Anne went back to her seat and thought she saw movement out of the window next to her. She looked and saw what looked like another Learjet flying parallel to their own. She thought she saw a face in the window and realized it was her. She thought it had to be some kind of reflection as it looked out the window at her. She waved out the window and the girl in the other plane waved back, reflecting her, but then the other her did something different, proving it wasnâ€™t a reflection. The other Anne seemed to be trying to tell her something and was too far away to read her lips.
The other Anne disappeared from the window for a moment, returning with what appeared to be a piece of white paper, probably eight and a half by eleven. She fiddled around a little more and then held up the paper in the window. It read, in words just large enough to see: â€œSEE?â€ Anne nodded.
The other Anne wrote again and held up another piece of paper. This was read â€œDANGER!!!â€ She would write and hold up a single word each time, each just large enough for Anne to make out at a distance. They read: â€œMURDER,â€ then â€œBETRAYALâ€ and â€œCO-WORKERâ€ followed by â€œSUSPECTSâ€ and â€œGET OUTâ€ followed by â€œBEFORE ITâ€™S TOO LATE.â€
As she was working on writing something else, someone out of view on the other aircraft reached for the double, slapping the papers out of her hand, slapping her in the face, and then grabbing her by the throat. The person choked her, slamming her against her seat. This went on for a minute or more before the other Anne stopped moving, her face purple. Then the window shade was pushed down slowly by someone out of sight of the window.
Anne stared out the window and the other jet was suddenly gone.
Melvin finally got through the first act of The King in Yellow. The named characters in the first act were the Unnamed Queen and her four sons and two daughters, who spent most of the first act worrying about the succession to the throne. The conflict arose due to the ancient legends that, at some point in time, Yhtill would name a new king who would herald the coming of the Last King and the destruction of the city and its entire people. A pair of evil noblemen also conspired to avoid the very possibility by poisoning the entire royal family and establishing a parliamentary form of government. At the end of the first act, the royal family heard that a stranger had arrived in Yhtill, born by winged demons. The stranger wore a Pallid Mask and bore the Yellow Sign which had been forbidden in the city for centuries.
In the cockpit, Darryl finally found the fuel gauge, which seemed to indicate the Learjet was still Â¾ full of gas.
Morty, meanwhile, poked at the seltzer bottle but the tiny creature within didnâ€™t react. The alcohol was getting to him and he was entering a more mellow state of inebriation.
Trevor sat down in the back and smoked another cigarette nervously. When Melvin told him what heâ€™d learned from the play, the other man exploded.
â€œWhy are you reading a book!?!â€ he shouted. â€œFigure out a way to get us out of here, number jumper!â€
â€œWell maybe the book has a number I can use!â€ Melvin said.
â€œThe book doesnâ€™t have anything! Itâ€™s a frigging play!â€
â€œWell, I donâ€™t know!â€
â€œIs it a manual!?! Do you have a manual!?!â€
â€œBetter than what youâ€™re doing!â€
â€œHey! At least Iâ€™m not doing nothing!â€
â€œWell, Iâ€™m doing something!â€
â€œIâ€™m smoking. Shut up.â€
â€œeffin dipshit!â€ Morty said.
â€œShut the hell up!â€ Trevor yelled at him.
â€œHey, you guys shut up back there!â€ Darryl called. â€œIâ€™m trying to concentrate, man!â€
â€œDonâ€™t turn on the radio!â€
â€œOkay, I wonâ€™t turn on the radio!â€
Heâ€™d found nothing moved in the cockpit. The control wheels were locked, as were the pedals on the floor below. The throttle couldnâ€™t be moved at all either.
â€œOkay!â€ he called.
A knocking came from somewhere in the cabin. They all looked around. It was repeated and they realized it was coming from the outer door of the aircraft.
â€œUh â€¦â€ Melvin said, suddenly uncomfortable.
â€œWhoâ€™s going to answer the door?â€ Darryl said. â€œPlease donâ€™t.â€
â€œDid we hit a bird?â€ Melvin said. â€œWe hit birds.â€
The rapping came from the door again.
â€œItâ€™s birds!â€ Melvin said.
He looked out the window but couldnâ€™t see anything except the stars. He pointed at everyone with the bat.
â€œDonâ€™t touch that door,â€ he said.
â€œYeah!â€ Trevor said. â€œYeah. Donâ€™t touch that door! Thatâ€™d be stupid!â€
â€œBut someoneâ€™s knocking,â€ Morty said. â€œWe should let him in.â€
â€œNo!â€ Melvin said. â€œNo!â€
â€œNo!â€ Darryl said.
â€œWhat if itâ€™s the pilots?â€ Anne said.
â€œThe pilots?â€ Melvin said. â€œIn space!?!â€
â€œHowâ€™d the pilots get out there?â€ Trevor said. â€œWhat do you mean in space?â€
â€œWhat did you mean â€˜In space?â€™â€
â€œWhere do you think we are? Huh?â€
â€œWeâ€™re somewhere over the Midwest.â€
â€œWeird **** happens over the Midwest.â€
â€œYeah, okay. That went out the window.â€
â€œPlease stop fighting,â€ Denise said, tears in her eyes again.
â€œIâ€™m pretty sure that went way out the window,â€ Melvin said.
â€œAh â€¦â€ Anne said.
The knocking came again.
â€œWhatever it is, itâ€™s persistent,â€ she said.
â€œOkay, Iâ€™m going to open the damned door,â€ Morty said, reaching for the door.
â€œNo!â€ Melvin said. â€œDamn it. Fine. I have the bat. Iâ€™ll open the door.â€
â€œOkay,â€ Morty said. â€œYou open the door then.â€
â€œAll right,â€ Melvin said.
â€œOh my God!â€ Trevor said. â€œWhat are you doing? Donâ€™t be stupid!â€
â€œWhat do you want to do?â€ Melvin said.
There was another knock at the door. Trevor looked around, confused.
Melvin went to the door. He handed Morty the book and leaned towards the door hesitantly. Then he moved to the nearest window and looked out but saw nothing. The knock came from the door again. He went to the door but then just stood there.
â€œOpen the damned door already!â€ Morty said.
â€œActually, you know what?â€ Melvin said. â€œGive me the damned book back. You open the door. And Iâ€™ll get ready to hit it.â€
â€œOkay,â€ Morty said.
There was another knock from the door.
â€œWait a minute, guys,â€ Darryl said. â€œIâ€™m closing the cockpit doors. If everybody gets sucked out, at least Iâ€™ll have the doors to protect me.â€
â€œIâ€™m coming up there!â€Trevor said. â€œIâ€™m coming up there!â€
He ran to the front and got into the cockpit, closing the door behind him.
â€œYou open it,â€ Melvin said to Morty. â€œAnd weâ€™ll see what happens from there and Iâ€™ll hit â€˜em.â€
Morty looked around and then took the seat next to the door and buckled himself in. When the women saw what he was doing and buckled their own seat belts.
â€œWhoa whoa whoa whoa,â€ Melvin said as another knock came from the door. â€œWhat if I need to be buckled?â€
â€œdrat you,â€ Morty said.
â€œWell, uh â€¦ drat you,â€ Melvin said.
He quickly buckled himself in the seat facing the door. Morty reached over and threw the lever to open the door, pushing on it. The clamshell door opened above and below with a momentary hiss of escaping air. The Learjet engine noises were suddenly silenced as a warm yellow light shined in through all the windows, almost blinding in its intensity after the last hour theyâ€™d spent in the terrible aircraft.
Darryl glanced down at the air speed indicator. It was resting at no movement.
A young man in a smart navy blue uniform with brass buttons and a tidy little cap perched upon his head was there to greet them.
â€œWelcome to Rockaway Naval Air Field!â€ he said with a grin. â€œRockaway, New York. We are glad to have you with us. If you will follow me, I will take you to the aero station for processing. Donâ€™t worry, our runway porters will fetch your luggage. Once again, welcome to New York.â€
â€œHow about no?â€ Melvin said.
â€œIâ€™m sorry?â€ the young man said.
â€œHold on!â€ Melvin said. â€œHold on. We were â€¦
From the cockpit, Darryl and Trevor could see they were on the tarmac of an airport of some kind. There were a couple of hangers off to the left and more buildings far down the field ahead of them. A few odd-looking aircraft were sitting on the tarmac or in the hangers. One had a wing that was a great disk. Another had several wings but a round contraption holding all of them together like some kind of circular triplane. A third sat on the field, larger than the others and enclosed, with the letters G-EBTQ on the side and another G on the tail.
â€œWe were just flying,â€ Melvin said.
â€œWell, yeah,â€ the youth said. â€œYou came right down. Thatâ€™s what airplanes do, sir.â€
â€œNo, I donâ€™t think you understand how we were flying. It was â€¦ it was the middle of the night like two minutes ago.â€
â€œIâ€™m sure youâ€™re just suffering altitude sickness. Itâ€™s very common, actually. It can mess with your head.â€
â€œWe donâ€™t have any pilots.â€
â€œWell, Iâ€™m sure theyâ€™ve already left the plane. Pilots are usually the first ones off in my experience.â€
â€œYeah â€¦ okay, yeah â€¦ but, hereâ€™s the deal, weâ€™re the ones that opened the door. So how did the pilots get off if we opened the door?â€
â€œWell, I donâ€™t know. They might have slipped out.â€
â€œWith us opening the door?â€
â€œIâ€™ve never seen a plane quite like yours so â€¦ maybe thereâ€™s â€¦ thereâ€™s probably a hatch in the front.â€
â€œHow have you never seen a plane like this?â€
â€œAnyways,â€ Anne said, smiling sweetly. â€œDid you say processing?â€
â€œYeah,â€ the boy said. â€œYeah yeah. No, not processing. Yeah, we have to get your names and everything for your tickets and everything. Iâ€™m assuming you came to New York or are passing through?â€
â€œWe were heading west!â€ Melvin said.
â€œWest,â€ the boy said. â€œOh yeah. My folks are from out west.â€
â€œWait a minute,â€ Darryl said, opening the cockpit door. â€œWe were flying all this time and weâ€™re back in New York again?â€
The youth seemed surprised to see the man coming out of the cockpit. Trevor looked over the black manâ€™s shoulder and smoked a cigarette.
â€œYes maâ€™am,â€ the youth said, turning back to the beautiful Anne. â€œProcessing. We just need to make sure that youâ€™re where you want to be.â€
â€œWe are not where we want to be,â€ Melvin said.
â€œWell, I need to take you to the aero station and theyâ€™ll get you all fixed up,â€ the youth said.
â€œFirst we got to figure out how weâ€™re back in New York.â€
â€œI donâ€™t know, sir. Maybe you folks circled around. Theyâ€™ll know in the aero station.â€
â€œâ€˜Scuse me man â€¦ uh sir,â€ Darryl said.
The lad ignored him.
â€œThere was no one to talk to though,â€ Melvin said. â€œThe pilots werenâ€™t even here!â€
â€œNow let me ask one very simple question,â€ Darryl said. â€œItâ€™s a dumb one. What year is it?â€
â€œWhat year is it?â€ the youth said with a laugh, looking at the man like he was insane.
â€œI know itâ€™s a dumb question, but please humor me.â€
â€œUh â€¦ well sir â€¦ 1925.â€
â€œPeople, I donâ€™t think weâ€™re in Kansas anymore.â€
Melvin reached forward to shut the door but the youth caught it.
â€œCâ€™mon sir, we need to get you processed,â€ he said.
â€œNo no no,â€ Melvin said. â€œItâ€™s fine. Itâ€™s fine. Look, weâ€™re just going to take off again â€¦â€
â€œI donâ€™t think they would like that. Now that youâ€™ve landed, they need to know where youâ€™re going and all that.â€
â€œThe people at the aero station.â€
â€œWell, if theyâ€™re okay with us landing, theyâ€™ll be okay with us leaving, wonâ€™t they?â€
â€œSometimes they get â€¦ they mustâ€™ve known you were coming.â€
â€œI mean, if we leave â€¦â€
â€œIâ€™m sure that your pilots have filled out a flight plan, telegraphed it ahead â€¦â€
â€œExcuse me, Melvin,â€ Darryl said.
â€œWell, if you could find our pilots first and bring them back here and we could sort the situation out, thatâ€™d be great.â€
â€œWell, theyâ€™ve probably already gone in. You know how pilots are.â€
â€œNo, I donâ€™t.â€
â€œWell, pilots usually leave the plane pretty quick but the passengers are what weâ€™re here to help.â€
â€œWell, then you can go find them really quickly.â€
â€œWell, I donâ€™t even know who they are.â€
â€œI only saw them for a minute. Wait a second. What were their names? There was, uh â€¦â€
â€œWould any of the rest of you like to please come out.â€
â€œNo,â€ Anne said.
â€œI understand this gentleman being upset but â€¦â€
â€œLetâ€™s just go out and go along with it,â€ Darryl said. â€œWhat do you think?â€
â€œIâ€™m going to come out,â€ Anne said. â€œI need to get out of here.â€
â€œI think weâ€™d better see whatâ€™s going on here,â€ Darryl said. â€œNineteen Twenty Five? Oh man, thatâ€™s not good for me.â€
â€œAw, heâ€™s lying,â€ Trevor said. â€œKidâ€™s lying. Heâ€™s making up lies.â€
â€œWeâ€™ll catch him in his lie and weâ€™ll slam it right back in his face.â€
â€œYeah. Slam it in his face!â€
â€œIf this is 1925, I hope Iâ€™m not going to have to say â€˜yessahâ€™ or â€˜nossahâ€™ or something like that. I hope thereâ€™s no Ku Kluxs around.â€
â€œTrevor, letâ€™s you and I go out, lead the pack.â€
â€œActually, wait a minute,â€ Melvin said to the air steward. â€œWhatâ€™s your name?â€
â€œThomas,â€ the boy said. â€œIâ€™m Thomas, sir. You can call me Thomas.â€
â€œI can escort you to the aero station lickety-split.â€
â€œCan I keep the bat?â€
â€œYes sir. If you want to. Yes sir.â€
â€œOkay. Wait a minute. Look at this.â€
He showed the red-leather covered play to the boy. The young man recoiled from the horrible sigil on the cover.
â€œUgh!â€ he said. â€œNo! What is that? What the hell?â€
â€œItâ€™s a book,â€ Melvin said.
â€œHave you looked at the cover of that thing!?!â€
â€œYes. Yes, we have.â€
â€œYes, we have,â€ Darryl echoed.
â€œPut that away!â€ Thomas said. â€œThatâ€™s â€¦ that made my eyes hurt.â€
â€œSorry Thomas,â€ Anne said.
Morty looked at the cover and the strange symbol upon it.
â€œMan, bring that book with us,â€ Darryl said. â€œIt might be something helpful.â€
Denise refused to leave the plane and so Trevor said heâ€™d wait with her, a nasty little smile on his face. Trevor said heâ€™d stay just in case they tried to steal the aircraft. Darryl was all for going and guessed Rod Serling was going to show up just around the hanger.
The four left the Learjet, following Thomas. They noticed some more strange aircraft in the hangers. There was an open propeller driven aircraft single-seater with no covering except for the wings and the tail, a single-seater with a pusher propeller engine, a small four-winged plane (front and back) with a propeller, a tiny one-man glider with bent wings like a bird, an aircraft with a strange disc over the wingless body of the craft, a strange device the size of an automobile with a large engine in the center and a seat in the back carrying a spinning umbrella-like propeller on the top, and a contemporary Cessna. A dirigible hung in the air nearby as well.
Melvin recognized the disc aircraft as something that had been flown in the early 1900s but had never really done well.
â€œHow far have these planes flown before?â€ Melvin asked Thomas.
â€œWhich one?â€ the youth said. â€œSome of these just landed. Others have beenâ”€â€
â€œYeah, theyâ€™re on their way through.â€
â€œThe disc one?â€
â€œNo. Thatâ€™s â€¦ Iâ€™m not sure who that belongs to. That one belongs to someone who lives near Rockaway here.â€
He led them between the two hangers. A large building stood behind them, across a paved road. A tower stuck out of the north side of the aero station building and a few automobiles that would be more at home in the 1920s, as well as a bus, and at least two vehicles that appear to be steam powered, and two carriages pulled by horses were all parked there. A couple of other horses with markings NMP were also nearby. A rail line set next to poles with an overhead line for a trolley led right up to the building.
As they walked, Thomas complimented them on their aircraft.
â€œ Thatâ€™s the spiffiest thing Iâ€™ve ever seen,â€ he said. â€œItâ€™s really nice-looking.â€
â€œSurprised he hasnâ€™t asked where the propellers are on that thing,â€ Darryl hissed.
â€œWhere are the propellers on that thing?â€ Thomas asked.
â€œThis is a jet engine,â€ Darryl said.
â€œNever heard of that,â€ Thomas said.
â€œNever heard of jet engines?â€ Darryl said.
He noted they had to show him the things as they were easy to build.
â€œNice aircraft,â€ Thomas said. â€œNice aircraft.â€
They told him the blades were in the large turbines on the sides of the aircraft, noting there were many small blades within. He was duly impressed.
They crossed the road to the aero station, the ocean breeze blowing over them.
â€œWhat does NMP stand for?â€ Melvin asked as they passed the horses.
â€œWhat?â€ Thomas said. â€œThatâ€™s the National Mounted Police.â€
â€œYeah. Theyâ€™ve been doing great work.â€
â€œWait a minute â€¦â€
He wondered when the National Mounted Police had ceased to exist. He didnâ€™t remember them at all.
â€œTheyâ€™ve been around for â€¦ 10 years?â€ Thomas said. â€œPossible longer. I canâ€™t remember exactly. I got a cousin works for them.â€
They entered the large building with the sign over the door reading â€œRockaway Civilian Aero Station.â€ The building was rather large with benches and seats on the ground floor, desks and such for the people working here. There were more smartly dressed air stewards and, behind the desks stood women dressed in a similar fashion with brass buttons running up the front of their high-collared dresses. All of them wore smart little bellboy caps that matched their uniforms.
Thomas escorted them to a desk where a woman smiled at them. She asked which aircraft they were with. When they were unsure of it, Thomas spouted out the call numbers on the side of their Learjet. She thanked him.
â€œIf thereâ€™s anything else I can do for you,â€ Thomas said. â€œOr find somebody else dressed like me. Welcome to New York. Hope you have a pleasant stay.â€
â€œThank you very much,â€ Darryl said.
The woman had turned to a filing cabinet and looked through several files, finally returning with a piece of paper.
â€œHere we go,â€ she said. â€œHereâ€™s your flight plan. Carcosa. Is that in Canada?â€
She showed them the official-looking piece of paper. It had all of their names typed upon it.
â€œIâ€™m assuming thatâ€™s in Canada?â€ she said again.
â€œAssuming?â€ Melvin said. â€œWhat do you mean assuming? You donâ€™t know!?!â€
â€œNo. I donâ€™t exactly. I just handle people who come through. We have other administrators who know actual locations.â€
â€œWell, who can we talk to who actually knows where weâ€™re going?â€ Melvin asked.
â€œWell, you could go up to the second floor where thereâ€™s administrative offices,â€ she said. â€œIf youâ€™d like to go up there. Of course, the Skyway Controller, heâ€™s the one whoâ€™s in charge of making sure all the planes are going where theyâ€™re supposed to. He works out of the tower.â€
â€œI think we should talk to him,â€ Anne said.
â€œYeah,â€ Melvin said.
â€œYou want â€¦ to talk to the Skyway Controller?â€ the woman said. â€œIf you want to â€¦â€
â€œWell, for one, we donâ€™t know where our pilots went,â€ Melvin said. â€œNo one told us anything. Our pilots are gone.â€
â€œYeah,â€ Anne said.
â€œIâ€™m sure theyâ€™ll turn up,â€ the woman said. â€œPilots are so flighty.â€
â€œOh,â€ Anne said, disappointed by the terrible pun.
â€œAll the drinks had gone bad!â€ Melvin said. â€œAll the food had gone bad too.â€
â€œNo pun intended,â€ the woman said to Anne.
â€œAirline food is terrible!â€ Melvin said.
â€œOh dear,â€ the woman said. â€œIâ€™m so terribly sorry, sir. We do our best to try to help everyone out.â€
â€œThere was a baseball bat on the plane!â€ Melvin said. â€œWho leaves a baseball bat on a plane!â€
â€œOh, Iâ€™m sure itâ€™s a childâ€™s,â€ she said. â€œIâ€™m sure thatâ€™s just some young boy who left it behind. Iâ€™m sure heâ€™d be very grateful if it was gotten back to him.â€
â€œWeâ€™re not on a commercial plane. Thereâ€™s no way a boy couldâ€™ve been on it.â€
â€œHey man, letâ€™s not worry about the bat,â€ Darryl said. â€œLetâ€™s worry about this Carcosa place thatâ€™s supposed to be our destination.â€
â€œItâ€™s a pretty name,â€ the woman behind the desk said.
â€œWell, I know itâ€™s a pretty name and all that but weâ€™re the passengers thatâ€™re supposed to go there. This is my first time Iâ€™ve ever flown in an airplane.â€
Darryl brought up the Skyway Controller again.
â€œWait,â€ Melvin said. â€œWeâ€™re on a flight for American International Underwriters.â€
â€œAmerican International Underwriters?â€ she said. â€œIâ€™ve not heard of that company.â€
Darryl thought the Skyway Controller might have heard of it.
â€œHeâ€™s very busy but youâ€™re welcome to go up there if you want,â€ she said.
She told them they had to go to the back of the building to the stairs that led up to the second floor and then bear to the left once they were up there. There was a door for the administrative offices.
â€œIf you really want to talk to the Skyway Controller â€¦ I wouldnâ€™t advise it,â€ she said. â€œOf course you can.â€
â€œFinish that,â€ Melvin said.
â€œI wouldnâ€™t want to talk to him.â€
â€œI understand he can be a very angry man.â€
â€œI better let you do the talking,â€ Darryl said.
â€œWhat?â€ Melvin said.
â€œUnfortunately, angry people - Iâ€™m the wrong color to them,â€ Darryl said.
â€œIâ€™d like to talk to him,â€ Melvin said. â€œHonestly, that was a horrible flight.â€
She again gave them instruction, noting theyâ€™d have to pass the Government Lethal Booths and up the stairs. They left her, heading for the back of the building. As they walked, they passed decorative posters on the wall. One showed a partial map of New Jersey with several arrows coming in from the sea, marked â€œThe Hun.â€ The caption of the poster read â€œNever Again.â€ Melvin went over and pulled the poster off the wall.
â€œHey, buddy,â€ someone said. â€œWhat are you doing?â€
Two men in military uniforms unlike any theyâ€™d ever seen before walked up. They wore blue with lots of brass buttons in two rows up the front, with a tiny cap on their heads. Each wore a sidearm.
â€œWhat are you doing, buddy?â€ one said.
â€œI â€¦ I â€¦ my flight was terrible and I wanted a souvenir from this place,â€ Melvin said.
â€œYou canâ€™t just take things off the walls!â€
â€œWell, I need a remembrance of â€¦ whatever this is â€¦â€
â€œThe invasion. Five years ago.â€
â€œWhen the Germans invaded New Jersey.â€
â€œUh â€¦â€ Anne said.
â€œUh â€¦â€ Darryl said.
They all knew nothing like that had ever happened. The uniforms were very unfamiliar as well and didnâ€™t look like anything the military ever wore in the United States.
â€œWhatâ€™s your rank?â€ Melvin asked.
â€œWeâ€™re â€¦ strangers in a strange land here,â€ Darryl said. â€œLetâ€™s go talk toâ”€â€
â€œIâ€™m a sergeant,â€ the soldier said.
â€œAll right,â€ Melvin said.
â€œWhatâ€™s your rank?â€
â€œSome of us fought in the German War.â€
â€œI went to college.â€
â€œI fought in the German War.â€
â€œIâ€™m an educated man.â€
Anne stepped forward, batting her eyes.
â€œYou know, we donâ€™t really know where we are, weâ€™re just trying to make our way to the administration office,â€ she said with a sweet smile and a wink. â€œDo you think you could point us the way?â€
The man smiled at her, warming up to her very quickly. He glared at Melvin but then smiled at her again.
â€œYes miss,â€ he said. â€œThe administrative officers are towards the back. You go up the steps there. Tell your friend not to take any more souvenirs though, all right?â€
â€œYes sir,â€ Anne said.
â€œI can keep this though?â€ Melvin said.
The sergeant looked at him and then took the poster from him. They quickly made their way towards the back, passing a painting on the wall of a man with an American Flag flying behind him. The little plaque on the painting read â€œPresident Herman B. Kettle.â€ None of them had ever heard of the man or any president of the United States by that name. Darryl urged them to hurry to the office and they continued, passing another poster with the caption â€œJoin the National Mounted Police.â€ The picture was of a handsome man on horseback in a spiffy blue uniform.
They passed a little cafÃ© as well.
They headed up the steps, passing two large, metal booths with doors like telephone booths. As they passed by them a man who was following them entered one of the booths. He had a drooping bouquet of flowers and looked very sad, tears rolling down his face. He entered one of the booths, each of which had the letters GLC on the side in art-deco lettering, and closed the door behind him. The entire booth, which was about six foot on a side and eight feet high, began to shake.
A man nearby with a very high collar smoked a pipe. They climbed to the landing and saw another poster there. It had a black man in homespun clothing and a straw hat with a pitchfork. The caption read â€œSuannee: Separate but Equal.â€
â€œ****, thatâ€™s what I was afraid of,â€ Darryl said. â€œDonâ€™t steal that one. Iâ€™ll swat your had if you do.â€
They headed up the steps to the second floor and Anne noticed the woman whom she had given change to in La Guardia standing in the passageway below, looking up at her.
At the top of the steps was a door to the left marked â€œAdministrationâ€ on a frosted glass window in the door. Melvin knocked. When no one answered, he went in, followed by the rest.
The office was dark and dreary. Dozens of men worked at narrows desks pushed closed together, facing towards the middle of the room, only the light of their bankerâ€™s lamps illuminating the entire room in small pools of light. They were all busy filling out paperwork. On either side of the deep room were wooden filing cabinets. High windows were curtained and let in only little light.
â€œWhereâ€™s your manager?â€ Melvin said, slapping his hand on the nearest desk.
The man continued to scratch away at the paper with his pencil before he finally looked up at him, a perplexed look on his face.
â€œUh â€¦â€ he said. â€œCan I â€¦ can I help you sir?â€
â€œYes! Iâ€™d like to know where your manager is!â€
â€œThe â€¦ the manager?â€
â€œWeâ€™re all of equal rank here. If thereâ€™s something I can help you with, Iâ€™ll gladly help you, sir.â€
â€œAll right. Well. I have a complaint about our flight.â€
â€œOh, very well. What is the flight? What is the â€¦â€
â€œI donâ€™t think anybody told us our flight number,â€ Darryl said.
â€œWell, whatâ€™s your name, sir?â€ the man at the desk asked. â€œWhat is your name?â€
â€œMy nameâ€™s Melvin Bell,â€ Melvin said.
â€œMelvin Bell. All right. Uh â€¦â€
He looked over some papers on his desk.
â€œOne moment,â€ he said. â€œOne moment please.â€
He got up, moving between the desks, and made his way to the filing cabinets on one wall, turning on a lamp over the section of drawers.
Darryl had been looking for another exit to the room. In the back, hidden mostly in the darkness, was another door with a frosted glass pane of glass on the upper half of it. A flickering light over the door barely illuminated it. It looked like it had a short or something. Something was written on the glass but it was too far away to be legible.
The man finally pulled out a piece of paper and came back to the desk, pushing his way past the other men, who had never once looked up from their own work.
â€œYes sir, I apologize for your dissatisfaction with your flight,â€ the man said. â€œThatâ€™s really not our business. But â€¦ uh â€¦ it says here that your flight plan has been set. Uh â€¦ Carcosa.â€
All of the other men in the room stopped writing and, turned their heads, looking up at Melvin, staring at him.
â€œUh-huh,â€ Melvin said. â€œWhere the hell is Carcosa?â€
He looked at the men.
â€œWhat?â€ he said. â€œWhat is Carcosa?â€
â€œIâ€™m â€¦ Iâ€™m not sure, sir,â€ the man said. â€œIâ€™ve not heard of that place. Takeoff time is at your discretion, so long as you inform someone at the aero station. Failure to inform the aero station is a Federal crime with harsh penalties.â€
â€œWell, do you know our pilotâ€™s name? Because they left us!â€
â€œUh â€¦ it says â€¦â€
â€œThey didnâ€™t even tell us anything!â€
â€œIt says here that your pilot is Harold Watson. Your co-pilot is Clifford Bender and that the others in your party include Denise Thompson, Melvin Bell - thatâ€™s you - Trevor Stevens, Anne Simmons, Darryl Jefferson, and Morton Finch.â€
â€œIf you find out where our pilots went, you tell them I am pissed that they left us!â€
â€œWell, Iâ€™m sure that â€¦ if you inform the ladies down in the front, one of the air stewardesses, and then re-board your plane, your journey to Carcosa â€¦ can continue.â€
The other men continued to stare at him.
â€œWhat!?!â€ Melvin said to one of them.
â€œOkay, Melvin â€¦ letâ€™s see if we can find the pilots,â€ Darryl said.
Melvin ignored him, setting the King in Yellow down on the manâ€™s desk.
â€œWhat about this?â€ he said.
â€œUh â€¦ what about it?â€ the man said. â€œWhat is it, sir?â€
â€œThis was on the plane.â€
â€œAnd so was this!â€
He put down the baseball bat.
â€œWhy in the hell was there a bat and this weird book on the plane?â€ he said.
â€œYouâ€™d have to talk to your pilot, sir, or the owner of the aircraft,â€ the man said. â€œIâ€™m assuming theyâ€™re one and the same.â€
â€œWell, we spent half the flight flying the plane our damned selves.â€
â€œWell, let me ask this one question, please,â€ Darryl said. â€œWhatâ€™s in that door behind you? Is that the manager or the boss of this place?â€
â€œUh â€¦â€ the man said.
â€œWell â€¦ thatâ€™s the â€¦ Skyway Controller,â€ he said.
â€œSkyway Controller,â€ all of the other men echoed in a whisper.
â€œUh â€¦ heâ€™s through there,â€ the man said.
â€œOkay,â€ Darryl said, unnerved.
â€œGood!â€ Melvin said. â€œYou do have a manager!â€
He picked up the book and the baseball bat and walked that way.
â€œMelvin!â€ Darryl said. â€œLetâ€™s find the pilots first.â€
â€œYouâ€™re free to talk to the Skyway Controllerâ”€â€ the man at the desk said.
â€œSkyway Controller,â€ the other men whispered.
â€œâ”€but I wouldnâ€™t recommend it,â€ the man went on. â€œHeâ€™s â€¦ not in a good mood. Heâ€™s never in a good mood. But if youâ€™d like, youâ€™re welcome.â€
â€œWell, Iâ€™m not in a good mood either!â€ Melvin said.
â€œWell, listen man, show good mood to Skyway Controllerâ”€â€ Darryl said.
â€œSkyway Controller,â€ the other men whispered.
â€œYou get more flies with honey than â€¦ uh â€¦â€ Darryl went on. â€œWhatâ€™s wrong with you people? Why you so upset about this Skyway Controller dude? I mean, heâ€™s just a boss. He might be a bad boss but why you all upset like that? I never seen anyone like that before.â€
All of the men at the desks had transferred their stares to Darryl. The man theyâ€™d been talking to shuddered again.
â€œIâ€™d better take this back and put it back and Iâ€™d better put this back in the file,â€ he said.
He got up and scooted between the desks again, heading for the filing cabinet.
â€œOkay, letâ€™s see,â€ Darryl said. â€œDo we want to go see the boss man? Theyâ€™re pretty darned scared. But listen, if youâ€™re going to talk to him, Iâ€™ll try to talk to him, but you know how theyâ€™ll treat me. You try to talk to him but you chill out! Is all Iâ€™m asking. Please chill out. Be cool. Be nice. Weâ€™ll get more flies that way. You know that old staying about getting more flies with honey than vinegar?â€
â€œFine,â€ Melvin said. â€œFine.â€
â€œHow about you?â€ Darryl said to Anne. â€œYou put the charm on that guy down there.â€
â€œUh-huh,â€ the beautiful woman said.
â€œYou do the talking,â€ Melvin said to the woman.
They discussed what to do, Anne suggesting they talk to the main guy to get some answers. Darryl noted heâ€™d seen some job situations where the workers were scared of the boss. Anne pointed out he was just a boss and just a man. Darryl noticed the men were all still staring at him.
â€œLetâ€™s go, folks,â€ he said. â€œTheyâ€™re kind of creeping me out.â€
â€œYeah,â€ Anne said.
They went around the desks in the center of the room, finding their way between them and the filing cabinets that ran the length of the far wall. They stopped at the door which had the words â€œSkyway Controllerâ€ engraved on the frosted glass in gold leaf. The men stared at Darryl as they crossed the room, including the man they talked to.
â€œNow people, letâ€™s all listen up,â€ Darryl said. â€œWe have to ask the right kind of questions. What we want to know is where are the pilots? Okay? And then we want to ask â€¦ what do we want to ask?â€
â€œWhat the hell was up with that flight!?!â€ Melvin said. â€œFirst of all, what was up with the food, the drinks, where did the pilots go?â€
They discussed what to ask the Skyway Controller, including how they ended up in 1925. Darryl repeated everything again. He wondered if they should tell them they came from 1971 or they would think they were nuts. Melvin said he thought they were nuts. Darryl pushed the fact they had to be nice even as Melvin reiterated that it was all nuts. He turned to Anne and told her she was the pretty one and should probably do the talking.
â€œIâ€™ve got an idea,â€ Morty said.
Heâ€™d been very silent ever since they landed, partially due being drunk on four little bottles of vodka, partially due to the sheer strangeness of everything that had happened to them, and partially due to the pain he still felt in his nether regions from being punched and then kicked in the crotch.
â€œIâ€™m going to see if I can gather information by being foreign,â€ he said in a terrible British accent.
Darryl said they should let Anne do that, as she had been an actress.
â€œOh, I know,â€ Morty said. â€œCanadian accent.â€