Safe Skies

14 November 2010 by Mike Gogulski
Posted in art, mind control, technology | 10 Comments »

“Mommy, how high does the airplane go?”

“Oh, on a flight like this maybe up to thirty-three thousand feet,” I tell Casey.

Casey rolls her My Little Pony suitcase along behind her. “How high is that?”

“Well, that’s about six miles.”

“How much is a mile?”

Casey’s five years old, and full of questions as we approach the ticket counter for her first airline flight. The line is moving along quickly. We have twenty minutes before our flight, plenty of time.

“Will I be able to look out and see the clouds?” Casey asks.

“No, I’m sorry, Casey. I told you. You can’t see anything during the flight.” I shift my purse to get a better grip on my rolling suitcase.

“Aww,” she says quietly as we step up to the counter. I hand over our identification cards. The ticket agent plugs mine into the reader and checks my face against my picture on her monitor.

“DNA scan, please, ma’am,” she says. I press my thumb to the red circle on the small scanner terminal. “Thank you. And what’s your name, little lady?” she asks my daughter.

“Casey. I’m five.”

“That’s delightful,” says the ticket agent. “DNA scan, please, miss.” I pick Casey up so she can reach the scanner. She’s used to this; she does it every day at school.

“Thank you. Okay, are you checking any bags today?”

“Just these two and my purse,” I say, lifting my suitcase to the conveyor and placing my handbag on top of it. “Come on, Casey, put your suitcase up.” She does, and the ticket agent tags each bag with a sticker. A few taps on her keyboard, and Casey watches as My Little Pony is whisked away into the bowels of the airport.

“All right,” says the ticket agent, “I’m coding your pod routings into your ID cards. Pod Lounge B, just follow the signs. And for you, Casey, here is a happy kitty sticker you can put on your pod! Have a pleasant trip!” She winks at Casey, who smiles at her sticker as we walk away.

A clock overhead shows fifteen minutes until flight time. I used to hate flying. First there was 9/11 and the fear everywhere, the machine guns at the airport. Later came the super-sensitive metal detectors, removal of shoes and belts, and just more hassle and more time spent at the security checkpoints. The new system is so much easier.

“Mommy, can we get an ice cream?” Casey asks.

“When we arrive, honey. We need to get to our pods now.” We’re just coming up on the entrance to Pod Lounge B.

“Do I have to go alone?”

“Yes, honey, but everything will be fine. I’ll be right next to you the whole time, and everything is perfectly safe. You’ll see,” I tell her, giving her a warm smile and squeezing her hand. We step into Pod Lounge B behind a big family: grandmother, mom and dad, four young children.

Flying is so much nicer now without all the security stuff. The shoe bomber and the underpants bomber forced the government to introduce some pretty tough screening procedures.

First there were the body scanners that showed naked pictures of you to the security staff. You could choose to skip them (a few people were afraid of radiation), but then you were searched by hand. I didn’t mind the scanners – anyway, it was much better than having your breasts fondled and your vulva examined with those cold blue rubber gloves.

Later the body scan became mandatory, along with the hand search. Nobody really liked that, and some people just stopped flying. A couple of airlines went bankrupt and were bailed out by the government. Then there was the vagina bomber and the full cavity searches. I always took the fast-acting tranquilizers the Bureau of Transportation Safety starting handing out for free at the entry to the security lines.

But then came Norman Greer. They said he was some kind of militia terrorist. While in flight, Norman must have taken plastic explosive and a detonator out of hollow cavities inside his metal femur implants. 523 people died that day.

“I don’t want to go in the pod!” The youngest of the family’s four children is screaming loudly. Casey looks nervous, but this doesn’t go on too long. Dad grabs a tranq dispenser off the wall, dials a dosage and applies it to the little girl’s neck. She goes limp, and mom and dad load her into a pod. Then they put their daughter’s happy puppy sticker on the pod and feed her ID card into it. A low beep, a light turns green, and they go about getting the rest of the family settled in.

“Here we are, Casey,” I say as we approach a pair of the silver pods a bit further down the line. I point to a spot on Casey’s pod, underneath the rim of the open lid. “Put your sticker on here.”

Casey peels off the happy kitty sticker and presses it to the surface of the pod, smoothing it down. “Now, hop in.”

Casey gets in the pod and lies down. “Will I dream, Mommy?” she asks.

“No, it will be like you just go to sleep and wake right up again. And Grandma will be there to give you a big hug.”

“Okay,” she says. I kiss her and close the pod lid. I push Casey’s ID card into the slot. After the green light and the beep, I can hear the gas starting to fill the inside of the pod chamber.

They say the pod freezes you to just above absolute zero. Nothing can explode when it’s so cold, so there’s no way to launch a terrorist attack as a passenger. Luggage is handled the same way. Baggage and passenger pods are all racked into the planes by robot loaders. All very efficient, and much cheaper.

I get into my pod, take a last look at the happy kitty, and close myself inside. I push my ID card into the inner slot over my head, and close my eyes as the gas starts flowing in.

* * *

Waking up from pod sleep is a little strange. It’s hard to focus properly and things sound odd for a few minutes after the lid opens. I sit up and look around until I spot Casey’s pod among the others, the happy kitty cheerfully identifying her right next to the BTS rampant eagle logo. Some other passengers are already wandering, somewhat groggily, out of the pod lounge toward baggage claim.

No sign of Grandma yet. Casey’s pod is still closed, so I walk over. Red light, two more minutes until she’s ready, the display says. Suddenly, a woman’s scream drowns out all other sound in the pod lounge. Her cries are quickly joined by the terrified shrieks of children.

It’s the family of the little girl who had to be tranquilized in the pod lounge when we were leaving. They’ve got the lid open on the girl’s pod; I can see the happy puppy sticker. The mother and kids are screaming as they look inside, the father is ashen and the grandmother stands gaping.

Casey’s pod beeps softly and the light turns from red to green. I open the lid to see her fluttering her eyes at the light. We both start at a crashing noise behind us. The screaming stops. I lift Casey out of the pod and we start walking to baggage claim to look for Grandma.

The screaming starts again. We glance back to see that the happy puppy pod has fallen off the rack and a thick, reddish goo is flowing thickly out of it, pooling around the stunned family’s feet.

Ah well. There hasn’t been a terrorist attack for three years now.

“Hey Casey! How about some ice cream?”

“Yeah! I want blueberry!”

  1. 10 Responses to “Safe Skies”

  2. By Jim Davidson on 14 November 2010

    It could be worse. They could take the families into rooms with chemical “showers.” Arbeit macht frei.

  3. By marquise on 14 November 2010

    I actually enjoyed your pseudo sci-fi little story and I want some more. Why don’t ya make it a book….?

  4. By Mike Gogulski on 14 November 2010

    @marquise: unfortunately, the fracking story is over 🙁 Thank though.

  5. By Bleicke on 14 November 2010

    Very disturbing. I cried a little.

  6. By James Cerveny on 15 November 2010

    Beautifully done, Mike!

  7. By Marty on 15 November 2010

    Don’t worry. This wouldn’t happen. 😉 You’re MUCH more likely to be poisoned by the antifreeze they would have to pump you full of (to prevent exactly this super-severe frostbite, of course).

    Never fear, though. You’ll be a perfectly preserved corpse.

  8. By marquise on 15 November 2010

    Mike, I know this one is over, lol! I was trying to temp you into writing more….

  9. By Kyle Bennett on 15 November 2010

    Good story, Mike.

  10. By Robert on 15 November 2010

    It’s Casey’s mother’s response that made the hairs on my neck stand up.

    “Ah well. There hasn’t been a terrorist attack for three years now.”

    It’s as though she felt nothing for that “other family”. Unfortunately this is the kind of complacency we see all around us today.

  11. By Robert on 15 November 2010

    It’s Casey’s mother’s response that made the hairs on my neck stand up.

    “Ah well. There hasn’t been a terrorist attack for three years now.”

    It’s as though she felt nothing for that “other family”. Unfortunately this is the kind of complacency we see all around us today.

    Thanks for the peek into the future, Mike.

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