(Author’s note: Kari pronounced same as Carrie)
Something happened today… and I can’t begin to tell you how it has changed everything.
It had started off as a typical day. I had chosen today to go to my parents while my husband went to work second shift at his job. I am currently unable to work; a year ago, I became sick with mono, and after several instances happening at once, I developed Panic Disorder (which causes panic attacks, severe anxiety, and the like) and was fired from my job. I felt as though something was just… off. My husband wrote it off as my anxiety messing with my mind and took me to my parents. Usually, during especially bad days, I’ll go to my parents because there are times I have attacks that are so intense, I lose consciousness from them. I hoped today wouldn’t be one of those days.
It was around five in the afternoon, and we were getting ready to go out for dinner. There is a little place just up the road that keeps a pretty steady stream of customers, but due to its small size isn’t crowded, so due to my anxiety, we chose to go there. My husband had been at work around an hour by now, and I wouldn’t hear from him again until seven or eight, so I kept my phone in my hoodie pocket. Just as I had finished tying my shoes, I heard my mother let out a cry that immediately sent me to my feet. She was looking out the window, her hands up to her mouth and her eyes wide in utmost fear. My father and younger brother ran into the room, too, confused just as much as I was… until we saw.
See, the area we live in is not that far away from a vital airport. It’s not uncommon for planes to pass by overhead somewhat low as they are preparing to land or as they are taking off. But this… The plane was out of control and crashing, and the only thing we could do was watch as fire exploded behind the knob over the hill, perhaps a mile or so behind our house. My parents and younger brother tried to find their phones, but they never keep track of them. Knowing I had mine on me, my mother grabbed it out of my hoodie pocket and dialed 911. We all just stood there, staring outside the window, the flames dancing just over the hilltop. Death was inevitable for the passengers and crew on board, and we felt helpless.
“Please, you have to send help,” my mother breathed into the phone. “There has been a plane crash!” She paused a moment. “My address? Of course. It’s…”
She stopped, and at once, my dad walked to his gun cabinet and unlocked it, pulling out his Judge pistol, ensuring it was loaded. My younger brother and I took a step back from the window, my breathing becoming shallow and quickening. It wasn’t right. It couldn’t be. There was no way it should’ve been happening.
“Kari,” my dad called out to me, taking hold of my shoulders. I looked away from the window and to his eyes, and I could see he was just as scared as I was. “Listen, baby girl. I know… Just remember to breathe like you’re supposed to.” I nodded shakily, and he released my shoulders, turned back around, and handed me a twelve gauge. “I know that what I’m asking for it a lot, but this… this isn’t normal. And we have to be ready for anything, okay?” I nodded again. My dad gave a hesitate smile and nudged my shoulder. “Besides, we know what a good shot you are. Second in districts, right?”
For the third time, I nodded. I walked to the gun cabinet and pulled out a box of shells, loading the gun. My family, minus my mother (guns petrify her), are hunters. Or, I used to be. My older brother is married and on his own now, but us three and my dad are capable of shooting rather well. My younger brother grabbed the 1180 over-and-under, loading it as well. My mother refused a gun, as always. She’s shot the Judge before, but just once. Never again.
“I-I’m sorry,” Mom stammered as she shook her head, holding the phone closer to her ear. “No, I’m still here. It’s just… they shouldn’t be.”
We watched them as they emerged from over the hill. Some crawling, some dragging their bodies by grabbing onto clumps of grass and pulling themselves along, and some walking awkwardly, their bodies too injured to move rightfully. But the most horrifying thing of all wasn’t this. It was that they were fast.
I felt dizzy, the first sign of an attack coming on for me. I shook my head. No. I had to stay focused.
“No, you don’t understand!” I heard my mother cry into the phone. “No one should have survived that crash!” She was shaking by now, but keeping it together like the rest of us. We had to. “You’re not seeing what we are! They’re coming! They’re coming! You have to send help!” She threw her free hand up in frustration then locked the backdoor. “I don’t care who you send! The police, the army- just send so-”
There was no scream, no sound of shock from anyone. My mother nearly dropped the phone, and that’s when we realized.
We had forgotten about the front door.
Slowly, we turned around to see a woman- or what was left of her- standing to the hall that connected the den to the kitchen, her clothes torn, her body eviscerated and bloodied. From what I could see, she was a stewardess. She was missing a shoe- high-heeled, as a matter of fact- and one of her arms was barely hanging on. Her hair was perhaps dirty blonde… I couldn’t tell through all the blood. Dad pointed the Judge at her, but for some reason, my mother and I held our hands out to him, telling him no. The woman limped forward, jerky movements, her knees bent at strange angles that made it difficult for her to move.
Where was our panic? Why were we so calm?
As she shuffled into the den, blood trailing behind her and pooling beneath her, my dad redirected his attention to the backyard to see that the others had stopped moving. My younger brother looked as well.
“Dad…” he whispered, “are they…?”
“I don’t know…”
The woman stopped in front of me and my mother, and I shot a glance behind her at the front door to see it closed. She had closed it? Why? What had it mattered to her?
“Ma’am? Ma’am, are you there?” I could hear the 911 operator asking. My mother had lowered the phone, which was now just at her collarbone.
“I am sorry to be a bother,” the stewardess spoke politely, her voice hoarse. As she spoke, I noticed a deep cut to her neck, where blood flushed from. “It’s just… I’m really thirsty.”
“Th-Thirsty?” I asked, lowering my shotgun, the barrel now toward the floor. I had turned the safety on. “You need water?”
“Oh, yes, please,” she practically begged. “It was so hot… I just need a little bit, that’s all.”
“Mom, sis,” my brother murmured, turning his head slightly so we could hear. “Don’t.”
My mom set the phone on the coffee table, and I realized she had put it speaker. The 911 operator was silent, listening in on the entire thing. “It’s okay, Spencer,” she soothed, taking a step toward the stewardess. “Kari, come with me.”
“Y-Yeah. Okay,” I agreed. I put the shotgun in the crook of my arm, the barrel still toward the ground for safety precaution. I wasn’t going to leave my mother alone right now, unarmed. In the kitchen, I kept my body sideways, placing myself between the stewardess and the front door. My mother opened one of the cabinet doors, reached up, and took a glass out. Words weren’t said. What could be said? She then turned on the faucet and made an odd sound that I took for desperation.
“What is it?” I asked. She said nothing. “Mom? What’s wrong?”
“The glass? Just get a new one. I really don’t think she’ll mind, though. She’s-”
“No, Kari…” She moved to the side to let me see the running water. It wasn’t just dirt. It was brownish-red. The plane must have crashed into a waterline, blood and mud mixing into the water. Her eyes moved away from the water then, she froze. Through the corner of my eye, I saw her. The stewardess. Her face was close to mine, and she smiled.
“Is it dirty? That’s okay. I just really need something to drink, so I-”
“No,” I shook my head. “No, you need good, clean water. I think… I think there might be some bottled water in my father’s hunting building outside that I can get for you.”
“Oh, I wouldn’t go out there just yet,” she mentioned. “There are many who are confused and just don’t understand.”
“But you do?” my mother questioned.
“Mm,” was all the stewardess said.
I pulled out a chair from the dinner table for her to sit on, but she shook her head. “I don’t suppose you’d want me to make things even messier for you.” Her eyes moved over to the trail of blood she was leaving through the house.
“It’s really okay,” Mom insisted. “You must be in pain, moving with those injuries.”
The stewardess smiled again. “You’re very kind. I’d always heard the south was the land of hospitality.” She sat down on the chair, her knees cracking and her arm limply lying on her lap.
“Please, just let me go get the water for you,” I urged. I didn’t understand a thing. I have panic disorder, something in which the slightest thing can cause an attack to set in. At first, I had been so close, but now, I was calm. All of us were, but my father and brother were still on guard.
“Perhaps your father should go with you. I think that would be safe,” the lady agreed.
“Mom,” I called to her. She looked at me, and I handed her the shotgun.
“No,” she rejected.
“Mom… please? I trust her, but I don’t know what else…”
My mom’s eyes darted from mine then to the gun, and with a shaky hand, she took it. I pointed to a small button next to the trigger. “You know what this is, right?” She nodded. “If anything happens, you have to make sure it’s off before you shoot.”
I turned away and made my way into the den. “Daddy?” He grunted, acknowledging me. “I need to get to your building.”
“Do what?” he asked, making a quick glance at me. “Going outside? Are you crazy?”
“Listen, the lady just needs some water,” I began. “They crashed into a pipeline, and…”
“Oh,” Dad simply said.
“She said I’d be safer with you.”
“They won’t attack?”
“She didn’t know.”
Dad let out a nervous breath, switching his safety to off. “Spencer, we need you to stay inside and be with your mom,” he urged. “Got it?”
Spencer nodded, and my dad and I walked to the door, my dad grabbing the building keys off his desk as we did. We stood at the door for a moment, looking outside. No one was close, still in the field about 100 yards away from our house. The building was directly outside the house, so we hoped we could make it in time.
“Are you sure you can do this?” Dad asked.
“Y-Yeah… I think so,” I answered, flicking the safety off. “I’m ready.”
Dad nodded, unlocked the backdoor, and we ran toward the building. He unlocked the door, and I stood at the entrance, pointing outwards, listening to…
My dad grabbed the case of water bottles, and back inside we ran, seeing no one from the fields. He didn’t care to lock the building door again; we just wanted back inside. Once inside, we locked the backdoor, and Spencer sighed a breath of relief.
“None of them moved,” he informed. “They watched you, but they didn’t move.”
I flipped the safety on to my shotgun, put it in the crook of my arm again, and got a couple water bottles for the woman, who I could hear talking to my mother in the kitchen about everyday things. Laundry, family… It was so bizarre. Once in the kitchen, I handed her the water bottles, instantly realizing my mistake. Her arm was useless. I opened the bottles for her, and she downed the first in one gulp, some of the water seeping out of her neck wound. She reached for the second bottle, breathing heavily from lack of air while she had been drinking. I studied as she drank the first bottle, and I had so many questions…
“What… are you?” I asked as she raised the second bottle to her lips. She stopped, her eyes locking onto mine… and the panic started setting in. Her gaze seemed primal, distant. “I just don’t understand. You shouldn’t… you couldn’t have…”
She said nothing as she drank, this time slower. She pulled the partially-filled bottle from her charred lips and exhaled.
“What is your name?” my mother questioned. The woman then smiled and set the bottle down on her knee, holding onto it.
“June,” she replied. “Can you guess what month I was born in?”
“Hmm, that’s tricky,” my mom grinned, humoring June. “August?”
“Funny,” June chuckled, bringing the bottle up again the drink. She then looked at my left hand. “What pretty rings. Just married?”
My eyes wandered down to my engagement and wedding rings. “A little over a year now.”
“I bet it was lovely,” June sighed. “I was married. He’s such a wonderful man. His name is Troy Halls. You’ll tell him, won’t you?”
My mother and I nodded. “Promise.”
June hummed an odd tune for a brief moment as she closed her eyes. “You know… the others will be thirsty as well. I don’t think you’ll have enough water.”
“Don’t worry,” Mom soothed. “I have help coming.”
“They can’t help.”
“But… they can give you water.”
“Will they listen?”
“If not, we will,” I said.
June shifted in her seat, then finished the last of her water. “Think I’ll stay around for a while. Just until I know everything is okay.”
“That’s fine,” my mother agreed. “Kari, I’ll be right back.”
Mom walked into the den, and I heard: “I don’t think they’ll hurt us. I think… I think they just want to be heard. You can put the guns away now.” Then, to the 911 operator, “They just want water. Send lots and lots of water. …No. No survivors. No, this isn’t a prank. No, ma’am. Ma’am, listen… You have to believe me. Just send water.”
It’s now midnight, and the stories and confessions we’ve listened to have been countless. I’m not even tired. A panic attack hasn’t even happened, which is shocking to me. My husband gets off work in two hours, and I have to wonder if he even knows. I missed his phone call during his break, so I couldn’t tell him.
We’re still giving water. June is still here, by my side, shuffling as we walk from person to person. I don’t know what she is. I don’t know what they are. They have all been confirmed dead- no pulse, no heartbeat, no brainwave activity. But they’re here. Unlike the flames that were extinguished long ago, something of them remains. How long they’ll stay, no one knows. Their appearances don’t scare us anymore. My older brother and his wife, who is a nurse, have even shown up to assist. The calm is startling, as if this was an everyday event. Nothing makes sense.
Beyond all science, beyond the act of God or nature, beyond all boundaries.