She stands on the sidewalk and smokes her last cigarette. It’s early morning, yet Los Angeles International Airport is already bustling. The crowds make her nervous. She hides behind her designer sunglasses and platinum blonde hair. When she finishes her cigarette, she drops it to the sidewalk and steps on it, not noticing the butt can she stands beside. She checks her watch and then hurries inside.
She walks quickly to the women’s bathroom and enters a stall. She is not there to use the bathroom. Instead, she sits down, slips her foot from her shoe, and rests it on her opposite knee. She takes a small disposable syringe from her handbag and holds it up in front of her. She shakes the syringe and then gently taps it and squeezes the air bubble out. She finds the vein running along the top of her foot and grimaces as the needle enters. With the injection complete, she puts her foot back into her shoe and lets out a deep breath. Soon the familiar euphoria comes and she feels her skin flush. She calmly stands and listens at the stall door. When it’s quiet, she opens the door and dumps the syringe in the trash can. She checks herself in the mirror. Her makeup hides the blush well. She smiles at herself and turns to leave the bathroom.
She walks slowly to the line leading to the security checkpoint. The line is long but time passes quickly for her. Suddenly she is facing a Transportation Security Officer who has her hand extended. She smiles at the officer.
“Boarding pass and ID,” the officer requests.
She opens her handbag and fumbles around until she can retrieve both. She hands them to the officer.
After inspecting her boarding pass and ID, the officer hands them back. “This way, Miss Burke.” She motions with her hand.
She moves past the officer and enters another line which leads to the metal detectors and scanners. At the scanner, she places her handbag and belt in the tray. She hesitates before removing her shoes. Standing barefoot before the metal detector, another Transportation Security Officer motions for her to walk through. She does so and no alarms are raised. He checks her boarding pass and ID again, and then motions her to the back of the scanner where she retrieves her handbag and belt.
She smiles at being complete with the security checkpoint. Airports make her nervous. Flying makes her nervous. Flying on heroin makes it all better. She walks slowly toward her gate. Her feet are heavy. Everyone else in the terminal seems to be rushing past her. She checks her watch again. Where did the time go? She forces her feet into a faster pace and reaches her gate as the last person passes through. She hands her boarding pass to the lady at the gate and receives a torn stub in return. She boards the plane and they shut the cabin door behind her.
She makes her way along the aisle between the seats. Near the back of the plane, she finds a seat with a number and letter matching the one on her torn stub. It’s a window seat. Two seated men get up and move to let her in. She climbs in and sits down, and the two men return to their seats. The one next to her casts an uncomfortable glance in her direction before returning his attention to the magazine he reads. He is excited at sitting next to such a cute young blonde, she assumes. She squirms a little and rubs her leg against his, laughing internally at how uncomfortable this makes the man.
Soon one of the flight attendants speaks over the intercom. “Welcome aboard United Flight 248 with service to Chicago and follow on to Washington, DC…”
She slips out of consciousness while thinking about her parents in DC and how she’ll get them to give her more money. It’s worked in the past. She shows up unexpectedly and surprises her parents. They are grateful to see her, she can tell, but they are apprehensive at the same time. Why is she there? What does she need? What trouble is she in? It’s always the same.
The thoughts of her parents are disturbed by a bang. She jerks awake and sees the flight attendant standing in the aisle with a cart. He has run it into the armrest of the aisle seat. He hands trays of food to the passengers in the row ahead of her. When he pushes the cart a little farther, he looks at her and asks, “Chicken or pasta?”
“Neither,” she says.
He looks at her for a moment longer, like maybe he recognizes her. It makes her nervous. The moment passes, though, and he asks the man next to her, “Chicken or pasta?”
“Chicken,” the man replies.
The flight attendant hands the man a tray of food. She watches from the corner of her eye as he peels the plastic seal from the top of the tray. Steam puffs up from the tray and with it the sickening smell of boiled chicken. She hates that smell. She turns and looks out the window at the clouds, and then elects to chew a piece of gum. She can still hear the man eating, chewing his food and smacking his lips. She closes her eyes but cannot go back to sleep. She feels nauseous. She fumbles around in the pocket of the seatback in front of her for a vomit bag.
While she is digging through the pocket, a bright flash draws her attention back to the window. Even with her sunglasses on, she squeezes her eyes shut because the flash is so bright. The plane jerks violently. Her ears pop and at the same time oxygen masks with yellow cups and clear baggies pop from their housings in the overhead. She stares at them. The plane is more silent than it should be. There is nervous talking from the passengers. Then she hears the sound of increasing wind. A flight attendant is yelling something about crash positions. She laughs to herself. What a trip! She forgets her oxygen mask and passes out.
She is awakened by a confusion of loud noises and she keeps her eyes pinched shut. There is the sound of shattering glass, ripping metal, and groaning panels. She is knocked about roughly. She covers her face and head with her arms and flying objects ricochet off of her. A strap is pulled tightly across her waist and she feels it will likely cut her in half. Then all is quiet and still.
The last thing she remembers is shooting up in some bathroom. Where is she now? What has happened? She opens her eyes and is confused by the mass of twisted metal and crumpled panels around her. She looks to her left and screams. A headless body is lurched forward beside her. Blood is running from the neck. She screams again but there is no reply. No one is there. Something is cutting into her stomach. She looks down and sees a seatbelt buckled there. She unbuckles it without thinking and falls forward into a pile of debris. When she tries to get up, she puts her hand on another body and freezes, staring. The body is laying facedown beneath her. It twitches beneath her hand.
In a panic, she climbs to her feet and backs up screaming. Her foot hits something and she topples backwards. She freefalls several feet and lands flat on her back. The air is pushed from her lungs and she lies flat, gasping. Above her towers a curved white panel with the letters U, N, I, and T painted on it. Beyond that is ripped metal. She feels the need. The need helps to jog her memory. She was flying to DC. Johnny was meeting her there. He would have smack. He always had smack. But she wouldn’t be meeting him now. Instead she was…where?
She looks around and is surprised to see corn, dry stalks towering over her head. She climbs to her feet. It’s cold here. Someone is calling out. Calling for help? No, calling people together. Calling survivors together. The need is calling more strongly. She turns away from the wreckage and disappears into the field of corn.