Every second, it flashed. Seemingly getting brighter each time. The tiny little bulb lit up with such brilliance that seemed impossible for such a miniscule object; repeatedly transforming into a little red warning bell. Every time he stared at it, it seemed to stay aglow for longer. 1 second, 2 seconds, 3 seconds. He became entranced by the flickering light, until eventually all he could see was red. Everything - red. Buttons, monitors -
“This is flight G-N25JZ cleared for Take off, Runway 5, Right wind 32 at 15. Over.”
The mechanical voice rattled through the headset, as if someone was dragging the speaker across a radiator cover. He pushed his chair back from the desk and folded his hands behind his head. There was no need to rush. He always took his time.
Four hours. Four whole hours on a packed commercial flight with no TV, no proper toilets and only her dad for company. They had been on the plane for half an hour and Holly was already counting down the remaining minutes. She let her eyes wander slightly to steal a glance at her father. Once a very tall man, now age and bad posture had caused his broad shoulders to sag beneath their own weight, immediately adding at least 5 years to his appearance. He was skinnier than the last time she’d seen him, but that had been quite a while ago now. As what little sunlight there was managed to creep through the window, it glinted ever so slightly off of his head. His formerly black hair now seemed diseased with grey, little strands of silver had now woven themselves together and were ambushing from the roots to the tips, beginning to turn his entire head into a dismal greyscale mop. Holly sighed, he was already fast asleep. Then again, she would hardly miss him; he was a boring, awkward man with no conversation and no understanding of his adolescent daughter. She stared aimlessly out of the window. Thick grey tumbleweeds began to form in front of her eyes, slowly creeping towards one another, their movements so refined that she barely noticed them. They swarmed from all around, joining together, then forming clusters, spreading and merging into one another until her vision was completely consumed by the seemingly impenetrable grey cloud. As the sky grew darker by the second, Holly’s hopes of maintaining some positivity were slowly being drained away.
He kicked his feet up onto a pile of papers on the corner of the desk. Dirt, mud and even some grains of sand flaked off of his soles as they hit the table-top. Military Boots. Very practical. Sturdy, long-lasting; Black – of course. These boots had been everywhere; that was the beauty of this job. He leaned back and closed his eyes. It was creeping up on him, poisoning all of his thoughts, wrapping itself around his rational mind and turning everything upside down. It was overwhelming, leaking out of his head and flowing through the rest of his body, until it settled in his finger-tips, leaving them tingling. He clenched his hands into fists. It wasn’t time yet. But it was no use; the temptation had now completely taken control of him, like venom running through his veins. Perhaps a little gesture would suffice, just to get the ball rolling. He reached forward, and let his fingers rest lightly on a small metallic dial in the centre of the dashboard. Slowly, he turned it. Just 45°, that should be enough.
“Can I get you anything from the trolley?”
Holly was snapped out of her trance by a slender air hostess, wearing a huge fake smile and what looked like a whole pot of foundation. Holly tried with all her might not to flinch. This woman’s face was caked in make-up; so much so that on first glance, she didn’t even look human. Her skin was bright orange and her cheekbones were plastered with dark pink blusher. She was wearing cherry red lipstick and so much black eye make-up that Holly could barely see her irises.
Holly answered, in what she hoped was a calm and unaffected voice. She watched as the lady pushed the trolley further down the aisle. She couldn’t help but stare at her equally orange arms and legs, her entire body seemed to be covered in fake tan streaks. Holly then remembered that this was a speedyJet flight, and an appropriate cliché popped into her head, concluding that ‘you get what you pay for’.
Just as she was about to start another session of staring aimlessly out of the window, the plane jolted sharply, jerking Holly out of her senseless day dreaming. She had never liked planes, for this exact reason. As the aircraft continued to quiver in the air, she turned to look at her father, who had arisen only as a result of the shaking plane. Between a restrained stretch and an elongated yawn, he mumbled:
“It’s just some turbulence, Holly.”
Then sank back down into his chair. But as Holly, leaned across him to peer down the aisle, she was not convinced. The usually calm and collected flight crew were flapping about aimlessly at great speed, whilst all wearing the same concerned expression. They were clustered at both the back and front of the plane, murmuring to each other as they flitted around. The turbulence became more violent, and the plane began shaking almost uncontrollably. Suddenly, the orange air hostess was thrown clean off her feet. As the nearest passenger jumped to her assistance, the trolley she had been pushing hurtled towards the back of the plane. By now, Holly was not the only person who was worried. Children were crying, mothers were desperately trying to calm their children and sounds of confused and anxious passengers rang in her ears. Even her dad now had precariously wide eyes considering that it was “just some turbulence”. Over- head lockers were flying open, their contents falling on the heads of the people around her. To her horror, there was no reassuring message from the pilot, only a faint mechanical crackle buzzing quietly over the loud speaker. Just as a flustered young air hostess was trying to yell over the commotion, in a futile attempt to calm the passengers, the shaking just stopped. Holly breathed a deep sigh of relief, as the aircraft settled down and resumed its seemingly motionless journey through the air. The passengers began to quieten down, the cabin crew resumed their positions and Holly’s heart rate began to slow down again. She had just enough time to steady her breathing, before the plane went into free-fall.
He stared blankly at the ceiling. Little flickers of light occasionally drifted onto its dark surface. Green, yellow, blue. Each one appearing, for no longer than a second, before the ceiling returned to being a blank black canvas. A red dot came into view, then disappeared; but came back almost immediately. Constantly staining the ceiling with a flashing spot of red. All of the other colours had ceased. The red was all that remained. Slowly, he lowered his feet from the work surface and pushed his chair back in line with the desk. He was in no great hurry. The tiny red alarm bell was still winking at him, relentlessly attacking his eyesight with its piercing red glow. He glanced to his left at one of the monitors, its screen showed a set of numbers, tumbling rapidly in front of his eyes. The altitude. He had had his fun now. He had taken his time. But, he had work to do, and the time had come to finish the job.