Five flights, five stories, five descents into madness
A suicidal banker takes one last flight to end his life in a place where no one knows him. But the lady in the seat next to him might just make his suicide plans obsolete…
Carrie Ragnarok, spy extraordinaire, just wanted to relax on the plane taking her from one assignment to the next. But when a passenger flips out, her special skills are needed once more…
Drunken and rude passengers aboard a plane are a nightmare. But it’s even worse when you happen to be the unlucky person seated right next to a rude drunkard. And once the rude drunkard starts to harass you, it’s easy to lose your temper…
Flight attendant used to be her dream job. But for Tania, that dream has long turned into a nightmare of stressful working hours and rude passengers. Then, one day during a flight taking holidaymakers to Mallorca, Tania decides that she has had enough…
Moorwick South has a reputation as a haunted airport, surrounded by treacherous swamps, a place where strange things happen. But its approach lights have always held a special meaning for Sam. Until the night they lure him to his doom…
Warning: There are a few rude words and sexual references in some of the stories, so the easily offended should tread carefully.
Read an excerpt.
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- Flights of Madness collects five short stories between 1000 and 3300 words. All four stories are digital premieres and have never been published previously. The entire collection is 9300 words long.
- Unexpected Fortune and Just Doing My Job actually grew out of the same creative writing assignment at university. The class was given a character, a British muslim banker of Indian origin, who is a Manchester United fan traveling to Glasgow, and asked to write a story about him sitting next to a person on the plane who goes crazy. The result was Unexpected Fortune.
- Another student in that class wrote a story that ended with the crazy person smashing a glass against the window. We were then asked to write a story from the POV of the person (not necessarily a British muslim banker of Indian origin) sitting next to the crazy guy. The result was Just Doing My Job.
- Carrie Ragnarok, the snarky spy extraordinaire who deals with the crazed passenger in Just Doing My Job was created to experiment with first person narration and features in quite a few stories of mine. For another of Carrie’s adventures, see Courier Duty.
- I have actually sat near passengers who were so terrified that they prayed all the time, which can be very distracting during long flights. None of them, however, went crazy.
- Ignis Fatuus was the result of another writing exercise, albeit one I conducted without the assistance of a creative writing workshop. The idea was to pick a random word from an online dictionary and write a piece of flash fiction based on that word. My word was flush lights, i.e. the lights on an airfield that are set into the tarmac. Because I had no idea what to do with that word, I reloaded the page and got will o’ the wisp. And suddenly, an idea began to form…
- The title Ignis Fatuus is the Latin term for will o’ the wisps.
- The name of the airline in Ignis Fatuus is of course a Lost reference.
- Pissed was inspired by sitting across the aisle of a heavily drunk young man on a flight from Amsterdam to Newcastle. And yes, the real life Mr Fully Loaded did speak in a slurred Geordie accent and he did order and was served another beer on the flight.. He was really annoying, too. Though unlike the unnamed narrator in the story, I did not stab him in the balls.
- The title Pissed plays on the double meaning of the word “pissed” as a slang term for “drunk” in the UK and a slang term for “angry” in the US.
- The hint at lesbian romance in Pissed didn’t exist in the first draft of the story, where the sexual orientation of the unnamed first person narrator was never mentioned.
- Dream Job is the only story that was specifically written for this collection. I figured that since I already had three stories about passengers gone crazy and one story about a pilot gone crazy (or not, since it’s never made clear whether what Sam sees is real or not) the only thing that was missing was a story about a flight attendant gone crazy. Especially since flight attendants have more than enough reason to flip out. Besides, the various flight attendants in the other stories are little more than nameless background figures and Carrie Ragnarok is downright unkind about flight attendants in Just Doing My Job. So I wanted to include a flight attendant story just for balance.
- The Spanish island of Mallorca, where the plane in Dream Job is headed, is a popular destination for sun-hungry package tourists from Germany, the Netherlands and Britain and also has the tendency to attract the sort of traveler who thinks that binge drinking and partying is the definition of a great holiday.
- I didn’t notice that the rude and drunken passengers in both Pissed and Dream Job order Heineken, until I prepared the stories for publication. I guess the reason is that I fly with KLM a lot and they serve Heineken beer on board of their planes, so I subconsciously associated Heineken with beer served on board of planes.
- The “disgusting stains on the toilet” incident in Dream Job was inspired by something that happened at the school where I teach. One day, once of my seventh-graders came back from a bathroom break and informed me, “Ms. Buhlert, there is semen on the seat of the boys’ toilet” to general giggles. My first thought was, “And what does he expect me to do about that?” Instead I told him to use another toilet.
- The cover is a stock photo by Dutch photographer Jan Willem Geertsma, taken during a flight across the Caribbean sea.