me. I tried to sit up.
A girl’s voice shouted, “Look! Thank God she’s alive! I thought for sure she was dead!”
A man’s voice said from beside me, “Don’t try to move, miss. The paramedics need to make sure nothing’s broken.”
Did he call me “miss”? My vision started to clear and I looked up a saw a dozen or more people standing around me. Oddly, most of them were girls. All wearing what looked like cheerleader uniforms. Where the fuck am I?
Then memories started rolling into my head. They were incomplete memories and they weren’t replacing my existing memories. This had to be a dream. No way could this be real.
No way was I a cheerleader named Cari. And there’s no way I had a boyfriend named Ryan. Cheerleader? Boyfriend? And I lived with my mom? I just saw both my parents a couple of weeks ago. What did that flight attendant do to me?
A familiar voice beside me said, “Oh my God, Cari! I was told you were dead!”
I looked over and saw Ryan. My Ryan.
Long strands of dark brown hair fell across my face. I groaned in a very girlish voice. I’m a girl. Holy shit, I’m a girl! A memory of being at the top of a cheerleader pyramid and being knocked to the ground on my head after being hit by an out-of-bounds football player rolled into my head. I remember my neck being twisted at an odd angle.
Ryan said, “Look. The paramedics are here. They’re going to take you to the hospital. You’re going to be all right. I know it!”
I smiled as he took my hand and leaned over and kissed my forehead.
I was going to be all right.
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