Last Flight of Mary Sage

A fictional short story by Robert M. Roberts

Mary stood patiently in line waiting to check in. The terminal was a beehive of activity that Monday morning, as groggy travelers sipped on coffee and rolled their luggage a foot at a time toward the counter. Finally with boarding pass in hand she went through security and then headed to the boarding area.

This was the typical routine of the start of another work week on her commute from Philadelphia to Los Angeles. She couldn’t believe it was already July, 2012. Her new position as CEO at Five Star Records had been an exciting adventure thus far, and she was determined to turn the struggling recording company around. Mary’s partner and founder of Five Star, Barry Cronin, had died from a cocaine overdose four months earlier. His expertise for signing new talents to the label had evolved from looking for talent, to their ability to access narcotics for his uncontrollable addiction.

Now Mary was in charge, and her latest scouting auditions of new rock groups in California had produced a top ten hit on the Billboard charts. By doubling her efforts, she hoped to put the dying record label back on top.

Passengers crowded to the pedestal and handed their tickets to the agent as the door in the waiting area opened and it was time to board the plane. With only an average of four hours of sleep most nights, it was never a problem for her to sleep through the entire flight. The plane had barely become airborne when Mary drifted off to sleep. Five hours later she awoke just fifteen minutes before touchdown. Stretching her arms she felt refreshed from the much needed sleep. Now she had the energy and vitality to seek out the next big talent.

By the end of the week, she was certain she had succeeded by signing a new group from San Diego called Cloud Burst that specialized in a unique mix of southern rock and rhythm and blues.

She felt ecstatic as she boarded the plane from LAX for home, and was soon fast asleep as the plane ascended into the sky. Mid-flight, somewhere over the state of Iowa, she was suddenly aroused by the Captains loud, but calm voice coming over the cabin speaker. He was instructing the passengers and crew to prepare for crash landing. She was confused as she looked in terror around the cabin. Everything was different. The plane and the people looked different. She could smell cigarette smoke permeating the cabin.

“What’s going on?” she screamed, but none of the passengers looked up from their crouched positions.

Had everything before been just a dream, or did she have a glimpse into the future of what might have been? You see, Mary was not the CEO of a record company but instead was a college student on her way to visit friends. It was not 2012, but July 8, 1989, the day 198 people on Trans America Airlines flight 412 crashed in an Iowa cornfield. 102 people survived, while 96 perished. Mary Sage was listed among the dead.

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