“Shoot,” she thinks, squinting at the glowing 4:00 a.m. amidst the darkness, “I’m going to miss my flight.” Kylie had stupidly scheduled a 7 a.m. flight out of Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport the night before. Her heart flutters stop in her chest as she realizes that she only has two hours to pack all of her stuff, checkout of the hotel, and make it through morning rush hour to get to the airport across town.
The shrill tone of the room telephone joins the melody of the alarm clock. She picks up the shiny black phone, irritated, and answers, “Hello? It’s me, Kylie Karimi.”
“Good morning. This is a courtesy call from the Bellagio Hotel and Casino front desk. As a reminder, this is your wake-up call for 4 am. Breakfast will promptly begin at 6 am in the ballroom. Have a nice day,” the automated machine relays in a monotone. Kylie takes a deep breath. In. Out. It is time to head out of this garbage city.
The next two hours blur through her mind. Kylie summons an Uber taxicab at lightning speed and throws last night’s dress and wedges at the bottom of her suitcase followed by the heap of clothes on her desk chair. She zips it shut rapidly, and slams the door behind her. The echo reverberates through the spacious hallways of the hotel as she drags her beat-up suitcase behind her to the elevators. However, with 36 floors in the hotel, it would take forever.Exasperated, Kylie resigns to taking the dingy stairs and throws her suitcase down six flights of stairs. She slides down the stained bronze banister to retrieve it, throwing her room key at the front desk attendant on her rush out to her Uber. Kylie passes the drunk and red-eyed gamblers,all mysteriously wearing Hawaiian shirts, huddling around flashing slot machines, thinking toherself that she was among them just four hours ago.
She glances one last time at the hotel, with its stained marble and broken dreams, sighs,and exits, dodging both dashing bellhops and potted plants. Kylie peeks around and sees a matteblack Mercedes idling half a block away. She squints under the early morning rays and finding a
“Hey, sorry in advance, but I’m about to miss my flight,” Kylie says, demanding that her driver go full speed ahead. The driver curtly nods, and promptly begins threading his waythrough the crowds mobbing the Vegas streets. Kylie finally calms and pulls out her phone, andactivates the fingerprint sensor. The lock screen fades away and notifications begin beepingacross her screen. ‘20% off an appletini’ boasts Groupon while a Twitter trend alert says‘ECorpCTO Terry Colby Arrested’. With a tinge of annoyance, she swipes frantically to remove thespam, internally vowing to turn off her notifications when she has the time. Suddenly her eyesfocus on an old e-mail from her superiors at The Washington Post amongst all the trash. Herfuture as a journalist at the Post is on the brink, as she is failing to churn out the requiredheadline-breaking reports. She fully expects to be fired the moment she touches down in D.C.,and wonders why they even sent her to Vegas to cover Donald Trump. At this very thought,pressure begins to build up in her eyes and a hopeless hole gnaws at her heart. If she loses her job, then her life is over. Kylie will have no funds left to stay in the Washington suburbs and willbe forced to move back to her humble family abode on the outskirts of Tunis, Tunisia, milkingcamels for the rest of her life.
Even in a state of despair, a small smile flits to the corners of her lips and she remembersher childhood in Tunisia, where her loving mother, Kyna Karimi, often told her that she had an affinity for “disappearing like a wisp of smoke in the air.” Kyna died seven years ago, but if Kylie could do anything now, she would surely disappear. Not only does she have to face theunrealistic expectations she puts on herself, she also has the burden of taking care of her illbrother, Kashi, who is at a mental institution in Alexandria, Virginia, known as ThomasJefferson Institute for Mental Psychiatry.
Kylie is floating in daydreams of her childhood and her eyes are beginning to water againwhen her driver, Saheed, pulls up to the curb at Terminal 3. He clears his throat, and Kylie jumpsin her seat. She quickly thanks and pays him before stepping out on the curb with her luggage in tow. Saheed honks from his car as she is about to turn around and depart. “As a reminder, and I say this to all my customers, be vigilant for any suspicious persons or items you see. Heaven forbid anything would happen, but you never know in our modern day,” Saheed shouts over the
The warning settles in the back of her conscience as she steps into the crowded terminal.She fumbles her way through the check-in and retrieves her boarding pass in record speed. Shespeeds through the security line, but she sets off the beeping alarm. Dead-set on ignoring it,Kylie hurries to leave the station. However, before she could escape into the jungle of shops, apetite woman in the blue TSA uniform approaches her and states, “Ma’am, you have beenrandomly selected for an extra security check. Please follow me.”
Kylie’s heart collapses and her grip on her suitcase grows slippery with increasing nerves. Her flight departs in an hour, with or without her. But having no choice, she reluctantly follows the woman into an area where another TSA agent will more intensively examine her.
“Last call for American Airlines Flight 478. Boarding will close in 15 minutes. Please make your way to Gate 15. Once again, American Airlines Flight 478 gate will be closing in 15 minutes,” booms the overhead speaker just as she settles into the line for the security check. Kylie peers over the shoulders of the three women in front of her and notices the male TSA agent is instructing the first woman how to arrange her belongings for inspection.
‘Ok, when the agent turns around to go inspect that woman’s luggage, I’ll take my stuff and run. He won’t see me, right? Wait yeah this works…now! Kylie, run!’ She muses.
Kylie hastily grabs her suitcase and swiftly dashes away. She carefully places one foot infront of the other and trains her eyes on her gold heels. She nervously casts a look back, and sherelaxes when the agent did not notice. With the weight off her chest, Kylie runs to find gate 15.Her heart is pounding as her eyes dart left and right desperately searching for the number 15.Seconds tick by. Gate 45…Gate 46…Gate 47…
‘Oh my god, I’m on the wrong side of the airport. Oh! There it is! Gate 15…,’ She thinks as gift shops and restaurants blur by. ‘But the sign also says ‘Tram every 20 minutes’? Shoot. I need to take the tram. Please be close, please be coming right now.’
Kylie shifts her eyes from the glowing 15 on the tram sign to the glass enclosed tube where the tram will arrive. Her eyes scan the surface looking for any sign of the waiting time, and there it was. A timer tracking the minutes until the next tram blinks to her left, but her stomach churns furiously when she comprehends the ‘20 minutes’. Her shoulders droop in defeat as the P.A. system crackles to life again to update her flight status.
“Final call for American Airlines Flight 478. Boarding will close in a minute. Please make your way over immediately. Again, this is the final call for American Airlines Flight 478, heading to Washington D.C,” announces the loudspeakers.
Crestfallen, tears begin pushing past her eyelashes as she accepts her fate. With her visionblurred with a steady flow of tears, Kylie drags her stuff over to a nearby row of gloomy greychairs. It feels like her heart had just exploded open, releasing an overarching vacuum of doomand despair. Her sorrow sucks up all other emotion that might bring her joy as she comes toterms with her situation. Her chest constricts with unstoppable shallow breathes as she strugglesto breathe between streams of tears, which begin to coat her numb face with a disgusting glossysheen. She will definitely be fired and more sobs rack her body.
Absentmindedly digging her clammy palms into her eyes and drowning in a pool of self-pity and tears, Kylie almost does not notice when a man plops into the seat next to her. Flames ofheat rise to stain her pale cheeks as she realizes she is bawling in a public place. Embarrassed,Kylie desperately holds her breath to stem the hiccups bubbling in her chest and roughly wipesher face with the hem of her shirt. Now more composed, she notices that the strange man wasstill here, but is now distractedly typing away on his phone. The letters look unfamiliar as they
pop up through his screen, with one similar to a backwards ‘R’ and another shaped like a fusion of the letters ‘b’ and ‘l’. Kylie racks her brain for the language, and decides that it must be Russian, which she sees occasionally on Facebook posts bashing Vladimir Putin.
Furrowing her eyebrows, she studies this Russian man more intensely, taking in his narrow but handsome face with pronounced cheekbones framing rosy cheeks. She let her eyes wander from his face down his body, dressed in an expensive-looking Armani suit, noticing the way his legs bunched up awkwardly. With her initial observations complete, Kylie finally notices that the man is softly humming the lullaby “Frere Jacques”, an odd choice for a Russian. “…Are you sleeping? Are you sleeping? Brother John, Brother Joh–,” he murmurs. Suddenly, the man halts his song, looks up from his phone, and offers Kylie a small smile.
“Feeling better?” He asks.
Kylie returns a slight nod and scrunches her face in confusion. “Yes, thank you. But, um, who are you?” She replies, still hoarse from bawling her eyes out. From the corner of her eye, she notices that amongst a dozen empty seats, he had suspiciously chosen the one next to her.
“I saw you crying and thought you needed some comfort. My flight isn’t for five hours,so I thought I could help.” He says with a thick Russian accent that Kylie could hardly decipher.
She bristles at the thought she needed help, but the comfort he radiates as he calmly gazesat her with sparkling blue eyes is too much, and she relaxes for the first time that day.
The two fall into an easy conversation and Kylie discovers that his name is Alexei Ivanovand that he is an Air-Dream-Software engineer from Moscow. He too had missed his early-morning flight back home, but luckily, the airport has another flight scheduled to Moscow later today. Unfortunately, he found out too late that his new flight was in a smaller aircraft and his luggage would not be checked in. Alexei mimics the airport woman who told him that he had to ditch his duffel bag, sending Kylie into a fit of giggles. Sheepishly, with red tendrils of blush masking his face, he asks her if she would not mind bringing his duffle bag to D.C. with her and then mailing to him. Alexei digs around his suit pockets, pulls out an envelope of cash, and sifts through it, revealing the thousands of dollars that she would get for her troubles. He casually nods towards a bulky duffle bag at his feet, which bulges suspiciously with sharp corners.
Alexei nervously rubs the sweat that glosses the back of his neck and apologizes profusely, “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have asked. I understand if you do not want to, we just met after all, but you seem like such a nice girl. You could put the money towards your journalism career.” His left eye twitches with a tinge of panic.
‘He’s right. I need this money for my career, but…“As a reminder, and I say this to all my customers, be vigilant for any suspicious persons or items you see…”’ Kylie remembers theadvice of her Uber driver earlier today. However, she quickly shoves the wisdom to back of her conscious she persuades herself that Alexei is just a charming man that meant no trouble. After all, he had sympathetically sat with her for two hours as she spewed her story to him.
So without much thought, Kylie agrees, and says the three words that will change her life,“I’ll do it.”
Alexei releases a massive sigh of relief and with a glance at his watch, he hurriedlyinforms her how to send the bag to him, and hastily departs for his flight.
‘Hm. That was a strange exit. He seemed oddly rushed,’ Kylie pulls out her phone andobserves the time, ‘but his flight isn’t for three hours more. Weird.’
With the weight off her chest and thousands of more dollars in her pocket, Kylie feels accomplished. She has money for rent now and can stay in the D.C. area to look for a job. With a newfound bounce in her step and a slight smile on her face, Kylie takes her things to reception
and schedules for a new flight back home. Along the way, Kylie struggles with Alexei’ssuspiciously heavy duffel bag, and ends up dragging it by the straps. She stops by Ron’s Coffee and picks up a vanilla latte. While sipping her drink, she bumps into an Air-Dream-Software banner and hastily trips over the duffle bag and spills her piping hot drink onto it. The bag suddenly explodes, sending shards of metal and plastic cups flying everywhere. Screams ring in Kylie’s ears as she falls onto her elbows and feels searing pain at her left hip. Her vision darkens
and she struggles to gasp in her last breathes as smoke curls around her piteous body.
Thump, thump, thump. Her eyes fly open and she takes in the aircraft cabin around herand the rattling luggage. Kylie looks down and shifts her left leg, noticing how it is still attached to her hip and moves with ease. The duffle bag is at her feet, but now “Air-Dream-Software” is curiously inscribed on the side in maroon. She glances around and notices that all of her fellowpassengers are wearing Hawaiian shirts and staring blankly straight ahead. Kylie turns and gazesout of the window, seeing nothing more than large swaths of green farmland. Her eyes uneasily drift close to the rhythm of the shaking aircraft and soon drowsiness overtakes her.
Hours pass by without incidence. Kylie wakes when a sharp bang infiltrates her ears. Hereyes widen and she thinks that this could be another explosion. The mutterings of otherpassengers in the cabin increase in volume as flight attendants hurriedly push past each other
rushing up and down the aisle. Static erupts throughout the plane as the captain’s voice emerges through the P.A. system.
“I would like to inform you that one of the children on board has accidently ran into the beverage cart. Sorry for the disturbance.” comes over the loudspeakers.
As quickly as it came, the tension in the air dissipates. Someone lets out an audible sigh of relief, and another nervously laughs. However, the relief is short-lived. Unexpectedly, an ear splintering ‘boom’ tears through the aircraft and with a series of whining creaks, the head of the plane tears off. Kylie’s long chestnut hair flies into her eyes and obstructs her view. Her ears are flooding with the whistling of the wind through the cabin, twirling loose magazines and plastic cutlery into a dangerous storm. The blood-curling screams of the captain and other loosepassengers grow distant and she feels her stomach dip. Through her loose strands of her hair, shecould see the ocean rushing towards her and the other 156 passengers. ‘Wait? Ocean? We shouldbe over the continental USA…,’ she thinks. Panic spread like a wildfire through her system,numbing her worries, and the only thought on her mind was ‘Alexei’ and then, nothing.
Beep beep beep…! Kylie shoots up in her bed with terror and adrenaline pumping through her body. Sweat uncomfortably coats her whole body, and the trickle of air conditioning is freezing to her slick skin. She pulls the covers around her body and brings her knees to her chest, hugging them as she rocks back and forth. ‘Just a nightmare…just a nightmare,’ she thinks as she tries to calm down. Kylie grabs her phone from the nightstand and unlocking it,sees a reminder of her flight at 7 a.m. She glances up at the time. 4 a.m. ‘Shoot,’ she curses.