Categories > Original > Drama0 Reviews
Due to an emergency at work, an aerophobic man has to catch a flight to reach his destination in time.
"Planes crash!" Donald Thomas furiously kicked the defenceless suitcase before spinning around to face his wife. "They crash, and they get hi-jacked, and they are shot down, and..."
"And hundreds of them arrive safely at their destinations," Cheryl Thomas interrupted. "Besides, statistically speaking, flying is the safest way to travel...especially given the state of our roads and the number of hi-jackings that take place daily in South Africa."
Donald made to argue again but Cheryl raised her hand in a halting motion. "Flying is the only way you are going to get from Port Elizabeth to Johannesburg in time for your conference." Donald sighed and ran his fingers through his hair in agitation. "I know. But that doesn't' mean I have to like it. I've successfully avoided flying for years..." Helplessly waves his hand." If it wasn't for that emergency at work yesterday..."
"You'd be half way to Johannesburg by car, yes I know dear, but what's done is done and the only option left is to fly." A car horn sounded outside and Donald's shoulders slumped in defeat. "That must be my taxi." With clear reluctance he gathered up his luggage and briefcase before kissing Cheryl goodbye.
"Call me when you've landed, okay? And don't worry. Everything will be fine" Cheryl told him before closing the taxi door. Giving her a weak smile, Donald settled back against the seat of the car taking him to face his worst nightmare.
By the time the taxi pulled into the departures drop-off zone at the airport Donald was under the distinct impression that the driver was unusually eager to be rid of him. The frequent glares aimed at him via the rear-view mirror and the tightness of the man's jaw throughout the trip seemed to indicate a man pushed to the absolute limit of his patience. He supposed that the nervous bouncing of his right leg against the back of the driver's seat and the constant clicking of his pen must have worn the poor man's nerves to a thread. He had tried to relax during the ride, but the closer they had gotten to the airport, the less control he'd seemed to have over his actions. Giving the man an apologetic smile and adding something extra to the tip, Donald scooped up his belongings and, squaring his shoulders, entered the terminal.
After checking his luggage, Donald headed for his assigned departure gate to wait. Part of the security measures put in place after the September 11 attacks were the earlier check-in times, which translated into a longer wait before boarding. Just being in the terminal gave him an uneasy feeling in the pit of his stomach, and seeing the planes out on the tarmac caused his heart rate to increase. Closing his eyes he took a deep breath, exhaled slowly, and forced himself to relax. People fly everyday. Everything is going to be fine. I'm going to get on a plane, read my book, and ignore the fact that I'm 30 thousand feet higher off the ground than man was ever intended to be...Donald's eyes popped open at the last thought. Reflexively he checked his watch. Five minutes until boarding. Looking around, he spotted a restroom sign close to his gate and headed towards it. Once inside he opened the tap and splashed cold water on his face, grabbing a disposable towel to pat it dry.
"Are you all right?" Taking another deep, calming breath Donald turned to face the man who had just entered the restroom. He nodded tentatively, then again more resolutely. "I'm fine." Glancing at his watch again he started for the door, before turning back. "Thank you." Stepping out of the restroom he noticed that a queue had since formed in front of his departure gate. Determinedly ignoring the lead weight that suddenly settled in his stomach Donald joined the back of the line. When he reached the front he gave the flight attendant checking his ticket a vague smile before shifting his focus to the waiting plane.
Crossing the tarmac towards the boarding ramp, he felt his heart start to race. Away from the protection of the terminal building the noise of the engines running was almost deafening. Mouth dry, he swallowed and averted his eyes from a different plane just taking off. Nearing the top of the ramp he discretely dried his sweaty palms on his pants, before handing the flight attendant his boarding stub. He found his seat, stowed his briefcase in the overhead compartment and immediately buckled in. Closing his eyes and ignoring everyone around him he focussed on slowing his heart rate with a deep breathing exercise Cheryl had insisted on teaching him when she was on her yoga kick. Feeling more in control he opened his eyes to find the woman next to him watching him with a curious smile. Blushing he looked away. "Nervous flyer?" she asked sympathetically. With a rueful grin Donald met her gaze. "More like 'terrified flyer' actually," he admitted. "I still subscribe to the belief that flying is something only birds should do." She laughed. "Name's Prue." She said, offering her hand. "Donald." He replied and reached out to shake her hand.
The pitch of the engines changed and Donald clutched at the armrests of his seat. The plane jerked and started moving, taxiing towards the runway. The flight attendants started going through the emergency procedures but Donald tuned them out. Listening to them would only feed his fears rather than sooth them. Prue tapped him on the shoulder. When he looked at her she held out a small packet. "Gum?" she offered. At his questioning look she explained that chewing gum while ascending and descending helps to prevent the painful 'popping' of one's ears because of the shift in pressure. Uncurling one white-knuckled hand he gratefully snagged a piece as the plane came to a standstill. The whine of the engines began building up to a dull roar and Donald squeezed his eyes shut. Never again. I'm renting a car and driving back to PE, I don't care what it costs...With a jolt the plane started forward, rapidly picking up speed. As he was pressed back into his seat by the pressure Donald found himself praying. One moment the plane was still barrelling down the runway, the next he felt the ground fall away and they were climbing. Dimly he became aware of a hand gripping one of his and opened his eyes. Prue gave him a bright smile and opened her mouth. Whatever she was going to say was lost as the captain's voice suddenly filled the cabin. Preoccupied with the process of slowly unclenching his fingers from the arm rests Donald was mostly ignoring the captain's speech. Until the word turbulence caught his attention. With growing horror he listened to the captain explain that there was a large storm cell currently situated over the Free State and flying around it would not be an option. The captain was quick to point out that, while it was not the preferred course of action, passing through the storm would not be dangerous. The reassurance made many of the passengers sigh with relief, but Donald barely heard it over the roaring that filled his ears. Visions of the plane being struck by lighting and plummeting back to earth filled his head. His heart rate started to climb and he could feel sweat breaking out on his skin. Time slowed to a crawl. Faintly he could hear a voice calling his name. Turning his head he met Prue's worried eyes. She mimed taking deep slow breaths and instinctively he fought to copy her example. As his breathing calmed, time resumed its normal pace and the chatter of the other passengers replaced the roaring in his ears. "Better now?" Prue asked with a worried expression on her face. "Much, thank you." He returned gratefully. "Don't worry too much about the turbulence," she said. "A few jerks and jolts and we'll be through, no problem. Planes are a lot sturdier than they feel." That said, she reached under her seat, pulled out a book and settled in to read. Donald considered doing the same, but the recent panic attack had left him feeling drained. He decided to try and take a nap instead, closing his eyes with the faint hope that he would sleep right through any turbulence they may encounter.
His silent wish was not granted and he was torn from the ignorance of sleep when the plane violently lurched to the left. Next the plane rolled to the right, before seemingly freefalling for a second before jerking to the right again. Hysterically Donald wondered whether going from sleeping to terrified in under sixty seconds, was some kind of record. Locking his jaw against the scream in his throat Donald closed his eyes and hung on to the armrests as if by sheer force of will he would be able to keep the plane in the air. An eternity later the plane seemed to steady and the captain's voice announced that they had safely negotiated the storm and would soon begin their decent to Johannesburg. Relieved, Donald settled back against his seat and took a deep breath, pleased to find that, despite his earlier panic he was now in complete control of his being. Glancing at Prue he saw that she was looking out the window and decided not to disturb her. Rubbing at the slight pain in his left arm and chest, probably due to his earlier panic, Donald closed his eyes and waited for the landing.
The plane touched down with the barest of jolts and with a last jerk started to slow down. It taxied up to the terminal building and the moment the seatbelt sign was turned off, Donald was on his feet making a beeline for the exit. His face must have betrayed his desperation be off the plane because none of the flight attendants stopped him or tried to speak to him as he hurried past. As soon as the door opened he was through and rushing down the stairs, not pausing until his feet was back on solid ground. Standing on the tarmac, breathing in the fumes from the engines, Donald felt himself completely relax and his mind clear for the first time in hours. With the clarity of mind came the realisation that he had left his briefcase on the plane. Realising he would have to wait until the rest of the passengers had deplaned before he could go back for it, he stepped off to the side of the ramp. He was surprised to see an ambulance stationed near the plane and realised that, as he'd been coming down the stairs, two paramedics had passed him, going up. The paramedics reappeared, carrying a stretcher between them. "No need to rush Carl," one called down to the ambulance driver who already had the rear doors open and the engine idling. "This poor guy's D.O.A."
"Dead-on-arrival," Donald whispered as he watched them place the body on a gurney, in preparation for loading it into the ambulance. Looking closer, Donald was unsettled to realise that the dead person was wearing a shirt the exact same shade as his own. A sob from the direction of the ramp caught his attention and he looked up as a crying Prue was led off the plane by one of the flight attendants. With a growing feeling of dread in the pit of his stomach, Donald edged closer to the gurney. When nobody objected, or even seemed to take notice of his presence he gathered his courage and sneaked a peek. Horrified, he barely recognised his own ashen features...