Fictionalizing the News is a writing exercise I set myself where I take a news article and turn it into a short story. Though the following story is based in real events I do not purport to be telling the truth of what happened, it is entirely fictional. This story is based on this article and I call it The Bomb Scare.
Jonathan Wright was tired, he had been traveling for close to 24 hours now, only getting a few hours of sleep on the long haul flight from Jakarta to Istanbul. Now he was in Paris, one last flight and he would be home in London. After passing through security for the third time this trip, a process that was always an enormous hassle, he went straight to the gate and sat down in one of the chairs. Normally he would walk around looking in the various tax free stores but he had no energy, instead he connected his phone to the airport WiFi and started listlessly watching YouTube videos.
After roughly an hour the staff at the gate announced that they were about to start boarding the plane, starting with first and business class passengers and families with small children, bla, bla bla; Jonathan pretty much knew the speech by heart, that’s how often he had heard it. As if on cue, the other people waiting at the gate stood up and surged forward, forming a long line through the waiting area. He however, remained seated, knowing that the plane wouldn’t take off until everyone was on board anyway. “It’s like the god damn queuing Olympics” he muttered to himself, then turned back to his phone.
Thirty minutes later he finally boarded the plane, slumped down in his seat and buckled his seat belt. Knowing that the flight attendant was bound to force him to turn his phone off, he put it in his pocket then grabbed one of the magazines from the seat pocket in front of him and started flipping through it languidly. Ten more minutes passed while the remaining passengers fussed about with their luggage and searched for their seats. When everyone was seated, screens folded down from the ceiling every few seat rows and the safety instruction video started. Jonathan cast an eye on it with disinterest, it was the same old routine as every other safety instruction for the past 15 years. Just as the person in the video started to demonstrate the use of the life vest, the image on the screen froze, the words “Announcement in progress” popping up across it, and a voice come on the speaker system.
“Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking. I have just been informed by the ground staff here at Paris Charles de Gaulle that there is some kind of issue and that our departure has been temporarily suspended. We do not have any more details at the moment, we will keep you informed as the situation progresses. Thank you for your patience.”
Jonathan sat up straight in his chair “Oh, bloody hell” he thought, “if it wasn’t enough that I could only get tickets for the 26 hour trip, I have to end up on the flight that gets delayed because of some fucken’ issue?” He leaned out into the aisle, trying to spot a flight attendant that he could ask for more details but saw no one. The woman next to him turned to him and asked “What do you think is going on?” in a heavy french accent. “I’m sorry, I don’t know anything more than you” he answered curtly, then went back to his magazine but found he couldn’t concentrate, instead he sat there waiting restlessly.
A few minutes passed then the voice came back on the speaker system: “Ladies and Gentlemen, this is your captain again, we just got word from airport security, there has been a threat made against this aircraft, we have been grounded until further notice.” At this, frightened gasp were heard throughout the cabin and people started unbuckling their belts. The voice continued “Ladies and gentlemen, I implore you to keep calm, airport security are on the scene and they will do their utmost to ensure your safety”. Jonathan heard sirens and craned his neck to look out the window. He could see several fire trucks and police cars driving full tilt towards the plane, lights flashing. With the familiar ‘bong’ sound the seat belt sign turned off and he heard the captains voice over the speakers again “The walkway has been reattached to plane, I hereby request that all passengers exit the aircraft as quickly as possible. Please do so in an orderly fashion and bring all your belongings with you. Once you reenter the waiting hall, airport security will take care of you, please cooperate with them to solve this issue.”
With that, the speakers went silent and despite the captain urging them to keep calm, people started to get out of their seats and gathering up their bags in a frenzy. The speakers turned on again, a new voice this time, “This is Sergeant Laurent with the french airport police, please, Do Not Panic, I repeat DO NOT PANIC! We have the situation under control and it is important that you keep calm and exit the aircraft in an orderly manner.” This seemed to help as people calmed down a bit, though their worry was still evident on their faces. Jonathan grabbed his bag then stepped out into the aisle in front of his seat neighbor.
Getting off the plane went surprisingly smoothly, and much more quickly than it normally did. As he was passing from the walkway into the waiting area, Jonathan looked to his left and noticed a group of police officers, each with a German Shepherd on a leash, standing at the ready next to the gate. They looked grim and foreboding in their black protective gear. Jonathan followed behind the woman in front of him as the whole group of passengers was led out of the waiting hall by one of the security officers. They passed through a set of locked doors and were taken through the back-end areas of the airport that were normally off limits to the general public, all the while flanked by security personnel armed with submachine guns. They came back out into the normal part of the airport, just on the far side of the security check point, where a special line had been set up for them. They had to go through one by one, under constant scrutiny from several security officers, all heavily armed and wearing body armor.
When it was his turn, Jonathan stepped forward to the first officer who motioned to him with a curt “Passport.” Jonathan handed him the document, then waited while he checked it. “Jonathan Wright?” the man asked, “Yes” he replied, trying not to sound nervous. The man looked at him for a few seconds, handed him his passport, then stepped aside with a short “This way,” and a quick gesture towards the metal detector. Jonathan loaded his bag onto the conveyor and emptied his pockets into the tray, all the while feeling the eyes of the security personnel on him. He looked up at the security officers on the other side of the metal detector; one man in the middle, a serious expression on his face, flanked by two menacing looking men holding their submachine guns at the ready, muzzles pointed at the floor. He stepped through the detector gate and despite it not making any sound, the serious man motioned him forward. “Feet apart, arms out” he commanded. Without a word, Jonathan complied, positioning his feet on the two marks on the floor and holding his arms out stiffly. A minute passed as the man patted him down thoroughly, making sure to check every part of his body, then waved him off with a short “You can go.”
He felt relieved to be through the security check; though he had no reason to be nervous, all those heavily armed guards scrutinizing his every move had made him feel uneasy. He grabbed his stuff from the conveyor then joined the other passengers who were waiting a short distance away. When they had all passed through the security check without the guards finding anything, they were ushered back to the waiting area by the gate. They were told that they were free to walk around as they wanted but were advised to stay near the gate for any announcements. Jonathan stayed by the gate, wondering when he would be able to get home but he felt too tired to do much more than just sit there. A couple of hours later the announcement they had all been waiting for came, and they were allowed to board again. This time the plane took off without a hitch.