Mikey

By Kati Tomkins

Michael was surprised at how real this place looked now, in his mind. He knew he must have tried to approximate this memory countless times, mentally grasping at what it had been like when he was young, here with her. Now it was easy. Easy enough that it made him wonder how real all of this was after all.

Maybe they had never really left. Wouldn't that be something? Maybe they had just been here all along, in the field behind their parents' farms. It was possible. They might never have left. He looked across at Sarah. She was older now, with fragile lines etched gently across her face, but really, she wasn't that different. Michael certainly didn't feel any different than he had back in those days. It was hard to remember the adult he had become when he was looking out across these hills and into the bright sunlight.

"It's perfect here, isn't it?" Sarah asked, not looking at him. He could feel her tiny hand in his own. She squinted into the sun as a gentle breeze played through her hair. It was a lonely sight, to see her leaning against the fence against the backdrop of endless, swaying green. There was something about the way she held herself, something about the way her features wouldn't quite relax. It reminded him that they weren't children anymore. It reminded him that none of this was real. He was doing a better job of pretended than she was.

Sarah fidgeted, pulling at her loose blouse. The wind was picking up, and Michael could see that the way it whispered through the tall grass was agitating her. He knew it because he felt the same way. The wind never blew like that in these fields. They were protected by the hills in all directions. Without thinking about it, the two began to walk down the dirt path. Michael had walked this road every day as a child, coming here to meet her after dinner. He'd always remembered that when he thought of his childhood. Remembered her. But he'd never been able to remember the feel of the packed dirt under his boots, the uneven ground and the way the whole world seemed to glow in the last of the day's light. The perfection of the moment upset him, but he hid it well. He wanted it to be perfect. Then the wind blew again, and a chill ran down his spine.

-

It was at the moment that the woman beside him grabbed hold of his hand that the oxygen masks dropped from the ceiling.

The lights in the plane had already gone out. It could have been mere minutes that they'd been sitting terrified in the dark, but to him, it felt like hours. There was a constant roar of screaming children, adults yelling, and most disturbingly, loud and unfamiliar mechanical sounds. A woman behind them to the left was praying loudly.

Her hand released his almost as soon as he had realized she was touching him, as she scrambled to secure the mask on her face. He subconsciously checked that hers was on properly before worrying about his own. She didn't notice. Her forehead had broken out into a sweat, and her mouth was moving quickly but subtly, and he thought that she might have been praying too.

Her hand found his again and he held on. Vaguely he wondered if she had yet come to the realization that they were going to die tonight.

He didn't know how he heard her over the cacophony surrounding them, but it was only a short while after she took his hand that he realized she wasn't praying at all. Rather, she was speaking to him.

"We're in the field, Michael," Sarah said. "Do you remember it? We're in the field."

He looked at her, uncomprehending. For a split second, her face registered complete calm. He thought he actually saw her smile. Her eyes were closed, her brow crinkled in an expression of faint concentration.

"Close your eyes." She said. "We can be there again."

-

"Mikey, do you remember when Mrs. Baker's cat had kittens?" Sarah asked lightly, as they continued down the lane. "She lived two lots down from me. Do you remember? And she said we could each take one home, but my sister was allergic, and you said you wouldn't take one if I couldn't have one too."

He didn't remember, but he said he did. She smiled. The sun, which seemed to be setting preternaturally quickly, illuminated her face. Michael wanted to talk about something real, but he wondered if world around them was in fact too weakly conceived to hold anything but memories.

He decided he would try, but she interrupted him. "When did you start calling yourself Michael? You've never looked like a Michael to me."

"I..." he didn't remember. "It was after high school. After I left town. I guess I felt like a kid with everyone calling me Mikey."

"Can I still call you Mikey?"

He didn't want her to, but he guessed maybe it would be better. This was only the past, after all. He wished it wasn't.

"Sure."

-

Somebody was crying. Thunder boomed outside the dark plane window. Most of the other passengers had pulled down the blind. No one wanted to see the storm outside. The window beside Michael remained open and unnoticed. The plane plunged dangerously, and they were surrounded by noise that they could not hear. He held onto Sarah's hand like a lifeline. In a way, that's what it was an anchor to life, or a dream of life.

They were beyond the chaos and the noise as they sat in silence, unnoticed. He held onto her hand.

-

They ignored the clouds that the wind blew in and kept walking. They ignored the sound of the wind rushing through the grass as it changed from a whisper into a roar. They ignored these things because they were the things that told them this would be over soon. The sun was teetering dangerously close to the horizon, and the sky was getting dark.

"I missed you." He said, and her hand twitched. She didn't want to go there, but he needed to.

"I missed you, and I should have written. We shouldn't have wasted all that time."

It was almost funny. He'd finally made the time, finally contacted her after all the years of being apart, of growing older without each other. He didn't remember how it had happened that they'd lost touch, only that they had. He remembered how excited he'd felt when they'd made plans to meet, and then even more, when they'd met on the plain, on their way to New York. Almost funny, but not quite, because the wind was almost screaming now.

She didn't say anything for a long time, and they walked silently down the dirt road, hand in hand. Then;

"I missed you too."

The sun fell below the hills.

-

They barely heard the screaming of the other passengers rise to fever pitch in the final moments before impact. When the end came, Michael opened his eyes and looked out the open window. His last thought from his seat in the plane to New York was how it was awfully strange seeing himself down there in the field. Awfully strange how a person could be in two places at once, and not really know where he was at all.

-

Holding hands on the dark path, they watched as the world was enveloped in darkness. Rain began to fall, starting as a light drizzle that quickly became a downpour. Sarah's hand tightened around his own. A dark form loomed over them in the sky. They watched its rapid decent. Mikey looked at her, and she looked back. He looked back at the plane. It was outlined before them, above the hills, in impossible detail. He looked up into his own eyes through the last open window. Mikey nodded. Michael nodded back.

"I love you," Mikey said to Sarah.

"I love you, too." She said back.

-

They felt the impact from both sides.

Did You Know

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