Please treat this as a work of fiction. Don’t believe any of it. All this just stems from my imagination. Of course, for it to be scary, you have to entertain the option that it could have happened. And consider that, if it would have happened, someone might have entered the plane just before we were allowed to leave. This someone, if any of this would have happened, said he had a copy of the passenger register, complete with addresses and personal details; and he would have told us that we were never to speak about any of it. He would have said “Or else –” and every single person in the plane would have understood what he meant.
I walked behind other passengers through the white metal gangway. I was ready for the flight, eight hours and five minutes, as usual. I stopped, half-way, quickly pulled the zipper on my suitcase open and felt the inside pocket. I relaxed when I felt the box of airsickness pills behind the soft cloth. People were already pushing past me. I’m not sure what I would have done if the box hadn’t been there.
You get used to frequent travelling, but I think everybody is a liar that claims that you get used to the flights themselves. You can find a strategy to deal with the jetlag, but there just isn’t any working strategy to deal with the flight itself.
The stewardesses with their perfectly ironed white shirts smiled, glanced at the tickets and waved each of us in the right direction. I wondered whether stewardesses get used to flying.
The first hours are always fine. Sit down, wait for the welcome snack or, depending on the time, a full meal and then try to sleep. That’s what most people do and I think it’s usually around the fourth or fifth hour when the painful part begins. That’s the time when the first people finally give their desperate attempts to sleep up and instead begin to snack, talk, or somehow else make noise.
If you are courageous or simply can’t stand the fact that you will sit for eight hours next to a strange you introduce yourself to the person in the seat next to yours.
I was in the aisle seat, and the young couple next to me was cuddling. Katja sat in the window seat, her boyfriend Sam between us in the middle. I think that’s one of those situations where traditional gender roles come out: It’s never the other way around. No man, if he can avoid it, will let his girl sit next to a male stranger for eight hours. And I think the woman or girl likes it that way; secretly, I think, every woman enjoys the feeling that she is protected. And secretly, if you must know, every man enjoys it too – but we are not allowed to show it. The protector needs to be courageous and pretend that he doesn’t need protection.
Sam was the one to break the ice.
“Hi.” Sam said. “As we’re sitting next to each other for half a day I thought we should at least know each other’s names.”
He awkwardly stretched his hand for a handshake; I shook it and introduced myself too. Then he introduced “my girlfriend Katja”. Sometimes spelling out the obvious seems necessary to demarcate your territory.
We compared foods and laughed about the size of the knife and fork, but our conversation did not lead much further. When they finished Katja placed her head on Sam’s shoulder, he wrapped his arm around her – one of those positions that looks cute but hurts both after a few minutes – and they both tried to sleep.
I leafed through a magazine; around the time I too decided to sleep Sam slowly moved his arm out from behind Katja. I laughed to myself and closed my eyes.
The shaking of the seat in front of me woke me up. The chair’s inhabitant, a bald man with a gray sweater, was leaning forward and violently digging through his bag. I heard him cursing under his breath.
I sighed and was ready to close my eyes again. Katja was asleep, but Sam too had his eyes open and focused on the man in front of us. Through the gap between the seats Sam glared right at him.
Quickly the man turned around, stopped moving, stared at Sam and then pushed himself out of the chair and walked past me down the corridor.
Except for the steady airplane hum the room was quiet again. I closed my eyes.
I heard first the scream, then the punch. By the time I turned around the man was lying on the floor with two other men, dressed in black, punching and kicking his body. The man was shielding his face with his right arm. His left hand held onto a small, shiny metal object.
The people on the seats near the fights began to protest and told them men to stop.
The men in black stopped kicking the man with the gray sweater and the bald head. “We are air marshals.” Said one of them.
The loud protests stopped, but I heard the disagreeing whispers, disagreeing with their brutality.
A blond man from the back of the plane suddenly got up and ran towards the fight. He screamed something in a language that sounded to me like Russian.
The two men in black turned around, but before they were able to react a third black-clad man jumped out of his seat and tackled the runner from the side. The two other men ran towards the two combatants on the floor and started kicking the runner’s head. The runner was still screaming for at least ten seconds – then, suddenly, he stopped. But the men kept kicking him.
I was nearly at the other end of the plane, but some of the passengers closer to the scene shouted at the marshals to stop hurting him. One of the stewardesses was standing nearby with her mouth wide open; another one had run towards the cockpit.
When they finally stepped away from the body the first two air marshals went back to the first man, the one that was still lying on the floor.
The third air marshal stood up.
“Please stay calm.” He shouted. “Everything is under control.”
He said a few more sentences, but I didn’t pay attention. What I was looking at were the first two air marshals and the bald man. The marshals were wresting something from his hand; the small metal object that I had noticed before.
I saw that it was a metal cylinder, thinner but as tall as a beer can; then it disappeared in one of the marshals’ pockets.
“You will regret this.” Said the bald man.
“No.” Said one of the marshals. “You will regret this.”
They pulled both of the men, the blond one that wasn’t moving anymore, as well as the bald one that was struggling to get free, to the back of the plane.
They drew the curtains shut, but it didn’t help. We heard the screams for hours.
I can promise you, those weren’t just screams of someone already in pain; those were screams of someone receiving new pain.
A few times I heard the bald man scream “I don’t know anything. I didn’t do anything.” But most of the time I only heard whispers between the screams.
The rest of the plane was dead silent. Nobody dared to speak, but it was obvious that everybody was hearing it happening.
“I’m scared.” Whispered Katja.
“Don’t be scared.” Said Sam. “I’ll ask them to stop.”
“No, don’t!” Said Katja. “Please don’t.”
“Don’t worry.” Sam said. “I’ll be fine.”
“Don’t. Please don’t!” Said Katja.
She held tightly on his arm, but Sam was already getting up. He brushed her off.
“Don’t go.” Katja said. “They are crazy.”
“They are marshals.” Sam said. “I’ll tell them that I will report them if they don’t stop.”
Just in that moment a loud moan of pain came from the back.
I turned my knees to the side to let them through.
“Are you sure you want to go?” I asked.
Sam pushed past me.
“Please.” Said Katja. “Please don’t.”
“Would you like me to come along?” I asked and immediately regretted asking.
Sam turned to Katja. “This is wrong.” Sam said. “You know I can’t just sit and let bad things happen.”
“Please.” Katja said.
Sam looked at her, then turned to me.
“No thanks.” Sam said to me.
Katja and my eyes weren’t the only ones on Sam. The whole plane seemed to be watching while he quickly walked towards the back, then he slowed down. He stopped walking when the screams stopped.
He turned around to look at Katja.
“Come back.” Katja mouthed.
Another moan of pain went through the plane.
Sam shook his head, turned and walked towards the closed curtain in the back.
A woman in the second-to-last row grabbed Sam’s arm. She said something that I couldn’t understand; Sam nodded. The woman, a heavy-set brunette in a dark pantsuit, followed Sam.
The moans of pain stopped when they pulled the curtain open.
Someone said “Help.”
“You have to stop.” Said Sam very loudly.
“You are breaking the law.” Added the lady.
The curtain was pulled shut. Someone laughed.
There was a loud thud; the lady screamed. Then her screams were interrupted and started anew, in a higher note.
Her screams were occasionally interrupted, and then began again. I jumped up and ran to the back; several other men did the same.
Before we reached one of the marshals pulled part of the curtain open and pointed a gun at us.
“Stop!” He screamed.
We stopped running, but, all speaking at the same time, demanded to see Sam and the lady.
“No.” Said the marshal. “We are the law here and you sit down or you will be arrested.”
We were arguing with the marshal, but nothing helped. More and more people got up and stepped towards the curtain. One of the other men moved to pull the curtain away, but the marshal kicked after him and aimed the gun at the man’s head and the men walked slowly back towards the group.
A second marshal pushed one of the catering trolleys into the doorway and locked the breaks. While the first marshal was still aiming his gun at us the second one began to pile things into the doorway.
We heard the woman whimpering at the other side of the curtain.
We were shouting and screaming, but every time someone stepped closer to the curtain the marshal aimed his gun at the person’s head.
We were still arguing with the marshal, but the guy didn’t say anything, he just grinned.
The stewardesses all seemed to be gone; some other passengers tried to alarm the captain – but the door to the cockpit was locked.
Behind the marshal the occasional moans of pain returned – and once in a while the woman’s wailing was audible.
Some of us stepped away from the curtain to discuss what to do – just in that moment the captain announced that we were going to land and that all ought to sit down and use their seatbelts.
At first we all simply stayed in place, but soon someone near a window said it wasn’t a ruse and that it was better to sit. I just hoped that on the ground the police would be waiting.
The plane landed softly; no one applauded.
It taxied to the building and we saw and heard the gangway being connected. Some men were already back, standing in the aisle and arguing with the marshal. Katja was curled in her seat and crying; I tried to calm her down.
By the time the gangway was connected the moaning as well as the wailing had stopped.
But they connected two gangways: One in the front and one in the back of the plane. The front was still locked, but we heard people entering and talking in the back, behind the curtain. The marshal was still standing in the same place, with his gun targeted at one of the passengers.
For about five minutes there was shuffling, it sounded as if something heavy was carried away.
Then I heard Sam’s scream. It was faint, as if he was already in the gangway; and it lasted only a moment – then a shot pierced the air. Sam’s scream had stopped.
Passengers screamed and tried to run through the back towards Sam, but the marshal and the barrier stopped them. Katja cried.
A stewardess came out of the cockpit to open the door to the front gateway. Katja still cried when another three men in black suits entered through the front gangway. The marshal with the gun was still standing in the same place in the back.
One of the men that entered through the front began to speak. He told us that nothing had happened, that everything was under control. He refused to answer any questions. He ordered everyone to be quiet. Then he said we should never say a thing about what happened.
“Or else –” he said.
Then he smiled, glanced over the passengers, turned around and walked back out through the gangway.
A few minutes later a stewardess came to tell us that we were allowed to go. First slowly, then in a rush the passengers streamed through the front gate. Katja and I walked towards the back to get Sam. A few other passengers were still left.
“Go.” Said the marshal.
“Not without them.” Said one of the passengers.
“They are not here anymore.” Said the marshal.
He pulled the curtain aside and stepped back. There was no sign of the other marshals or the bald man or the blond man or the woman – or Sam.
The only thing I saw was the blood on the floor.
“Go.” Said the marshal. “They will meet you outside.”
We waited for a few seconds, looked at the scene – until the marshal again closed the curtain.
“Go.” He said.
I pulled Katja towards the front and grabbed our luggage on the way.
She didn’t say anything; she just cried.
On the gangway I slipped my business card in Katja’s pocket.
“Call me.” I said. “I’ll help you however I can.”
Two police officers – regular police officers – met us at the way out. They asked for Katja and another woman and ordered the rest of us to go. We protested and told them that they should enter the plane to look at the blood.
They ordered us to go and that else we would be arrested. Katja and the other woman told us to leave them.
It’s been nearly a week. I haven’t heard from Katja.
This is my story, originally I published it on Reddit.