published in Volume 4, Issue 3 on December 31st, 1997
The pilot died first when the whole cockpit was pushed against him with all the force of the mountain swinging against the plane (if you consider movement to be relative to the plane), and a flying piece of glass sundered half his head. The co-pilot died next, of roughly the same causes, but a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of a second later, because the plane was slightly at an angle and he was that much thinner than the pilot had been. (By the time the clean-up crew arrived, they were pretty much the same thinness.) They had only just met for this flight, but they'd hit it off pretty well. If you had been able to ask them after the flight, they would have said they knew each other.It's hard to say who died next, not just because it happened so fast (relative to human perception of such things), but how do you decide when someone dies? The flight attendant had her body struck so hard by the crushingly swift floor (relative to the flight attendant) that she stopped breathing from the shock, but she was still vaguely aware of things, while she suffocated, to discern on some level that the fat man in first class who kept calling her "stewardess" had a heart attack and had stopped breathing even before the fuselage exploded. They didn't actually know each other, but she had been about to ask his name, in an attempt to flatter him into calling her something more respectful, so if the plane crashed a few moments later, they might have known each other. As it was, neither one knew that they were born in the same hospital in Saint Louis, Missouri, though twenty years apart and with different attending doctors and nurses. The hospital secretary, though, the one who kept smoking even after her vocal cords grew dry and croaky, she had stayed at that hospital for thirty-two years, and had signed a part of the paperwork that had helped announce them both to the world, the flight attendant and the fat man. The fat man's first wife's high school boyfriend's wife was two rows behind him, and was one of the ones who just burned up quickly in the explosion--painlessly, which was good, but so awfully as to be unrecognizable later, which was bad relative to the coroner. Probably the last people to die were the two in the bathroom. One was the brother of the sixth-grade teacher of the chauffeur of a rich businessman who had once met the flight attendant at a party for tourists in Jerusalem. The other was a different flight attendant, but a friend of the first one. They were in there together and had joined the Mile High club--or maybe they were 'joining" it, since they had achieved penetration but died before climax. (It was a misnomer anyway, since the plane was a lot closer to the ground than a mile, even if nobody realized it.) They didn't get burned too badly, so you could see they died with the smiles of anguished coital intensity. There were 89 other dead bodies, too. I just picked these out at random. A woman at the airport who heard of the crash (she was also one of the passengers' lawyer's doctor's mother) cancelled her flight that same day, on the theory that one crash was a bad omen for travel. A man at the same airport who had exchanged pleasantries with the woman during check-in continued flying with renewed confidence, on the theory that one crash in a day meant that the others were statistically that much less likely to crash themselves. They were both alive at the end of the day. But they were both wrong, especially to each other. A young man who watched news about the crash on TV (and there was a shot of the above mentioned man and woman looking at the schedule monitors after the crash was announced) lay awake that night thinking. Were any of them related to each other and they didn't know it? Did any of the other flights that day have significantly weaker relationships among its passengers, or is the interrelationship of all humans constant and inescapable? And was the mountain escapable, or did it, too, only superficially resemble a coincidence? Is 'why did the plane crash' a sensible question?