A slight delay, p.1
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       A Slight Delay, p.1

           Rish Outfield
A Slight Delay
A Slight Delay

  By Rish Outfield

  Copyright 2013 by Rish Benjamin Outfield

  License Notes

  A Slight Delay

  The plane wasn’t moving. I think the engines had stopped. That couldn’t be good, couldn’t be normal. I was now suspecting this was more than just “a slight delay,” as the captain had declared it.

  I sat on the airplane, uncomfortable in my Business Class seat, even though I’d called my wife to brag when we first took off, how much more legroom it gave me. Now the seat was too stiff, I felt boxed in, and could no longer even attempt to read my book.

  We had landed over thirty minutes ago, but hadn’t gotten off the tarmac or pulled up to a terminal, docking, or whatever you called it. Nothing could be seen out the windows, in either direction. Just night, and lights, and the occasional airplane taking off in the distance. The last time someone had gone from one window to the other, a man told us he was the air marshal, and that we were to stay seated until he said otherwise. He was a hefty middle-aged man with a Mario Bros. moustache, and I’d joked around with him when we first boarded, but now I eyed him (and his firearm) with suspicion, like he could be my enemy.

  That didn’t make sense. These air marshals were there to protect us, or at least to make us feel reassured. But he wasn’t talking, and that only made the wait all the more unpleasant. My theory had initially been that something had happened to another aircraft, and we were waiting for it to be taken care of, but now I didn’t know what to think.

  The captain had gotten on the horn four times now, the first two times to tell us there would be a slight delay deplaning, the second two saying it wouldn’t be much longer. The man in the seat next to me was worrying about missing his connecting flight, and kept mumbling, “I always fly TWA, I always fly TWA.” He was tense, agitated, a bit of sweat on his brow and his neck, and it was making everyone in the whole section fidget. I wished he had flown TWA today too.

  Behind us, in Coach, I could hear a baby crying. It had been going on forever now. Were there no parents back there? It made me more antsy than the TWA guy.

  Nobody in Business Class knew what was going on with the plane, and we had been told to stay off of our cellphones, remain seated, and watch the televisions in the seats in front of us. That had worked for a few minutes, but one by one, the passengers started to realize something was wrong. There was a sense of anxiety all around me.

  “Sir, please put that away,” the air marshal said to me. I looked at him in puzzlement. But the man beside me had his cellphone out and had obviously dialed it.

  “Look, I have to catch my connection to St. Louis,” he told the marshal.

  “I’m aware of that, sir.”

  Some lady behind me muttered, “I think we’re all aware of it, weirdo.” That made several of us snort.

  The TWA guy raised his phone to his cheek. “Just let me check to see if they--”

  The air marshal actually put his hand on the butt of his pistol, and said, “Everybody needs to stay off their phones for just a little while longer.”

  The nervous man snapped closed his phone, set it noisily on his tray table, then cursed the airline we had all taken.

  A flight attendant stepped through the curtains, gave a cursory smile to the front row, then approached the air marshal. She whispered something to him. I was too far back to hear their conversation, but it sounded like she said “funny suit” as part of it.

  He shook his head, in some kind of disbelief. He turned to address us, clearing his throat. “Ladies and gentlemen, Bria has just told me that there’s been a . . . an incident, and that someone is coming onboard to take care of it. I’m gonna, uh, need everybody to sit quietly, and not to be alarmed when they enter our section.”

  Suddenly, I was much closer to being alarmed.

  “Who? Who’s coming onboard?” a woman asked.

  The marshal wiped his hands on his pants and inhaled. “Uh, this is going to be a little strange,” he said, “but everyone needs to remain calm, look at the TV or read your in-flight magazine. Put your headphones on, listen to something relaxing. Do not look them in the eye. You understand? Do not look directly at them.”

  “At who?” I asked, but I was ignored.

  A moment later, we all found out. Three men dressed in bunny suits entered Business Class. They were big, fluffy, children’s Easter parade rabbit suits, one pink, one yellow, and one was baby blue. They had inane, happy faces on their heads, but the way the men moved through the plane disturbed me. It was as though I was looking at angry, feral bunnies, perhaps rabid ones.

  Or rabid people stuffed inside bunny costumes, that was.

  Two of the costumed men went back to Coach, but one, the blue one, moved awkwardly down our aisle, looking each of us in the face. As soon as it approached, I began to study my fingernails, adjusting my wedding ring. It was insane, but I was somehow afraid of him.

  The bunny didn’t say a word, but paused at our row. I took a brief look. It was focusing on the man beside me. It then slowly raised its hand/paw, and pointed at him.

  The sky marshal was immediately by my side. “Sir, could you come with me, please?” I made sure he wasn’t talking to me, but to my neighbor.

  “What is this?” TWA asked, even twitchier than before. “What’s going on?”

  “Sir,” the marshal said, not messing around.

  “No, wait,” he stammered. “Who is this guy? What’s happening?”

  “I’ll explain it to you in a moment. Just follow me, please.”

  The nervous man stood, muttering, “I haven’t done anything wrong.” He said it first to the rabbit, then swallowed, and said it to me.

  I looked at my hands again. I didn’t know this guy.

  “I have rights,” TWA whined, flinching away from the rabbit-suited stranger, who made no threatening moves.

  The sky marshal escorted the passenger up the aisle and through the curtains into First Class. The bunny still stood by our row, like an animatronic character that had been unplugged. I could smell cotton candy, and I was pretty sure it was coming from the suit.

  I glanced up, then looked down again, when I saw its big dead eyes. A stuffed rabbit was more cheery, more alive.

  A moment later, it turned and walked up the aisle. It stopped before the pretty Hispanic lady I had been admiring when we first seated. She noticed it watching her. “No,” she said quietly. She was aware of what was happening, or knew more than I did anyway.

  The bunny’s right hand shot up, pointing at her.

  “No!” she cried. “Not me! Don’t take me, please!”

  The flight attendant took one arm and the bunny took the other, and they physically dragged her out of her seat and away from us. She was full-on crying now, begging them to pick somebody else. Unlike the pretty lady, I had no idea what was going on.

  Less than a minute later, her cries had faded, and I realized I couldn’t hear the baby back in Coach anymore. No one around said anything, but all concentrated on their laps, or prayed.

  The flight attendant and the air marshal came back in, and sat in their seats by the restrooms. They said nothing else, and everyone around me was still, not rising, not asking questions, not commenting.

  “This is your captain speaking,” a familiar voice came over the intercom. “Everything is fine now, and we appreciate your patience. I’ve been given the go-ahead to taxi to Terminal Four, and everyone can be on their way. We apologize for the delay.”

  “Yes, sorry about that,” the flight attendant said, cursorily smiling, but not with her eyes. “Please remain seated and belted in until the remove seatbelt lights are illuminated.”

  “We apologize
for the delay,” the air marshal whispered.

  The plane began to slowly move forward.

  the end

  A Word About the Story

  This is a pretty silly story, I’ll admit it. That’s probably why I’m offering it for free.

  It came about due to a conversation I had with my friend on our podcast, and continued into the forums, about things that are or are not scary. Big and I both agreed that balloons, rainbows, moths, farts, bananas, and Chucky from the Child’s Play series are not scary, and challenged ourselves to write a story trying to make something unscary at least a little bit frightening.

  Big wrote a tale called “My Daughter’s Balloon” about a malevolent helium balloon, and I wrote “On Dusty Wings,” trying to make moths seem monstrous. I’m not sure we succeeded there, but it got a bunch of people on the forums talking about irrational fears. Fellow podcaster Marshal Latham told the tale of being on an airplane in China when several people in clean room suits (or “bunny suits”) came onboard to check people for infections. Someone in the forums posted a picture of a man in a literal rabbit suit, and asked how terrifying that was.

  To my surprise, nearly everybody found something scary about the bunny suit, so I sat down and wrote this story right then, trying to come up with a scenario in which it would be upsetting to see a dude walking around in a rabbit costume. And now, you’ve read it too.

  It’s not really scary, more just weird, I know, but it was one of the most fun stories I’ve ever written, and had I made it a bit more traditionally a horror story (say, with a maniac going about on Easter slaughtering randy teens, or this thing showing up at the foot of your bed in the middle of the night), it probably wouldn’t have been nearly as fun.

  Still, if someone out there wants to make a movie about a killer in a bunny costume, I will buy the first ticket.

  R.B.O. November 2013

  About the Author

  Rish Benjamin Outfield is a writer, artist, and voice actor. He can be heard month to month as host of the Dunesteef Audio Fiction Magazine (www.dunesteef.com), where he and Big Anklevich present genre short stories with a full cast, music, and effects, as well as their That Gets My Goat podcast (www.dunesteef.blogspot.com) which is topical conversation between the two. His short fiction has been heard on The Drabblecast, The Way of the Buffalo, Journey Into…, Midnight Circle, and Horror Addicts podcasts, as well as his own show.

  Since you asked, Rish’s favorite monster is the werewolf, his favorite Blue Oyster Cult song is “Don’t Fear the Reaper,” and his favorite hero is Indiana Jones. He has recently taken up audiobook narration for Audible, and will probably never quite get over his fear of something grabbing him as he goes up the stairs late at night.

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