This is the complete version of the Write Off piece I used to compete against Darkshine. The first bit I'll mark off to give credit where it's due; Jessicanm wrote the starter. I'll probably delete the other version, so I'd like to thank everyone who commented once again for such an enriching game. I think maybe 500 or so words were lopped off of the Write Off piece, but I'll warn you that I didn't change the ending one whit.
You must login to vote
Thanks again, everyone,
The airport was hot and crowded and Ben couldn’t see Morgan anywhere. "Exactly how long can it take a woman to go to the bathroom?" he wondered. A quick glance at his watch summed it up nicely. "Too damn long." Angling his head around the sudden surge of people passing by his seat at the gate in hopes of a glimpse of Morgan exiting the ladies room, he was rewarded with nothing more than a pair of mahogany skinned teens dressed like prostitutes entering the undoubtably cramped airport lavatory.
This was taking way too long. Small airports drove him crazy. But he could hardy expect expedience in this third rate banana republic. He was lucky to be catching this last flight back to the states on such short notice.
“Sorry I took so long.” Morgan's unexpected voice jolting him from his musing.
Ben watched her slide into the seat beside him, “I barely even realized you were gone.” He replied with a smirk.
“Have they called our flight yet?” she inquired, ignoring his attempt at sarcasm.
“Should be any minute now.” Ben answered, giving up on any attempt to lighten the mood. They were both simply too tired to keep up any pretense of banter.
As if on cue, a deeply accented voice shouted from the only ticket counter that flight 526 to San Diego was boarding. Rising to his feet, Ben grabbed for their two bags of luggage while Morgan slipped her knapsack over her shoulder. Following her to the boarding area, Ben was reminded just how thankful he was that they were finally on their way home. This trip had been far less relaxing than either one of them had expected.
They were only three people from the head of the line, when someone bolted from the midst of the constantly shifting crowd towards the line of boarding passengers, tripping over a poorly placed bit of stray luggage crashing into Ben. Fortunately the heavy luggage helped to balance him and he didn’t lose his footing. Morgan turned to see what the commotion was about only to have a dirty green duffel bag thrust into her arms.
The woman at the other end of the duffel was obviously both a native and distressed. Her long hair was disheveled and her nostrils flared with each word of her native tongue that rattled out of her panting mouth like tired gunfire. Morgan understood a mere handful of words of the local dialect, but the pleading and urgency in the young girls eyes made Morgan accept the offered duffel almost reflexively. The girl definitely needed help, but what kind?
The girl cast a quick glance over her shoulder as if someone were hot on her heels, and spoke once more, pleading with Morgan one last time in her breathless voice, before plunging back into the seething mass of people crowding the backwater terminal.
“What was that all about?” Ben asked looking after the young girl.
“Ben.” Morgan’s frantic whisper forced him to turn and look at first her then down at the duffel bag she held in her outstretched arms as it began to move.
*end of starter*
They both stared at the squirming duffel for an incomprehensible moment, when the marching of many feet came to their ears. Morgan reacted instantly, grasping the handle of the duffel in one hand and letting it fall casually to her side, ignoring the slight movements from within and facing forward, looking for all her best efforts like the tired and impatient tourist she had been moments earlier.
Ben gaped, watching her reaction, “What the hell are you doing? What is that?”
Morgan gave him a sharp look, “Be quiet and just turn around...”
“No,” he hissed urgently, “we don’t even know what’s in there, Morgan, and I, for one, have no idea who that girl was. What if she was some kind of smuggler—.”
Morgan scowled at him, “Lots of things are possible, Ben, but she was in trouble, and she entrusted us with this...”
“Please, Ben, just wait for the soldiers to pass.”
They exchanged glances and Ben tiredly turned back to face the terminal. For, indeed, were there soldiers coming. A great mass of marching brown camo slid by them like an enormous python, ignoring them like blades of grass passing over scaly hide.
After a pause the line shuffled forward, the native at the ticket counter glancing impassively over the passing soldiers and continuing with his duty. Ben carefully slid his glance down the squirming bag, then turned and faced Morgan again, “What are we going to do now?”
Morgan gave the bag her own fearful glance and surreptitiously tried to look at the people around them. The masses moved on around them, leaving a wide space where the soldiers had been as if the ground were contaminated. The people in line looked as tired and listless as ever, while the few foreign tourists like Morgan and Ben appeared absolutely terrified right down to the depths of their instant camera hearts.
Morgan and Ben exchanged glances again as whatever was in the bag gave a tentative poke at the side of her leg. Ben waited for her answer, the sweat starting to travel down his face, and she realized that she had no idea what they would do. They needed to take this flight home, staying in the country any longer was not an option to be considered, but what would they do with the bag?
Morgan felt a sharp pang of regret at her own virtuous actions and another twinge at shame at her own reaction. Surely, she had done the right thing for the time being, it was just a matter of finding what was right for the next few moments.
She beat down a rising flush and looked determinedly ahead, “We get on the plane.”
Ben’s eyes went wide and he leaned in to whisper to her again, “Morgan, are you crazy? We can’t take it on the plane. What if we can’t get rid of it? What if it’s illegal?”
He sputtered at her determination, “We can’t even carry that many bags!”
Morgan’s demeanor shook, to his momentary satisfaction, and she glanced at the bags they had put on the floor to accommodate tired arms (touching their legs and with straps securely intertwined, of course).
“Especially not one that’s squirming, Morgan,”
Ben softened his voice and touched her arm, wishing he hadn’t been quite so snappy before. “Just leave it here...she’ll come back and get it, I’m certain. Come on, Morgan, be sensible...”
Morgan was looking at the bags nervously. Ben looked into her eyes, trying to fathom her rushed thoughts, but found he simply couldn’t. He was too tired and too afraid of the situation to see what she might be thinking, but knowing Morgan, she was trying to think of some fool-proof plan, a way to endure through.
The ticket line shuffled ahead, and Ben did a double take before realizing it was their turn. He grabbed the bags and scooted them forward, Morgan following after. The ticket taker looked rather bored with it all, and he asked for their tickets in a thick accent that nonetheless bled with apathy. Ben handed them over and completed the process with as much expediency as possible, glancing back at Morgan, who seemed to have reached some conclusion, her hand gripping again and again the duffel’s handle.
The ticket taker took one look at Morgan, and raised his question, “The Bag?”
Morgan didn’t hesitate, “It’s our cat. She hates travel. She can’t stay at home alone, though.”
The ticket taker raised a brow and stared patiently at her. He sniffed and rubbed his nose without changing his gaze. She remained stolid, shifting her grip on the bag’s handle. Ben glanced between them, a prayer caught between his teeth.
The man shrugged, “Cats make me sneeze. Never liked them. Go on.”
Ben picked up the bags again and walked forward, a nervous sweat overtaking him that he couldn’t really convince himself was caused by heat anymore. Morgan followed after, her lips tightly pressed to prevent nervous breathing. Her breath came almost as rapidly as the mystery girl’s had, her face shining with the same fear. Ben used his shoulder to push open the door leading out to the field on which the plane rested, not trusting Morgan’s shaking free hand to do so for them.
He glanced at her again, remembering at once why they had come together on this trip, and all the same fearing the future. They stepped out onto the field, and the door began to swing shut behind them. The safety of being out of the building and away from the soldiers began to dawn on them slowly. They both took deeper, easy breaths.
A noise like a hundred tiny pebbles hitting a tin roof came to them and they paused in wonder, just before it burst into the blasting of a group of automatic weapons. Screaming enthusiastically commenced and they turned to see the entirely of the airport stooped as if in worship of the great camouflaged serpent in their midst, smoking with fury. The man behind them in line stumbled out the door and into Ben’s shoulder, looking back as wide-eyed as they, trying to catch his balance.
Half to them and half to the gods he murmured, “I’m getting out of this stupid, crazy country before I get killed...”
He stumbled towards the plane rapidly. The wailing cries of babies and the frightened screeches of children became the only sound as the congregation rose to its feet once again, to begin life as it was, pretending nothing had happened. As the next passenger stumbled away from the ticker taker and passed Morgan and Ben, the blood seemed to flood back into their limbs. The bag gave a violent quiver, as if shivering, and Ben squeezed a voice from his throat, “Let’s get on the plane.”
He bent over and picked up the bags again as Morgan nodded. They walked to the plane and mounted the stairs up, seeing nothing in spite of their wide open eyes. In slow moments, the plane was filled, the cabin stuffy and smelling of man in ways the modern world never did. Each passenger was as nothing to Morgan and Ben, as they sat quietly. Morgan held the bag in her lap, her hands protectively draped over it. She could still feel the squirming, slight and weaker now, and she could feel the breathing, slight rising and falling, independent of the flailing. Worst of all she could feel the heartbeat, the steady warm pulse through the cold nylon, suggesting awful life beneath her arms.
Ben didn’t look down at it, but it was a green blotch in his peripheral vision, a perfect end to the less than perfect trip. They waited in nervous silence, and Morgan felt her heartbeat synchronize with the one in the bag. The various preparations occurred, and the co-pilot/flight attendant came out of the cockpit, one hand to his radio in his ear, and the other balancing him against a seat. He spoke the native tongue first, and Ben saw Morgan mouth the words, a technique she used to help herself understand that she hadn’t used since their first week. Secondly, he began a well spoken English, telling them the flight was ready, everyone needed their seatbelts on, and they should turn off electronics and quit smoking. He smiled some, and there was a tired and forced laugh at his pun.
Ben laid his hand on the armrest in relief, rather hoping Morgan’s would find his, but she didn’t seem to want to move them from the bag, fascinated by something. He sighed, trying to let the tension out in preparation for a long and most likely uncomfortable flight. He shut his eyes and leaned back, but suddenly felt warm fingers in his own.
“Ben, I think I’ve found something out...”
He sat up in time to see the co-pilot put his hand more securely on his ear and furrow his brow, “Passengers....it seems the airport is asking to stop flights...some commotion down in the building...”
He glanced back at the cockpit, calling out in his native tongue to the pilot. Ben turned and looked at Morgan and nerves twisted his stomach once again. Her eyes had gone wide again, and tears welled up in the bottoms, “Ben...”
He looked around the cabin a moment, at the other discouraged passenger, then turned back, “Then I guess it’s our responsibility now.”
Morgan nodded slowly, her implacable determination showing once again. Ben opened his mouth to say something else, when she turned suddenly towards the co-pilot, who still stood before them. He paused, waiting for her. The co-pilot turned back around with a harsh laugh and pressed his radio to his ear again. Morgan whispered urgently, “They’re going to fly anyway.”
Ben barely contained a surge of elation that threatened to have him throw his arms around her. Instead he squeezed her fingers, and they both sat back in their chairs. The co-pilot continued up front in English, “The commotion has been handled. We’ve been given clearance to fly. Our first stop is going to be Germany, and then London...Those getting off at London should exit the plane to the left, and be careful of your steps please. Thank you for visiting our country...”
Ben sat up blearily. He glanced around the plane, the words ‘London’ and ‘Stop’ making it into his subconscious’ Freudian rendition of “The Lion King.” He almost sat up before realizing he felt twice as heavy as usual because Morgan’s head rested on his shoulder, one arm slung over his waist and the other snug around her green duffel bag. He poked her awake and smiled. She smiled back and stretched carefully, keeping the bag on her lap. They both stood in the cramped and awkward way that was particular to planes.
They reached the terminal, meeting their three friends at the designated newsstand. As they sighted each other they set down their bags and were greeted enthusiastically. The two men took the bags from Ben and hauled them up, grinning at his tiredness.
As the girl finally released Morgan from one of those clingy, rocking hugs that women are prone to, Todd spoke, “How was the charity trip? Did you get to stop any poachers? How was working with the lions?”
Ben smiled and looked at Morgan. She shrugged, “We didn’t see much action, but we got to see and help rehabilitate some victims of the poachers. The lions are beautiful, I couldn’t imagine why anyone would want to destroy them.”
Ben nodded, “Yeah, but the country was hellish, it’s like a war zone all the time. The only laws they can enforce are the ones that have foreign help, like ours that helps the endangered animals.”
The girl, Whitney, whistled, “That’s a shame.”
The second man nodded, “Yeah, what a horrible place. But you came back in one piece.”
“And a tan,” Whitney winked at them.
“And some goodies, apparently! Hey, guys, what’s in the bag?”
Morgan glanced at the green duffel they had forgotten about on the plane. It was no longer moving.
For I'm a rover
I'm a rover of high degree.
An' when I'm drinkin'
I'm always thinkin'
of how to gain my Love's company
-I'm a Rover, via Great Big Sea