The airport. Humanitys gleaming pillar of promise. A beam of light in a sky otherwise swollen with darkness. A gorgeous steeple towering over the shit-stained parapet of the railroad.
Yes, the airport offers a beautiful song to all of us, but you are in no position to listen to its harmonies. You are running late for your flight.
Your alarm clock went off late this morning, the train to the airport was behind schedule, and now youre pretty sure that you accidentally left your oven on. Youre even more sure that you accidentally put all your expensive artwork in your oven.
But that will have to wait! You tear through Terminal A with your roller bag skittering off the linoleum, spewing your clothing everywhere. Your plane leaves in 20 minutes; you just might make it!
Refusing to stay at the horrible airport any longer, you head back home. You can always start a new career another time. There is something comforting about that jagged city skyline and the specific type of regional rudeness its citizens exhibit.
You get off the train and walk back to your house. When you open the door, you notice the faint smell of burning 19th-century acrylic paint. Where is it coming from? You look in your bathroom: nothing there. You check your fridge: everything normal here. You finally check the oven and find an inferno of Renoir inside. You fool!
You sprint toward Gate E5, where your plane to Panama City is departing from. You are going so fast that you slide the last 20 feet across the linoleum, stopping perfectly in front of the gate agent in a little cloud of dust.
Hello, she says. Do you want to get on the plane now?
Well, thats too bad, because its been delayed for 0.7 percent of a month, the agent says. Thats five hours, in case youre European.
The gate agent clacks away at her computer.
Well, we have another flight to Panama City leaving in one hour, she says. But it is circumnavigating the globe six times before landing.
The gate agent types at her computer.
Theres another flight for Panama City that leaves in 45 minutes, but its being flown on that. She points out the window to the tarmac below.
Hmm, the ticket agent says as she clacks away at her computer. Im also seeing a flight that would get you there by 6:00 p.m., but you would have to be the door.
Hmm, the gate agent says as she clacks on her keyboard. Theres a flight leaving in 40 minutes, but its scheduled to crash.
A five-hour delay. Theres not much to do about that, because humanity still knows very little about the mysterious nature of airplanes. Luckily, the airport is teeming with exciting opportunities to burn time. What do you want to do?
You waltz over to the Terminal A food court, greedy to take part in American commerce and American gluttony simultaneously.
Which restaurant do you want to go to?
Choo-choo, the man behind the counter says. The hobo of hunger is about to get disemboweled with an old chair leg on your freighter headed toward San Satisfaction-isco. Which rail would you like to ride toward Full-Stomach Junction?
The man then makes a train whistle noise with his mouth.
You look at the menu.
Sorry, the guy says. Were out of that. Actually, a thief stole all of our proprietary pretzel flour blend, so we cant make anything. I dont know why I didnt open with that.
Yeah. Weve been trying to figure out who stole all of it, the guy says. Its a mystery I dont have time to solve because Im working the counter here. Do you have time? Its probably an exactly five-hour-long mystery.
An airline pilot steps up behind the counter and gives you a tired glance, his eyes weary and uniform rumpled and stinking.
Verlacky, commondun Denver jerlook mimmy Boston? he asks.
You walk back to the TSA security area and go up to the agent who seems to be in charge. He looks at you.
Can I help you with something?
Its pretty simple, the TSA agent says. The TSA is in charge of finding the man who murdered Laci Peterson.
You walk over to a man who is also waiting for the flight to Panama City with his ill-tempered son.
Hey there, he says. This delay is making me a little hot under the collar.
Im flying to Panama City because my kid has been crying nonstop for six months, and Ive tried everything but taking him to Panama City to get him to stop. So here I am.
Hello, another passenger says. Its so nice to meet you!
We at the TSA dont quite buy that verdict, the agent says. So, we decided to set up checkpoints at all American airports to see if we can find the real killer. A killer sadistic enough to murder Laci Peterson and then frame Scott Peterson is probably just the maniac who would want to fly to a bunch of places. Thats why were in aiports.
See that machine over there? he asks, pointing to a machine. That machine scans every passengers luggage, looking for items that tie a person to the death of Laci Peterson, like a gun, or strands of Lacis hair, or a signed confession.
Conversely, the machine also scans for items that exonerate Scott Peterson, like a picture of him lovingly hugging Laci, or a letter that explains why he took out $15,000 in cash, bought a gun, and dyed his hair the day before his arrest.
Thats our backscatter machine, the agent says. Its very simple how it works: Everyone must step through it one at a time, and a highly advanced AI grills you on details of where you were on Christmas Eve, 2002. It has proprietary technology that can tell if youre lying or not. It also takes pictures of you naked, but were not sure why it does that.
Oh, Scott Peterson for sure, he says. Its very obvious. This is just a job for me.
Goodbye! she says.
Im going to Panama City, another passenger steps up to you and says. Here is my air ticket.
Im going to Panama City, he says once more. Here is my air ticket.
Right you are! You are running right on time, perfect as always. You step up to Gate E5 for your flight to Panama City.
Would you like to get on the plane to Panama City now?
The pilot points to his hat, then makes a plane motion with his hand.
Shiig nustern Toronto glinderfroon Orlando lop dinz DallasFort Worth? he asks.
The pilot narrows his eyes and barks at you while gesturing for you to leave.
Glinderfroon jerlook shermex, Flagstaff!
The man toddles off through a door marked Valve Room. You decide to talk to another passenger.
Hey, the man says. Im texting my accountant to buy this plane just so I can crash it into the airport. Thats how mad I am about our Panama City flight being delayed five hours. I am rich, so its okay.
Goodbye! the woman from earlier says as she walks right in front of you.
Hey there, the man says. We would already be 1/500th of the way to Panama City by now if the flight had left on time. And the pilots would be safely behind a locked door instead of milling around the terminal. Pilots give me the creeps.
Theres a reason theyre typically only allowed in the pilots lounge and are forced to live in their airplanes, he says. The plight of the pilot is one I dont have sympathy for.
You approach another passenger.
Why are you standing backwards on this moving walkway? she says. It is deeply unsettling.
The shy pilot scuttles awayheaded for the pilots lounge, you notice.
How odd, you remark to yourself. You find yourself a new passenger to talk to.
Hi, this passenger says. Im a little glum because I woke up this morning with no memory of who I am or any identifying IDs or credit cards, with only a ticket to Panama City in an empty apartment. Im just kind of bored with this whole Who am I? thing.
It might cheer me up if you help me think of a name, she says. What do you think I should be called?
Wow! Thanks! You really have a knack for
Goodbye! the woman from earlier says.
Okay, great, says the old man. Why dont you head back into the kitchen and question the staff first.
What would an old man like me have to do with stolen proprietary pretzel flour blend? he says. Now, if youll excuse me, I have to count the correct number of pills that, in tandem, will continue to make me alive.
You bump into Dana, whos washing dishes.
Oh, hi, Dana says. You must be the wildly unqualified person investigating the missing proprietary pretzel flour blend. I have nothing to hide, so ask away!
Its all over the Airport Intranet, Dana says. Everyone is gossiping about it.
I was exploring a cave near my house, Dana says sheepishly. I know caves are illegal, but I like them anyway. But I didnt have anything to do with the proprietary pretzel flour blend. You should talk to Lenny. Hes something of the King Man around herehe knows everything.
Oh, Dana says, blushing. I do some freelance dishwashing for other restaurants when it gets slow here. Our little secret!
Hello, Lenny says in a quiet voice. Do you want to question Atlanta me on the missing flour?
No, I didnt, says Lenny. Im not sure what youre talking about.
I was in the Normal Place, says Lenny. You should talk to David and Ruth. They will Cincinnati know more about all the facts you crave.
Here are David and Ruth.
Congratulations! You questioned David and Ruth!
Hey there, the chef says. The cashier asked me to run a little investigation into the missing proprietary pretzel flour. Where were you this morning?
Interesting, the chef says. Sounds like theres some intrigue afoot. Lets go ask the cashier what this is all about.
You both hear a blood-curdling scream coming from the front of the restaurant.
Lets run toward that cool scream! the chef shouts.
If this is what you expected, its exactly what you expected: the cashier murdered by having proprietary pretzel flour blend shoved in his mouth.
You hear another blood-curdling scream.
You whip around to see that the chef is dead too! He was also asphyxiated by pretzel flour, blood foam pouring from his mouth.
You check your watch. Its already been two and a half hours. Halfway through the wait until your plane leaves. Nice!
You notice the tag on the chefs apron is sticking out. You go to stick it back in, because its really bugging you. As you peer down, you see that it says Ki