Ethan jerked awake.
He looked at his watch. 3:10 pm. He’d last checked it at 2:50 pm. Twenty minutes. He’d never been good at sleeping on planes. Even in Dreamliner business class seats – one of which he was now stretched out on. He reached out and touched the screen to his right. His seat, which had just served as a bed, now began to rise from its one hundred and eighty degree position. As it ascended, Ethan wrinkled his facial muscles. His cheeks felt hot and unpleasant, as they always did after a shitty plane-sleep. When his seat back was at a satisfactory position he turned on the TV screen before him. He turned on Bloomberg and his heart did a little jump when he saw the red going from right to left at the bottom of the screen. For the fourth day in succession the market was down – just a little bit every day. Ethan, recently made a senior investment officer at his bank, had a large short position on the Nasdaq and Dow Jones. He had already made a small eight-figure sum for Harland-Weiss, his employer, but he had no intention of closing out the position and cashing in. The ten-year bull market was at an end, in his view, and was headed for the doldrums. The small drops of the past few days would soon become a flood, and he would join the realm of the super-rich as a result. A faint smile appeared on his features as he saw himself in his mind’s eye shaking the hand of a real-estate agent after having just purchased a penthouse apartment in Manhattan.
As he watched a flight attendant approach down the aisle, he swallowed, wondering whether he should order a bottle of water or beer. He asked for a vodka instead. After his first gulp, he savoured the burn of the spirit as it announced its trail to his stomach. He smiled inwardly at his motto – beer by the sea, wine before sex, and vodka on a plane.
Vodka on a plane was the best. No matter how good the sex after the wine. Especially vodka when you were getting richer by the second. He looked across the aisle to his left. He admired the black-stockinged calves that greeted his eyes for a moment, before resting his gaze on the laptop that resided on its owner’s knees. The woman was watching a news channel, and beneath the silently moving mouth of the news anchor on the screen, a banner reminded Ethan about the disappearance of a plane over the eastern Atlantic two days earlier. The plane had been carrying two hundred and forty-three people. It had literally disappeared off the screens of air traffic controllers on both sides of the Atlantic just out of the blue. Search teams were out around the clock, combing the waters of the area where the plane’s blip had abruptly winked out of existence. Not a single piece of debris had been found so far.
A slender, elegant finger pressed a button on the laptop and the view changed to a document of some sort. Ethan’s eyes wandered involuntarily to the privacy shield which blocked his view of the woman’s face. Nice legs, nice fingers…odds are good for the rest he thought.
Hearing a sudden raised mumbling ahead of him and to his rear, he noticed that a man who was returning to his seat from the bathroom was peering out the window, his eyes scrunched up in a disbelieving what the hell is that?expression.
Instinctively, Ethan looked out the window himself. He found himself staring at a sky that appeared to be…smearing, almost like an ice cream melting in the summer sun. As he gazed at the bizarre sight he began to feel both numb and a little nauseous.
Suddenly there was nothing.
When Ethan came to, it was to the sound of shouting and crying. He could hear footsteps pounding up and down the aisles. Had they crash-landed? Were there terrorists on board?
He opened his eyes. His gaze was immediately drawn to his right. Outside the window, in the distance, was…well, what looked like a collection of gigantic parsnips from which thin tentacles emanated. The parsnip collection was a dull grey in colour and the tentacles were a pale blue. The colossal monstrosity was floating in the air. Outside of the sound of panicking humanity, Ethan couldn’t hear anything mechanical. The engines had apparently been shut off. One of the bizarre blue tentacles weaved through the space outside the plane and burst through one of the windows a few rows down from his.
Almost instantly Ethan heard coughing and the drawing of strangled breaths. Suddenly he felt his skin – any part of it that wasn’t covered by clothes – burning. Before he had time to cry out in pain, he was spluttering and gasping for breath. He could hardly feel the agonising blisters that were forming on his hands, neck and face, so excruciating was the sensation of feeling his lung tissue dissolve under attack from whatever gas was spreading throughout the plane. Terrorists! his groggy, fading mind proclaimed as he pointlessly struggled to get to his feet. Gagging, his tongue feeling way too big for his mouth, he caught a glimpse of the arm of the woman in the seat across the aisle – quivering fingers splayed in agony, the flesh beneath the hand patched with huge, ugly blisters. Ethan was slightly glad that he couldn’t see the owner’s face and when a mix of blood and water spurted weakly from a blister on his left cheek he was relieved that he couldn’t see his own.
Completely unable to either inhale or exhale now, his lungs destroyed, he collapsed back in his seat, trembling. Guess I’m not going to see that penthouse apartment now he just had time to think. A second after his mind had uttered the sentiment he was dead.
Chelgarits leaned close to the plane. He didn’t want to miss the next bit.
The bodies inside began to explode, sending their innards all over the interior.
Chelgarits shrieked in delight, a sound that was a little like a mixture of a donkey braying and a rattlesnake hissing. On and on the muted bombs sounded, in the middle of which, Chelgarits heard his father calling him downstairs for his dinner. Chelgarits made no response as the dull popping continued. Eventually all was quiet. Chelgarits stared at the tiny, primitive flying apparatus held firmly in the grip of his tentacle. It amazed him, the effect that his planet’s atmospheric gases had on the tiny little humans.
He turned and placed the Dreamliner on the shelf by his bed, next to the Airbus 380 that he had caught two days previously. Its windows were similarly gore-streaked. At the sound of his father calling him again, Chelgarits turned and hovered quickly from the room, the exhaust gases from his organic thrusters causing the air to shimmer over an open box on the ground. The selling pitch on the front of the box read:
KIDS! GO FISHING IN SECTOR 214 WITH THIS STATE OF THE ART JUNIOR WORMHOLE GENERATOR (CONFORMING TO IXYETHEL SAFETY STANDARD S- 10057).
SEE WHAT YOU CATCH!
John Leahy has had three novels published – Harvest, CROGIAN, and Unity. His story The Tale In The Attic attained an honorable mention in L Ron Hubbard’s Writers Of The Future Contest. His short story Singers has been included in Flame Tree Publishing’s 2017 Pirates and Ghosts anthology, alongside tales by literary greats such as Homer, Joseph Conrad, Rudyard Kipling, Arthur Conan Doyle, Robert Louis Stevenson, H.P. Lovecraft, and H.G. Wells. When not writing he spends his time teaching and performing music, working out, and keeping abreast of the stock market and current affairs. He lives in Abbeyfeale, Ireland.