Flying home from Portland, Oregon where I attended the 2014 World Horror Convention and Bram Stoker awards an old man of about eighty sat in the aisle seat of my row. The woman assigned to the seat behind the old man helped put his bags and his jacket into the overhead compartment. I was already seated in the window seat. He looked down and saw the plastic- wrapped blanket sitting in his seat.
“What is this?” he asked as he picked it up, inspecting it.
“It’s a blanket in case you get cold,” I told him with a welcoming smile.
He looks at the woman who had assisted him with his carry-ons and said, as he pointed and eyed me, “I’m sitting next to an attractive woman; I’ll just cuddle with her to keep warm.” He laughed.
We introduced ourselves.
“Where are you flying?” he asks me.
“You’re from Maine?”
“Yes, I am.” I smile.
“So, Portland to Portland. What brought you out here?”
“I attended the World Horror Convention and the Bram Stoker Awards.”
He looks confused. “What?”
I repeat myself.
He titters. “Are you a horror aficionado?”
“I write horror and horror movie reviews.”
“Oh, I see,” is all he says.
Minutes pass. More people load onto the plane. Another man, a younger man closer to my age—30s—sits in the empty seat between the old man and myself. He’s wearing a black-and-white baseball cap—Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas—with an image of Jack Skellington above the visor. The older man tells him that I had attended the World Horror Convention.
The new arrival just says, “Oh, really?”
I nod and smile. “Yes.”
During the flight the two men talk while I gaze out the window checking out the sights, the lights, the clouds.
This is what I learn about the two men seated in the row beside me: The younger man is flying to Baltimore to help a religious group start up a new church. That is what he does for a living. The older man had flown to Oregon to attend his granddaughter’s graduation from Multnomah Bible College and Biblical Seminary. His son, her father, is a Baptist minister. As the two men are talking, I notice that the younger of them is holding an eBook. Being the nosy person that I am, I see that it is on, so I read. That’s what I do. I read. I’m a writer. I’m curious.
He’s reading something about a woman with an assault rifle who is about to mow down a large group of people, riddle them with bullets. Then she tells one man that she will spare his life. That’s all the screen tells me.
Okay. So he’s a church starter who likes reading about mass murder. Whatever. I read stories about serial killers; who am I to judge.
The two men continue talking. I find out that the older man’s son graduated from the same seminary as the younger man. They two connect. They talk churches and seminaries.
I fall asleep. I can’t get comfortable. I fidget. I wake.
I see the man beside me, the younger of the two men, is watching a movie on his iPhone. A Mark Walberg film. More violence. Fine by me. I’m horror movie reviewer. Violent films are nothing new to me.
I turn and try to fall back asleep. I’m still uncomfortable. I fidget. I cannot sleep. I fidget some more.
The pilot’s voice sounds from the great beyond of the cockpit. He tells us we’re thirty minutes from landing in Chicago. I gaze out the window checking out the sights, the lights, the clouds.
I’m not afraid of flying.
The flight attendant’s voice sounds out over the speakers. “The pilot wants me to tell you all to remain seated with your seat belts on. We’re going to experience some turbulence.”
I continue gazing out the window. There are no lights, except for the ones on the wings. The clouds are thick and huge, spreading over the elevation of the plane. We fly through one. The wing lights brighten.
The massive wing shudders violently. My heart rate quickens. I’m not afraid to fly, but it quickens none the less.
Thud, screech . . . thud . . . rattle . . . shimmy . . . screech. We land.
Passengers stand and gather their belongings from the overhead compartment.
I’m in the window seat. I remain seated and wait my turn.
The old man is standing in the isle. He holds out a pamphlet, shows me, and says, “This here is the worst horror story ever told.”
I don’t know what it is. It’s five in the morning. I’m tired. I smile. I retrieve my carry-on from the overhead compartment. I begin walking down the aisle toward to exit of the plane. I hear the old man call to me from behind.
“Please, Miss! Please take this, Miss.”
I turn around, go back, take the pamphlet and say, “Thank you.” I put the pamphlet in my pocket.
Minutes later I’m sitting on the shitter. I take the mystery horror pamphlet out of my jacket pocket and read.
It tells me how I am a sinner and I must repent; I must turn to and follow Jesus or else I will go to Hell for my sins. I need saving and Jesus is my only savior.
I recall that the old man did not give one of these pamphlets to the younger man who sat between us—the man who likes reading about mass murder, the man who enjoys watching violent films.
The old man gave it to me. The horror writer. The “horror aficionado.”
The old man who states that he wants to keep warm by snuggling with the attractive girl that he doesn’t know—he’s the one who’s judging me?
What he doesn’t know about me: I give more than I take. I’m a vegetarian who would never harm any living creature. I respect and protect the Earth, the mother of all. Nature is my church.
I laugh. I crumple the pamphlet and throw it away in the recycle bin.
I exit the stall, wash my hands, and then I proceed to the gate for my next flight.