Taking Flight

Camden Benesh
10 min readJun 17, 2023

A sci-short story

Photo by Katerina Kerdi on Unsplash

The humming of fluorescent street lights buzzed sporadically, flashing beads of flies onto the window’s reflection. The dream blurred to life like a short film. The liquid in his head crashed back and forth along the edges of his skull as he gripped the bed for support. Static shocks and neurons firing, his mind struggled to keep up. His heart monitor beeped in agreement. With a final surge of nausea, Stevie woke to find his spine creaking above his sheets in a c-like manner. He wiped the burning sweat out of his eyes, and the desaturated blue ceiling above softened into a swaying focus…

Around him in pieces of images, a sterile classroom formed into his viewing. He sat in a splintery rocking chair, rocking ever so slowly, back and forth. The sound of creaking filled the dull classroom. Crescents of yellow lit the edges of the room, casting a warm gradient over the room. The creaking was deafening. Stevie tried to call out but a class bell overpowered his voice. In the center of the room, he saw a familiar figure. He reached out but when he did he found his arms mutilated and sawn off. Blood seeped down, to his waist, soaking the yellow tile. Again his brain surged waves of electricity as his nerves fell out at his elbows and fired off randomly. Shaking he tried calling out to his brother, but he stood motionless in front of the whiteboard. Wriggling his arms, Stevie found himself bolted down to the set. His thighs were torn open in slits of depth where the muscle once set. The rustic nails protruded upwards like needles on a sewing pin cushion.

“Brother, Brother!!” He tried calling out. Neal turned around, to him, and the skin on his face sizzled and popped, as it peeled away from the supports of his face. His eyes popped one at a time like popcorn kernels as he slowly eroded in the fire. The muscles burned away, and the bones in his face and body broke the air in steaming punctures. “Help me,” Neal Croacked.” Stevie’s lungs didn’t inflate as gasped out. The classroom soon unleashed a flurry of fire and the images soon became an array of abstract light and slashing sensations of pain. He awoke encased in sweat. The bandages and casts bleed with time, causing discomfort with every tilt and turn.

“Neal!” he screamed, awake, blinking back lashes full of warm tears. A wavelike pool of UV light waterbag light splashed back and forth in dizzying patterns along the wood paneling of the wall. The room was a traffic jam of flashing lights and medical equipment. Overhead, the TV was frozen on advertisements for soaps. His limbs hung suspended, entrapped in braces and bandages, he strained his eyes to focus. The sound of scratching and scurrying of little feet echoed around. A haze of dark green smoke rotated around the room. The gradual scurrying broke the monotony of medical beeping and distracted Stevie from his temptation to itch his limbs. It was as if the room had become a city engulfed in morning fog. The cityscape of machinery soon began to fade to silence.

“Get enough sleep?” a voice croaked.

Beams of light cascaded through the window, flashing perpendicular pillars of yellow onto a blacked-out silhouette. His features shuttered between the paparazzi of light as he inhaled a thick cigar. He sat on a small chair in the dimly lit corner of the room. His sharp and thick suit bled a deep green, soiled from the outdoor rain. His cologne reeked of printer paper and black licorice. The yellows in eyes glowed like a lion’s, wide and still. His silhouette morphed and danced from light to dark with the ever-passing car.

“Dad?” The chair squeaked in response; his footsteps boomed louder and louder with each step. Stevie lurched his neck in his brace to find his Father looking over him. Only the orangeness of his cigar lit his pupils. His cheeks puckered as burnt woody citrus wafted over the hospital bed. Chewing in between mouthfuls of chocolates and dried fruit, he took something from the folds in his suit.

“You got some gifts from your classmates. How cute. Get well Steve it says. They even left you candy and flowers,” he said as his teeth squeezed together the candy-like pliers. With a large guttural gulp, he returned to his cigar with a stretched grin. Stevie’s limbs twitched in between breaths of smoke and drainage. “You fucking asshole.” He spat at his father’s rattlesnake-skinned shoes.

“Aw, don’t look at me like that, Stevie. Don’t you want me to more of your cards?” He spat out in chocolate-filled laughter. He held the cards over him, lighting them into small balls of fire. The heartbeat meter rang bells in Stevie’s ears as he tried to move away from the heat. His casts cracked as the machine beeped louder and louder. His bed shook vigorously through the sweat stains. His eyes quenched focus as his anger begged his torn ligaments to move.

“You’re a dead man.” He spat mucus and blood on his face.

“I’ll fucking kill you, you hear, I’ll smash your…”

“We’ll see about that.”

His coat rustled through waves of wind and squeaks. A long crescent smile carved out his face as he drew up handfuls of squirming rats. “What are you…”

He sighed deeply. “A gift for letting my son die like a goddamn dog.” His denatured teeth clicked through loose joints. His knuckles tore tendons and whitened as his face contorted into elongated pulling of an expression. Impacts of air broke the cloud cover of cigar smoke, his retinas burned slivers of yellow and orange daggers of light. His suit was speckled with blood as he exploded the rats in the palms of his hands, dressing Stevie’s face with entrails and blood. Cauterized sewer blood ran up Stevie’s nostrils as his Father wiped the end of his cigar on his chest. Stevie spat out blotches of blood and hair to breathe.

“You’re son? I’m not your fucking son?!” he screamed.

“Not anymore, you aren’t,” Donny whispered, cupping a hand over his face. “Shhhhh now, Stevie, be obedient like your mother won’t ya?” Pulling him closer, Donny wriggled his fingers like worms into a loose fist and began to pummel him. Smoke caressed the hospital sirens and flashing lights. His face bulged like a subway system of veins and worry lines, compressed full of anger and pressure as his hit. Back and forth, he purpled Stevie’s face while cracking his teeth in a tight smile. His father’s words pounded against his forehead as Stevie as he flung father and father onto his bed. The jet blue harness blew specs of dust and vibrated as Stevie’s headshot backward from the last punch. Donny stood afar, clutching his elbow and caressing his orange leathery skin.

Stevie bellowed, “After all this time you show up, after all, you put Mom through. I’ll fucking kill you!! I’ll kill you!!!” His chest beat vigorously as the freshly opened wounds bled down his casts. The wheels of the bed squeaked and pivoted as Stevie squirmed, attempting to break out of the supports.

“Atta-Boy Stevie, come and get me,” he said with a flick on his forehead. He waltzed out of the room as mechanical kneecaps chirped and chimed into the melody of fire alarms and static overhead narration. “Nurse, oh nurse, come here, my boy; what happened to my dear boy,” he pleaded through the halls. Directing the nurses into the room, his father faded into the backdrop of hospital hallways and off-white tiling.

Stevie was sweating. He felt his face swelling shut as his chest erupted with mucus and blood. His casts and limbs caught fire as nurses burst onto the scene with extinguishers and the swaying of blue fabric. The blast of gray smoke filled his lungs and eyes as he cut away from the harness and supports. Collapsing into his bed, the last thing he saw before falling into a headspace of nausea was the remaining crisps of his classmate’s handwriting. We miss you. The blotchy burnt ink was red before being rinsed with extinguishing foam. Everything faded to black as piles of nurses and security broke into the room. The wheels of his hospital bed roared down the hallway as the ventilator stuttered “Am I going to die?” Stevie croaked, gripping the hands of the nearest nurse.

“You’re going to be alright. Just stay with me…” That was the last thing he remembered before the trauma shut him off.

Stevie strode long steps, waltzing the high-ceiling hallways of the academy. Overhead were impressionist paintings of past professors brimmed to the neck with scholarly outfits. Their accomplishments and plaques hung above in the concrete walkway. The long list of inspirations seemed to bear more pressure than it did inspiration. He fixated his gaze on the chipped red lines of refurbishment that separated the classrooms through the angular paint brush strokes. The booming of fresh sneakers orchestrated the hallway with sound. The walkway opened up into a football field-sized arena with steep stairs protruding in every corner. The classrooms were neatly tucked into the corners of the room. An array of students lounged on fruity-colored couches, discussing and watching a nearby class through the glass. Muffled applause and gasping shook the windows as eager classmates studied and conversed over simulation flight training. The supported planes were elevated on a series of diving board-like structures and tube support beams. The rig shook violently as students bore brave smiles and cheered for support from below. Stevie couldn’t help but smile, gazing over in their direction. “God, I remember hating that.” He smiled, waving at the nervous underclassmen as they geared up for their turn.

The rain showered overhead into the slights of glass and concrete, shining the usual flat light. He climbed the open set of oversized stairs filled with breakfast-themed conversation and chewing. Glazed with rain and breathing hard, Stevie stood atop the set, waiting for the nearby class to get out. It had been two years since he had lost his brother in the accident; Stevie studied the view of the gray hallway as the tubes of liquids as odd gases complimented the overhead 6 a.m. announcements. He never liked the principal’s energetic voice and his ridiculous vocabulary. He’s still as annoying as ever he thought while sorting through sour and coffee-stained piles of homework. The rust-colored bell rang overhead. Stevie glanced into the classroom, watching his rival class pack up through the blur of patterned glass. An enthusiastic Margo appeared from the flock of students exiting a nearby classroom.

“Hey Stevie, school got you down?” She smirked, handing him a stale bagel. Her untucked dress shirt and orange uniform had pockets full of pens, sticky notes, and schoolwork.

“Me, school, no… not me.” He smiled. “No bag today?”

“Yeah, they were eager to write me up,” she said, waving to her classmates.

“As well as other things.”

“Can’t guess what those are…”

“What’s that,” she said, pointing at the envelope in his dress pocket.

“Bills.”

“Are you still getting charged for your medical bills?”

“Yeah, as well as other things.”

“Of course…,” she laughed nervously.

Her dark licorice hair bopped back and forth as the two strolled the corridors of hallways. He thought through spin cycles of lateral pocket squirming and uniform touchups. God, she was cute. His mind raced, it always did with her, maybe that was normal he thought.

“Meet you upstairs after class?

“Sounds good, you know what they’re serving today?”

Her face puckered. “Tofu pizza and sparkling water to wash it down”

Stevie grimmaced. “Great”

The airships flew around circles overhead as the rain pelted the glass openings in the wooden chassis of the upper-level cafeteria. The whole gym was an old basketball court repurposed and refurbished in the early 2000s. Circular tables lined with red velvet seats lined the outside of the gym, as students gathered their lunch from food tables. Students still found time inbetween lunch to pass the time by passing and shooting hoops. Stevie has been working up a sweat, dribbling back and forth, her thought about Margo. The clicking of her heels boomed on the soft wooden paneling. The two walked through the gym together, weaving through the darkness of the shadows from the overhead vitamin D radiators. The greyness and greens of the outside scene flickered through the gigantic glass windows and painted red and yellow stripes of the rooftop. Stevie broke the silence and sounds of chewing first.

“I’ve been thinking..” Margo’s head poked up through her pile of notebooks and papers.

“Yeah, what’s on your mind?”

“I know we graduate in a couple of weeks, but I just can’t help but think I’m missing something. There’s this emptiness and queasy feeling.”

“Go on…”

“As much I want to graduate and move to be a pilot, part of me doesn’t want to move on, move on… From this.” He looked into Margo’s gaze, her cheeks blushed a pink and red swirl.

“Stevie… I..” His heart raced fast, slamming against his chest. Glancing down, Margo laid her hand on his. ” I want to stay with you, I like you, a lot…”

Stevie’s eyes zoomed in and out before his burnt-out brain allowed him to remember to breathe. His eyes watered and so did hers, neither of them wavering as their eyes became interlocked with each other. Beneath the humming of rand and radiators, the sound of beating chests filled the room.

“And I don’t want to leave you.” Her eyelashes fluttered with elegance.

“I…I like you, a lot too Margo, I’ve liked you for years.” Before Stevie could muster another word, Margo embraced him. Both of their faces burnt with redness as an echoed dribble filled the cafeteria.

An airship above the cafeteria loomed in place, as others spiraled around it. “Light ’em up Fred,” said the crackling overhead speaker. The pilot switched and navigated in the darkness of the cockpit, scanning the orange and blue lights and control paneling. Fred shivered, a cold sweat drenched his uniform as his lymph nodes ached. He squinted hard into the computer screen, scanning the cafeteria below. Zooming in further, Fred found Margo and Stevie at the table. Enhancing the image for clarity, Fred watched the two embrace in a kiss. Fred’s fingers shook violently on the control sticks. “Stevie? God no, it can’t be,” he muttered. The speaker shredded his ears devoid of thought and hearing.

“What’s wrong, Fred? This is what you wanted right?? You can’t back out now after what you did.”He breathed deeply in and out, trying to calm himself as the roaring of the other airships blew by him.

“It’ll be done before you know it.” Fred zoomed out of the image of the two, focusing on the whole perimeter of the school. The holograph depiction of the school spun in the computer, and layers of green and white wireframes lined the screen. The missiles below rumbled in readiness, as his screen flashed back and forth, ready for launch it read.

“Yeah… you’re right, you’re right…” He gripped the trigger tight and pulled. Sparks of bright light flashed as a swarm of missiles shot down at the cafeteria.

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