First Flight Out
By Wesley Levelle Dingler
The Carmichael family-Rick, his wife, Judy and their sixteen year old daughter, Scarlet-arrived at the Pittsburgh airport
at quarter of six in the morning. They would be taking flight 211, departing from Gate 17, to San Diego, California -as
soon as they cleared through security. For Richard Carmichael, these airline flights never seemed to take very long-by
now he was used to it. He was an architect who had done business in all but four of the fifty states. For him flying
was just one of those facts of life.
Judy and Scarlet, however, had never flown before. And while the fact didn’t seem to be so much as an afterthought
to Judy, it had begun to rattle young Scarlet. It started from the moment she set foot in the airport. Scarlet had
looked forward to it all winter, and now it was March 10th; and she was now feeling terribly uneasy about the idea of
flight-the space, the plane, the people, the possibilities-like a kid who was eager to ride a roller coaster, but thought
suddenly different about it when standing beside the beast. A paranoid, unsteady feeling, lodged somewhere in the
back of her mind. Her father admitted to her his own personal anxiety the first time he set foot on a commercial
airliner. And he attested that it was just that; anxiety, rather than an actual fear.
Scarlet was not much of an edgy girl, but she had, in the past, shown tendencies to buckle in areas of confinement. It
was not to the elaborate degree of that which would assess one as a claustrophobic (the two times it had happened
to her in the past, the instances were opposed with a crowd of people), but it was enough to keep her wary of such
settings.
One instance occurred at age nine, on a school bus, going to New Castle on a field trip. Another instance occurred on
her eleventh birthday, when a storm killed the power at the skating rink where they were having her party. And
standing in the midst of the congested airport, she looked around somewhat skittishly-taking in everything.
She stood in one of the three lines at the security check at the head of the jet way, behind her parents. Rick and Judy
had both worn their jackets, but Scarlet was wearing a blue tank top and dark jeans-with the strap of her black
satchel draped over one shoulder. The weekly planner she saw on The Weather Channel the night before said it
would be better than seventy degrees in Southern California. She dressed accordingly. She did, however, stuff a
sweater in her bag, just in case it got cold on the plane.
Out the tall windows of the terminal, she watched a gray and white Trans Continental 747 with thick, blue stripes
from its nose to its tail-gleaming in the early morning sunlight. The plane was making a slow left turn out on the
tarmac.
As she looked around, she thought of the airport as more of an elaborate, human hive. The place was busied by the
standard flow of people darting around with their wives or girlfriends, husbands or boyfriends. One man buzzed
through the line, passed Scarlet, and headed for one of the nearby seating areas-a Pizza Hut plate in one hand and
a soda cup in the other and a cell phone wedge between his shoulder and his ear. In line behind her, were a girl and
a boy in their early twenties. Judging from the conversation, she was his girlfriend and he was just at the airport to
see her off, and she was flying out to see her grandmother, and would be back in two weeks.
To the left of the lines at the security station, people were standing at the wall where the digital ETA boards were
mounted; looking at the different arrival and departure times. A man with gray hair stood, holding a little girl’s hand,
looking intently at the Delta schedule. The little girl looked over at Scarlet, smiled and waved, and Scarlet smiled and
waved back at her.
Rick emptied his pockets and removed all items from his person-keys, wallet, watch, and cell phone-and dropped
everything into the small, green basket before he stepped through the metal detector. His wife followed. Scarlet, who
was now putting her brown hair up with chopsticks, placed her satchel on the conveyor belt, and proceeded to walk
through, as well. They repossessed their belongings as they advanced from the ex-ray machine, and began walking.
“We are Gate 17,” Rick confirmed, as they walked down the jet way.
Rick stepped through the entrance and onto the plane. His wife proceeded after him. But Scarlet (who was walking
with little relish, if any at all) had fallen four persons behind them.
“Scarlet,” Rick called, looking around, then looking at his wife. “Where is Scarlet?”
“I’m coming,” Scarlet replied.
She stopped at the door, and two more people walked passed and boarded. Rick and Judy were waiting through the
door of the plane, but Scarlet was suddenly stricken by the time on the field trip bus going to New Castle . The
memory came in fully intact and in flavor-so to speak. She had broken in a feverish sweat on the bus, and she almost
went into seizure.
Three more people passed her and boarded.
“Scarlet,” her father called. “Come. We have to find our seats.”
She shook her head as if she had been awoken from a slight daze, fixed the strap of her black satchel over her
shoulder and stepped through the entrance and onto the plane.
“Soon,” her father said, smiling at her, “you’ll learn to fight your way through these things.”
Her parents walked down the aisle, looking for their seats. But Scarlet stood, still staring at the entrance doorway of
the plane. She watched, as the flight attendant (with the name STEPHANIE stamped into the bronze, winged name
tag above her left breast) ushered in the last of the passengers, and closed it off and gave the locks a quick check.
Scarlet stared (almost hypnotized) and feeling like, perhaps, someone had just sealed off her coffin.
“Can I help you with anything?” the stewardess asked, turning away from the door.
“No,” Scarlet replied, looking around the cabin. “I’m fine. Thank you.”
“Scarlet,” her father called to her. “Come and take your seat.”
Scarlet proceeded down the narrow isles-passed where the kid in the Pirates cap sat with his parents, passed
people who were taking out their laptop’s and perching them on the tray tables, passed two women who were
putting on lipstick, passed a guy roughly Scarlet’s age who was huffing on the window next to his seat and drawing a
fist giving the finger in the fog-to where her parents were putting there personal items into the overhead
compartment. Scarlet took out a paperback copy of The Catcher in the Rye , then placed her bag in the overhead
compartment, too.
She squeezed past her parents and took seat nearest the window.
“See,” Rick said, “this isn’t so bad. It’s really no different than a train or boat. They may look big and intimidating, but
just think of planes as really big, docile animals.”
Scarlet looked at her father dumbly.
I’m not five anymore, she thought. That sort of thing doesn’t work for me these days.
She didn’t say anything in reply, though. She just smiled at him and opened her book, and she began to read.
By 7:03 AM the plane was making its way down the tarmac.
There was a pregnant pause just before it took to the air-one that took Scarlet’s stomach. And it wasn’t until the pilot
had leveled the plane horizontally that she realized she had been holding her breath-probably since she felt the
wheels make the faint jump from the blacktop below.
Once the plane was piercing through the blue sky, it was only moments before the FASTEN SEAT BELTS light died,
followed by a low chime, okaying the passengers to remove their restraints. And less than ten minutes later, a flight
attendant walked down the isle, pushing a serving cart as she went. She stopped at the couple behind the
Carmichael’s , and then moved forward to Scarlet and her parents.
Scarlet leaned forward slightly, looking at the attendant.
Her name tag had CATHARINE stamped in the metal, and she had bright blond hair. Like all the rest of the
attendants, she was wearing a white blouse (with a black ribbon under the neckband, tied in a bow), neatly tucked
into a black skirt that fell just two inches shy of her knees.
Rick glanced at her winged name tag, as a way of looking at her breasts.
“Can I get you anything to drink?” Catharine asked in a polite voice.
Rick thought for a moment. “Sure. I’ll have a glass of bourbon.”
“And I’ll have a glass of Sprite,” Judy said, turning to Scarlet. “Would you like anything, sweetie?”
“I’ll have a Pepsi,” Scarlet replied.
Catharine gave them their drinks and proceeded down the isle with the cart-stopping randomly.
Scarlet moved her head, looking around the cabin curiously.
Rick and Judy were talking idly when Scarlet marked her page with a dog-eared corner and stood up to go to the
bathroom. She squeezed past there legs and out into the isle.
The lavatory was at the far back of the plane, and the door was shut. Scarlet knocked once, and when no one
replied, she turned the door handle and walked in. The door closed, sealing off all noise (which was really more of a
low-toned rumble of mediocre conversations) that was arising from the passengers of the flight.
After rubbing her dry and scratchy eyes, she took a bottle of eyewash from her pants pocket and sat it on the basin.
She reached for a tissue from the box on the wall, and paused suddenly when she felt the plane shake.
She dropped the tissue and gripped both sides of the sink basin with her hands.
It’s just turbulence, she told herself. It’s nothing. Nothing at all.
It shook again, making her pulse come faster.
Turbulence. Nothing more.
Scarlet continued; making herself overlook the tremor that ran through the entire plane.
She reached for another tissue; then the plane shook again-this time more violently.
The bottle of eyewash fell to the floor. And as Scarlet reached down to pick it up, the plane shook once more; this
time lunging her head-first into the corner of the sink basin, with a heavy thud!. The blow to her forehead was hard,
and she fell to the floor, feeling the spot with one hand.
Her blood quickened, and her sight was growing hazy and black (like a thickening opaque foam), just before she
began to lose consciousness.
She began to sink deeper and deeper into darkness, until she knew nothing at all.
She was out, and lying stretched across the floor.
Scarlet regained consciousness, lying face-down on the floor. She rolled over on her back, and with her right hand,
felt of the cut the basin had left just above her right eyebrow. It stung sharply but was only bleeding a little. She
staggered to her feet slowly, and checked it in the mirror.
She pulled a sheet of tissue from the box and batted the wound lightly. For a moment, her head felt light all over
again-as if she might blackout again. She didn’t, though. But she did have a splitting headache.
Scarlet turned and opened the door and exited the restroom, and as she walked through the door, she stopped-
frozen solid-at what lay before her eyes.
The walls and the windows of the plane were stained red, and spackled with blood that ran in streams down the
walls. Remnants of the passengers were strewn, as if everyone on A deck had been violently mauled and ripped to
shreds, and scattered all over the floor and seats and walls and windows. All of the oxygen masks had been
deployed, and dangled from the over-head emergency compartments.
The first thought (other than the feeling of sheer terror) that ran through her mind was that it is only a dream.
Spots of shredded clothing hung on some of the seats-
Just a dream.
Somehow, I’m still asleep, on the floor of the bathroom.
A body of a woman lay back against the row of seats on the left side; her clothing was shredded, most of it gone,
and her stomach had been torn opened and hollowed out like a Jack-o-Lantern. Her bra was cut in half, and lying on
the floor to either side of her, and her chest looked as if both of her lungs had been removed.
This isn’t real.
She only stepped forward three paces before twisting her ankle and stumbling over a severed human foot. No body.
Just the foot in a two-inch heel, lying on the floor. And just three rows in front of where she now stood, and to the
right, there hung a severed human head, dangling, still tightly strapped into one of the oxygen mask restraints.
This isn’t real.
A second later, a sound caught her ear, coming from a few rows farther ahead.
This can’t be.
She walked towards the sound, trying not to look at the disemboweled woman that lay adjacent in the isle-her face
frozen (dead and pale and sprinkled with red droplets) in a position signifying an unconceivable amount of agony.
As Scarlet grew closer, she began to discern the sounds better. It was the sound of bone joints meshing together,
and being popped forcefully out of place.
The sound grew louder as she got closer.
It was coming from the first row.
Scarlet stalled and beheld in view, one of the flight attendants, hovering over a lifeless corpse.
The flight attendant had brown hair, which was splattered with blood and matted in spots. The attendant appeared
to be eating the body.
Scarlet froze at the sight, her eyes widened, her skin crawled.
The body was a stocky man, with broad shoulders. His shirt had been torn off. His face was pale and his bottom jaw
was detached from his head (nothing now but a dark, red hole at the bottom of his face). His stale and glazed eyes
stared up at the attendant lifelessly, as she pulled at one of his arms-pulling it and twisting it-until the skin tore at
the shoulder and the arm broke apart from the torso with a painful crack!. The arm released a gout of blood, as the
attendant sank her teeth into the scant flesh of the forearm.
Scarlet fell backwards in shock and unintentionally let out a frightened cry.
The attendant paused, stood to her feet slowly, turned and looked at Scarlet. There was blood splattered across the
woman’s face, running down her chin and neck, and it was patched across her white blouse. Her eyes were red with
it and gleaming in the light that flooded through the round windows. Her face warped into a methodical grin, as if she
had become very satisfied to see Scarlet-living, breathing, the works.
“Where did you come from?” the attendant asked, still smiling?
Scarlet turned and began to run back towards the restroom. The attendant dropped the arm and ran after her.
Scarlet’s sneakers had become slippery from the blood-soaked carpet of the plane, and she fell, sliding feet-first into
the restroom.
She slammed the door and reached up to lock it quickly.
For about three seconds all went silent, and she could only hear the sound of her breath coming so fast that she
would let out brief and squeaky shrieks in her gasps.
Suddenly, the woman crashed through the flimsy door. She reached for Scarlet and managed to grab one of her
arms. Scarlet screamed as the woman pulled at her arm with great force, and seemingly limitless fury. Scarlet swung
one leg around and kicked the woman in the side of her head in an attempt to free her limb.
But it was useless.
The woman pulled harder, working to snatch Scarlet out of the hole in the door.
In her panic, Scarlet scurried to pull the chopsticks from her hair, and holding them together in one hand, stabbed the
woman in the back of the neck with repeated blows.
It didn’t stop her, though.
Scarlet reared back the chopsticks one last time, and with a single, violent lunge, she stabbed them into the woman’s
ear. Blood sprayed out of the ear and ran down Scarlet’s arm and drizzled across her blue tank top and splashed
across her cheeks. The woman paused, let out a hideously malevolent scream, and fell lifeless.
The body didn’t move. It just hung, bent over, through the hole in the door.
Scarlet slid into a corner of the restroom out of reach, and sat shivering as the body took to convulsing.
She looked down at her bloody arms.
Scarlet sat for a moment with her legs bent and her knees to her chin, watching the blood drip and drizzle in
sometimes synchronized streams down the door and out onto the floor. She closed her eyes for a moment, and felt
tears running down her face.
Once the body had quit moving all together, Scarlet stood and tried to open the door. It went slowly and had a lot of
resistance from the body hanging through. But finally, after a few stout tries, she got it open enough to get out.
Scarlet walked toward row seven, where she and her parents had been sitting. She looked at the blood-soaked
seats momentarily, then looked away, with tears still running down her face, trying not to think about what must
have happened to them.
She reached quickly and opened the overhead compartment, took out her satchel and sat in the bloody seat as she
dug through it. Finally, she drew her cell phone from the bag, and opened it-praying for service. The time was 9:37
AM, and service was nowhere to be found that high above the towers.
Scarlet felt a sudden rage channel through her being, and she stood to her feet, throwing the bag across the isle and
throwing the phone-smashing it against the wall of the plane. She dropped back into the seat, running her hands
through her hair. Her eyes shifted around quickly, (the blood was smeared across the window, her window) and then
she saw the pay phone on the back of the seat, above the tray table. She took the handset off the receiver and
looked at the digital screen on back.
The screen flashed:
PLEASE SWIPE CARD FOR SERVICE.
She punched the 0 with hopes.
Nothing.
She tried 9-1-1.
But the screen still flashed:
PLEASE SWIPE CARD FOR SERVICE.
Scarlet dropped the handset and it swung freely in front of her-still bound to the receiver by the cord. She stood up
and walked across the isle to retrieve her bag. It had landed between in one of the seats, four rows down, and when
she bent over to pick it up, she saw something under the seat. Some article of clothing, sticking partially out from
under the seat.
She reached further, and took it in one hand, but dropped it quickly when she realized what it was. She didn’t bother
to take her bag-only stepped back, looking at it lying in the floor.
It was a Pittsburgh Pirates baseball cap. And it was covered in dark, clotted blood. And image drove through her mind
of the kid that walked passed her with his parents in the terminal. Then she saw a picture of him sitting in the seat as
she boarded the plane.
He was only ten years old, for Christ’s sake. Eleven at the most.
Scarlet looked back down the isle, to the flight attendant that was lying lifelessly through the door of the restroom.
She looked at the woman with both fright and disgust.
She turned away and walked on, to the shroud that separated the First Class section and the Coach section (eyes
moving quickly from left to right, almost gagging when she walked past the body of the man that was missing a jaw,
and now an arm). She hesitated, then pulled the curtain open. The First Class area was in the same gruesome
condition as her section. Only there were more remnants and entrails from prior bodies.
Her shifting eyes caught a glimpse of a light. The light was shinning through the partially open door of the cockpit-and
she accelerated towards the door, in hopes of finding someone.  (anyone)
Her pace quickened until she reached the door at a slow running speed. Pushing the door open she peeked in and
saw a pristine cockpit-sheathed in bright sunlight, which made her eyes squint. There were no blood stains there. No
half-eaten passengers. No sign that anything bad had happened. But there were no pilots either. The plane was
guided by the auto-pilot system.
To the sides of the cockpit, in the corner, was the crawlspace area that led to the lower deck of the plane.
Scarlet considered it for a moment with hesitation. Then considered just staying on A Deck.
At least there’s nothing else threatening here, she thought.
However, she had the strong, curious (desperate) urge to scout out the rest of the plane. And with a deep breathe,
she walked over and began to descend the ladder to the lower deck.
She dropped in on the B Deck as quietly as she could, but saw that there was nothing there.
However, the vile macabre of the passengers of flight 211 from Pittsburgh to San Diego bore a striking resemblance
to the above deck. She turned to look behind, and saw smeared blood lines running downward on the outside of the
restroom door.
She heard something.
It was coming from Coach.
Screams!
Sharp, agonizing Screams!
Curiously and cautiously, she ran towards the shroud. Drawing the curtain just enough to peek one eye through, she
saw, in the middle of the aisle, a man lying on the floor, about mid-way through the rows. Next to him lay a woman.
Both still alive.
Scarlet watched, terrified, as three of the flight attendants and one of the pilots hunkered down around the man and
the woman.
Scarlet focused her gaze on the woman’s arm flailing freely.
Her hand was gone; torn from its place. Nothing left but a bloody stump.
Two of the attendants and the pilot held the man and the woman to the floor by their arms and legs. One of the
attendants had a knife in hand. She cut the man’s shirt open. His screams were making the hair on Scarlet’s neck
stand on end.
The attendant placed the knife on the lower part of the man’s stomach and made a small incision to the right of his
umbilicus. She leaned forward and licked the gash, as arterial blood shot in spurts from his stomach. She hesitated
for a moment, then clinched the skin from one of the torn edges of his wound with her teeth. She pulled upward,
toward his chest, and the skin tore from his lower stomach almost to his neck-exposing the red flesh and tissue
under the skin of his torso. Blood splattered across the attendant’s face. And the man screamed loudly-sharp and
shrill.
She slid her other hand through the tissue of his stomach, felt around, and pulled out his small intestine.
She severed the intestine and pulled at it, wrapping it around her arm.
Scarlet cupped her hands over her mouth. Shocked, and disgusted, she felt like the bottom of her stomach was trying
to free itself, and the vapory taste of bile came to her tongue. She felt certain she would vomit. She didn’t, though.
She looked back through the shroud.
With one violent tug the attendant removed at least three feet of the man’s intestine. The man began to scream, but
it only came out as croaking noises, as he began to cough, and gurgle his own blood. One of the other attendants
was holding his head still and emitting an evil laugh at the sound of him choking.
They were enjoying it.
Scarlet stepped backwards two paces, accidentally knocking a dish off the serving tray.
This drew all of their attention.
Scarlet ran back towards the ladder as fast as she could. She looked back just in time to see them coming through
the shroud after her. She slipped at the ladder, landing flat on her back; hitting her head on the floor and feeling the
muscles in her right calve pinch-painfully. Her leg cramped and it didn’t want to move and her head pounded, but she
pulled herself back up with one hand, and began to climb.
She felt her heart beating so fast that it felt like it was either going to explode or leap right out of her chest.
Scarlet was almost to the crawlspace when something (a hand) grabbed her foot.
She kicked, but the grip didn’t release-only tightened.
She kicked harder-this time, freeing her foot.
She glanced down one last time, as she ascended the ladder, through the darkness of the crawlspace (one of the
attendants had begun climbing the ladder after her, and the rest would come, too), then looked back up.
Suddenly, a hand came down at her face, reaching through the darkness. It was reaching for her.
She heard a voice, but couldn’t see through the crawlspace well enough to make out anything on the other side of
the darkness.
The voice called to her: “Little girl! Little girl! Grab my hand!”
She hesitated for a moment, then reached for the hand.
It pulled Scarlet up, and one of the attendants reached for her leg again. This time, she gripped Scarlet’s ankle,
cutting into her skin with sharp fingernails. Scarlet kicked her again. Having let go of the ladder, she swung around
slightly, and with her free leg, kicked the attendant in the face, until the woman’s nose began to stream blood-and
she let go of her ankle.
The arm pulled Scarlet up through the crawl space-her heart speeding so fast it made her arms sting.
Once she was back on A Deck, she saw that her rescuer was one of the pilots.
“Follow me!” he said.
They ran out of the cockpit together, hearing the hideous and deranged noises the crewmen and women were
making below (they were still coming, climbing the ladder, through the darkness).
The pilot slammed the door to the cockpit shut, and pushed one of the serving trays in front of it. He stepped on the
lever, engaging the locks of the wheels on the tray, and tested it-making sure it would not move.
“That should hold them,” he said.
Scarlet jumped when she heard one of them begin to beat on the door from inside of the cockpit-then another, then
another.
Standing behind the pilot (with blood streaked across her arms, and face, and tank top), she asked, “What happened
to them? How did these people get like this?”
Her voice was crumbly, and trembled with anxiety.
The pilot paused for a moment, then replied:
“We have always been like this.”
Scarlet froze, and the burning sensation began to trickle through her arms and legs.
He turned and looked at her with a ominous grin stretched across his face.
She stepped back and wanted to cry for help. But to what success?
At thirty-thousand feet, no one can hear you scream.