McKenzie woke up startled and drenched with sweat for the third night in a row. She extracted her leg from tangled bed sheets and glanced at the clock. Her heart sank as fear tightened her intestines. Once again it was 3:38 in the morning.
She would’ve slept longer, but this morning she had to catch her first flight by 9. There was no time to get the rest she desperately needed.
She stumbled into the bathroom and splashed cold water on her face, trying to wash away remnants of the recurring dream. For some reason McKenzie could never remember how the dream started– somehow she was just on a plane. But she always remembered the woman at the window with the pale skin and bright pink lipstick screaming right before the plane exploded.
The nightmare had started a year before. She had kept it to herself, not wanting to be labeled as crazy. It wasn’t until work decided to send her to Thailand for meetings that she started to worry. She splashed more cold water on her face.
McKenzie had a full day of traveling ahead and no time or energy to entertain her paranoia.
Within a couple hours she was out of her condo with her carryon, headed toward the metro station. She’d get to Reagan National Airport within the hour, before landing in Boston and Dubai.
Throughout her morning flights, she washed down Dramamine with Coke, peering at faces in airports, wishing she had a strong sedative.
“Ladies and gentleman, we are ready to board our new Boeing 777 for flight 338 to Bangkok,” a representative announced.
With her head throbbing, she glanced at her phone for her seat number. McKenzie dragged her heavy carryon toward seat 33 H, trying to remain calm. She wished she could remember more details from the dream– where she was going, what she was wearing. She only remembered the woman.
She moved closer to row 33. It was empty.
McKenzie hoisted her luggage into the overhead bin and plopped down in her seat. She began fastening her seat belt.
“Excuse me,” a voice interrupted. McKenzie’s shoulders tensed. She looked up to see a young teen.
“I’m the middle seat,” he said and scooted past her.
“At least we have the exit row,” he said, settling into his seat.
McKenzie nodded her agreement.
Within minutes the cabin doors were locked and the teen now occupied the window seat. She felt calm finally settle within her and almost laughed at herself for believing silly dreams.
Ignoring the standard psitttacism about masks, she curled up in her seat, and drifted off after reassuring the flight attendant that she was able to help in case of emergency.
Thankfully that wouldn’t be necessary today.
Somewhere over the Gulf of Oman, the plane hit an air pocket, startling passengers.
Still groggy, McKenzie woke and shook her head to clear her mental fog. The flight attendant was arriving with snacks.
“Could I get a ginger-ale, please,” McKenzie asked, sleepily.
“Absolutley,” the flight attendant said, passing a drink past McKenzie. “Ma’am, here’s your Sprite and vodka.”
Confused, McKenzie turned to find a pale woman in the window seat. The bright pink lips parted slightly. The rest of the woman’s face was hidden behind huge black frames with tinted lenses.
McKenzie’s pulse soared as she frantically looked around for the teen. Panic gripped her heart. Sweat dampened her blouse. She felt sick. She was in her dream, but this was real. McKenzie stared at her ginger-ale.
She had to get off this flight.