©2009 The Angst Guy (theangstguy@yahoo.com)

Daria and associated characters are ©2009 MTV Networks



Feedback (good, bad, indifferent, just want to bother me, whatever) is appreciated. Please write to: theangstguy@yahoo.com


Synopsis: It is better sometimes to never wake up.


Author's Notes: Brother Grimace’s Iron Chef was thus: “Have any two characters in a location where circumstances prevent them from leaving or being extracted easily (although they are in no way injured), and have them engage in a relationship-changing conversation, when they discover that they're being observed, in some way, by a great many people. Then, have them finish that conversation.” (Emphasis his.) And so this story was born.


Acknowledgements: Brother Grimace did it once again with a great Iron Chef. My thanks also to a great rock group, The Byrds, for the title (“Eight miles high / And when you come down…”).









He blinked his eyes and came half awake, head aching. It was cold. He was sitting upright on a gleaming floor of little aqua and white ceramic tiles. His back was against a vibrating wall. The room was white and very small. In front of him was a simple toilet with the lid down. To his right was a stainless steel sink on a low white cabinet. His ears rang but even above the shrill whine he could hear the thunder of a railroad locomotive going by, right behind him. The loud passing locomotive (it sounded exactly like one) was making the entire room vibrate, even the floor. A light fog hung in the room. The air smelled like toilet disinfectant and tasted like something burning.


Dazed, he got up to his knees by gripping the rim of the vibrating sink and pulling. He turned on the faucet, got one hand wet, then rubbed cold water over his face. It woke him up but not completely. With an effort he got to his feet and looked in the mirror over the sink at his bloodless face. Where am I? How did I get here? He dashed more water over himself, splashing his white polo shirt and beige slacks. The pulsing locomotive roar outside the bathroom was deafening. The bathroom door rattled nonstop on its hinges.


Sputtering, he looked around and was startled by a yellow plastic device hanging from the white bathroom ceiling by a long plastic tube. It was an oxygen mask, the kind used on passenger jets.


I’m on a jet, he remembered. I was going to Hawaii with H


His fingers fumbled with the door latch, trying to slide the silvery bar aside to open the door. The moment he succeeded the door was flung open by a blast of wind like heavyweight champion’s punch. The edge of the door missed his face by a hair. He almost fell again, then began to cough. The brutal wind pounded and hammered the door until it broke free and banged against the toilet behind him. Gasping, he went to his knees. The closer to the floor he was, the easier it was to move against the wind, less force and less resistance. He had to go lower, though, much lower.


He crawled out of the restroom on his belly, barely able to see through windblown dust and smoke. A jumbo jet, he remembered, they were on a 747, going to Maui for a week. They had to be over the Pacific. He was in one of the rearmost alcoves in the economy section. (It saved money for the hotel room, he had told a piqued Helen.) Human bodies were scattered before him. Most had their clothing torn away. The off-white carpeting was now splattered pink with wide patches of dark red around the bodies. The reeking air tasted of jet fuel. That struck him as bad, though he had trouble recalling why. It was hard to think about what to do next, very hard to think. It hurt his lungs to breathe. He could not stop coughing.


A green metal bottle two feet long rolled by and struck his forearm. The bottle trailed clear plastic tubing from a valve on top. The tubing led to a clear plastic mask improperly fitted over the face of a young male flight steward, lying on his back in the galley next to the restrooms.


Oxygen, read the green bottle’s label.


He returned to consciousness face-down with the steward’s oxygen mask pressed over his nose and mouth. The air from the mask was like a long drink of cold fresh water. He did not know how he had gotten the mask off the blue-lipped steward in front of him. He began to remember things again.


Helen, where is


Napkins and plastic forks and paper menus swirled in miniature tornadoes as he crawled on his elbows toward the port aisle, hugging the green oxygen bottle to his chest. He shoved the bodies aside. Some were still breathing. It was very cold. A woman’s shoe hit him in the face, almost knocking off the oxygen mask. On the inside of the aqua pump was imprinted the logo of Oceanic Airlines. It was a flight attendant’s left shoe. The typhoon swept it away a second later. An in-flight magazine whipped past, a pillow, more napkins and magazines and papers and empty water bottles and pens, and lots of dust and smoke.


Helen had been in 51C, on the left aisle near the center-aisle movie screen. She had been finishing a legal brief on her laptop. That was Helen, the workhorse. She would still be there if she had not unbuckled her seat belt. He began to pray.


When he crawled around the corner of the galley into the left aisle, his gaze automatically went up to the source of the bright light. There was an infinite blue sky above, framed by broken metal ribs, split luggage compartments, snapped cables, and wind-whipped wiring. Thin black smoke flew lightning fast under the heavens. The passenger compartment’s ceiling, once eleven feet above the carpeted floor, was torn away as far forward as he could see.


A 747’s cruising speed at any altitude was over five hundred miles an hour. He remembered telling that to Helen, thinking she would be impressed, but she already knew. She seemed to know everything, Helen did. The louder-than-freight-train blast that shook everything and drowned all other sound was the five-hundred-mile-per-hour wind.


He looked away to stop thinking about it. He began crawling again, squinting against windblown dust. Broken suitcases and purses and bags and articles of clothing were everywhere. Passengers sprawled in their seats, belted in, arms swinging limb. A little blonde girl was caught under a seat, her bare legs jiggling in the hurricane. Her eyes were rolled up in her blood-streaked face. He crawled past row 59, then 58, then 57, then—


—the laptop. Helen’s ash-gray laptop protruded from under a stewardess’s body in front of him. The flight attendant’s head was twisted almost completely around so that she could have looked behind her had she not been so obviously dead. He pushed her and the laptop aside. He was getting tired, and the green oxygen bottle was very heavy. He kept moving.


A long time later he found her. He pulled himself up and wedged himself between the armrest of her seat and the back of the empty seat in front of her, his arms on the lowered tray. The green bottle lay on the floor between his knees.


It was hard to see Helen’s face through her brunette hair as it whipped over it in the hurricane. She had a yellow oxygen mask over her face, the only passenger who did. The wind had not pulled it off because the elastic straps were snagged in her hair and pearl necklace. He did not see any blood on her, no bruises or marks. Her magenta jacket and white blouse had been torn open by the wind. She wore a lacy white bra. Her perfect white breasts slowly rose, fell, rose again.


He took off his oxygen mask. Helen, he shouted, and the wind carried his voice away.


Her eyes fluttered, then opened. Her gaze slowly focused on him.


Helen. He enunciated every word as clearly as possible. Are you all right?


She blinked at him through her wild hair. She looked sleepy.


Are you all right?


She nodded.


I love you, he shouted.


She blinked and turned her head away. She was staring dully at the back of the seat in front of her. He glanced that way, did a double take and looked again. On the back of the seat was a television screen, which even economy-class seats had on Oceanic passenger jets. On the flat TV screen was a white 747 with aqua trim, flying through a blue sky. It trailed a thin plume of black smoke.




The camera on the chase plane zoomed in. The entire upper deck of the 747, from the cockpit back, had been sheared cleanly off. The 747’s characteristic hump was gone, as was nearly all the roof from the rear fuselage. The tail and rudder of the 747 appeared to be damaged but largely intact. He wondered how that was possible. He then realized the other jet had hit the 747 from one side. A wing had sliced off the upper deck. The merciless wind had ripped away the rest of the fuselage roof. The black smoke came from a ragged area where the cockpit had been. An engine from the other jet, he thought, an engine must have hit there, killing the flight crew, pilots and all. That’s why the cockpit and upper deck were burning, from the spilled jet fuel as the other jet’s engine came apart. It had been just enough fuel to start a fire.


It came to him after a long moment that the burning 747 on the TV screen was the same jet that he was on. The hurricane roar faded in his mind. He no longer felt the sting of dust on his face. He saw only the burning jet on the TV, on autopilot over the Pacific Ocean with no cockpit or roof. His jet.


After a long moment he looked at Helen. After a long moment, she looked at him.


He did not have the strength now to shout. I love you, he mouthed. He had not thought so before, though he often said it during sex, but now he felt it. It was real. I love you. I love you, Helen.


She smiled at him with half-closed eyes and said something through her oxygen mask. He reached up and pushed the mask aside. Her pink lips moved as her eyelids fluttered.


I love you too Jake, she said.


Her eyes closed as her chest slowly rose and fell. He put the oxygen mask over her face again. It was very hard to think.


I love you too Jake.


His name, however, was Eric Schrecter. In her groggy state she had remembered only the husband she had left behind, not Eric, her boss at the legal firm, who had lusted for the hot new forty-something lawyer and found any pretext to call her at home about “work.” She had spoken her husband’s name and not Eric’s, with whom she had begun an affair filled with smoldering looks and dirty e-mails and late nights at the office screwing wherever they could, desperately reaching for every orgasm. She had remembered her husband Jake, clueless neurotic Jake, who was probably watching this very scene on his television at home. He almost certainly did not know about the affair and had swallowed the whole story about the legal conference in Maui hook, line, and sinker. Eric had paid for a hotel suite by the beach, a suite with a huge round bed. The bed, he realized, would go to someone else when he and Helen did not show up tonight.


He stared at Helen’s breasts but felt nothing. He had been nothing to her. Nothing.


At last he reached up and took the yellow oxygen mask off Helen’s nose and mouth, moving it under her chin instead. She would not reawaken. It was for the best. He wondered which it would be: the spreading fire, or the jet running out of fuel and spiraling down to the sea. It did not matter. He did not care. He closed his eyes and waited to join her in that long sleep, dropping his own mask on the floor. It was very cold under that blue sky, and the raging wind was loud and strong.



I remember
We were flying along
And hit something in the air.

Bloodrock, D.O.A., 1970





Original: 05/15/09, 11/1/09, 05/12/10