Gate 56: After having traipsed past fifty-five near identical departure gates attended by even more identical staff, he’d finally made it. Who designs an airport with all the departure gates in a single row anyway? He’d taken a little longer than he’d planned because he didn’t want to be sweating when he boarded his plane. He’d worn his best suit in the hope of being upgraded to first class. A dishevelled appearance would spoil his chances. Plus there was that same dilemma every time he approached a travellator. Can I justify having a machine walk for me? Eventually the answer had been yes, on account of the desire not to perspire, but the indecision had added minutes.
TONE. “Now boarding flight one-oh-three to Auckland, New Zealand,” said a honey-sweet contralto voice over the PA. He groaned. 103 was his flight but he still had one more security check to clear, the one they had added after the last round of terrorist hijackings.
Why anyone would want to hijack a flight to Auckland was a mystery to him. It’s not like it’s a rocket flight with Gold Star Aerospace! Well maybe if you accidentally boarded the wrong flight, the shock of discovering you’re on your way to Auckland, well that would be enough to drive you to a terrorist act. He chuckled.
He approached the iconic door frame structure in the middle of the room, briskly placed his leather satchel on the adjacent conveyor belt to be X-rayed and stepped through, only to be immediately accosted by a hail of high pitched sirens. He stepped back. Fumblingly he reached into his pants pocket and removed what he thought to be the offending item, which he’d forgotten he had in the rush. There wasn’t much metal in it. They keep making these things more sensitive.
“What is that?!” demanded a security guard, pointing to the black box that had set off the metal detector. A woman of significant girth, she moved with unexpected speed. Her movement to intercept him had eclipsed the corridor leading to the aircraft.
“It’s a bomb,” he replied with a mischievous yet nervous half grin, simultaneously holding up the offending object for the imposing woman to get a better view. The words ‘dA bOMB! mp3 player’ were emblazoned in a solid silver font on the hard case.
The security woman frowned. She jabbed her solid yet flabby arm, the marshmallow like structure on the end of it that was her hand indicated a rectangular sign. The sign was clean, shiny and white with a black border, orderly mounted just like the others in the airport; this one though, had sharp edges. ‘AIRPORT SECURITY HAVE NO SENSE OF HUMOUR,’ it warned in bold black letters.
“Do recruitment screen for that or is it part of your training?” he asked impulsively. Then immediately regretted it. The woman’s facial expression didn’t change. What am I saying? I’ll get cavity searched for sure, and she has such large fingers, they always have large fingers! He started fidgeting with his tie (a pearlescent light blue affair meant to contrast his dark business suit and show a little of his personality).
In a gruff voice she answered, “Security staff are not recruited. We are all cloned from genetically modified DNA. The lack of that impediment is just one of the desirable qualities with which we are created.” The response was automatic, somewhat prideful. Did she mean it? In the background, he was dimly aware, the contralto voice was making the final boarding call. “Please try again Sir,” the guard instructed with authority.
“Of course, of course” he mumbled, placing the mp3 player in a plastic box to be X-rayed. The head-phones briefly caught on the edge of his pocket but he untangled them quickly. He stepped through the metal detector, the alarm didn’t sound this time and he claimed his possessions. Observing no further incident the guard, her duty completed, stepped aside and he hurried down the corridor to board his plane. He didn’t give the ‘clone’ security guard of Gate 56 another thought, instead his thoughts returned to the possibility of an upgrade.
Flight 103: Still holding the music player, he approached the plane via the gangway. He smiled at the hostess, partly because she was attractive – her eyes seemed to perfectly match the powder blue skirt and blouse that formed her uniform – but also because she would be the one to make the offer of an upgrade (if it were to be made at all).
“Boarding pass please sir,” she returned his smile in making the request. Her teeth were advertising-poster straight he noted, as he clumsily searched his pockets. Where did I leave it? In the process of searching he dropped his satchel. There was a metallic clank as its buckle contacted the steel gangway.
He leant over to recover his possession. The stewardess glanced discreetly at her wrist, then knelt down, keeping her back straight and placing a hand to her flight cap to prevent its dislodgement from her blonde mane. Her knees hovered just above the gritty gangway. “Can I be of assistance sir?” she asked.
He handed her the music player and continued searching his coat as they both rose. After a few moments the thinness of his suit lining allowed him to locate the boarding pass in the breast pocket. He pinched the material, Maybe this isn’t going to be warm enough for Auckland, before reaffixing his eyes on the stewardess, but she’d be hot in any weather.
The stewardess flipped the gadget over in her hand; glanced at it; then returned her gaze to him. Without looking at the boarding pass he was now presenting to her, she said the words he’d been longing to hear, “As the result of cancellations, I am authorised to offer you an upgrade to First Class today sir.” Yes! “You may take seat 3C, it’s an isle seat near the front of the cabin.”
“Thankyou, you’re wonderful!” he replied, simultaneously hastening toward the front of the plane.
Her voice chased him down the plane though, “Wait sir, I need to give you this!” Others were looking now. A crew member’s raised voice a momentary distraction from luggage to be stowed. He turned. Please let it be a phone number.
She handed him the music player. “You’ll need this.” Oh, right. He made a show of putting the ear-phones in. She turned away. He pressed play and made toward his seat.
Here it is: 3C. Having finally made his seat, he placed his bag in the overhead compartment; there was only just enough space. He sat down and had begun to relax into the flight when a terrible screeching emanated from the mp3 player. He tore the phones from his ears, and saw that they were bloodied. What the hell? What track is that!?
He was about to investigate further when the seat belt light came on and he was obliged to turn off the electronic device. The captain welcomed everyone aboard. The stewardess pointed out the exits as passengers looked on (or didn’t). The plane whistled down the runway and lifted into the air. Finally. Now let’s have a look at that music player.
The plane reached cruising altitude and he reached for the music player, only to black out…
When he came to he found that instead of holding a ‘dA bOMB’ mp3 player, he had his hands firmly gripping the wrists of a one-legged man sprawled out on the floor. To his further astonishment he found that he had a knee in the man’s back; the rest of the cabin was applauding.
He looked around: the same stewardess from earlier was groggily getting to her feet. He looked forward: from the now badly mangled cabin door protruded a plastic prosthetic leg – like an old fashioned can opener jutting out of a tin of pet food. Must be that new polymer. Then he looked to the side: there lay the music player; the words ‘Air Marshall Activation’ scrolled across the screen. Ah.
He addressed the man squirming beneath his knee. “There’s just one thing I don’t understand,” he said, genuinely puzzled. “Why Auckland?”
Copyright © 2008 Daniel Cotton.
First published in our Infinitas Newsletter, October 2008.
This page last updated 20th July 2009.