The Flight Out.
Nigel stood in line diligently awaiting his check list. The people in his line stood still and indifferent, unlike the new arrivals at the main gate. When his turn finally came, Nigel grabbed the pen and quickly checked off the appropriate fields, “Blue eyes, brown hair, 5’11 and a predominant speech impediment.” There were more fields to fill, but he barely glanced at the other 352 queries as he went along.
As he turned to leave his arm was caught in someone’s persistent grip. “Where are you headed this time Nigel?” He turned to find the familiar face of Bert, one of the flight coordinators from level five. “Um, Kansas I think. You know I rarely look at those lists anymore. How about you?” "I’m off to Florida! I chose the premium package this time. I’m actually looking forward to a carefree life on easy street.” Nigel shifted his weight and sighed. “What exactly do you expect to learn from a life with no worries and no challenges?”
“Hey now! You know it wasn’t easy being 300lbs and Irish. I needed a vacation.” Bert’s face broke out in a huge grin as Nigel folded his arms and looked grumpy. “So Nigel, what horrendous handicap are you going to have to overcome this time? Leprosy? Narcolepsy? Pimple Scars? It’s always something isn’t it?” “A speech impediment,” Nigel mumbled. Bert broke out in a cackle of laughter as he waved his hand in a mock salute. “Have fun then. See you when you get home!”
Nigel left the itinerary counter and made his way back to his post. The line for the main gate nearly disappeared into the distance. “Where’d you all come from?” He hollered through the bars as he undid the lock. “I would have been here sooner but a bus accident held me up,” cried an angry fellow from the front. “I was on that bus,” whispered someone from behind him. A conversation ensued between the two and Nigel was quickly forgotten. He pushed the crowd back in place as he swung the gate that had previously barred them from their destination.
The first 50 people flew by in what seemed like a matter of moments. Most just needed to check in and be pointed in the right direction. Some knew where they were going and wasted even less of Nigel’s time. Nigel contemplated calling his "Relief Gate Attendant (RGA)", to free his mind from the monotony of it all, when a slight and timid creature came forth from line. “Can I help you?” Nigel mumbled as he scanned the list in front of him for the RGA's number. “I’m new,” came the murmur of the voice.
“New as in 2 times, 50 times, 300 times, what?” Nigel barked, not looking up. “Um. I’ve never been here before.” Nigel’s head snapped up. “NEW new?” “Yes,” it breathed. Nigel stared at the quivering thing and finally saw it for what it was. The child’s eyes were blank and open wide. Its hair was completely disheveled and of the most bland hue, almost skin color. The child’s clothes were plain and general, as if not to give away the sex of its wearer.
“You need to go to the ‘Flight Instructors’ counter. You can’t fly without some sort of training. They’ll most likely set you up with a guide there.” Nigel turned to the PA system and pressed a button, “190824, please come to the main gate. 190824, you are requested for assistance.” He waited with the child for a minute until the RGA came. Taking the child by the hand, Nigel left the main gate and escorted the child to the appropriate counter.
A boisterous woman at the desk shouted loudly when they came into sight, “We were looking for you everywhere!” Nigel left the youngster with the woman and turned to leave. He thought he’d be relieved. That could have been disastrous! Still… He found himself turning back to catch a glimpse before walking out of sight. The kid was peering over the counter. Its big eyes watched Nigel with a certain sadness.
It was roughly 4 weeks later, or perhaps it was an eon, Nigel couldn’t tell. He was waiting in line for his flight. His hands kept folding themselves together and then trying to twist each other apart. This wasn’t his first trip. But it was always the worst part of the journey for him. He tried to think of all the other places he’d been. He’d been traveling such an awfully long time. Before he could get too deep into reminiscing, there was a tap on his back.
He turned and looked down at the smiling face below him. It was the child from the gate. “They told me I’m ready to fly now.” Nigel found himself relieved and even a little grateful for the company. “That’s great!" "Where are you going?” the child asked. “To Kansas, so it seems. Somewhere on Mohatchett Ave.” The child looked down at the paper in its hands. “I’m going to Crescent Lake Trailer Park, wherever that is.” Nigel watched the child’s nervous hands shake the paper. “I’m sure that will be lovely,” he replied. The child looked back doubtfully.
Nigel tried to think of some reassuring words. “In the beginning they tell you where you’re going. But in the end you’ll be able to choose your own destiny. It’s all about learning how life works from all aspects. You’ll see. This will be my 899th flight, and I’m still not satisfied that I’ve learned all there is to know.” “You’ve been born 899 times?!” The child’s eyes were round with wonder. “Do you think you could help me if I get lost along the way?” The child asked.
“You can try to find me when I’m down there,” Nigel answered with a gentle smile. “But I’m afraid you won’t remember any of this until you’re on your way back, and I won’t look like this down there.” He hated disappointing the kid, but didn’t want to give him false hope either. Both were soon startled by the bleeping of the loading dock. Lights flashed in gentle revolutions. “NOW BOARDING FLIGHT JUNE 6th 2004 8:02 AM. NOW BOARDING FLIGHT JUNE 6th 2004 8:02 AM.”
“Well here goes kid. If nothing else, I’m sure you’ll have some great stories to tell when you get back.” Nigel felt the tiny fingers lace into his. With a squeeze he led them to the glowing doorway. “Does it hurt?” The child asked in a whisper. “Only a little,” Nigel answered. “Jump!” He cried out as he leapt them both forward.