Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Cabin Pressure

“I don’t really believe in ghosts,” a fellow passenger offered as I took my window seat on my American Airlines flight back home to Atlanta.  I would get that push back from time to time especially after an appearance on the Today Show, Montel or Wendy Williams but it had been years.  I was returning from my audition in New York for a new show called Ghost Wanderers for the Supernatural Channel and hoped that it would be my comeback after living in relative obscurity as a medium the last few years.  “I mean – ghosts are just figments of the imagination – some hysterical reckoning that doesn’t exist,” he continued getting a little more agitated. You either had people who believed in what you did or those “debunkers” who didn’t want to consider that there might be a world beyond their own “philosophy.”  The man in the aisle seat was the latter, a person who could not conceive of anything that was not part of the here and now.  The disbeliever was in his late 40’s, trim and wearing a light blue polo shirt, and black jacket with black pants.  He smoothed down his salt and pepper tinged hair and got out his laptop to do some work.  I hoped that he would forget that I was in the same row. 

“That’s nice,” I said off handedly – trying not to draw him into a long conversation as I got out my copy of A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini who was becoming one of my favorite authors.   I put my briefcase under my seat and opened the book.  “Well, it’s just not possible for there to be ghosts – once you’re dead – you’re dead,” he continued not noticing my disinterest.   As I kept my face in my book, I heard a familiar voice in the seat next to me.  “Hey Princess, where are we off to now?” he asked.  It was Bob the Atheist Ghost, an entity that usually popped up at the most inconvenient times.  He had died in his late 50’s less than a year ago and still wore what he usually did in life - a pair of Khakis and an oxford shirt with a pair of glasses because apparently his eyesight didn’t get better post-mortem.  Being an atheist, he could not comprehend that he was dead and his way of handling the situation was to dismiss his whole afterlife as a long drawn out dream that in which the spirits and people he met were Jungian or Freudian archetypes of his psyche. “Hey, A Thousand Splendid Suns – I loved The Kite Runner,” he volunteered and settled into the center seat.
“Bob, this is not a good time,” I whispered hoping that Mr. Polo shirt could not hear me.  I had tried communicating with Bob telepathically, but he just would not have it.  “Oh, I get it – you just want a nice quiet flight – just you and your book.  I get that, I mean I hate it when I get on planes and the person next to me just blathers on and on about this or that or how much they missed their cats.  I swear – one time, I was sitting next to this one woman after a Dragon-Con convention and that’s all she did was talk about her cats and had like 20 pictures on her cell phone.  I mean if she had been cute and wanted to join the Mile High Club it would have been one thing but geez, you can only take so much talk about tabbies,” he continued.  I rolled my eyes and kept reading.
The plane started to taxi down the runway and we were thankfully air borne so
I would be home in just a few hours.   I reflected on the new show and its format– I was going to be partnered with two ghost hunters who would verify my findings but our initial meetings had been rocky.  I have a great distrust of paranormal investigators because many times they stir up energy that they cannot handle.  The feeling was mutual from Jack Bronson who thought all mediums were fakes and his friend Dave served as the intermediary between the two of us.  Even with this slight misgiving, I was being given a chance to get back to making a living at what fate had thrust upon me - the ability to talk to dead people. 
After we were safely in the air, the flight attendant started to come around with refreshments for the passengers.  The man in my row ordered a beer.  “Hey, Ms. Gardeen, do you want something?” he asked in a tone which was much less hostile than when we first sat down.   If this had been a few years ago, I would have ordered three rum and cokes with lime and sucked them down with no problem, but I was on the wagon now and my new found sobriety would allow only a soda.  “I’ll have a Diet Coke please,” I responded.   “Hey do you remember how slutty stewardesses were back in the 1960’s?  That whole coffee, tea or me stuff?  I gotta wonder how many of them made it into the mile high club!”  Bob remarked looking over our young flight attendant Beth.  “Oh my God, did you ever have a girlfriend?” I whispered trying to keep my voice low, however the aisle man heard me.
“Actually, I’m divorced like you – my wife used to be a big fan,” he volunteered and started to switch seats to get closer to me and ended up actually sitting on top of Bob.  “Oh my God, the balls on this guy!” Bob said even though he didn’t believe in a supreme being.  “Hey, I’m sorry I was so abrupt before – it’s just that my ex used to watch you all in the time on the talk shows and it just stirred up some – well, you know.  Sorry again. My name is Marty,” he said putting out his hand. Bob went to slap it and I awkwardly shook his hand while trying to bat Bob’s away.  Bob was now in the aisle seat.  He was looking over Marty’s shoulder and making faces.  “Much nicer to meet you this time around Marty,” I said sweetly. 
I tried not to be too distracted by Bob and focus in on the conversation but out of the corner of my eye I could see the apparition of a platinum blond woman in her mid-40’s in a mini-skirt dress with a teased hairdo.  Her frosted pink lipstick gave off a strange hue.  Only Bob and I could see her and he was instantly transfixed.  “Well hello there –“ he said lecherously.  She knocked the drink out of Beth’s hand and laughed.  “Oh boy,” I said forgetting that Marty was now having a conversation with me.   Beth apologized for spilling my Diet Coke.  “I’m so sorry – I’m not sure what happened,” she said wiping herself and what she thought was an empty seat with a white dish towel.  Bob had a goofy smile on his face as she ran the towel over his ghostly legs.  “It’s a good thing I was not sitting there,” said Marty leaning closer to me.  
Bob brushed the soda off his clothes and was surprised to find that it didn’t even stain.  “Must be because it’s diet,” he mused as he started to walk toward the woman from the 1960’s.  She paused for a moment – surprised to see him and the fact that he could see her.  “Hey there, I’m Bob – what’s a nice girl like you doing on a plane like this?”  The woman regarded him with quiet amusement.  I tried to keep my eye on them and also tried to stay engaged with Marty the non-believer who still was intent on getting to know me better.  “So where too after you land in Atlanta?” Marty asked.  He seemed to have gone from dissing me to wanting to get to know me much better and I found his tactic interesting.  Not that there was a chance in hell we’d get together, but it was a distraction from watching Bob hit on a ghostly woman who was clearly out of his league.  “I will probably just go home and relax – it’s been a grueling few days,” I replied carefully still keeping an eye on Bob like a mother watching her toddler at a crowded playground.  “Well hello yourself, I’m Loraine,” replied the female ghost as she gave Bob the once over.  Beth walked through the two ghosts unaware of what was happening and offered me a Diet Coke with lime which I gratefully took.  The female apparition tried to trip her as she walked back to the refreshment cart but Bob stopped her thinking that he was helping.  
“Hey, wait a minute – do you have something against this young lady?” he asked not realizing the shit storm he was about to open up.  “I don’t like stewardesses, they’re little whores!” Loraine shouted to Bob and her tone made me jump.  Marty noticed how apprehensive I was.  “Hey, don’t worry – if we hit turbulence, these pros know how to handle it,” he said reassuring me which he didn’t need to do.  I have flown hundreds of times in both this country and Europe, but this was the first time I had seen a ghost this aggressive while we were mid-air. 
“For God’s sake Loraine, for the final time, I didn’t have sex with the stewardesses on the last flight – when are you gonna believe me?” This ghostly voice came from a nice looking a male ghost who was dressed in a 1960’s pilot’s uniform and hat with wings on the front of it.  It was clear that he had a relationship with the woman who was now eyeing Bob.
“How could you cheat on me 10,000 feet up with these bitches? I know you used to screw around on me at the layover hotels but while you were flying the plane?!” she continued to shriek at the pilot. 
Well that gives a whole new meaning to the term ‘cockpit’,” Bob said grinning turning to the pilot and trying to hi-five him.  “Making the mile-high club has been something I’ve had on my bucket list for some time,” Bob continued as both ghosts looked at him confused. 
“Who is this?” the pilot asked.   Loraine licked her pink lips and smiled.  
“He’s my revenge, Peter!” she said defiantly.  She leaned up on Bob and gave him a passionate kiss which surprised him.  He paused having a hard time figuring out how to reciprocate.  Eventually he did, awkwardly grabbing her rear end and squeezing. 
“Now, how do you like it?” Loraine asked looking directly at her ex-husband. 
“I like it a lot – this is pretty hot,” replied Bob not realizing he was a pawn in an afterlife tug-of-war. 
“Get your filthy hands OFF my wife!” Peter bellowed which was actually so loud the rest of first class heard the word “OFF” and startled a little bit.  Beth looked around trying to figure out where that sound came from.  Bob let go of Loraine’s ass and sat down quietly back in our row. 
Marty’s attention had turned from me to the sound- “What the hell? -“ he started.  “It’s probably an audio thing.” I said and motioned to the three ghosts to follow me to the galley.  “I need to ask Beth about getting another Diet Coke,” I said as an excuse to get up from my seat and sucking down what I had left in the glass.
Bob got up obediently and followed me – the other two ghosts looked at me quizzically because apparently they had never encountered a medium.  “Okay, all three of you – I get that there are some very strong feelings right now but you need to keep them under control and not scare innocent people –“
“Those little whores are not innocent – they ruin marriages,” Loraine said looking at Peter who was getting more agitated. 
“You ruined our marriage with your jealousy – I never gave you’re a reason to doubt that I was faithful but you just couldn’t let it go until one day – sure if I was going to do the time I might has well do the crime –“ he shot back.  Obviously their marital issues did not stop when in fact death did do them part.
“So you did the stewardesses!  Oh wow, I get it now.  This is all part of my deep seated issues with relationships.  This man is my ideal –a strong handsome guy and the woman is the person I’ve always coveted.  So if a guy like that can’t keep a woman like this – what chance do I have? This must be where my fear of commitment comes from!” said Bob smiling at his revelation which was not helping the situation in the least.
“Perhaps, my husband deserves a taste of his own medicine,” she said eyeing Bob like a hungry lioness.   “How would you like to make it into the Mile High Club?” she said leaning into Bob so he could see her cleavage straining out of the tight dress. 
“Okay, I think we can work this out like adults,” I said trying to play a psychic marriage counselor. 
“It’s too LATE!” Loraine screamed in which the cabin heard a woman’s voice say, “LATE!”   Beth came up and asked me to return to my seat since they were having some audio problems and were trying to locate the problem.   As I turned to go back into first class, I could hear banging in the bathroom.  Bob and were Loraine moaning but it was not sexual – it actually sounded the way you would think that ghosts would moan in the hereafter.   I turned quickly and sat back down not wanting to be anywhere near Bob’s “initiation.”  Beth knocked on the door and asked the people in the bathroom to return to their seats.  When she didn’t hear an answer, she knocked again and then got a key to open the door.  She gasped when she saw the water splashing out of the sink by itself.  Being the trained professional she was, Beth pretended that nothing had happened and reassured the passengers near the bathroom that the hand soap had fallen off the sink and that was the noise they were hearing. 
“Hey – did you hear that other sound burst?” asked Marty looking at me like I was somehow responsible for the random events. 
“I did, they’re working on the audio system to see what’s happening,” I replied.  Just then the captain came on the radio.  “Good afternoon ladies and gentleman, this is your captain.  We have reached our cruising altitude of 36,000 feet and have a 10 mile visibility and the winds about 40 miles per hour.  We seem to be having some audio problems but don’t worry they are part of the sound system and don’t affect the operation of the plane.  Thank you for your patience and thank you again for flying American Airlines.  We should be arriving at Hartsfield in Atlanta in about two hours,” he clicked off the microphone. 
Bob and Loraine appeared from the bathroom – with Bob’s face covered in an eerie pink lipstick hue, zipping up his khakis and Loraine adjusting her wigette and rearranging her dress.  However, neither one of them had the calm in their face that you would expect after a mid-air tryst.   Bob sat down next to Marty.  “Well that didn’t go as planned – who would have thought those bathrooms were not conductive to a quickie – I’m really disappointed,” Bob explained.  “Maybe that captain actually nailed them in the cockpit,” Bob started to giggle when he realized he just said the words – “cock” and “pit.” 
Before I could respond, Loraine came down the aisle with blood in her eyes, literally, there was blood seeping from her eyes and not in a Megyn Kelly kind of way.  “You pathetic example of a man!” she seethed – her eyes nothing but sockets hemorrhaging red fluid.  “Oh God!” Bob exclaimed asking for help from a deity he did not believe in.   Magazines started to fly and overhead compartments started to open threatening to spill their contents onto helpless passengers.  People started to gasp and hold onto their seats but the turbulence was coming from the inside of the plane.   Just then Peter stepped forward and grabbed Loraine from behind, the magazines landed in the aisles and the compartments clicked back shut. 
There was an uncomfortable silence in the cabin and Marty’s eyes bored into mine.  “What the hell is happening?” he asked quietly.  “You wouldn’t believe me even if I told you,” I whispered back hoping that Peter could keep Loraine contained until we landed.  “Hey, I’d really like to wake up now, this dream is getting just a little trippy,” Bob said looking at Peter who was trying to restrain his wife.  Suddenly she disappeared.  Peter looked around trying to get her before she struck again.  “I think her husband has a handle on this,” said Bob, picking up a copy of Sky Mall.  “Hey look, you can get a mini-desk vacuum and Smurf talking electric toothbrushes for under $20!” he said trying to ignore the flaming pot of rage that he had ignited.
The passengers were shaken up and a few started to cry.  The captain came back over the intercom again trying to steady the situation.  “Ladies and gentleman, I have to apologize for the turbulence, I’m not sure why the compartments opened but we are doing everything we can to figure this out and we apologize for any inconvenience, please stay seated as the fasten seat belt signs are on,” he assured and his demeanor did help to calm things down.   Marty looked at me, “You can see what’s happening right?  I mean you know don’t you?” he asked with a touch of fear in his eyes.  “Yes and I might need some help if things escalate.  Would you be willing to help me if I asked you?” I said hoping I’d have an ally if I needed one.  “Okay, sure,” he said with uncertainty. 
Beth was still looking composed and the rest of the flight attendants took her lead and started to make sure the overhead compartments were locked.   Some of the passengers were picking up magazines and drinks that had spilled around them in their seats. There was an eerie quiet in the cabin.  It was unnerving because I was pretty sure that Loraine would be back to strike again. 
Bob looked around – “Hey princess, when do we land?  I’ll feel better when we’re on the ground,” he said tensely.  I wanted to respond directly to him but did not want to raise any more suspicions with flight attendants or fellow travelers.  “Marty, I need to talk to someone but I need to make it seem like I’m talking to you so no one freaks out – would you be willing to just look and respond like we’re having a conversation?”  I asked calmly.  “Yes,” he replied carefully.  
I turned to my atheist apparition, “Okay, Bob – you have made a big mistake by angering that woman and her husband.  I need to find out what the trigger was that brought both of them on this flight in the first place, so if Loraine looks like she’s going to try to hurt anyone, you need to work with Peter to stop her, okay?”  Bob looked at me like a six year old who had been caught doing something bad and now had to face the consequences. 
“Okay Sophia, I’m sorry.  I mean the sex wasn’t even that great. I just thought maybe I might finally meet someone and have that one night or day stand that I could brag about with the guys.  Despite what you might have heard, scientists can be real assholes to one another – always bragging about this discovery or that and always lying about sex – I just wanted to be able to join in with some real life experience.  I’ve never been good with women and I didn’t realize what a psycho she is,” he replied looking genuinely remorseful.  
Marty nodded while I was talking.  “Who are you calling a psycho?” a woman’s voice growled.  Loraine had now transformed from a 1960’s housewife in go-go boots into a she-demon with a red face, blood coming from her face and eyes and long claws who was intent on killing the female flight attendants as revenge for her husband’s infidelity.  I tried not to react but her appearance rattled me and it showed.  “What’s the matter – what do you see?” asked Marty.  I tried to smile and make it look like nothing was wrong - but holy shit - everything was wrong.  
Bob looked up and saw Loraine and gasped.  “Is this what happens to women after sex on an airplane?”  He started to tremble and the seat started to shake which everyone could see.  Beth walked over to our row to see if something mechanical was causing the seat to vibrate.  “Bob, please stop, everything is going to be fine, but you need to hold it together,” I said and Marty nodded still playing along.   The seat stopped shaking, and Beth looked at me quizzically and took a few moments before she started to speak.  Again, her demeanor was very professional but I could see that her composure was starting to waver.  “Miss Gardeen, this might seem strange but I was wondering if you could take a moment to join me in the galley with our pilot.”  I nodded, grabbed a vile from my purse, put it in my pocket discretely and walked with Beth past the rows of passengers who looked pale and shaken up – the flight was nearly silent which just made things more eerie. 
We stopped in the galley where I had the ghostly conference just a few minutes before.   The pilot joined us.  He was an older man in his late fifties with pure white hair and a kind face that was looking a little frayed.  His name plate said Caption Simmons.  “Miss Gardeen, I usually don’t do this – meet with passenger’s mid-flight but these audio bursts, the magazines flying and the compartment doors opening – there does not seem to be a rational explanation.  I know who you are and I just needed to see – to ask…” his voice trailed off. 
“Okay since you asked – is there something on this plane that might have come from a crash site that could be triggering these episodes?” I asked looking around and for the moment the cabin seemed to be quiet.
Both Beth and Captain Simmons looked at each other and then the captain started to speak.  “I’ve been a pilot for over 20 years and I’ve always been interested in plane crashes and how they happened.  I happened to be out in the Everglades with my kids near Pine Island.  We were walking near the trails when I saw a dull silver object in the saw grass.  I walked over carefully knowing how sharp saw grass is and how easily you could get sliced up.  I looked closer and it was a man’s watch and wallet.   At first I figured it someone had lost it on an airboat ride but as I looked in the wallet, I could see some ID even with all the mud and all these years I could still make it out.  The wallet belonged to a Peter Ossman.  It had a wedding ring in the billfold and a wedding photo that was pretty well preserved.  The watch was crusted over but when I took it to a jeweler to have it cleaned up – it had an inscription ‘To Peter - forever my love Loraine– 6/29/63.’  When I researched it further, I found out that Captain Peter Ossman was the pilot of the ill-fated Flight 802 that crashed in the Everglades in 1968.  I wanted to get the watch back to the family.  I found out that he still has a brother who’s living in Atlanta and had arranged to return it to the family.  You know from one pilot to another but then strange things have started to happen on this flight..” he finished looking at me tensely. 
I took a moment before I spoke.  “The watch, wallet and especially the ring and the wedding picture can be trigger objects for ghosts.  I’ve seen Captain Ossman and his wife Loraine on-board.  She’s very jealous and thinks that he cheated on her with flight attendants which is why she’s been so mean to you Beth.”  Beth gasped and her composure started to wane for a few moments and then regained it as I continued. “The audio bursts were caused by the ghosts as well the other strange things that have been happening.  The pilot’s wife is very unstable, but Captain Ossman is trying to help and he’s very protective of the plane and the passengers.   I will encourage him to keep her under wraps, but we need to keep her away from the cockpit.  I have a vile of holy water on me - maybe if I can get some salt to put by the door that can repel her –“ I continued.
Suddenly Loraine jumped up from behind put her bloody hands around Beth’s neck.   Beth’s eyes got wide and she leaned backward and had trouble breathing as Loraine’s bloody claws seemed to grasp tighter.  Captain Simmons tried to help but could not see what he was supposed to be fighting.  Bob jumped up without thinking and tried to yank Loraine off the young woman who was gasping for air.   Peter then appeared and pulled his wife’s arms back as Beth fell forward into the galley.   “Captain, please get back into the cockpit – I’ll try to keep her away from the flight deck,” I whispered trying not to alarm the other passengers.
Loraine ran down the aisle with Peter and Bob close behind.  Marty came up and helped Beth to her feet.  I looked in the galley and tried find salt to put in front of the entrance of the cockpit to keep Loraine out.  The cabin got darker as the sun set and there was a ghostly hue coming from the electronic devices that the passengers were using while feverously texting– the clicking sounds of people trying to send frantic messages to the outside world.   The pong of the “Fasten seatbelt sign” continued as I started to put the salt along the cockpit door.
Suddenly, the plane started to lurch forward.  This time it was not from within the confines of the cabin but looking out the window, I could see the plane was actually starting to go into a downward plunge.  “Bob, Peter, you have to stop her – she’s in the cockpit,” I yelled over the sounds of the screaming passengers as both Beth and I lost our balance.  
Bob and Peter hurried down the aisle and walked through the security door.  Beth looked at me – “Who are Bob and Peter?” she asked as we tried to stand back up.  I closed my eyes and tried to focus in on what was probably chaos at the front of the plane. 

I saw the pilot, co-pilot and the navigator trying to maintain altitude – they were communicating in an even tone which belied the fact that the plane seemed to be out of control.   I saw Peter trying to get control of the altimeter as Loraine’s ghostly face was looking in from outside the plane.   I crawled to the door of the cockpit and shouted, “The watch and the wedding picture – hold them up – remind them of who they were – please!!” I begged.  
Captain Simmons grabbed the items which had spilled on the floor – he felt his hand being wrenched open by someone he could not see.  The plane was now in a full descent and the screaming was deafening.   Peter held up the watch and the wedding picture – “Look Loraine- this was us and it can be again, it’s not too late – but if you kill these innocent people you will be forever damned, there will be no redemption and your hell will be eternal – stop now and you have a chance at happiness with me,” he shouted.  The plane was now in a 45 degree incline.  Marty tried to shield both Beth and I with his body as the snack cart started to slide towards us.   I felt the vile of Holy water slide out of my pocket and tried to catch it as it rolled away.  “Dammit,” I muttered realizing that might be my last chance to try to get rid of Loraine if she did not comply with Peter.   Marty managed to stop the cart with his legs just as it was about to hit us.  The angle of the plane started to make me dizzy and lightheaded.
In the cockpit, I heard loud voices, screeching and a ghostly scream of pain and then silence.   The plane started to right itself and after a minute of uncertainty it seemed to be leveling off.   The sounds of sobbing passengers were replaced by cheering.   Marty stood up and pushed the cart back into place as he helped me and Beth to our feet.  
“Wow, that was close,” said Bob as he walked out of the cockpit, visibly shaken and putting his glasses back on.  “What was in that vile thing?” he asked.
“It was Holy water, did you use-“ I started not quite sure how I was going to finish my sentence.
“Okay, I thought it was like ghost mace – Loraine started to come after Peter and me with the face of a serpent saying she didn’t care and was going to crash the plane.  I saw the vile outside the door so I grabbed it to see if she would in fact stop if I threw some in her eyes.   She screamed – turned white for a second and then these creatures that looked like gargoyles came from the sky and took her away.”
I saw Peter emerge from the cockpit, still holding the picture, watch and wedding ring.   He looked sad – like a superhero who could not save the one person he intended to even though 150 people owed him their lives. 
“Excuse me ladies and gentleman – this is your Captain.  We are going to land in Asheville North Carolina to make sure that we don’t have any more technical problems– we should be landing there in about 10 minutes.  You can get a connecting flight to Atlanta tomorrow morning and will get a travel voucher for a stay at a local hotel for the evening.  We apologize for the inconvenience and as always and thank you for flying American Airlines.”
Marty looked at me and smiled.  “So I guess it’s going to be a little while before we get to Atlanta.  I happen to do business quite a lot in Asheville and know the art district pretty well.  I was wondering if you wanted to have dinner in funky bistro and I can get us rooms at the Biltmore if you would like – I’m actually really good friends with the manager.” 
I regarded this man who seemed so hostile earlier who ended up keeping me from being crushed by a run-away snack cart full of pretzels and Sprite.  “That’s sound heavenly, I would love that,” I said smiling back.  Marty nodded and walked back to his seat looking up numbers to make the arrangements for the rest of the evening.
Just then, there was a white light that appeared next to Peter.  It was a younger more innocent version of Loraine – the way she looked in their wedding picture.  She beamed at Peter and nodded.   “But I thought those gargoyle things got her,” said Bob who was suddenly right next to me.  “I gave her that mace stuff.” 
“That was holy water Bob, you sprinkled her with holy water and it released her demons.  She’s at peace now and wants Peter to go with her,” I replied. 
“First off, I don’t believe in that stuff – that's crazy talk. Let’s just say it was fluid for her contacts and she can see clearly now,” he tried to reason.
“Oh, yes Bob, she can see very clearly now,” I replied as I watched Peter and Loraine float up past the cabin ceiling and into the orange, purple and gold clouds illuminated by the setting sun.