Someone knocked on the door. A man of about forty, with a cleanly shaven head and a goatee, in a Rammstein T-shirt and jeans. He patiently waited for a signal he could come in. Bianca gestured him in.
“Hello, my name’s Rob, um, Rob Jorgensen,” he said with a nervous smile. “I was wondering if I could help in any way. I’m an engineer. Not an aircraft engineer, an electrical one, but if there’s anything I can do to help…” The man looked away and pushed his hands deep into his pockets.
“Thank you, Rob, but there doesn’t seem to be any mechanical problem with the plane that we know of.” Bianca said. “It’s just invisible.”
“Yeah, that was some surprise.” Rob grinned. Awkwardly but he grinned. “Straight out of The Langoliers.”
“Ah, another King fan,” Michael said. “Nice to meet you there.”
As Bianca prepared to put an end to the friendly exchange about fiction the plane’s nose dipped again and Rob was thrown forward. He hit the central console and groaned when he split his chin on an edge he couldn’t see to avoid.
The 737 was falling and it was falling fast. After the initial jerk forward, gravity glued Bianca and Michael to their seats and sent Rob rolling back into the cabin. Once again, pulling the yoke made no difference whatsoever for either of them. Bianca stopped pulling. She narrowed her eyes at where she was sure it was because she was holding it, watched the empty space between her hands for a few seconds and let go.
“What?” Michael groaned, still pulling.
Bianca was looking unblinkingly at the peaks rushing at them. Michael pulled the yoke to the right in another desperate attempt to avoid hitting the mountain but the plane did not respond.
“What the hell is going on?”
“We need to keep flying,” Bianca murmured more to herself than to her first officer. “We need to keep flying.”
“We won’t be flying for much longer if we keep going in the same direction!”
“We need to keep flying,” she said again and, as if she had lured the plane into cooperating, the nose rose and the machine leveled off. “There. We’ll keep flying.”
“Rob, are you okay?” Michael called, his eyes fixed on Bianca, wide with fear and anger.
“I’m good,” the helpful passenger said and scrambled to his feet.
“I suggest you go back to your seat for now,” Michael said.
“Yeah, sure. Just, you know, let me know if you need me.”
“Could you shut the door, please,” Bianca added. “And tell everyone to buckle up in case we have another dip like this.”
“Yeah, okay,” Rob said.
They waited for him to close the door of the cockpit.
“You know something.”
Bianca didn’t say anything.
“What is it?” Michael pressed.
“I’m not sure but I think I’m steering the plane with my thoughts.” As she had suspected, saying it out loud made it sound even more ridiculous than it was when she had thought it.
“I think,” Bianca said more slowly, “that I am flying the plane with my thoughts.”
Michael had frozen with his mouth ajar as if he was preparing to say something but forgot what it was half a second before the words came out. Bianca felt a sting of empathy.
“When we dipped the first time I was thinking that sooner or later we would have to land,” she began. “We can’t stay in the air forever, right? So that’s what I was thinking when it started descending the first time. And then, of course, I thought we shouldn’t crash, we should keep on cruising, stay in the air, keep flying. And it responded. Just now, it happened again.”
“You thought about landing.” Michael finally spoke.
“Yes. And then I remembered what had happened the last time so I thought about staying in the air. Very hard.”
Her first officer and ex-husband put the base of his palms on his wide, domed forehead and rubbed it viciously. The skin was flushed when he removed his hands.
“So, we are on an invisible plane that the pilot controls with her thoughts,” he said.
“I think so.” Bianca nodded. The errant strand of hair, the one that was too short to stay in the bun fell on her face. Michael reached out and gently tucked it behind her ear. Bianca froze.
“I’m sorry. I think…” He took a deep breath and let it out. “I think I needed to see how real this is and touching you was the only way I could come up with. Sorry.”
“That’s okay.” She put her hand to her ear and traced Michael’s movement. The strand of hair couldn’t be more safely tucked outside her field of vision. “I’m afraid it’s all real.”
“At least we know we can control it. You can, I mean.”
“I hope I’m right about this.”
“Well, let’s test it,” Michael said after a few seconds of intense silence. He crossed his arms and looked at her, raising his eyebrows in what he obviously thought was a meaningful way.
“Test it?” Bianca had never been good at reading eyebrows. They could mean way too many things.
“Yep,” Michael said and wiggled them.
There was a spark in his eyes Bianca knew well. She had seen that same spark one evening when he’d asked her out to dinner but had in fact taken her to Liverpool Street station and from there to Cambridge, her home town. She had apparently spoken about how long it had been since she’d visited, even though she had no conscious recollection of it. The same spark had featured in several other romantic surprises like that over the years, until the romance wore out.
“We have people on board,” she said. The memory about that night trip to Cambridge had stuck in her mind and was distracting her. “We already risked their lives.”
“We will have to find a way to land eventually,” Michael said. The spark went out but not his determination. “I’d say it would be safer to prepare and if we can’t use the instruments and it’s true you control the plane with your thoughts, what other way is there to prepare?”
Bianca shifted in her seat, which had become too hard, too small, and too uncomfortable overall. There were no counter-arguments. They had to land and they had to prepare for an unusual landing. She felt for the radio.
“Mayday. Mayday. Mayday. This is Skyhigh flight 311. Our plane has lost visibility. I repeat, this is Skyhigh flight 311 and our plane has lost visibility. We cannot see or use our instruments.”
They waited. No response came. Bianca switched the frequency and repeated the message. And again. And again. No response came.
“I thought I’d try it one last time,” she said. “Okay, let’s do some testing, then. Could you go tell the passengers?”