Jason Cage - Chapter 3

Jason Cage - Chapter 3

Nauru Islands, 12:30 AM, Year 1971

“Dear passengers, the Captain has turned on the fasten seat belt sign. We are now crossing a zone of turbulence. Please return to your seats and keep your seat belts fastened. Thank you.” The announcement was crisp yet unnecessary. None of the travelers had relaxed their seatbelts in that storm.
The weather was fierce but not something that could turn into a cyclone. The raindrops lashed furiously at the windshield, doggedly trying to break it. With two crew members and nine passengers, Dassault Falcon 20 was a featherweight, and that added to its sufferings. The same company employed all of them, and the journey was for business. The passengers - seven men and two women - prayed incessantly.
“Ladies and gentlemen, we are starting our descent; please stay in your seats until we are safely parked at the gate. Thank you.” Another needless recorded announcement made after a panicky twenty more minutes. Notwithstanding, the agony was now short-lived.
The lone airstrip at Nauru international airport flickered like teeming fireflies above a lake. Nauru - world’s smallest republic. With an area of 21 sq km and less than eight thousand residents made it the second least-populated country after the Vatican City.
The illuminated airstrip revealed the pilot where to land. A road that was less than a thousand meters long. Being very close to the sea line, the angry waves consistently hit the runway. The Air traffic control, which was a lone wooden tower in an otherwise open airfield was numb with the massive torrent.
Bill Dabwido and Valdon Adeang were on duty that night as the ground staff, waiting in that wooden tower. The control tower had the necessary equipment to make contact with the planes coming and leaving the island. Once outside the range of the tower, the plane was not their headache. The flight frequency was so low that Bill and Valdon possibly had the most secure and the easiest job in the whole island.
But not that night. Nauru had its share of rain-storms but that night was oddly terrifying. Bill and Valdon seated clueless in the tower. Visually, it was impossible to gauge the descent of Falcon. And the radio signals were too chary and jarring. Bill was trying vigorously to make some sense out of the chaos while Valdon peered through the thin window lining of the tower to figure out any sign of the tiny jet in the black sky. Till then their efforts resulted in nothing substantial.
“This is giving me real creeps. My gut says that something awful is going to happen. Why this has to be on my birthday?” Bill shouted over the thumping rain, looking at the violently shaking calendar on the side wall. Valdon hushed him into silence.
“I am going to check if the airstrip is properly illuminated. You keep a watch from here and try to establish the connection. I will radio you.” Valdon got out of the small wooden tower. Descended through the wooden stairs. The ground was shaky and slippery. Surrounded by a rocky terrain, the tower looked more like a holiday shack on four wooden pillars.
Excessive phosphate mining had robbed the country of any significant flora and fauna. The rocky path to the airstrip from the ATC was long and tiresome and tonight fearsome too. The newly built airport building at a distance from the ATC tower looked ghastly in the dark.
Once out in the open Valdon faced the full fury of the rain on his body. Covered with a bright yellow raincoat, he felt as if the rain had found its prey in him. Attacked by an insane force, he stumbled like a drunkard trying to sustain his balance. The dark black road appeared like the pathway to hell. That one and a half mile journey on foot was going to be cruel. The visibility was non-existent in that pouring. How would he locate the plane in the sky? Valdon pressed his raincoat harder to his body.
In the tower, Bill finally heard a faint sound among the chaos. The plane was in the right spot, ready to land. Valdon must be told. His fingers moved on the walkie-talkie.
"Hey Valdon, can you hear me?" The signals muffled his voice.
Valdon anyways was on his way to the airstrip. Bill thought.
His focus was on his next immediate task, the safe landing of the plane. The pilot heaved a sigh of relief when the re-established connection allowed him to speak to Bill. They acknowledged each other like long lost friends. This was the only aircraft during the last three months that carried people to and from Nauru, allowing Bill and Valdon to do some real work from that small wooden tower. Bill was glad to hear a familiar voice.
“Great to hear your voice, buddy.” The pilot smiled, not a full blown smile, a careful one. The plane was still in the air.
“Relieved to see you rolling around in this weather.” Bill gave a full blown grin with a fist punch in the air to celebrate the first breakthrough after that long struggle. The pilot smiled again this time more naturally, hearing the glee filled tone. “Let’s get you a safe landing, friend.”
Minutes later the plane’s rear tires hit the tarmac followed by the lone front one. With brakes pressed, the plane slid on the wet tarmac, but the pilot skillfully managed to save the day. The plane slowed down for the taxi.
The speakers whirred with the next pre-recorded announcement for its nine scared passengers.
“Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Nauru International Airport. On behalf of Air Nauru and the crew, I’d like to thank you for joining us on this trip. Have a pleasant stay!” The speakers whirred for a while after the transcript was finished and then went silent.
The doors opened, a small stair popped out from beneath the front door. Then it stood quietly. The rain was now lashing at the stairs and on the insides from the opened door.
Valdon was panting hard with still a good half mile left to cover on foot. He attempted moving faster, but the hostile wind restricted his movement. The rain though subsidized, the rocky terrain still made his life hard.
He was now on the final stretch of the road that merged to the airstrip. Valdon reached the juncture of the merger, and the Falcon greeted him with an eerie pleasantry.
Bill should have told me about the landing. He thought.
The rain had stopped, and Valdon expected some human movement near the plane as he neared the jet. The aircraft stood still on the airstrip. Rain drops shining on its metal body.
Maybe they all had left for the departures. Maybe.
His eyes fixed on the aircraft’s gate. Eleven people were on that jet, he knew.
No more rains, no more winds, no more nothing, only damp dead air and a white plane on a soaked airstrip. An eerie loneliness overwhelmed Valdon.
But he wasn’t alone.
In the ensuing darkness, a pair of alien eyes curiously tracked his activities from the other side of the airstrip. The eight feet shadow was covered with an overcoat and a tilted hat. It was hard to ascertain if it was just an eight-foot shadow or an actual person in that dark, murky night. His full attention was on the narrow spot which now had both Valdon and the plane.
Valdon stopped just outside the opened gate of Falcon. Still nothing. The door stood ajar. He looked around - nothing except the teeming airstrip lamps. The onlooker waited for his next move. Valdon deliberated, then started climbing the stairs, one at a time.
Standing at the gate, he peeped inside the cabin. The last living being on that plane stared back at him with hope, lying on the floor. But one look at the passenger and Valdon understood that hope was just a devious sentiment. His eyes rolled over his body. The left leg of the rider was grown into three legs like a branch. Two more hands grew over from both of his elbows. The man gazed into the eyes of Valdon and then turned to his right to stare into the eyes of his other identical albeit tinier head that popped out at the joint of his right shoulder and arm. The other ten passengers had more or less the same fate. The only difference was that they all were gone. Some had three heads, others, six extra legs outgrown from their knees.
Valdon’s radio receiver buzzed with Bill’s voice.
“Valdon, where are you? The plane has landed.”
He couldn’t respond. It didn’t make any sense. Numbed. Even tried screaming but what came out was a whimper. He couldn’t stand. His knees lost the will to carry his weight. He collapsed like a rubble of rocks, with a thud - yet his eyes remained transfixed. On his four limbs, he tried avoiding the direct gaze of the last man breathing, and then the two heads lolled in separate directions. A shriek rocked the plane and then Valdon threw up on the floor. 
Lightning struck somewhere in the sea. The shadow in the woods was still there. The felt tipped hat covered his face, but the brief brightness revealed a terse smile. The cat eyes shone like diamonds in the dark. He turned. His overcoat covered his strange body structure adequately. The only thing that it was unable to cover was his long tail. Another lightning struck and the rock where he stood a faint second ago, was now bare.

Forty-Five years later and ten thousand kilometers away, Jason woke up, startled and shaking - drenched in sweat. He glanced outside the window; the sky was cold and silent. He looked at his watch; the time was 12:25 and the date -13th June. Whatever it was, the one thing that it wasn’t was a dream. It had happened that night. 


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