by Kathryn Andersen.
"But you, more than anyone, should know how one moment can change your life. How it can haunt you forever."
-- Oliver Sampson (Control Freak)
September 13th, 1990.
He was travelling light - only one large cabin bag with some clothes and other essentials in it, stowed safely under the seat in front of him. His passport was in his jacket pocket, along with his boarding pass - Paris to Los Angeles, economy class. Lufthansa flight 503, seat 25D.
A smiling flight attendant came up to him. "Telephone pour vous, Monsieur," she said, and handed him a portable phone.
"Allo?" There was a click and -
He was still in his seat, but there was a hand on his shoulder, shaking him. "Oliver!" A loud ticking could be heard in the background.
He turned his head and looked up at the strawberry blond in the flight attendant's uniform. "Alex?"
"We don't have much time. I've got to warn you. Before they find out. Before they stop me."
"Don't get on the plane - don't go to LA."
"But I'm already on the plane, Alex," he said calmly.
She pulled at his shoulder, trying to drag him out of his seat. "Then get off it! They're going to kill you! There's a bomb!"
He stood up, facing her. "What?"
"Stop looking for me, Oliver. It's not safe."
He put his hands on her shoulders. "I've got to find you. What happened? I waited on the platform but you never came."
She dragged him up the aisle, towards the exit. "There's a bomb on 503. Get off the plane, Oliver!"
"Alex, where are you?" he said to her back, as she pulled him along.
"Don't try to find me, Oliver - they'll kill you," she said breathlessly. "You're rocking the boat. You're putting us all in danger." The aisle pitched and rocked as if the plane was falling, screaming in the wind, in a dimness of red. "Leave now, Oliver. I don't want you to die! Get off the plane!" she yelled.
The world exploded in ashes and fire.
"Hello?" There was nothing but a dial tone. How odd. He put his hand to his head.
"Are you all right?" the flight attendant said.
"I have to get off," he muttered. With an urgency he couldn't understand, he dragged his case from under the seat, pushed past the flight attendant and stumbled to the front of the plane. "I have to get off."
"Monsieur?" said the attendant at the door. "The flight is about to leave -"
He smiled at her weakly. "A touch of agoraphobia. I'll get a later flight."
He stepped off the plane and almost ran back up the connecting corridor, past the last few stragglers who were still getting on. When he got out into the gate area, he stood there, shaking. What the hell had come over him? He almost turned to go back, but hesitated. His hesitation saved his life.
The doors closed. Too late to change his mind, his odd whim. Too late. Too late to die with the others in the crash that happened when the plane arrived in LA. Why had he been spared? He never knew. He never found out.
Only Alex knew. And she would never have a chance to tell him.