Captain Russel couldn’t see the lights of the runway from the HUD as rain and wind lashed against the glass. He was trying hard to ascertain the position of his flight before putting the nose down. He had been informed about the storm hovering above the Chicago airport when he took off from Idaho, but he relied on his confidence and so did the hundred and thirty-six souls on board. With more than fourteen thousand flying hours under his belt, they had nothing much to worry about. Moreover, Gloria was there among them in the business class. Married to Captain Russel for over a year, Gloria was the epitome of ravishing beauty. The male passengers frequently walked down the aisle to steal furtive glances at her. There was one exception, of course! The young lad seated next to her in the window seat had stretched himself out and covered his face with a large Panama hat all through the flight. He seemed to be enjoying a nap completely oblivious to the bundle of charm occupying the seat adjacent to his. He didn’t even budge when the stewardesses came up to exchange greetings with the Captain’s wife. No one around seemed to be remotely concerned about him except perhaps, one person in the whole flight. Captain Russel had come out of the cockpit door twice to ensure everything was in order. Both times he had checked the boy. He had even checked the passenger list. He knew his name; Carlos Fernandez, Mexican by birth, settled in Illinois, having no regular profession to show. The information set the alarm bells ringing in his head. What troubled him most was, Gloria belonged to the same neighborhood in Chicago.
Captain Russel was frequently touching a dark scar below his eyes. The scar had stopped bleeding, but the burning sensation was still very much alive. Gloria had thrown the vegetable slicer at him yesterday. It was the third time in the past six months that she exhibited such vengeance. Her frequent unannounced visits to Illinois had enraged him. Whenever he had tried to enquire about her visits, she would fly into a rage and hit him with whatever she could lay her hands on.
His head started clearing, though the mass of cloud ahead started darkening even more. A flash of lightning lit up the sky followed by peals of thunder. The storm was gathering strength. And so was the raging agony inside him. Gloria had persuaded him to pass on to her every property that he held. Initially, she used to coerce him employing sensuous tactics, but when he refused, she started abusing him.
“Captain!” the first officer called out. Startled, Russel looked at him.
“We are just six miles away from the Airport,” he reported.
Russel held the controls firmly. His jawbone showed when he gnashed his teeth.
“Any problem?” the first officer asked.
“None!” he replied, shaking his head.
The plane bounced as it hit a vortex and the screams of the passengers could be heard from behind.
He leveled it out and a brief silence followed.
There was another scream and Captain Russel had to look. A brief clearing in the clouds exposed the earth below. The tree tops could be seen.
“Captain!” the first officer yelled, “What the hell are you doing?”
He knew what he was doing. He grabbed the controls with such force, they could come off.
“TERRAIN! TERRAIN! PULL UP!”
The words reverberated inside the cockpit. The passengers yelled. They shouted. Somebody prayed, “Oh God! Help us!”
He didn’t budge. He knew this was his chance. He was supposed to take a rest today. But, he insisted on getting booked for this flight. He knew Gloria would be flying to Chicago with her boyfriend. She had bought a flat there with the money she extracted from Russel. She was going to ditch him. But, he would teach her a lesson. He wanted her dead, covered in a pool of blood. He wanted it at any cost; even if it meant his death. He was ready to take the blame for killing all the souls on board. What the whole world might think of his bizarre action never mattered to him. He wanted his revenge at any cost.
The plane shook violently as it veered towards the raging storm. The passengers behind had been silenced by the developments on board. The stewardesses were doing their best to keep them calm.
“TERRAIN! TERRAIN! PULL UP!” The voice rang out again and again.
The ATC below was stirred up by the chaotic condition aboard the endangered flight. The incidents in the cockpit were being relayed continuously through the cockpit.
“Mayday! Mayday!” the voice of the First officer rang out.
At the same time, they could hear the groan of engines overhead. The sound hovered above the roar of the storm. One of the officers swore having seen the lights. The plane was flying dangerously low. They weren’t sure whether the landing gear was lowered.
A loud crash was heard, followed by the sound of an ear-splitting explosion. A huge ball of fire lit up the entire tarmac. Dark smoke billowed up and hung in the air. The smell of burning fuel reached their nostrils. The men at the ATC were stunned by the disaster. Suddenly, someone called out over the PAS, “Fire trucks! Leave for the runway immediately.”
Fire trucks and RAF teams rushed to the site. The ATC was silenced for a while. Then he saw it. The flight from Idaho was still blinking away on the rudder screen.
The voice of Captain Russel came in loud and clear, “Are we cleared for landing?”
The man at the ATC was struck, as if, by lightning. What crashed onto the runway then? Was it some other flight that never showed up on the rudder?
I am a fifty three year old Indian, presently employed in Bhutan as a Metallurgical Engineer. I like writing stories. I write in English and Bengali. Many of my Bengali short stories have been published in magazines. My English stories have only been published in the e-books in India. I have been awarded for a few of them. The characters in my stories are mostly normal human beings faced with tough situations in life. They breakdown, emote, get revengeful to a point of no return, and that is when they take the final decision, which could be humane, psychological, sometimes insane, horrific, brutal, anything that their position demands.