The Worst Fear Excerpt Prologue One
2 min Reading
My dream is always the same and no one can tell me why.
I can feel him watching me.
I sneak a glance at him out of the corner of my eye, the man sitting next to me in 8D. But he’s not looking at me at all. He’s looking down, flipping through an in-flight magazine, not reading any of the articles, or even looking at the pictures. Just flip-flip-flip, front to back, back to front, at the same steady pace. He keeps clenching his jaw like he’s tense. Or biding his time, waiting for something to happen.
He’s older than me, 30-something. Well-dressed; not a suit like my dad would wear but a collared shirt and slacks like most of the others in business class. He has jet-black hair, light brown skin. Is he from India maybe, or no, somewhere in the Middle East; I can’t really tell.
But he was watching me. Or maybe I’m just imagining. I can’t tell that either.
I decide to ignore him and go back to my movie. As soon as I do, I feel his eyes on me again. I tug my headphones off and turn to him. I was right: he is staring at me. “Is there a problem?” I ask sharply. I want him to hear how annoyed I am.
“No problem,” he replies in a thick accent. His eyes are cold, uncaring. He does not have a kind face. “No problem at all.” He flashes a broad, reassuring smile that is anything but.
The hair on my neck stands up. A chill runs down my spine. I know this man.
He goes back to his magazine -- flip-flip-flip -- and starts drumming his fingers on the armrest we share.
Now I’m the one staring. The longer I look at him, the stronger that prickly feeling gets. How do I know him? Who is he, Maddie? Think! He has such dark energy; it’s all around him, like a force field. ‘Something wicked this way comes.’ Shakespeare said it best.
I feel a sudden urge to move away from him, change my seat. I look around the cabin. Why is there no flight attendant? I push the call button.
The flight deck door opens but it's the Captain coming out.
The man in 8D stops drumming and stuffs his magazine into the seat pocket next to his boarding pass. He unbuckles his seatbelt and shifts to the edge of his seat; poised, like a cat ready to pounce.
A flight attendant returns to the galley with a tray. The Captain says something to her then steps into the bathroom.
The instant the red light comes on, the man is out of his seat and in the aisle, heading up toward the galley and the open flight deck door.
As soon as he’s taken a few steps, I snatch up his boarding pass and find his name: ‘ATTA/M’.
Atta… Atta… It’s so familiar. I keep repeating it, trying to remember where I’ve --
-- The hijacker, from 9/11! His name was Atta -- Mohamed Atta! Wait -- September 11th? That’s today!
I look around. Am I the only one who recognizes him?! I jam my call button again and again.
The flight attendant doesn’t seem to hear the dings. Atta is right behind her now -- right next to the open flight deck door.
I jump up and point, “Look out! That’s Mohamed Atta! He’s going to take over the plane!”
The flight attendant glances my way with a blank look. She doesn’t get it. Nobody else gets it either. A few passengers nod, the others ignore me.
“Mo-ha-med At-ta!!” I scream each syllable. “He’s going to kill us all!”
Again, no one reacts.
Except Atta. He turns and looks right at me. I feel the same prickly chill again. Then quick as a blink, he lunges into the flight deck and slams the door.
“Am I the only one who saw that?!” I shriek. “Why aren’t you reacting?!”
Suddenly the plane pitches violently downward. I scream at the overpowering force pushing on me, like the big drop on a roller coaster.
It feels like forever, but finally the plane levels off.
The bathroom door bangs open and the Captain charges out, shirt half-tucked in.
Atta appears out of nowhere and pounces on the Captain from behind --
-- What? There’s two Atta’s?!
He swipes his box cutter across the Captain’s throat.
The Captain clutches his gaping wound, staggers a few steps and collapses, dead.
The brave flight attendant charges straight at Atta. But he’s too fast for her, gets her in a chokehold, presses his blade to the poor woman’s throat.
She makes eye contact with me. I can see she’s crying, silently pleading for my help.
I stare back at her. “I tried to warn you! Why didn’t you listen?!” I feel terrible -- there’s nothing I can do. Tears stream my cheeks. I’m sobbing now. “I tried! I really tried!”
Atta wrestles her right up to me. He wants me to see this. He smiles -- the same reassuring smile -- then winks at me. “See? No problem.” He slashes her throat.
Her jugular erupts. A gush of her warm blood splatters all over my face, all over me.
I scream at the top of my lungs.
The plane pitches nose-down. No one can save us now.
Freud said that our dreams are an attempt by the sleeping mind to answer unresolved questions in our past.
My nightmare started when I was nine, three years after my father died on 9/11. Sometimes it's once a month, sometimes more.
For thirteen years, doctor after doctor has tried to explain it away. But none of them know anything, because it keeps coming back.
I’m starting to think Freud was full of shit too.
Maybe I’m just fucking crazy.