The 747 coursed through the night sky toward Salt Lake City International Airport. A little over half of the people on board would stay in Salt Lake City, perhaps coming home from a business trip, or visiting a relative, while others would depart only to catch connecting flights. Most of those on the plane and in the terminal below had flown before, and became accustomed to its normality, and its frequency. And while America’s terminals were alive with fliers who were anxious to get to their gates, alive with strangers who were obviously up to no good (keep your hands on your wallets, please), sometimes alive with a chaos that could only be created by juggling so many flights, the general ambiance during all the activity was calm, routine, and second nature. After all, thousands of flights were in the air every day, all without incident.
A man in a gray suit sat in a window seat in first class, staring out at the night sky and its sprinkling of stars. He was returning from a business trip to Denver, where he had paid a prostitute a hundred dollars for sex; tonight, he would be returning home to his wife and kids like it had never happened. He glanced over at two very wealthy-looking women on the other side of the plane, and they raised their noses, glaring back disdainfully. “Bitches,” he muttered.
Back in coach, a man with blood-shot eyes, and alcohol for blood, tried to focus on the wavering stars in the distant sky, only to become dizzy and craving another drink. He paid no attention to the others around him and was hardly aware of them, although they stared at him suspiciously as if he were about to do something terrible like explode a bomb, or take the entire plane hostage.
The woman who was sitting next to him could not even bear to look in his direction. He glanced over at her occasionally, seeing two or three versions of the same woman.
A young couple sat directly behind the inebriated man, the woman clutching a baby wrapped in a blue fuzzy blanket close to her chest, as if that would provide enough protection from the stench of alcohol drifting from the seat in front of them. They were more than thankful that their first flight was almost at an end.
The smokers on board had, of course, nowhere to smoke, and most of them sat there wishing that they could have a cigarette. How truly wonderful it would be to draw in a lung-full of that warm, tasty smoke. How their nerves would be calm, and they could relax. But, they were just the minority in a much larger group that was just plain nervous; those who had not gotten mildly drunk before take-off, or did not have a brown prescription bottle filled with Ativan tucked away in their carry-on bag.
The plane rocked, and lifted up and down. The man who had gotten mildly drunk (only he was more than mildly drunk, and had a snootful, in fact) was in the restroom, and he staggered to his left and pissed on the floor. “Shit!” was all he could say on the subject.
A speaker crackled and the Captain’s voice came out of nowhere: “Ladies and gentlemen, we ‘re experiencing some slight turbulence. Please fasten your seatbelts. ” The man in the restroom was on his knees mopping up piss with a wad of toilet paper, and when he heard the Captain’s announcement he dunked it into the toilet and flushed, and made his way back to his seat in coach by hanging onto headrests.
Some of the other passengers threw him irritated looks as he passed. The woman he was sitting next to tried to move over in her seat as far as she could.
A 747 that had just taken off for Denver was in the middle of a wide bank. It would not even get to complete the turn. In first class, the man in the gray suit was staring out the window at the other plane. To his trusting eyes it seemed an illusion. That it was coming so close was simply routine. Nevertheless, his heart pounded as he clenched the armrests. His breath caught in his throat as he watched.
The two wealthy looking women on the other side of the plane were utterly oblivious of the large object approaching them, as were the rest of the passengers on that side, and those in the middle.
The man in the gray suit thought he heard someone behind him gasp. Oh God, oh God, no. Please, no, no.
Back in coach, a man with a long, pointed beard was also looking out the window. His eyes went wide and he shuddered. His heart dropped to his stomach. The drunk man, who was concentrating on the jiggling stars suddenly had a huge, dark object with hundreds of flashing lights flow into his line of vision. Even as drunk as he was, he realized what it was, and vomited down his pant legs and onto the floor.
The woman next to him exclaimed, “Oh my God, stay away from me!” And then she, too, saw the other plane out the window, and froze with terror.
The passengers on the opposite side of the plane failed to realized just why the folks across from them were acting so strangely. Some had questioning looks on their faces.
The passengers and crew of Flight 13 experienced a rare but very real event, as did the people on the other flight. That they had always been told it was the safest and soundest way to travel had no bearing on their common sense, had absolutely no meaning. And as metal kissed metal, and explosive noise all but blew the consciousness from them, wiped the slate clean, they were no longer ordinary people, but thoughtless, hysterical beings on the verge of another long journey with a secret destination.