(December 13, 2010)

It took a moment for Roderigo to open his eyes. Once he did, he noticed the pale moonlight leaking through the window shade. To his left, Yvonne and Steven were leaning back in their seats, their drinks still on the folding tray. It was calm, quiet, and almost serene, but that only served to emphasize his growing discomfort. He felt the unmistakable need to relieve himself, something made all the more pressing by his position, and all the more daunting by his distance from the aisle.

     He made a brief glance toward the back of the aisle to ensure the restrooms were unoccupied, but their angles made it impossible for him to do so. He eased himself up and began to squeeze past Yvonne’s and Steven’s legs, taking care not to brush against them and making each step as silent as possible. He only made a few steps down the aisle when it dawned on him that the other seats were empty. While this seemed odd at first, he shrugged it off. It was a small flight after all, and the other first class passengers had undoubtedly decided to spend it in the lounge. More room for us, I guess.

     The flight back from Kansas City had run into a few problems. All of the flights to Miami were already booked. They were forced to choose a flight to Dallas and take a second plane there, but inclement weather had forced that flight to detour to Phoenix. They were stuck in the terminal for eight hours, but finally managed to exchange their tickets for a red-eye flight. There were, unfortunately, a few stops along the way, but that had given them some time to catch some much-needed sleep.

     After several more steps down the aisle, he no longer noticed the empty cabin. Instead, his attention had turned toward the lack of sound coming from the sky lounge. The apparent absence of passengers in business class was beginning to bother him as well. It was almost as if he, Steven and Yvonne were the only ones left on the plane.

     As he neared the restroom, Roderigo could hear the faint sound of crying coming from within. “Please don’t hurt me,” the voice pleaded, “I’ll do whatever you say! Just let me go!” This was followed by mumbling, a pair of sharp cracks, and finally silence.

     Roderigo pulled back against the wall. Those were definitely gunshots–suppressed but still audible, likely from a high-velocity pistol. But the door didn’t open, and he couldn’t hear any breathing. Taking a chance, he grabbed the handle and flung the door open.

     It was empty.

     He sighed. It was just a hallucination. Even with his medication, he still had them. It wasn’t always easy to tell them from reality, and some of his reactions to them had gotten him into a few embarrassing situations in the past. Still, having a hallucination on an airplane in front of a crowd of frightened passengers wasn’t good, and he nervously looked back to check the situation.

     The seats were still empty. Oh well, he thought, and he slid into the stall to do his business. The light flickered, and he thought he saw a shadow creep in the corner of the stall–it appeared for only a moment, but what he saw implied a toothless, smiling figure with a wide-brimmed hat. Roderigo didn’t bother to pay much attention. He simply closed his eyes and muttered, “I hate this,” hoping the vision would just go away.

     There was a metallic tone, almost like a bell. Roderigo opened his eyes to once again find himself in his seat. A voice echoed over the loudspeaker, “There is a storm forming up ahead. We’ll be landing in Little Rock shortly. You should expect an eight hour delay.”

     It was only a dream. But even so, he found himself wishing he were still asleep. At least then he could ignore the delay.