A Turbulent Awakening
A fire burnt through Johnathon’s leg, a stabbing pain starting in his thigh and then shooting down, as his son’s small fingers buried into his muscle, his nails digging, but not breaking the skin through the thickness of his jeans.
‘For fu…’ Johnathon cried in surprise, barely able to stop himself from cursing, not only in front of but directly at Alfie his four year old son.
‘I don’t like it, I don’t like it daddy!’ The boy exclaimed. Johnathon looked down and was met by his son’s face staring up, their eyes meeting, Alfie’s were like cups filled with water, at any minute his lower lids would not be able to hold back the torrent and the tears would cascade down his chubby cheeks, his bottom lip also curled over emphasizing his upset to an almost comic level.
The plane had only taxied from the gate to the edge of the runway, awaiting the engines to kick in and propel them on their way. Johnathon’s heart softened as his eyes, (also tearful from the pinching sensation), met Alfie’s. The pain receded and so that all that was left was the young boys face desperately staring up looking for some, for any reassurance. Johnathon gently smiled down meeting his gaze, he didn’t blame Alfie for his reaction, he couldn’t remember the first time he was in a plane but he was sure he must have felt a confusing frightened excitement. The flight from London to New York was to be long enough so he had only one option to make it as stress free as possible for him, Alfie and for all the other poor souls on board, and that would be based on how he handled the next few minutes. He decided to proceed the only way he knew for sure would distract Alfie and allow the excitement to outweigh the fright. To tell a story, turning the situation into a game.
‘Alfie, I want you to close your eyes.’ He began.
Alfie closed his eyes, knocking a solitary tear loose of his lids.
‘Now, what is it you would love to be when you grow up?’
‘A fire man’ Alfie responded without a second’s thought.
‘Bollocks’ Johnathon whispered to himself, frustrated that he had forgotten how often four year olds change their dreams.
‘Ok that’s really cool… But… how awesome would it be to be a space man?’
‘YEAH’ Alfie cried, his small legs kicking up and down on his chair as this new profession excited him.
‘Well that’s exactly what you are going to be, you and me, together, we are going to go into space and this is our rocket. Now… you are going to need to keep your eyes closed tight for the launch, do you want to go into space?’
‘YESSSS’ Alfie cheered, clenching his eyes even tighter shut creating the skin to the side to crinkle and appear like the severe crow’s feet of an eighty year old woman.
‘Ok… well we are just getting into position now.’
The engines of the Boeing 757 fired up as the plane took its final position on the runway.
‘Ok… we are ready.’ Johnathon reached down and took hold of Alfie’s hand, Alfie responding with a little squeeze as he clutched hold of his father.
‘We’re going to space… yeah… sooo cool!’ Alfie softly, yet excitedly exclaimed.
On cue the engines fired to full and the plane hurtled down the runway, reaching enough velocity for the front wheel to lift as the plane took flight. Alfie squeezed Johnathon’s hand further, his father could see he still was a little frightened.
‘Ok… so now we have left the ground Alfie, we are launching upward, straight up, can you feel it Alfie, can you feel how we are being thrust upwards?’
‘Yeah… I can feel it…’
He was interrupted as the plane suddenly shook side to side, nothing but the usual sensation of take-off but Alfie was not to know that, for him none of this was normal.
‘It’s ok’ Johnathon whispered softly, ‘to get up into space we have to go through the atmosphere and that can feel kind of rough, but that little shaking is nothing… nothing that can stop our rocket… we are space men Alfie, me and you.’
Alfie nodded to this, trying to stay calm.
‘Can I open my eyes yet daddy?’
‘Nearly Alfie, just another minute, we haven’t quite left the atmosphere yet but before you know it all you will be able to see is stars, stars and the Earth far below.’
Alfie smiled, and Johnathon couldn’t help but smile himself. He was pleased, and a little relived, Alfie had gotten this far, but it wasn’t just that, he was enjoying himself, telling the story, imagining he was a spaceman he found himself returning to his own childhood. The shaking lessened and Johnathon looked out the window. He was greeted by the black sky, dotted by the millions of twinkles that formed the stars. Johnathon had to admit the view, framed by the circular window, really did look like they were in the depths of space. It was a clear night that allowed all the stars in the black sky to twinkle brighter than any little star in any kids’ song. The brightness was emphasized by the blackness beyond, it was the sort of black that you rarely saw down on the ground, usually ruined, broken by the pollution of light spreading like wildfire into the skies from the cities.
The lack of clouds allowed a clear view down to the ground, tiny lights illuminated below, appearing to mirror the stars and add to the illusion of space, albeit more scarce, scattered patches of light than the true oceans of stars above. For a moment he and Alfie really were spacemen, lost in space.
It was so beautiful, however something was not quite right. Johnathon could not help but notice they were still rising. He was certain they were too high, he could not explain it, maybe he had never noticed before, however he could now start to see the curvature of the Earth. The blackness and stars gradually lightened into a blue halo over the horizon, getting lighter toward the dawn.
‘Ok Alfie, time to open your eyes, and you can see we are in space.’ He continued the story, trying to bring his thoughts back to the realms of rationality. He could not help glancing down the aisle at the air hostesses. They were still sat strapped in, one on the internal phone and the other, the other seemed to have lost her regular composure, Johnathon thought he could see her crying.
‘No daddy, I can feel it… I can see it, even with my eyes shut. We aren’t quite out of the atmousefur but we are close… we soon will be daddy.’
Something wasn’t right, Johnathon was scared, not just by looking out the window, but by his son. Playing this game had awoken something, something he had recognised was always there but couldn’t quite see.
‘No Alfie, we need to go down now… we don’t want to spend too long up here not on our first time… and besides…’ he was interrupted by the book on his lap slowly rising, and a strange sensation that flooded his body, a feeling of weightlessness. He continued with more haste, ‘Mummy will be waiting for us… you know she will be cooking dinner, we don’t want to be late and upset her.’
Desperation was now taking over, he had no idea why, he had no idea how but he was sure Alfie was doing this, that his five year old son was somehow controlling the plane. Small inexplicable events often occurred around Alfie, subtle things that when the mind took the time to question really made no sense. A toy stored away on the top shelf of the cabinet one minute, the next in Alfie’s hands as he played innocently on the floor below. These small events often made Johnathon and his wife question them, but usually resulted in either of them assuming they had assisted in some way and simply forgotten.
Other passengers were now sensing something was amiss on board the Boeing. Numerous were shifting nervously in their seats, stretching their bodies to look over or round the side of the seats trying to see the hostesses reactions. As the cabin lost gravity the silence was interrupted by the shocked gasps and short, sharp screams emitted from the more fragile of the passengers, however fragile or not, there wasn’t anybody aboard that was not feeling some sort of fright at their present situation. The only person now calm and controlled was Alfie, his eyes remaining closed as a small smile crossed his lips.
‘Ok Alfie… that’s enough now!’ Johnathon said, this time more forcefully. ‘You have to open your eyes and leave the plane alone!’
Alfie’s face crumpled tight, his lips and nose lifting as his eyes tightened and brow furrowed, clearly not liking being told he had to stop the game he was enjoying so much. The plane jolted violently upwards, as if in an act of rebellion. This sudden jerking movement caused numerous of the overhead compartments to open and luggage to spew out into the weightless air, harmlessly floating above the passengers’ heads. A deafening creaking filled the cabin as the metal exterior began to distort and fracture under the immense pressure as they still flew higher, one of the walls suddenly dented inwards in parts as if the plane were nothing more than an empty tin can being crushed before being discarded in the trash.
This was too much for Johnathon as he grabbed his son firmly by the shoulders and forcefully span him so they were face to face. The sudden act and aggressive movement shocked Alfie into opening his eyes, breaking the trance as he stared his father in the face, his fearful gaze met by a more terrified glare from the eyes staring back. As Johnathon opened his mouth unsure if he was going to scold or to comfort his son the plane began to tilt forward and fall back toward the earth. A few moments later the engines fired and the plane began to level out, causing the gravity to resume as normal. With the gravity shift the luggage, once floating so harmlessly above began to crash down, hitting passengers at random. A small hard carry on case had made its way above seat twelve C, or to be more precise, the seat where Alfie sat. The case crashed down, hitting the child straight in the head knocking him unconscious in an instant. Jonathon grabbed hold of his son, this time in a loving embrace as he held him close to his breast, his fingers gently caressing through his son’s hair as the plane began to bank around, heading directly back to JFK.
Jonathon gripped his son tight, he was filled with confusion and mixed emotions. He was concerned for his son’s welfare and wanted to make sure he was alright, the blow had not seemed too serious and yet Alfie had still not come to. The second emotion and possibly the most powerful was fear. Had his son really controlled the plane, nearly sending them to space, to their deaths? How was that possible and if it were then what was he going to do about it?