The teddy was covered in dust. A few cobwebs stuck to the ratty fur and the loose filaments tickled my fingers. I saw myself again – younger, though – clutching at the teddy as the plane shuddered and the engine noises stopped. Before that moment, I remember nothing.
No fire had penetrated the interior of the plane, it seemed. But, as I turned around and looked up from the teddy bear, I saw the corpses as they truly were – as if I saw them for the first time. The men looked strange next to the veiled women who all wore crowns of plaited baby’s breath flowers in their desiccated hair. Fresh baby’s breath.
I stepped up to the woman closest to me and reached out to the flowers, my fingertips brushing the unfaded petals. Half the face of the woman was gone, the jaw half-missing and what was left of it hanging open as if in a scream. Shrunken eyes stared at nothing through a torn and tattered veil. The woman next to her not only wore a crown of flowers, but was also fully veiled. A long almost see-through cloth veiled her hair and face. I ached to lift it, to see what was below the veil, but could not bring myself to squeeze past the corpse in the aisle seat. When I looked back, I saw that the aisle-seat-corpse’s crown of flowers had faded. I stepped back, felt a hand on my shoulder, and spun around.
It was her – but as she would have been before her body dried out and became a mockery of the human form. Her face was bloody, though, her jaw slack. It didn’t move when she spoke. The voice seemed to emanate from inside my mind.
“You should not have visited us again,” she said.
An old song came to my lips unbidden, unlooked for, yet in a language I could not recall hearing before.
“Frère Jacques, Frère Jacques, dormez-vous? Dormez-vous? Sonnez les matines! Sonnez les matines!”
As I sang, she slowly faded and I was left standing in front of faded baby’s breath lying on the floor. In the distance I heard the church bell strike the hour of twelve. The teddy bear fell from my grasp.