"Pathway" by Senthil GK

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Flyers
by Nick Trejo

 

"Not too bad out today," Randy told Tommy. "Cloudy, but it looks OK." Randy looked up at the dark clouds that seemed to be rolling in unusually fast. Being a pilot, Randy religiously watched the Weather Channel and read the forecast in the paper the way most guys followed their favorite sports teams. Randy heard about the Persephone weather pattern that was taking place this year. The Persephone weather patterns occur every thirteen years and do not gather much attention except by pilots because it is mostly an upper atmospheric weather pattern than usually results in just some heavier rainfalls and minor flooding in the Midwest.

"Great, I'm ready. When can we go?" Tommy asked.

"Right now. Quit messing around and get your shit together," Randy ordered the thirteen-year-old army nut, who loved "flying reconnaissance" as a way to visualize how imaginary battles would be fought in his hometown.

Randy was a thirty-one-year-old eternal bachelor who had loved flying. He flew as much as he could and even taught a little, but had no desire to fly for a living because he was a homebody who liked being in his chair in the evening with Bob his dog and TV. He was afraid that being a pilot would turn his love into a job, flying the same routes every day with a crew and passengers. Randy liked flying alone or with a friend.

Randy's small circle of friends was composed of other pilots, employees at the airport, and Tommy. Tommy lived down the block from Randy and quickly introduced himself when he found out Randy had his pilot’s license. Randy grew to like Tommy, and despite their age difference Tommy was practically Randy’s best friend.

Tommy was a thirteen-year-old going on forty. His dad cut out a few years ago, leaving him and his mom to take care of themselves. It wasn't much of a shock anyway, because the old man had hardly been home. He was at work even less. Tommy's mom didn't have the time or money for Tommy to be in sports or other activities because she worked nights tending bar and waitressed at Denny’s in the afternoon. Overall she did all right raising Tommy. Maybe the neighbors didn't approve, but that didn't matter to Tommy or his mom. They were not the conventional family but it was working out OK.

"Where should we go today, Major Tom?" Randy asked Tommy, playing along with Tommy's military fascination. Tommy was obsessed with military movies and history shows. While other kids were watching professional wrestling or cartoons, Tommy would watch the old war footage on the History Channel. A recent source for Tommy’s military stories came from his new friend Les, an alcoholic Vietnam Vet who loved to talk about “Johnson’s War” as much as Tommy loved to hear about it. Tommy loved visiting Les and hearing stories about the life of a military man. Tommy would ask Les questions on every little detail, what he ate, where he was, what they he saw. Les of course loved all the attention and being able to talk about the only topic he really knew.

"Well, we've covered most of the critical areas. I'd like to swing by the rail yard so we could to see what's developing over there."

"What's going on over there?" Randy asked, knowing that Tommy probably was thinking of some conspiracy that Les had planted in his mind.

“We should just keep an eye on the rail yards, because that's how the Trilateral Commission will transport their weapons in and haul the prisoners out," Tommy responded, repeating what Les Basset had been telling him during his visits. Les was convinced that the government was going to turn on its own people someday and haul them away in boxcars to concentration camps in the desert and let them die.

At first, Randy liked Les and thought he was interesting. As time wore on he became convinced that Les was just a drunk burnout that couldn't handle the real world. Randy found many stories had huge holes in them. Randy became surer that Les was probably too drunk during his years in the military to actually do all the incredible things he bragged about. Tommy probably noticed the stories did not always match up but looked past that.

"We better get going. The weather man said there were going to be a lot of clouds and a possibly rain later," Randy said.

"Let’s fly, boy," Tommy responded with his usual saying before every flight.


* * *

"It's really clouding up," Randy said as he piloted the plane over the rail yards.

"Yeah," Tommy said distantly, studying the rail yards with his Army-surplus binoculars.

"Were gonna cut this one short, buddy; I ain't wasting a lot of fuel to look at a bunch of clouds." After only being in the air thirty minutes. Randy wondered if it was going to be like this for the next six weeks, which is how long the Persephone weather patterns last. It was going to a mighty long six weeks if so.

"Sure, fine," Tommy said, easing back a bit. "Can’t see much anyway."

Randy began turning the mid-60s two-seater plane back towards the airport.


* * *

As the small plane made it's way through some heavy cloud cover, a face about the size a five-year-old's seemed to appear out of nowhere and come straight at the cockpit window. Randy screamed and yanked the control stick back instinctively, making the plane jerk upward. Despite the engine noise, there was no mistaking the sound of the plane hitting whatever it was that was. Randy thought it might have been a ghost or spirit floating in the air, but a ghost or spirit wouldn't make a sound when it ran into something. Not the ghosts Randy heard about anyway.

Randy could feel nothing except his heart pounding violently in his chest. Tommy was looking around to see what they had hit.

"What the fuck was that!" Randy screamed at Tommy.

"I don't know, but it wasn't what we think, it was just a strange bird or something," Tommy answered.

"That was no bird, Tommy," Randy said. "I know what a bird is Tommy. It has feathers and a beak and goes fucking 'cheep cheep'. Did you see a beak on that thing? That thing had a face! A goddamned face, Tommy!"

"Circle back! Circle back! Look over there, Rand!" Tommy yelled at the top of his lungs.

Randy turned the plane around and for the second time in less than two minutes he was stunned by what he saw. The plane had definitely hit something, and now there were two more of these "things". There was no mistaking what they saw this time. There was enough distance between the plane and the things for both Randy and Tommy to witness the other two things carrying the injured one upwards toward the clouds. Randy estimated that they were ascending at about 70 MPH, almost straight up. Two little flying midgets carrying the hurt one to who-knows-where?

The flying midgets looked like people of a different breed, much in the same way that Beagles and Rottweilers are both canines. The three flying midgets were all peach-colored, but even from a distance there were distinctions. The differences were mainly in the build of the bodies. If there were facial differences, Randy and Tommy were still too far away to see them.

All of them were the size of the wounded one, which probably made them all adults, and despite being smallish they looked powerful.

Just as Randy started to get himself together he realized they were flying like Superman. No wings, no little Jetson’s jetpack just moving very quickly through the air like a kite that suddenly climbs when a gust of wind hits it.

Despite the flying midgets’ speed, the plane started to close the gap. The flying midget closest to the plane looked directly into the cockpit with an icy-cold stare that sent a chill down Randy's spine. The look seemed to say: “You are in our world -- get the fuck out of here”. Randy did as he was told.

Randy jerked the plane this time, turning right, and put as much distance between the plane and the flying midgets as possible. His curiosity was more than satisfied. Now he just wanted to get his feet back on the ground, go home, lock the doors, and get drunk. Tommy just stared off into the clouds, repeating to himself, "Holy shit, holy shit."


* * *

Randy and Tommy did not speak until they had gotten to Randy's car.

"What are we gonna do?" Tommy asked as he waited for Randy to unlock the passenger side door.

"Do!" Randy said, slipping in and unlocking door. "Do! Were not going to do a thing. We're not even gonna say a thing because people will think we're crazy!"

"What do you mean? We can do something," Tommy answered.

"What, tell the newspaper? Come on Tommy! Or call one of those mystery paranormal shows. They will make us look like fools. If you want to do that, that's fine, but I'm not. People will think I am nuts and won’t rent a plane to me. Then how would I be able to fly? I just want to think for a while," Randy said, grabbing the steering wheel tightly with both hands and trying to settle himself down.

"You still going up in a couple of weeks?"

The question threw Randy for a second. "Yeah I'm goin' up. I think we just saw one of those once-in-a-lifetime things. Like seeing the Loch Ness monster or Bigfoot or a UFO. I never even believed in those things, but now I would have to say it’s all up for grabs," Randy said, and laughed a little.

Satisfied with the answer, Tommy sunk into his seat, putting his knees on the dash, and replayed the whole event over and over in his mind, not wanting to lose any of it.


* * *

"Randy, hey, sorry did I wake you up?" Tommy said over the telephone, not at all sorry.

"Yeah, you little prick," said Randy, easing down into his recliner in his one-bedroom house.

"I went over Les's last night and told him about what we saw," Tommy said. Randy closed his eyes in regret. "Les said he knew a flyer in Nam who told him a similar story. Sounded like the same size and color and everything," Tommy added, waiting for Randy's response.

"Yeah, and what else?"

"Well we're not the only ones who ever saw these things. Doesn't that make you feel any better?"

"Nah, not really," Randy answered, knowing that Tommy was leading up to something, but still too sleepy to put much thought into what that might be.

"Well, I think we should go up Friday instead of Saturday because there is supposed to a lot of cloud cover on Friday. I think our chances of seeing them again will be better. I think they live in the clouds. Or at least hide there."

“I doubt if we'll ever see one these things again, but I was thinking the same thing, so we'll go Friday. Call me early, so that we can get going right away," Randy said, thinking of that face staring right at him. The thought gave him goose bumps.

"OK," Tommy said, and hung up the phone, excited.

Randy kicked the reclining chair back perfectly into his "mellow position" with the expertise that only comes from years of practice. He tried to get a little more sleep but couldn't. The thoughts of seeing "them" again wouldn't allow it. Randy learned one thing for sure the day he saw "them": he needed to take his camera with him whenever he flew.


* * *

"Hi, Randy!" Tommy said excitedly. Tagging along, looking severely hung over, was Les in his usual uniform, which consisted of a black POW MIA T-shirt with a camouflage coat and greasy jeans.

"So this is the bird were taking up, huh?" Les said, looking at the plane as though someone put a bowl of steaming crap in front of him to eat.

"Yeah, this is the one. Cost an extra thirty bucks more than the two-seater I usually get," Randy said, hinting to Tommy and Les to kick in a few bucks.

"Extra thirty bucks for one seat. Man, they fucked you," Les said laughing.

Tommy reached in his pocket and handed Randy eight dollars, three of the dollars in quarters. "It's all I could get, Rand."

"Thanks, Tommy."

"I guess this thing's safe. You wouldn't believe the condition some of the jets came in when I was over in Nam," Les said, going into his war-hero mode. "I’m not too keen on flying after some of the shit I went through, but I'm sure you’re an OK pilot and you've studied your civilian pilot handbooks and all."

Depending on Randy's mood he could either easily ignore Les or just want to take his head off. At the rate Les was going today, Randy was quickly movng to the take-his-head-off side. When Randy first met Les he liked him a lot, and like Tommy, loved to hear his war stories. As time wore on, though, Randy suspected that Les's stories were ninety-percent bullshit. Randy suspected the incredible things that happened probably didn't even happen to Les at all, but Randy would just keep his mouth shut because Tommy thought Les was fascinating. It would have been like telling a little child that Santa Claus is make-believe, and that the toys came from an Asian sweatshop, not the North Pole.

Randy had been like an older brother to Tommy, but in some ways Les was becoming a father figure to the kid. This made no sense to Randy because he believed Les was as worthless as Tommy’s real father. Randy didn't want to lose a close friend, so he bit his tongue when he felt the urge to call Les on his bullshit stories. Besides, Les might be just crazy enough to hit you with a baseball bat if pushed too far.


* * *

Soon after takeoff Randy headed east in the direction that they encountered the flying midgets. As Randy guided the plane around for the second time in the heavy cloud cover, Randy felt that now familiar lump in his throat reappear.

In the upper right of the cloudbank a small figure raced behind a shallow sheet-like mist. Randy turned his head back to Tommy, who had also caught a glimpse of the flying midget. Randy eased the plane to the general direction of the midget and slowed down as well, hoping to avoid another collision.

"Did you see that, Les?" Randy said loudly over the loud hum of the engine.

"See what, a bunch of fuckin' clouds? Yeah," Les grumbled. Randy sensed that the fearless war hero was more than a little scared of flying.

"You just missed one of the flying midgets Les. I thought your senses were heightened to your surroundings after being in war," Randy said sarcastically.

"Well, Randy, the last I knew the Viet C
ong didn't fly through the air like Peter fucking Pan." Giving Randy one of his patented “fuck you” looks. "Well where are these little motherfuckers? Tommy you got the camera, so we can sell this shit to the Enquirer and write a book and all."

"I got it ready but we will have to be closer. I don’t have a zoom lens.” Tommy said, excited.

Randy eased the plane in the general direction of the midget.

"Wouldn't it be great to have a bomb to drop on the those stupid people below. Just like old times. BOOM! Arghh!" Les laughed with joy at his one-man war drama while looking down at their town.

"I might be wrong, Les," Randy said, "but I don't think too many Viet Cong live here in Summitville."

"No, but if these commie fuckin' socialists from California keep moving here and feeding everyone’s mind with shit it's gonna be even worse." Les started getting into the character that he always played when beginning one of his sermons on the D
eath of America. "Those clouds are thick; why you flying into it," Les said with disgust. "Is that what they taught you in that little flight school you go to?"

Randy bit his lip, he had enough of Les but was more concerned about seeing the flying midgets again. After exiting the cloudbank, Randy turned the plane back around and picked a higher, more central part of the cloudbank. After a few seconds the clouds thinned out and the plane broke into the center of a large horseshoe-shaped cloudbank.

"Look! Look!" Tommy yelled, his voice cracking with excitement, pointing to the left side of the plane.

As if hiding behind a bush, there was a flying midget just floating in mid-air as naturally as a human standing on solid ground. The midget’s facial expression was neutral, and it was hard to tell if it was a male or female or what from that distance.

Randy slowed the plane down more, so much so that it strained to maintain altitude, but he wanted to see it as best he could. Tommy fumbled for his cheap 110 camera, which was one of the few gifts he ever received from his father. Tommy’s father gave him the camera as a birthday gift after saving enough stamps from his cigarettes. Tommy started snapping pictures as fast as he could with his camera that had a Marlboro Man silhouette on it.

"Holy shit, a flying fucking midget!" Les exclaimed with amazement.

Randy continued to maneuver the plane so that they wouldn't lose sight of the flying midget.

"Look, it's got kids!" Tommy screamed.

As though on cue, two smaller versions of the curious midget popped out of the thicker clouds to be closer to their father. One showed a little concern on its face while the other, presumably the boy, seemed to be imitating the dad and just stared at the plane, glancing at his dad to make sure he had the proper face and posture.

After flying by them twice Randy began to feel that the father was close to having enough of them and would soon disappear into the clouds. Randy turned the plane around, made it climb up and down quickly, hoping to entertain the midgets. The little one with the scared face began to laugh and stuck its arms out like wings and flew in circles around its father, imitating the plane.

"Wow, look at that! That's great!" Randy yelled.

"Do you think they're angels? Like the ones that are in those old paintings at the museum?" asked Tommy, quite seriously. But he did not receive an answer because right then Randy spotted more across from the father and two little ones.

In all, there were now a half-dozen scattered around the clouds, clearly visible.

Suddenly, the plane filled with cold air as Les opened the passenger window enough to stick his hands through.

Randy was surprised, but just figured Les was going to try to get a picture without the window causing a glare and the wing supports in the way. Tommy didn't really even bother to think about it because he was trying to reload his own camera without looking down at it.

BOOM! BOOM! The sound exploded numerous times in quick succession, so fast that Randy had no idea what was happening till a brass shell landed on his lap.

Randy looked across past Les to see if any of the flying midgets were hit. If one of them was, there was no way of telling because they all disappeared back into the clouds.

"Man, I think I might have got one of those little fuckers! Those little bastards are fast. If I had my rifle it would be raining little bodies right about now," Les beamed.

Randy could not believe what just happened, he knew Les was a piece of shit, but he didn't expect this to happen. Tommy was in the back, stunned. For all he knew his friend had just tried shooting down angels. Tommy didn't know much about the Bible, but he knew killing was not looked upon favorably. Killing an angel, if that’s what Les shot, was probably guaranteed to get you a private suite in hell. Even just shooting at one had to be worse than sucker-punching the Pope or doing a drive-by on some nuns out for an evening walk.

"What the fuck is wrong with you!" Randy screamed, as tears started to well up in his eyes.

Les looked at Randy as though he was the stupidest person on Earth. "What's wrong with me! What the fuck is wrong with you, you fucking crybaby."

Although Randy was starting to cry it didn't stop him from backhanding Les on the nose with full force. Les grabbed his nose with both hands, making a muffled "aghh" sound through his hands and blood.

Tommy, whose eyes were as big as an owl's, was looking out the windows to see if any had fallen from being hit.

"You goddamn faggot you broke my nose!" Les screamed, looking at the blood that was now dripping down into his lap.

"Fuck you!" Randy screamed. It was all he could come up with.

Les bent down and grabbed the pistol off of the floor, which he had dropped when Randy belted him. He slapped another clip in the pistol which now looked quite ominous with Les’s spilled blood on it.

"I should blow your fucking brains out you fucking crybaby," Les said as he put the gun at Randy's head.

Flying through the air came Tommy's foot right to Les's already bloodied face, hitting him hard enough to make Les hit his head on the windshield. Tommy grabbed the gun from Les, who barley had a grip on it. Tommy threw the gun out the open window.

"You little bastard, that's my Colt! You know how much that thing is worth?!" Les said, feeling outnumbered and in too much pain to do much about it right now.

"Shut up! Just shut up!" Tommy screamed at Les.

"Fuck both of you, you fuckin' faggots. Fuck both of you!" Les said loudly and returned back to a normal sitting position, surrendering the fight for now.


* * *

Suddenly the window on Les’ sides shattered.

"What the..." Les started.

Another loud crash. This time it was clearly visible what caused the window to shatter. Four of the flying midgets were attacking the plane. Although the midgets could fly fast, they could not match the plane even at a cruising speed. So they were in effect diving at the plane headfirst.

"Get us home! I think the midgets are trying kill us!" Les yelled, brushing broken glass off of himself.

Randy knew they were attacking the plane, but he also knew they were only attacking Les's side. Randy slowed the plane and pulled back a little so that the plane would ascend, slowing it even more.

"HEY!" Les screamed, looking at the control stick in horror.

Another crash on Les's door where the window was, and two little peach-colored hands were holding on to the window channel. The wind came roaring into the plane. "Holy shit!" Les said, and tried to pry the little hands from the plane. As soon as one of Les's hands touched the midgets, the midget seized Les's right wrist with great speed and strength. Another midget hit the plane hard, this one grabbing onto the wing on Les' side. After grabbing the wing he made his way to the cabin.

Les realized that by pulling back he was pulling the midget into the plane. So he made a quick move to the outside hoping to shake the midget off, but the midgets strength was too much and continued to grip Les's arm so hard that its fingers were digging into his skin.

Les pulled back again, bringing the midget further inside the plane, and then kicked the midget, connecting solidly. He kicked at the midget three more times with varying degrees of strength, but it was still no help in freeing himself.

The second midget was now at the cabin and seized Les’s left arm. The midget raised Les’s arm to the top of the window. Unlike the first midget, who seemed to be just holding on to Les until help could arrive, this midget was more aggressive.

Les learned quickly why the second midget pulled his arm up. There was a lot of broken glass on the top channel. The aggressive midget raised Les arm up to it and then began swinging his arm across the jagged glass, slicing his arm wide open and spraying blood into the back seat.

The first midget let go of Les's right arm and started pulling on the door handle, finally getting the door open. He entered the plane and began bear-hugging Les, who was now in total pain and disbelief.

To Randy, so much of what had happened did not seem real. First seeing the flying midgets again, seeing baby midgets, and then having them attack the plane. Right now seemed real, though. It didn't matter that they were five-thousand feet above ground: Right now there was a little being, animal, or angel in the plane and Les was in great danger. Maybe even Tommy and himself were in peril.

The first midget looked quickly at Tommy in the back and at Randy with a look of deadly seriousness, which scared the shit out of both of them. Both Randy and Tommy wouldn't have been able to defend themselves against the midget in the plane. The midgets may not have had the builds of little body builders but they seemed to be stronger than most humans could ever be.

Right before the first midget flew out the door, taking Les with him, it said something. To Randy it sounded like "leave", but to Tommy it sounded like "live". They would never know for sure. It may have even been a word from the midgets’ language, meaning something totally different.

As the midget left with Les in a bear hug that only reached halfway around him, the other one grabbed Les by the hair and they flew him back into the cloud cover. Randy noticed that there were probably five more midgets who seemed to be waiting for them to bring Les back. Or maybe they were just watching the plane in case Randy tried to fly towards them.

Randy did not know what to do next; all the midgets had disappeared, taking Les with them. Thankfully, they didn't seem to want him or Tommy.

"What do we do, Tommy?" Randy asked, perplexed.

Tommy jumped up to the front seat and said, "The only thing we can do. Land and tell the police that Les freaked out and killed himself. No one will doubt it. Everyone knew what he was like."

It was the first time Randy had ever heard Tommy say anything negative about Les. Tommy's answer made more sense than anything he could think of anyway. That was really all they could do. That or tell the truth.

They went up for a flight, Les started freaking out, he pulled out a gun, there was a struggle -- which would explain Les's blood and the damage to the plane -- then he bailed out. It was far from air-tight, but it was all they had, Randy figured.

"The thing is, Tommy," Randy said, getting Tommy's attention "usually when someone goes out of an airplane they fall. They don't disappear up into the clouds." He looked at Tommy.

"Yeah, that is kind of weird, huh," Tommy said, then started to laugh, making Randy burst out laughing and crying.


* * *

Randy and Tommy’s lives were chaos for a couple of weeks after the incident, but eventually things returned to normal. The police investigation concluded that Les did indeed have a struggle with Randy and Tommy in the plane, shots were fired, and Les killed himself by jumping out of the plane. The press coverage lasted only a couple days; if the police investigation would have concluded differently, Randy knew they would have been in the papers for months. So even though the story was sensational and newsworthy, it quickly passed since there was no evidence foul play.

Randy was thankful that Les's ranting and raving was well known to the police. There had been many complaints about him over the years, which helped bring the investigation to a quick end.

Les's body was discovered the morning after the incident in a thick area of trees and growth. Volunteers helping in the search swore they had earlier been where the body was found and saw nothing. The police determined the body was badly disfigured from the impact of hitting the ground as well as tumbling through the trees before hitting the ground. The police seemed amazed that "that much" damage would be done, but since people don't fall thousands of feet from the sky every day in Summitville, the local authorities had no way of knowing what it would "normally" look like anyway.

The one thing they couldn't attribute to the fall was that both of Les's feet were gone. Missing, nowhere to be found. Investigators finally concluded that animals chewed them off or they were torn off in the trees during the fall and carried away by an animal.

One lucky officer had the honor of climbing the trees above Les's body to look for his feet. His enthusiasm for the duty almost cost him his job when he asked a Sergeant why an animal would just eat someone's feet, especially Les's.

Tommy left his Army obsession behind and his love of crazy conspiracy theories. He was graduated from high school, went to the community college for auto body, and worked that for a number of years. He later opened his own shop and specializes in four-wheel-drive monster truck customization.

Randy soon after the incident added another hobby to his life besides flying, and that was art. In particular he liked the classic paintings that had cherubs or any other small mythic beings, including cupid. Randy replaced the card-playing dogs and old posters of hot TV women that covered his walls with quality prints of classic paintings.

Randy eventually taught flying full time as well doing some aerial photography on the side.

To this day whenever Randy flies he scans the clouds for a second or two, hoping to spot one of the flying midgets, not to prove to anyone else that the flying midgets exist. He just hopes that they still do.




Story © 2002 by Nick Trejo Nick.Trejo@target.com

Illustration © 2002 by Senthil GK senthilkumar_gk@yahoo.com




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