I thought I was in a terror attack but I solved a mystery, so things even out
On Monday, I got back from Sirens, a writing conference, and the plane flight was one of the most terrifying things I have ever experienced, pretty much because the plane was supposed to land on Sunday, and not Monday at all.
Before this, I want to tell you about something beautiful I saw. At night, the plane flew over glittering cities, close enough to the ground that I could make out the rooftops and bodies of water that rendered the landscape. Lights structured themselves around roads and stadiums, clumping together to grow brighter where they met. As we glided through the dark, and I stared down into these partially-illuminated world, I beheld the strangest thing, which was this: A light followed us.
It was soft at times, gilding the corners of buildings and darting around the edges of their rooftops. It followed behind us and slightly to the side, like an echo, or a search party chasing our scent. Every so often, the silver-white light would trace the edge of a lake or river, and then bloom across its water, the whole thing glowing bright.
It took me a moment to make sense of the thing. Being as close to the ground as it was, my first thought was maybe the highbeams of a car. But too bright, and too quick. A helicopter? It followed us for too long. Too close exactly to the path that we created.
I saw the moon--an immobile fixture in the sky--and realized that its light was following us in mirror. Like pulses of silver-white magic, its mortal echo lit up the ground below.
About here is where the terror started.
I am a sensitive person, and I don't mean emotionally, although that may be true--I mean that if there's a time or place that can make me motion sick--boy, will it.
About here is when the plane ran into cloud cover and began its descent. It began what felt like its descent. I felt like we descended for an hour.
I looked outside the window. My moon was gone. Instead was only clouds of shadowy demons, never breaking, causing the plane to shudder while the fasten-seatbelts sign dinged on. We descended and descended and descended, and I thought, where is the ground? Dear god, where is the ground?
The plane jolted. I grabbed my armrests and tensed, thinking that at any moment we would hit the ground--that it would come hurtling out from under the clouds to meet us. As my stomach lurched with the plane's constant up-down up-down, a sweat broke over me like a fire. My skin prickled with heat. Every hair on my head seemed tensed, like with goosebumps. My clothes tightened around my skin with sweat and I grabbed a waste-bag from the back of my seat, crinkling it open and holding it before my mouth, knowing from the heat of bile in my throat that vomit would come any minute.
I didn't puke, thank god, because, well, it would have made what came next worse.
The turbulence becomes god-awful, neatly surpassing my previous worst-flight-ever, which was a 13-person plane out of Missoula into nowheresville Montana. I think of how green my mother said my face was, and I take a selfie to check my face, but it doesn't come out because they were keeping the cabin in the dark--to save power, my febrile mind thought--because otherwise we'll surely crash.
I check the time. We were supposed to land ten minutes ago. Like the light of the moon limning the surface of lakes, my sweat frosts over my skin. I am shaking. My hands are clenched in tight rigor mortis over the handholds of my armrests, as if they could keep me from plunging into the dark.
I keep waiting for the sky to rush up out of the dark. I keep waiting to descend. I keep waiting to puke.
The captain makes an announcement that we will not be landing in Hartford--the storm is too great; we will be rerouting to Philadelphia.
Suddenly my cold sweat is blistering, my skirt is a trap around my legs and my shirt tight around my neck. I know what this means. My febrile mind knows what this means. We are in a terror attack. They are rerouting to Philadelphia because they are going to crash the plane. They are going to kill us all. They haven't said it, but I know.
I look around, desperate--but people are laughing in their seats. They're laughing because yes, of course we're being rerouted, it makes sense. But they are not laughing in horror. They are calm. They are not like me.
I look at my empty puke bag and try not to cry. I feel I am completely alone. I want to tell someone--to tell someone on the plane that we are in a terror attack. To shake them into reason; into helping me. What else could it be? Sure, there was supposed to be rain coming in to New England, but why would we reroute to Philadelphia? Why not Boston?
Terror. I am absolute.
I close my eyes and try not to puke, hoping things will resolve themselves one way or another when I awake.
The plane jolts down onto the tarmac of Philadelphia. Internally, I am so elated I could cry, though my exterior seems death-pale and drenched with sweat.
But my flight's roster of "what fresh sweet hell is this" is not yet over. We spend two hours in Tarmac Hell, waiting for a gate, confined to our seats. We dared not move if they wanted the Captain to be able to taxi the plane.
Five hours after we were slated to first arrive, we finally touch down in Hartford. Shaken, but alive, I make my way into the airport. I stop to catch Pokémon, having learned nothing of the beauty of life and death.