Prelude to the apocalypse – Chloe

Mid-Atlantic

“Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking. We are presently flying at roughly thirty thousand feet, but we are expecting just a bit of turbulence, so I’m going to be switching on the seat belt sign. If you could please return to your seats, that would be much appreciated.”

Chloe Brooke looked at the faces of the passengers in business class. She already pretty much knew which of them would be concerned about the announcement. For some people, flying was an inconvenient necessity, but for others it was a terror best avoided.

As one of the flight attendants, she had already been informed that the turbulence was going to be bad. Chloe had taken over a hundred flights in her job, so she wasn’t phased by the way the plane could jerk in the air. She had been, initially. In her time, she’d experienced pretty much everything the skies could throw at a plane. But this was an Airbus A380 with over five hundred passengers. They would be fine.

These planes didn’t crash, which meant there was nothing to worry about.

“Chloe, keep an eye on the character in 48C,” the senior cabin steward said.

“The guy’s an asshole,” she whispered, whilst maintaining her smile. “He tried to grab my ass twice already.” One of the things she’d learnt early on in her career was effective techniques to shut that shit down.

“Yes, and you handled it admirably,” the senior steward beamed. Chloe always found him reassuring. “Mind you, he’s not bad looking. Maybe I should stick it out there a bit for him.” Chloe gave him a playful slap.

“You’re so naughty.”

“Well, I have a reputation to uphold.” With that, the senior steward walked off to give his pep talk to the other flight assistants. There would be worried passengers out there who needed to see calm, smiling faces to reassure them.

Chloe slowly walked down the aisle, checking everyone’s seat belts were fastened. Most were, but she had to admonish a few who had ignored the broadcast. How many times did people need telling? It wasn’t like they were being asked to eat four raw camels for breakfast.

Then she reached 48C. Naturally, his seat belt wasn’t fastened.

“Sir, the captain has put on the fasten seat belt sign.” The man seemed agitated. Clearly, his ego was finally giving way to his fear of flying. That was quite common, bluster and aggression used to mask deep-seated terror. When you did this job long enough, you soon realised that there were too many people who were just landmines waiting to go off.

This man was already primed. Somehow, Chloe just had to avoid stepping on him.

“I fucking hate turbulence,” 48C said. Chloe could see what the senior steward meant about the passenger being handsome, in a rugged, dangerous sort of way. His shirt bulged with the muscles underneath it, and Chloe knew that if this man lost control, it would take a lot of effort to restrain him. He was obviously rich as well… being in business class wasn’t a cheap affair. Sometimes that added a sense of entitlement to the problem.

At the start of her career, Chloe had started off working the economy cabin and had gradually allowed promotions to take her to business class. Another year or two and she would hopefully be in first class, which was her long-term goal. It was more prestigious and came with better money. It would also keep her on the career path to more senior roles.

Chloe wanted to be the one running things, eventually.

Attending in business class had its advantages and its disadvantages. Despite most of the heartache on a flight tending to occur in the economy sections due to the greater number of people, the rich and the powerful sometimes brought their own unique issues.

Like this idiot.

“Please, sir. Could I kindly ask you not to use such language?” She put on a matronly tone that, from experience, had a tendency to calm the irate. Not 48C.

“Fuck you, lady. I want another drink.”

“I think it might be possible you’ve already had more than enough.” It was always difficult to judge how much alcohol tolerance a body could take. A man of his size should have been able to handle his liquor, but there was a definite slur to his words. In Chloe’s opinion, alcohol caused more problems than it solved.

“Come on pal, the nice lady is just trying to do her job.” That was the man in 48B. Chloe had been there to greet him when he boarded the plane, a pleasant, kind-faced elderly gentleman. Sometimes it helped when fellow passengers jumped in to try to calm the situation.

Chloe worried that it wouldn’t help here.

“Who the fuck asked you?” 48C demanded, turning in his seat.

“Please, sir, there really is no need for this.” Given the size and aggression displayed by the man he was talking to, 48B kept an air of passive calm about him.

“The fuck you say?”

Chloe glanced around, noticing the heads that were popping into the aisle to see what all the commotion was about. 48C was raising his voice, and at least two camera phones were already out. Everybody wanted to record the lives of others these days.

“Let’s look at it this way. There is only one end result for you here if you remain so angry,” the elderly man explained.

“Oh, and what’s that?”

“Please sir, you need to keep your voice down,” Chloe insisted. 48C ignored her. Looking around the cabin again, she caught the attention of the senior steward and gestured for help. All the while, 48B continued to talk.

“At some point, this plane is going to land. If you don’t dial it back, you risk being arrested at the gate.”

“They wouldn’t dare,” 48C insisted.

“It’s a terrible thing to experience. Armed police dragging you from your seat in front of all these other people. Imagine the kind of people you will then be locked up with. Not to mention all the YouTube videos of it happening. Sometimes they even taser people.” Chloe was amazed. 48B seemed to be saying exactly the right things. The hulk in 48C was calming, his mind ticking over the implications.

Part of it was the way the old man spoke. His voice was gentle, without any kind of judgment. He just seemed to be telling his fellow passenger what he needed to hear.

“Well, I suppose she is just doing her job,” 48C admitted. The curious heads were retreating now, the excitement apparently ending. For the time being, at least.

Inside, Chloe breathed a sigh of relief.

“What’s that smell?” the old man suddenly asked. Whereas just moments ago he had sounded eloquent and articulate, now his voice was slurred, his head starting to dip forward.

“Sir?” How rapidly a situation could change.

“I suddenly feel very peculiar.” 48B began to struggle with his seat belt, a frantic fluttering in his hands. “I need to get some air.” Again, his speech was barely discernible.

“Hey, calm down,” 48C demanded. Chloe watched in horror as the elderly man’s back violently arched, his eyes rolling back into his head, his thin hair standing out. The cabin filled with a deep ozone smell, the body of 48B starting to shake.

“Sir, I need you to move,” Chloe ordered 48C. He seemed about to object, and then he cried out as a spark of electricity slammed him in the arm. That got him moving.

“The fucker burnt me,” 48C roared, holding his arm. Chloe didn’t care, because now that the old man’s seat belt was undone, he began to float out of his chair.

What the hell am I seeing?

Above her head, a huge crack opened up in the ceiling, the plane shaking below her feet. This wasn’t turbulence. Something in Chloe told her that this was the last moment in her life. That was reinforced when an intense blue aura rapidly surrounded the man, scorching everything it touched, leaking up into the ceiling and beyond.

People began to scream as the surrounding cabin shook violently.

When the old man exploded in an ethereal blue shock wave, Chloe was flung into the air and across the middle row of seats, the people around caught in the blast that shredded the cabin wall and blew open the overhead lockers. She landed across two startled passengers who struggled with her dazed and blood-soaked body. One of the old man’s ribs had survived the explosion relatively intact, only to embed itself in Chloe’s neck, severing the carotid artery.

48C had retreated far enough that he thought he had only been forced onto his back, and he began maniacally wiping the guts and viscera that now coated him. The old man had exploded from the inside out, and it was a miracle more of his bones hadn’t become shrapnel.

It took 48C several seconds to realise that his arm was missing.

There was the sound of tearing metal, something below them all giving way as the plane’s superstructure began to fail. The wall of the plane suddenly wrenched free, a huge hole opening up, sucking the air out of the plane and several seats and passengers with it. Naturally, those people left began to scream, the terror spreading from business class to the rest of the cabins as the sound of fear became infectious.

That was when the turbulence struck.

Strangely numb, Chloe managed to look up, the passengers she had landed on cradling her. With blood pouring into her throat and lungs, she was perhaps the first person to see the crack propagating across the window next to her, across the plane from where the blast had occurred.

And then the ceiling seemed to open up, and that was all she wrote as the world’s largest passenger jet broke into two in mid-air. Nobody survives that kind of tragedy.

 

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