I clutch the bag to my chest as the valet reaches out.
“May I take your bag, Ma’am?”
“No, thank you.” My cheeks warm as the rose color spreads across my face.
He flashes a smile and repeats his request to the woman behind me.
Why couldn’t I respond normally like her? ‘Thank you, Sir.’ Is that so hard? I check my device again.
Reservation: One (1) Departing: 1/14 08:45 AM
A window seat, so I can watch the storm chase us across the sky. Wonderful.
A loud thump echoes as the doors latch. The intercom clicks overhead.
“Attention passengers, find your seats and allow the restraints to click securely into place.”
I close my eyes and take a deep breath. I cannot remember ever being on transport before, but my chest clenches tight as the engines come to life.
“Welcome to the air, Passengers. We are en-route and will arrive at the colony within the next twenty-four hours. Your restraints will release as soon as the pressure is stabilized. Enjoy your flight.”
How can he sound calm?
A young woman dressed in a flight attendant uniform leans over, “You all right, Miss?”
“I’m fine, thank you. It’s just a fear of heights.” I think.
“I understand. I was a nervous wreck the first time I flew. The war doesn’t make it any easier.
You’ll be okay.” She disappeared into the area marked for the flight crew.
The restraints unlatch and I can move. The clouds look calm and serene from this angle but on the other side, they are organized chaos. My stomach turns. We did this to our planet, our home. Buzzes and bells come from my device. The screen lets me know what I need to do next:
Time for Lunch. You like a fresh chicken salad with fruit on the side. You do not like olives. Go for a light dressing, the heavy ones make you tired.
The attendant is taking orders so I give her mine as the screen said, and wait. Waiting is all I know how to do between alarms. Whatever took my memory, I must have known it was coming and prepared for it.
“Here you go. Your salad, light dressing, iced tea. And here is a little something to help you relax.” She slides a tiny bottle in my hand. It has a clear liquid in it that looks like water, but it’s unmarked.
“Thank you.” I force a smile and after she focuses her attention on the next passenger I place the bottle inside my bag. Can’t risk anything unmarked. Too many reports of men and women found dead with unfamiliar or unclassified substances in their possession. In a time of war, one can never be too careful. My hand brushes against my device and it flashes with the latest news bulletins:
American Government to blame. Global warming ignored despite scientific proof to high-ranking American officials. White House under lockdown. Source says, “Officials feigned ignorance to control population numbers. Now we face the effects. Destruction.” World governments react to evacuations beginning in America and Europe.
“Can I take your plate, Ma’am?” I slam the cover closed on my device. She wears a sweet smile as before. Why do I feel guilty? I slide my plate over to her across the lap tray.
“Wait.” My hand reaches out and grabs her arm. “I’m so sorry. Is there any way to find out who made this reservation for me?”
“What do you mean, Ma’am?” Her eyebrows scrunch together, she drops her customer service smile.
“I mean, I didn’t make this reservation for myself. I wouldn’t have done it. I think I hate flying. Is there a way to find out who did make this reservation?”
“I’ve never had that question before, Ma’am. I’ll have to check.” The passengers all stare at me. I put my head down and read the rest of the stories coming through my feed:
Initial tests show American efforts to colonize Mars successfully. United Nations call America to account “World citizens should all be considered, not just Americans.”
My hand vibrates as my device transmits a series of unfamiliar code across the screen. I scan the code and find the message hidden for me. I stand. I wonder if the attendant is still smiling. A calm takes over and I do what I have always done, follow the directions on the screen.
“My fellow passengers, your leader has been labeled a rebel by the world. You must pay for his defect. America will be held accountable.”
Screams replace stares from my fellow passengers. Pain floods my senses as my chest opens to reveal the reason for my placement on this transport. I mouth the words, I’m sorry.
The gentle hum builds to a screech and my vision turns white.
MANDY MELANSON is Editor-in-Chief of RhetAskew Publishing and its parent company Rhetoric Askew, LLC. Prior to collaborating with her partners to establish RA, she worked as an editor and marketing director. She says, "I found myself increasingly concerned over the state of the industry and its lack of support for authors. During our discussion, we decided it was time to do something about it." Mandy is degreed in English and Psychology with certifications in editing, marketing, and brand development. She leads the Rhetoric Askew Facebook group and its associated creative development workshops with her friends and business partners, Dusty Grein and Emma T. Gitani. Her writing is featured in various anthologies and collaborations. Next up on her list of finished projects is A MOTHER'S INSTINCT, a crime fiction novel scheduled for publication in 2018. When she's not writing or working to help authors develop their craft, she spends time crime-fighting with her three favorite superheroes who just happen to call her "Mom." She says her children are her greatest blessing.