Welcome to Flash Friday! In these posts, I take a writing prompt and whip out a short story off-the-cuff with little editing. If you have an idea for a writing prompt, send me an email, and maybe I’ll use yours next time!

Today’s prompt comes from Melissa Donovan’s websiteAll passengers from a plane get amnesia when they disembark … except for one.

Photo credit: yfinancecanada via Visual Hunt / CC BY

Nightmare Flight

“Hi, honey, how was your flight?” Mandy’s mom put a jacket around her shoulders and led her from the gate.

Mandy rubbed a hand across her face. “I must have slept the whole way,” she mumbled groggily.

“Monsters!” someone screamed behind her.

She turned to see one of the other passengers run out of the gate, waving his arms hysterically. His hair jutted out at crazy angles, his business suit was rumpled, the shirt buttons mismatched with their holes so that the shirt tails flapping outside the trousers were uneven. Everyone paused to watch as several flight attendants converged on him.

“I saw them,” he blubbered. “The plane was full of monsters with hairy limbs and big teeth! They were hanging over all of us!”

Her mom steered her away from the hubbub to one of the moving sidewalks. “Randy will be so happy to see you,” she said a little too quickly.

“What was wrong with that man?” Mandy asked, trying to peer back at the crazy guy over her mother’s shoulder.

Her mom laughed nervously. “Just a nightmare, I’m sure. Oh, look! There’s Daniel and Randy.”

Mandy’s step father, Daniel, and her little brother, Randy, waved at them from beyond the security checkpoint. Mandy perked up, waving back, and quickly forgot all about the strange man at the gate.

Mandy spent most of the month poolside, reacquainting herself with friends in Nevada whom she only saw while her mom had custody in the summer. All too soon, it was time to go back to Seattle and her dad’s high rise apartment.

“I’ll send you an email every day,” her mom could hardly get the words out past her tears.

“Don’t make promises you can’t keep, Mom,” Mandy smacked her gum and checked her watch. If security didn’t shuffle her through soon, she’d miss the flight.

“Amanda Larenbee, you will not use that tone of voice with me!” Her mother looked shocked. “I always keep my promises.”

Mandy rolled her eyes. “Sorry, mom. It’s just that you always forget, and I’m lucky to get a one liner once a month from you.”

“I try, really I do, but you’re so far away when you’re with your father.” Her mom pulled her in for a tight embrace.

“It’s only a couple of states,” Mandy mumbled into her mother’s sweater. Her mother always dressed like she still lived in Seattle, even though the weather was much warmer in Nevada.

“I gotta go, Mom.” Mandy hefted her carry on to the moving conveyor and plopped her shoes into a bin.

“Of course.” Her mom pecked her cheek, leaving it feeling wet and sticky. “I’ll see you at X Mass.”

“You mean, Christmas?”

Her mother flushed a bright pink. “Yes. Christmas. Of course.”

The metal detector went off when Mandy stepped through it, and she had to endure one of the personnel running their wands around her body as if they were installing a force field. Even the wand seemed buggy, because it kept going off and they had to do it several times. It was a miracle Mandy made it to the gate just before the plane finished boarding.

She handed her ticket to the flight attendant and breathlessly jogged down the ramp to the plane’s entrance.

The rest of the flight was routine. The flight attendants gave the standard safety spiel as Mandy popped in her headphones, and she asked for ginger ale on ice when they wheeled their cart around. After her drink, she started to feel sleepy and asked for a pillow.

The next thing Mandy knew, she woke to a feeling of intense cold. She tried to sit up, but her body wouldn’t move. Fighting a feeling of panic, she blinked her eyes several times to clear her vision and looked at her surroundings as best she could without being able to move her head.

She was still in the plane, but it looked different. Ice fogged the windows, and the lights were dim. Dark shadows moved near the ceiling, but she couldn’t quite make out what they were. All the other passengers she could see were fast asleep, their skin blue under a white layer of frost.

Mandy felt sharp jabs of panic. Were they all dead?

“Attention flight attendants,” a voice came over the intercom. “We are now beginning our approach to the planet Earth. Please begin passenger protocol nine four one two.”

Mandy tried to move. She had to get out of here before she ended up dead, like everyone else. But her body wouldn’t obey. She could only move her eyes, and they grew wider as one of the shadows on the ceiling came closer, and she began to make out what it was.

“I think we have a live one here,” a voice came from the shadow.

Hairy arms reached toward her. She wanted to cringe back, but she couldn’t move.

“I’ll be right there with a hypo,” someone else called from behind Mandy.

Her heart froze as a giant spider descended from the ceiling above her. It had a mouth full of sharp teeth as it cooed, “There now, my darling. Don’t be afraid.” It stroked her face with hairy limbs that made her want to scream. “I remember you from last month, visiting your mother on Alpha Centauri.” Mandy caught glimpses of another shadow approaching from behind. “There must have been a malfunction at the security checkpoint,” the giant spider continued, “but don’t worry. We’ll have you back into hypersleep in no time.”

“Here, Alice,” said a breathless voice.

“Gently,” the spider addressed as Alice instructed. “Remember how fragile they are.”

Mandy felt her panic ebb away as the giant spiders melded into shadows and were forgotten.

“I had the weirdest dream,” Mandy told her father sometime later as they ducked into a cab outside the airport.

Her father quirked an eyebrow at her. “Oh?”

“I fell asleep on the plane,” she explained, “and thought the flight attendants were these giant spiders.”

Her father’s laugh seemed forced. Mandy gave him a suspicious glance. He reached over to pull her seatbelt across her body as if she were still five years old.

“You probably baked your brain in that Nevada sunshine,” he said with a wink. “Gave you nightmares.”

His casual attitude put her fears to rest. She nestled back into the leather seat as the cab pulled away from the curb and yawned. “You’re right. It would totally be a nightmare if Mom lived on another planet.”

Her father tucked a small blanket around her shoulders and stroked her cheek. His hand seemed hairy, like the spider that had done the same thing in her nightmare on the airplane. But she was so tired, she couldn’t bring herself to think about it anymore.

“Don’t worry, darling,” her father said. “I would never let the nightmare become your reality.”