Saturday, January 7, 2012


[Part 4 of the "Flights" series]

AFTER ALMOST AN HOUR of heavy traffic, rain began to ease through the dust and smoke rising from below the skyline, cleansing the concrete arteries of the city with each patter while little dark pools started to lengthen one minute after another. As sunlight strained through the rolling clouds, the neon lights flickered to life, casting their faint glow against the bleak afternoon and the cars that lined the highway. The lanes seemed impenetrable, but by the time there was enough space to squeeze through the alley adjunct to where all the vehicles crept, the driver steered to the right and the taxi was suddenly free to plot its own course. The detour took Abel to unknown roads and narrow streets flanked by tenements and houses he imagined heaven has long forsaken, as though their salvation long due has been delayed time and again by some contagion hatched in the bellies of the underworld where bureaucrats thrive with wine and fellow swine. By the bank where the river has swollen, children basked under thunder and lightning, their bodies nourished by a hundred midday suns and nurtured by a thousand tasteless meals on better days. For the next thirty minutes, the cab scaled a number of corners eternally sealed from the strokes of wealth, until, at last, the control tower revealed itself in the distance.

Abel got off close enough to where the center of the terminal imposed itself upon those who lay their eyes on it, gesturing as if to marvel at a monument for people who arrive as fast as they leave. He walked along the concrete lane toward the entrance ahead, beseeching the memory of nine years ago with his hand on his scar. He began to hasten his pace, his pulse quickened by his motions and a gut instinct of things to come. When he was already before the automatic sliding doors of the entrance, he paused. The doors opened, parting to offer a view of the lobby, but he did not move. For several seconds when the interior light illuminated his skin, his shirt loosened its hold on his chest though his jeans, much like the socks on his feet, remained as wet as the rest of his body. Cold air escaped through the doors and brushed against him. Finally, the glass panels slid back to their position, shutting his way toward the crowd inside. But Abel did not care. After all, it was the wrong door for the right destination.

He walked straight along the walkway, past the parking lot where the vehicles caught the last glow of sunset, and at the metal fence where a small passage led to the backdoor of the hangar. The feeling of having been able to return after being forcibly separated from his work sunk in him a sense of triumph and treachery. This is where his career has been molded, only to be taken away on short notice after twenty years. Abel sulked in his reverie. On his first day as technician — a misnomer, for later on he would assume different roles along with others at the behest of the superiors — the company was in a promising start. At the time, the government has just relinquished its hold on the airline monopoly, and the company had the means to take the stead. The contract was worth billions, a sum enough to send the momentous sale rippling across the pages of history books, even if the real value of the stocks was in a quicksand. Abel was not the one to complain then. He had a family to support, notwithstanding a newborn to raise through the years. It was enough that his salary could lift him from the gallows of hunger. Principles, it seemed to him then, have no place in a starving belly.

But that was then.

Past the crates and cranes, the planes at bay for maintenance, the few men waiting for their next overnight task, out of the hangar, into the tarmac and up the flight of stairs that snaked to the third floor, Abel calmly walked. Around him were eyes of men and security cameras. He was fully aware of their furtive glances, but somehow not one seemed to have signaled alarm and suspicion. On the contrary, it was as if they urged him to step further, prodding him to shed his doubts and replace them with conviction, leading him to where his destiny waited for him to claim his immortality. He moved about, his footsteps certain as to where they were supposed to land, until he stopped by the door at the end of the hallway. He forced his way inside the room. The knob fell off the door and rolled on the brown floor carpet, hitting the leather shoes of the man whose sole presence was the only sign of life that graced the office at seven that night.

Abel drew the gun from his waist and closed the gap between him and the man. He cocked the magnum and pointed it at the man's forehead. Abel's heart raged against his chest, his mind suddenly jubilant at the thought of taking the life of one who has never gone beyond the crust of a sheltered life spent mostly behind desks, plotting the fate of the company and its employees with the stroke of the corporate pen and the signing of a hundred or so letters of termination every other year. The man bowed his head as if to recognize the certainty of the bullets about to punctuate his life. Abel pulled the trigger six times.

Not a single bullet was fired, for there was none.

Part 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5

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