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Fantasticoe 2010 Contents

All Clear for Landing

Josh Jung

          "Captain, are we in the right place?" Jeff, the first mate asked. His voice had almost startled me as the only sound I had heard, for the last few minutes at least, was the rumble of the engine and the click and whirl of all of the equipment in the cockpit. My eyes caught the photo of his family clipped onto the yoke of the craft. He took this with him everywhere since he almost lost his family in a car crash that he caused almost a year ago. Timothy, his son, who had come away unscathed, was smiling but Tim's twin sister Nina, who would have a scar worthy of a great story, was sobbing. Knowing the kids now, the little shit probably hit her right before the picture. His wife and he had taken the worst of the damage. He suffered a concussion and three fractures, while his wife had broken her wrist and gotten pretty scraped up. 

Now that he mentioned it, it was very different. Even the sky was clearer. One moment we were traveling through a drizzly storm with heavy fog, and now you could see the blue of the sky and the cityscape of Amsterdam. My eyes found their way to the picture again, and I smiled remembering that was the reason my family didn't take family pictures. 

          "Ground Control? We are coming in for a landing." But only silence came through the speaker in my headset. I asked again, "Ground Control?" But only feedback met my ears. Maybe even a little less than usual. I had gotten clearance to land less than 5 minutes ago. I took the old craft in for a landing. The tarmac was a little rougher as we set the small plane on the ground.  Ground Control sometimes let the chartered jets taxi to and from their takeoff destination because they used a separate runway. And it wasn't completely deserted, there were jets in line to taxi, and fuel carts waiting to be used. I took the Lear Jet 45 over to the private hangar. 

          Jeff alerted Ground Control as to our arrival, but still no reply. Now that was weird. I guess it must have been a rough day. There were about four private air carriers ready to take off, and getting clearance at a moment's notice is nigh impossible. I closed the hanger door after parking to the left; leaving space for the other aircraft that was sure to arrive soon. Still no correspondence from GC. I hopped out of the cockpit along with Jeff and went to greet our only passenger that day, a certain representative of Montrose Steel. 

          "Good afternoon Mr. Redmond, I hope you enjoyed our flight today. We will rendezvous here in exactly 4 hours. Enjoy your evening here in Amsterdam," I recited as if from a handbook. Rich types chartered from Comfort Air on quite a regular basis. It kept me in business. I would be jealous of him, but I knew money like that would only complicate things. As soon as Mr. Redmond started for the door, Janette, the only flight attendant, strolled casually down the five steps to the ground from the other door to the plane.  Jeff stopped his slow walk beside me. I offered the two left in the hangar a cigarette. I opened the fresh pack and Janette took one, but Jeff wasn't a smoker. We lit up and I took a drag. I savored the rich smoke for a couple seconds and let it out. Janette coughed, obviously not her brand.  A few seconds later another man got off the plane. And I whispered to Janette, "I wasn't aware our guest had a guest." Then I looked again. Warren Redmond was getting off of the plane for the second time. 

          "Well thanks for the flight Andy. I will be back in about four hours for the return trip," said Warren. 

"Sir," inquired Janette, "I could have sworn you had already left. Did you forget something on the plane?"

I knew he had left, I wasn't that sleep deprived that my eyes were playing tricks on me, was I? "But I… I saw you leave," I said with a questioning lilt.

"I thought I did too, my mind is playing tricks on me. It felt like I woke in the plane." Warren interjected. No one said anything for a few seconds. The hangar was its usual museum-esque quiet. 

"Why don't we follow you out?" I asked with a smile. "Sounds like we all need a little fresh air, and we really shouldn't be smoking in the hanger." I chuckled nervously after this. I knew he wouldn't say anything to my superiors, but there is always that nagging doubt. Smoking inside the hanger was strictly forbidden, and could warrant a threat of misconduct charges. I motioned the other two to follow. 

Mr. Redmond lead, wiping his sweaty palms constantly on the hem of his slacks. He opened the hangar door behind the plane. The man outside fueling a similar Lear Jet took no notice to the opening of the hanger door. Most people minded their own business by the private hangars. We all followed Mr. Redmond out. I flicked the ash off of my cigarette. 

"Well thanks again Andy," Warren said. We followed him a few paces more and he disappeared. 

Before I could react, and stop I was back in the plane. I heard Janette exclaim through the open cockpit hatch, "What the hell?" My thoughts exactly. 

I was sitting with my hands on the controls. It was just like when we drove in, except Jeff wasn't there. I deplaned as quickly as I could not taking the time to open the door in the cockpit a second time, and passing up Janette and Warren along the way. We were right back where we started minus Jeff. A sick knot unlike the feeling of déjà vu filled my stomach. Everyone was just as curious as to what was going on. Jeff was running through the door we had all gone out just a few seconds ago. "Captain… Umm, Andy, you were just there, and then you were gone," he huffed. He was visibly confused. Janette and Warren look just ao confused. Jeff bordered on scared. 

"Go ask that fuelman what the hell is going on here Jeff," I commanded. I kept my cool. As captain it was my duty to keep calm and collected, even if I didn't know what the fuck was going on. My hands, now also sweaty, quickly clenched and unclenched. "I need a smoke." I pulled the pack out of my pocket. Fresh as ever. I took the wrapping off the pack for the second time today and pulled out the top two cigarettes. Both had been smoked. They almost seemed as if they were still burning. They were half there, and definitely not lit. I tossed a confused glance at Janette. She pulled at her hair struggling to keep her cool. Even when she was scared she still looked in control. I couldn't quite grasp what was going on. Jeff ran quickly into the jet. When he came out again, he was clutching the photo of his family. 

"I need a smoke," said Jeff. "To calm my nerves." I gave one of the half used ones to Janette, handed a fresh one to Jeff, and took the other out of the pack for myself. Mr. Redmond was pacing back and forth as if pondering a way to get out of here. The man was probably scared shitless, and he wasn't even hiding it well. 

I walked to the hangar door. I got outside and yelled to that fuelman. "Sir?" No reply. "HERR!" I shouted in the country's native tongue. Again he took no notice. Damn, what was his problem? So I walked toward him. And there I was back in the plane again. Shit! I immediately headed toward the others. They were still smoking and pacing, only half surprised that I had gone out the door and ended up back in the plane again. I took out my again fresh pack of cigarettes, wrapped just like before. I opened it again and found two missing, and one almost gone. "The only thing that changes from the point we got in here, is my damn cigarettes. If this keeps up, these won't last long"

I had tried calling Ground Control, but that was useless. I couldn't even get a signal on the radio. We had tested the boundary. We threw things over that almost imaginary line, only to watch them reappear wherever they had been in the first place. No one was quite amused enough to make a game out of it, though it probably crossed our minds. 

We had tried to just get in the plane and fly out. All systems were running perfectly, perfectly still. The clocks all read the same time, and the usually twitchy gauges wouldn't move a tick. After a couple hours, when it should have been dark, I started to get a headache. All my cigs were gone, and I was crashing from the nicotine high I had felt after smoking almost a pack.

We all tried our futile best to reason through what was going on, and the headache didn't help. Tensions were high. We weren't getting anywhere. Jeff was crying. The thought of losing his family was probably still fresh after his car crash. Tempers flared in the confusion and voices raised. "The yelling isn't getting us anywhere," I said using the voice of reason.. Mr. Redmond had started smoking too just to calm his nerves. He pulled out an expensive steel cigar case, and an equally expensive steel lighter. "I would offer you all one, but I only have two left, and at this rate I just may need it," he chuckled nervously. Janette glared, and I forced a smile. 

The fire flared out of the end of the lighter, and suddenly I had it. Or at least I thought I did. If the only thing that was changing was by fire, what if we burnt down the whole damn thing? There were plenty of barrels of oil in here. "Let's start a fire."

The three looked at me for a second, and Janette let out a nervous laugh. I looked at her and said, "I'm serious." She just stared at me.

"What good is that going to do?" asked Jeff. "You said it yourself; the only thing that happens is that it disappears. Are we going to disappear too?" 

I told him, "Who knows? But it would be better than being stuck here!" Everyone took a couple seconds pause to contemplate that. 

"Are you crazy? You want to burn the whole building down?" he laughed. "There is no way I am going to take part in the arson of Shiphol International." He forced laughter which only made him look desperate.

I would have been right there on the same page as he if I wasn't so frustrated with the situation. we had probably been there for close to five hours. I should have been hungry, but I wasn't. The sun should have set hours ago, but it was still hanging in the sky. There were so many things that should have been that weren't. It was like we were frozen in time and place, except we weren't. Trying to reason through it only exacerbated my headache. 

I didn't know what to say, so Janette said it for me, "If no one else has any bright ideas about how to get out of here, I say we do what Andy says." I looked and silently thanked her with my eyes. 

She nodded and we walked over to some barrels of oil and Warren followed. I turned around and the big man was right there. "Look Warren," I said, "You don't have to take any part in it. Fire is the only thing that changes around here, so if you have some bright idea as to how to get out tell me. We have tried everything short of burning the goddam building down." The stress was wearing on me. I never would have yelled at a customer. "Please tell me there is something I can do to change this, because I have no idea."

Warren opened his mouth to speak but the words he'd been searching for wouldn't find their way to his lips. He closed his mouth finally with a sigh. "All right Andy. I trust you. Just don't get me hurt."

We wasted no time pouring the oil around the building, soaking everything conceivable that would burn. When safely outside, I lit a scrap of fabric. It made me think of a huge Molotov Cocktail. It burned slowly at first, but it spread like wildfire. 

The whole building went up in flames. Workers not 50 paces away didn't even take notice to the flames. I still couldn't even begin to comprehend what was going on here, and stared at them. They were oblivious to a flaming hangar. 

A few minutes into the blaze, the roof caved and fell right on the plane. I knew it would be dangerous to leave the door open, we could all get hurt, so I closed it. I admired the blaze as it broke through the windows on the side of the hangar. We all backed away from the building slowly as the heat got too intense.

Jeff clutched the picture putting creases into its glossy finish. Janette simply stared, not knowing what to think. Warren looked distressed, probably still hung up over the legality of the burn. We were wary of getting too far from the building and the invisible barrier that we couldn't cross, but all of the sudden an explosion that must have been the jet fuel catching fire blew the door off its hinges. The door flew harmlessly wide, but the fire behind it came straight for us. We stumbled back trying to dodge a wall, and I remember falling.

"Shit," I exclaimed as my hands suddenly were touching the blisteringly hot steering wheel. It melted over my hands which were now stuck to the sticky molten rubber. Jeff's side of the cockpit was up in flames, and suddenly so was he. The flames engulfed the plane, I could hear Janette scream and Warren moan as the flames made their existence unbearable. The fire spread and there was nothing I could do. Nowhere to escape, I closed my eyes. I shut them tight as I felt the flame's almost icy touch grab me. First came the smell. Burning skin and hair. But then I couldn't smell as the heat burned my nose. I started to scream as the hot air burnt my lungs.

"What was that Andrew?" the sound came through my headset. 

"What?" I asked.

"You just screamed into the headset, are you okay Captain?" asked ground control.

I opened my eyes, and there I was in the cockpit again. Jeff was staring at me, finally a look of understanding in his eyes. My clutch on the controls tightened, then relaxed.

"I'm fine," I stole a glance at Jeff, as much checking to see if he was too. Visions of fire were now just a distant memory. I looked through the rain streaked windshield, and saw the skyline of Amsterdam.

"You have an all clear for landing," said Ground Control.