AntipodeanSF Issue 309

By Zary Fekete

Just then Elaine awoke.

She could feel the imprint of the pattern of the aeroplane seat on her cheek. She must have been asleep for some time. The plane was on the ground and when she looked around she could not see any other passengers. A stewardess was standing next to her, gesturing toward the front of the plane.

“We’re here,” the stewardess said. “So sorry to rush you, but the cleaning crew will be coming on soon, and you’ll want to be on your way now.”

Elaine shook her head and slowly stood up. What was the last thing she remembered? She remembered someone … it must have been the stewardess … making a few pre-flight announcements. But that was all she could remember. She tried to remember what happened before the flight. There was the airport check-in. She had been given several papers. She signed her name somewhere. She checked her bag. She waited for boarding announcement. Everyone in the lounge seemed tired and grey. She boarded the plane. Then she must have dropped asleep before the plane took off.

“I’m terribly sorry,” she said to the stewardess. “How long have I been asleep?” 

“Oh, quite some time, I think. I didn’t want to wake you for the meal service because you were totally out. Looks like you needed it, dear.”

“Thank you,” she said. She reached under the seat in front of her and took her purse. She walked up the aisle, touching the seats as she did for she still felt a bit of sleep clinging to her eyes.

“Thank you so much for flying with us,” the stewardess said when she reached the front of the plane. Elaine turned back to thank her, but the stewardess was gone. Elaine was alone. It was a somewhat eerie feeling standing among the silent empty chairs.

She exited the plane and walked up the hallway of the tube that connected the plane to the terminal. As she walked she held her purse against her chest and thought to herself, “Now who was I supposed to meet?” She was mildly surprised to find she couldn’t remember. In fact, she couldn’t seem to remember much about why she took the flight or where she had been before.

As she walked she passed various advertisements on either side of the connecting tube. There were pictures of aeroplanes soaring through blue skies and pictures of happy passengers enjoying food or in-flight entertainment. Each picture had small bursts of text like: “Fly with us and live your best life.” And “We care in the air.” The airline was called Unroll Air. She tried to remember what she had read about it. It was a new upstart airline with discounted flights. It has become very popular for weekend travellers. That must be why she chose it. 

She came out of the tube into the terminal. It was empty. The lights were all lit and she saw signs pointing her toward baggage claim, but there were no people anywhere. Elaine followed the signs and, as she did, she passed by various restaurants and gift shops. There were advertisements for jewellery and perfume. But there were no salespeople manning the cash registers. The airport seemed to be completely empty. It was so quiet Elaine could hear her shoes softly brushing the bland airport carpet as she walked.

She finally arrived at baggage claim and saw her lonely bag was the only one slowly revolving around on the conveyor belt. She lifted it off and belt and turned toward the exit. She was relieved to see a man wearing an official-looking outfit standing outside. She stepped through the automatic doors and he turned towards her as she exited the building. He was smiling a gentle smile.

“Excuse me, sir,” Elaine said. “I feel so foolish. I know I’m supposed to meet someone, but I seem to have forgotten who it is.”

The man nodded. “No worries,” he said. “It happens to the best of us. In fact, that’s why I’m here. Could I take a look at your ticket?” 

Elaine fished around in her bag and then handed the man her crumpled ticket. He busied himself reading it a moment and then consulted the computer terminal next to him. “Ah, here we go. Elaine Jennings? That would be you?”

Elaine nodded. 

The man looked down again. “Yes, here we go. You seemed to have checked the ‘unsubscribe’ button when you booked your ticket. Does that sound right?”

Elaine scratched her head. “I… I suppose that’s right. They gave me a lot of papers to look at. I don’t really remember what they said.”

The man nodded and handed back the ticket. “Yes, we’ve been getting a lot of that lately. In fact, if you read the fine print you would have noticed that you, in fact, completely unsubscribed by checking that box.”

“What do you mean?” said Elaine.

The man smiled at her. “It means just that. You unsubscribed.”

“I don’t understand.”

“That’s what it means,” the man said. “Peace and quiet. Everyone is gone.”

“What do you mean everyone?” 

“Yep,” the man said. “No more unwanted conversations. No more awkward moments you usually tried to avoid in the office. No more coming up with things to say to the neighbour when you accidentally made eye contact with them when parking your car in the driveway. You’re unsubscribed. You don’t have to worry anymore.”

“But,” Elaine said. “What do I do now?”

“Anything you want,” the man said. “The world is yours. No distractions. Head out this door. Choose any car you want from the parking lot. Pick any place to stay. No one will stop you or distract you.”

Elaine scratched her head. She felt dazed. 

“Don’t worry,” the man said. “You’ll get used to it. And if you don’t like it, next month you’ll be given the chance to reconsider. Until then…enjoy.”

Elaine looked out at the silent world beyond the doors. When she looked back the man was gone.

rocket crux 2 75

About the Author

zary fekete beach 300Zary Fekete grew up in Hungary and worked as a teacher in Eastern Europe and East Asia.

He has a novelette (In the Beginning) out from ELJ Publications and a debut novella, "Words On the Page", coming out in early 2024 with DarkWinter Lit Press in addition to two short story collections later in 2024.

Zary enjoys books, podcasts, and many many many films.

He lives in Minnesota with his wife and two sons.

Twitter and Instagram: @ZaryFekete

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