Friday, March 18, 2011

The Placard

The boy looked at the placard in the airport, an old woman or a man, he couldn't tell by the silhouette, with a cane in their hand and kicked a foot over their head. He traced his hands over the placard and felt the raised bump of the white relief outline. There was something more than the metal placard, a heat to the image that seemed to steal his breath.

His mom hurried to yank his hand from the sign. "Don't play with things you don't understand."

She pointed at the planes outside and tried to distract him, but the planes moved along the ground as if they were just regular cars, from this vantage he couldn't see them take off and he counted the bags as they jerked up the conveyor into the side of the plane. His mother smiled at him until her phone rang and the smile slipped into a frown and she answered. His ears were good and even though she moved away, he'd heard his father's voice. The father he wasn't going to see again because they were traveling to some place his mom said was far off. Oceans away. She made him choose two things he wanted to take with him and told him the other things he'd never see again. She promised him he'd like his grandparents, but he thought of dad and she wouldn't tell him why he wasn't coming with them.

She looked at him and he pointed at an airplane coming to the gate and when she looked away distracted by the phone, he returned to the placard. He looked at it and kicked his foot over his head like the person on the placard and he placed his heart hand against it and his breath puffed as the world flashed before him.

He looked around, he saw the airport in white and black. His mom was a flat caricature of a face, those curls down the sides of her hair against the grayness of a window. He tried to move closer, but found himself stuck unable to move towards her and only side to side.


He screeched in a tantrum that always earned attention, but no one answered him the room quiet. He was unsure of how to return. He placed his hand out feeling everything and nothing.

"Where am I?"

The silhouette of the person who'd been in the placard stood next to him and the boy shook when the silhouette moved. He tried to run, but the elderly person moved faster and speared the boy's foot with his cane.

"Where am I?"

The boy decided he was an elderly gentleman because he wore pants, like the silhouettes indicating whether the bathroom was for girls or boys. The man raised both shoulders his arms flashed out of the sides fingers extended.

"How do I get out of here?"

The man tipped his bowler hat at the boy and the face turned to the side, the mouth opening and the tongue waggling in the air but making no sound. The boy pushed the man and he fell backwards with his cane twitching in the air like the legs of a beetle rolled onto its back. The boy ran and he saw silhouettes moving on an escalator. He'd cry if he could, but he was flat and he doubted one could see tears on a silhouette.

He screamed and yelled, but found his throat growing scratchy and the darkness came to the windows of the airport, lights in the ceiling and people and then they disappeared. He fell asleep.

Days passed and then he found another boy, like him the other boy was silent his voice gone from the screaming initially and never returned. He pushed on the boy's arm and the boy pushed his arm. He turned away from the boy and the boy ran away and he chased him and then he traded turns. They found ways to play as day and night was measured as black and white through the windows of the airport.

Weeks passed and then the boy felt two hands grasp him as breath streamed into him and he looked into his mom and dad's eyes as they together held his hand and his mom was crying. She was always crying when dad was around, but this seemed different.

"What's wrong?"

"There's nothing wrong," she said. The boy watched her kiss his father, her husband. "Time to go home."

This flash prompted via RJ Clarken's Flashy Fiction prompt, "Walk this, way please...".


  1. What a unique concept in this Aidan, and I'm glad it had a happy ending. I thought for a while he'd never get out.

  2. @Deanna, I usually write knowing the ending of the story I'm going to write, but this was one of the times I didn't and I was surprised myself that it worked out well in the end.

  3. I was also relieved for the happy ending. Thought for certain at least one boy was headed for a dark revelation.

  4. I was a little confused by this at first, then worried for the boy, then happy at the ending. The Twilight Zone would be a terrible place to get stuck! :D

  5. Really interesting idea, and like others, glad there was a happy ending.

  6. Startling. I too, was glad for a happy ending.

  7. @John, I don't think the old man or the boy are getting out. Sad, but not everyone can win.

    @Ganymeder, is the placard the part that is confusing? I probably should have linked to the image prompt that RJ Clarken used because that would make it less confusing and placard might be the wrong word.

    @Jenny, Thanks.

    @Icy, I can't take credit on the idea; I think spending too many hours in airports seeped into my consciousness trying to pull me into the walls and never let me escape.

    @Peg, startling in the magical realism-ness of the piece, or a different way? Just curious.

  8. Ah, the image is from Monty Python's The Ministry of Silly Walks! That's what I though it was.

  9. I thought this it was pretty creepy, familiar things put together in a strange way. Relieved about the ending though :)

  10. I'm glad he made it out of there in one piece. And full colour. :) St.