I was on a red eye from Phoenix to Chicago. It’s about a four and a half hour flight in real time, but the time zone and daylight savings difference makes it more like six and a half. Flying is not one of my favorite things; in fact, I had chosen the red eye so I could drown myself in Maker’s Mark before getting on and sleep though the whole damn ride. Sleep, however, was proving elusive. I was tired, but each shudder of the plane or bump from turbulence tightened my vice grip on the arm rest and quickened my pulse. My body eventually found an equilibrium in a waking dream.
A man in a tattered and burned suit walked forward from the back of the plane. His hair was missing in patches, replaced by scalp. In places, the flesh had bubbled away, leaving only a gleaming streak of drying blood and strip of withered muscle tissue. He was using his blackened, skeletal hands to rip wiring from above the overhead compartments, pausing occasionally to open an access panel in the floor and pull out a handful of red and black strands. He reached the emergency doors and turned to look back at me. His mouth and cheeks had been ripped away, leaving his teeth exposed in a humorless grin. The left eye was a pulpy, dripping, red mess; the right healthy and blue irised, though menacing. He stared directly at me and began pulling violently at the door release.
I shook myself awake. The man was gone. Around me, other passengers snored or laughed quietly at television shows playing on their tablets. The flight attendant noticed me stir and smiled in my direction. I smiled back. At that exact moment, a loud click resonated through the plane and we began descending. Fast. Too fast. The plane hit an air column and bucked, sending laptops and iPhones flying. A man who wasn’t buckled in went airborne before landing hard on the top of his head in the center aisle. Oxygen masks dropped from the ceiling. The man who fell in the aisle was either out cold or dead, his face turned up at me. His eyes were blue and, though it wasn’t scorched and torn, there was no mistaking his suit.