Sunday, January 8, 2012

To Be Alive and Powerless

[Last part of the "Flights" series]

WHEN ENRICO TAN opened his eyes and first felt the surge of pain rioting through the veins in his temples, Abel was already gone. Enrico immediately tried to move but the duct tape held him back to the chair, straining him the more he attempted to break free. He pushed his limbs forward yet his feeble strength betrayed his will. Bowing his head in his desperate bid to regain his composure, Enrico saw a note stapled to his belt:

"How does it feel to be powerless while sitting on your throne?"

Unable to release himself from his momentary detention, Enrico surrendered his eyes to the sight beyond the windows. At first, there was darkness and the tens of light bulbs that glowed in the night. Then there was the sound of an airplane closing the distance between the sky and the earth, and another far whistling that signaled the departure of another flight. But something went strange.

Enrico thought his vision was deceiving him. His skull must have been handed a mighty blow before he lost his consciousness, or his brain must have shaken, rattled perhaps by what could have been an early appointment with death, six bullets probably sculpting his cranium like chisel digging through soft wood. But Enrico knew he was still alive. He remembered how Abel pulled the trigger six times, his grin accentuating the face of vengeance as he held the magnum, and yet not a single bullet darted out of the barrel of the gun. Looking down, Enrico observed his chest heave as he breathed. He was sure he did not die, or at least maybe not yet, but the view outside defied the limits of logic. Almost thirty years of doing business in that office where the windows faced a stretch of the runway, this was the first time he was able to witness the absurdity of flight.

It was not that the planes kept coming and going. It was that they were coming and going in a strange way.

At the same time when Enrico found himself struck by the peculiar incident, Abel stood at the end of the tarmac, his wet shirt flapping with the wind left at the wake of each plane that ascended and descended ahead. Abel, too, was initially surprised, but his shock was readily replaced with sentiments that ferried his heavy heart to a state of earthly bliss. He could somehow see the airplanes float in the air until they start to disappear far into the ebony sky. With his fingers, Abel wiped away the mist and drops of rain that smothered his eyeglasses. With the lenses back in front of his eyes, he saw some of the other planes grinding to a full stop near the opposite end of the airport. He did not fully understand what was happening, and, somehow, he was delighted he did not.

I think I saw it, too, although I am wordless as to why it happened, but I will narrate a brief account nonetheless: things were in reverse. The airplanes moved differently. They raced through the runway with their tail first and the fuselage behind until they have begun their steady climb, still with their tail leading the way toward greater heights. Even those that descended behaved in the same perplexing manner; the rear section was the first to safely make contact with the concrete, followed by the screeching of the tires beneath the cockpit. Other than that, everything else was normal.

We know that Enrico is still alive. He remains ensconced on his luxurious throne even though his force is too weak to help him liberate his body, his fingers even, from a helpless predicament. Try as he might, his efforts to break free and his unrelenting grunts can only go as far as making him abruptly defecate in his corporate pants, soiling cotton and linen with pure organic fertilizer. Enrico may want to scream as he had done for the last thirty minutes, but the chambers and acoustics of the hallway could do no more than reduce his cries into whimpers, petty howls drowning in the thick noise of the turbine engines of the airplanes pushing back and forth the airport. We know those things, but we are just about to learn where Abel is to be found, for he was no longer standing at the end of the tarmac. I will tell you where he is:

Sitting alone by a table for two, Abel moistened his lips, his tongue gently wetting his dry mouth and the little cracks that line the edges of that tender but thin flesh where four summers of solitude have tempered an unspeakable drought, each a season of yearning beyond recognition. He could see the short distance ahead through his eyeglasses. Everyone seemed busy, even with doing nothing.

A woman whose face is caked with powder and rouge hurriedly passed by for the fifth time, dragging with her stubby arms and fingers a heavy luggage that looked as though she had the rest of her life in tow, her shoddy dreams rammed inside what limited space the bag could offer. It was Martha. She has finally returned — from Hong Kong or from the grave, Abel could not really tell. She did not notice him. He was sure that their eyes met several times but she continued passing by, as though he was not there at all. The moment he got on his feet and hurried to catch-up with her, she was gone, her momentary presence failing to leave any evidence to prove that she was there together with the unfamiliar people that crowded the place.

A few minutes into his solitude in the company of strangers at the lobby, Abel began to trace his steps back to where Enrico was, a king imprisoned in his own little cellar of power, a bourgeoisie who has now fallen asleep from his futile attempts to escape. Upon reaching the office door, Abel slid his hand into his pocket and searched. He found all six of them nestling inside a small purse. One by one, he picked and loaded each into his instrument of justice.

Within ten seconds, six shots were fired, their sound muffled by the noise of flights, of airplanes straining up steep slopes in the air with their tails first and nose last.

Part 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5

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