Falling Into Flames


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The rain pounded relentlessly against the windows of the dingy motel room. Armon was not expecting the place to be this small or to be full of flies. He knew he should have sprung for a nicer hotel. But there wasn’t any time.

He’d spent the year since the housing market crashed doing what he needed to do to survive the recession. He’d done things he wasn’t proud of and became the epitome of the man from the wrong side of town. One thing led to another, and...
The next thing he knew, he was on a plane to Hawaii. Just to lay low for a few days. To distance himself while things settled down at home. To protect his fiancée Jada, who knew nothing of the situation.

Armon shifted on the stiff, squeaky mattress, trying unsuccessfully to fall asleep. He turned his attention to the past twenty four hours and how fast it had all seemed to go by. The plane ride, the car rental, him nearly steering off the slick pavement on the way to the motel. The people trudging along the side of the road who looked at him like refugees. An old woman in a University of Hawaii sweatshirt who was hitchhiking, and whose eyes seemed to glow red in his rear-view mirror when Armon had driven by, ignoring her. Her long gray hair, tangled and blowing in the wind.

The next day, Armon woke up late and set out to explore the town a bit. He took out his Blackberry and noticed a few texts from Jada.

Did U sleep okay? I heard there’s a really cool mountain on Kauai that looks like a sleeping giant! U should check it out before your meeting <3.

When Armon first met Jada, he had found her caring nature endearing. But right now it was bordering on annoying.

No time. Just woke up. Gonna grab a drink and run things over with Bijan. Call you later.

Armon put his phone in his pocket and walked into the Lava Lava Beach Club for breakfast. He looked over at the cashier, who nodded for him to seat himself. He picked a booth in the middle of the mostly empty dining room. A local newspaper praising President Obama’s first weeks in office momentarily caught his eye. A large, middle aged waitress whose name tag read Poli approached.

“Breakfast?” she asked, and Armon nodded. “Loco Moco, is rice with ground beef and egg. Remind people of home.” Poli replied. “I bring you one.”

Sounds good with a Bloody Mary, Armon thought. Loco.

When Armon was finished he paid the cashier at the front.
“Thanks, man. Hey, what is there to do around here? I’ll only be here a few days, but I really want to see everything, you know what I mean?”

The cashier looked at him and smiled through his gray and black beard. “You should hike up the trail to the falls. It can get kinda dangerous, though, so go in a group. There’s also—“
“Cool, trail sounds good. Thanks, man.” Armon hurried out. The man watched him as he left.

After hiking up the miles-long trail to the falls and going for a swim in the river with a few teenagers, Armon returned to town around dusk. As he walked along the beach, he heard a din of laughter, and looked up to see the patio of the Lava Lava Beach Club lit up and full of people. He walked up and sat down at the bar. After a few drinks, he began to relax. He heard the strum of a guitar coming from somewhere. He signed and thought that maybe this whole escape thing wasn’t so bad after all.

As he was squinting at the cocktail menu on the wall, something caught his attention in the corner of his eye. A woman was sitting alone at the end of the bar, looking directly at him. When their eyes met she quickly turned away. She was wearing a white dress, and she had the most gorgeous bright scarlet hair he had ever seen. She was so alluring, Armon thought. He noticed how her outward appearance was dazzling, almost blinding, and he had to look closely to see her face against the black sky behind her. It was as if she was glowing.

The woman suddenly leapt up with a worried expression, and Armon inexplicably stood up to follow her. A few heads turned at his sudden movement, but no one said anything. She walked down toward the beach, and Armon jogged to catch up with her. “Sorry,” he said, nearly stumbling, “I didn’t mean to freak you out by staring back there. What’s your name? Do you live around here?”
The woman looked at Armon and smiled mysteriously. “Yes, I’ve lived here for a long time.” She continued walking toward the water. She seemed to float on the sand with each step. Armon followed a few steps behind, watching her hair burning like fire in the wind. The sand beneath his feet grew hotter with each step. He kept going. How is this possible? Armon thought. It’s nighttime, what is happening?

The sand felt hotter and hotter still. The woman was walking calmly. Armon tried to catch up to her, but leapt back when he felt the ground sizzle beneath his feet. He lost his balance and fell back in the sand. He looked up to find her, his thoughts confused and desperate. The flame of a woman was gone.

Armon stood in the bright sun the next day, looking out at the ocean. The ground beneath his feet was firm—not sand, this time, but hard lava rock. He avoided the beach after what had happened last night. Or was it a dream? His feet weren’t burned, but it had seemed so real...

He could smell the salt in the air. Armon thought about everything he had done back home in Buffalo. About what he had promised himself never to become, and what he had done to innocent people every day for the past year. But it needed to be done, he thought, and what was my other option?

He angrily kicked at a few lava rocks. He picked one up and slipped it into his pocket. To remember this peace, he thought. As he reached for another rock, his hand slipped and he felt it’s sharp edge slice his palm. He winced and watched the blood drip onto the ground. A gust of wind howled in his ears.

He felt unsettled on the drive back to his motel. Everywhere he looked, strangers would meet his eye. People who were looking the other way turned to face him as he drove by. They seemed like they wanted something. They seemed angry, almost. But at what? Thought Armon. What did I do?

That night, he thought he heard chanting and drumbeats outside his window. It’s just in my head, he thought. But the sounds wouldn’t go away. He went to get a glass of water, but felt something pushing him down onto the bed. What the fuck? Fighting it, Armon tried again to sit up. The thing forced him back down more aggressively. Armon shivered. He saw red lights outside his window, and thought that a fire might be spreading down the mountain.

The next available flight back home had a layover in New Jersey, but Armon didn’t care. He needed to get out of there. He boarded his flight as early as he could. As the plane took off, he looked out the window and felt that all of Hawaii was glaring at him, telling him silently never to return. He didn’t need to be told twice.
As soon as he landed in New Jersey for his connection he felt safer. He smiled as he boarded Colgan Air flight 3407 from Newark, NJ to Buffalo, NY. The weather was snowy, and Armon relaxed into the familiar atmosphere. Nothing could hurt him up here.

It happened a few minutes before the flight was supposed to land. The plane pitched upward, and the hum of the engine suddenly fell silent. Armon opened his eyes. After what happened with Sullenberger and the geese—no. No, it couldn’t be. But it was, and he knew.

Flight 3407 crashed down at 10:17 pm, February 12th, 2009.
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