prompt: an aviophobe sets out to win the respect of his disappointed pilot father.
author note: i wrote this a while ago, actually, when i first found this prompt. it's probably awful. i can't bring myself to read it or i'll never post haha. thought it would be unfair of me not to share my own, though.
word count: 1,590
William fidgeted in his seat, crossing and uncrossing his legs in the cramped space. Beside him, a ninety-year old woman snored. He had already pulled down the window cover to keep himself from looking out and making his plight worse, but it had done little to ease the terror that gripped his bones. His palms were sweaty, despite the few dozen times he'd already wiped them down the thighs of his jeans. From the front of the plane, he was beginning to hear shouting; loud, angry hollers littered with half-audible vulgarities. His heart rate increased, even though he had previously been certain it could beat no faster than it already had been, and he recognized the first signs of a panic attack immediately.
It would be the second one in less than an hour. He reminded himself of his father, of the outright disapproval he received every time he visited home. He drove the 1,100 mile trip every time, and his father never let him live it down. "You could just take a plane, William," he would say, "it would save us all the trouble." What trouble his road trip caused his father, William could never figure out. "I like the drive, Dad," he would say.
From all around him, the other passengers on the plane began to whisper to those nearest them; speculating on the circumstances of the heated yelling taking place in First Class. William frantically reached for the headphones hanging from his armrest and hastily stuffed them into his ears. His mother had suggested he bring something soothing to listen to during the flight; Enya, she'd said, was always calming. Or perhaps the Sounds of Nature disc his father had gotten her for Christmas the year before. He'd tossed her his small mp3 player and asked her to do it for him, since he was entirely unfamiliar with the music she was suggesting.
The sounds pumping into his ears were less than helpful. His foot tapped anxiously on the floor; tip, tap, tip, tap, tap, tap. The elderly woman with white hair and dentures was showing the first indications of tipping over into his lap and he cringed inwardly at the prospect. There was a shimmering strand of drool that stretched between her bottom lip and her flower-print shirt. Deep in his gut, he could feel his agonized foreboding develop into raw, relentless nausea.
Without warning, a child, maybe nine or ten years old, came rushing into William's section, wailing and screaming. What caught his attention most, though, was the deep gash that leaked blood from the boy's forehead. No one moved or spoke, the entire cabin fell deathly silent. William was astounded; did no one care? No one found the current series of events to be bothersome or action worthy? He tore his headphones from his ears and, more gracefully than he ever expected, leapt over the lap of the snoozing grandma beside him. He navigated the aisle between the seats and fell to his knees in front of the hysterical boy.
"Hey, hey," he soothed, gently brushing stray strands of matted brown hair from the wound. "What happened?" His voice was level, easy and relaxed, despite the shaking in his body. He busied his hands by tearing strips of cloth from his shirt to wipe the boy's face clean of tears and sweat, and hopefully stop some of the rapid bleeding.
"There's a lady with a gun," he choked out, his words short and stuttered, interrupted by gasping, tearful sobs. "She shot my Dad."
Finally, William wasn't alone in reacting to the situation. A round woman with bright red hair trundled up the aisle to stand behind the boy. "I'm a nurse, I can help him," she said, her voice softer than William had expected. He wasn't certain why he even noticed.
He didn't have time to be indecisive, he knew, but letting the woman take care of the boy left William with only two options. Return to his seat and wait for the events to make their way into his part of the cabin, or make his way into First Class and see if he could do anything up there. One man had already been shot, was he willing to take the risk of being the second?
He looked at the boy, streaks of tears breaking up the spread of crusting crimson on his face, and said, "Go with her, okay? I'll go see if your Dad is all right."
Rising to shaky feet, he allowed himself two deep breaths before moving forward. Stopping at the flight attendant station between the cabin sections, he gathered himself and counted to fifteen. He scanned the small kitchen area for something he could use to defend himself, and was unsurprised to find nothing. Peering through a crack in the curtain, instead, he attempted to analyze the circumstances beyond it.
Inside of his ribcage, his heartbeat thundered.
First Class was a mess of terrified passengers. People were clustered together in groups of three or four to ten or fifteen, whispering frenetically amongst themselves, their eyes darting around the plane with an animalistic fear. William was able to spot who he assumed was the boy's father, a pale mess of blood and sweat sprawled haphazardly in an end seat, entirely alone. A bullet had torn through the man's chest. It was unlikely that he was alive. William felt his stomach turn at the sight of a dead body. His first, but judging by the events of the trip so far, not his last.
At the front of the cabin, the door to the cockpit swung open. Through the crack, he caught a glint of light off a Beretta. He knew he should strategize, but how much could he possibly plan out?
Now or never, he told himself. Do something. Somewhere in the back of his head, a smaller, more cynical voice said, or, do something stupid and get everyone killed. He acted; lunging from the flight attendant station and reaching around the door of the cockpit to grab whoever had been holding the gun. His fingers made purchase in long strands of golden hair and he pulled the woman from the smaller room into the larger, though not necessarily more open, cabin and threw her against the nearest surface. In her hand, dangerously being flung about, the Beretta crashed against the wall. The woman turned, her hair a beautiful, tangled, whirlpool around her, and attempted to level her weapon at his chest. William reacted, ducking and diving for her legs to bring her to the ground.
He struggled to get the advantage over her, avoiding her frenzied attempts to connect her knee with his face. Getting just enough leverage over her to pin her from the stomach down, he shifted his focus to locate where she had the gun. A flash of white splintered across his vision as sharp pain erupted all over the right side of his skull. There was wild hollering coming from all directions around him, but the resounding echoes of pain in his head kept him from hearing anything distinctly. He shook off the blow and elbowed her in the jaw. He felt bone break, and he waited a heartbeat to see if it had been his bone or hers. It was hers.
The narrow blessing was incredibly short-lived, and even though she was bleeding and probably in intense pain, she kneed him in the ribs and made to weasel out of his grip. Gasping for air, he reached up and grabbed her throat roughly. With every ounce of strength in his body, he slammed the back of her head against the floor. It was enough to stun her, but he wouldn't have nearly enough time to disarm her. Every motion in his upper body told him he had at least one broken rib, but he moved anyway. All he could think of was the single lesson he remembered from his high school martial arts class.
Shove your palm upwards against the septum; with enough force, the cartilage will puncture the brain.
He scrambled, his motions jerky and agonized, until he straddled her stomach and pinned her down with his left hand firmly between her collarbones. Everything seemed to be in slow motion as he delivered what he hoped would be the killing blow. By the time he noticed the cold metal of the barrel of the gun pressing into his skin, just beneath his ribs, it was too late. His palm collided with the flat underside of her nose and he felt the revolting slide of the cartilage vanishing into her skull.
Beneath him, she pulled the trigger.
Brilliant pain mushroomed up from within his core; a riot of colors and sensations, beautiful and terrifying, untainted and dark. A smarting anguish leaked through his muscles, greedily devouring his senses and plunging him into a profound, torturous, full-body spasm. He exhaled and dazedly noted that the action seemed wet. His hand went up to his mouth and drew away covered in a copper-scented, carmine liquid. Understanding was a slow, laborious act.
He couldn't distinguish why, but unexpectedly, he thought of his father and the last conversation they'd had. As he was walking out of his childhood home, his father stood in the living room, tall and angry and intimidating. "You're a disgrace to me, William. I don't know how I could have raised such a pansy for a son."
In a stupefied silence, William collapsed.
I told you, Dad, he thought, I just like the drive.