32D

Clenching his teeth, he waited.

The pressure built in the cabin, my cabin, oh captain, my captain, he thought, but not prayed. He refused to pray.

The engine roared and his body screamed. Gravity pressed him into his seat, his ribs fractured, his lungs popped, his skin split.

There was so much pain. He squeezed his eyes shut, tears flowing like juice from a lemon wedge. His eyes werebeing juiced and there was pulp: tiny shards of skull swimming through it, ruining the taste.

The atmosphere tore off the shingles and the roof flew away. One and fifty-one inks morphed into a murky bog, providing what little protection they could offer the passengers from the Outside.

Droplets of the mess dripped and melded into the distance. His ink was a disgusting brown-purple fusion. If he still had a stomach, he’d vomit.

The man next to him had camouflage ink.

The woman in 34C had a faded periwinkle that struggled to cover the inky mess of bones and cotton candy next to her.

He’d given up his seat to allow her to protect her daughter.

He couldn’t find our Father.

The stewardess was a deep bronze; her lover’s ink shone bright silver in the bathroom’s golden mirror.

The clouds grabbed those they could kill. The sixteen in first-class were escorted through the bog into the Outside sky. They too melded into the distance.

He felt no pain. There was too much input. Error.

The Man in 30C stood; his insides had created a splatter painting worthy of Pollock on the tray – the ice cubes from his drink added texture. He lifted his arms to his side and dove up. He didn’t worry about holding his breath as he swam through the muddled inks; instead he fixated on opening what was left of his eyes, letting the ink flow through his body. In the eyes, out the scattered holes and fault lines, the ink spurted, flowed, burst.

Fire. Ink’s flammable and when the Man in 30C exploded, the bog went up in flames. The coagulate meteorites rained down on them like children’s sparklers at the First Battle of Manassas.

What a brave new world this was.

His bones cried out for release. Hush, he told them, we are calm on the Outside. You’re all that’s left of our Inside; it set fire to our home.

We’re innocent they cried. It’s not survival of the innocent, the clouds laughed. Only the worst survive. The good die young.

And suddenly he was back. The plane’s engine died down. He looked around wide-eyed. The periwinkle-woman and her cotton-candy-daughter were alive. The military man next to him was snoring, oblivious to the world.

His Father was gone, though. The Man in 30C – vanished.

All that was left was a burn scar, a coda to the clouds’ magnum opus.

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