While boarding for flight 238 to Albuquerque, Ms. Macy Conway experienced an uncharacteristic bout of superstition. After the gate agent announced that, "all passengers with children under the age of two may board," Ms. Macy's heart sank at the fact that the flight number added to thirteen. But, she had never before been superstitious. Not even when she lived a year in New York City on floor "fourteen." Macy blamed today’s anxiousness on too much coffee and too little sleep; a delirium amplified by the angst of flying alone with a child. So, Ms. Macy Conway decided to board herself and her baby onto flight 238.
As Macy walked toward the gate, four corporate men awaiting first class stood in her way. Each wore checkered dress shirts tucked into their dark blue jeans. Warm colored blazers draped over their carry-ons. Their stomachs hung just as casually over their belts: the aesthetics of a career built in Excel. Macy stood behind the men, but none took notice. She thought it another sign from the universe not to board. But instead of heeding to that thought, Macy looked up to the four men blocking her path and said, "excuse me."
At the sound of her voice, the men parted ways and cleared a path for Macy and her child. A man, wearing lavender checkers, bent toward the stroller, and asked, "hey buddy, I'm Jeffrey, What's your name?"
Macy's hands wrung against the stroller's handles, expunging her anger."Oh please, she's asleep," Macy said, in a tone most sweet. "First time all week - it feels."
Jeffrey stood, grinning, and said, "I got half my grays when mine was born; the other half when she was a teenager." Then, he winked. Which confused Macy. But she hid her confusion under a forced half-smile.
"Well anyway, let's get you two to bed," Jeffrey said, bopping the child's cheek with his index finger.
Macy's thoughts boiled. I wouldn't touch someone's dog without first asking. What nerve. If this baby wakes up. What gives you the right —-
But a single mother flying with her newborn must remain composed. So Macy ignored the rest of her thoughts. The same way she ignored the undeniable sensation of the man in the lavender checkers cupping her butt as she, finally, passed.
Alone on the jet bridge, Ms. Macy argued with herself. What's wrong with you Macy? Stick up for yourself. Don't let another man touch your baby, your ass. No, no. He was kind. I'm just anxious, misinterpreting everything right now. I'm so tired. She laughed aloud. This is just one of those days. Don't make it more than that. Go to your seat and finally get some rest.
At the end of the jet bridge awaited a flight attendant with an hourglass body and white teeth framed between plump red lips. Her poise reeked of international flights, and countless flings. Macy didn't have that life. She, instead, chose the life she held in her arms. A life that degraded Macy's into sleeplessness, and now delusion. As Macy and her child crossed onto the plane the flight attendant said, with utmost decorum, "welcome aboard, you two."
Goosebumps spread across Macy's left side. The air in her throat retreated back to her pulmonary sacs. Although the attendant's voice was warm and proper, her eyes were impermeable. Like the windows of a strip club, hiding all signs of life inside. Breathless, Macy nodded to the floor and scurried down the aisle, her baby slung across her shoulder. The baby lifted its head and locked eyes with the attendant. And, according to audio records, both their eyes glazed white - like melted sugar atop a donut.
Macy sat in 22A, against the window, unaware the estranged interaction between her child the red-lipped attendant. Because her baby was asleep. Its warm weight comforted Macy to do the same. As first-class boarded nearly two dozen rows her aft, Macy, hearing the sound of cool air rushing from the vents above, drifted into sleep.
John Litzenberg, a stubble-faced man with rolled sleeves, sat next to Macy in 22B while she was asleep. After he sat, he massaged his thighs. Then he fingered through the airline magazine. Then through the instructions on how to evacuate in case of a water landing. He read each word meticulously, as if his life actually depended on him remembering these instructions. All to keep his mind occupied, and away from texting his ex if she'd like to meet him for wine after he was back in town.
"That's not going to help you in an hour." Samantha joked, placing a tote onto 22C.
John flicked the pamphlet against his open hand and chuckled. Samantha smiled in kind.
As Samantha lifted her carry on into the overhead bin, John stared at a sliver of her skin exposed above her waistline. Her tight stomach beckoned his gaze to linger, and in his loitering he began tracing the outline of her breasts with his eyes. Her cleavage, a spectacular preview which, for a moment, allowed him to imagine them fully. Then she sat. Samantha draped herself into her seat, her soft, long red hair brushing against John's shoulders. The subtlety of the touch made him tingle. Through his peripherals he kept an inconspicuous stare. He admired the quarter sleeve tattoo that capped her right arm. She was, in a word, magnetizing. He contemplated what he could say to start a conversation. But then, felt guilty when he noticed her ring.
But guilt was a feeling for earth. And soon they'd practically leave it. "Albuquerque home?" John asked, turning toward Samantha.
"Nope," Samantha said, burrowing inside her bag.
John struggled with what to say next. "Same," is all he mustered.
Samantha flashed John a half smile and, without another word, wrapped her headphones around her ears - declaring the world closed. Feeling a punch of disappointment, John pulled out his phone, turned it off airplane mode, and texted his ex: in town tonight, drink later?
Samantha peaked at John's text. Meanwhile the red-lipped attendant slowly closed the bins above their heads, and her and the baby locked eyes again. This time their eyes shone white and cloudy - like liquid marble. Samantha snuggled into her seat, assuring that her hair brushed against John's arm. The attendant stared at Samantha's ring and snarled.
Seconds later in first class, the four corporate gentlemen threw back a second round of bourbons. Jeffrey, shouting, asked for a third. But the red lipped attendant told them, "I'm pausing service until we reach altitude. Would you like a water till then?"
Jeff tapped her name tag, as if seeing it for the first time, licked his lips, and said, "Destiny, I'll take anything you give me."
"Great," Destiny said, animating a huge, lifeless, smile.
In the galley Destiny fumed. He does this every week. Every week. He really doesn't know my name by now? Is he with that many women between flights? Money is the only reason someone like this can exist. I hate money for making him. I can't take it. Not for another fucking week.
Shut up, grab the waters, and do your job.
My job isn't to be his little sexy thing.
Just give them waters.
Destiny returned to aisle three with four miniature bottles of water. But the men could not be sobered. Because they were most under the influence of prestige. Power, like any drug, alters one's sense of reality. Their inebriation had morphed people into objects. And on their recent project, Destiny, had become their favorite object between work and home. To look at, and, for Jeffrey, to touch. Every week.
Destiny requested a shift change but she was too junior. An explanation to her supervisor may have elevated her request. But then again, she hadn't heard of a single senior flight attendant who hadn't been violated by a brazen passenger. And, Destiny had other worries. What if an investigation uncovered her medical records? Disqualified her from remaining a flight attendant? So, she learned to see Jeffrey's violations as a tax to a job she loved. It's just once a week, she'd tell herself. And when the sweat of his hand still hadn't evaporated from her thigh, she'd tell herself, it's over - until next week.
When Jeffrey reached for her ass this week, though, she had had enough. Maybe it was the way his fingers lingered. The casualness with which he committed this crime - like it was his God given right. The unshakeable thought Destiny had that this was all her fault. And in that moment, when his fingers cupped her left ass cheek a threshold was crossed. A moment in time that fractured the world before it from what proceeded. There would be no more once more, and if Destiny could have it her way, there would be no more Jeffrey by the end of this flight.
But Destiny suppressed her rage, and quietly returned to her galley. She punched trash into the bin. With each jab, the trash shifted closer toward the bottom. And yet, with each punch her rage heightened. She thought she'd scream. Instead, she grasped the hot kettle of coffee with both hands. The pain extinguished her anger. Which just as quickly turned into embarrassment as she saw, from the corner of her eye, a passenger enter the lavatory while looking her direction. Pull yourself together, Destiny. You'll scare the passengers. She shook her hands to cool the burning sensation. The skin of her hands already bubbled.
The cabin darkened and every passenger fell asleep. Even Jeffrey began to bob. And in the silence Destiny contemplated what it is she'll do to make sure that man's hands never violate her body again. She sat in her jumpseat. Her left eye focused on the man she most wanted dead. Her leg bounced, sequencing each thought. I could find out the name of his wife. I'll tell her. Maybe I'll just 'fess up to why I need a transfer. That's best. No. No. He'll just treat the next girl the same. He's a monster. Monsters deserve to die. This stops —.
Macy's child squealed.
All patrons in aisle 22 sprung awake. Samantha and John realized that their heads had been resting on one another's. It was a reality both realized but didn't acknowledge. They both attempted to settle back into sleep. This time, parading the borders of appropriate behavior. Until Samantha crossed a line, and rested her head back onto John's shoulder. Not enough for a passerby to accuse them as a couple. Just enough for John to want more.
Samantha did too. She awoke, wet. Her body abuzz from a flood of libido that warmed her every crevasse. She had felt a longing for John the moment she laid eyes on him in the lobby, now a thousand miles away. Her heart skipped a beat when she noticed that she would sit next to him. And again when she saw his ring finger bare. She was married. But only by technicality. Her marriage one more blow up from officially ending. Oh, how true that was.
Against the window, Macy's desperation to fall back asleep caused her to cry. But neither John nor Samantha noticed. Not her tears. Nor the shaking of her baby as Macy urged it to quiet. Because John and Samantha were too busy eyeing each other's hands, like two predators having encountered in the wild. Samantha grabbed her armrest to stand. And as she did, traced the edges of John's forearm with her fingers while biting her lip. John's breath hastened. And Samantha walked toward the back of the plane.
The baby's screams muffled Macy's tears. John, stared at the seat to his front, acting unnerved by the screams. He couldn't be honest about why he did what he did next. Maybe it was to escape the cries, maybe it was to catch a glimpse of Samantha, maybe it was because he actually needed to urinate. Whatever the reason, John stood and walked to the back of the plane. And as the baby's cries continued, Macy's despair deepened. Then, in an immeasurable moment, Macy's sadness dissipated. She wiped her tears. Kissed her crying child. And stood to walk toward the front to stop her baby's cries - forever.
John was confused when he reached the plane's stern. Both lavatories were unlocked. So, he opened one and was shocked to see Samantha seated atop the toilet, legs spread wide.
"I'm sor —," John said.
"No," Samantha urged, "come in." John panted. Looked to see if anyone was watching. All John saw was Macy beginning to stand with her baby, so he darted into the bathroom, marking it occupied.
From forty aisles away, under the darkness of shadows, Destiny watched. Alone in her jump seat she whispered, "this whole plane is filled with monsters."
Macy marched her baby up and down the aisle. Its insufferable squeal muted to a pout, one that Ms. Macy muted by stuffing the child's face firmer into her shoulder.
Macy walked toward the plane's rear. The baby's face lifted above Macy's shoulder and locked eyes with Destiny. Like a glitch, its eyes drooped and teeth snarled. The baby lipped to Destiny, "kill them all." The baby's head twitched and, again appearing as a child's, flopped back onto Macy's shoulder.
Destiny, unfazed, stared down the aisle. She and the baby had again thought alike.
"It's okay." Macy whispered to her baby, unaware of its recent transformation. "Mommy will make it okay." Macy hadn't had a proper night of sleep for six months. She fought delusion, felt her mind drift into its most primal states. It was absurd, she thought. Some mothers die while giving birth, have any ever died raising a child?
It seemed plausible. And as she stumbled down the dark airline aisle. The child, now quiet, left Macy to herself. One hundred and fifty strangers slept to the hum of engines. And Macy's mind raced. Her exhaustion diminished her ability to think clearly, reasonably, or appropriately. She wanted to drop the child. To collapse onto the floor and sleep. To feel like she had six months ago, when this life in her arms meant a new one for her as well. Macy looked down at the baby, now fast asleep. It was constantly stealing her energy, just as it stole her food when in the womb, just as it would steal Macy's money over the next many years. Goddam thief. Ms. Macy thought. Then, she had another one: some children die during birth, certainly they can also die being raised.
Macy walked toward the back. And took the baby into the unlocked restroom, ignoring the panting of Samantha and John from the door next door.
Destiny stood from her seat and poured another bourbon. Her hands shook, as she poured the small liquor bottle into a plastic cup. Then she removed a battery from her phone. Poured the battery and bourbon into an empty coffee carafe, and boiled the contents. Destiny cooled the toxic cocktail over ice and quietly delivered it to Jeff in 3C. When she placed it on his tray he sprung awake.
"Well good morning to you too," Jeff said, sneaking his hand up her skirt.
Destiny, winked, and said, "Best to shoot it."
When Destiny returned to her jumpseat, Macy's child took its last breath. It didn't take thirty seconds to kill. Macy just embosomed the thing. Like she'd done so many times in feeding - just harder. Macy even changed its diaper after it took its last shit. Macy exited her stall with baby slung across her shoulder. She kicked the door across the aisle, and shaking her head in disapproval, whispered "scum."
A call from the cockpit rang to Destiny's service phone. The pilot required a break. Destiny removed the galley cart and blockaded the cockpit from the cabin.
When the pilot entered the lavatory, Jeffrey finally shot his drink. But he spit it out onto the back of aisle two. He yelled, "what did you do to my drink, bitch?"
She didn't acknowledge Jeffrey. Instead, Destiny reached into the kitchen and grabbed a hot pot of coffee. She backed the cart against the lavatory door. The cockpit door ajar, she entered. Then she locked the door behind her. Destiny shattered the hot pot of coffee over the copilots head, then butchered his neck with the jagged carafe. Blood sprayed, aligning perfectly with a thin horizon carved by a peeking sun.
Destiny re-opened the cockpit door and saw Jeffrey walking toward her. Destiny cooly said, "burn in hell. Every week - burn."
And Destiny shut the door. Then she buckled herself into the pilot's chair. In Destiny's final act, she barreled the throttle of the plane downward at a speed faster than gravity and sent the plane toward earth. She spoke to a woman over the radio who inquired about the plane's rapid descent. That's how the records knew of the baby's eyes. But Destiny's only wish was that she could have seen Jeffrey's face the moment he was sucked to the back of the plane and collided skulls with the adulterous Samantha.