The plane seemed to have been travelling forever. They had been in the air for a few hours, but the time seemed to be going more slowly up there. The plane had made it’s ascent from a London airport a few hours ago, at 2:30 local time. Now it was impossible to know where exactly the plane was, there was nothing outside the window to indicate the country they were flying over. Only two hours earlier, the food trolley had wheeled its way down the aisle and he had selected his meal.
Now he was well into the flight. He had taken his shoes off and was enjoying the in-flight entertainment system. The movie was about a father who had become reunited with his daughter after many years apart. What made it more moving was that the daughter only had a few months to live. When he got to the end of the film he felt like crying. HE gazed around at the other passengers. They were all absorbed in their various activities. Some were trying to sleep, their neck pillows awkwardly positioned in the headrests. Others were looking at their laptops. They didn’t seem very interesting to him. HE wondered why so few people really cared about their journey, or where they were flying to. The flight attendants had served everybody in great time, and had poured the coffee as he was still eating his steak. He looked at his watch. Local time was 7:30 and he didn’t feel very sleepy. In fact, the coffee had given him jolt of extra energy. Sat in his chair, he felt restless, his body did not want to be still.
He decided to get up and explore. The plane was not entirely
full. There were several empty seats around him. In fact, it was not often that
there were so many seats on an international flight. There were usually several
children and a crying baby that would stay up on the journey. Surprisingly,
this time there were no children on board. In fact, most of the passengers were
travelling alone and weren’t the usual holiday-goers. The other thing he
noticed about them was they didn’t have much luggage with them. Usually travellers
carried bags of duty free, they had bags of shopping and various carry on. But
this flight was different. They had boarded with minimal luggage, and more to
the point, they were exceptionally quiet,
which was odd for people going on holiday who would normally be excitedly
talking about their destination.
The flight attendants were all female. He didn’t expect this to be so but it was always pleasant when they were, and occasionally he flew with other airlines and was shocked to find men serving amongst the women. 1
“Can I get you any drinks?”
Usually the use of ‘get’ in this way bothered him but right now he was enjoying the experience of being served by this woman that it was too much for it to bother him. The attendant had to lean over him to pass his glass of wine to him and the feeling of her apron against his shirt made him tingle with pleasure.
Would you like me to bring you something else?” she asked him?
He thought for a moment. There were lots of things he would have liked to get from her. She was wearing a bright red apron with embroidered patterns on it. Her dress was regulation length but he could see that she had good legs. Here height was at most 170cms (and he didn’t mind; he had never liked tall women anyway.
Then he heard an announcement over the plane’s loudspeaker.
“This is your captain speaking. We are currently experiencing some turbulence, Please stay in your seats and keep your seatbelt fastened.”
HE watched as the flight attendants quickly got back to their seats, which were somewhere at the back of the plane.
He hoped that the turbulence would be over quickly. As he fastened his seatbelt, he thought what a wonder it was to be flying. There was no other transport that came close. It was when he was in an aircraft that he felt he could relax properly, a place where no one could get to him. He enjoyed being up in the sky for several hours at once. Time seemed to stop. The plane started to shake violently. It must have been a storm that caused it to flap around so much. Whatever it was, he thought about the flight attendants in the plane. Where did they go at times like these? On a ten-hour flight, he only saw them during take-off and when they were serving the in-flight meals. There weren’t any seats back in economy for them to properly lay down in. Unless there happened to be some private rooms tucked away, they must have been sitting in cramped seats no bigger than the one he was sitting in at that moment.
AS the plane began to steady itself, he waited for the seatbelt sign to be switched off so that he could move about on the plane. He also wanted to see where the special flight attendant was sitting so that he could talk to her again. Would she be wearing her high-heeled shoes? Or would she have slipped them off? Feet could swell, he knew, although he couldn’t imagine this would be a big problem for her. If she was relaxing, would she be sleeping, or was she required to stay awake for the entire duration of the flight? It led to other questions. Where did they change clothes? How did they use the bathroom, and where did they store their bags? All these were a mystery to him. So he decided to take a look for himself. It wasn’t too hard as there were plenty of seats at the back of the plane that were empty. He wandered back where the flight attendants were seated and thought of what he would say to them.
I’m wondering if you could pour me another drink, he asked her. I know drink service has finished but I’m parched and this is a long-distance flight so-“
“What would you like?”
“I would like a gin and tonic.”
The drink would need ice cubes, which had to be scooped out from the bowl at the bottom of the trolley. It was a good thing he didn’t mind waiting.
Heard the sharp hiss of the carbon dioxide in the tonic water rise out of the bottle. The flight attendant was so tall that she had to lean over the drinks table. He thought she looked extremely sexy in her uniform; her stockings shimmered in the dim light of the cabin whilst her face took on an air of studied concentration as she measured the gin and filled the glass.
Waiting for the drink was part of the satisfaction, and when it finally arrived he was more than ready for it.
“ would you like something to go with it?”
He thought for a moment.
“I’ll take some nuts if you have them.”
She picked up some nuts and put them on a steel plate, handed them to him, and took hold of the trolley again.
Stop a minute, he told her. Why don’t you sit down with me? If you have time I mean.
She looked at him, assessing the situation.
“Well, I don’t suppose that would be a problem for just a few minutes…”
The flight attendant squeezed into one of the seats (she really was tall) and he got in beside her. She was like a praying mantis with her legs perched up high towards her arms.
A minute later they were talking about how she got to being an airline worker; whether she liked the job or not.
“It’s funny, when I was younger I never went on holidays. I was always afraid of flying and for that reason I decided to overcome my fear, and this seemed like the best way of doing that.”
Yes, they said that if I took a stimulator first it would allow me to experience the feeling of being in an airplane without leaving the ground.
The noise of the plane’s engine started to get very loud and it felt as though it was moving faster now. Just as he finished his drink the plane began to move upward some more and he felt the pressure in the cabin increasing.
“I want to learn how to pilot a plane one day, when you’re in control of the plane it must be a wonderful feeling to be taking people on a journey somewhere exciting.”
He looked around at the passengers. They were all sitting by themselves and he noticed that there were no children on board either. He started to feel strange and he wondered why this was happening.
“ Where is this flight going?” He asked after a gap in the conversation.
“It’s not going anywhere, we’re flying for an unlimited time until passengers decide they want to leave.
“Then what happens to them?”
Usually when a passenger has grown tired of eating all the food we send another jet to come and collect them and get them to the nearest airport.”
So the rest of the passengers are not really flying anywhere?
“Exactly. Most of our passengers are perfectly content to stay on board as long as two weeks. They have everything they need on board anyway, and they are much safer up here than on the ground.”
“But don’t they get bored?”
You would think so, but many of our passengers have been coming back for several years. “
He looked out the window. Whether it was day or night was impossible to tell. The air he was breathing in was neither fresh nor stale. Every hour the cabin was refreshed with new “air” from the tanks, to stop the air becoming stuffy and to minimize the spread of germs in the air.
He read somewhere that time moved slower at the top of a mountain than it did on the flat land. In that case, was time moving at all when you were flying in the air, when it was only night for a few hours until it became day again?
It was a strange way to spend a holiday, never visiting anywhere; but people did all kinds of crazy things on holiday.
“Well, how long do you think I should spend up here?”
“That depends. Did you wish to speak to any of our flight attendants? You can arrange to have dinner in the private dining area if you want to.”
Suddenly the idea of being alone on the aircraft was starting to get improve.
“Would it be possible to have dinner with you?” He already felt comfortable with her even though they had only been talking for twenty minutes.
I’m having dinner
“Yes that will be fine. But will you let me tell you something first? I usually say know when people ask me to have dinner with them. “
“they must really ask you a lot then.”
“They do. But that’s not why I turn them down.”
Im aware that men look at me in a certain way, maybe they have a fantasy about me based on my appearance, but it’s not how I am in person. I would hate for you to get the wrong idea about me.”
He picked up his bag and went to the washroom. There were the usual assortments of toiletries, hairbrush and toothbrush for him to use. He thought about changing his clothes but then he decided he was fine the way he was. Actually, he was feeling confident and he probably could have changed into the dressing gown and been ok like that. He wouldn’t normally have been so confident, of course. But the fact she had said yes, just like that, made him feel so much better about things.
Lena was wearing slim-fitted black jeans that matched the colour of her hair. She had paired her top with a sexy patterned scarf and black choker. She looked much less formal than when she was in her flight uniform, but he was just as attracted to her now, if not more.
They were sitting in a small back room in the plane, with a large table and several chairs positioned around it. The usual hum of the plane’s engines could not be heard and the room was hushed and quiet.
‘So is this where you do your flight attendant work?’ he asked her?
“We do most of our safety exercises and procedures here.”
“It sounds so interesting. I’m sorry that they don’t do the pre-flight safety demonstrations any more. I used to enjoy watching those, it was always interesting seeing their expressions as they mimed the use of an inflatable safety vest….”
“We find that most passengers prefer to watch a recorded video instead of focusing so much on a flight attendant. The eye contact makes them feel uncomfortable and they don’t know where to look.”
“Maybe I understand, but it’s going to take me some time to get used to this new way of doing things.”
“What is it you miss about the way it used to be done?”
“The amount of dedication they had for their craft, and they way they could perform with a sense of theatre.”
“Did I do that when I poured your drink just now?”
“ you really put all your effort in to it.”
“Besides, air travel has changed in so many ways. The way passengers board the plane, the safety requirements and the lack of space.
DO you know how much the standard seat width has shrunk since the 1960s?
He looked at his glass of wine and admired the slender stem. They had clearly thought a great deal about the tableware they provided. It wasn’t just that they were nice glasses, but that they were the perfect shape for the table and could hold just the right amount of liquid.
“I’m not sure.”
“Well, it’s a lot. Standard seat width for a commercial flights is now thirty inches. Many of our customers request seats with extra legroom but we can’t offer them anything unless they sit in the emergency exits, or First class. Well, we’d like all passengers to have the same standard of comfort but unfortunately that’s not always comfortable. So we can only give them these reduced-space seats at the back of the plane.
“Well, let’s see what we have for dinner. Are you hungry?”
He looked at the menu which was printed in extra fine font on slightly crinkled paper. It was the usual mishmash of international food. For the appetiser they were offering seared prawns with simmered avocado qenelles. The mains looked more interesting. The fish was red snapper, grilled and served with a hot wasabi dressing. Meat was a loin of pork with grapefruit jam and chorizo.
It was the kind of food that would be difficult to reheat without losing all the texture. They must have had an amazing team back there in the kitchen if they could produce this kind of food.
“I will have the prawns, followed by the pork. That’s it.”
It was nice eating in a plane; you only had two options and either one was likely to be as good as the other so that he never felt any misgivings about his choices.
‘You know something,” he said to her as she was pouring the wine; ‘I’ve never had a bad meal on a plane.”
“Really? I’m happy to hear it, but you don’t have to be so polite with me.”
“No, I’m serious. Everything has always been fresh, served at the correct temperature, well-presented…. You’d be amazed by the number of restaurants that can’t get that right.”
“We just want everything to be just right for our guests.”
‘But now I think about it, there’s not much they could do if I did’t like the food. I suppose I could try asking for another one. But it’d be exactly the same anyway…”
“Yes, we’d only be able to offer you the same dish cooked exactly the same way.”
The plane carried on flying cruise control. It was almost as if it was following a pre-determined course.
“Do you ever get tired of flying? He asked her.
“Why do you ask me that?”
Just being stuck in the air. Only seeing the airports and never going anywhere exciting.”
“Well we get three days off after every ten. That usually gives us some time to do something exciting.”
“What about when you’re on the plane? All those stupid passenger requests and screaming babies. It would be enough to tip me over the edge.”
“That’s why I’m only working these planes. I only serve single passengers like you. Besides, we get used to serving difficult passengers after working a few weeks.”
“Do you? That’s interesting….”
He didn’t know what to say next. He admired the curvature of her neck. It was amazing how unique a woman’s body was; there were always different body parts that drew to his attention. As well as being aroused by the whole package, he was able to be stimulated by very specific features as well. Lena’s ears were long, shaped like treble clefs, and her mouth was so enticing he felt that he could fall into it.
“Aren’t you ever afraid of the plane crashing, or having engine failure?”
“Of course, it goes through my mind. We have the best safety measures in place, but there’s always the possibility that something may go terribly wrong. If it does, then we would need everybody off the plane as quickly as possible.”
“You would let the passengers off the plane first, or would you rush past them to the emergency exits?”
“We would be required to make sure that everyone was able to reach the doors first, otherwise we wouldn’t be doing our jobs. But I’m sure that some people would not be so altruistic as that.”
“You’re damn right they wouldn’t. It would be everyone for themselves; but that’s not what always happens on flight disasters, with many heroic examples of bravery from members of the cabin crew, I’ve come across so many.
And that’s not all.”
“We don’t have to talk about this any more. That’s a hell of a dress that you’re wearing.”
“Would you like to go somewhere else to talk? There is a room out back which is much quieter for us, and would give us more privacy. I can go there with you if you like, and we can continue the conversation.”
They went into another room that was even more luxurious than where they had been before. There were gilt tables with decorated wine glasses on them and pictures of celebrities who had flown in the plane before him.
“Would you like to hear some music?”
He thought it seemed like a good idea. He had never been on a plane when they were playing music and he thought it seemed such a good plan.
“What are you going to play me? Something ambient like “Little fluffy clouds?” Or music for airports?”
“Who is that by? Brian Eno? I don’t think I know that one.”
“Whenever I’m flying, I always imagine something very ethereal and almost ghostly like Enya or something very solemn and funereal.”
“Ghostly? Hmm, I think I know what you’re getting at. But we don’t like our passengers to be led down such a path where they could be depressed, or think about the supernatural.”
She went over to the music system and pulled out one of the discs.
As soon as he heard the opening bars, he identified the music.
“A little Night music?”
“Yes. Very well known but it adds something when you hear it on a plane.”
Indeed, it sounded so light; the strings were pulling him higher in the air.
“Do you want to know something about the other passengers?”
Like what exactly?
“Haven’t you noticed anything a little unusual about them?
“They look like typical business passengers.” And it was true, they did.
“What if I said that they are in fact all aliens, travelling back to their own planet after a long time abroad.”
“I’d say that you were crazy. I would never believe you in fact.”
“yes, I knew you wouldn’t believe it, because they look so normal. That’s why we chose them. They blend in perfectly, don’t they? Nobody would ever know.”
What am I doing here? Am I the only human here?”
“No of course not. There are all of the other attendants. As well as me.”
He looked at her carefully.
“That’s a relief.”
“So what happens now? Does the plane travel far? Couldn’t that take a very long time?”
“Do you want to go back home, is that it?”
“You can leave any time you want. Just open one of the doors.”
He looked around himself. There’s no way I’d make it alive, he thought to himself.
“So are you going to stay on the plane after all?”
“It’s not so bad. I can get all the food I need here. And the in-flight entertainment that you provide leaves little to be desired.”
“You’re ok about the aliens?”
“They just look like normal passengers.”
“Yes, they’re really harmless. Like good-natured tourists.”
“Well, most of them are. We haven’t had any problems so far. We try to give them what they want, that way everyone’s happy.”
The plane kept on going. The alien’s home planet was thousands of light years away and it was months until they landed. As it happens, he’s still on the plane, somewhere, someplace, some time.