American Airlines’ Flight AA2497 departed Atlanta in the early evening, just after six, bound for Dallas-Forth Worth. It took off into a warm July sky. No storms waited in the flight path. The passengers felt mostly relaxed. It had been expected to touch earth again at 8:33 pm. local time. But it didn’t happen like that.
At 8:33 p.m. the flight was still circling, refused permission to land or continue on to any other airport. The United States Air Force had scrambled an E-3 Sentry alongside two F-22s. These interceptors waited to see what word would come down from on high. They were fully prepared to destroy civilian aircraft and snuff out American lives.
This is because Flight AA2497 had become two Flights AA2497. As the flight approached DFW, it had morphed into a set of mirror image twins. Both flights contained the exact same crew and passengers. And both planes were in a panic, as visual contact had been made between the two planes in mid-air. That is, passengers had seen their doppelgangers looking out the windows of the plane flying next to them. Transmissions from the pilots and co-pilots of these dual cockpits were nearly identical. Nobody was sure which plane was the “real McCoy” or whether such logic could even be applied to what had happened. The air traffic controllers were bewitched into stunned silence when they heard the same pilot transmitting from two different planes, his voice overlapping his voice.
The Secretary of Defense and the President were conferring. Since a state of war existed between the United States of America and that nameless species which had lately announced its existence as an interdimensional being living with us, interpenetrating us like photons, the decision was not an easy matter. They had already attacked our infrastructure and information technologies. There had been human casualties. Nobody really knew what “they” were. We had found ways to block them, we had used the best code we could finesse. But increasingly they made new incursions. They were able to interfere with the natural progression of time. They were able to use backdoors in space. We were at war. And yet nobody had ever even seen the enemy.
Everyone knew this anomaly of Flight AA2497 had been caused by them. But nobody knew the meaning of it. The President and the Secretary had to make the call. The flight was running out of fuel and refueling mid-air was not an option. It was ultimately decided to let both planes land. The military was evacuating the airport of civilians and all other flights were diverted elsewhere.
The planes taxied down separate runways only moments apart. The passengers and crews on both airlines were told they could not deboard. They were to be quarantined for an indeterminate amount of time — until the matter could be resolved. This was depressing news, but the passengers on both craft were genuinely relieved that they had managed to reach the earth alive.
The President breathed a huge sigh of relief when he was apprised that no earth-shattering disaster had occurred when the planes landed.
“We just have no idea what to do with all the extra humans,” one general joked. And which ones are the originals and who are the copies?”
They were still laughing about this when the call came through from the military brass on the ground at DFW. It was a panicked voice that relayed the information: “Sir, it’s the worst possible scenario. Nuclear option tenable. We no longer have two identical planes. We had two….then we had four identicals..then eight…sixteen…you get the picture. They’re just materializing and destroying the airport. It appears to be some sort of virus…some sort of spatial virus! There are hundreds of them if not thousands already. I have to evacuate because….”
There was a huge crashing sound of twisting metal and a scream. Many screams. Then silence.
And the mitosis of planes went on through the landscape, that warm summer night in Texas. Flight AA2497 went on duplicating, horizontally, city to city, and vertically, jets piled atop jets up into the clouds, even to the crack of doom.
And the passengers wondered and wondered and wondered as they watched and sometimes caught a glimpse of themselves through the wreckage, looking back at themselves in terror and hoping, hoping to get off the plane as soon as possible.