The dead man set aside his cup of coffee, and asked the question once again. A simple request for clarity. “Don’t you think you are being dismissive, Jason? I don’t mean to imply that they are hopeless, just that the choice is out of our hands. We have a flight plan, no? We gave them every chance to join us on the plane, and they never booked their place. They knew that this was the last flight off the island before the storm hit, and we can hardly be bothered to delay takeoff any longer.”
My head swam as his breath rolled out. Rain was falling in sheets on the cockpit window, but inside everything was warm and dry; turbines meant for driving steel through sky still just serving to drive warm air into the cabin. Somehow it was already stale. I wanted to show him how many seats there were. I wanted him to face the decision he was making. We didn’t need to leave the supplicants here, in the path of the rising tides, we could take them so easily. I settled for an appeal to his humanity. “No, Hayes, escaping isn’t enough. We can’t leave everyone else behind and pretend we have some kind of moral high ground. These are human lives. Real, actual people, not just a number on your damn manifest.”
The corpse smiled sinister. His black gums explaining the toxic stench. A bit of palate rot, but not enough to halt the flow of words. “Now, no need to be vulgar. We are on the same side, you and I. We don’t decide who makes it on the plane. Corporate did that days ago. We simply follow what is on the paper.”
My voice rose, anger finally managing to crack the surface. “Then the manifest is wrong. It doesn’t matter if we fucking lose our jobs for this, it’s up to us to open the doors. You can’t separate yourself from what happens if we leave those people behind. It’s still murder, even if its sanctioned by the airline. If the captain can’t see that, then he is an evil son of a bitch, and so are you.”
A frown creased the forehead of the copilot, drawing a look of concern over the empty sockets where his eyes used to be. It was astounding how expressive he could be despite the rigor mortis. I couldn’t remember if he was alive the first time I met him, or if the rot just hadn’t set in yet. It was obvious now, and maybe I should have seen it earlier. Either way, the dead man spoke, “Explain to me what’s evil here? Really, break it down for me, what about the captain’s plan is so egregious that we need to stop our escape? Should we put ourselves in danger just to load more people onto the plane? How do we know none of them are dangerous?”
“I’m not going to break this down any more for you. You refuse to see what this actually is. I’ve had my fill of monsters like you wearing rhetoric like a mask.”
He took another sip of his coffee, black tongue on black drink, muddied waters mingling. “Their names aren’t on the manifest. You know that. Really, I don’t understand why you keep appealing to emotion. It’s such a tired argument. We follow the letters on the page. If you refuse to have a reasonable discussion about this, then I don’t suppose I need to listen to your nagging any more. Go back to your place, the captain will be back any minute to get us out of here.”
I left the plane, and walked into the hurricane. Seventeen steps down to the runway, then across the pavement to the terminal. Those left behind saw my uniform, and said nothing. I found a space by the window to watch the Titan Arum lift off into the clouds. I think I will die here, but I will sleep well until then—although I think the dead people on the plane will sleep well too, and that scares me.