I caught the red-eye flight at 1:45 a.m. The only other passenger in my cabin was a middle-aged man five rows up with thick black glasses and a ponytail. As the plane took off and the man fell asleep I decided his name was Eric. The dim lighting catered to those like him; normal people who slept on overnight flights; normal people who slept.
There was no in-flight movie and anyways I’d forgotten my headphones and the only sound to accompany the hum of plane was Eric’s snoring. I closed my eyes and tried not to think about what had happened on the before side of my flight or what would happen on the after. An attendant came down the aisle, appearing and disappearing beneath the intermittent lights. She stopped when she arrived at my seat and asked if she could get me anything.
“Dream big,” she said. “We’re in the sky, after all.”
Her hair was rolled into a tight bun, eyes tiny and black. She didn’t have a nametag so I named her Alexis.
“I’d like not to land,” I said. “Not on earth, at least.”
Alexis took out a notepad and ushered me into the next seat over so she could sit. She flipped past various lists and diagrams of odd contraptions before coming to an empty page and resting her pen at the top.
“On what planet would you like to land?” She asked, all business.
I thought for a moment. “A new one,” I said. “Earth 2.”
Alexis nodded and wrote earth 2 at the top of the page.
“How would you describe this planet?” She asked. “To someone who’d never been there?”
Trying to break from her gaze was like struggling beneath an anvil. I saw now that the smallness of her eyes was matched by a shrunken nose and a mouth that looked as if it might get swallowed into itself at any moment.
“Just like earth 1,” I said. “Except that I can sleep, and bagels are free.”
Alexis jotted this down and twiddled her pen against the page.
“That’s it?” She sounded disappointed.
“And people don’t know me,” I said. “We get a fresh start, them and me.”
She nodded. “I’ll just get this processed then.” She stood and walked back up the aisle.
I sat still and looked out the tiny window. Eric’s snoring shortened and he woke and began laughing, his amusement swelling until he was nearly in hysterics. I was jealous of him and his uproarious dreams; it seemed I’d only dreamt of hotels and dark spaces for the past decade. Once he’d quieted down it didn’t take him long to fall back asleep, his snoring replaced by a faint fluttering of breath. Suddenly I felt the plane take a sharp turn, followed by a gradual upward motion that seemed to last several minutes. Once we leveled out Alexis returned to the cabin and sat beside me, looking pleased.
“Your request went through,” she said. “We’ll be landing on earth 2 in approximately five hours.”
I smiled. “Thanks,” I said. “I appreciate it.”
Alexis struck her pen against the notepad triumphantly. “Of course!” she said. “Anything else I can do for you?”
I shook my head. “Think I’m good.”
“Alright then,” Alexis said, returning to her feet. “Enjoy your flight.”
She studied me for another few seconds, her smile curled into an acute U shape, then returned up the aisle.
I spent the next few hours daydreaming and making notes of Eric’s breathing patterns. At one point the overhead lights flickered for a moment before going dead, leaving the length of the cabin in shadow. Five rows up, Eric was talking in his sleep.
“You’re the only one who can lick the hot sauce off my brain.”
My eyes twitched in protest of the ever-growing weight beneath them. I spotted a small circular shape moving across the ceiling, some sort of roach. Eric got up to use the bathroom, having awoken without my detection, his darkened form passing me slow and laborious. I closed my eyes and when I opened them Eric was back in his seat. Was it possible I’d fallen asleep? I looked for the shape on the ceiling but couldn’t locate it. Then I saw something moving over a headrest three rows up. Amazing. The first sleep I’d gotten since two weeks ago with an abundance of alcohol and Alexis, the real Alexis, next to me. Someone wearing a gas mask entered the cabin and approached the shape on the headrest, holding out a can and spraying until it fell dead to the floor. They looked at me briefly, then turned and made their way out, leaving the roach where it lay.
I closed my eyes again, pleading for more, like a lost desert traveler holding up their canteen, trying to squeeze out another drop of water. But my venture was disrupted as a voice overhead informed us we would soon be landing. Alexis came back down the cabin, foot crunching down on the roach as she passed. She took the seat next to me and I looked at her shoe uneasily.
“Are you excited?” She asked.
“I hope it’s what you wanted.”
Eric stood and stretched and Alexis yelled at him to keep his seatbelt on before looking back at me.
“Great,” she said, nodding amiably. She then scribbled something down on a post-it note and stuck it to the back of the seat in front of me.
“Call this number if you change your mind,” she said.
“Thanks,” I said. “That’s considerate.”
Back at my apartment I realized I’d forgotten the post-it note. I tried calling a few friends, but nobody picked up. I slept for twelve hours, awaking to find that my messages still hadn’t been returned. I looked out my window. Half-eaten bagels littered the sidewalks. I closed my eyes and tried to picture the number on the post-it note, but there was only a dark space.
Timothy Day poses as an adult in Portland, Oregon, where he is an MFA student at Portland State. His stories have appeared in The Adroit Journal, Menacing Hedge, Cease Cows, and elsewhere. He really likes the word janky.