Nightmare At 30,000 Feet

From the Story Arc: K MOCKBY

Previous Story in the Arc: Into Russia by Kostyak (Wednesday, August 18, 2004)

Next Story in the Arc: MIdnight in MOSCVA by Kostyak (Friday, August 20, 2004)

(posted Thursday, August 19, 2004)

            A late October sun filled the room, bathing it in a warm orange glow that belied the chill in the air outside. Tchaikovky’s Swan Lake lilted from the phonograph as young Jadwiga, brow furrowed in concentration and the tip of her tongue poking out of the side of her mouth, pondered the page. As she reverently reached for a new crayon (even at this young age she was aware of what a luxury it was to have real American crayons to draw with), Ivana came bounding in dragging her stuffed fox behind her.


            “Jadwiga! Jadwiga! Get up!” she half whispered, half shouted as she danced around the girl with her paper and crayons.


            “Not now Ivana. I am coloring,” she sighed, turning her attention back to her drawing.


            Ivana stopped dancing. Setting her hands on her hips and adopting a disapproving expression exactly like the one her mother was fond of when someone was not behaving properly, she said, “No NOW! You’re such a weirdo sometimes. Tsar Nicky and I found something!”


            Jadwiga rolled on her side and, stone faced, gazed at Ivana. Ivana stared back, arms crossed and toe tapping. This test of wills lasted a few seconds before they both broke down in a fit of giggling. “Oh come ON!” Ivana exclaimed, grabbing Jadwiga’s hand dragging her up and out of the room.


            “Tsar Nicky and I were playing in the guest room, “ she whispered, stealing glances up and down the hall as they made their way toward the sleeping quarters. “It’s amazing!” They dashed into the guest room and collapsed into another fit of muffled giggling with their backs to the door.


            Ivana began to dance around the room like a ballerina. She stopped to balance on one foot and extended her arm to touch first one panel of the wall, then another. Each time, she adopted an exaggerated look of frustration and shook her head, “No, No, No.”


Until…


<click>


This panel, unlike the others, slid back and to the side. Jadwiga’s mouth dropped, “Is it…”


“A secret passage!” Ivana whispered, silently clapping and jumping from foot to foot. “I told you it was amazing. Go on, it’s safe.”


Jadwiga crouched down and was engulfed in darkness.


 


As her eyes adjusted, the amphitheater came into focus.


“What do you think?” whispered a soft voice next to her.


“It is very beautiful Bestla. There is a peace here that I have not yet seen in this city.”


“You can see the stars really good here…Soviette?”


“Yes, Bestla?


“Someone told me that even stars burn out. Is that true?”


“Yes, dear.”


“Will I burn out someday?”


 “Yes, dear. We all will burn out someday.”


“I WON’T BURN”


“Bestla?”


“I WON”T LET THEM”


“BESTLA!”


She ran after her into the forest. She was engulfed in darkness. She ran, branches catching at her face and clothing. She caught her foot in a root and fell…


Fell…


Fell…


 


He slammed her back into the chair, breath reeking of vodka and stale tobacco. She knew this man, knew this office. But that face…it was Worker’s Champion. He began stroking her hair talking about how she could be the “mother of a new generation,” telling her that, “You are strong, intelligent, and faithful. The way a Woman of the Soviet Union should be. A true Soviette.”


“begone”


His eyes, glazed by alcohol and glory, seemed to look through her. His skin sagged as if it were made of melting wax. He told her there was something he wanted her to try, an experiment he had been working on. As she got up to leave, he grabbed her by the shoulders and shoved her back in the chair.


“Begone”


The room grew bright and hot. She realized he was too tall, too large to fight. She cried and screamed but he moved mechanically, as if he did not know she was there.


“BEGONE”


 


 


….


 


 


                        She awoke with a jolt. The dull hum of the dim airplane cabin greeted her as she tried to get her bearings. She began to sob softly, salty tears mingling with the sweat that drenched her skin. She looked at her hand and realized that she had been gripping the hand rests so hard that she had bruised her palms. She realized that this trip was affecting her more than she had cared to admit.


            It was plain that Kostyak, for all his brave show, was a nervous wreck. She had seen enough commanders return from Afghanistan with that look in their eyes; the dull realization that no matter what you did right, how hard you fought, things were collapsing around you, and there was nothing you could do to stop it. He had insisted on chartering small planes, switching modes of transportation often, as if he were a fox trying to shake hunters. She knew better though. The danger lay not in the getting there, but in the getting out.


            Then there was sister Ursa. There had always been tension between them because of comrade Bering. She would need to have a talk with her. He lavished attention on Jadwiga and she bathed in it. It is a lonely thing to move so far away and know no one. She was willing to do anything to assuage that loneliness. She hoped Ursa would understand that she had been foolish and desperate. Perhaps they could even be friends…


Ah, friends. That was why she was so scared. She was trained to tend others but never care for them, and she had not cared for someone since Ivana deserted her…until she met Bestla.      She would not abandon the child that had taught her to live again, even if it meant sacrificing that life in the process.


            “Please fasten your seatbelts, we will be landing soon,” a disembodied voice lilted through the cabin. She shuddered and, hugging herself, opened the window to gaze at the sprawling metropolis below her. Jadwiga…no…she must now be The Soviette, for she had a duty to perform. Not a duty for her country or for creed, but for a friend. It had been many long years since she had been able to call someone that. She would not let Bestla down.