When Bilu first saw the figure, he thought that he’d seen a ghost, and so he jerked away from the window, bumping hard into Mama. Mama spilled the beans in the plastic cup, steadied herself, and then puckered her lips as she shot a hard stare at him.
“What’s wrong with you?” With the soiled airline napkin, Mama quickly gathered the errant bean seeds on the tray and then stuffed the napkin in the seat pocket in front of her.
Bilu pointed at the window, and then nervously pressed his nose against it, casting for the widest view outside the plane.
“Girl! She was outside the window.”
“Let me see.” Mama nudged Bilu aside and scanned the immediate area outside the plane’s window. She saw nothing but a blue expanse above, and white, cottony clouds below swimming past them. “Mtcheew!” She slammed the window shut, took away Bilu’s Harry Potter reader, and placed a coloring book and crayons on his tray.
“I don’t want to color.”
“I don’t want you making me spill anymore of my food either, Bilu. You know that airlines don’t give us enough food.”
Bilu puckered his lips and shot a hard stare at the coloring book. He folded his arms in front of him and then slammed the back of his head against his seat in protest.
Mama took out another plastic container filled with jollof rice and chunks of chicken meat, and placed it in front of him.
Bilu was not impressed by the tangy, sweet smell of the food, and so he pushed the container away from him. “I’m not hungry.”
“You better eat.” Mama’s jaws crunched food urgently, as if it’d be taken away from her if spotted by the airline staff. “Long way to Lagos.”
“I’m not hungry.” Bilu replayed the window encounter in his mind just to confirm to himself that he was not crazy.
“Okay o.” Mama took away the container, resealed it and put it away in her hand bag. She stood up and made for the toilet, about six seats away in front of where Bilu and she sat.
Bilu cautiously opened the window and peeked to see if the figure had reappeared. No figure. He slammed the window shut, picked up the pencil, and started sketching. When he was done, he dropped the pencil and glared, wide-eyed, at the image he’d sketched on paper. The image bore a resemblance to him.
He opened the window to see his reflection in the plastic partition, but seeing that a reflection was impossible, shut the window and frowned. Mama returned to her seat and stared curiously at Bilu’s sketch. “That’s good.”
Bilu smiled. “You think so?”
“Yes. Who is it?”
Bilu wanted to refer to the image outside the window, but thought better of it. “Me.”
“Mmm. Looks like a girl.”
Bilu shrugged his shoulders, pushed aside the coloring book, and excused himself to go to the toilet. In the toilet, Bilu studied his reflection and noticed that the big-eyed, fleshy-cheeked face staring back at him looked just like the sketch on the coloring pad. But Mama was right, the sketch was slightly feminine, in that the oval of the face on the sketch was more elongated.
Bilu sighed, frowned, and poked at his cheek. He smiled in reaction to the funny faces he made. He pinched both of his cheeks like Papie, his grandfather always did. He closed his eyes and inflated his cheeks, and then he slapped both cheeks to make sounds.
When he opened his eyes, what he saw in the mirror standing behind him made him jump. He turned around and pressed against the toilet, his eyes wide with fright. It was the girl he’d seen outside his window. She floated above the floor of the toilet, aglow in a way he’d never seen anyone on Earth do.
She smiled at him and then said something, but he could not tell what she’d said. She touched him and immediately he felt a sensation course through his body. His head felt light, and his hands and feet tingled, causing him to sit on the toilet.
He lost consciousness for a second, and when he came about again, he could see himself sitting on the toilet, head down.
“Can you hear me now?”
Bilu turned around, tried to steady himself, but saw that he could not hold unto anything. He was floating too! “Who are you?”
“Come with me.”
“You will die if you don’t.”
She grabbed him by the hand and in the strangest thing he’d ever seen, watched her seep through the walls of the toilet, and then felt himself do the same. On the other side of the toilet’s door, Mama, and a few other passengers banged repeatedly on it.
The ghost pulled on Bilu, and they flew away as if propelled by wings. They flew around the interior of the plane, and then ended up in the cockpit of the plane. The pilots never knew that they were there because they continued flipping switches and speaking into head phones, ignoring them.
“Who are you?” Bilu asked, still scared out of his wits. He, however, did like the flying sensation he’d just experienced.
“This plane will crash, and you will die, unless you come with me.”
“How do you know that?”
“I know everything. You love your grandfather and you call him Papie.”
Bilu pulled away from her and bumped against the walls of the cockpit.
“You can’t leak unless I hold your hand.” She grabbed his hand, and they flew back into the interior of the plane, and then seeped to the outside of the plane. They flew wide and near, and when they were near, Bilu could see the Dana name on the body of the plane. They bounced off the clouds, flew through the clouds, flew close to Earth, and back to the sky.
“Come now. Let’s go,” she said.
“Where are we going?”
“Oombi? Where is that?”
“Happy place. No sadness, no pain, no tears, children play, and we all praise The Light for making it possible.”
“I want to go back to Mama!”
She floated backwards, her eyes wide with fear. “No!”
“No? She’s my mother.”
“She’s mad at me.”
“My mother does not know you.”
“She does. But I’ll take you back.” She grabbed his hand, seeped through the cockpit walls, pulled him through, and flew with him to an airline seat where a man hovered over him, pressing down on his exposed chest. Before he could persuade her to stay, she flew away. He lost consciousness, and when he woke up, he was back in his body coughing himself back to life as the man peeled back his eyelids to check for signs of life.
“What happened to you in there, Bilu?” Mama said to Bilu, her eyes filled with tears. “You scared me to death!”
Bilu gulped down the water, put down the clear plastic cup, and then pulled Mama close to him. “I was with her.”
Mama shot up her seat. “With who? What are you talking about, Bilu?” She started crying.
“Don’t cry, Mama,” Bilu said. He pulled her to him again and said, “She said that you know her.”
Mama’s hands flew to her mouth. She backed away from Bilu, her eyes wrought with fright.
“Who is she, Mama? She said that the plane will crash.”
Mama grabbed Bilu by the hand and dragged him away from prying ears and eyes. At the back of the plane, where airline drinks and cups were stored, she clasped his head firmly and said, “Bilu, who is this girl you’re talking about?”
“She’s the one I saw in the window. The one I drew on my coloring book.”
“Madam, you must come with us. We need to speak to you and your son,” an airline staff member said, business written all over his face.
“Talk to me and my son about what?” Mama said.
“The condition of your son and threats made against the plane.”
“Get out of my way!” Mama grabbed Bilu, brushed past the airline personnel, and then dragged him into the toilet, slamming the door behind her.
“Mama, who is she?” Bilu asked, his eyes intensely focused on his mother’s face.
“I don’t know. Someone at the church prophesied about her. Oh, my God. It’s her.”
“Then you know her?”
Mama swung her head side-to-side as she held it in her hands, stumping her feet repeatedly.
“Mama who is she?”
“Your sister. Your twin sister.”
“My twin sister? What happened to her?”
“She died at birth.”
Bilu was quiet for a minute as he watched Mama slowly sink unto the toilet seat, her hands over her mouth, and her eyes beaming dread. They both ignored the incessant knock on the door.
“They said that she decided not to birth because your father did not want a girl. She did not want to burden the family. Oh, my God.”
“She said that you’re mad at her.”
“No, I’m not! No, I’m not.” Mama’s body shook as she cried.
Bilu noticed suddenly that the knocking on the toilet door had stopped, and that he could hear nothing but silence coming from inside the plane. “Mama, she’s here.”
Mama stood up. “Who’s here?” When she looked behind her, Bilu’s twin sister reflected in the mirror, a stoic look on her face. Mama fainted, draping awkwardly over the toilet seat.
Her twin sister spoke but Bilu couldn’t hear her. She turned him into spirit, and then said, “Let’s go. The plane will crash in five minutes.”
“Not without Mama!”
“I sent her already.”
“How do I know she’s there?”
“You’ll see her and everyone else from this plane when you get there. I paid for their tickets.”
“You paid for their tickets?”
“Yes. Including the ones on the ground that will be affected when the plane crashes.”
“If you can do all this, why don’t you stop the plane from crashing?”
“Not on the ticket.”
“Where are the tickets?”
His twin sister smiled. “I will not be going to Oombi with you. I will be born today to a woman in the house next to where you lived.”
“Go! You now have my power to leak.”
Several things happened at once: Bilu’s twin sister disappeared, Bilu involuntarily seeped through the toilet walls, and as he did so he noticed that everyone inside the plane lay unconscious, and when he seeped through the body of the plane, the aircraft smashed into a building in Lagos, setting off a massive explosion.
In memory of the victims of Dana flight 9J-992 To Lagos.