Why I wrote this story
Publishing a new book is like having a baby. If the book was covered in blood and came out in a blizzard of pain and screams and relief. Okay, so not like having a baby then.
Having worked in the aviation market for years, I grew to love the industry and admire the people who, literally, make it fly. I wanted to capture the spirit of aviation, the wonder, the fear, the emotion, the liberation. My story is about an airline pilot, operating out of Dubai, who gets involved in all sorts of craziness. I’m proud of this story, especially the twist ending. I hope it rocks you. Physically.
Where to buy One Hell of a Flight
You can find my book in pretty much every ebook store, priced at €2.99 or equivalent. I say it’s worth it. I recommend you download it before your next flight. If you have the cojones.
Try before you buy
ONE HELL OF A FLIGHT by Gary J Byrnes
All this talk about equality. The only thing people really have in common is that they are all going to die.
– Bob Dylan
The sky over Dubai, September 2019, noon
The plane hurtled towards the ground, the cruel desert where we would be smashed to atoms inside a fireball. My knuckles were ready to burst through my skin and I could feel a river of perspiration flow down my spine.
This is it. This is the end. Funny thing is, I want to die now, anything to escape the creeping dread and the hours of terror until I would have to fly again. I blacked out for a few seconds, until the voice called me, like a stranger from another room. I close my eyes. There is a bump, then another.
‘Nice landing, Adam.’
He’s talking to me. Say something.
‘Good to be back on the ground.’
I wasn’t lying.
There’s a knock on the door as we taxi to our gate, B9 at T3.
Abandon every hope, who enter here.
A flight attendant comes into the cockpit.
‘Thank fuck for that,’ she says. ‘I am gasping. Let’s get these fuckers disembarked pronto so we can get to the club.’
The captain smiled and shook his head, No.
Of course not.
I said ‘I’m buying. One sec.’ I flip open the passenger announcement channel and the platitudes come easily. When what I want to say is Welcome to Hell.
Fly like a brick
There is no greater sorrow than to recall our times of joy in wretchedness.
– Dante Alighieri, Inferno
Burj Khalifa, Dubai, 7:42pm
Here’s the most important question you will ever ask yourself: Why do I think what I think?
Every minute, every waking hour, I think about: Sex. Drugs. Guns. God. Dollars. Death.
My brain is on a constant boil. Here in Hell.
The Middle East is the American Dream on steroids. America herself was the mother, impregnated by Abraham’s poisonous seed, and so she spewed forth a petulant son. Needy, spiteful and vengeful, yes, but empowered by the petrodollar. And so the offspring is also America’s nemesis, the inescapable agent of doom. Oedipus.
Al-Qaeda, Islamic State, and more to come. Whack-a-mole. But the Middle East is also a female place. A subjugated, hot womb that pumps out an endless supply of angry men, pointless wars, stupid wealth, the infinite talents of womanhood wickedly wasted.
But, at least the hummus is really good.
I inhale Her smell. Hot and sour, dusty and gritty, a faint tang of body odour. I experience the moment, as I have trained myself to do. I stand at the balcony’s edge, near the top of the world’s tallest building. I want to jump, but I’m scared of heights. I want to jump.
There’s that sensation of falling, it shrieks through my nervous system. There’s a name for it: hypnic jerk. My heart death-rattles in my ears. I gaze through the ubiquitous orange haze. My spine jangles. There are no sharp edges. No clear lines. Past the corporate steeples, sunset pierces through the longest stretch of desert on Earth, Rub’ al Khali. The Empty Quarter. I see the nothing. I become the nothing.
And I feel that I’m out there, in the pitiless waste. Just walking. The thirst itself is beyond measure, like the worst hangover dry mouth, when you feel that a part of you has died and is with the mummies, afraid that a drink of water will cause you to crack and fall to pieces. The sun’s light is physical, some kind of wave/particle duality manifesting. Maybe gods did walk here one time, on this very sand. I trudge on. I must keep walking. I reflect on the duality of life itself, the divine comedy, the tragedy. It’s here.
In. Every. Breath.
There, on the horizon. A snake?
It must mean something, this I know. So I walk towards it, thinking about how there are two kinds of people: the living and the dead. The majority of the living don’t know what’s going on, so they rely on a tiny number of their kind to interpret the voices of the dead: to tell them how to live their lives. The dead voices determine much of the everyday.
Some of the dead are well-known. Muhammad. Jesus Christ. Buddha. Adolf Hitler. George Washington. Plato. Aristotle. Julius Caesar. Dante. Winston Churchill.
Because they wrote stories, drafted borders, laws, treaties, and trade agreements in the distant past, they have a profound impact on the lives of billions today. People I never met. Flawed, primitive, unknowable humans, some of whom died thousands of years before I was born. And they dictate my life.
There is a select group of the dead that determines the fate of every one of us.
Our education opportunities.
Our status in society.
Our human potential.
Why do we allow this?
The dead that wrote the holy books so cherished by the patriarchal religions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, these are the dead that daily pull us back, back to their dark age. These dead are the true serpents in our garden.
I catch the smell of jasmine and I’m back on the Burj Khalifa as arms come around my waist. It’s my girlfriend, Nadine. Fiancee. And distant cousin. Don’t worry, it’s normal around here.
‘How are you?’ she asks. ‘Isn’t this beautiful?’
‘There’s something about it, Nadine. Our tiny oasis on the edge of Hell. A sanctuary from the madness.’ I gesture at the night. ‘On every side.’
She rubs my belly, then her fingers dance across my chest.
‘Want to grab a cab home?’ I ask.
‘It’s too hot still. I need to get back inside. Come on,’ tugging on my shirt sleeve.
‘You’re right. I need a mojito. Or three.’
Jesus, it’s hot. Today’s high temp was the average for July. 41C. 106F. That’s average. So everybody scuttles about like cockroaches, from air-conditioned interior to air-conditioned car, to another air-conditioned interior, across the hot months. Our hatred of the daytime sun must be what vampires feel. Nobody sees the irony of fossil-fuel-powered ACs making the planet too hot to bear. And if they do, they don’t say.
The migrant workers cope okay, though. They seem fine, building our hotels and malls, and football arenas through the summer. Less than 10% of them get heat stroke or die, not bad at all.
The high-level Royals, the super-rich, the favoured ones, they leave town for three months, catch the breeze on their yachts in the Med, or go to Knightsbridge to complain about the weather. As if triggered by the thought of London, I feel a sudden ebb in the heat, an imagined breeze on the 144th-floor balcony, some deliverance.
Inside, it’s so cold, it’s paradise.
David Guetta plays. Literally him. There. Loud. When Love Takes Over. A mojito is thrust at me by Nadine and I lose myself in a crowd of swaying arms and cold sweat on hot flesh. A fabulous blond in a white vest top catches my eye. Tall and full of purpose, her eyes closed in ecstasy, her golden arms held high, swaying, swaying. Beads of perspiration glisten on her clavicles and I want to drink it in. She’s clearly western. But not American, more interesting. It’s Sarah, my favourite flight attendant. She spots me and is instantly by my side.
‘Isn’t this hilair?’ she cries, opening the heart-shaped locket that nestles beside the gold camel on her chest.
She takes my hand, places a paper package in my palm, and closes my fingers. In an instantaneous action, I put my hand to my mouth and swallow the tiny bundle of MDMA crystals wrapped in a cigarette paper, the end twisted. I wash it down with a frigid burst of mint and rum and lime and I dance. I laugh to myself that alcohol is technically banned in Dubai, and trafficking of any drug carries the death sentence. We really are hilarious, aren’t we? Believe me, you don’t want to get stoned in Dubai! Everything fun or interesting carries the death sentence here.
‘Fuck it,’ she says.
‘Fuck it,’ I say.
- My new aviation thriller, One Hell of a Flight, is now available in all ebook stores - 27th August 2022
- One Hell of a Flight – The new aviation thriller from Gary J Byrnes - 24th April 2022
- Free short story collection – Lockdown Dreams - 30th October 2021