JeremyJenki-It wasn’t food or water which ran out first. It was patience.
“Let us out! Let us out!” we chanted, over and over. They had us trapped behind a thick sheet of Plexiglas, running all around the entire body of the aircraft. We had thought nothing of the delay at first, but the pilot’s increasingly frantic updates over the PA, coupled with the burgeoning security forces around the perimeter, soon made it clear that far more sinister was at play.
Two hours in, the crew deployed the emergency landing chutes. We scooted out, desperately drinking in the fresh air. Then, with one mind, we swarmed to the Plexiglas, beating on it with our fists, demanding answers.
“I’ve got family to return to!”
“You can’t do this to us, we’ve got rights!”
“I demand to speak to someone who’s in charge!”
But they remained silent, the ring of guards who surrounded us. They were stoic, I granted them that much. Despite the rising protests, they refused to engage with any of us, speaking only to each other and into their walkie-talkies. Before long, army trucks rolled up onto the tarmac, vomiting out scores of heavily-armed soldiers who bolstered the cordon cutting us off from the world. As the sun began its retreat, helicopters swooped in with beacons of light, slicing through the encroaching darkness.
One of the other passengers noticed it first. “Hey, hey everyone,” he said. “I’ve got family in the Chinese army. Something’s not… right. Their uniforms, they don’t look like that. Their weapons too. Something’s different…”
The inconsistencies began to add up, and the questions bubbled like broth over an unattended stove. Why did the exterior of the airport look different to the frequent travellers? Why wasn’t anyone able to connect to the phone networks? Why were people able to identify the presence of Wi-Fi signals with their devices, but were unable to connect, receiving only vague error messages of ‘Please update your system software’?”
A full-scale riot was building up on our side of the Plexiglas, and we quietened down only when a single figure emerged from behind the security cordon, spotlights trained on him as he approached. The ranks on his uniform gave us little doubt that he was in charge. He cleared his throat, tapped on a little button on his collar, then spoke. His voice, amplified by unseen machines, carried clearly over to us.
“Passengers of Flight MH-370, my name is Lieutenant-General Zheng. Please listen carefully to what I have to say.
“This is the year 2018. This is not 8 March 2014. I wish I were joking, but this is not the case. Your flight disappeared in our world, and years were spent searching for you. We found pieces of your wreckage, and most believed that you had crashed. It was difficult for us, but eventually, mostly, we moved on.
“Yet here you are, against all conceivable logic. As you waited, long-range cameras were used to scan you, and your family members have verified your identities. Well, most of you, at least. I’m sorry to inform that for some of you, your only known family members have passed on in the interim. Again, I’m sorry.
“We will let you out as soon as we can. Right this moment, the world’s top scientists have gathered in our country, and they are studying each and every piece of data we can scrape from this. Options are being conceived and challenged vigorously, and every effort is being taken to return you to a life of normalcy as soon as possible, so that you may to continue with whatever pieces of your lives remain.
“In the meantime, please be patient. Once we have determined what we should do, which one of you should be released, you will have your freedom, that I solemnly promise. Thank you.”
We started shouting again, angry at the non-answers we had received. But we quietened soon enough, as another plane began to land, its exterior marked with the exact same colours as ours. The moment it came to a stop, thick walls of Plexiglas shot up out of the ground, trapping it the same way as ours.
More security personnel spilled out of yet more trucks, encircling that plane as well. I saw Lieutenant-General Zheng shake his head in frustration, as he now made his way over to repeat the same speech.
He made that same speech three more times in the next few hours, as more and more Flight MH-370s landed at the airport.
From a distance, through multiple layers of Plexiglas, wearing the same befuddled expression as I no doubt had…
… I found myself staring at, well, what appeared to be other versions of myself.