Bryan Beal


© Bryan Beal

Screams rang up and down the cabin of the aging 747, a last shadow of a once-great airline of a now defunct country.

If only someone had shouted “Bomb!”

It would have been all that much simpler. Metallic tentacles had gripped each wing, and Vernon supposed, the fuselage at the front and rear. Whatever it was, it decided that a 747 would make a great souvenir. Vernon could see one of the long, dull grey appendages through his window. He regretted now asking for an aisle seat. Not that it would have helped much. He just might have felt a little better not seeing that thing out there.

Vernon reached for his old iPhone and turned on the camera. As he set up his shot, he noticed where the tentacle had grabbed the wing. There was not even a small buckle in the wing surface. Despite the massive forces that must have been acting on the points of contact, Vernon could see nothing amiss. Not even a single rivet appeared to have popped out. He snapped off a couple of photos before struggling to get the video switched on. Even if he had not had Parkinson's, he would have had a job of it.

Abruptly, the grinding of metal twisting from the frame of the aeroplane drowned out the howls of terrified people. Vernon's eyes shot forward just like a Drill Sergeant had shouted the order into his ears so long ago. He was sure that hatch to the plane fell away, a momentary flicker out his window.

A ball of clear material supported on eight long legs crawled through into the port aisle. The aisle Vernon was next to.

“I seek the male in seat 49A.”, a metallic voice said, not loud, but by then you could have heard a pin drop.

Vernon looked at the young punk next to him. The punk, all dolled up in a pink mohawk and torn leather jacket and denim, looked at him. Realisation set in. Vernon tried to sink into seat 49A. But then his conscience got the better of him. A shaking hand, probably not from the Parkinson's, slowly rose above the back of seat 48A.

In a flash, the ball was there. It had gripped seats and roof with its eight legs and propelled itself up the plane like a stone from a slingshot. The ball stopped and edged closer to Vernon, oddly careful not to touch the punk. Vernon heard a faint crackling from the machine or whatever it was. He could not see any opening or seam in the metal of the ball. Until a small hole dropped open and a tray slid out.

“I request your photographic communication device, please.”, the ball's voice came, like a caressing whisper.

Vernon just gawped at the ball.

“Ah, my colleague, Grufenxra, does not like her photo being taken.”, the ball explained, interpreting a gawp as a request for a reason.

“Gru...?”, the question choked off in Vernon's throat.

“She is the one holding your vehicle.”, the ball explained.

Vernon could only dumbly place his iPhone in the tray. Instantly it snapped shut and the ball rose a little.

“The Explorative Society of Dkrenthanda thanks you for your understanding, biped.”, the ball brightly declared and made for the hole where the hatch was.

Exiting, the ball resealed the hole with what appeared to Vernon to be a massive welding light. A few minutes after that, the tentacles released the aircraft, which continued on its journey.

The Captain of the flight was not long in finding out who the machine had talked to and pushed his way through a gathering crowd to add his own questions.

“What did it want?”, the Captain demanded, his volume an attempt to mask his fear.

“As far as I can tell, my iPhone.”, Vernon replied. “It's friend was camera shy.”

#ShortStory #SciFi