Ruth debated whether to try for a refund on her plane ticket or commit suicide. Her fingers made little smudges on the plate glass. Outside, the runway stretched eternal into the clear morning. She had seen her future extend, markings and lights, like that runway.
"Sometimes I want to pick a plane at random," the demon next to her said, "and go. No planning. Just vanish."
Ruth smiled at the demon in a hollow way. She cherished her hallucinations, but now wasn't a good time. A normal woman it could have been, except for the red-velvet-cake skin and the little horns and the gently swaying tail. Dark eyes without pupils. Ruth turned back to the window.
"Would you trade places? You'd be immortal. It's a good deal for you."
Ruth closed her eyes and felt the gentle vibration of the glass against her fingers from the jet engines.
"There isn't much time. Would you?"
Ruth looked at the demon quizzically.
"I'm tired of moving," the demon said. "I'm tired of being different things to different people and waking up in other places every morning. I want to be still."
Ruth nodded. "All right then," she said.
Ruth looked out the window again, view changed by three feet, feeling her tail brush the backs of her legs. Not a hallucination then. The woman next to her said, "I cheated."
Ruth turned reluctantly, not really wanting to see her own face from the outside.
"There is an amulet. No one can ever keep it for very long. They can summon you, make you do what they want. It's a horrible life. You go everywhere and do everything, but you have no freedom. I'll be surprised if you don't feel the call soon. This is longer than usual without a summons."
In fact Ruth did feel it. An urgent need to help an urgent need. But she wasn't sure how to see to it. "Are you sorry?" Ruth said.
The woman looked away.
"I'm not sorry I cheated you either then," Ruth said. Then the memory that was not hers flooded in, and she knew how to travel. Immediately she vanished, with no control of her destination.
The woman looked at the empty place and then stared at the runway again, confused. She pressed her hands up to the glass, filling the old fingerprints, and winced. Pulling her sleeves back, one then another, she found the bruises reaching up both arms to the elbow. And the memory came, of the previous night in the bridal bedroom. She pressed hard against the glass, letting it support her weight. Her eyes must have run out of water before she got there.
"I leave your ass alone for five minutes and you run off," someone growled behind her. "I'm only gonna tell you this once: You pull any of this shit on the trip, and next time I break something. You got that? This is our goddamned honeymoon and I'm damned if I'm gonna let you screw it up by being hysterical."
She looked out at the runway. She saw her future before her. But, distantly, some part of her knew better than to scream.
Her husband grabbed her arm and pulled her away to catch the plane.
Copyright © 1999 by Douglas Todd. All rights reserved.
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