Contributor: Ali Banner

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Flying always made her nervous. It wasn’t so much the soaring through the clouds thousands of miles above the surface of the planet as it was the rough takeoffs and even rougher landings, especially with the ever-looming possibility of crashing into desolation, miles away from help or hope. Either way, she preferred to travel on land despite death-by-automobile being statistically more likely than a nosedive into a remote mountainside with nothing but the airplane tail jutting from rocks in a cloud of billowing smoke. Her lacework was the only thing that soothed her nerves and took her mind off what was sure to be certain doom.

This flight was more nerve-wracking than usual. Not only was the weather deteriorating by the minute, a dense cloud that threatened snow hanging thicker and thicker, but she was traveling to meet him, her Achilles’ heel, the one man who had all the power to weaken her resolve and lead her to her demise. It had been years since they’d seen or spoken to each other. Now she sat in a plane guiding her tatting shuttle around strands of black thread, lacing knots to keep her mind occupied. She should have refused his invitation. Said no when he offered to transport her, all expenses paid, three hundred miles from northeastern Iowa to northwestern Minnesota. Kept her feet on the ground when she felt it quaking beneath her. It had all happened so fast. That phone call, that invitation, that velvety voice she could never refuse.

“Hello, Baby.” It echoed in her mind, over and over. “You know what I like.”

The plane hit a violent patch of turbulence moments after gaining altitude and leveling off. A pair of pretty stewardesses, lips painted red and blonde hair in bobs, braced themselves near the service station as the seatbelt light switched on. Over and under, under and over, the worn ivory shuttle passed between twin strands of thread, two anxious hands gripping and guiding the knots into place, thirty thousand feet high in the air.

“This is your captain speaking...”

Over and under, under and over. Transfer the stitches, then turn and repeat. Drops of sweat beaded her forehead and the cabin jerked back and forth, but her practiced hands never faltered, completing every knot with compulsory ease. The plane began to plummet, unsecured baggage and carry-on luggage following suit. Screams filled the cabin and the stewardesses begged for order. All around her chaos struck, but her hands never broke rhythm.

The pressure dipped and oxygen masks dropped from their compartments above. Bound thread unraveled from her fingers with each double stitch, each intricate loop. She felt two hands slick with sweat pulling a mask down her face to secure it over her nose and mouth. She inhaled the sweet oxygen. Over and under, under and over. The pattern she’d started was almost complete.

Down and down, the plane hurtled toward an abandoned cornfield, once arid farmland now forgotten and barren. The pilots battled the elements and the passengers prayed to every deity they thought to invoke.

Over and under, under and over. “Hello, Baby. You know what I like.”

She closed the last stitch and examined her handiwork, running the black mourning veil over her hands before placing it on her head and covering her tear-stricken face. Her final thought was the sound of his voice tugging at her will as the plane crashed into the empty field.

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Ali Banner is a former English teacher who spent two years teaching in Handan City, China. She is currently a Creative Writing student at Full Sail University. She lives at home in West Virginia with her roommate, Emily, and her dog, Sparky.
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