The ticket agent pushed some buttons and Flight 13 flashed across the screen, departing in 20 minutes.
Eden’s head throbbed as she ran back into the bathroom. “Leann. Leann,” she cried out, but heard only the sounds of swishing toilets and clicking heels on the tile. A woman dressed as a ghostly nun stared. Eden raced into the corridor darting from gate to gate, searching for her friend. Unable to find her, Eden would race out of the airport and back to her vehicle. She’d drive straight to her friend’s house. There had to be some explanation. Maybe Leann was in on some massive joke, like a reality TV show.
“It’s not fake blood,”
But a large security agent wearing a black cape held up his hand. “Woo, Miss. You can’t get out this way. Airport under lockdown.”
Startled, Eden pressed her hand to her mouth and spoke over the lump in her throat. “Lockdown? I don’t understand. I have to find my friend.”
The guard jabbed his index finger in the air. “Back, Miss. Back to your gate.”
On shaky legs, Eden turned and shuffled back to Gate 50 and sat as far away from the wolfman as possible. She scanned every direction but saw only strangers dressed in macabre costumes. When she punched Leann’s number into her cell, it flashed No Service.
The ticket agent lifted the microphone and announced, “Ladies and gentlemen, we will begin boarding Flight 13 to Halloween Ville at this time. Mothers with small children and those needing extra assistance will be given priority.”
Eden checked her boarding pass for her seat assignment and sat in silence as passengers meandered onto the plane, none questioning its destination. She thought of making a run for it, but the security guard corralled everyone onto the plane, just like a cattle call. She followed the other passengers and prayed that Leann would be waiting for her inside, where everyone would shout, “Surprise,” at the clever joke. As she shuffled down the aisle, she searched each row of seats, then slid into row 7, window seat, with still no sign of her friend.
Eden wondered if she’d made a mistake, boarding. Maybe she should have stayed inside the airport despite the security guard’s bullying. Once more, she pulled her cell out of her purse, but it still flashed No Service. If she ever hoped to get off the plane, she’d better do it now before they locked the door, so she pushed herself to her feet and past eager travelers.
“Miss, where are you going?” the flight attendant said.
“I’ve made a mistake. This is the wrong plane.” Eden attempted to control the panic in her voice.
“Sorry. No one allowed off the plane. We’re ready for takeoff.” The attendant blocked the exit and pointed toward the back of the plane for Eden to return to her seat.
Eden dragged her feet toward row 7, and she whimpered when she spotted the airport wolf in the seat next to hers.
With no other empty seats in sight, Eden slid over him and into her seat. As she stared out the window, tears slid down her cheek. What if she never found Leann? Something horrible must have happened to her, she just knew it.
In the seat just in front of her, a man turned around and stared. He wore a hat made of snakes, like Medusa. A worm crawled from his eye.
Eden closed her eyes and prayed to be awakened from the nightmare. Hot, salty fluid crept into her throat as the plane taxied down the runaway.
“Welcome to Flight 13 with non-stop service to Halloween Ville, where all your nightmares come true,” the flight attendant announced. “In just a moment, we’ll begin our festive beverage and snack service. Enjoy your flight.”
Eden opened her eyes and scanned once more for her friend, but saw only ghoulish passengers. She looked out the window, but instead of billowy clouds, a wooded path appeared, surrounded by gnarled trees and smoke. And then, Eden saw Leann and Raven in the distance, walking the path. Eden banged on the window. “Leann! Leann!”
But her friend and cat kept walking down a dark lane and disappeared inside a forest.
“Miss, control yourself or I’ll have to call security.” The flight attendant stood in the aisle, arms crossed.
“But, I see my friend out there,” Eden said and pointed to the clouds.
The attendant shook her head and returned to the front of the airplane.
Tiny bugs crawled along the wolfman’s fur and droplets of blood stained the sleeve of Eden’s witch’s costume. And with no forewarning, the wolf turned to Eden and spoke in a garbled, inhuman tone. “You killed them, you know. You killed everyone.”
“What did you say?”
“You killed your friend.”
“No. No. That’s a lie. I’ve never hurt anyone in my life.”
“Think back,” the wolfman said. “Think back.”
Eden pressed her head back into the seat and clenched her eyes shut. As if watching a horror film, she saw Leann driving her and Raven home from the dental surgery. Raven sat on Eden’s lap, wrapped in her favorite blanket, resting, until Eden noticed blood running from her mouth. In her panic, she reached out and grabbed Leann’s arm. The vehicle veered into oncoming traffic, followed by the sound of smashing metal and then, only darkness….
Tears pour down Eden’s cheeks as she remembered the tragedy, but where was she now and how could she find Leann and Raven?
The soaring jet made contact with the runway and the abrupt stop nearly thrust Eden into the seat in front of her. She opened her eyes, praying to find herself on the Florida beach, basking in the sun, sipping cocktails; or even back in her apartment with Leann and Raven as she packed for her trip.
Instead, hundreds of half-rotten corpses wailed at tombstones and grasped at the air, clawing themselves out of the putrid ground where they suffocated down below. A black river filled with human limbs and debris rushed past.
Eden leaned her head back and prayed for sleep. She took deep breaths and counted backward until she dozed off and dreamt of walking by a crystal clear creek with Raven running beside her. Then the sound of deafening sirens caused her to open her eyes again, to flashing red lights. She recoiled inside the mangled vehicle. Jagged streams of blood covered the interior and windshield, while just outside, the wolfman pulled a red-stained sheet over a body on a stretcher. Eden whimpered and shut her eyes tightly once more.
Just in the distance at the edge of the forest beyond the cemetery, stood Leann and Raven, waiting patiently for Eden to join her.
About The Author
Kelly Piner is currently a practicing Clinical Psychologist. She recently had short stories published in The Literary Hatchet and Dark Dossier.
She also has an interview in Mademoiselle, “Drawn to a Stranger,” as well as an interview in Psychology Today, “Instant Intimacy.” She has recently completed her first novel, FAT SANDS.