If Salman Rushdi hadn’t forgotten to set his alarm clock, we would have never met. But that party was such a hot party and he had drunk so much that it was just impossible for him to remember his early flight to China. I could totally understand. We all could. Anyway, that’s how we all shared his destiny.
Each of us had a reason to visit China. For me, it was the China wall. Mr. O., my right-seat neighbor wanted to start an import-export business. “What do you plan to import to China?” I asked him. “French wine,” he replied. The man who sat on my left side was sleeping since the beginning of the flight. He snored, and sometimes his face twitched uncontrollably as if he had a nightmare.
Mr. O. glanced at him. “He looks familiar,” he said. I turned and looked at the man more carefully. His balding head, his angular brows and his satanic face reminded me of someone, for sure. But it was his small wings that gave away his identity. “It’s an angel,” I said.
The man opened his eyes, and glanced at us. “No, it’s Jean Paul Gaultier,” he said. “He designed this suit just for me. Do you know who I am? My name is...”
The sound of the pilot announcing the plane’s position and altitude covered the man’s last words. “We are flying over Iran, at 22,000 feet altitude, passing by the Lut desert.”
The man’s eyes grew wide. “Iran?” he asked. “My flight was supposed to go to China without passing over Iran.”
“That was the early morning flight,” I said. “You must have missed it.”
“This one has a stop in Pakistan,” Mr. O. said.
Our left neighbor gasped with a horrified look on his face. “Oh, that damn alarm. It didn’t go off on time,” he said, before turning his back to us. His mouth smelled like alcohol and hunger.
Half an hour later.
The thunder broke, followed by a series of lightning. Everyone stirred in their seats, glancing out, but the sky was sunny, as if we were passing through the Bermuda triangle in the Twilight Zone. But why should we worry? The modern technology was going to keep us safe, so we tried to calm down and focus on the snack we were going to eat soon. The buzz of the pilot’s microphone and his short breathing stopped the hostesses in their task of distributing cookies. “Ladies and Gentlemen, Attention, Attention,” the Captain said. “We just received a communication from the Iranian Air Force.” The whole plane withheld its breath, and I just remembered where I had seen my left neighbor before. “No way! It can’t be him,” I thought, and missed part of the Captain’s speech.
“Now we have to choose between dropping Mr. Rushdie to the Iranian’s authorities, or let them attack our plane.”
People went crazy. “Where the hell is this damned writer?” they screamed.
The man on our left was shaking like autumn leaves. It didn’t take too long for the rest of the plane to recognize him.
“Drop him,” they said. “Throw him out of the plane.” They all pointed at the poor man.
“Please calm down people,” a woman screamed from the back row. “Are you out of your mind? How about this man’s freedom of speech? He has the right to say and to write whatever he wants.”
“But his freedom of speech is going to kill us,” I replied.
“It’s all a big misunderstanding,” Salman Rushdie whispered, shaking his head and hiding his face under his palms. “You should blame the critics, or the dead Mullah who didn't know how to interpret my protagonist's message.”
“Who cares about the real culpable?” Mr. O. said. “Or the freedom of speech, lady? We just want to live.”
The Captain pushed away everyone and reached our row. “Let democracy decide,” he said. “We vote.” Everyone agreed that the plane's pilot had a right to tell us what to do.
“Are they going to give us the $25,000,000 too?” someone asked and it helped us to decide faster.
We voted and I have to say that the poor man fought pretty hard and hung to his chair for at least thirty second. The Captain pushed the lever down, opened the exit door, and forced him out, while the air sucked our eyeglasses, our cookies, and a man's wig out. Everyone was seat-belted so we stayed in the plane while Mr. Rushdie left, flying and falling like a dead bird, in his Gaultier suit.
The mysterious lady began crying. “You bastards,” she said. “All this talk about freedom…just bullshit. We’re doomed.”
All of a sudden the loud sound of an explosion shook the plane. A woman’s hair caught fire and the middle rows disappeared with all its screaming voyagers. Was it the lightning or a bomb? The plane broke in two pieces and our seat belts didn’t help us anymore.
While falling down, we passed by Rushdie who – strangely – kept a lower speed toward his tragic death. “Writers don’t die easily,” he shouted at us from above, his small wings hiding his face. “Freedom will prevail.”
I didn’t have enough time to think about the deep meaning of what he was trying to convey.
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