A couple of hours to go and they’d touch down in New York. He’d heard so much about the place and at long last he would get to taste some of the great things it supposedly offered. His optimism of the flight was not entirely wasted. He had been allocated an aisle seat next to the most amazing girl, a Finnish national, called Kirsti. Guaranteed to erase the pain he suffered from the departure of Sophie, she had legs that went on forever, straight, mid-length, honey blonde hair, dark blue eyes and lips he couldn’t help staring at as she spoke perfect English with a slight Nordic accent. In spite of her obvious allure, she seemed totally unaware of her effect on others around her.
The pair had done nothing but talk all the way across the Atlantic, barely noticing the high occupancy of the surrounding seating, the less than perfect food or the fact that the queues for the toilets were eternal. Nothing was of consequence. Until they were about forty five minutes out of New York.
“Ladies and Gentlemen,” the captain called for attention. “I have been speaking with the authorities in New York and it appears that we will be delayed for a while once we land.” Groans of disappointment rose from the passengers. “I’m afraid there has been a problem back in the UK and as a direct result of this we will be held at a remote place on the airfield until cleared to approach the terminals. We have been given no further explanation. I am sure that, with a little patience, we will soon be disembarking in the terminal and you will be able to resume your journeys.” With a click, the captain signed off, leaving the cabin in a state of dissatisfaction.
The Tannoy clicked into life once again. “Ladies and gentlemen, this is your purser, Jane Moody. I and my staff will be moving through the cabin taking details of those of you expecting to connect with other flights out of New York. We will aim to expedite your transfer to the terminals in order that you make the connection on time. We will also be handing out landing cards for those of you without US passports.” After the announcement the seat-belt lights came on with an electronic ping.
“Well, that’s an auspicious start to my trip,” Nick observed dryly, wondering silently if this had anything to do with the violence on the streets in London – was it such a great leap of logic, or was he just fretting as a result of the extreme violence he had witnessed so recently?
“I hope I can make my onward flight,” Kirsti said, fretting a little, her face showing a worried frown. Nick couldn’t share her sentiment, no matter how wrong that seemed. Her destination, strangely enough, had also been Australia, only she had no intention of making a tourist event out of landing in the USA.
“I’m sure everything will be alright,” he offered, “there’ll probably only be a small delay while they sort stuff out.” Something had been bothering him, ever since he had watched Jana sneeze and bleed, going from a healthy girl to ill in an amazingly short space of time. He felt sorry for her, hoping she would be okay, but that didn’t stop the nagging doubt at the back of his mind that none of this was just a virulent strain of some regular bug going around.
Looking around the cabin he counted the number of sick people he could see in his part of the cabin alone, praying it was not airborne or he and everyone that was so far unaffected was completely stuffed, and probably soon. His seat in the rearmost row of the plane afforded him a complete view forward and from what he could see it was easier to count those not apparently suffering. The queues for the toilets had thinned, probably due to the seat belt light being on; those hardy and determined few that stood waiting for their turn had anxious faces, not ill so much as ill at ease. They too sensed something was wrong. The cabin crew had been absent for a while now, none showing up as promised and it worried Nick; even Kirsti commented on it, her determination to catch her flight nagging at her like an unreachable itch.
The queues for the toilets had gone now, most people anticipating the landing that had just been announced over the Tannoy; everyone could sense the plane turning onto the final approach and continuing its descent into New York La Guardia. He was pondering on the fact that both he and Kirsti appeared somehow to be bug-free when a scream erupted in the next cabin ahead of his. With the curtains drawn it was impossible for him to determine the cause of the ruckus. What he could hear was still frightening – more screams, shouts and dull thuds as someone rolled around on the metallic flooring, sounding as if a fight had broken out. People in his own cabin became agitated, thrashing around in their seats, moaning and groaning their discontent. A peculiar reaction, he thought, until he saw the face of one of the passengers. It was a middle-aged woman; her eyes had become engorged with blood, and red from burst capillaries was smeared all over her cheeks. Her teeth seemed startlingly more relevant, somehow large and feral. As he inadvertently caught her eye, her agitation became extreme as she thrashed around like a hooked fish desperate to be freed from her seatbelt but apparently unable to perform such a simple task, for which Nick was eternally grateful; her look of sheer malevolence shook him and he flinched in reaction.
“What is it?” Kirsti asked, noticing that his face had paled. Her voice rose slightly, tremulous with increasing fear.
“Don’t take this the wrong way, but come with me. Now,” Nick pleaded. He had just had a brainstorm.