Black Petals Issue #92, Summer, 2020

'Port

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BP Artist's Page
Mars-Chris Friend
Misty Page-A Game of Chess
Sean M. Carey-Chilled Bones Under Lovely Skin
Roy Dorman-Death in the Round Room, Part IV
Lael Braday-Magical Perspective
Matt Spangler-Master Smasher
Lena Abou-Khalil-The Nowhere Man
Grace Sielinski-'Port
Gavin McGarvey-The Black Petals
Marc Dickerson-Theater is Dead
C. S. Harbold-The Whispering
Dean Patrick-Vincent's Warning
Doug Park-We Get Him Together
Joseph Hurtgen-Worlds to Conquer
Mickie Bolling-Burke-The Bringer of Darkness
Aaron Hicks-The Last Days
Cindy Rosmus-Out of Juice
Matthew Wilson-Endless Men's Hate
Michael Steven-Hell Rift
Sean Goulding-Hypnagogic
David C. Kopaska-Merkel-In the Land of Giants
Loris John Fazio-The Thing in the Woods
Loris John Fazio-The Beggar Knows
Richard Stevenson-Peg Leg
Richard Stevenson-The Alkali Lake Monster
Richard Stevenson-The Green Man

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Art by A. F. Knott 2020

‘Port

By Grace Sielinski


His wife once told him that he pissed like a racehorse—a favorite saying of her mother’s—but she did concede that she was the one who needed to stop during long car rides for a bathroom break, not him. Still, he was only human, and by the time he boarded his flight home from his sales conference, he needed to take a leak. Rookie mistake, and even more embarrassing considering he had been taking weekly flights back and forth from Denver for over five months. He was contemplating how awful it was going to be to get up from his middle seat when an all too familiar announcement came over the intercom of his plane.

“Alright folks, we apologize for the inconvenience but we’re going to have to empty the plane due to a maintenance issue… again, we’re going to have to empty the plane, we hope the repairs will take less than an hour, and we again apologize for the inconvenience…”

A collective groan ran throughout the cabin. Screw education, Jack thought, inconvenience. That was the true equalizer. He got up, grateful that he’d have some time to piss in a normal-sized bathroom.

He exited Gate B32 and was met with the hustle and bustle of Denver International Airport. The place filled him with a sense of dread, as many airports over the years had. Airports meant work, and work meant misery and time away from his family. He made decent money, but God, was it worth dealing with all this horseshit?

He began to speed walk towards the nearest bathroom, not just because his poor bladder was about to combust, but because he was annoyed by the familiar sight of the place. He passed gates, shops and restaurants he had passed dozens of times before. He almost knew the place by heart, and it sickened him to think that he had spent so much of the past year waiting for flights to come in and out. If he counted it all up, how long would it be? Days? Weeks? Months? By the time he reached the door to the bathroom, he was so worked up he jumped when he heard a small voice from behind.

“Excuse me, sir?”

He wheeled around. It was one of the flight attendants from the evacuated plane. Her name tag read NANCY in big, bold letters.

“I was just wondering if you needed someone to watch your bags while you’re using the restroom. Believe me, I’ve seen a lot of stuff get stolen when it’s left outside, and I’ve even seen it swiped inside the ladies’ room.”

“Oh.” Jack said, a little flustered at the suddenness of the offer, but too distracted by the building pressure in his body to think straight. “Um, yeah, sure, I guess.”

“Wonderful.” She said and flashed a toothy grin on her perfectly made up face. “I’ll wait right out here for you.”

“Thank you.” Jack said, and rushed inside, barely getting his fly down before could relieve himself. Once he was finished, his head began to clear and he smacked his palm on his face. What was he doing, letting some random woman watch his bags? He hurried out, not bothering to wash his hands.

The first thing he noticed was that the woman and his bags were gone, and his heart sank. The second was the quiet. There is never quiet in an airport, especially not a giant international airport like Denver, not even for a second. He looked up from the spot where his bags had been and saw … nothing.

Not nothing, exactly. The elegantly tiled floors were still there, along with the vintage coffee shop across the way from the bathroom, complete with neon sign and wire tables. The problem was that he didn’t see a single person around. The Denver airport was silent.

His head spun left and right like a pendulum, his neck craning for some explanation. None came. Feeling quite uneasy, he stepped out into the middle of the hallway.

“Hello?” He called into the stillness of the airport.

He tried again, louder this time.

“Hello!”

Only silence greeted him.

“What’s going on here?”

The airport did not answer.

Jack walked a few steps forward, now acutely aware of the noise that his footsteps were making on the hard marble. They seemed to echo throughout the place, raising goosebumps up and down his arms.

Is this a dream? Why do I know it’s a dream if I’m dreaming? He thought, bewildered. His unease developed into a low panic.

“Mr. Livingston?”

He turned quickly towards the sound and saw the flight attendant, back in the front of the bathroom. She looked like she was straight out of an in-flight magazine; there wasn’t a wrinkle on her dress, nor a hair out of place of her perfect bun.  

“My apologies sir, I had to drop off your bags in the plane. They’re waiting for you there. Come, I have something I want to show you.” She gestured toward the coffee shop.

He stared at her, and she stared back, unflinching, not even seeming to blink, keeping a wide and perfect smile glued to her face.

“Ma’am.” He said, after a long pause. “I’m sorry, but I’m having trouble… What in the hell is this? What’s going on? Am I in some television prank thing? Because if so, I’m not signing any waiver so I think you’re wasting your -”

“Jack.” The flight attendant said. She said it like an accusation, like his name was synonymous with some terrible sin…

“You don’t seem to understand. You’re going to have to come with me and do everything I say if you ever hope to see your wife and kids again.” Her toothy grin intensified, and he could see that while her mouth appeared pleasant, there was malice in her eyes. “Now, please. Come with me.”

She pointed to the door of the coffee shop.

“Woman, I don’t know what the fuck is going on here, but I do not tolerate being threatened, and I especially don’t tolerate anyone threatening my wife and kids, how dare you -”

And suddenly, there was no air. Jack tried to breathe in, but nothing came. He involuntarily grabbed at his throat, his hands in disbelief of his lungs’ betrayal. His vision turned spotty and he dropped to his knees, making horrible gasping noises. Nancy the flight attendant curled her lip in disgust.

He stayed like that on the floor, struggling to stay conscious and convinced he was going to die, until as quickly as it had left, his breath came back. He gasped, taking in big gulps of air, tears leaking out of his ducts and rolling down his face like a helpless child.

“Are we understanding now?” She said.

Jack nodded; it was all he could manage.

“Good.” She said. “Now, kindly get off the floor and come with me.”

Wordlessly, he did, still trying to catch his breath.

The deserted coffee shop was full of cheap wire furniture and a lit display of pastries designed to make any hungry traveler cheat on their diet. Nancy pointed her long fingers toward a table in the middle of the place. Jack sat, and so did Nancy. The table still had two coffee cups left by the previous patrons. The entire place seemed packed if you judged by tables alone; there were half-finished drinks and pastries everywhere. With one decisive sweep of her arm, Nancy knocked the cups off the table, shattering the ceramic on the floor and leaving a stain on her otherwise immaculate flight attendant dress.

“Mr. Livingston, I do appreciate your cooperation here, I really do, and if there is anything I can do to make this experience more comfortable for you, please, don’t hesitate to ask.”

Jack stared at her in disbelief. He was amazed at how real this felt. His brother was a Marine and had gone through loads of shit during boot camp, and when he came home and started unloading his stories, he would always make sure to emphasize how strange the unimaginable and scary experiences felt. He described them as feeling disconnected from reality, like he was in some kind of nightmare. Although Jack was in a more nightmarish situation than anything his brother ever told him about, this wasn't a dream; it felt more real than anything he’d been through in his life. He had never been more afraid.

“This… experience?” He managed.

She laughed, and it felt like a knife was being pushed into his stomach. Dread was settling there like a fifty-pound weight.

“Yes, Mr. Livingston, this experience. She gripped the table and leaned toward him, dropping her voice to a whisper. “Mr. Livingston, do you believe in souls?”

Jack’s heart was beating so loud he was sure Nancy could hear it. He nodded his head, slightly.

“Very good. You see, contrary to popular belief, people are not the only ones graced with a soul. Some places, some buildings have special significance and energy surrounding them. Do you follow, Mr. Livingston?”

Jack stared at her blankly.

“Good, very good. Now, imagine the number of people that go through this airport every day. The energy that comes off them is enormous—people are always thinking, talking, eating, breathing, living—and the Denver airport feeds off that energy. Now, this is where you come in, Mr. Livingston. We need you to help supplement this energy in a more… permanent way. Are you ready to participate?”

And with those words, Jack broke out of his terror, and his anger enveloped him.

“I’m not participating in any of this weird cult bullshit, I’m going to walk out of this door and find my way out of here and -”

Nancy lifted him out of his chair by his throat.

“You listen to me.” Her small voice had dropped down to nearly a whisper, but it was dripping with contempt. “You aren’t getting out of here unless I say so. I have more power in me than your tiny brain could ever fathom. I am unstoppable. You should be grateful to serve. Got it?”

She dropped him, and for the second time in ten minutes, he gasped for air.

She waited, patiently, for him to stop wheezing and coughing, knowing he had been put in his place.

“Good. Are we ready now?”

He nodded, still rubbing his throat.

She stood up and went behind the coffee counter, kneeling and grabbing a tray. She returned and set it down. There was a knife, a small plate, and an assortment of Bath and Body Works candles. Jack’s horror became almost incomprehensible when he realized those candles were the same ones populating his own home.

“I love this country, don’t you?” Nancy said. “So big and brash, but sensitive at the same time. Just like you, Mr. Livingston. I think that’s why you were chosen, but I can never be sure.”

She picked up the tray slightly, and smashed it on the table, making Jack wince in his terror. She laughed, and it felt like a sinkhole of dread was opening up inside him.  

“This place feeds on energy. Some of that comes from emotion, which you’ve done a fabulous job of displaying in the past few minutes. Some of that comes from senses, from perception. You’ll have to donate some of that as well, you see. While we could simply take away your senses—make you blind, deaf, whatever,—I’ve come up with a more satisfying way to remove them.”

She picked up the knife.

“You get to choose, Mr. Livingston. Ear, tongue, eye, nose, or fingers?”

Jack tried to get up from the chair, but he couldn’t move. Somehow, she had paralyzed him.

“Any preference?”

Jack put all his energy into getting up. He couldn't budge.

“Well, it looks like I'll get to choose myself. What a treat!” Her toothy grin returned, and Jack realized it wasn’t just filled with malice; it was filled with pure, guttural, and ancient evil.

Without a word, she grabbed his left hand, and one by one, starting with the pinky, chopped off all of Jack’s fingers.

The pain was something Jack didn’t even think was possible. It was white hot and seemed to consume his entire body. There was screaming, but Jack didn’t know if it was coming from him or if it was coming from the walls.

“You’ll need this.” Nancy said, ignoring his screams, and placed a lit candle in front of his uninjured right hand. “It’s time for you to catch your flight.”

The room went dark, and Nancy was gone.

Jack was free from his paralysis, and his terror consumed him. He got up and ran, hugging his stump of a hand to his chest.

He crashed through the coffee shop doors and into the hallway. The airport was dark and empty. All the lights had been turned out and the giant windows showed nothing but black night.

The intercom crackled to life in the darkness.

“Mr. Livingston to Gate B32! Mr. Livingston to Gate B32!”

Jack ran and ran, stumbling in a haze of complete fear, pain, and darkness. He didn’t know what he was doing or where he was going, but none of it seemed to matter.

Suddenly, a light in the distance. Jack ran to it; it was his only hope of ever getting out of this complete hell.

As he approached, he saw the light was a glowing sign indicating Gate B32. The gate door was open, with a well-lit jet bridge connecting to the airplane. He ran into the light.

He reached the airplane and tumbled through the opening, crashing on the floor, and began to sob. As he lay there, he heard the door to the plane snap shut.

He looked up and saw four flight attendants standing around him.

They pounced.

 

Mrs. Livingston was worried. Her husband was hours late and wasn’t answering any of her calls or texts. It wasn’t like him. She sat down at the kitchen table and poured herself another cup of coffee. There was no chance of her sleeping through the night not knowing where he was.

The door slammed open and Mrs. Livingston’s son came in screaming. It was a scream Mrs. Livingston had never heard from before; it wasn’t a yelp of fear, it was an all-consuming force that nearly knocked her off her chair.

“Jimmy! My God, Jimmy, what’s wrong!”

But Jimmy would not stop his screaming. He instead threw something on the kitchen counter and broke down into sobs.

Mrs. Livingston peered at the letter her son had delivered. Her mouth made an “O” shape and stayed that way.

It was a Ziploc bag filled with four human teeth, attached to an in-flight napkin using part of a fingernail. On the napkin, the words, “We didn’t end up needing these ones. Happy travels!” were scrawled in what only could be blood.

Mrs. Livingston screamed.

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