“Ben, hey bro, wake up!” fellow server Miguel whispered. “His wife wants you,” he added, holding the small phone up to the younger man’s ear.
Benjamin took the device quickly and said, “Yes, ma’am,” as smartly as he could. He listened, watching Miguel who was mouthing the reproach, Next time answer your own phone. “Yes Ma’am, I think the batteries died. Sorry, Ma’am. Yes, certainly, right away!” He cut off the call and handed the cell back. “She wants a massage,” he said, his lips stiff.
“So what? Do whatever they want, you hear me? And turn your phone on, don’t mess with that shit!” He squeezed the other’s shoulder quickly, then hurried away to the galley.
As Benjamin headed for the upper staterooms, he passed through a gilded suite decorated with mirrors and Lalique crystal sconces. He glimpsed himself in the glass. His skin was sallow, his eyes ringed by shadow. Every freckle and blemish looked purple. He needed sun, he knew. He needed sunshine. Which was funny as hell, because all they ever saw outside the windows of this huge, supersonic Burns and McDonnell jet, was the light of the sun.
Several hours later, he sat with three other members of the staff as they relaxed for a few moments before bedtime, in the cramped compartment adjacent to their sleeping quarters. There was nothing to eat or drink in their small fridge.
“Him and his family, they’re keeping more for themselves,” Benjamin said. “I think supplies are running low.” He became fixated on the square window across from him; the glare was frosty and almost white, the special glass scratched and streaked but still intact. They couldn’t see clouds. Only lavender subspace and the flare of the solar disc.
Miguel rested on a turquoise bench behind Benjamin. He moaned, bringing the heels of his hands to his eye sockets. “Of course they’re running low,” he said, and abruptly stood. “Even with hydroponics, continuous photosynthesis, and solar power, they’re running low. What’s the matter with you guys. Don’t you see what’s going to happen?”
Maria flopped exhausted in a plastic chair facing Ben. She peered up at Miguel with tired eyes. “We’re just lucky to be alive,” she said softly.
Aaron, a personal trainer, slumped on another bench. He shook his head. “Whoever’s the most valuable to them, that’s who’s going to live the longest,” he said.
Benjamin continued to stare at the light. “We’re going as fast as the earth rotates, a thousand miles an hour. It’s always midday.”
“It’s late….” Maria said. “We have our jobs. I need some sleep.”
Benjamin stared at her. “I think there’re survivors. I think people are left. But he’ll never land this thing anywhere, ever. The billionaires paid scientists to create nuclear fueled engines, and he’ll keep flying until everyone on this jet dies.”
“Which is going to happen, because they’re running out of food,” Aaron said.
Miguel paced in a tight circle. “And what happens to us if they run out of food?”
“I don’t want to know,” Maria said as she came to her feet uneasily and groaned.
“People, wake up!” Miguel shouted.
“Stop, just stop it,” Maria responded, close to tears. “I’m turning in.” She limped to the narrow door of her tiny cabin and yanked aside the curtain. She looked over her shoulder; her face was gaunt and her brown eyes fearful. “I don’t want to die,” she said to the others. “But what did a few extra months or years buy us, anyway? We should’ve stayed in Miami, we should’ve told him no….”
“The earthquake came first but nothing much happened. I remember it was about thirty minutes after impact,” Benjamin said. “I thought, hey, it hit Wake Island, we’re thousands of miles away. Then dust and fire started falling from the sky, and they said the wind was coming–the air blast–and the boss and his family were running, and all of us and the pet dogs were running for his jet. Because the boss knew, he knew about the asteroid, and the rich bastards were prepared. And I thought of my mom and my sister, and you thought of your kids, but you were running too, across the tarmac. Because the wind was moving at nearly 700 miles per hour and nothing would be left standing….”
No one spoke for a moment.
“And so here we are,” Aaron finally said. He paused, then added, “You know, why do we have to calmly go to our deaths like sheep? The way I see it….”
Miguel nodded rapidly and raised a fist in the air. “That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you!”
Benjamin watched Maria disappear behind her curtain. He wondered what it was like, to sleep in the luxurious staterooms, listen to music and eat fine food. He wanted to find out.