Anonymous Joe

A short work of fiction about a man’s experience when he first discovers that he has superpowers. What do you think – should I keep going???

I was on a flight from LA to Philly.

It was a particularly long flight, and I really hate flying to begin with. I’ve never been claustrophobic before, however lately the more time I spend in those tiny seats on airplanes, the less time I want to spend in those tiny seats on airplanes.

Plus, I tend to worry that one day the plane I’m on is going to just fall out of the sky for one reason or another, so there’s also that.

Anyways, we were only about an hour into the flight when I got the feeling that something bad was about to happen. I tried to chalk it up to nerves when I noticed four different men of the same ethnicity all stand up and push their way into the aisle at the same time. They looked agitated and rushed, and spoke a foreign language as two ran up the aisle towards the cockpit while the other two positioned themselves midway through the cabin.

Each pulling a handgun out of their jacket, they shouted something unintelligible, and everyone on the plane began to scream.

I put my head in my hands and stared at the floor for a moment while the woman next to me went hysterical. I’d like to say that all sorts of profound things went through my head before what happened next, but being profound was never really my strong suit.

Later on the news, however, the woman who sat next to me quoted me merely muttering, “I’m not going to die today…” as I got up from my seat.

Truth be told, it didn’t even feel like I was me while it was happening – it was more like an out of body experience where I was watching somebody else who looked exactly like me from the sidelines. Sorry, but I’m just not that courageous.

And yet somehow I didn’t so much as blink as I unbuckled my seatbelt and took the few steps to the man closest to me before his gun was pointed directly between my eyes.

He shouted what I barely recognized as, “Don’t try to be a hero here!” which at the time made me smirk.

When he saw that I didn’t so much as flinch, much less back down at his command, I watched in slow-motion as his finger squeezed the trigger of the handgun, however instead of my life flashing before my eyes, I continued to just see the now slightly less menacing barrel of the gun pointed between my eyes.

“Put the gun down,” I heard myself tell the man. I guess he didn’t like that idea because instead, he cursed and pulled harshly on the trigger several more times in rapid succession, but not a single bullet left the chamber while the barrel remained only inches from my brain…

It was then in his confusion that I saw myself draw back a clenched fist and punch the man squarely in the face, surprising him nearly as much as me as he crumpled to the ground with the gun slipping from his grip and falling into the lap of a man beside us.

Truth be told – that was the first punch that I had ever thrown in my life … even all through grade school, I tended to be more on the receiving side than the giving side of any fights that I had managed to find myself in. For what it’s worth, later on that night I went through three bags of ice trying to get the swelling to go down…

More shouting filled the plane as I looked behind me to see the second man taking aim. When he pulled his trigger, instead of sending a bullet in my direction, the firearm more seemed to sort of just explode in his hand, shortly after which two men nearby grabbed him and forced him to the ground.

The other passengers’ screams turned to cheers as the second man was subdued, and as I looked across the rows of random strangers, I felt a strange sense of obligation to finish what I had started as we teetered on uncertain death 30,000 feet up in the air.

Again seemingly out of body, I watched a calm and confident version of myself step over the man whom I had just knocked out and walk to the curtain separating coach from first class. As I pushed it aside, I instantly saw the other two men frantically trying to barge down the door leading into the cockpit while the first class passengers looked on in terror. One flight attendant lay unconscious on the floor, another cowered in an empty seat in the second row.

Before too long, the men saw my advance and one came running at me wildly while the other continued to bang on the door. Wielding a considerably larger weapon that more closely resembled what I can only assume a machine gun might look like, this one yelled something about the holy land as he let loose on the trigger and filled the cabin with an awful sound that many would’ve expected to have been followed shortly thereafter by the cabin losing pressure and the plane falling out of the sky.

But it didn’t.

Empty shells fell to the ground in numbers, however not a single bullet was to be found – it was almost as if he had been firing nothing but blanks. His jaw dropped as I walked forward, his eyes got wide and something about the devil left his lips only moments before my second punch ever left him as equally incapacitated as his comrade.

As I finally turned to the fourth man – presumably the leader of this operation – he didn’t even raise his gun, but instead looked me straight in the eyes as I walked closer before just collapsing at my feet without so much as a taunt or anything. Reaching down to check his pulse (something I don’t know how to do), I announced that he was dead and was greeted to an airplane filled with cheers as everyone realized that they’re going to live to see another day after all…

Over the next hour or however long it took the pilot to divert the flight for an emergency landing in Denver, I found myself in a blur as dozens of people crowded around me to express their gratitude and appreciation, citing how brave I was to do what I had done.

Was I brave?

What was it that I had actually done???

Within moments of touching down on the runway, federal marshals had stormed the plane and taken the four terrorists into custody. Looking out the window to the myriad of flashing lights and news reporters who had gathered outside the plane, I overheard people gushing over the word “hero” as they talked about what had transpired.

The questions were only going to get worse the moment I stepped off the plane, and yet I had so many questions of my own that I felt deserved an answer far before anyone else’s.

Standing to follow the rest of the crowd off the plane, all I could think about was how much I would rather just be back at home, and then as I closed my eyes and took a deep breath…

…there I was.

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