Sunday, August 2, 2015

Come Fly With Me

This is the task set out for you by the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge (after a $55 entrance fee, thank you very much): Write a short story in 48 hours based on some random prompts we give you (after you give us your money).

This time around the prompts for the group I landed in were:

Psychological horror, anyone? Will that count with the judge(s)?

Considering I'm terrified of flying and have to fly twice between now and the end of the year (for writing conferences, natch), kinda ironic, huh? Probably shouldn't have written a plane crash story, ya think?

But I did. Because apparently I can't resist a challenge. Not that I knew they were going to throw a plane scenario at me. Not to mention the 1,000 word limit was going to make me cut more than I wanted to. I finally clocked in at 980 words. So close.

And you know what? The story in my humble opinion turned out pretty good.

With all that in mind, here's what I came up with in the space of about two hours this late afternoon/early evening.

Come Fly With Me

I can’t believe I thought it was really nice of him to make the invitation. We were pretty rough on him in college. I’m not sure why he hung out with us, except that maybe he hadn’t had anyone else to hang out with. Being the picked-on little brother of our social circle was apparently preferable to not being part of anything at all. And of course, being college kids, we weren’t the most thoughtful bunch, so we were happy to oblige. Someone had to be low man on the totem pole.

I’d pretty much forgotten him in the almost three years since we graduated. Then came the news that he’d won the lottery. Well, almost. He had five of the six numbers. How very Cameron – almost but not quite. Still, almost three hundred thousand dollars is pretty sweet. It wasn’t the twenty-nine million that six matching numbers would have paid, but it was three hundred grand more than ever fell into my lap.

There was talk he was going to use the money to fulfill his long-time dream of getting his pilot’s license, but other than that he faded away again. Until, when out of the blue, he emailed the old college gang with a proposal. He wanted to fly us all to Las Vegas for a big blowout weekend. He had just enough lottery money left to rent a private jet and spring for Sin City.

If he’d had that sixth number he’d have been able to buy a private jet instead of renting one.

He was finally going to get to be big man on campus. After some discussion, we decided it was the least we could do for him, after being kinda shitty to him in school. I know that sounds weird, but it felt like we’d made the transition from stupid kids to mature adults and were going to make up for past transgressions.

So that’s how we end up here on a gorgeous Friday evening, boarding a very snazzy plane. It looks like something a celebrity would own. And Cameron actually looks smart in his pilot’s uniform.

There’s no crew. Cameron makes a big to-do about setting us up with a boatload of hors d’oeuvres and drinks, then cheerfully waves as he disappears into the cockpit. I have to admit it’s really impressive.

As the engines fire up, I get a brief jolt of adrenaline as it occurs to me that we’re kind of taking his word that he’s knows what he’s doing. But off we go, without a hitch. Vegas, here we come! He really does know what he’s doing. We’re having a blast.

After a while, the intercom crackles to life. “Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking. If you haven’t already, please check the fridge for additional drinks and snacks.”

It’s a perfectly normal mini-fridge. We all had them in college. I open it and with a sickening jolt realize our lives have just gone to hell. There’s no drinks, no snacks. Just a weird-looking package with wires curled around it.

I can’t move. Eventually the others notice and wander over. All we can do is gawk at it. There’s also what appears to be blood on it. Because springing a bomb on us isn’t enough.

We try the cockpit door. It’s locked up tight.

“Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking. The door is reinforced, so don’t bother trying to knock it in. Also, I have a gun. Please enjoy your flight.” And then, to emphasize his point that now we’re at his mercy, the plane suddenly goes into a nose dive that probably only lasts a few seconds before leveling out, but feels like forever.

Then the bastard turns on the seatbelt sign. Asshole.

The promised wi-fi is non-existent. We’re cut off from the rest of the world and at the mercy of someone who should never have wanted to see us again. How did we miss that? I just sit there in shock. A couple people are crying, others pacing, trying to come up with a plan.

After punctuating our flight with a few more quick dives, Captain Cameron cheerfully informs us that we’re approaching our destination, the neon lights of which we can see if we look out the left side of the plane. It’s an appropriately eerie sight, as the brightly lit city sits there like a crazy carnival in a sea of black, just floating in the middle of nowhere. An oasis in the desert.

I recall that however socially stunted Cameron might have been, he wasn’t stupid. His grades were almost always A’s. He never agonized over exams and finals and papers like the rest of us did.

Was he smart enough to build a bomb? Shouldn’t it have gone off by now?

Cameron’s smug voice comes over the intercom again. “Ladies and gentlemen, if you haven’t already, please finish your drinks and return to your seats. We will be landing soon.”

I consider the possibility that he’s just screwing with us. Put us in fear for our lives. I imagine him smiling and thanking us for flying Cameron Airlines as we, shaking and crying, exit the plane, never to be the same. It’s one hell of a revenge plan, assuming that’s how this plays out.

That’s when he overshoots McCarron. So low over the airport, terrifyingly so.

Someone points out the Bellagio’s dancing fountains rushing at us. Cameron’s going to make a big splash, literally and figuratively. The bomb was just to set the mood.

I don’t know what I was thinking, taking this trip. I was taken in, played. We all were, by Cameron, of all people. Cameron the clown, Cameron the seemingly cheerful butt of so many jokes during our carefree school days.

Cameron the pilot. Cameron, who is about to take out the Bellagio fountains and us with them.

Note: Eeep...while re-reading it here I found an editing error, a dropped word. Make that 981 words...and I went over it so many times :(

Update: Just discovered it's spelled McCarran, not McCarron. SMH.

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