Similarities (final version) | By: Robert William Braswell | | Category: Short Story - Twilight Zone Bookmark and Share

Similarities (final version)

Similarities (final version)

Comments from readers:

Jerry J. Davis, Editor of Dark Energy SF – This was interesting and well written.

Steffi X – I did read the story and I think you have a nice idea that packs a lot of punch!

John – Congrats on your story being published. It was great reading.

When the unknown makes its presence felt, often the bizarre will elevate emotions to a new level, sending the mind to function in ways unheard of.

While waiting to board a flight to Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, Stan meets an individual who mysteriously has a lot in common with himself. After striking up a conversation with the stranger, unique events begin to unfold that lead him upon a perilous path of self-destruction. The unexpected becomes the bizarre in this strange and twisted tale about a brother’s psychotic revenge.

As I was making my way to the waiting area to look for a seat before boarding my plane to Chicago, I thought to myself life has been good. Things that mattered to me most such as my loving wife, children, home and job have been working out as I had planned. Actually, things have worked out better than I ever expected.

I was catching a flight to O\'Hare Airport to see some of my estranged brothers and sisters. It\'s been over three years since I\'ve had contact with any of them and I was excited at the prospects of spending some time with them to more closely bond our relationships. I needed to settle a specific disagreement with a particular family member, a very long-standing disagreement that has negatively affected my relationships with everyone else within the family. With my new optimism I was hopeful we could strengthen family bonds that would endure.

After arriving at the waiting area, I immediately began looking for a seat. As usual it was filled with a wide variety of travelers. Not an empty seat was visible until I finally spotted one in the far corner, so off I went in that direction.

As I got nearer I noticed a gentleman about my age had the seat next to the one I was going to use. He appeared to be submerged in thought. This was a good thing because I\'ve always preferred to be left alone when traveling.

I\'ve also been the type of individual to prefer sitting next to people without children. I know that may sound a bit strange to some people, perhaps, but it seems more times than not kids at airports are unruly with their yelling, playing and interruptions of everyone\'s thoughts, mainly mine. I never appreciated them doing so.

After taking my seat I let out a huge sigh of relief. It felt great to get off my feet. At my age it felt wonderful to sit down to give my legs a rest. After all, I wasn\'t a spring chicken anymore.

Seated directly across from me was a dark skinned man dressed in a white full-length khaddar wearing brown leather sandals. In looking like he was from India, he was also reading a paperback titled The Biography of Indira Gandhi he had opened in his extended right hand. His fingers were exceptionally long and thin, and they easily wrapped around three-quarters of the front of the book to hold it firmly in place.

To his right sat an older woman of Spanish decent dressed in a two-piece pink pantsuit. It was decorated in multi-color rhinestones practically from her head down to her toes. I couldn\'t help but notice her heavy makeup. Her bright glossy pink lipstick was definitely an eye catcher. She wore a baseball cap that read Las Vegas or Bust. By the expression on her face, she’s probably already been to Vegas and now regrets it.

A Caucasian business looking type gentleman was seated next to her. He was probably in his early thirties. His laptop computer was open and sitting upon his lap. He seemed to be engrossed in whatever he was doing. Nowadays, these types of individuals with their laptops seemingly attached to their person are everywhere at airports and are too numerous to mention. I wish half of them would leave their computer at home. Better yet, those types of people can all stay at home. Good grief, take a real vacation.

Then I noticed the gentleman immediately to my right. He was the person whom I first noticed before taking my seat. His head was still slightly turned downward so his face wasn\'t all that noticeable. I didn\'t want to get caught looking at him too long so I quickly looked away.

After checking the time and noticing that I had close to an hour before boarding, I unfolded the newspaper I was carrying and began reading more about the disaster in New Orleans. What an awful time all those people were having in trying to cope with everything. Katrina, that disastrous hurricane that came up from The Gulf, left total devastation in its entire path. My heart went out to those people. Although my wife and I donated some money for the relief efforts that were going on, it is obvious that a lot more money and time was needed to get those poor people and the city back on their feet, if at all. It\'s going to take years before that city even begins to see results of any kind of a recovery. That part of the country reminded me of the pictures I\'ve seen of Hiroshima after it was just bombed in August of 1945. What horrible devastation.

I continued reading when suddenly I overheard the gentleman next to me begin to quietly sob. Out of curiosity I gave him a quick look to see if he was all right. His position hadn\'t changed any, as he was still looking downward. I began to notice a tear slowly running down over his cheekbone, past the corner of his mouth and then momentarily stopping at his chin. There the tear kept gathering moisture until it could no longer hang on, falling to the floor in a silent splatter. I must have looked at him several seconds before realizing that I was doing so, so I hurriedly looked away before he noticed me. I\'ve always tried to be self-conscious about the things I do, which again includes looking at other people too long thus they might think me a bit strange.

Then I heard another sob. Now, I\'m not one to bother people but this guy seemed to be distraught. I was trying to decide if I should say something to him or not. But for the moment I declined to do so.

As several minutes ticked by he began to get a little noisier when his emotions seem to intensify, drawing the attention of some of the other people around him as well. I\'m sure they were thinking the same as I, in what\'s up with this guy?

Then, out of the corner of my eye I noticed he sat up in his seat. His movement caused me to inconspicuously turn my head to get a better look at him. Using a handkerchief he retrieved from the back pocket of his tattered brown slacks, he began to gently dry his wet face caused from all those tears. By this time the man was beginning to look pretty pitiful in keeping to himself and not saying a word to anyone.

However, when he sat up he raised his face and it provided me the opportunity to catch a glimpse of his long and drawn out expression. It was obvious he was in some sort of serious emotional turmoil.

I could stand it no longer so I asked him, “Sir, are you all right?”

He methodically turned toward me to reveal extremely sad eyes. With them bloodshot he began to speak in barely above a whisper.

“My brother just died in a plane crash last night. I should\'ve mended my broken fences with him. Now he\'s gone and I\'ll never have the chance to do that.” As soon as he was through speaking he quietly looked away seemingly not caring if I even responded.

His comments caught me off guard. How was I to respond to a statement like that from a complete stranger? The poor man was publicly grieving. The only thing I did was to look at him for a few seconds before slowly looking away myself. I didn’t know what else to do. I went back to reading my newspaper, but now with a sudden reflection of my own life. Sad people have that affect on me sometimes.

Ten minutes later he interrupted me to say, “Hey look, I\'m really sorry for sounding so distraught. You must have thought me to be a mental case for saying something so troublesome to someone I never met before.”

“That\'s alright, my friend. I\'m very sorry to hear about your brother.” I abruptly stopped speaking. I didn\'t know what else to say.

Then, in a sociable way he asks, “Do you have family?”

“Ah, yes I do,” I answered. The man seemed to be trying to get out of his funk by changing the subject matter. His words were a little quicker paced. To be polite I thought I would try to accommodate him.

I extended out my right hand in a friendly gesture to shake his. He told me his name was Phil and he was flying home for his brother\'s funeral.

In return I informed him my name was Stan, which immediately afterward he gave me a quick quirky glance. But for the moment I thought nothing of it.

“This is the saddest day of my life, ever,” he said in a very low-keyed manner in suddenly reverting back to barely speaking above a whisper. “There isn\'t anything good coming out of this trip.” Again he looked away to resume his private grieving and to once more appear as if he didn’t care if I responded.

Now, I’m not one to normally listen so intently to strangers, but this guy seemed understandably depressed. I couldn’t help but feel a little sympathy for him. I think it was because it was something about his pathetic expression that was familiar. Past experiences in life have told me that we\'ve all had similar experiences that have gotten us depressed to varying degrees in with somewhat how this guy was feeling. I wanted to continue our conversation just to try and uplift his spirits.

So I asked him, “Do you have any more family?”

After sitting up he turns his head toward me to look me straight in the eye before saying, “Yes, I do. I have ten brothers and sisters. Oh, I\'m sorry, I meant to say I have nine brothers and sisters.” Immediately he inhales a deep breath then slowly releases it in seemingly as an effort to remind him that one brother is now deceased. “One brother is now gone forever. His passing hasn\'t totally sunk in yet.”

What he just stated mildly stunned me. I also have a fair share of brothers and sisters, surprisingly the same number. But I\'m very fortunate they\'re all still breathing.

“Do you mind if I asked how old your brother was?” I ask. “If I\'m being too personal, Phil, just tell me it\'s none of my business and I\'ll go back to reading my newspaper. I was thinking that it might help if you talked about it.”

“You seem like a kind person.” His voice was a little more audible again. “Do you have the time to listen to a short story that I would love to get off my chest?”

I glance at my watch to check the exact time and saw I had thirty minutes before my scheduled boarding time.

“Sure. I\'ll listen if it’ll gave you some comfort,” I answered.

“It would make me feel a whole lot better to get a few things spoken so I don\'t have to keep it all pent up inside. Thank you for being so thoughtful and willing to listen.” With him displaying such a pathetic expression it compelled me to help him deal with his grief in some compassionate way.

After folding my newspaper and placing it on my lap I consented to his wishes. “You look like you could use a friend. So tell me, Phil, what\'s on your mind?”

Once again the gentleman sat up from his continual slouching. He begins to rub his hands onto his face rather harshly, probably in an effort to be more alert. During our short conversation he definitely was lacking full awareness. After his hands came down to rest upon his lap, his face was bright red from the hard message he just gave it. Already pot-marked and now flushed in color, the texture of his skin was now very irritated. He was getting ready to say something obviously important.

“My brother died without knowing I loved him. Haven\'t told him in years.” Softly spoken words forced me to lean in closer to hear him speak. Then pausing to collect his thoughts before continuing, he said, “I\'ve never understood his position on a very serious matter and probably never will. My brother meant the world to me and now he\'s gone forever. It’s been very depressing.”

Continuing, he said, “It all began after my mother had her stroke. It severely crippled her. Most of her mind left her and she suddenly had to depend on others for her very livelihood. God, I loved her so much. I didn\'t know if I\'d ever get past the trauma of it. But I did, eventually.”

“Is your mother still alive?” he surprisingly asked me.

I couldn’t immediately answer him. His comments were like a thrown brick hitting me so hard that it interrupted my thoughts.

My mother too, you see, had a severe stroke that left her incapacitated. Never mind the fact that it was family that I was going to see to try and mend broken fences with as well, concerning specifically my brother, Phil, which coincidently is the same name as this guy. So, his words caused me to be more attentive. And, however so slight, the air around me began to feel peculiar in an unnatural sort of way.

Logically speaking it all must be coincidence that our conversation was going in such an odd direction. Regardless, I had no choice but to shrug off the strangeness of his words. I didn\'t want to appear like I was somehow inappropriate if I mention our similarities. So I kept silent but placed myself on guard for anything else that might be unexpectedly said.

Shaking my head to clear lingering thoughts, I then noticed a blank expression covering Phil’s face. He was probably wondering if I ever was going to answer him.

“Ah, no sir, she\'s not. She died of a stroke as a result from a severe brain hemorrhage,” I innocently replied.

However, it seemed my words seemed to cause the gentleman to suddenly react suspiciously. No doubt that his resulting intent expression of shock, seemingly, could have frightened a buzzard off a meat wagon. It was very abrupt and overly sudden-like. The transformation of his face from having severe grief to someone who looked entirely different as if he hadn’t grieved for years was uncanny. And, with being in so close proximity of his face made it more of an odd thing to witness.

But to me, how that expression came about was a bit theatrical. It was so quick. A short glimpse of the delayed facial muscles around the outer corners of his eyes revealed to me other intentions, seemingly. It was only split-second that I thought this, but the gentleman seemed to be deceptive. However, I couldn’t tell with any certainty if it was true. It was just a feeling.

And when he finally began speaking his words were histrionically more crisp and deliberate.

“Well now. Isn’t that strange?” announcing his words as if they were national headline news. “My mother died for that very reason as well.” Bloodshot eyes stretched open wide made him distinctly appear mentally off his rocker, thus making his presence more felt.

He continued with his glare and much-spirited eyeful gleam. His off-the-wall expression probably lasted twenty seconds before a creepy feeling sprouted beneath my skin. Goose bumps formed up and down both arms causing the hair to stand straight out. The chill made me wish I had worn a longer sleeve shirt.

Why was he looking at me so strangely? His behavior was certainly unconventional and was beginning to irritate me. Was it a purposeful attempt to hook me into saying or doing something I didn’t want? The sudden change in him had me wondering if something else was going on inside that head of his besides grieving. However, he continued to not say a word. I tried to remain oblivious to his rudeness.

But I couldn’t steady that thought, giving in to it to emotionally say, ““What? You\'re kidding, right? Man, this conversation is getting way too weird for me. We have so much in common!” My head began filling up with more questions about him.

In the back of my mind I was distraughtly suspicious of his motive for even talking to me. Was he actually grieving? Does he even have a brother?

I began to imagine that he got my name and other personal information off the Internet. It would then explain how he knew to say such things. Maybe he was attempting to set me up to steal my money, or possibly do something worse. His maligning behavior was a bit baffling, consequently forcing me to be on guard for more of the unexpected.

The stranger continued to wide-eye me, compelling me to return his developing posthumous stare. He was even beginning to frighten me.

In the back of my mind I kept attempting to think of reasons for such unethical behavior. And after not finding any, I then decided to have nothing more to do with his abrupt developing obnoxiousness.

But then out of the blue, something extremely weird happened, something so bizarre and so unfortunate that an extreme uneasiness began to swarm through me like a knife through butter.

After attempting to look away from him to go back to minding my own business, I discovered that my ability to do so was surprisingly weak. I wasn’t able to completely break eye contact with him.

Immediately I attempted it again and weirdly felt even weaker, leaving me to realize that I then had no eye movement at all. And when I tried to turn completely around in my seat to get entirely away from this oddball, I disturbingly discovered that I wasn’t able to do that as well. An emphatic rush of adrenalin went gushing down to my fast beleaguering tailbone, much like a giant wall of water would from a make-believe broken Hoover Dam.

Irrevocably stunned and filling with anxiety moment by moment by my own inability to exercise control over my own body, I began to freak. Through some strange twist, I began deducting that the stranger’s odd behavior was the cause of what was happening. I had no other plausible answer for it. His staring was the only thing remotely tangible that had a chance for some kind of explanation. In further derailing my sensibilities it gave me great concern for what might happen next.

My survival instincts automatically began kicking in when I realized I was strangely becoming immobile and helpless as a lamb. Frightfully, I now had no chance of defending myself if this guy had ideas of harming me. A disconcerting fear was engulfing every pore.

I was still able to barely move my fingertips, but I had to accept the possibility that my ability to physically move at all was leaving me all together. My inner psyche raced toward panic mode.

Just what the hell do you think you’re doing would be a question I would explicably ask, followed immediately by a knuckle sandwich crashing into his jaw. That would be my remedy for the situation to end, that is, if I could only just move. My fifty-seven-year-old heart was by now pumping blood so fast that I had to worry about having some kind of doggone aneurysm. It was so violently forceful that it felt like the darn thing might explode. I remained fearful like I’ve never been.

The bare thought of being helpless in front of this goof forced me to rivet my attention upon him. His eyes were hypnotic, mysterious and full of mischief, unlike in the beginning of our conversation when they appeared sad and depressed. Electrifyingly dancing back and forth with such amazing speed I thought they might dance themselves right out of their own sockets.

After underhandedly supplanting a fear of unknown origin within me, unexpectedly my heart’s rhythm began slowing down. In catching me completely unaware, I gasped from the swift suddenness of the change. It slowed so much that each new heartbeat became louder and more pronounced than the previous as the spasmodic muscle began echoing in my eardrums.

“Oh my God!” I screamed in my mind when I thought I might be having a heart attack. But within a few seconds I un- assuredly dismissed that idea because I felt no chest pain associated with one.

In shifting my thoughts to the stranger as I glared into his eyes, an ever darker and more sinister appeal seemed to suddenly latch upon his face.

In rapidly wondering if he could mentally cause a heart attack upon someone using telepathy, such an unheard of power caused me to emotionally become further unglued.

I kept wondering just who or what are you? I knew by now that I was suddenly dealing with something that was much more powerful than I could imagine. His baleful expression omitted great uneasiness.

In realizing that I still had the ability to reason, I knew my brain was functioning normally. But that was a small blessing, for if I weren’t able to move after thinking about ways to defend myself; it would still render me helpless as a small child.

Besieged by a cacophony of impressions and emotion of just who this guy is and what he was doing, frightful desperation suddenly became my modus operandi to survive.

My mind franticly searched for what to do. I must confess with my heart being forced into a near death-like rhythm, the thought of possibly dying got greater with each passing second, sending a profound fear to encroach the outer boundaries of my mind. My stretched-out emotions allowed logic and common sense to be overshadowed by this ever-increasing fear within.

I thought it very strange, however, when I sensed the people seated around me were oblivious to my fast developing predicament. It was like this stuff wasn’t even taking place in front of them, cementing even further those feelings of helplessness that were rapidly swirling impetuously inside of me.

I knew complete incapacitation had unfortunately arrived when archaic feelings of forced surrender seemed to swallow me. With the last of my energy and ability to resist the stranger flowing out of me, it certainly felt I was rapidly dying and that my life would soon be over. Fast reducing blood pressure left me stultified from the sudden lack of oxygen my body needed to function properly. I prayed no harm would come to me especially from the fast transition of the sudden chemical imbalance I was experiencing.

After about fifteen or twenty seconds this unknown sensation abruptly ceased, leaving me with an extremely slowed heartbeat of less than, probably, sixty beats per minute. My body temperature continued to drop dangerously lower with each passing second giving birth to a maligning stillness that was disturbingly unsettling. With now having overwhelming and undeniable proof that the stranger’s intent upon me was anything but good, the situation had become frightfully alarming. In other words, I was scared shitless.

An ensuing cold from the lack of proper blood flow was intensely numbing and was becoming my most immediate threat to stay alive. Breathing precariously became cumbersome, raspy and damn difficult, forcing me to breathe through my mouth. I wasn’t even allowed to shiver, as my body temperature felt like it was approaching freezing. And now freezing to death was becoming a virtual possibility.

I needed to quickly understand what was going on and why. Time was running out. By this time my brain felt half-frozen to its surrounding skull. Just to have a thought was becoming darn difficult. I began to frantically exert my focus to my freezing brain for, hopefully, execution of nerve impulses for stimulation and warmth. I didn’t know what else to do. I did not want to die today.

My mental exertion was so great that it unhinged a usually propitious brain while being in this extreme frightful emotional state. It was extended in ways I’ve never imagined, as I desperately and frantically fought to resist whatever was happening to me just to stay alive.

As a result, bizarre images silhouetted by the face of the stranger suddenly began filling my now precarious mind, weird stuff that I’ve only seen either at the movies or on the sci-fi channel. Assorted demons with twisted faces were flashing in and out of my head. I was wondering if the damn Devil was coming to get me and if eternal damnation was just around the corner.

Painful twisted smiles on disfigured demonic faces fore- fronted mammoth piles of human corpses. I could sense the smell of the stench from the rotting flesh. It reminded of the savagery of Adolph Hitler during World War II, but only on a much grander scale. Dogs were heard hysterically yipping in the background.

Did these images have any meaning at all? I had no idea what they meant, if anything. And I began to wonder if I had a one-way ticket to meet the Devil.

But at one point all those hellish images abruptly stopped and were supplanted by an image of a small boy who was probably five or six. He was naked and seated in a metal chair much too large for him, with his knees not able to extend past the front edge of it. A subliminal expression of creepiness punctuated his sunken and darkened eyes. A ghostly white complexion made him appear ghoulish. His wrists and ankles were restrained with heavy rope to the arms of that chair. He appeared to be a lost in a place unearthly and evil.

But, the image really made my nuts churn when I saw the face of the boy. He disturbingly resembled me; further jettisoning my soul into darker territory. And, as I stared into his abhorred face, his dark demonic-like eyes suddenly spun up to touch mine, startling me so bad that I thought I was going to die right then. The entire scene was way too intense for a predisposed human disposition such as mine.

The gentleman, no longer can I describe him as such, was no doubt someone with a much-maligning character. I was totally convinced that he was evil in the absolute worst way and at one point thought that he was an actual instrument of Satan himself.

I could no longer afford to second-guess him. As I continued to hypnotically return his odd stare, in my mind he took on the appearance of a street-wise two-bit hustler, someone who was very confident and self-assured with whatever he was doing. The corners of mouth began to have an occasional slight upward twitch, like the nerve endings were being electrically jolted to purposely reveal a slight bothersome and haunting smile underneath. His expression was malicious and extremely bothersome.

I thought, is he some kind of damn satanic sociopath?

Suddenly, as I continued to be in this near death-like state of mind, he smiled at me in a demeaning and contemptuous way to say, “Why do you say that? Did I say something to upset you?” all the while fully knowing that he had me by my non-sensuous balls. His sudden words yanked me away from those absorbed hellish images to remind me of my last words spoken, which were ‘man; this conversation is getting a little too weird for me.’ Unbelievably, he was still trying to make himself appear naïve about everything he was doing.

Then in what appeared in my vision to be a complete blur, much like an image created when fast-forwarding on a video player, he dramatically repositioned himself squarely in his seat to look down toward the floor in front of him once again.

When his eyes darted away, the physical entrapment of his perverse telepathy suddenly stopped, allowing me to exhaustedly collapse into my seat gasping for each new breath. In automatically embracing the release of his psychological stranglehold, it sent my blood rushing through me, gorging me and forcing me to hold onto my seat from the sudden swiftness of it. The rapid rush of adrenalin was actively emphatic and could have easily done me more harm than good. But, in continually having to catch my breath, it was all I could do just to stay glued in my seat as my body was rapidly adjusting itself back to normal chemical levels.

And after a few minutes of being jolted back to reality, the quick transformation began to level off as it got nearer to completing. I remained in my seat to calm myself and to gather in some composure. With the odd stares I was now getting from travelers seated next to me, I now feared I might be carted off somewhere to be questioned for behaving strangely if I didn’t gather in some decorum.

But, I still remained puzzled by the fact that while I was under the spell of the stranger, my situation remained unnoticed. Could someone not see our odd behavior of the two of us staring at each other? They acted as if I was still seated decorously in my seat reading my newspaper. I could only look upon them confusingly.

I began to wonder why did the stranger target me to perform such mental theatrics on? Why put me through such a twisted affair when he doesn’t know me or I of him? Even though I deduced he used the Internet to obtain my personal information, I didn’t know for sure. To question him about anything might stir him to act on impulse to start all over. I definitely didn’t want to experience those awful and sadistic images again, so I decided to ask him nothing.

But, after several minutes when I finally got strong enough to muster up enough courage just to glance at him, I did so. He now appeared like a wandering soul, homeless perhaps. With control of most of my faculties back, I reasoned maybe he has a prescribed medical condition that causes him to act out such vilifying behavior.

Regardless, I now undoubtedly knew he has a powerful mind. When he placed those decadent images within me to have me at the doorway of Hell, seemingly, I knew I couldn’t challenge such strength and expect to win.

But, just to let him know that I wasn’t intimidated by his odd behavior, I gave him a long, firm and leering look before speaking to him in an upbeat and gleeful way, saying, “Hey buddy, I just got to tell you that I have ten brothers and sisters just like you. Thank goodness all of mine are still alive!”

I wanted my calculated and spirited comment to sting a little and make him think twice before opening his seemingly discerning mouth next time. I wanted to let him know that I was on to him and the cruel game he was playing. He didn’t need to know that I actually did have ten brothers and sisters. That was weird enough.

However, he remained mysteriously motionless. And as I glared at him, I dared him to say anything so I could verbally knock him down.

What if he was an actual escapee from some mental institution? Unlikely, but one never knows for sure about these kinds of things. Should I continue to think that he’s being malevolent at my expense? This stranger had me questioning my own validity of past proven abilities to exercise better judgment.

To be quite frank, I wasn’t quite sure what to think of him.

With him totally ignoring me, again I came to the conclusion that there was only one thing left to do. And that was to end this meeting, hopefully with a little self-preservation intact.

So, I said to him in a sympathetic sounding voice to try and respectfully end our conversation, “Hey look, Phil, I didn\'t mean to upset you. It\'s just we have so much in common. I\'m almost afraid to talk to you any more. Our conversation has become extremely weird, that\'s all.”

After a slight upward twist of his neck, his foreboding ominous eyes damn frightful I must tell you, quickly shot up from the floor with a poignant glaze to them to firmly rest upon me. Unbelievably, he looked even more crazed, like some damn psycho or killer perhaps. Again he thoroughly scared me so bad that I thought I might actually wet my pants. His eyes were not just bloodshot anymore. They were entirely red, bloodlike as if belonging to an actual demon. I even had a fleeting thought that the damn Devil was lurking behind them.

His frightful face, beginning to glisten from forming beads of sweat, had a twisted perverseness to it like it had just exited Hell. Ice-cold chills raced through me as I instantly became more submerged in this overpowering fear.

I was totally convinced during those ten or so seconds when he revealed to me such a devastating looking face that he was actually Satan himself. He looked pure evil and I really thought he still had me marked for death. I was never ever so afraid of anything before.

Then if acting in some play, in dramatic fashion he turned away from me, throwing his hands up to cover his nightmarish face to seemingly wanting to hide it. It was like he knew what he had become and now for some unknown reason was ashamed of it. He began to sob as if on cue from some playwright’s script.

I began screaming in my mind that all of this crap is way too bizarre for reality. I questioned that very thought - is this really happening to me? Was I at home in bed dreaming this stuff? I could hear the rusty screws beginning to squeak as they loosen my sanity. His continuing strange behavior made me feel like I was being sucked into some unknown darkness where again the predacious Devil waited to welcome me. At will, he certainly seemed to be provoking me into thinking self-abnegation.

Then, as I leered at him while he was still covering that horrible face, a mumble began to emit itself from in-between his fingers.

He said, “If only I would\'ve told Stan that I loved him before he died.”

His words were so seemingly prophetic, quickly icing-over every pore of my skin. With my personal nightmare continuing, I shockingly now discover that his dead brother has the same name as me. And for some unknown reason the title of my own obituary instantly flashed before me saying, Mysterious Man Dies A Horrible Death As A Result Of Plane Crash!

The pilot of this ill-fated plane would be this guy. I clearly could see him laughing the entire time the plane was going down and then crashing into the ground. He seemed that crazed.

Why couldn’t it happen? What’s to stop me from dying this way? In having the same name as his dead brother, it just parallels with so many other things that were similar with him. I was just one snap of a stretched thread away from emotionally losing it.

‘Why are you doing this to me? I don’t even know you!’ I screamed in my mind. By this time, however, my emotions had become so exhaustingly extended that I don’t think I could have spoken with any kind of resemblance of someone with an education.

Then he suddenly sat up in his seat and lowered his hands to shockingly reveal his initial former self, the same charismatic individual who was so emotionally distraught at the onset of our conversation.

I thought, ‘Man, you’re just too doggone weird! Just how in the hell do you do that?’ He had me so confused that I didn’t know what to think about him.

Then he surprisingly said, “You know, Stan, maybe we should just end our conversation right here.” And without any more said, he got up to walk over to the other side of the waiting area to lean against the wall.

And just like that our conversation was over.

My eyes remained firmly attached to him as he walked away. With the back of his clothing wrinkled and wet from sweat, and with his slow walk and hunched shoulders, he appeared pathetic and even destitute. Regardless, I was damn happy to be rid of him.

Then, a sudden announcement came blasting across the P.A. to say, Flight 119 to Chicago will be boarding in ten minutes. Please have your tickets and a picture ID available at the gate. Thank you.

I was certainly glad to hear that, or was I? I must now decide if I still wanted to board that plane to Chicago. The prospect of dying at all, especially in such a violent way, had me shimmering in my shoes.

Would getting on that plane seal my doom, my own death as I certainly thought only a few moments ago when the stranger had me in his psychological grip? He had me so paranoid about my own existence that I would have sworn by up and down to my grandmother that my own death was prominent.

And as I continued to look at him and now that I was almost again my logical thinking self, I tried to understand and reason why he did this. Why me? However, I remained mystified as to his behavior.

I despised him for what he put me through, but I also have to have respect for such a power, unnerving as it is. With both hands in his pants’ pockets and with one foot propped up against the wall for support, the stranger appeared to be scanning others to exercise his mind control on. I looked away in disgust.

As my transformation back to my former self was very near completion, along with the return of my strength, it permitted me to come to the inevitable conclusion that it’ll be a cold day in Hell before I’ll allow someone to sway me again in a direction that I didn’t want to go.

Even though the experience will remain lodged in my head for a very long time, I cannot allow myself to give it much credence. After all, those nightmarish images took place only in my head and not in the real world. I was the victim of a twisted individual who wanted to amuse himself.

And so, after accepting these thoughts as sound and true, I decided to board my scheduled flight to Chicago.

…After getting on the plane and locating my assigned seat, I reached into my shirt pocket to remove a stick of gum. I always like to be chewing gum as the plane pressurizes, it’s easier on the eardrums. I could fully relax now and enjoy my flight after pushing that nightmarish experience of the stranger further behind me.

As the plane rolled down the runway, the engines increasing rpm’s caused its noise level to increase, making me momentarily paranoid of possible engine trouble. And when those jitters came, that imagined obituary once again flashed across my mind. But soon the plane was off the ground and in the air to begin it’s ascent to its pre-programmed flight altitude, erasing my worries. It truly felt fantastic to be finally on my way to Chicago. As the plane soared higher and higher I kept breathing sighs of relief. ‘So far, so good.’

I’ve always enjoyed flying. In looking out my window to view the Earth below has always been a scintillating experience. Rugged Mountain peaks, winding rivers, deep blue lakes and the white majestic clouds all below remind me of godly things, making me appreciate them and feel the way God must have felt after he created them. It’s absolutely astounding to see such beauty. And when the plane is either taking off from an airport or approaching to land somewhere, the city with all its tall buildings and cars look so tiny and insignificant. It’s always a pleasure to fly the friendly skies.

Plus, the stewardesses are always gorgeous and courteous of your every need. Strangers who could care less of who you are lost in their own world just like me. They sit next to you living similar lives and having similar needs, but yet are totally different.

In now having a fresh perspective of my life (near death-like experiences will do that), I wouldn’t change anything I got going for myself. It just makes me appreciate that much more of who I am and what I have.

Suddenly the pilot was heard saying, the altitude we will be flying at on our trip to Chicago will be at 35,000 feet. Please keep your seatbelt fastened until you see the lighted sign directly in front of you go off. Thank you and enjoy your flight.

Since I was very tired from all the brouhaha I just experienced, I decided it would be nice to take a short nap, if I could, so I would be more fresh and alert when the plane touched down at O’Hare Airport. I was pretty emotionally drained. I leaned my seat back, stretched my legs out as far as I could and closed my eyes. The now soft hum of the engines had a seducing affect on me and soon I was in a deep sleep, almost coma-like my wife always likes to tell me.

…I have no idea how long I was asleep before I felt a gentle tap on my arm. I dismissed the interruption since I felt I needed the rest.

Then, moments later I heard a faint voice sounding a long distance away. Again I chose to ignore it. Sleep first, talk later was the order of things for the moment.

“Hey buddy, wake up! You better wake up, mister!” an unknown voice, abrupt and screaming like a banshee interrupted my unconsciousness. I cracked an eyelid open to see a stranger’s face no further away than six inches from my own, giving me an expression that startled the stuffing out of me. This time I knew I was unfortunately awake to stay.

He kept wildly screaming “Wake up! Save your soul! The plane\'s going down! The plane’s going down!”

Instantaneously, his words shot through me like a prophecy from Hell.

I quickly sprang out of my seat, noticing terrified passengers screaming amid mass hysteria! Oxygen masks were covering most people’s faces as they were gasping for oxygen. I spotted a busted out window three rows up, hence the reason for no cabin pressure.

Then it dawned on me…”Oh No! Oh God! No! This can’t be happening!” Right away my thoughts turned to the stranger at the airport.

“Could the stranger…? No, impossible! I dare not think that!” I openly said to myself.

Then the terrified individual warning me of what was ahead interrupted me again.

“Save your soul, man! WE’RE ALL GOING DIE!” Suddenly he turns away to run back to his seat.

Frantically attempting to strap himself into it, he began to fumble with the belt buckle because of probable nerves shot to hell, unable to make it work. Then, after several seconds he finally gave up on it, sat up perfectly straight in his seat motionless, sweating profusely to await his immediate doom.

I quickly realized I had no time either after seeing such terrified expressions of sheer horror on him and others. My instincts for survival were propelling me to do something, anything, to try and save myself.

So I lunged toward the aisle, throwing myself up and over the laps of passengers seated next to me who were frantically screaming. I think they were too hysterical to even notice me doing so.

I had to reach the cockpit and in a hurry, to know if what I thought was real and actually taking place. I hoped not, but I greatly feared it. In my desperation I fell to the aisle floor, banging my head hard on the way down. But with my adrenalin pumping bullets, I felt nothing. An overwhelming surge of strength made me feel unstoppable.

I struggled to get to my feet, knocking over other passengers who were in my way. Immediately I took off running toward the cockpit door at full tilt, tensing my body for the impact only seconds away. And, after slamming my shoulder into it as hard as I possibly could, the door flew wildly open!

…And there, in the pilot’s seat only a few feet away from me sat the stranger, that deviant of nightmarish propaganda, his filthy hands firmly grasping the controls of the plane.

The sight of him instantly made my skin crawl and I began screaming at the top of my lungs, “It’s you! No, it can’t be!” Along with being emotionally at wits’ end over the realization that my nightmare was continuing, seething anger quickly inflamed every pore I owned. This whole affair was pushing me to the point of complete utter madness. I must do something to save myself, even kill him to halt this unfolding insanity. I didn’t want to take it anymore. I don’t know if I could.

That damned demon, that disturbing distributor of devilish images, assuredly he ought to be called that by now, continued to be arrogant when he jokingly said without turning around, “I told you I was going to my brother’s funeral! Yours!” An abrupt sarcastic chuckle crackled from his lips, sending my seething anger boiling to a higher degree. And in the process pushing me closer to that perilous edge of no return, that final edge of utter madness!

As my rage boiled within, I screamed, “I’m not your brother, you sick bastard! He’s alive, well and living in Chicago! You’re some creature from Hell!”

Again as if on cue from some scripted play, and as cool as a cucumber he methodically turned around in his seat, looking as calm as an actor who knew his lines all too well. And what I saw put all the pieces of this torrential nightmare together. I knew at that very moment, that magnifying split-second of incredible realization, that Eternal Damnation was going to be my destiny. That protuberant knot in my gut suddenly snarled itself so tight that I immediately doubled over in pain.

What he shockingly revealed to me, along with a giddy smile, was the face of my brother, Phil!

“No! It can’t be! You’re not real!” erupted from my mouth as my mania continued to teeter toward permanent sheer madness. Shocked totally numb, I could only stand there lost in horror as I felt my sanity quicken its pace toward obsoleteness.

My brother’s face, a personification of pure evil, was wildly sparkling with contempt as he said, “You’re partially correct, Stan. I am from Hell!”

My soul, mostly leftovers of missed opportunities gone by, suddenly began to have a slight burning sensation to it. With it quickly being absorbed by the warming darkness, its heat penetrated deep into the last pockets of resistance my flesh had to offer.

Continuing, he said, “I was killed last night, my brother. I was on a flight from Chicago to see you. I wanted to reconcile our past. But the plane was struck by lightening during that awful thunderstorm, sending it crashing to the ground into a huge fireball. My body was burned beyond recognition, along with everyone else of course.”

“And because I never made the time to worship the Other One, you know, the one up there,” he says as he mockingly points his dirt-encrusted finger skyward, “I soon found out that down there,” he points the same filthy digit downward, “was going to be my new home for all eternity. Now I’ll never again have that chance to try and solve our problems, Stan. And I blame you. You really pissed me off and now I’m going to make you pay for your arrogance…for all eternity!”

He paused for a moment to enjoy my misery before continuing, “I requested you as my first assignment from the Great Evil One.”

Smiling, Phil continues, “He’s not that bad, actually. You’ll learn to like him. Although you’ll never get used to the pain he so willing hands out to the ones who end up down there, the food is terrific!”

Then he calmly checks the clock on the instrument panel before further saying, “You’ve got one minute before we crash. Any last requests?” sneering all the while as he toyed with me.

My brother, now a damned servant of the Devil, perverse in the worst way and ever so glistening of sweat, gave me one last sarcastic smile before turning back around in his seat to continue steering the plane. He was obviously enjoying every second. I couldn’t help but notice the roar of the plane’s engines. They seemed to be grinding their way through my eardrums, as if clearing a passage to my soul to be swarmed over by the dark.

Upon seeing that my own brother was the stranger all along, a different kind of reality suddenly seared through me, burning me like a red-hot branding iron. Now that he’s getting his revenge against me for the pain I caused him for our personal differences, a dimension of resolute magnified horror took shape before my eyes, along with a gut feeling in knowing that this time the horror was going to last for all eternity.

Then those same images of damned demons with disfigured faces wearing twisted smiles running amok atop piles of rotting human flesh returned. The stench emitted from the rot was real this time, entering my senses and instantly causing me to throw up. I knew this time that my mind was his to do with as he pleased and that the horror of it all was never going to leave me. It would remain in my mind to haunt me forever, along with a new reality, one that offered no chance for reprieve. When the cold also returned, it caused me to gasp for each new breath, making my breathing raspy and cumbersome.

The stranger, that prognostic fellow who indubitably knew me very well has come back to take me home with him.

His first assignment will soon be completed and stamped as a job well done. His Master, the insatiable Lucifer, will be pleased that he acquired another lost soul. This I have become sure of.

Suddenly Phil looked back at me to sarcastically say before steering the plane into the ground, “Ten seconds to go before we’re blown to bits, Stan! Very soon you’ll know what real pain is like!” pausing just enough to enjoy my fear before turning his head back around.

Then his last words were “See you on the other side, brother!” immediately followed by a mad laugh erupting from his discerning mouth, an insane laugh that permeated the entire cockpit.

The burning darkness finally arrived to swallow me, like some last remaining tidbit to savor. And the pain, oh God – that awful piercing pain began to invade my flesh…


The End

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