airplane, fiction, flash fiction, horror, read, short story, story, suspense, virus
Last Week’s FFF: The Clone Ranger
I listened to my heart beat in my head and the sound of my own, ragged breathing. The elevation of the plane wasn’t making anything better. Somehow I had managed to catch a cold while I was on my honeymoon in Africa.
I sat miserable in the aisle, with my new wife in the seat to my right. The man by the window had been asleep since we took of and hadn’t stirred in the hours since. We were seven hours into our flight, and still had another ten to go.
I sniffled, swallowed sorely, and sneezed three times. I got dirty looks from the people in the next row.
“You alright?” Sarah asked.
“I’ll be fine. I just need to get a tissue.”
I unbuckled my seatbelt. All of the bathrooms displayed red Occupied signs. I considered waiting in my seat for one of them. But I’d seen that go wrong. Someone would pop out of their seat, swoop in, and take it. I’d stand and wait, whether they liked it or not.
As I waited for a stall, I noticed that there weren’t any flight attendants heckling me. I glanced and saw the three of them together, huddled in the curtained area between first class and coach, visibly whispering and concerned.
I met the glance of the middle-aged brunette one. Se gave me a scowl and tugged on the curtain. It wouldn’t close all the way. She turned her back to me and blocked the gap with her body.
I heard a tone behind me, and a portly man exited the restroom. He squeezed by me with an uncomfortable smile. I returned it, and passed into the bathroom. I closed the door and the lighting grew. The tiny room smelled vaguely of the last man’s leavings. For the first time on the trip, I was glad I had a stuffed up nose.
I grabbed a handful of paper towels from the holder next to the sink and blew into them.
A bing-bong came from overhead, signally that the pilot was about to speak. But it was a flight attendant who spoke instead.
“Attention, everyone. We have just been informed that a passenger on our flight has been exposed to a virus. I’m afraid that we must return to Johannesburg.”
Even through the closed door I could hear the grumbles.
I opened the door and hung back as the yelling started.
“Should we be worried? Is this virus contagious?”
“We don’t have any information.”
The attendant went to the phone. She looked troubled, hung it up, then dialed the overhead speaker.
“We’ve just gotten an update. The virus has ravaged Johannesburg. We are headed to Cape Town. However, we must identify and quarantine anyone contaminated, or they won’t let us land.”
Many people began to yell now. They were afraid. So was I.
“If it was anyone, it was him!” a man yelled as he pointed at me.
“You’ve been sneezing this whole flight.”
“It’s just a cold.”
“I heard him sneezing, too!” someone seconded.
My wife stood up.
“I’ve been with him. It’s a cold.”
The man who had been asleep next to her stood, and put a hand on her shoulder.
“What’s going on?” he asked.
Before she could answer, a spray of blood erupted from his mouth and splashed her face. He fell to the ground, spilling out into the aisle as she jumped away. His body twitched, but everyone was too afraid to go near.
The man from before spoke again.
“See? He’s infected, he infected the man next to him, and she’s infected now, too!”
The crowd seized Sarah. She looked at me with pleading eyes. Another mob headed toward me.
“Stop this!” I yelled.
Sarah struggled against them, but then violently doubled over. The men holding her arms lost their grip. When they bent to grip her once more, she spewed blood everywhere. They recoiled in horror, but not fast enough. A chain reaction began.
Blood, splatter, bodies dropping like dominoes.
The wave was headed in my direction. I looked at my wife, who was now laying unconscious on the floor. I wanted to run to her and see if she was alright, but the crest of bodies was nearly to me.
I rushed back into the bathroom and closed the door. I waited, wondering and worried. At first, there was silence. After some time, there came a noise like scuffling. I pressed my ear to the door as the sound grew.
There was a knock on the door.
I jumped back, startled by the sudden sound. I was about to answer, when I heard her voice.
“Honey,” my wife said.
I reached for the door, ready to tear it open. But I stopped. There was something slightly off. It sounded like her, but the tone was all wrong. It was flat. Lifeless.
I didn’t answer.
“I know you’re in there. Open the door. We’re all fine out here.”
I was being paranoid. I took a deep breath and reached for to door again. Too slow. Suddenly, she started pounding on it. She screeched an unnatural howl as she tried desperately to get in.
The door held, but rattled mercilessly as those on the plane took turns banging on it. I sat with my back to the door in an effort to reinforce it.
This went on for hours. I wondered what kind of virus would make this act this way. The woman pounding on the door wasn’t my wife.
My stuffed ears popped as they plane began it’s descent. I was confused. They said they wouldn’t land. I felt the telltale thump of the plane as the wheels skidded on pavement. After a moment, the plane stopped.
So did the pounding on the door. I heard a commotion. I heard shouts, both lifeless and new voices. Angry ones.
Next, I heard gun shots and screams.
The pounding on the door resumed. But this time, a large battering ram broke through.
I shook as I was pulled from the stall by a man dressed in a yellow hazard suit. Another, dressed the same, pointed an automatic weapon at me.
Wide eyed, I looked to my right and saw the militants pull the pilots from the cockpit. They looked in good health, and they had delivered the plane to where ever this was. The soldiers didn’t hesitate, and put bullets into both.
“I’m not infected!” I yelled.
“That’s a shame,” the man said as he pulled the trigger.
Mark Gardner said:
Thanks! I wasn’t sure that it would get there with so few words to try abd establish a base, the tension, and tie it up. I’m glad it worked 🙂
I love the bait and switch with the POV character having a cold and having us assume it would be him that would be the carrier. I am really intrigued by this virus and think that it would support an extended story if ever you were interested. But I loved how well you wrapped up this story with the last line–perfect!
Thanks for sharing!
AJ Bauers @ Scribbles
The lingering question for me is how the original guy on the plane stayed dormant when everybody else reacted so violently and immediately. Then again, the wife is able to pretend to be fine to serve her cause. At any rate, you have me thinking after it’s over, which is a good thing. And an infuriating ending, which is to say, a fitting one.