:: Article

The Plane Riot

By Zack Wentz.

There was a riot on the plane. The passengers simply could not take orders anymore. From the steward, stewardesses, or that fucking captain who they couldn’t even see, but occasionally crackled in over the tiny speakers wired overhead, first with his bullshit about why they were still taxiing around the runway semi-aimlessly after hours grounded, how they still needed to remain strapped into their seats, and remain so during take-off, during whatever that so-called turbulence supposedly was, please, remain seated, remain seated, observe the lighted seatbelt sign, and continue not smoking, continue keeping off all electronic devices, continue to obey, wait, and obey, seated, strapped, trapped, etc. It was Hell not quite on or off Earth, tended by that miserable staff of toadies, pacing the aisles as if they were armed guards, inspecting crotches to see that there was a latched buckle centered in each, chairs firmly upright, inquiring with saccharine efficiency whether or not you would like a piss-test sized paper cup of water or juice, or would prefer to pay for something that might actually help you to forget where you are, or perhaps just six-and-a-half burnt peanuts, encrusted in crystals of sucrose and sodium and sealed in cellophane, or a few fragments of pulverized pretzel (complimentary, of course), and those meals . . . those criminally inedible plastic-wrapped and micro-waved excuses for sustenance. The “choice,” say: chicken and rice, or pasta in cream sauce, when by the time they get to anyone beyond the first few rows it will simply be: “I have pasta left” — gooey lump of starch and MSG in its tidy, white tray, stacks of which they collect afterwards, grimly smiling: you pathetic, little pigs, folded up with knees in your teeth, necks in knots, gnawing at your gruel; you are less than nothing, but just enough, just enough to afford to be here . . . and, minutes later, in alternating batches the somnambulistic prisoners inching down the aisles to wait twisted in interminable lines to relieve their aching guts in a chilly, diminutive, nightmare-bright, plastic box. Oh, it was horrible. Nobody can even remember how they got up there. Vague bits of lurching along other lines, hunting madly around a booming, high-ceilinged maze, lugging carts and bags, lost, panicked, ashamed . . . squeezed like turds through the intestines of some gargantuan, infernal beast to emerge half-naked after being pushed through bleating machinery, pressurized, processed, scanned, screamed at in strange tongues, personal items confiscated: fingernail files, lighters, toothpaste, bottles of water, shampoo, favorite scents, mildly pointed tourist trinkets, marginally questionable keepsakes, and then finally released, padding along in their socks, voiceless mouths agape like the open footholes of the loose shoes still dangling off the ends of their stretched fingers, and then more running, hunting, waiting, wishing, producing papers, stamps, plastic cards, cash when necessary, on and on. That nightmare was fading, but it was a nightmare nonetheless, and now awakening into this . . .

The first act of rebellion was just a wadded up cocktail napkin, tossed at the back of the head of one of their keepers, who instantly spun around, examining the glazed eyes and greasy faces for a culprit: “Who threw that?” he asked, almost plaintively, perhaps with a tinge of fear, the idiomatic drop of blood in the water. Silence. Then, a baby started to cry, the steward turning his head toward the wailing, and from another direction came: “Why don’t you just fucking die?” and then: a tiny, voided scotch bottle, J&B, which seemed to hang briefly in space for a moment before it reached its mark and bounced off his boxy skull with a cheery “pock.” Pandemonium: another man roared from another direction, tackled the steward, instant dogpile, then items of every type became doubly airborne; the baby itself was thrown, cry terminating in a wretched, gurgling thud. An old woman, still seated, suddenly stabbed the closest person wearing an airline insignia in the thigh with a long, yellow pencil she had been using to complete a crossword puzzle, produced a death-white hissing noise through her dentures, and snapped it off. A man in an immaculate suit shat on his briefcase, and tossed the feces like a disgruntled ape. The stewardesses were simultaneously seized, uniforms torn from their bodies like flimsy wrapping paper, and then buried shrieking in a mound of mad, humping flesh. The seats began to come up like massive root vegetables, and were then tossed like beach balls, the thick heaving and rending burying the weak pleas of the captain over his weeping intercom: Please, remain seated . . . please, remain seated, please, remain seated, please, please, please, please, please . . . nude forms, glistening with sweat, saliva, blood, the distinct smell of something electrical burning present in the fine, dry, pumped air, and then the sound, crushed, muted, sucked-up, now, almost silently, the one-minded mob moving toward the cockpit, clutching handles of busted luggage, broken armrests, former doors, swinging shredded seatbelts like long nylon whips, plastic cutlery poised points down in fists, all of them creeping wide-eyed, breathing through their mouths in dreamy unison, together, quietly flying, floating, as if birds, as if angels, as if gods, as if free, as if caught up in the drifting movements of a dance they no longer even believe in, but nonetheless have paid full-price to attend.

Zack Wentz’s work has appeared, or is forthcoming, in Weird Tales, Nerve, Fiction International, Black Clock, >kill author, Golden Handcuffs Review, Opium, In Posse, Pindeldyboz, Mud Luscious, Short, Fast, and Deadly, Mad Hatters’ Review, Swink, Word Riot, elimae, Vestal Review, Smith Magazine’s six-word memoir anthology, Not Quite What I Was Planning, and elsewhere. His novel, The Garbageman and the Prostitute, was published by Chiasmus Press. He is the founder and editor-in-chief of New Dead Families.

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Thursday, November 15th, 2012.