By Max Worley
It started with a bump. The oxygen masks tumbled out of their hidden alcove in the storage bins above the seats. The left engine sputtered and died before my eyes as I looked out the window. I leaned forward anxiously, then relaxed; I’d heard that planes are designed to be able to carry their load on just one engine.
That calm evaporated when the second engine quit as well. As the plane started to fall, the captain’s voice came on over the speakers,
“Please remain calm, fasten your seatbelts and brace for an emergency landing.”
I felt my body tense and my limbs felt oddly warm, my heart beat faster and faster as I contemplated the legitimate possibility that I could die.
Then, just as suddenly as it had all started, it all stopped. I jerked my head up and awoke, fully and completely terrified.
This wasn’t the first time I’d had this dream.
“Would you like a drink?” the flight attendant’s voice shocked me back to the present, and I gathered my thoughts quickly to reply.
“Yes, do you have any chocolate milk?”
“You look about ten years too old to be asking for that,” she laughed, not unpleasantly, “but I’ll see what I can do,” she said as she walked up to the crew area.
The thing is, people always laughed when I asked for chocolate milk, but they always gave it to me just the same. When I was younger, my parents gave it to me, as it would help me recover after some of my more traumatising nightmares. I used to think it was magic. Luckily the chocolate milk comes off as just an odd quirk; I prefer to keep to myself, and so I much prefer this to something more unique that I’d have to explain.
“Well, you wouldn’t believe it, but I found some!” the flight attendant gushed, “And it’s cold too!”
The words escaped my lips with a sigh, as though I couldn’t muster up enough strength for anything else, which was in fact true. With trembling hands, I raised the cup towards my face as the attendant stood there, seemingly unsure as to what to do next. As the liquid passed through my lips and trickled down my throat, I felt my strength returning, and the latent numbness in my limbs receding.
“Thank you so much,” I said again, with more gratitude. The attendant smiled, and returned to the cabin up front. I turned back and allowed myself to indulge. I remember drinking it all through my childhood, and it also brought back other memories with it. Both good ones and bad ones.
I thought back to the first time I’d dreamt, years before I sat on this plane the vivid dreams had started.
When I was very young, I would wake up with nightmares every night. But one night I came into my parents’ room even more upset than usual. I still remember what happened in the dream.
I’m playing in the yard with my dog. Usually mom or dad are here with me, but today I’m alone for some reason. I really shouldn’t be out here on my own. The cars on the highway in front of our house whiz past while Obie and I play. As I’m toddling around the front yard, my ball rolls into the street. Immediately I begin to run towards the ball. As I’m about to run to get it, I hear Obie growling, and look up to find him baring his teeth at me, standing in the street to prevent me from trying to get my ball and getting hit by a car.
Obie never saw it coming. I hope he never felt it either. My parents thought I was crazy. They told me I must have misremembered, that I must have had the dream right after it had happened.
I believed them.
I believed them when they told me I couldn’t have foreseen my broken arm. I couldn’t have, right? Dreams are just dreams…
It starts with a bump. The oxygen masks tumble out of their hidden alcove in the storage bins above the seats. The left engine sputters and dies before my eyes as I look out the window.
As my dreams continued I learned more about what to expect from them. I was sure I knew when a dream was just a dream and when it was… more. But then a new kind of dream came and it flipped everything over on its head. I remember the dream well; I couldn’t believe it when it happened. I’d been so sure they were only capable of ruining my life by this point.
I’m standing by my locker, the school bell had just rung for lunch, but I’m on a mission. I don’t know how many times I’ve played this out in my head, but it feels like a million. I actually asked my friend about my outfit so that I’d look better for this. I put my books in my locker and quickly grab my lunch before speeding off in a desperate race to catch Lily at her own locker. I mean to approach her coolly and casually, but I end up rushing over, tripping over my feet like an idiot, and landing at her feet.
“Uh, hi,” I manage to say from the floor, somehow not dying of embarrassment. “So I’d been wondering if you’d wannagooutwitme?”
It was by far not my smoothest moment, not by a longshot, but if it works, it works. I was ecstatic that it had come true, but more than just having gotten a yes. I was incredibly happy that I could see more than just the horrible parts of my future, I could see snapshots of it all…
The left engine sputters and dies before my eyes as I look out the window. I’m not scared yet…
At times I was convinced that I was crazy. I never wanted to know when it was going o happen. I could guess of course, but I thought it better left alone, so I was always unprepared…
It started with a bump. Just as I remembered. The oxygen masks tumbled out of their hidden alcove in the storage bins above the seats. The left engine sputtered and died before my eyes as I looked out the window. I wasn’t scared yet, no, there was still time for this to be a dream. That calm evaporated when the second engine quit as well, I could feel the plane falling; this was no dream, it was all too real, I began counting. As the plane started to fall, the captain’s voice came on over the speakers,
“Please remain calm, fasten your seats and brace for an emergency landing.”
Ten. The first scream came from a twenty-something man a few rows up and across from me. As soon as that thin barrier, a mere societal norm, was broken, all hell broke loose. Twenty. Nobody had bothered to put on their oxygen masks; there were too many other things to think about and it didn’t seem like it would help. I put mine on. I clung to it like a lifeline, like if I did everything right I would wake up. Thirty. I figured there was no point in pretending that I had any control over this monster of a plane.
Fifty. The other passengers however, were not as enlightened as I. There were a variety of responses to this terrifying new development that I witnessed, but all of them hinged on some sort of hysteria.
Seventy-Five. This is the sort of hysteria one gets when they think they are about to die.
One-Hundred. When one knows they are going to die, they become calm and still, waiting for it to come.
One-Hundred and Twenty-Five. I feel the silence beginning to spread.
One-Hundred and Thirty. The plane began to pick up speed in earnest now. A plane can drop six thousand feet in a minute when it is in freefall from cruising altitude. It took me twenty seconds to google that while free-falling in an airplane.
One-Hundred and Fifty. How much of the rest of my life do those twenty seconds represent?
One Sixty. The hysteria around me continued, but I sat back in my seat, content to play the role of a casual observer of this wild phenomenon, at least for about two minutes, at which point I saw the sea out of the window getting closer by the second.
Three Hundred. At around this point the people around me seemed to get it.
Three Twenty Five. The screaming and shouting were replaced by an atmosphere befitting a funeral.
Three Thirty Five. They say your life flashes before your eyes when you die. Three Forty. My life has always flashed before my eyes, I wonder if that means I am always about to die when I sleep.
But if I am always about to die, then can I really ever die?
I wonder what would have happened if I’d stayed asleep?
The water loomed large in all directions, it seemed inescapable. And yet… welcoming.
Why did I have to get on this plane?
Does it really matter, I had to get on one of them.
I have seen my life, but never before have I seen death, I wonder what it looks like.
I look at all of the people sitting around me, what were their stories? How did they get here? I guess it doesn’t matter, all that matters is that they were here now.