How To Build An Airplane Empire by Tim Rousseau
Somewhere in the Midwest sky, my sister pulled the conical air-speed control from the vent above our heads. Cross-hatched fields spread below us, and sun shone unspoiled by low-lying smog; I pulled the shade, and it came loose in my hands. Turning back, my sister held the arm rest separating our chairs. Ahead of us, a flight attendant made her way down the center aisle.
“Ginger ale, please.”
The flight attendant continued on, and we held our trophies from the plane. I jumped at every rough patch of air; I sent anxious glances out the window, expecting pieces to come off into the sky; my sister turned with a grin:
“We should build our own.”
“We can’t build our own.”
“It seems neither can they.” She took a trip to the bathroom and returned with the toilet seat. She held it outstretched in front of herself. “We can be free to roam the skies, not beholden to the TSA.” She sat and stuffed her collected pieces into a carry on at her feet. By Chicago, and then Detroit, she’d stripped our seats to the rails, and the buttons and vents to bare electronics. The bathroom was stowed by Buffalo, and the rest of the furniture by Syracuse. By the time the “fasten seatbelt” sign was missed, we barreled through the sky in an empty metal tube. Her carry-on bulged. I was powerless to stop her. No one seemed to notice.
On our final descent, she pulled the windows from the walls, the door from its hinges, and then started on the outer paneling. Wind ripped by the openings, playing us like a flute. We touched down: a metal platform on landing gear, and when we came to a stop, even those were stowed. The Captain tipped his hat to us and led the cluster of passengers into the airport, in search of a new craft to pilot. My sister stayed behind, rooting through her bag of parts.
“I’m going to build my own,” she said. “Then I’ll be free.”
I stood and watched her reconstruct the plane on which we’d just been flying. First the wheels, and then the body, wings, and on and on. Her bag had stripped the paint and changed it: deep blue with red stripes down either side. “Where will you go?” I said.
“It doesn’t matter. It only matters that I can.”
“What if the airline tries to stop you?”
“They won’t. It would be too embarrassing. A fiasco!”
With a last grin, she boarded her plane and waved to me from the cockpit. I watched her back onto the runway, gain speed, and take off into the sky, blending more and more as she ascended, leaving all of us passengers here on the ground, now only a red streak shrinking into the clouds. She wouldn’t return; she expected us to follow.
Tim Rousseau (he/him) lives in Pennsylvania and works as a freelance video editor. His short stories have appeared in Abandon Journal, After the Pause, and The Atherton Review, among others, and one is forthcoming in The Antihumanist. He also writes for the screen and is on Twitter @timnumbertwo.