Day One of Tim’s 12 Days of Writing Challenge

Pressure.  An intensity that Ella had never experienced before suddenly flared in her brain, causing her to drop the glass of terrible merlot that she had been gingerly sipping only moments before.  It sloshed to the floor and accepted the opportunity to soak her brand-new white sandals to an ugly purple.  However at the moment, she wouldn’t care less even if she was able to see.  The space around her just seemed to fade away and a terrifying darkness engulfed her.

It had seemed like a very routine flight.  The Boeing 737-800 aircraft with a full compliment of passengers had commenced on its journey from Pearson International Airport exactly on time for the over 2500km journey to the northeastern tip of the Yucatan peninsula.  The skies had remained clear and the extra sunshine through the windows brightened the spirits of everybody on board who were all excited to get away from the Toronto chill to enjoy some time away with sun and sand.

One thousand kilometers into the flight, just after crossing the 35th parallel, a sudden low pressure system generated an intense electrical storm directly ahead of the craft, forcing the pilots to react quickly and shift course slightly to the west.  Things seem to calm down until they passed over a very serpentine and jagged looking body of water known as Lake Lanier, Georgia. 

Forcing her eyes open through the pain and paralyzing panic, Ella realized that while everything still was dark and eerily silent around her, it wasn’t quite black.  She noted that a tarnished wave of light seemed to slowly begin weaving back and forth in her vision.  No, not a wave.  More like a tendril.  It flowed in her vision, twisting and spinning.  There seemed to be no pattern to the movements whether from vertical or horizontal.  It was shifting in size, intensity and even colour.

Moments before, the breeze rustling through a small grove on the eastern shore of Three Sisters Island below went still.  A large flock of starlings that had been sunning themselves on the branches there exploded into a western flight, leaving behind a cacophony of terrified shrieks.  This scene was followed shortly by the rumble of every woodland creature in the vicinity heading as far away from the shore of the lake as possible.  Even insects seemed to be on the move, and the air filled with the buzzing and screams of every possible description of life.  Until all was silent.

Thirty feet away from the shore, a previously shallow and placid area of water began to change.  First there was a small set of bubbles, which grew into a roil.  The water seemed to elasticate, stretching and growing in mass but not flooding the land beyond.  A whirlpool appeared, gaining in momentum and size as if a large plug had been pulled from the lake’s bottom.  Something indescribable began to rise from the middle of this vortex, and its sudden presence generated a wave of pressure and a deafening crack of sound.  Nothing was around to experience this moment, except for a single Boeing 737-800, which just happened to be directly ten thousand meters above, which is a little low for that craft normally, but the pilots were still making corrections to avoid the eastern storm.

In her seat above, the pain in Ella’s temples lessened a little, but sound was still muffled.  No voices could be heard, only an ominous clicking.  Then her eyes were drawn back to the strange object that she shared a pressurized tube in the air with.  She noted it had begun to split itself.  Each tendril become two, then four and onwards until a multitude of these things, possibly arms or even fingers were dancing before her.  Each slow, plodding, and meticulous, but also unique in their movements.    

Then she began to notice that more shapes were around her.  She could make out the seats and fellow passengers slowly increasing in visibility towards the front of the cabin. No movement from anything other than for what now seemed to be a web of limbs.  Then she noted that the shapes seemed to be interacting with the passengers.  The limbs touched each person in turn, seeming to explore, analyze and then move on an in a disinterested manner.  It was not a very friendly looking sequence of movements, rather it seemed more predatory.  They were hunting something.  And they were coming her way.

Ella was not a religious person naturally, but she squeezed her eyes tight and prayed to whatever deity she could think of for the end of this nightmare.  To pray for resolve.  To pray for a savior.
Then suddenly she heard a whisper to her left.

“It’s ok”.

With great difficulty, she worked to move her head to the side, and amazingly, even if while slow she noted that she had regained a small amount of movement.  However, what she saw certainly did not offer her any comfort.  The passenger in 38A sitting there was an elderly lady who had seemed friendly enough during the flight, however Ella was not in a very talkative mood so tended to just nod and smile while…Agnes, yes that was it, Agnes had talked for awhile until nodding off. 

Now Ella noted that the tendril had retreated from its web shape back into a single entity, and had set its sights directly on Agnes, who now appeared to be wrapped in this strange pale shimmer.  And she was continuing to whisper what seemed to be a never-ending sequence of phrases in all kinds of languages, many of which Ella didn’t recognize.  These were filled with a strength and emotion that didn’t belong in what appeared to be such a frail body.  And something began to change.  The pain and pressure began to dissipate.  Sound began to return.  Light began to return.

Suddenly Ella felt a hand slip into hers, and she noted that Agnus was not turned towards her.  Through the flowing shapes and colours surrounding the older woman, Ella could still see her strong pale blue eyes locked onto hers.  Then Agnus smiled and spoke one last thing.  “I choose to do this.  There is a light in the void.  It’s you.  Make it count.”

Then she was gone.  Not dead.  Just…gone.

And even though reality suddenly returned to itself, Ella passed out.

The next sequence of moments were strangely anti-climatic.  Nobody else on the flight seemed to remember anything strange happening.  Just that there had been a strange sound, a dropped wine cup and what everybody thought was a drunk passenger.  But when they landed the plane it was discovered that a recently retired Nun, Sister Agnes was no longer on the flight. 

Ella knew where she went, and she really wanted to tell the authorities what she saw.  But how would being considered insane and locked away help anybody?  So, she kept that part to herself.  For now.

Her and the rest of the passengers were allowed to leave to their resort destination from the airport as there was no evidence of wrong-doing by anybody but for a bad headcount for the pilot and stewards.  However, there was a partial lockdown of outgoing flights for the next day while the airline did a full investigation.

As Ella passed the security desk, she noted a group of travellers complaining about the terrible service caused by the disruption and how deeply it affected them.  While observing them, Ella noted a shift in the air and could actually see the anger emitting off of these people as they spoke.  Perplexed, she looked closer and saw it was like a miniature version of what she witnessed during the flight.

Suddenly it was in her head.  An understanding, whether through some preternatural ability of just good old common sense she didn’t know.  Some event or buildup of rage had suddenly been released, and Agnes had saved everybody on the flight through her compassion and faith.  Somehow, Ella was connected in the moment.  But she vowed to honour what sacrifice Agnes provided and work to help eliminate the forces that would generate such darkness and hate.  Those who wanted to witness the end of an age.

It was going to be a lot of work.  But deep inside, she knew she was not alone.  Somehow, she could still hear the phrases that Agnes spoke, and could even begin to whisper them herself.  Not forgotten.  Never forgotten.

Hope lives.

Copyright 2022 Timothy Norton.  All rights reserved.