Terminus by Rebecca Dempsey

Rebecca Dempsey is a writer in Melbourne, Australia. Her short stories and poetry have been published around the world, but she can be found at WritingBec.com.

The blue electric lights made distances difficult to judge across docking areas and the concourse of what was clearly an airport. Faint buzzing and the echo of unseen wheels across tiles accentuated the hall’s size, which was almost empty, and thus unnerving to the man who found himself standing near the entry. Shivering, this man pulled his flight suit collar up as he looked around. Strange screens flickered with nonsensical numbers. Forms loomed through opaque windows. He could make out the shapes of biplanes and single engine planes, alongside larger vehicles he couldn’t identify. He looked to his wrist for the time, but something was missing. He stepped forward, and lifted a ticket from under his shoe but the flight details had faded. As the man straightened, he spied a tall woman with short tousled hair striding towards Gate 37. Something about her looked familiar and so the man turned to follow, but as he neared, the boarding area closed. He read a sign: Admit One. He turned back, hitching his bag over his shoulder and marched to a desk. The only check in desk. From behind the barrier, there sat golden-haired child sat on a chair, swinging his feet. There was a single red rose in a vase on the counter.

          “Are you my pilot?” The chair rose in fits and starts. “It’s rough out so mine ought to be good.” 

          The man paused and shook his head. 

          “I’m here for…” The man’s voice trailed off. 

          The boy moved the vase so as to look directly at the man, his clear gaze intensifying. “Do you know about asteroids?” 

          The man nodded but the fog in his mind hadn’t lifted. Why ever he was here, it wasn’t to be quizzed about astronomy. 

          The boy continued. 

          “I was playing with Ammy and Glenn, and the brothers, but they left.” The child’s voice lowered, “they all leave eventually”, then his voice brightened, “but you’re here now.”

          “My flight?” The man’s voice quavered.  

          “Your pass?” 

          “I don’t….” 

          The golden boy demanded his pass again because he never let go of a question once he’d asked it. The man remembered the ticket he’d picked up.  

          “Everyone has a ticket, but they forget.” The boy shrugged. 

          “I, ah, found this?” The man unfolded the faded ticket. 

          The boy grabbed the slip. “This will do. You’ve been waiting a while.” 

           “I just arrived.”

          “Yes. But sir you’ve waited your entire life.” The boy winked. The man bent over to pick up his bag, but it was gone. Before he turned to complain the boy butted in. 

          “This ticket is for no baggage. You won’t need it.” He checked notes on his counter. “I can see you’re due at Gate 44 in 70 years.” The child looked at his watch again. “You will be needed.”

          “What?” The man held his head. He was dizzy. 

          “Seventy years.’ The child went on slowly. “Arrivals are random, but departures are planned if you’re going out,” the boy learned forward, whispering, “into the world again.”  

          “I see.”

          The boy’s feet kicked faster. 

          “Really? You understand?” The child tilted his head. 

          “No.”

          The boy sighed. 

          “You’ll go through Gate 44 into another life.” He waved his arms around.  “This is your terminal. Ammy went through her terminal, but she’s not coming back. She said she’d done enough for several life times, so she is headed somewhere else.”

          “Sorry?” The man’s eyes narrowed. “Ammy’s a person? Is she the woman I saw?”

          “I call her Ammy. She was fun,” the child bounced in his seat. “But you might know her as Amelia. Amelia Earhart.”

          The man slumped. Of course, he’d heard of Miss Earhart. Every pilot had. But how was she here? He fought to remember something solid. A fact. Miss Earhart. Hadn’t she disappeared? He frowned and shook it off. None of this made sense. He studied his hands, deeply tanned and stained from years of flying and fixing planes. He glanced up; the boy was enjoying this. 

          The blonde-haired child resumed his explanation, without acknowledging the man’s confusion. 

          “Anyway, pilots only see this as an airport because of the many lives you lead and the places you go. And in your case, your book.” 

          “I don’t understand.” 

          The boy ignored the man and continued. 

          “Afterlives are determined by your life’s work and your books or book, if you have one.” The boy picked up a clipboard and scanned a long list. “Here ‘tis, under list B-612. Here’s your book listed. See?”

          The boy’s pudgy finger pointed halfway down a clipboard.  

          “This is the title: The Little Prince.”

          The man’s face as he read was like dawn breaking the horizon. His frown lines smoothed. 

          “I’d forgotten. It has been a while.” He stopped and felt time stretch out like the distances in the desert he’d once flown over. How long had he forgotten?

          “It was a lifetime ago,” said the boy as if answering the author’s unspoken question. The boy laughed. The man dropped his shoulders and laughed with this strange child. It was good to remember something. His book! Their laughter mingled, rolling across the cavernous space to come back to them, sighing like the ocean. Again, something lapped at the edge of his memory. But the laughing child was a balm now.  

          “Pleased to meet you lad.”

          “I’m so very happy to see you again, Comte.” The boy radiated light. 

          “Again?” The uniformed man knitted his brow. 

          “Why yes.” The strange, yet comforting child jumped down from the chair, and appeared around corner of the counter. “Sometimes guides are provided, and sometimes you writers invent shapes for them to inhabit, because you know you will need them.” The boy pointed at himself. “I’m the shape.” 

          “You are.” The author’s dark eyes lit up as he took the flower proffered by the boy and breathed deeply.

          “Yes Antoine.” The boy bowed. “I waited for you. It’s me. Your Little Prince, at your service.”  

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