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   Chapter 3 The List Maker

Attention Span and Other Stories By PaulineWiles Characters: 3236

Updated: 2018-01-11 12:02

It must be nearly time. They're moving sternly among us, brooking no nonsense, checking we're restrained. It's clear they've no tolerance for trouble. Their stares are as sharp as their voices, one transgression after another caught and rectified. The tiniest detail can draw a rebuke. I look down meekly, avoiding eye contact.

Packed in here almost as tightly as cattle, there are rebellious mutterings. But they know our grumbles are hollow. Although there are far fewer of them than us, they have the upper hand: they made absolutely certain we're not armed.

All around me, the human cargo is bleary-eyed, mostly resigned. It's amazing how the shine wore off our optimism. But I suppose fourteen hours and no sleep will do that to folk. We all look rough: the men are unshaven, the women haggard. There's a half-hearted chorus of throat-clearing and yawning.

Personally, I've ceased caring what it will be like when we get there. I just want to arrive, to get this part over with. Anything to end this jolting captivity.

There was food, or tasteless greyish lumps pretending to be food, but barely enough. And I think they knew that with insufficient water, we'd weaken, become drowsy, cause less hassle. They've played this game before. Of that, I have absolutely no doubt.

How did I let myself get talked into this? I fight back the surge of regret. I was conned by the ambiguous promises, the idyllic images. Why else would I have embarked on such craziness?

'Take a good look at the sun, ' says the man next to me. 'It's the last you'll see of it, where we're going.'

But I can't actually s

ee it, even now. He's far taller than me, so even with my neck craned, I can't glimpse daylight. And I don't dare stand up. Not with them prowling. Always prowling.

I look at him properly for the first time. Greying beard, spectacles. What did he do to get himself in here? Does he regret it? He's spent most of the journey lolling into me, nowhere to put his chunky legs and wide shoulders. Every time I dozed off, another of his limbs intruded. I know he didn't mean anything by it. There's just no escape from this forced intimacy. My own legs ache; when I move, pins and needles dance up and down my calves. Even if there was somewhere to run to, I'm not sure I could.

'There it goes, ' says my neighbour. 'Clouds now. It'll be all clouds, now.'

'You should have thought of that, ' chides the dark-haired woman on my other side, 'before you bought your ticket.' Her face is passive, resigned.

I hear a change in the drone of the engine: are we getting close?

Our captors appear tense now, their eyes flit over us in a last minute attempt to make sure nobody's out of line. This is the risky bit, and they know it. If we riot now, no one is safe.

'Still, ' I say to the brunette, 'they tell me it's nice. Mild climate, green fields?'

'Oh, it is, ' she replies. 'It is. I wouldn't want to live anywhere else.'

There's a whir, a whine, and a clunk from beneath me. As the wheels come down, the announcement from the cockpit follows.

'Ladies and gentlemen, we will shortly be arriving at London Heathrow. Cabin crew, please take your seats for landing.'

My vacation is about to begin.

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