I was not enjoying my flight.
I was in a middle seat, crammed between a purple-haired teenager and a woman with a screaming baby. I’d tried to nap about twenty times. And when I finally did doze off, a loud noise woke me just a few minutes later.
I turned. At first, I wasn’t sure where the sound was coming from. But then my eyes fell on a strangely-dressed man across the aisle. In a weird way, he kind of reminded me of Neo from The Matrix – black hair, black clothes, and dark sunglasses. He was holding a small leather briefcase in his lap – the sound was from undoing its gold clasps.
For lack of anything better to do, I watched him. He opened the briefcase just a few inches, peered inside, and smiled. A small smile, as if he didn’t want anyone else to see it. I watched him curiously as he began to pry it open, his smile growing wider.
But no. It was none of those things.
The briefcase was empty.
Weirdo, I thought, snickering to myself a bit. Guy probably forgot all his stuff at the airport or something. I smiled to myself, nuzzled my head against the pillow, and closed my eyes.
Thump! Thump! Thump!
My eyes flew open.
The person who’d been sitting next to Neo – a sixty-year-old, rotund man – was suddenly beating on the window with his fist. It shook and rattled dangerously.
“Crazy old dude,” Purple-Hair laughed.
But it wasn’t funny for long.
Old Man grabbed his laptop, and with as much strength as he could muster, began smashing it into the window.
Crack! Crack! Crack!
“He’s going to break the window!” I shouted. I pounded the stewardess button. Come on, come on…
The silence of the airplane swelled into a cacophony of panicked voices. The person on the other side of Neo – a 12-year-old girl, wearing a yellow flowered shirt – ran out into the aisle. For a second, I thought she was getting help.
But then she ran a few rows ahead of us –
And began climbing over the passengers in the emergency exit row.
Clawing for the door.
“What’s she doing?!” Mom cried. Baby, sensing the panic, began to wail too. Purple-Hair was finally afraid, her brown eyes wide.
“Hey! Stop!” The stewardess came running down the aisle, panting and shaking. “Go back to your seat,” she reprimanded, yanking the girl by the arm.
“Let me go! Let me go!” she shrieked. “I have to get out of here!”
Then she lurched forward – and bit the stewardess as hard as she could.
A scream. Thump. She dropped her.
The girl ran for the exit again. But the passengers were ready this time. One of the guys leapt out of his seat and grabbed her by the waist.
“Over there!” I yelled to the stewardess. “He’s going to break the window!”
Old Man was repeatedly hitting the glass. Surprisingly, Neo wasn’t making any move to restrain him; he was just sitting there, in the middle seat, with that tiny smile upon his lips.
And as soon as the stewardess’s eyes fell on him, the smile grew.
I leapt out of my seat. A few others did the same, and we descended on Old Man. As soon as we touched him, he whipped around, staring at us with wild eyes. “Don’t touch me, filthy whores!” he spat, brushing our hands away.
“Sir, you need to calm down –”
“The window’s cracked!”
“Fucking stop him!”
We finally wrestled him away from the window. Dragged him across Neo, who just watched us with a knowing smile.
As soon as we got Old Man in the aisle, we thought it was over.
But it wasn’t.
Because now two more people – the people in the middle seats directly in front of and behind Neo – were standing up, that frenzied look in their eyes. One, a nerdy-looking woman with glasses, ran for the front of the plane. The other, a bearded college guy, went towards the back.
The stewardess paled. “They’re going for the emergency hatches,” she whispered.
We ran after them.
We didn’t get there in time.
But, as it turns out, airplane hatches are wonderfully built. And it would take a few tons of force to open one of them mid-flight. That didn’t stop those two from trying, though. Nerdy Woman screamed and pulled until she collapsed into a sobbing mess on the floor. Bearded Guy grunted and pushed until he was vomiting from overexertion.
We made an emergency landing in Raleigh. The four passengers were taken into custody by the FBI upon landing. Somehow, Neo slipped out unnoticed – and, even if he didn’t, how could they take him in? He technically hadn’t done anything wrong.
To this day, I still don’t know what happened on Flight 3310. Maybe it was just the random insanity of four people. Or maybe they had planned their attack for months, even though it seemed random.
I don’t know what happened –
But I’m pretty damn sure that Neo’s briefcase was not, in fact, empty.