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the omega

Janet Kuypers
(part 1 of a novel)
Visible online in the previously published (but now cold out) collection book Balance


Time: 11:25PM, December 20, 2012 C.E.
Place: LaGuardia International Airport

    The constant clicking of heels, joined with the repeated shuffling of sneakers, joined the constant whirr of roller carry-on bags rolling over the laminated hallways of LaGuardia a few nights before Christmas. The chaotic rumble of voices blanketed the hum form the mix of floor noises to create a hazy cloud of background noise. But Sydney heard each click of her heels as a thunderous boom as she hurried her pace to get to the right concourse for her next flight. With her travel bag over her shoulder for her flight to Honolulu, Sydney Cooke brushed her straightened brown hair from here eyes, quickened her pace to make sure she wouldn’t be late for the 11:58 PM flight. As she turned the corner to the L gates for the International flights, she collided with a man rushing from the other direction.
    “Oh my God, I’m sorry,” Sydney said as she tried to grab her bag falling off of her shoulder.
    “Oh, that’s okay...” The man said. Seeing from her uniform that like him, she was a flight attendant, but for a different airline. “You’re on a flight soon?”
    Sydney looked at the large man and saw he was in a different-colored flight attendant’s uniform. “Yeah, I’m going to Honolulu, in probably twenty minutes. What flight are you on your way to?”
    “Actually, Aerolineas Argentinas has been overbooked lately because Brazil has been closed off, so I’ve been moved, and I’m now on a direct flight to Rio Gallegos.”
    “Where is that?”
    “It’s like at almost the southernmost tip of the country, so it’s insanely long.” He waited a second before he said, “By the way, I’m Brent.”
    Sydney smiled. “...Hi, I’m Sydney. And do you know the language at all for when you get there?”
    “No, but I’m staying in the airport and going immediately back on a flight to Miami tomorrow afternoon... At least you get to go directly to Hawaii and enjoy Christmas there.”
    “Yeah, but I don’t want to get fired if I can’t get to the Aloha Airlines terminal in time. But I’ll only get a day there before I fly the Los Angeles for the next flight just before Christmas.” Sydney glanced back at the hall she should have been running down.
    “Sorry man,” Brent said. “Hope you’re not late for the flight.”
    “Thanks,” Sydney said as they both started to turn to get to their flights. “You have a good flight too.”
    With that they both turned back to the hall and started moving toward their final destinations.


Time: Saturday, 1:46 AM, December 21, 2012 C.E.
Place: Aloha Airlines flight 2242, flying over the Wood Buffalo National Park at the northern edge of Alberta, Canada
Pilot: Eric
Copilot: Brian
Primary Flight Attendants: Courtney, Justin, Shannon and Sydney

    Brian bent over slightly because he was so used to slouching to fit into small places, because he was tall, and curling his long fingers, pulled his headphones off of his head, exasperated. “Eric, This weather is messing up our panels up and we can’t report to any station. I can’t find an airport anywhere to send a message out even.”
    Brian had never been a copilot with Eric Cameron, and Brian was relatively new to flights this long. Eric had flown these long trips for years, and Brian could tell Eric was used to flying these airplanes at these distances, watching the way he kept control of everything and kept every detail in check as he managed flying this plane through the storms. A part of him even wondered if Eric could fly this plane across the ocean manually, and get to Hawaii with nothing other than his own senses.
    But Brian still looked around the panels in the cockpit, trying to make sense of the readings and the turbulence. He then ran his fingers through his short curly hair, still at a loss for any explanation. “I know we’re flying to Hawaii, but there were no reports of weather like this for this flight. I’m sure we would have been notified of any weather problems.”
    Eric took one hand to pull his headphones off too, because the pilots weren’t receiving any radio signals. His headphones moving off his head made a few strands of his straight black hair fall over his forehead, but his hair was of no matter to him as he looked over the expanse of violent weather below. “We’ll have to keep trying every few minutes, but there’s not a lot on the ground below here — we’re almost touching the Northwest Territories. I’m sure that other stations further south and towards the coast are watching our flight pattern and tracking us, even if we can’t get through to them.”
    “It’s pretty dark down there, and —”
    “I know, and yeah, this is the worst weather I’ve ever flown through, but we’ll get though it. Call the flight attendants to let the passengers know that we’re doing everything we can about the weather and we’ll get out of it soon.”
    “But Eric, there was no report of anything happening in our flight path, we don’t —”
    “I know, but we’ve got to tell people something.”

    Sydney got the page call from the pilot, and then tried to look though the cabin. Most people probably just wanted to get to sleep on this flight; they had left New York only two hours ago, and they knew they would be getting to Hawaii in the morning for their Christmas vacations. People would want to enjoy the day in Hawaii, so they’d want to sleep now. But there was no way with the amount of turbulence in the flight that anyone could rest.
    She also heard news reports in the past few weeks of growing seismic activity throughout the world. South America and Central America had an increased number of earthquakes in the past few weeks — another flight attendant even told Sydney in the airport that day that they were working on a flight to Argentina, because people from Europe and the United States were suddenly interested in seeing earthquakes, to see the operations people were going through. Major cities in Brazil were even refusing flights for tourism because of the recent damage. Looking back, she knew that over the years the number of natural disasters throughout the world steadily increased — from hurricanes in the southern and western coasts of the United States, but also in Central America and China, to volcanic activity in the northwest United States and Hawaii and South America and Europe. So Sydney realized that people flying to Hawaii might also be visiting to see the volcanic activity that has started fervently on the islands. But if there are weather problems in Hawaii, she knew they wouldn’t want a bad flight to start their trip.
    Sydney walked over to two other flight attendants, and asked Shannon, “Has anyone else been complaining since all this turbulence started? The babies stopped crying after about twenty minutes of this weather, but the captain just said to tell people that we’ll be out of the turbulence soon, because people won’t be able to sleep through this.”
    “I think it might just bother the passengers more if we keep calling them over the intercom while they’re trying to relax,” Shannon answered.
    “I just looked at the cabin, and no one looks relaxed,” Sydney answered as she moved to grab the intercom microphone. “I know I’d want to know what was going on if I was stuck on a flight like this.”
    “I never thought I’d need Dramamine, but man, this is a tough ride,” Justin, the attendant, said to Shannon as Sydney grabbed the microphone.
    Everyone’s heads turned up toward the top of the airplane when they heard the microphone click and buzz before Sydney started to speak.
    “The flight crew apologizes for the heavy turbulence we’re experiencing, but the Captain said that we should be getting out of this weather soon. The flight is doing well despite the turbulence. We apologize again for any problems this is causing, and if you need anything at all, please press your call button for any cabin crew member to assist you.” Sydney then turned the microphone off and started to put it back in its rest.
    “I’m going to check the foods and drinks in the back of the plane,” Courtney said. “There’s no way we could be serving any food right now, and it shouldn’t spill out in the cabin.”
    “Smart idea,” Justin answered. “I checked our reserves in the front by First Class with Kyle or Jacob to make sure everything’s still stored.”
    Shannon turned to Sydney and asked, “Should we check the cabin to make sure no compartments have opened and make sure everyone’s okay?”
    “We should — we just told people to press the call buttons if they need anything, so we should get out there, too. I’ll move to the back and start checking the cabin and moving forward, and we can meet in the middle after checking.”

    Justin and Shannon took turns occasionally checking over the passengers, but even the flight attendants wanted to stay buckled in their small seats during the flight. Though people might not be able to keep more in their stomachs due to the turbulence, Justin turned to Shannon and set up distributing half glasses of water to anyone who felt like they needed it (only a half glass because the turbulence would spill any more water). After almost an hour of what seemed like constant upheaval, Sydney and Kurt both tried to contact the pilots to see if there were any changes in the weather.
    After almost a half hour of not being able to contact anyone on ground, Eric told Brian that with the weather conditions were so poor they would have to change their route to head further north for ease of flight.
    “But we need to know if other planes are in the area.”
    “Brian, I have to see flights in the air.” Eric then tried to mentally coming up with a plan. “And this weather is making things so rough on our flight, we’ll have to increase our altitude and head up north to find better flying weather...”
    Eric glanced at Brian and could tell he wasn’t comfortable with his decisions to makes changes to their flight. Eric spoke again. “Brian, we don’t have much choice. No one is responding to anything we’re radioing out there, and I can see if there are other airplane lights. I don’t think we have much choice.”
    After making the decision to change their flight pattern, Eric added, “We’ll be barely crossing over the Eastern edge of Alaska by going north. People will see us up there and try to contact us.”
    “And we should be able to radio... well, either Anchorage or maybe Fairbanks. Maybe they could tell us something about this weather, because we’ll have to turn around to go south again to make it to Hawaii.”
    “I know, where we’re landing is on the west side of the islands, and that’s just a hair west of the western edge of Alaska.”
    They knew that making the decision to change their flight pattern in hopes if finding a safer ride to their vacation destination almost left more questions than answers.
    Brian finally asked, “We’re not going to be able to fly around forever. We’re going to have to land somewhere.”
    “Yeah, I know... I fear that the weather is that much worse down there than up here.”
    They let silence fall like a heavy weight on them as they tried to navigate the plane through storm patches. “Yeah, we’ll land somewhere,” Eric said, almost under his breath. “We’ll make it through this.”

    Ten minutes later, the cabin heard the click of the intercom system again.
    “This is your captain Eric. We apologize again for the turbulence we’ve been experiencing on this flight. But because of these conditions, we’re rerouting our flight further north to avoid the weather conditions. It may take a little longer to get to Honolulu, but the flight conditions will hopefully improve so you can sleep the night through.
    Once again, if anyone needs anything, press the call button over your seat to get the assistance of any of the flight attendants here.”
    With that the people on flight 2242 heard the intercom turn off with its now almost usual clicking buzz. And after Eric spoke, he raised the cockpit lights slightly so they could look at maps and paperwork. In the better light, Brian could see Eric’s face, and it looked just as determined and stern as his voice sounded when they talked in the cockpit since the weather had started. Eric then said, “Well, we’ve veered up north, Brian. Hopefully someone up there would be close enough to hear a radio call.”

    Shannon opened her purse once she strapped herself into a seat again, near Justin and Kyle, pulled out her purse and asked, “Does anyone need Dramamine? ...I never need these motion sickness pills, I just keep them for times like this Anyone want one?”
    Justin took one immediately, Kyle waited a few seconds before asking for one. They muffled their thank yous to her, and then Kyle looked up and saw Sydney trying to get into the last seat in that part of the plane. “Hey,” Kyle whispered, “Shannon has Dramamine. Do you need any?”
    “Well...I haven’t eaten much, so I don’t think I’ll be sick — yet. I’ll hold off. But thanks.” As soon as Sydney buckled herself into the seat they heard the buzz of another call button in the section they were sitting in. “I’ll get this,” Justin said as he started to get up to help a passenger.
    For the next two hours flight attendants tried to occasionally walk through the aisles to offer people half-filled glasses of water if people needed something to drink. They couldn’t put more water in a single plastic cup, because it would be too easy to spill half if it was full. Besides, the flight attendants were having a hard enough time even standing or pouring water for people who needed assistance on the flight.
    By 3:30 in the morning, people were getting up to use the washroom to try to throw up, if they didn’t try to use the airsick bags in front of their seats. Because it was still night and the weather was hoprrendous (and because they had flown north toward the Arctic Circle in an attempt to avoid storms), nobody could see a thing in the night sky or on the ground — all they could see was voluminous clouds. Most people on the flight tried to use their headphones to block out the noise from the storm below, which seemed to become more and more thunderous.

    Sue Matsushita wasn’t feeling well in seat 26F of this Aloha Airlines flight to their home in Honolulu, but she wouldn’t say anything to disturb her husband Charlie. She watched him wringing the paper napkin he held from his earlier half glass of water, and Sue finally pulled the airplane blanket from her lap so she could try to take his hand.
    “Chuck, I don’t know what is bothering you, I know it’s a bad flight —”
    “And you know I hate flying.”
    “You’ve taken these long flights for business before, and at least the work is done in New York.”
    “But Sue, the client canceled the account on me. I flew all this way and they shut me down. And they were a good account to keep for next year.”
    Sue looked down and waited a moment before saying, “I’m sorry about that honey, but it’s almost Christmas, and we’ll get back to the nicer weather. The kids will want to see you.” Charlie smiled when she brought up his children, which are now adults. “And you know, it will be just a few months before Tom’s wife has their child.”
    “Our first grandchild,” Charlie said quietly to Sue.
    Sue put her head down and started to smile. “Oh, don’t make me feel so old, becoming a grandmother.”
    “Sue, you’re not old, and you’re beautiful,” Charlie said as he squeezed her hand.

    “This turbulence is terrible,” Brian said to Eric as they tried to manage control of the place. “I can’t believe the weather is still this bad.”
    Eric and Brian both knew that they used radio signals from one airport to another to help direct them toward their destination; Eric didn’t want to tell Brian that the radar panel hadn’t picked up any signals for a while. “Brian, you know how we follow the different radio frequencies of different airports to help guide us toward our destination?”
    “Yeah...”
    “I turned down the lights to the panel to indicate our direction to those airports—” Brian started to look panicked and tried to cock his head so he could see the panel, “and besides you wouldn’t have been able to see it well anyways. I turned the lights down for the panel because I haven’t been able to get any radio frequencies for a while now.”
    “How do we know if we’re going the right way then?”
    “I’ve done this flight for three years straight now, flying it once a week, between New York and Hawaii.”
    “That’s not enough.”
    “No, but it’s something. And I’ve done international flights like this many times before — they even had me on a test flight or two to Beijing. I’ve flown up to Alaska a number of times, too, and I know what the ground is like. I think I can use my head to help navigate through this.”
    Brian looked at him for a moment before checking the controls as they flew the plane. Eric paused as Brian continued to manage steering their ship. He finally asked his copilot, “We’re already at nearly thirty-five thousand, right?”
    “Well, yeah, I know we normally fly at thirty thousand, and right now we’re kind of high, but thirty-five thousand feet is fine. Why?”
    “Brian, this storm’s so much of a problem, and we can’t avoid it by going lower, but there’s a chance we can get on top of this storm.”
    “On top?”
    Eric’s voice changed and gained the tone of a ship captain. “Start an acceleration to forty-four thousand. We might then have to go up to fifty at times.”
    “What makes you think we can?”
    “What makes you think we can’t? This plane can withstand forty-four thousand feet, and we should be able to occasionallt go higher is we need to. So what would we lose by trying?”
    “Excess gasoline for the flight. Have you ever flown that high?”
    “We can go up to fort-four thousand and it should still be safe. No, I haven’t done it, but no, we’ve never been in any conditions like this before.”
    Brian just looked at the pilot in silence. About fifteen seconds passed before Eric spoke again. “Look, no one at Aloha Airlines will have a fit about the gas because we got the flight in safely when we couldn’t even get radio communications.” He continued to look at Brian and the controls before he spoke again. “If anything else, Aloha Air will be thrilled, because if anyone else is in the air right now. They’re all scrambling to keep their planes in the air.”
    “You think other airlines are going through this?”
    “Brian, these weather problems seem to be everywhere. I’m sure we’re not the only flight going to Hawaii. If this storm is hitting so much of North America, I’m sure other airlines are going through this, and Aloha Air will be thrilled that we’ve done so well up here on our own in these conditions.”
    Eric manned the controls as the flight elevated to forty-five thousand feet. Eric wondered if this would be enough, and wondered what he could do to manage this vessel, so he could help the over two hundred ninety people.
    Eric, Brian, Sydney, and the rest of the crew and passengers on flight 2242 didn’t know the extent of the storm, and that it was transforming their world.


Time: Friday, 8:46 PM, December 21, 2012 C.E.
Place: Honolulu, Hawaii
as flight 2242 flies over Canada

    “Mom, the mountains across the sea are glowing.”
    She didn’t listen to her son. “Kulika, you were supposed to clean the toys from outside before you go to bed.”
    “But mom, the ground is really hot, I can’t walk out there.”
    Kaneki knew Kulika had to be making up excuses to not clean his toys, but she dried her hands from the dishes from their dinner. She looked outside and saw winds blowing Kulika’s friends toys across their yard. Kaneki yelled out, “Is that Kala’s bike?”
    “I ... Yeah, but she brought it home today.”
    Another wind picked up and knocked tree branches against their closed door and window. Kaneki looked outside through the window and saw the storm lifting their belongings off the ground, moving things almost thirty feet in a one second wind gust. She also looked in shock at the glowing “mountain” Kulika complained about. Kulika didn’t know those muontains were inactive volcanoes, so as Kaneki looked out the window at the storms blowing things violently through the sky, she also saw those volcanoes were erupting again.
    She wondered if the storm would blow out the windows, so Kaneki backed away from the window before putting her hand on Kulika’s shoulder. “Honey, go downstairs to the basement.”
    Kulika’s eyes turned to saucers, seeing a fear in his mother he had never seen before. “Mom?”
    She turned immediately to him. “It’s okay, honey. Just go down there. I’ll deal with the toys. Just go.”
    Kulika took a step back, looking at her, before turning around and running toward the stairs to go downstairs.

    Kaneki then turned to go to the other side of the house to look for her husband. “Ione!” she called as she got to the other side of the house, drawn to the window to see Mauna Lua’s oversized orange glow, moving and getting larger.
    Ione came in to the living room to see his wife. “Kaneki, I’ve been staring at Mauna Lua — but you’ve seen it too,” he said, looking out the window with her.
    “The wind storm’s shaking the windows in the house, I saw everything flying all over the place in the back yard ... and Kulika even said he saw other volcanoes erupting on the other islands. I didn’t see, but I told him to go downstairs, because the winds are—”
    And with another wind a chair and table flew to the side of their house and their window, shattering the window they were looking through.
    Ione started to walk toward the other side of their home. “I’ll get wood to cover the window from outside,” he said as he opened the back door to get boards.
    Kaneki remembered in a flash that Kulika said the ground was hot and ran across the house to go after Ione. By the time she got to the back door, she could see Ione cursing the heat from the ground he walked on. Ione grabbed a tree to help him from falling, but then the wind picked up and made him struggle to keep hold of the tree trunk.
    Kaneki screamed from the open door. “Ione! Are you all right?”
    “The ground, it’s—”
    “Is it hot? Kulika said—”
    “It’s like it’s moving. The ground’s ... well, it moved under me, and I started to fall.”
    Kaneki watched him struggle. “Ione, I love you. Just get back in here.”
    “I will, I—”
    The cracking of a third of his house, bricks and all, cut off his words as Kaneki fell in the seismic rush down the stairs to the ground. He screamed ‘I love you’ to his wife as the rush of the wind heated everything that touched the ground and moved them north and east.


Time: Saturday, 1:46 AM, December 21, 2012 C.E.
Place: New Orleans, Louisiana
as flight 2242 flies over Canada

    Although people usually filled the streets for drinking in the French Quarter, Bourbon Street was growing sparse and Royal Street was almost empty. Ellen and Kathy had just walked into Tropical Isles, even though they had just picked up Hurricanes in wide plastic cups from the street window of the Court of Two Sisters. They agreed that with the winds picking up outside, it would be a good call to sit somewhere inside until the winds settled down. Kathy was going to order a Hand Grenade so they’d have a reason to stay there, even though they already had drinks. But Ellen found the only empty table in the bar, and it was against the wall near the front entranceway, that they could lean on.
    Tim, Jeff and Dave ran into the bar, trying to hold on to the door frame because the winds were picking up outside. Tim almost stumbled into Kathy as Dave tried to make his way in to the bar. Kathy looked over at Ellen, and wondered how long the storm would last, so they could go outside again. Within thirty seconds, drinks on tables started shaking, and tables that no one was leaning on fell over.
    “Sorry man,” Tim said to Kathy after he regained his footing. “The weather outside is terrible.”
    “That’s why we came in here,” Kathy said, as she turned to look over at Ellen. “I thought this was just a wind storm.”
    “Is it Hurricane season?” Ellen asked.
    “No, I think that’s in the summertime. We should be fine now,” Kathy answered as she tried to move closer to the wall for safety. A few more people huddles against the wall, and they could see out the windows around the corner on Bourbon Street that no one was outside, but papers whipped by with the wind.
    Jeff saw Tim talking to the two girls, but didn’t catch their names and wanted to be the knight for women in distress during the storm. He leaned over and said to Ellen and Kathy, “Are you guys okay? The storm is starting to make a mess in here too — if you need anything, let me know.”
    Ellen and Kathy looked at each other, then back to Jeff. “I’m Jeff, by the way,” he said. “These are my friends Dave and Tim.”
    “Hi, I’m Ellen,” she answered. Kathy then chimed in, “I’m Kathy.”
    The ground started to shake, and a few people squatted toward the ground to not fall over, Jeff started to put his hand out to say, “If you two need something to lean on, I’m here and —”
    In the middle of his sentence the wall they were leaning on cracked, and everyone fell to the ground as part of the building started to move. Ellen was knocked unconscious when she fell to the ground, and Kathy could see the Ellen’s red frozen hurricane drink spilled next to her, pooling like it was blood curling around Ellen’s hand and hip before the ceiling fell on everyone at the Tropical Isle and the ground started to move.


Time: Saturday, 8:46 AM, December 21, 2012 C.E.
Place: Amsterdam, the Netherlands
as flight 2242 flies over Canada

    Hendrikus picked up his weekly paycheck from the front office room of the mini hotel an hour earlier, and had been cleaning the hallways after a late night of customer partying. Henry didn’t want to clean the window display stalls for the prostitutes from the night before; he hated the thought of cleaning up their messes, but he also didn’t want to clean out the public bathrooms. He then heard Johannes, the manager of the hotel, calling from the office.
    “Henry, take care of the window stall first, because people walk by there and see that before coming in here.”
    Henry didn’t want to do the work, but he turned to pick up his supplies to go to the front of the hotel for the stalls. A rumble then swept through the building, and he tried to hold onto the wall at a doorframe to steady himself. He looked over at his things and saw the bucket of cleaner splashing all over the floor; then he heard a window crack. Henry leaned over the grabbed the doorframe before he took a stumbling step toward the main hallway. Looking outside, he saw Johannes was holding onto another doorframe at his office toward the front of the hotel.
    “What the Hell was that?” Johannes said, one he spotted Hendrikus.
    “I don’t know,” Henry answered. “I heard glass breaking.”
    “It was one of the front display windows,” Johannes said. Before Henry could say anything, a couple opened their hotel door and looked out to see what was going on. Joost, the client from the hotel room, looked around and saw Johannes. “Our furniture ... it’s moving,” Joost said, as Johannes’ employee Inge kept one arm on Joost and the other hand on the doorframe. Just as Joost finished speaking, another rumble shook the hotel and the plaster around the walls and bricks started cracking. They heard a loud thud from another hotel room, and then the door opened with another client almost falling as he tried to keep balance. Tunis barely had time to look up after opening his hotel door before another rumble cracked the main hallway ceiling and tiles first fell to the ground.
    “I don’t know,” Henry said, as Johannes immediately said, “sit against this wall in the main hall, because there’s a support beam here, we’ll figure out what’s—”
    Johannes couldn’t even speak as another crack knocked him to the ground and his desk pressed him backwards against the wall. Henry looked over to Tunis’ room and saw Helge as a ceiling beam and a part of the wall fall on her, pinning her off the edge of the bed to the floor. The hotel then almost cracked in half, and started to separate, with one half moving north. Henry thought about Hilde, who was stuck in a small side room off another hallway, as the second floor and ceiling then lost its support and fell on top of him, leaving only his left arm out for anyone to see.


Time: Saturday, 9:46 AM, December 21, 2012 C.E.
Place: Athens, Greece
as flight 2242 flies over Canada

    Jacob Alhadeff woke up earlier than his wife Lea imagined, because he had gone out to meet friends Milha, Palomba and Reeial last night after they worked late. Lea had been preparing breakfast for him and had feta, tomatoes, oils, olives, and almonds.
    “Did you enjoy being out with the your friends from work?” Lea asked.
    “Hope you don’t mind we went out,” Jacob answered as he leaned on the bedroom doorframe.
    Just as he finished his words, the house shook and all of the glassware and jars that were on the kitchen counter started to rattle. Lea looked around the room, and then looked back through the hallway at Jacob. “Jacob,” she said, scanning the rooms with her eyes, “brace yourself with the doorframe.”
    “I’m not that hung over...”
    “No, I think another earthquake is coming. Try to go to the floor near the center column so nothing will fall on us. I’ll be there in a second.” Lea grabbed a pitcher of water and two glasses stacked, and tried to grab the bowl of almonds for them to snack on while waiting for the earthquake to subside. Jacob was walking to the living room to sit on the floor next to the center column when another quake hit and the entire house shook, knocking Jacob to the ground as he tried to walk into the living room.
    Lea held on to the counter as the earth shook again and heard the noise in the living room. “Are you okay?” she yelled out.
    “Yeah, I fell in the quake, but I’m okay. Get in here, stuff will knock over in the kitchen.”
    The house started to shake more, so Lea forgot about the water and nuts. Remembering how they dropped to their knees when hiking to avoid the violent winds on the mountain peaks on their last vacation, she moved down to the floor. She hoped she would be safer if she went through the house on her knees to get to the safe spot in the living room. She made it to the living room doorway and saw Jacob sitting there, when a huge creaking thud echoed throughout the house. With the loud boom came an additional shift in their house, which actually dropped Lea flat to the floor.
    Jacob panicked when he saw Lea fall. He got up on his knees and started to try to crawl toward her, because she only had about ten more feet to travel before they’d be under the house beams. “I can’t believe this,” Jacob muttered as he then looked toward his wife and said, “Are you okay? Get over here, we’re almost set.”
    “Yeah, I’m trying,” Lea said. “It’s like the house is even shifting, so I lose balance.” She moved a little over a foot on her knees when another quake rocked the house. Jacob heard the walls start to creak and saw plaster crumble around the room as he started to move toward her on his knees so he could meet her half way and pull her toward the center column.
    They almost met in the living room along the floor as the house started to move again, this time more violently, and two of the walls started to collapse. Jacob grabbed Lea’s hand just before the main wall and the floor above them, fell straight down onto them.


Time: Sunday, 2:46 PM, December 22, 2012 C.E.
Place: Shanghai, China
as flight 2242 flies over Canada

    Though Yi Min and her husband Shen had done their tree hitting ritual this morning, Shen decided that because his circulation was deteriorating, he should go out to the courtyard outside again for more tree exercises. Yi Min had added more ginkgo biloba to their daily tea, hoping this would also help their circulation and health, so she started brewing another pot of tea after watching him walk outside to go to the sophora japonica scholar tree outside their home.
    Mr. and Mrs. Zhao left their work in their farming community outside of Chongqing — they opted to leave the rural life to go toward the water and to Shanghai. They had more access to Chinese medicines in Shanghai, but they had less room in their apartment home, less room to hang their clothes to dry, and only completely different (and more generic) options for food from larger companies. Shen had to go to the scholar tree on the corner at an open courtyard for his regular practice of moving his arms and hitting the tree bark repeatedly; but many people did this and no one thought anything of this use of the public tree.
    Yi Min tried to make sure everything was good to help her husband as they were getting older, and she added a slight amount of ginger to the ginkgo biloba root for steeping his tea. She placed a large pot over the stove to heat water for their tea as she felt a rumble again from the house. They had been having trouble with the weather for weeks now, with weather changes due to ocean storms and typhoons, and distant volcanoes becoming active again. She could hear the howling wind as storms started to pick up again.
    Shen felt the wind pick up too, as he then made a point to hold onto the trunk of the scholar tree for stability. This windstorm, however, even started to rip branches off trees and knock over chain-linked bicycles. When Yi Min heard things knocking into the walls of their home, she looked to the window to see branches and pieces of wood hitting the window, until one object was blown through the closed window. She thought she felt another earthquake starting, and with Shen outside, she didn’t know where to go or what to do.
    What Yi Min didn’t know was that the weather changes and the quake would soon make her building start to collapse, and tip over only feet from Shen’s scholar tree.
    Shen tried to hold onto the tree truck as he heard scooters tipping over and starting to blow away — he even saw a few people get caught in the wind and thought they were starting to fly away.
    Due to the almost instantaneous, drastically tumultuous weather changes and the impending plate shift all over the planet, those people weren’t “flying” away. They were being thrown away — just like most everyone else on planet Earth.


Time: Sunday, 4:46 PM, December 21, 2012 C.E.
Place: Melbourne, Australia
as flight 2242 flies over Canada

    Dena was starting to get ready for her date with Lachlam; they agreed to have dinner on Sunday before Lachlam left the next day to visit his extended family north of Brisbane.
    Dena needed to shower to clean herself off before her date with Lachlam, because she had been hiking with Lorrae and Narelle for hours to witness the new destruction from the Tweed Volcano (even though they argued over what to call it: as Lorrae said it was the Mount Warning Volcano, and Narelle was saying that it was just a part of the Border Group). The girls thought they’d spend the morning walking near the edges of some of the newly formed mountain ranges from new volcanoes because volcanoes had been erupting regularly recently. But their excursion took twice as long as they expected, and Dena only got home at 3:30 in the afternoon. She swore that after her shower she would try to rest for a few hours before meeting with Lachlam.
    The hot spot beneath eastern Australia is broad, and took advantage of weak places in the plate to feed magma to the surface. These girls didn’t know the science behind why volcanic activity now existed on such a grand scale, they only thought it was amazing to see Volcanoes erupting and seeing the lava flowing at a safe distance. They would hear reports on the news about Mounts Schank and Gambier of the Newer Volcanic Province of Victoria and South Australia erupting violently since they started again in 2004. Narelle would hear that the cone-shaped volcanic pit used to be considered one of the earliest volcanoes in Australia (though many volcanoes were erupting now), and she wished she could witness its erupting again. She loved this because Narelle was even a photographer — she followed all the reports of volcanic activity in Australia (even ones she couldn’t visit to witness), but she always lugged her camera bag around with her 35mm as well as her digital camera, and she loved using her telephoto lenses and taking tons of photographs of the lava while it was still flowing.
    They knew, scientifically and historically speaking, that the Australian plate moved north at only about 75 km/million years or 7.5 cm/year. But they didn’t feel there was any reason to question the plate shift in accordance with the eruption of so many volcanoes.
    Dena didn’t even think about it, until she felt what seemed like the beginning of an earthquake only minutes after she got into her apartment. She felt the shaking get worse throughout her apartment, so she turned the television on to see if there were any news reports explaining the earthquake. As soon as she changed the channel and found a news station, she called Narelle.
    “Hello?”
    “Hey, Narelle, it’s Dena.”
    “What do you need?”
    “I was wondering if you were feeling anything over near your place.”
    “The quake? Yeah.”
    “Did you hear anything about it?”
    “No man, I’m clearing all of my glassware now and putting my camera stuff safely away. Have you checked out the news?”
    “I just got it on. I was going to take a shower, but I don’t know if this will be serious or not, like, if I should wait this out or take a—”
    Another loud crack rumbled through the town, knocking Dena off her chair. and knocking the phone out of her hand.
    It also disconnected them, because phone lines were down from the earth’s shifting.
    Dena looked around after checking and finding out that the phones were dead. The shaking continued, and half of her things fell from all of the shelves in her home. Things even fell from the countertops, the tables — even her nightstand. She didn’t know where to go, and she knew the ground was so shaky taht she didn’t know where to stand or walk (or run) to safety. She crawled toward the broken back window (while making sure to avoid the glass), and she could hear people yelling in the streets.
    She tried to get up to listen to them screaming, and when she was able to lift herself to see out the window she could see people screaming about the heat in the streets. She didn’t understand it, but she could see people trying to get their feet off the ground, but most surfaces shook and everyone was actually trapped in the open space outside.
    Dena turned back and slid down the wall, so she was sitting on her floor, leaning against the outside wall. Less than thirty seconds later another crack came, and the building Dena was living in almost split in half, before the Australian plate started to move.

•••

    When the phones disconnected them, Narelle didn’t know if Dena was okay, but she hurried to gather her things, so her camera equipment would be safe until after the quake was over. She didn’t hear of any reports of seismic activity predicted for their area, and their seismologists were relatively good at predicting days when earthquakes would hit.
    Narelle also knew Lorrae would be the last to get home; with the phones down she couldn’t know if Lorrae even made it home before the quakes started.
    As Narelle was trying to put away her digital camera (the 35mm and film was already in a safe), she heard a loud crunch and a tear from the other side of her place. She instinctively ran toward the noise, and stopped in her tracks when she saw the far wall torn from the side of her building. She could hear people screaming outside, and she heard people yelling through the walls of her flat. She then instinctively started to think like a cameraman, and she knew there wasn’t much more she could really to do protect her equipment, so she slowly walked toward the hole in her home. She put her digital camera toward her face (with an almost empty memory card, she knew she had plenty of room for photos), and started snapping pictures of the hole in her home and the sky through her walls. As she got closer to the opening she could spot faces that went with the yelling she heard in those streets. She looked for a brief moment, and knowing there was nothing she could do from there for them, she just moved the camera in front of her again and started snapping pictures of the crowds over and over again.
    She was trying to zoom her camera in so she could get better close-ups of the people caught in this natural disaster, when her building started to make that rushing noise again. She heard it coming from behind her this time, and turned her head just in time to see another wall collapsing, falling on half of her body, as she fell with it, creating a domino effect into the floor and with the remaining walls, as everything started to collapse into the heated ground, now starting to move faster with the plate.

•••

    If her digital camera could have been rescued, it would have captured the last ten seconds of the people’s lives on that street corner, on what was supposed to be the Sunday before Christmas.
    But with the plates moving at the rate they were, causing such heat in the ground and such violent wind gusts and such tidal waves in their rapid motion, no technology would be saved. No people would be saved; no people on the land could survive there.
    Scientist could not foresee the reason for the escalating earthquakes, tidal waves, sand storms in the deserts and almost global volcanoes. They couldn’t even explain the breaking of polar ice caps in Antarctica. Knowing the effects of celestial bodies on the Earth’s weather, scientists and astronomers searched for more celestial explanations — and although they saw a few stray comets, they thought the Earth was safe from a collision with them, though they wondered if near collisions would wreak havoc on the planet’s weather patterns. Ultimately, they were still at a loss for what could be causing all of the global problems.
    They couldn’t come up with an explanation because they had no warning for the plate shifts that the increased weather problem for the past few years were the predecessors for. There were more and more natural disasters around the globe, but no one knew to connect the pieces, because no plates had moved enough to force anyone to question it.

    They couldn’t question it any longer, as buildings collapsed and cars became ovens in all civilized places. Even trees in forests lost the majority of their leaves, and some were even uprooted. Even aquatic life couldn’t survive the weather, which led to drastic oceanic changes. Nothing seemed safe any longer.
    And nothing was.


Time: 6:42AM, December 21, 2012 C.E.
Place: Aloha Airlines flight 2242, flying south over
the Pacific Ocean, looking for their destination

    Brian checked to make sure the intercom was off so no one could hear him, as he looked at horrendous clouds, probably over a turbulent ocean and unrecognizable land patterns below them. Brian kept checking controls, and looking over different parts of the Earth’s horizon, as he kept looking back to the pilot.
    Eric never looked at Brian; he only kept his left almost in a fist, cupped between his nose and mouth as he stared at the ocean.
    “Christ Eric, speak to me.”
    Eric didn’t say a word, and only watched the billowing clouds below, exploding below them all over the earth, looking like billowing clouds from nuclear explosions.
    Brian looked back over the controls. “We’ve been so high up in the air to deal with the weather, and we’ve had to go so far off course that I couldn’t even tell you where we are.”
    Brian listened to nothing from Eric, so he checked over panels again as he looked out at the waters.
    Brian couldn’t take Eric’s silence any longer. “Say something, Eric.”
    Eric finally started to move part of his hand away from his mouth so he could speak. He finally said, very quietly, “We did everything right.”
    Brian started to speak louder. “So that land mass, that looks as big as a continent, is supposed to be Hawaii?”
    Eric waited a few second before he responded, before he almost whispered, “Something’s wrong.”
    “No shit something’s wrong,” Brian immediately started yelling back under his breath. “Nothing looks right down there, and the oceans look like total sh—”
    “Brian, you watched the panels with me as we both did this. I know we’ve had no radio communication, but you know geography, and you know we were doing the right things. You look at a God-damned map here, and tell me that at the speeds we were going, even at the altitude we stayed at, that we’re in the wrong place.”
    Brian sat, almost stunned at Eric speaking, as he tried to soak in everything he said. “Well, we could have been wrong in some of out calculations...”
    “Could we have been this far off that we can’t recognize anything from where we are?”
    Brian stopped and sat there, then turning back to the front window and starting at the land and water below him, trying to make sense of it.
    They sat in silence, looking at their new surroundings, when Brian finally spoke again. “Then... Where are we?”
    Eric didn’t answer.
    A few more seconds passed.
    “Eric?”
    He didn’t move, then he finally said, “Yeah...”
    “What. What are you thinking?”
    Eric waited a few seconds before he spoke again. “I was thinking about my wife,” he said under his breath.
    “Why? What about your wife?”
    Eric waited again for a few seconds before he answered. “I... I just got the feeling that something happened to her.”
    They sat in silence for a moment. Eric spoke again. “Something happened to her while I was flying this plane.”

•••

    Sydney couldn’t lean back in the seat she was strapped into. Justin was sitting next to her and wanted to try to rest, as the entire flight crew was exhausted from trying to make everyone feel better during the painfully turbulent flight. He’d open his eyes every few seconds and see her still leaning forward, almost looking out the little window.
    “Sydney... Are you okay?” he finally asked.
    He watched her head shake ‘no’ slightly before she blinked once or twice and answered. “Yeah.”
    He watched her, and could tell something different was bothering her, even though she didn’t tell him what it was.
    A few seconds later, Sydney talked again. “Why do you ask?”
    “You should be exhausted, and you’re leaning forward instead of leaning back and trying to rest. Is your stomach alright?”
    “Yeah.”
    “I know we haven’t eaten.”
    “I couldn’t have eaten during this flight. And Hell, I ate at LaGuardia, I’m fine.” A few seconds passed before she realized that he was concerned about her. “Wait — are you okay?”
    “Yeah, I just wanted to know if you were—”
    “You know,” Sydney said as she unbuttoned her buckle and cut him off, “I’m sorry, but I should probably talk to the captain, see if anything is getting better.”
    Justin moved his legs to make sure she could get through, and as she was starting to leave, he asked under his breath, “You could use the intercom...” as the then saw he walk toward the cockpit.

•••

    Before Sydney knocked on the cockpit door, she thought about going to the intercom to ask if she could talk to them. Then she realized that they might not let her in if she asked them over the intercom if she could visit them if something was wrong. On that she decided to take her chances and she knocked on the cockpit door. Immediately after knocking she pressed her head against the door and said “Eric, this is Sydney. Can I please come in?”
    Then Eric heard a louder noise against the door and started to step back as Brian opened the cock put door slightly. Sydney saw him and started to immediately put her foot in the doorway.
    “Is something wronga?” Brian asked as she started to lean into the cockpit.
    “I hope not,” Sydney answered as she walked into the cockpit so they could close the cockpit door and not bother any passengers. As the door shut she finished with, “But I wanted to make sure to see what’s happened.”
    She glanced at Eric, who looked over to her as she spoke, and she was struck by his ice blue eyes behind the back hair that was starting to fall down his forehead. His eyes caught her for only a second before she saw the sunrise through their windows at the front of their jet. Eric saw her then stare out those front windows, speechless. She took a step toward the windows, to get a better view, before she eventually spoke again. “I’m not used to seeing the view out of these windows. I usually don’t even get to look out the passenger windows when we’re flying.”
    “How does it look?” Eric finally asked.
    Sydney looked around, finally answering, “Scary.”
    “Why scary?”
    “... I don’t know. It seems like we’re higher than usual above the ground. And I don’t know if the water always looks this turbulent from this high up, or if that has anything to do with the storms we just flew over.”
    “You’re right, we are higher. We had to try to fly over the storms, so we reached nearly fifty thousand miles,” Eric answered.
    “We normally go at like thirty-three,” Sydney said, almost under her breath.
    “I know. But we had the fuel, and it might have been the only way to help us through the flight.”
    “I can’t believe the storms have been so wide-spread. Being this high up, I guess I’m just not used to seeing the world from this angle.”
    “Neither am I,” Brian said under his breath.
    Sydney spun around as soon as Brian said that. “What does that mean?”
    “I... I don’t know what it means,” Brian tried to say to get out of what he said. Sydney immediately turned back toward Eric. “That’s why I came in here. It’ll sound stupid, but I just got this terrible feeling, like a sinking feeling, that something wasn’t right.”
    She could see the look on Eric’s face start to change as she told him this. “And anything you say to me in here is in confidence until the crew and the passengers, neec to know... So let me know what’s going on.”
    Eric took a little breath after she finished and said, “I couldn’t tell you what’s going on. I know...” Eric tried to figure out what to say to try to make sense of everything that had happened to their flight these past hours. “We changed our course to go closer to the North Pole as we traveled, and we raised our altitude a lot to try to avoid these storms. But these storms seemed to happen on the ground wherever we traveled, and... and as day broke and we started to travel south again, nothing about the horizon seemed right.”
    Sydney looked confused. “What do you mean, look right? You’ve flown to China before, you would recognize the land coming from the far north. I mean, I see water, there’s land, maybe there’s still a horrific storm there, but —”
    “I mean, even though we navigated properly around the planet and we knew our altitude and speed as we were going along, well, land masses aren’t where they should be.”
    “What...” Sydney looked over toward Brian, and he gave her a look as if he was thinking that this was Eric’s talk, not his, and he couldn’t say anything about it.
    “What does it mean, land is not where it should be... I’m no pilot. Please fill me in.”
    Eric looked out the front of their windows and started to point to the horizon line straight ahead. “See that continent way out there, slightly to the left?”
    “Yeah.”
    “That’s where the Hawaiian Islands are.”
    Two seconds passed. “No it’s not.”
    “I know.”
    “So how far off course are we from Hawaii?”
    “...I don’t think we’re off course.”
    Sydney looked at him, then looked back out the window. Then she started to lean back a little, still looking out those windows. “I don’t believe you.”
    “Okay, then don’t.”
    “Seriously, Eric, we have to get back to Hawaii.”
    “Sydney, we still don’t have any radio controls with land anywhere. And that should be Hawaii. I think we’re going to have to land at an airport over there and radio on ground so we can get on course to Hawaii again.”
    “What, you think we have to... What, are we that far off course? Or do you think we lost the Hawaiian Islands?”
    “I don’t know what the Hell’s happened, but I know we were on as good of a course as we could be without any radio controls. I’m sure someone will help us at an airport there, and although we’ve been so damn late for this flight, I’d be sure Aloha Air would offer free airfare to everyone on board for this. They’d have to.”
    Sydney started to lean forward to look out the window again, leaning on her hand in almost the same way Eric did a few minutes earlier when trying to figure out the future of flight 2242 with Brian. Eric watched her as she started to see what he thought he saw a few moments earlier. She moved her hand from her face and rested both hands on free space before the panel stitches, and she went to ask the question, without saying it like a question, “So.” Her voice lowered. She nodded her head toward the giant landmass at the horizon. “That’s where Hawaii is supposed to be.”
    Eric answered quietly, “I think so.”
    “And Brian?” Sydney asked without turning around to look at him. “What do you think, Brian?”
    “I don’t know what to think.”

    “I haven’t been feeling well recently,” Sydney finally said. “My stomach has been in knots, and it’s not because of the turbulence, or lack of food.”
    Everyone stayed silent in the cockpit for another few seconds.
    “What should I tell people.” She let her last word drag from her mouth for a second before she said, “I don’t think we should tell them anything.”
    “We have to tell them something,” Brian interjected.
    “I didn’t mean... I mean we should tell them everything going on that we absolutely know, but don’t...”
    “Don’t what,” Eric asked, almost said, under his breath.
    “Don’t... scare them.”
    They stayed there in silence again before Sydney said, “Don’t scare them like how I’m scared right now.”
    Eric immediately turned around and faced her. “Are you okay?” he asked, while putting both hands on her shoulders.
    She looked at him and wondered if he felt the same fear she was feeling. “I’ll... I have work to do. I’ll just have to know what to tell people.”
    “Um, okay. We’ve got four hours at least of flight before we land, and I think the weather is starting to calm down. In an hour after we check out weather and altitude people can get some food. But for now go outside and have a seat and get yourself together, and we’ll radio you to come in right before we have a plan of what to say. We can figure out how to keep everyone peaceful as we figure out where to land this guy.”
    “Yes, captain,” she said quietly, as she tried to regain herself before she stepped out into the cabin again and act like she knew what she would have to be doing to keep everyone’s head together for the landing of this flight.




Copyright
Chicago poet Janet Kuypers
All rights reserved. No material
may be reprinted without express permission.