"The man from Taured. Isn't that some sort of Urban legend or something?" Paris asks.
We're in the front of the plane. Gary is working the back of the plane. A majority of the people on the plane are asleep. They should be. The man from the country that doesn't exist stays awake. The awkwardness of it all is getting to me. I still remember what he told me not too long ago. It's scaring me. The scariest part about it is that the man has no idea that this place doesn't exist.
"What urban myth?"
"In the 1950s a man shows up in Japan saying he's from a country called Taured. He even has a passport. The only problem is that Taured doesn't exist. Officials hold him for questioning. Put security guards outside of his door. The next day, they go to his room and he's gone. Disappeared. Poof. Right into thin air as though he was never there, to begin with."
My hairs are standing on end when Paris tells me the creepy story. Leave it up to Paris to know all about Urban myths. Of course, he's not creeped out by it. Paris thinks the guy is sexy. Regardless of what the man from Taured looked like, this story was creepy. The man seemed so surprised at the sight of Michigan and Illinois and all these states in the North. It's as though he assumes something else should be there. He assumes this Taured should be where those states were.
"That really happened?" Monique asks.
Everyone gets silent. My stomach is turning out of fear. I'm terrified.
"It's been recorded several places."
"He knows we're talking about him," Monique states.
Sure enough, the man from Taured is sitting back more relaxed than ever. Nevermind we are on an 8-hour flight from London to DC. He smiles over at me. His teeth flashing like a Colgate commercial.
"I don't care if he sees us staring," Paris states.
"He's definitely flirting with you," Monique states.
"Really?" Paris asks.
"Not you idiot. He's flirting with Rio," Monique responds.
He was definitely staring. He told me that he thought I was dating his brother. The photo of his brother though was one that didn't make sense. He showed me a picture of my ex who looked nothing like him. I think about telling the others but even bringing up my ex was something I was too uncomfortable with. My current husband was on the plane. Sure my drunk husband was throwing up and sure it the middle of the night by this point but him being here made everything more awkward, including Ronin's staring.
"You need to slip him your number," Paris states.
"Have you lost your mind? I'm married. You were at my wedding."
"Look at that guy. He looks like he doesn't get attention where he's from. If ever you could make an exception that guy would be the one," Paris responds before fanning himself, "His eyes are going everywhere. He's a kid in a candy store."
Just at that moment as we are saying it Gary walks back to the front. Gary has a look in his eyes. I look at him and I can tell that something is on his mind.
"Um...I don't know how to say this."
"So you know how your husband Ezra spent a lot of time in the bathroom?" he asks, "I was taking a look and went back there making sure he didn't throw up or anything of that nature."
"Well, did he?"
"Um... I found something."
Gary is beating around the bush. We are all looking at him and for some reason, Monique and Paris seem to know what Gary is talking about even before I do. Maybe I missed something. Maybe I was too distracted by the weird shit going on during this plane right.
Gary opens up his hands. He has gloves on. It isn't until he opens his hands up that I realize why he has gloves on.
It's a condom. A used condom.
"This has to be some sort of mistake," I state.
The worst part of it is the expression on Monique and Paris's face. You ever feel like people have been talking behind your back? You ever feel like you are the butt of a joke that you haven't been told? They have this look of knowing. This look of saying they weren't surprised in any of this.
You ever hear something that just completely changes your mood. And you sit there and it's as though time itself just stops. You want to go back in time. You immediately wish this moment never happened. I have a smile on my face. I feel like a fuckin idiot. Why the fuck was I smiling right now? I should be serious. Monique and Paris pretend to be busy at work even though 99% of our passengers are fast asleep. Gary just stares at the ground not really having anything to say that point.
"No one else went in that bathroom. Everyone else was going to the bathroom in the front," Gary responds.
"Well someone else did go in that bathroom," Monique states, "With Ezra."
My heart is beating. It's thumping. Hard. Hard as fuck. I'm sweating bullets at that moment. Sweat beads up down my underarms. They are so wet from anxiety that I fan my arms out like a wildman. I look from Monique to Gary and then to Paris. What the fuck was going on here?
"Ontario...don't..." Paris tries to warn me.
It's too late. By the time he says anything I'm down the aisle! I have rage in my eyes! I have the condom in my hands. I don't care if it's used or not. I'm so mad that I don't even care that I'm getting semen on my hands at that moment. I take it straight to Ezra's seat. Ezra is knocked out but I don't hesitate to wake him up. I hit him hard on his face at that moment.
"He's drunk," Monique is telling me.
She's followed me down the aisle.
"I don't give a fuck! He needs to wake up!" I state, "This motherfucker slept with someone on this plane."
Ezra moans drunkenly. He's completely out of it. I'm so frustrated. I want to hold him responsible. I want an explanation. I'm so angry! Why would he do this to me? He did this to me at my job! Right after our honeymoon. We hadn't even had sex during our honeymoon and he is cheating on me at my job in a fucking bathroom. What kind of shit was that?
"Wait..." The man from Taured states at that moment, "You two are...dating?"
All of a sudden, it clicks. I remember the man from Taured `checking' on my husband in the bathroom while I was on the plane.
"We are married," I respond.
"All Seeing Eye watch over me..." he says.
It's a weird thing to say. It's as though he wants to say something like "Holy Shit" or "Oh my god" but that was what comes out instead. I don't have time to contemplate how weird he is.
"It was you, wasn't it?" I ask, "My husband FUCKED you on the plane."
"Whoa...no one fucked me," the man from Taured immediately corrects me.
"See," Gary says, "You need to calm down."
"I fucked him," the man from Taured adds.
I lose it. Ezra had told me he was a top. Ezra had told me he loved me. I don't know what goes into me. I completely forget professionalism. It goes out of the window. All I remember is me swinging on him. I swing my fist at the man from Taured and I connect. I hit him dead in his face at that moment. After that, it is all a blur. I try to hit him again and again. Monique and the others try to hold me back. They can't hold me back though. I'm so angry. I just want to hurt him. I want to kill this man.
And when I'm about to hit him again he uses his suitcase to block me. I punch the suitcase breaking the locks with the hard impact that I make.
Something falls out.
I don't know what it is until it falls to the ground.
"Oh shit..." Ronin states.
I look at the thing on the floor. It's the most beautiful strange thing I've ever seen in my life. It's some sort of metal device with a glowing light. It's a color that I've never seen before glowing out of it. I can't describe the color because as far as I knew the color did not exist on any spectrum that I had seen in my life. Underneath the metal the glow of the beautiful color peaks through as though wanting to come out.
I reach for it at the same time Ronin reaches for it. We grab it at the same time and then nothing. Nothing but a flash.
"Wake up," a voice states, "We are about to land."
I turn at that moment and I realize I'm on the plane. It's daytime. I recognize the area. Most planes like the one we were on right now have a secret stairway that leads to a tiny set of windowless bedrooms for the cabin crew to sleep in. I'm in one of those windowless bedrooms now. When I open my eyes, it's Monique who is standing over me waking me up.
"What happened?" I ask.
"You were feeling a little light headed so we brought you down here to get some sleep, Rio," Monique explains to me with a smile, "You feeling better now?"
"Just embarrassed as hell."
"About what? You did nothing wrong."
She sounds like she really believes it but I'm assuming she's just trying to make me feel better about losing it the way I did. I wondered how bad it had to be. I had attacked someone on the goddam plane for godsakes. I had attacked a customer. I was definitely going to lose my job. Hell, I might be arrested as soon as we land. Monique was acting as though nothing ever happened at all.
"So everything's good?" I play along.
"Of course, everything's great. We're about to land in DC. We're about to be home," she responds.
She smiles at me. It's a warm smile. It's the kind of smile that I hadn't seen from Monique in years. Not since her longtime boyfriend Ed broke up with her and she lived to be this bitter girl who hated the idea of everyone else being happy around her in a relationship.
I walk up the steps to the cabin following her.
I sit in my chair and strap up preparing for landing.
I am avoiding the back of the plane. I wanted off of here without seeing Ezra or Rio for that matter. I didn't know how I was going to keep my job after this but I knew that nothing would ever been the same. How the hell was I supposed to go home to Ezra. I couldn't stay with him. Not after what he did. Not after his betrayal.
I'm preparing to know my life was going to change.
"You taking your husband to see Michael Jackson tonight?" Gary asks with a smile.
"Real fuckin' funny man," I respond putting my seatbelt on.
The guy thought he was a fucking comedian or something. He knew where I was with Ezra at this point and I guess he was throwing in the jab about Michael Jackson to be funny.
"Yo, what's good, Rio? Feeling better?" someone states.
The person sits next to me and fastens themselves up. The person has a real deep voice. At first, I think it's a lost customer but then I remember they know my name. When I turn I realize almost immediately it's Paris who is talking to me. When I hear his deep voice I think this is some sort of game.
"OK, you don't have to act funny because of what I did," I tell Paris.
"Acting all straight," I respond, "You're acting weird. You mad at me or something?"
Paris looks over at Monique as though looking for answers. He seems somewhat confused. Monique shrugs at that moment.
Paris shakes his head, "No. I'm not mad. I'm not acting any way towards you man. Just keeping it professional. We don't really know each other like that."
"Paris, you're joking right?"
"No," Paris states.
Paris definitely wasn't joking. He didn't even have a smile. Paris was serious and he seemed to be a little offended or something. I was confused as hell. The Paris I knew was never offended at all. You could literally say anything to the guy and he would brush it off like it was no big deal at all.
"Everything OK with you?" Monique asks out of nowhere.
I think she's talking to Paris but I'm doubly surprised when she is staring at me. She's staring at me as though I'm the flamboyant gay guy who just turned into DL trade. She is looking at me hard. It must have been something with the exchange between Paris and I. I just didn't understand where Paris got this deep masculine voice from. Even the way he was walking was almost like he was a whole different person in Paris's body. Paris was flamboyant. He was a queen. He had never been ashamed to show it. Not even a little bit.
"Just...ready to land."
"Me too. May the Eye watch over us," she states.
She looks at me confused, "I didn't say anything."
I heard her. She just said something about an eye or something. What the fuck?
Landing is awkward. The flight crew is acting weird but they aren't even my main concern.
My heart is doing circles by the time we land in DCA. I'm forced to stay on the plane. I'm literally forced put on this fake smile and wave to the customers as they leave. I literally just wanted to jump off the plane and run home from Ronald Reagan Washington Airport crying the entire time and locking myself in my room, praying I never got to see Ezra again. That's what I wanted to do, but instead, I had to put on a fake smile.
"Come fly with us again," I have to keep saying, "We were happy to have you!"
We were happy to have you. Bullshit. I wasn't happy to have any of these people. This plane ride was the plane ride from hell. From meeting the stranger who was trying to pull off some elaborate hoax, to having awkwardness with my husband, to my husband cheating on me with said stranger in the bathroom that I had just left them. Yes. I didn't deserve any of that. I was a good-looking guy. Maybe I wasn't as tall as the man from Taured, maybe not as handsome and maybe not as exotic. But I was his husband. I deserved better than to be disrespected this much.
And almost immediately I see him. It's the man from Taured.
"You don't have to say anything to that one," Monique states, "Taured scum."
Monique puts emphasis on the 'Taured scum' thing. She says it so loud that I'm pretty sure that Ronin hears her. Ronin lowers his head and continues to walk acting as though he doesn't hear her. It doesn't seem to surprise him. Maybe he knows what he did is wrong. Still, as blunt as Monique could be sometimes I'd never thought she would just call someone scum. I didn't feel bad for him. Not at this moment.
In fact, as I see him walk past, I just feel anger.
I feel so much anger.
I find myself following him. I follow him all the way out into the airport terminal.
I grab him and turn him around as soon as we get off the jetbridge, "You think you can just get away with that?"
Ronin turns back to me, "What?"
"You ruined my life. You slept with my fucking husband on the plane and now you're standing in front of me thinking you'd just walk away with no consequences."
I wanted to hurt him. I didn't know how. I'd already attacked him. I'd already done my worse. Truthfully I'm so emotional this point that I don't know what's driving my actions. What did I think I was going to get out of following this man into the terminal.
I think there are a million things he's going to do. I think he's going to get defensive. I'm ready for him to be. He's taller but I was ready to fight again. Or maybe he was going to just be irritated. Maybe he was going to have some sort of regret. What happens at that moment is the weirdest thing.
Ronin, the man from Taured just looks...well, he looked...relieved. Really, really relieved.
"You remember that?" he asks, exhaling as though this is the first time he's breathed since leaving the jet bridge.
"Of course I remember that?"
"I thought it was a dream."
"No, it happened. You fucked my husband in the bathroom, you thirsty piece of shit," I state.
"You don't get it," he states, "There has to be some mix-up."
"So you didn't fuck him?"
"I did but...well. Your husband...wasn't on that plane. Never was..."
"I remember him. You remember him. No one else does. I asked everyone sitting around me right before we landed. I was concerned. No one saw an Ezra sitting next to me. He wasn't on that plane."
This had to be some sort of joke. He was trying to pull a fast one on me again. I was understanding this guy. Finally, I got him. When you cornered him he started pulling shit out of his ass.
"That bruise on your face says he was on the plane," I comment, "Says there was a reason I hit you."
"Listen. I remember meeting you. I remember our interactions on the plane," Ronin states whispering for some odd reason that I can't understand, "You acted like Taured didn't exist remember? I remember all of those things. But there was the flash and then Ezra was gone. Look...they are closing the door to the jetbridge. No Ezra."
I turn. Sure enough the hatch was closing without Ezra. He could have walked past us though. I pull out my phone at that moment. I'm dialing Ezra. I don't want to talk to him. I don't want to see his face. I just wanted to shut up this fucking Ronin guy.
When I call Ezra I get an error message.
THIS PHONE NUMBER DOES NOT EXIST.
"He's not...he's not..."
"Not picking up right?"
He looks around, "Look around. Does anything seem off to you?"
I'm confused why Ronin is saying these things to me. I'm confused about this until I look around. I realize that there are cameras everywhere. I mean there were a lot of cameras in an airport but this was something different. I had never seen so many cameras in my life. In the one area we were there had to be about several dozen cameras. It sends a shiver down my spine to see all of these cameras just everywhere.
That isn't the only thing that is weird. I look over at this little girl. She is playing with some odd gadget that I've never seen before. At first, I think it's nothing more than an IPad or something. That is until she presses a button on the IPad and I watch her looking at something like surveillance cameras. She watches it with entertainment. I think it's some weird coincidence but I'm wrong. The little girl has airport surveillance pulled up! She's with other people. No one is shocked by it. No one is surprised by it. The little girl's mother looks at her daughter, finds one of the cameras the little girl is looking out of and waves causing the little girl to laugh with glee.
None of that bakes the cake to what I see next. There are these men walking around. These men are walking around with guns. I'm talking about military-style guns and they are wearing all white. There are so many of them. A freaky number. It's as though they are some sort of military police or something. And people are not turned off or afraid by their presence. No one is asking questions about the forces in white.
After taking in just a few views I almost fall back but catch myself and manage to mutter hopelessly, "What's happening?"
I feel confused again. So fucking confused. It was almost as though my entire world was being turned upside down. Everything that I thought I knew I didn't know. One minute Ezra was on the plane. The next minute he wasn't. I give myself a few smacks so that I can assure myself I wasn't dreaming.
Ronin looks around. I wonder if he's just as afraid as i am. He leans up against the nearest pillar in the airport. He holds fast to his suitcase and just starts breathing slowly. So slowly.
Finally, words escape his mouth after I stare at him for long enough.
"I think I know what's happening..." he explains to me.
"When I was younger my father used to tell me stories," he states, "He used to tell me that the Universe was infinite. He said there was no end to it. Because it was infinite there is a strong likelihood that there is another world out there. Another Earth. Mathematically speaking there must be many other Earths. And in each world...there are differences."
"A multiverse?" I ask.
"You've heard of it?" he asks.
"It's science fiction. It's not real."
"Maybe not in your world. In our world, progress has definitely been made."
"Are you trying to say..."
"Somehow I met you in your world, but I believe I managed to cross back over into my world. And I'm pretty sure this is a world you don't want to be in..."
"Is it? You didn't think Taured existed right?"
"I know it doesn't..."
"Look up at the departure times. Tell me if you see anything off."
I read: Departure to Taured, 1:45.
All of a sudden I realize that the stranger from Taured was no longer the stranger. I was.
He gives me a hard look, "Welcome to my world."
To read the next chapter in advance go to www.crushedcrown.com