Aeropocalypse

In this world, you are on a plane, only the world has also ended, so all that’s left is the plane. A 747 to be exact, rows three seats deep on either side. The plane originated in Belfast, Northern Ireland and is/was on its way to Atlanta. You have a window seat, just over the right-hand wing of the plane. You could try to think of the plane as a normal doomed plane if that helps. Stranded and running out of fuel, too far away too land, but that is not what happened. What happened is the world ended.

There wasn’t a mushroom cloud or giant fireball, no siege of reanimated corpses, you just are certain that the world is over. A fact accepted, breathless, primoradial by everyone. There is no more earth. When you look down, all you can see is sky: a fading kind of blue, palest at the horizon and darkest overhead.

The ghost of your former girlfriend, Tara—who you left in Belfast—sits outside your window on the wing of the plane. Everyone with a view of the wing sees the ghost of their former lovers, spouses and partners but to you, Tara appears to be alone. The plane itself, despite coming out of Belfast, is German, like the airline, so the words that say, “do not stand or walk outside of this area,” near Tara’s feet are in German. She’s seated within the proper range where one may stand or walk on the plane wing. You don’t know what the German on your paper coffee cup says, or the German flight magazine, or the barf bag, but you have been on planes before, so you are able to make educated guesses.

The last living person you will ever see is the man in the middle seat next to you. He’s about your age, and plane etiquette between you has remained peaceably strong thus far. He seems the quiet, unobtrusive type—the perfect person to be trapped with on a plane the End of the World. You feel bad for him. He’s wearing a wedding ring. What a loss for such a considerate plane companion, so respectful of how much space he takes up, despite the fact that he has rather long legs. There has been no gratuitous knee-spreading, nor domination of the shared armrest. You haven’t even heard him speak enough to tell if he’s Irish, English, or Scottish, but given the information you have based on his pronunciation of things like “coffee please” and “a bit of cream would be nice,” you don’t think he’s American. For all you know, you might be the only one left.

The German stewardesses are coming around again to serve a meal, looking weary, heavy make-up fading from their faces, asking: Hot meal? Fish or chicken?

It used to be chicken, potatoes, or fish, but now it seems they have run out of potatoes. Perhaps there is an uncommon number of vegetarians here at the End of the World. Tara was a vegetarian, but now that she’s a ghost you don’t suppose that she can be held responsible. You picture her back in the stewardess’s section peeling back aluminum foil and gorging herself on twice-baked potatoes. The last non-airplane meal you ate was Taco Bell. It will now forever be the last.

You know what the eventual end will be: the plane spinning and falling as Ghost-Tara clings to it. A peeling back of aluminum flesh, petals of silvery foil. All that air-that-is-not-air hissing, a rush against your cheekbones. The freezing of snot, of liquid in eyes, of sweat where it’s collected in the creases of your elbows. Everyone crystalizing into fragments of moon white and quivering blue. Do ghosts crystalize the same way as the living? You wonder for Ghost-Tara’s sake.

But just this second, it has not yet happened. In this moment, Tara is still stretching her arms over her head in a languid, twisted arch of fingertips extended as she leans back, dipping her hands through the air like a woman riding in a convertible on her way to the coast. You can almost smell the salt. See the white beaches full of tiny crabs left trying to bury themselves before the next wave hits, eyelash-sized claws flailing. The ocean sweeps towards them in a long, dark tide. The lazy approach of destruction, a slow-pulled rivet, barely a cloud-ripple on the horizon as everything falls away in one pinching grasp and is gone.

 


 

Meredith Glasson-DarlingMirri Glasson-Darling lives in Glasgow, Scotland where she moved from Alaska. She has received a “Notable Essay” in Best American Essays, a Pushcart nomination, and an Intro to Journals Fiction Award. Work of hers has appeared in Ploughshares, Colorado Review, Florida Review, Gulf Coast, Willow Springs, Crab Orchard Review, The Pinch, Passages North, Territory, Goatshed Press, Alchemy Spoon Bosque Literary Magazine and many others. She is currently working on a short story collection, YA novel and a literary novel.