Jack solemnly stepped into his living room, where his father was crying on the couch. Victoria was standing in the next room, trying to think of something to say when Jack returned.
“So is it true?” Jack asked.
“Yes, she died on impact. From the tire marks on the road, she had definitely been swerving, and the smell of Champaign was clear. But it just doesn’t sound like a mistake she would make, she hadn’t drank like that in years! And to think, this happens right before your birthday…” Harold sighed.
“It doesn’t matter when it happened, the pain is all the same. We should not dread or loathe the future, but be grateful for our past. Just because mom is gone now does not lessen how happy she made us before. It is good to miss someone and feel pain at their loss, it shows how much they meant to us and how much we cared about them. But never should we feel like our lives are empty without them, because we will always have the time we spent together in our memories, our love for them, and the knowledge that they never truly left us. Don’t worry about me, while I shall mourn from now and even afterwards, there is no reason for the 21st to not be a happy day for me. Goodnight dad.” Jack said before walking out of the room.
He moved silently past Victoria, but as she reached out to him, he ignored her and began climbing up the stairs. She quickly followed him to his room, closing the door behind her. Jack stood in the middle of the room, not saying anything or even moving. Victoria looked around, noting the details of his very Spartan bedroom. True to his words, there was no bed, only a met on the floor with a depression worn in and some pillows. Except for his desk and bureau, the only real furniture was his bookshelf, filled with CDs, cassette tapes, and even records. Slowly jack turned to her, his smile returned but thick with sadness.
“This is the first time I have experienced what people call loss. I must admit, I didn’t think it would be this potent. I wonder if even the most enlightened monk is saddened by the loss of a loved one.” He said. Rushing forward, Victoria wrapped her arms around Jack’s neck and held him tightly.
“Jack, I am so sorry, I don’t even know what to say. I wish there was something I could say, something I could do, just something to make you feel better. I know you’re hurting, I know how it feels to lose family, but I don’t know what it’s like to lose a mom. I’m sorry Jack, I’m so sorry for your loss.” She murmured.
“Thank you Victoria. I’m lucky to have you.”
“What can I do for you to make you feel better? Do you want me to give you space? To stay with you? To comfort you? I’ll do anything you ask, I’ll do anything I can to lessen your pain.” She asked.
Instead of answering, Jack walked past her to his CD player and inserted a disk of instrumental music. As the soft fluttering notes of the flute moved through the room like a listing butterfly, Jack moved to the corner of the room where he meditated and sat down.
“Will you sit with me?” He asked.
“Of course.” She answered, sitting down on one of the pillows in front of him and holding his hands. Jack closed his eyes and became still, quietly mediating with Victoria just watching him, clutching his hands tightly. Save for the two lovers’ breathing, the gentle music was the only sound in the room, but as the third song faded out, Victoria’s back began to get sore.
“Are you uncomfortable?” Jack asked without opening his eyes.
“Oh, no, I’m fine.” She replied.
“It’s alright, do whatever you like to make yourself comfortable. I don’t want you to be with me at your expense. I don’t want you to be sore to make me happy.” He said. Jack then opened his eyes in slight surprise as Victoria laid down in front of him with her head in his lap.
“Tell me if you get uncomfortable, I’ll move or do anything you want to make you happy.” She murmured.
“Thank you Victoria, I’m blessed to have you in my life.” He replied with a small smile while he gently stroked her long scarlet hair.
“Kelly, Tyler, I didn’t expect you to come.” Jack said, climbing out of his dad’s car and stepping onto the parking lot beside the local church. Wearing a black dress, Victoria climbed out of the back seat.
“I told Kelly about your mom and I guess she told Tyler. I’m sorry Jack, I should have asked you before telling her.” She said guiltily.
“No, I’m glad they came, just like I’m glad you came.” He said with a smile.
“Jack, I’m so sorry about your mom. I can’t imagine how hard this is for you.” Kelly said sadly. Like Victoria, she was wearing a black dress for the funeral.
“We should get inside, everyone is waiting for us.” Jack’s dad said, getting out of the car. Stepping forward, Tyler held out his hand.
“Mr. Owen, I’m sorry about your wife. If she’s anything like Jack, she must have been a very kind and smart woman.” He said. With a sad smile, Harold shook the young man’s hand and thanked him.
In the main hall of the church, a line of friends and family slowly moved past the open casket of Jack’s mother. She had been placed in a black dress and any scratches or injuries from the car crash had been hidden with makeup by the coroner. In the background, Victoria, Ellie, and Tyler stood, wanting to stay out of the way while everyone mourned. Under their watch, Jack came up to the casket and placed his hand on his mom’s cold shoulder.
“Thank you for everything, especially for letting me have known you.” He said sadly before moving forward. The words spoken, he walked over to his friends.
“I know how you feel Jack, I lost my sister five years ago and it completely wrecked my life. Only recently have I been able to come to terms with it and I still haven’t been able to forgive myself for her death, but meeting you has been a lot of help.” Said Tyler.
“The pain of losing a loved one is the same for everyone. While the role that person might have played or the relationship they were in may be different, as long as people love someone, they will all mourn him or her the same way and with the same intensity. Thank you.” Jack said gratefully.
“I may have not known your mom for very long, but each day I talked to her, I could see and appreciate the kind of person she was. She was a wonderful woman.” Victoria said softly.
“Thank you, that means a lot to me.” Jack said with a nod.
“I don’t know what to say that will help, other than I am sorry for your loss. All I can really do is promise you that I will help you in any way that I can.” Said Kelly.
“Thank you, I appreciate it.” Said Jack.
Taking a deep breath, Jack’s father approached them.
“We should take our seats, the ceremony is about to start.”
Jack’s father stood at the podium, with Laurie’s casket behind him.
“Laurie was my wife, the mother of my son, and the love of my life. She was kind to everyone, a gentle soul, and the sweetest girl you could ever meet. I met her when we attended USM, and from the moment I saw her, I knew I loved her. She became my light, my dream, and my hope for the future. I considered every day that we were together a blessing, and the day we married to be the happiest day of my life. We built a home together, joined our two futures into one, and raised a son that quickly became the most amazing and wisest man I had ever met, even as a child. The night she died, Jack said that while she may be gone, we will never lose the time we had together. For that, I am truly grateful, grateful to Laurie for giving me the greatest twenty years of my life, and grateful to our son, who will never let me devalue my memories of her.” He said, wiping away tears while he left the podium to return to his seat. While everyone clapped, Victoria squeezed Jack’s hand. The priest then stepped forward and announced,
“Laurie’s son, Jack Owen, would now like to speak.”
With a stoic look on his face, Jack stood up and made his way down the aisle to give his own speech. Standing behind the podium, he took a deep breath and looked out over the crowd with his usual enlightened smile.
“Of all the things I am grateful for, from raising me, loving me, and sheltering me, what I value most from my mother is that I knew her. It is not material possessions that make us happy, but the bonds we share and the people in our lives. Humans have such a short lifespan, we are barely a flash of lightning compared to the eons that have passed for the aging universe. We live for less than a hundred years, but we are dead for the rest of eternity. You could almost say that living things are merely organisms that have not passed on yet.
But if that is true, then doesn’t the same thinking work in reverse? In truth, no one is truly born and no one truly dies, for the matter and energy that makes us all has existed and will exist for all of eternity. My personal philosophy is that half of reality is how it is interpreted, so while many people here may regard my mother as having passed on, I see her as still existing, even if it’s in a way that I can’t quite sense. While she may not be alive in the traditional sense, she has existed since the beginning of time and will exist until time’s end.
The body we all hugged and were hugged by was and is still made of atoms crafted in the stars themselves, the kindness and warmth we all knew, fueled by neural pulses and then released back into the universe as pure energy. We may all feel like we have lost her, like there is a hole in our hearts that can never be filled, but she has only truly left us if that is how we see her. Even if her body has been returned to the matter from which she was made, I know she exists and will always exist. The energy that powered her kind heart and made her the person we all knew and loved, even if it has been scattered across the universe in an undetectable form, still exists and is still as powerful as it always was.
While she may be in a form that our human senses cannot perceive, she will always be with us, just as she always has. You see her death as untimely, but I see it has the early metamorphosis of someone we loved turning back into a part of the universe around us. I know this sounds like just a science lecture, but I’m hoping that everyone can understand and will realize that even if someone dies, whether it be our fault or an event destined by time itself, they will always exist, they are nothing less than what they were when they were alive, even if we can’t see them that way. Even if my mother is dead, I am happy, for I know it only means that she has taken a new form and is still with me. To everyone here, I hope that the next time someone you love passes on, you realize that they are only gone if you perceive them to be, and in truth, they are never any less of a part of your life. Thank you.” Jack said, drawing thunderous applause.
In his seat, Tyler had his face in his hands and was crying tears of both mourning and joy. This was the final step, this was what he needed to hear to finally be at peace. Jack, both in his dreams and reality, had taught him the true meaning of his sister’s death. The pain she felt was only a perception, what happened wasn’t his fault, and even if he could no longer touch or talk to his sister, she still existed and would always be with him. He could finally move on and be at peace.
Jack took his seat beside Victoria and she clung to his arm.
“That was beautiful Jack, that was so beautiful. I guess your dad and I have something in common, in that you’re the most amazing and wisest man we’ve ever met.” She murmured lovingly.
It was late into the night, and Jack and Victoria were sitting in the Owen living room. Jack’s father had long since gone to bed, and now the two teenagers were just talking and sharing memories while drinking from steaming cups of hot chocolate. Crackling in the brick fireplace, a small inferno stubbornly clung to life and warmed the room. In the background, smooth jazz played, a sad melody to fit the mood of the day. The doors to the living room were closed, ensuring that they had complete and total privacy.
“My mom used to tell me that she believed in reincarnation, simply because she thought I was an enlightened monk reborn.” Jack hummed.
“It’s hard to imagine even you being so smart while only a little kid. I’m surprised she didn’t think you were an alien.”
“For all we know, she might have. I guess we’ll never be sure.” Jack said with a sad smile.
“Jack, have you cried yet?” Victoria asked hesitantly.
“No, I see no need to. Shedding tears achieves nothing but catharsis, but if one can reach that state without crying, then tears become obsolete. I have come to terms with the loss, I don’t need to cry.” He said.
“Jack, it’s alright to be vulnerable. You don’t have to act like you aren’t hurting.” Victoria cooed, placing her delicate hand on his cheek.
“I do feel it, I do miss her. But my words from today still hold their meaning. She is not gone, she has only become something else, and even if she has taken a form that my senses cannot detect, I know that she still exists, and that is enough o make me happy. Though I would by lying if I said that I wouldn’t prefer her original form.” He said, taking a sip of cocoa.
“I love you Jack, and that is why it brings me heartache to see you in pain. But you know, it’s kind of nice seeing you this way. It’s nice to finally see you being a little bit vulnerable, it makes me want to hold you and take care of you. I want to be able to make you happy, and I finally have the chance to do that, even if it means taking the pain away from a wounded heart.” She murmured.
“You do make me happy. For even with all the knowledge I’ve acquired about humans, it is only when I’m with you that I truly feel like I understand them. On my first day back, I told you that I loved everyone and everything, including you, but now I love you more than anything else.” He said, making Victoria’s eyes sparkle in happiness.
“Jack, please just answer me this one thing: do you feel any pain or sadness right now after what happened today?” She asked before emptying his mug.
“Yes, I do.” He replied.
With a sad but tender smile, Victoria stood up and removed her dress, wearing nothing but her underwear. Reaching back, she released the clasp and let her bra slip away, exposing her young firm breasts. Seductively shaking her hips from side to side, she pulled her thong down her long smooth legs and let them drop down to the floor. Moving back onto the couch, she straddled Jack’s lap, instantly feeling him become hard with arousal.
“Then let me help you feel better. Let me comfort you. Use me however you want to make yourself happy, ask me to do something and I will obey.” She said softly, pressing her forehead against his. She then leaned back as Jack raised his hands and placed them on the sides of her angelic face, staring into her brilliantly blue sapphire eyes.
“You are the most beautiful girl I have ever seen. Please, just stay here with me.” He whispered.
“Of course.” She said before they began to kiss.
While their lips joined and separated over and over again, Jack began unbuttoning his dress shirt without a single shake or tremor. As the last button became unfastened and Jack began pulling the shirt off his shoulders, Victoria quickly moved off him so that he could stand up and completely undress. Turning back around, Jack gazed upon Victoria and smiled. She was bent over the arm of the couch, shaping her shapely ass at him seductively with a coy smile on her face.
“Use me however you want to make yourself happy.” She repeated.
Smiling, Jack got down on one knee on the floor and ran his tongue up her tight young ass, drawing shivers of arousal from Victoria. Over and over again, he kissed her deliciously soft flesh, massaging it with his hands and sampling her unique essence with his tongue. After less than half a minute, Jack spread her cheeks and flitted his tongue between the lips of her pussy.
“Oh god Jack, that feels so good.” Victoria blushingly whimpered while he worked both his tongue and thumb inside her.
“I could say the same for you, your delectable flavor is downright euphoric. It tastes like I’m sampling your very soul, and it is truly delicious.” He replied before doubling his efforts, using his tongue and his lips to energize every nerve and send waves of bliss rushing through her body.
‘Damn, how is he so good at this?!’ Victoria wondered. With each minute that passed by, Victoria’s self-control plummeted further and further and she began losing the ability to differentiate the different waves of pleasure pumping through her veins. All she knew was that she wanted more.
“Please, please put it in me. You’re driving me so crazy that I can’t take it any longer.” She moaned once he finally pulled away, leaving her tantalizingly close to a mind-shattering climax.
“I thought this was supposed to be for me.” Jack teased, standing up behind and running his hands across her sculpted rear. Victoria laughed softly.
“You’re right, sorry for being selfish.” She joked.
“You asked me to do anything that would make me happy, but to make you happy is the only way I can be.” He said, leaning over and running kisses up her back.
Standing up straight, Jack made sure he had a good hold on her hips and slowly entered her pussy. Feeling herself getting mounted, Victoria gave a soft moan as Jack penetrated her at an angle she had not yet experienced. Jack worked himself all the way inside of her, licking his lips at the indescribable feeling of her interior, so soft, warm, and wet. It was pure heaven for his cock, squeezing and trembling against it with each fluttering beat of her heart. Holding onto her, Jack pulled out until only the head was inside her, then pushed himself back in with a hearty clap of her ass against his lap.
Groaning from the sensation of Jack’s manhood driving deep into her, Victoria held onto the couch as Jack began to pull back out. Building a rhythm, Jack moved back and forth inside of her, increasing in speed and power with each shove. Under the power of his thrusts, Victoria was left chewing on the couch, terrified of her moans leaving the room. In less than a minute, Jack was basically hammering away at her with almost animalistic speed, slamming the deepest corners of her cunt with his dick and creating a loud continuous clapping sound of Victoria’s flesh against his. Her body felt so good and she looked so beautiful, he wanted to keep fucking her forever.
Victoria was in complete ecstasy, unable to describe the feeling of getting penetrated over again with such power and speed. Jack was basically riding her like his life depended on it and was fucking her at levels of intensity just short of brutal, and Victoria loved all of it. He was at the perfect speed for her and it was driving her wild. No matter how animalistic or inhuman his beat became, she could always feel love within his movements. Pushing herself up onto her elbows, she rocked back and forth with each slam from Jack, moaning into the crook of her arm and watching as her C-cup breasts bounced and jiggled wildly.
“Jack, don’t cum inside of me, I have an idea. Lay down.” Victoria panted.
“Alright.” He grunted, coming to a stop and gently pulling out of her. He laid down on the couch and she kneeled over him, almost sitting on his legs. Bending over, she wrapped her fingers around his cock and began stroking it next to her face, which was practically glowing with love.
“I’ve never done this before and I’m nervous, but I love you too much to not try and satisfy you in every way. I doubt I’m as good as Kelly, but let’s see what I can do.” She said coyly.
Holding her head over his erect cock, Victoria nervously hesitated for a moment before sticking out her tongue and licked the tip. Jack shivered from the sensual touch and released a soft groan as she licked it again, this time wrapping her tongue around the head and slathering it. Stroking the shaft and beginning to feel confident, she took the head in her mouth, working it with her lips while tickling the tip with her tongue. Listening to Jack and feeling him shake with each movement she made, Victoria began to feel prideful in her work and took his cock deeper in her mouth, bringing it in as far as she could without gaging.
Moving her head side to side, she used her cheeks to massage the head while wrapping her tongue around the shaft. Now knowing what she was doing, she began bobbing her head up and down, sucking his cock with horny enthusiasm. While she worked, Jack gently and lovingly stroked her hair with his usual calm smile. As time passed, Victoria becoming more and more creative as she worked, using every single corner of her mouth, playfully biting down ever so softly, or she would even stop blowing him and massage his cock between her breasts. Through her efforts, Jack could feel his body reaching its limit.
“Victoria, turn around. I want us to finish at the same time.” He said, drawing an ecstatic smile from her.
Getting up, Victoria turned herself around and lowered herself onto him, letting him gorge himself on her sweet pussy while she continued to suck him off. Their bodies pressed together like yin and yang, Victoria and Jack worked tirelessly to pleasure each other, and quickly, their efforts took affect. The two lovers began to shake as their bodies were filled with trembling warmth, both reading each other and the signs in their own bodies. Sensing Victoria about to cum, Jack sent his tongue and lips as far into her pussy as possible and licked her out almost aggressively, while Victoria, sensing Jack’s approaching orgasm, took his entire cock in her mouth kept her head still, deep-throating him.
Finally, the two lovers both came, with Victoria splashing Jack with her euphoric juices and Jack firing jet after jet of semen into her throat while leaving her mouth clean. Gasping for air, the teenagers separated and laid side by side, looking up at the ceiling.
“That was wonderful.” Victoria purred, turning back around and curling up next to Jack with her arm across his chest.
“That was, thank you.” He replied, kissing her on the forehead.
“Was I better than Kelly? Be honest.” She insisted.
“In terms of skill, her experience clearly gives her an advantage. But when I was with her, I didn’t feel anything, because there were no feelings between us. She actually had to tell me to cum because she couldn’t get me to. But with you, I could truly feel your feelings for me, and that was what made it so hard to keep my body under control. Although, now that I think about it, she and I were out in the freezing cold, so some numbness was to be expected. I guess-”
“Oh shut up!” She laughed while playfully smacking him.
“Sorry. By the way, my dad and I have to leave tomorrow. We have some relatives down in Washington that weren’t in good enough health to travel, so the least we can do is fly down and visit them.” He stated.
“How long will you be gone?” Victoria asked.
“Don’t worry, it’s just overnight. We’ll stop in Boston on the way, spend the night in DC, fly back to Boston, and then be back in the evening.” He assured her.
“Alright, I just wonder if I’ll be able to go that long without you.” She kidded.
“I finally understand, I can finally see my sister’s death for what it really was.” Tyler said, standing in his dreamscape, facing Jack. But unlike all the times before, the black backdrop had been replaced with an encompassing scrapbook of old memories, some playing like video clips and others frozen in time like photographs.
“And what was it?” Jack asked proudly.
“All this time, I thought pain was something real, something that can be physically measured. But really, it is a perception and a reaction to an event. What those people did to her wasn’t what hurt her, it was how she perceived it and gave it meaning that caused the real harm. She wasn’t able to choose what happened to her, she didn’t get to choose to be raped, but the pain she felt was an illusion brought on by social stigma and social meaning. In reality, any act could have caused the same damage as what she went through, but she had been shaped by society to view what happened to her in that way.
I blamed myself for her death because I needed to feel like I could have done something. I needed to feel like even for a moment, even if it involved shameful failure, I had power. I needed to feel like I had a choice. But really, everything is predetermined by time. What happened was unavoidable; it was the result of all the variables lining up at their destined points. Whatever happens is the only possible route as dictated by time and the variables. There is no point considering the past or alternate futures since there can be only one present. Every decision I make has already been made, but that decision can only be made if I have the capability to make it, since each effect needs a fitting cause. Everything I do is predetermined by fate, but that makes my decisions and choices no less real.
I’ve always thought that it was because of my weakness that my sister was robbed of her life, but you taught me that even if I can’t see or hear her, she is no less real than when she was alive. The atoms that made her body will exist for all eternity along with mine, and the energy that powered her mind and made her who she was has been dispersed back out into the universe, returning to what it once was. Else had existed since the beginning of time and will exist with me for all eternity, it was only the form that I projected onto her that was lost. And even if I can not touch her or speak to her, the memories I have of her will always be real and the effect she has had on me and how she has shaped me into the person I am will always exist.
My sister still exists in another form, her pain was only an illusion, and there is no reason to feel blame for anything unless I am meant to as dictated by time.” He said, breathing a sigh of relief as years of pain and stress were finally released.
“But just to be sure…” Jack said before walking over and delivering a solid punch straight to Tyler’s nose, breaking it and causing blood to trickle out. Tyler staggered back but didn’t touch his nose or make a sound.
“Did that hurt?” Jack asked.
“Very.” Tyler said calmly.
“But do you mind that it hurts?” Jack then asked.
“No, I don’t.” He said with a calm smile.
“Congratulations Tyler, you have learned to shed the weights of your consciousness and you are now ready to uncover the Self. However, this is not a lesson that can be given in a dream, it is something I must teach you in real life.” Said Jack, causing Tyler’s eyes to narrow.
“Wait, what are you talking about?” He asked.
“I’m leaving on a trip, and in three days, I shall teach you, Kelly, and Victoria how to find your Selves. I’m certain that they are close to reaching the same level of catharsis as you.” Jack said cheerfully.
“Wait, you mean this is real?!” Tyler shouted.
“Of course! It’s like I told you, just because this is just a dream or all in your mind, does that make it any less real?”
“I think I’ve finally figured it out, at east part of it anyways.” Said Kelly.
“Oh? Please explain.” Jack asked. Lying back on the invisible floor of her dreamscape, Kelly looked up into the infinite darkness.
“The Self is the source of everything, it is our opinions, our thoughts, our emotions, our true self-worth, the sum of our parts, and the pure root of who we are. But the Superego is how we display ourselves, how we make ourselves look in order to try and control how we are perceived. In essence, the Superego is how we react to people and what we become to make them like us and also in reaction to who they are. The Superego is basically the screen that everyone projects their perception of someone onto. My identity is shaped by my reaction to how people perceive me, and I change myself so that people can either like me or hate me, and in their reaction to how I portray myself, I too react and rearrange who I am according to their perceptions. The Superego is shaped by the people around us and how they see us and wee see them. If you live your whole life without ever encountering another person, your Superego is shaped by their absence.” She said peacefully.
“So who are you?” Jack asked with a smile.
“I am Kelly Ross, friend of Jack Owen, Victoria Ellie, and Tyler Deck. I like jazz music and my favorite things to watch are shows on Animal Planet. I hate gym class, judgmental people, misogynistic politicians, and being alone. When I grow up, I want to be a bar tender and own a night club.” She said with her voice filled with euphoria. She finally knew, she finally knew who she was.
“Congratulations, you’re a third of the way to finding your Self. Your next step is to uncover why you distanced yourself from your Superego and why you subconsciously hid your identity from yourself. I strongly believe that there is a reason why it was so hard for you to figure out who you are, and that reason ties into one of the fundamental aspects of human nature. If you can figure out what that barrier is that blocked you off from your identity, then it is a straight shot to the Self.” He beamed. Lying on her back, Kelly looked over to Jack and smiled.
“No one has ever believed in me before, no one has ever helped me this much. Thank you Jack, thank you for everything.” She murmured.
BANG! The gunshot rang out to the sound of the co-pilot’s cry of pain as the bullet pierced his shoulder.
“Turn this plane around or I’m going to start killing passengers!” The man yelled, waving his gun at anyone who made the slightest of moves.
Instantly, the cabin was filled with the sounds of screaming from terrified men and women as people realized that the plane had just been hijacked. While one of the flight attendants desperately tried to help the wounded co-pilot, the hijacker pointed his gun at the blood-splattered pilot, repeating the order. Regardless of their fear, many passengers began recording the event with their phones, not knowing what else to do. Next to his father, Jack sat calmly in his seat. He wasn’t smiling, but he looked completely immune to the prospect of fear. It had taken him less than a second to figure it out: this was the return flight from Boston to Portland and the hijacker had picked it for a suicide bombing attack against Boston. They were barely in the first stage of the flight, but that made it the best time for the terrorist to make his move, because it meant that the plane was still loaded with fuel and would cause more damage when it crashed.
Taking a deep breath, Jack stood up and stepped out into the aisle.
Victoria was sitting in her living room with her parents, listening to the NBC evening news. She was watching the clock dedicatedly, counting down the minutes until Jack’s plane would land. He had only been gone for a day, but it felt like an eternity. She couldn’t wait to see him again. On the TV, the ongoing story on the fiscal cliff was interrupted by a sudden announcement from Brian Williams, who was speaking in a very serious and nervous tone.
“Ladies and gentlemen, we’re receiving word that a plane traveling from Boston to Portland has just been hijacked by a terrorist.” He said.
Victoria’s parents nearly jumped from their seats while Victoria sat petrified, unable to breathe or move and feeling like her heart had just dropped right into her stomach. It couldn’t be true, it couldn’t be… Of all things to happen, a terrorist hijacks a plane and takes the man she loved hostage? Was he about to become one of the first casualties in the next 9/11? Was she going to lose the only man she had every truly loved and been close to, the man she had given her mind, body, and soul to?
“We are now going to play for you a recording of the terrorist’s demand through the plane’s radio. I should warn you, this may be graphic.” Said the news anchor before the screen became dark.
“My name is Gerard Ali Lenaen, servant of the mighty Allah! For too long, the hedonistic nation of America has bullied the world and defecated on the religions of others! They have raped the homelands of my Muslim brothers and forced innocent people out of their homes to build the Zionist empire! Enough is enough! It is time for America to learn that it doesn’t rule the world and that it can’t do whatever it wants! It is time for this country of infidels to be put in its place!” The middle-eastern man shouted into the radio before the line went silent. The screen went back to Brian Williams, who was listening to his earpiece.
“Wait, we’re now getting a live feed of the scene, via cellphone. Ladies and gentlemen, we shall broadcast this for as long as we can and keep the passengers on that plane in our hearts and prayers.” He said.
The screen once again changed, this time showing a trembling low-quality view of the cabin of the plane. The point of view was from just past the middle of the cabin, showing the terrorist standing near the cockpit and a teenage boy in the aisle, completely calm, even with a pistol pointed at him. The man looked to be in his late thirties with an unshaven face and dark complexion, while the teenager looked pale with silvery hair.
“Jack…” Victoria whispered with tears rolling down her face.
“Gerard Ali Lenaen, my name is Jack Owen, and it is a pleasure to meet you. While the circumstances may not be right for a friendly chat, I’m hoping that you and I can talk.” Jack said with his usual carefree smile.
“No! No talking! Get back in your seat or you’ll die!” The man shouted.
“I would think that you would want to talk. After all, I can’t imagine this being anything but a suicide attack, and you can’t expect me to believe that you are so willing to go to your grave without at least voicing your concerns and making sure that you are completely understood. As you can see, this moment is being recorded and streamed through many cell phones, don’t you want to use this opportunity to spread your message as clearly as you can? If not for that reason, then may I ask that you continue this conversation with me, at least as a last request?”
“This is your last warning! Sit down or I will shoot!”
“So you won’t solidify your beliefs for the world or make sure that your message is clear, and neither will you indulge my humble request for a conversation. Pardon my boldness, but it seems to me like you are having doubts about what you are doing. The other passengers have been moving quite a lot since you made your declaration, and you know as well as I do that they are waiting for their chance to try and apprehend you. However, instead of focusing your attention on the individuals who look like they could cause the most trouble, you are keeping your gun pointed at me, with the only movement coming from the trembling of your hand. From this, I can ascertain that you are more afraid of my words than of the violent actions of the other passengers.
You would rather face an attack, imprisonment, or even death, instead of take an in-depth look at your motives through talking. You are afraid that you will be convinced to stop what you are doing, to be told that you are wrong for making this choice, and will see that you made a mistake. You feel like my words can inflict far more harm than any desperate attempt to take your weapon or subdue you. I assure you that I have no intention of making any violent acts against you, and I ask that my fellow passengers please hold off on any attempts to change the situation, at least so that you and I can have an uninterrupted conversation.
If you truly are afraid of my words, then doesn’t that mean you should talk to me? Won’t facing me head on strengthen your own conviction? You have nothing to fear from a simple conversation unless you let it affect you.” Jack said.
His face contorting in anger, Gerard pulled the trigger, shooting Jack in the right side of the chest. In her living room, Victoria tearfully screamed Jack’s name, refusing to believe what she had just seen. Harold Owen was in the same state, about to rush over to Jack’s side before his son stopped him. Staggering back but staying on his feet, Jack took several haggard breaths while covering the bleeding wound in his chest. Already, blood was pouring from his front and back, as well as dripping from his mouth. But regardless, he stayed standing and maintained his smile.
“Well, that’s one experience that I certainly wouldn’t mind not repeating.” He chuckled, as if without a care in the world. Everyone on the plane was in awe, unable to believe what had just happened and what was happening now.
“What the fuck are you?! Why aren’t you dead?!” Gerard shouted, shaking so bad that he could barely hold his gun straight.
“Oh, don’t worry, you’ve definitely inflicted a mortal wound. I’ll probably only last a few more hours if I don’t receive medical attention. The human body truly is a miraculous creation, and contrary to TV and movies, it is built to withstand heavy damage. The chest especially has been shaped to protect and prolong the life of the organs, so much so, that it often takes several rounds directly to the vital organs to kill someone, not like that deadly one-shot kill that you always see. I admit, that was very painful and it is becoming difficult to breathe, but evolution gave us two lungs, so there is no reason to just quit and die when one gets damaged. It hurts, but I don’t mind.” Jack said happily.
Everyone on the plane was completely dumbstruck, unable to believe what they were hearing and seeing. Who was this guy?! By now, almost everyone in the country was watching what was happening, and among them, Victoria, Kelly, and Tyler were almost smiling. This was the Jack they new.
“Now, since you shot me, I think you at least owe me that conversation. Please, tell me about yourself, tell me why you made this decision.” Jack said before coughing into his sleeve.
“I was born in Palestine and raised as a child in Gaza for many years, my family forced out of Israel upon its founding and dominance by the Jews. Eventually, my family had to flee to Iraq to escape from the conflicts over the Gaza Strip. I’ve been a devout Muslim all my life and taught to believe in the love of Allah, but when my parents were murdered in the bombing of Bagdad by your government, I was forced to take my wife children and leave. I tried to forgive America for killing my mother and father, I even moved to the states in the hope that my children could live a better life and escape the violence brought on by the war you started.
But after 9/11, America became hell for us. Your hate-filled bigots tormented us mercilessly! My children were bullied, I lost my job and spent years getting turned down by everyone I talked to in the search of work, and finally, my wife was raped and murdered, killed in the streets for her faith! We left America right afterwards and returned to Iraq, only for some faceless US drone to kill my children in a bombing raid! I couldn’t even bury them, for there was nothing left but blood and score splattered across the rubble!
This country has taken everything from me, and yet you selfish Americans look down on my country and my people! What makes you so special? What gives you the right to take what you want and destroy the rest?! I’ve had enough of this country, it’s time for America to learn the meaning of justice and know what it feels like to be victimized!” He shouted with his eyes beginning to tear up.
The cabin was silent as everyone tried to stomach the words. The pain in Gerard’s voice was more real than anyone had expected or witnessed. They had heard things like this before, stories like Gerard’s on the news and in TV shows, but never before had they ever heard one on real life. The same silent scene was taking place in every TV room, with every viewer just letting Gerard’s speech sink in. Even Jack had removed his smile.
“Your anger is understandable, however, do you really think this is the best choice? Do you really think that this will bring justice?” Asked Jack.
“What are you talking about?”
“Look around you Gerard, do you really think the people on this flight are as guilty as you want them to be? Look at the children cowering with their parents. Do you think they bullied your kids, bombed your town, and killed your family? They didn’t Gerard, everyone here is innocent, and so too are the people in Boston who will die if you crash this plane. No life is equal to another, so do you really think that killing innocent Americans is equal to killing innocent Iraqis? If someone killed one of your loved ones, would you get your revenge by killing the first random person you saw? Would that be justice?
And even if this plane were filled with the people who were guilty for the pain in your life, you would be just as bad as them if you killed them. There would be no justice, because while you may take their lives in vengeance for the lives of your family, you are just creating more victims in the form of their loved ones. If you were face to face with the man who killed and raped you wife, you might consider it justice to kill him, but can you look into the tear-filled eyes of that man’s loved ones and tell them that they must suffer the losing of someone they cared about to satisfy your own bloodlust? Can you tell them that they are not entitled to justice since you are?
You cannot hurt someone without hurting everyone who cares about them. Even in vengeance, all you do is create more victims who feel the same pain as you and are equally entitled to what you call justice. Think of all the people here, think of their friends and families. Do you think the pain that the people who love them will feel at the news of their deaths is any less legitimate or deserving as the pain you felt when you lost your family?
Gerard, there is no justice here.” Jack said. Gerard lowered his gun a few inches, but did not point it away from Jack.
“You’re just trying to stop me because I’m attacking you and your country! If you weren’t here and weren’t from America, you wouldn’t care, you wouldn’t have any stake in this! No one cares about the people of my country, they only care about the people of theirs!”
“You’re wrong Gerard, I care no more about America than I do Iraq or Palestine. Nations and borders mean nothing to me, because I don’t divide the people of this world. We are all people of earth, we share the same home, the same emotions, and the same pain. No dividing ocean, line on a map, different language, or separate religion can change the fact that we are all one people, trying to find happiness and meaning in our lives. American, Iraqi, Israeli, Muslim, Christian, Atheist… none of them mean anything unless we want them to and they only exist because people want to divide each other, but I don’t. The land that you come from means nothing me, just as the land I come from means nothing to me, because aren’t all from the same world and universe?
Gerard, you are not an Iraqi or a Muslim, and neither am I an American or a philosopher. We are both people, shaped by the choices we make and our own perceptions of the world. War and turmoil are created by the divisions we create between people, they are born from our attempt to be different, even at our own expense and the expense of others. You and I may have different beliefs and different opinions, but I know the truth, and the truth is that you and I are exactly the same.
Now Gerard, you have a once in a lifetime opportunity here, one where you can do far more good than bad. The choice you make right now could change the entire world.” Jack said.
“What are you talking about?” Gerard asked, barely able to hold up his gun. It felt so heavy in his hands, like it actually hurt to keep it lifted. A part of him was screaming to put it down, but he still couldn’t.
“What you said about the rise of discrimination after 9/11 could not be more true, I too have seen the hatred and paranoia that has been born in the aftermath of those attacks. Bigots are targeting innocent Muslims and blaming them for the crimes of a few extremists. However, progress is slowly being made to repair the damage. Each day, the majority depiction of Islam is changing depending on the behavior of its members. But if you go through with this attack, you will hurt your own people more than you will hurt America.
How many important buildings can you destroy with this plane? How many lives can you take? Compare that to the amount of hatred that will be created in the aftermath. Prejudice and discrimination towards Muslims will skyrocket, the American people will carry a wound of hatred that will take decades to heal, and their paranoia will spread to the other countries, and they too will mistreat innocent Muslims out of paranoia and ignorant bigotry. If you go through with this attack, then the people that you are trying to protect will just be victimized by the entire world.”
“Said by someone who doesn’t care about Islam.” Gerard cursed, merely trying to think of a reason to keep his gun raised, even if he consciously didn’t recognize the desperation of the act.
“You’re wrong again Gerard, I have great respect for the Islamic world, and that respect has been given to be by history itself. Any competent historian would admire and be in awe of the progress brought forth by Islam, especially during the Islamic Golden Age. More so than the Renaissance of Europe, any enlightened era of Asia or the Mediterranean, or even the Industrial Revolution of America, the Islamic Golden Age was easily the high point of human civilization, bringing forth the greatest growth spurt of knowledge, art, and social progress in all of history. If I could travel througn time, I would journey back to the 10th and 11th centuries and study geometry and advance mathematics in Córdoba, science and astronomy in the House of Wisdom in Bagdad, or philosophy and art in Mecca! The entire modern world, including America, was built on the knowledge collected and born in the Islamic Golden Age. We owe your ancestors everything!
After the Mongol invasion, Islam unfortunately fell from its peak, but now, you have a chance to help it move back in the direction of progress. The greatest stereotype of Islam is that it is a religion of ignorant violence, a stereotype that too easily becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, but now you can prove everyone wrong. Show the world that a Muslim who was about to wage an act of terrorism can see the light and return to being a man of peace! Show the world that no religion can be blamed for the choices of its fanatical minority, show the world that the Islamic world can once again be a shining beacon for the world!”
“It doesn’t matter, they’ll lock me up as soon as this plane lands.” Gerard admitted, finally giving up.
“But they can’t silence you, and they can’t hide what has transpired here. Look at all these phones recording our conversation, each is proof that even the most bitter Muslim is ready to forgive and believe in peace, just like any Christian, Jew, Hindu, Taoist, Atheist, or other person of faith. The world is watching Gerard, you have basically become the spokesman for the Islamic culture, and now the world is watching and waiting to see which direction you turn your faith towards. Through the events of today and your work in the future, would-be terrorists will hopefully see that we can live in a peaceful world and that there is another way for Islam to regain the respect it once commanded, and bigots and racists will realize that we don’t need to hate an entire group of people or an entire culture for the choices of the few.” Jack said. He then walked over to Gerard and held his hand out to him.
“What happens now is up to you Gerard, and I will help you every step of the way if you need me to.” He said with his trademark light-hearted smile. With a shaky hand, Gerard handed him the pistol and slowly retook his seat, with everyone staring at him in shock but no one making a move against him. Jack gave a sigh of relief and began dismantling the pistol.
“Captain, if the co-pilot is up for it and we have enough fuel, could you please turn this plane back around and get us to Portland? My girlfriend is waiting for me and I’d like to see her as soon as I can.” He asked calmly.