Stratosphere
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The ticket lady's mouth widens, and her eyes dart about. No soul has boarded a flight in 50 years, the aircrafts sentinels upon the concrete plane, staring rapturously with blank squarish eyes at the terminal windows. Arranged on the runway, they resemble toys haphazardly spread on the floor. Those toys filled a young child's imagination, inspiring crashes and saves, left forever on dusty flooring amidst stuffed animals and preserved crumbs. Those crumbs eternally stain that boy's tiny blue room, reconstituted fragment by falling fragment. One of those crumbs may have fallen into an air vent launched upward, eventually to land upon the planes at the airport. So diluted now, the wings resemble cellophane.

Providing the lady her materials, she wishes me a safe and comfortable flight, though she appears troubled by my additional questioning. She nods at whether she's stayed all her life here, and shakes her head at a proposal for company, but stares blankly and shuffles in place when asked her birthday or favorite color. Not the first simulacrum encountered here, but this one conjures particular sympathy. A desperate mind seems trapped inside.

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The plane's interior looks pristine, more than natural reconstruction. The seats have no wear or impact marks and the windows appear spotless. Beyond the nanopreservers's mindless actions, the plane healed itself. A scented tree ornament, left in my adjacent seat, serves as omen for this congruence with nature.

The plane slowly rumbles without voice or warning. Only presumably the pilot shares the ticket lady's attributes, perhaps not so tortured. Fellow planes continue pained stares, rejecting the burden of watching their brethren take off for one penultimate time, their fellow pilot assigned one penultimate mission. Attempts at gaining info on the other planes' innards led to more blank stares. It combines frustration with melancholy.

As the plane ascends, I notice the safety manual on the back of the seat ahead. It identifies the plane: A Boeing 737 MAX. The line notoriously featured troubled Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation Systems, meant to mimic the previous Boeing line's flight behavior. Instead, a flight crashed into the Java Sea, leaving behind only lifejackets and cell-phones.

Those cellphones collected and varyingly salvaged reveal stressed phone calls, text messages, internet searches for proper crash procedure, anything possible to spare folks not only oblivion but the devastation inflicted upon their loved ones. The tin tube plummeted besides, several hundred Indonesian residents and two foreigners strapped and bounded towards watery doom.

Leaked messages from Boeing derided the airline company for requesting further flight training in response to the crash, the vitriolic comments spawning no soft response, including threat of cancellation for several billion dollars worth of planes. The manual on the back of the seat insists, conversely, to maintain a clear head in case of aircraft failure.

A similar pioneering and fog-headed spirit brought 87 prosperity-seeking individuals to depravity and madness. The band departed Missouri towards California, immediately preceding the infamous Gold Rush, though the path to promised fortune still remained packed before and after. A proposed short-cut only worsened matters, conspiring to detriment the group in all aspects. The author who suggested that shortcut later headed parts of the American Confederate army and attempted to establish a Confederate colony in São Paulo before his death by Yellow Fever.

The stuck wagon party, bounded by November snow, now receives memorial via a lake and state park, though an incandescent transcendentalist performance in 2134 largely turned the lake to a solid blue metal. One may presume any debris of the party remain encased in that metal deluge, frozen.

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Frost covers the passenger window, obscuring the view outside. Even with this, however, the outline of the Bridge rises higher than any plane or shuttle could reach. The indiscernible contents bloom and wilt as if fast-forwarded, and I notice the wing has turned yellowish-brown. The wind blew off the nanopreservers in the fierce wind, extending to the entire aircraft and cabin. The chair in front slumps into a small mold and the manual disintegrates in my hands. The combined plane velocity and wind speed at this altitude create this phenomenon, though I may not call it unique.

Beside the school, a pond froze over in winter, the first snowdrops briskly touching the glassy water surface, and children skated on ice. My friend, filled with a fiery disposition and athletic knack, sought the pond immediately, and began running across the ice. He spun and twirled mid-air, attempted to mimic some moves he saw on Saturday morning cartoons, and paid no mind to the cracks.

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The first crack, a tiny figment, spiraled two more lines, and two lines from each of those, and so on, in a circle pattern. The phenomenon whisked around my friend until he stopped in the middle of the lake, noticing the pattern surrounding him.

One step.

At first, his instincts told him to stay still, and thus he sunk to the bottom, some 10 feet deep. The ice covered sunlight, leaving his origin hole the only spot where pale beams could fade upon his face. The machines that covered him conspired to bring him upward, creating a coral-esque platform that extended through the ice. As soon as it started formation, it shrunk once more, the things falling off my friend's body and drifting into the water. As my friend grew colder and colder from the heat dying off him, he gazed up and saw how far down he'd sunk. Those systems meant to protect him caused electrical shocks to delay any physical attempts to salvation, and my friend sunk further. He thrashed on the bottom, grasping the mud and dirt, until even these stressed movements began to shrivel. One movement, and he seized, left coiled. As oxygen depleted from his mind, his pupils spun 'round his eyes, the only movement left present on this body. The pattern of the eyes contorted, and his pupils formed the shape of an abstract loop.

His body remained frigid.

When I departed the plane, I noticed it had reconstructed itself. The plane was white. The inside was pristine.

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