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Chapter 15 – Coast Riders in the Sky

May 9, 2012

Chapter 15 – “Coast Riders in the Sky”

Now – Flight 176, somewhere over Pennsylvania

The flight had been comfortable enough. Braden, fortunately was not on a full flight.

There had been those two Arabic-looking men who seemed a bit worried. One had been asked to go with some TSA officer for a few minutes, and Braden thought he might not make the flight. But he showed up, smiling at his traveling companion and they boarded.

Aside from that, it was the usual. Some soldier boys, Army and National Guard, two of each, coming home to families or spouses.

Then there was some lady who proudly and loudly said she was sixty-five as of last Wednesday, but she hardly looked it. When asked what she was going to do for retirement, she laughed and said, “Same as before! Breaking and training horses. My life’s work.”

Then there were the families of two (single parent), three (only child) and on up to six. There were some young couples as well.

It always frustrated Braden to hear talk of “family values” eroding from the Right, when the real cause was money; both parents having to have careers away from home meant sometimes being pulled apart. The Left, on the other hand, accepted the change as if it had no effect altering the formula that humanity had, for the most part, lived with and adapted to for a long, long time. We might not be hunter-gatherers anymore, but there was need for guidance where imparting wisdom was concerned, and at least two jobs—a necessity to achieve the one thing Left and Right agreed on: the American dream—meant less time to explain to little Billy how to behave around other human beings.

American dream. Yeah…what happened to that?

The younger kids and teens were quieter than he recalled them being when he flew back and forth from New York City for school forty years ago. Times had changed.

New toys.

Somehow handheld gaming systems and texting with the crush-of-the-week kept the young busy and their minds off of the fact that they were about to be thousands of feet above the ground. A far cry from holding stuffed animals and reading Nancy Drew. Many of them manufactured by SchneiderCorp. He wondered if there would be time for a boycott before the CEO and chief shareholder murdered every one of his customers.

Once the beverage cart had made it’s way down the aisle and returned to its place in the kitchenette, Braden dozed off. He’d need some sleep before meeting with an old friend bent on murdering every living thing on the face of the planet.

He dreamed he was in the clouds, flying. As he soared, he passed a cloud that looked like a shark doing a somersault out of and back into the water. He felt just a slight chill as he passed the finned fish.

There was what at first appeared to be one large gray cloud ahead. He flew toward it and realized it was actually two, overlapping from his perspective. Both similarly shaded, filling nearly his entire field of vision.

As he came closer, they began to part. The edges of each now clearly visible, they floated ominously in opposite directions, and revealed yet another cloud.

This one was different. It seemed to glow, to be filled with energy. It had no discernible shape at first, but roiled before him.

Then it began to take on form. At first he thought it was becoming a tree, but it plumed in such a way that he knew that was not the image it represented.

Soon, it was angrily rolling onto itself and growing brighter. He felt a hot wind blowing toward him that slowed his approach.

It was a mushroom cloud, similar to those he’d seen on film. As it grew and the top blossomed, he could hear a high-pitched sound that he thought was the wind zooming past his ears.

Then he heard distinct screaming. Screaming of thousands of people, perhaps more. He tried to stop his approach, he put his hands to his head and tried to stop the sound of horrifying, exponential death.

That’s when he awoke and opened his eyes to find that the plane was pointed nose downward and the screaming was coming from the other passengers.

—–

©2011 Christopher C. Knall

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