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The Bomb in Terminal B
An interminable chatter permeated throughout the terminal. Robotic voices chanted from speakers all around. Countless bodies padded here and there on the carpet as conveyor belts quietly whisked still more travelers along. In an airport, peace is hard to come by.
I slouched back in my seat outside gate B32 and watched the horde of people marching. Game Boy batteries were dead; iPod was in the suitcase; book…I wasn’t in the mood for a book. I just slouched, statue still, and stared idly at the incomprehensible hubbub before me. Mom and Dad sat to my left, both engaged in magazines. My sister munched on a muffin to my right. With a sigh I laid my head back on the seat and closed my eyes. Only two hours till we get on the plane.
After several minutes, a subtle, nameless disturbance tickled me. Something in the ambiance was wrong. Conversations whispered of commotion. I opened my eyes and spun my head around, searching for the cause of alarm. Something across the hallway caught my attention. Garbed in airport uniform, a powerful looking man spoke into a radio. Over his shoulder, a rifle hung conspicuously.
My eyes narrowed. I turned to my parents, who were focused with equal intensity upon the armed man. “What’s going on?” I asked.
“I don’t know,” my mom replied.
I looked back across the hall and suddenly there were more men and more guns. Yellow tape was being stretched across the walkway, and an officer was pushing back onlookers. I stood up on my chair to get a better view. Over the heads of the gathering spectators, I could see a quarantined area bordered by caution tape and the scrutinizing, curious crowd. Personnel hovered about the scene, some jabbering on walkie-talkies to unseen authorities and all peering inwards. Squinting at the epicenter of the bedlam, I could just make out a figure squatting over a black bag. On the back of his vest, large, white capital letters read “BOMB SQUAD.”
A chill passed through me. Bomb?! For a moment I lost sight of the man and the crowd, the guns and terminal walls. With the appearance of two white words, fear grasped me by the neck and squeezed. Oh my god, there’s a bomb. S***, s***, s***, there’s a bomb! Any second there would be an explosion. A great fireball would rupture the floor and the ceiling with a thundering bellow, swallowing everyone in its way. Panes of glass would shatter, people would scream, no one would escape. I would see the flames just long enough for numbing fright to surge through me, and then I would die.
Or maybe it wouldn’t happen that fast. Maybe the burning, scorching fire wouldn’t slaughter me instantly like a helpless lamb. It would roar past me and set me ablaze. It would char my body, burn my clothes and my hair and leave me writhing on the floor. Shrapnel would lodge itself everywhere except my heart and my head, so I could squirm as death crept slowly nearer. I would roll and scream and slam my fists on whatever there was to hit, and then, when pain could be no greater, the agony would subside, consciousness would fade and I, a tortured mass of fire, would be gone.
Someone from behind bumped me, bringing me back to the yet un-obliterated airport. I refocused my sight on the bomb squad vest. The figure in the center stood up and conferred with a similarly appareled woman nearby. For several seconds the two chatted, then nodded and separated, both loudly giving commands to the loitering airport employees. The still workers quickly mobilized, and with the help of two of them, the man and woman officers delicately lifted the suitcase off the ground and rushed carefully out of sight.
The lingering bystanders murmured unintelligibly and gradually dispersed. Soon everyone was seated again. My sister was teeming with excitement; my parents were simply irked that our plane would undoubtedly be delayed. Thoughts of sudden death and horrifying destruction left me. Before long, conversation dwindled and we all assumed our former occupations—my parents their magazines, my sister her muffin, and me my mindless gazing. Boredom resettled. I laid back my head and shut my eyes again. From the speakers came a perfectly tranquil female voice: “We apologize, ladies and gentlemen, but due to a small disturbance in the airport, there will be a few travel delays. Once again we apologize sincerely.” I groaned. Great. Only four hours till we get on the plane.
Some time later a couple sat down behind me. They were discussing the incident.
“Yeah, apparently there was some sort of bomb scare here earlier,” said one.
“Really?” the other replied.
“I guess so. You saw the guy with the gun, right? Well I asked someone about it while you were in the bathroom. He said that about an hour ago a bag had been found with no one to claim it. They called in a bomb squad and everything.”
“Geez. False alarm?”
The first guy snickered. “Get this. They took the bag out onto the runway and they shot it. I guess someone thought that was a good idea. They place the bag out at the end of the tarmac and shoot at it a few times from a few hundred yards or something. Nothing happens so they walk out to take a look. Guess what they find.”
“What?” The question may as well have come from my own lips.
“Makeup. They walk out to the end of the runway and they find the bag with nothing in it but some bullets and a bunch of makeup.” The two shared a laugh. I stared forward, no longer listening to the conversation. I could see the explosion in detail. The bomb went off, the terminal was destroyed, and we all became ashes and smithereens. Funerals would be held and eulogies would be read and tears would be shed and lawsuits would be filed and my name would appear on a plaque of brass, the heading of which would spell, “Here are the names of those who perished, lest the world should ever forget.”
A great fan of irony, I had to smile.