She had always been a light sleeper. For as long as she could remember, a part of her had always been alert and conscious to her surroundings, even when she was supposed to be in deep sleep.
The tiniest sound or the faintest flicker of light from outside her bedroom window would usually jolt her awake. That was one of the reasons why she opted to purchase an apartment on the higher level of the building complex: no street lights, less distractions from possible vehicles, less traffic noise. Even though the price of those higher-level units almost doubled the ones located closer to the ground, she did not have the slightest hesitation when making the purchase.
However, at this moment, she thought the sudden sharp drop of altitude of the big metal bird she was in would have caused even a comatose person awakened from their slumber. She still had her noise-cancelling headset on, the one she always brought with her for her travels. Even though she usually flew business class for the extra comfort and although the airline provided pretty good quality audio headsets for their premium paying passengers, hers was of course one of the best available in the market that she could buy. She never had any qualms to purchase premium goods for herself, as long as they could give her the comfort she needed.
She might be considered wasteful by most people, but she always considered herself to be the most important, her life's comfort her priority. Yet, at the moment, her heart sank. Those premium goods that could be bought with money meant nothing in this kind of situation.
Her pupils, gradually sharpening and obtaining their focus under the flickering cabin lights above, quickly scanned her surroundings. Turning to her right, a well-dressed elderly lady had her mouth wide opened and her eyes closed, tears streaming down her well-maintained-albeit-wrinkled face. Only then she realized that the older woman was screaming and she could hear the lady's muffled voice and other sounds coming through her headset. In fact, she suddenly realized that the cabin was awfully noisy and everyone seemed to be wailing. She quickly pulled the headset off her head; sure enough, her ears were suddenly assaulted to high-pitched screams and frantic voices, the air was thick with fear and confusion.
"Brace! Brace! Brace!" a booming voice of the male flight-attendant blasted through the cabin, bombarding her sense of hearing.
Soon she could feel her ears gradually losing their function, the voices becoming muted noise. The sharp change of cabin pressure from the sudden plummet of the plane had impeded her hearings, possibly just bursting her eardrums. She faintly felt warm liquid trickling down her ears down to her jawline. She was certain she suddenly became deaf, but she could hardly feel the pain.
Looking at the opened window by a lone passenger's seat across the aisle, she saw the blazing flame. In fact, the cabin lights had completely stopped functioning just now, yet the cabin became brighter than ever. She could not even see the pitch black starry sky that should have been visible during the red eye flight.
From the intensity of the fire and the gradually scorching cabin that was full of smoke, she knew there was no more plans to be made. There was no getting out of this, no more tomorrow.
"Ahh... Is this it?" was all she could think about. For some reason, instead of fear, despaired acceptance was all she could feel. And along this feeling, she thought about mundane things she could no longer do after this.
No more cocktails on Friday nights with her friends and work acquaintances; no more laughter and warm kisses from her favorite nephew when she always gave him small gifts from her travels; no more flirting with fine looking men when she was feeling mischievous in the clubs.
She felt slightly amused on the bittersweet feeling when she recalled her memories of this very normal life she usually had. Then quickly, she felt sad. The feeling of reluctance and desolation, even more suffocating than when she let her tears down silently when her father was laid to the ground eleven years ago.
She suddenly realized that there would be no more Christmas and New Year Eve's dinners made by her mother. Her sweet elderly mother who always made the best ginger infused steamed fish and the heavenly tea pound cake whenever she visited. Her mother who was currently living with her older sister and her sister's husband, and their seven-year-old son.
Her always nagging, always worrying mother who kept expecting her to bring a male companion home to introduce to the family. After all, for her more traditionally-minded mother, a woman should always have a stronger man to protect her and carry her throughout the difficulties of life. After all, her father had done just that until his departure from the world: he was the perfect companion. In return, her mother had always lived for her loved ones first, her husband and children, putting herself last.
A perfect match, in the simplest sense.
While she, the youngest daughter, wanted to be independent, wanted to break the limits, wanted to conquer what the world had to offer. Therefore, as much as she loved her mother, she tried to limit her visits. Even when she did, she tried to shorten the time. Usually she preferred to take her nephew out to play rather than spending her free days in her sister & brother-in-law's house, listening to her mother's worried ramblings about her age and marriage prospects.
Her tears fell.
She was never a person to regret anything she had chosen to have or do, but now she thought she really should have visited her mother more, despite the contradicting views they both had. She should have eaten more of those fragrant tea pound cakes her mother always made for her, despite the extra time of running and yoga she had to do to burn the calories off.
It was not the thought of the impending death that made those tears keep falling, but the image of her smiling mother. So she turned to her right, gently wrapping her fingers around the elderly woman's hands that were currently clasped in hopeless prayer. The woman realized her touch and looked back at her. On the elderly woman's face, there was already the mute desperation in the midst of acceptance of her own approaching death. Similar to her own, traces of blood could also be seen on her jawline, trickling down from her burst eardrums.
Her mother's and the older woman's faces could not have been more different. But perhaps it was because of the similar age and body size, when she gazed into those hazy eyes, she saw her mother. Although there was an eerie sense of calmness and acceptance of her fate in the older woman's eyes, there was a trace of regret and unwillingness.
"Ah, this woman must also have loved ones waiting for her."
She extended her arms around the older woman's shoulder and gently enveloped the old trembling body in an embrace. The older woman unclasped her own hands and wrapped them around the young woman's back, tears started flowing heavier.
There was suddenly a massive shaking of her surroundings. If she was not sure she was in a plane, she would have thought there was a major earthquake and that it was the end of the world.
In fact, it was not the end of the world, it was just the end of her world. The earth would still spin, time would still flow, the living would continue their own journeys. She would be just a remnant of memories in her loved ones' minds when time passed gradually. The one day, her non-existence from her loved ones' lives would be as sure and accepted as the rising and setting sun.
The last fleeting thought she had was that she was somehow glad she could not obtain a single person window seat in the business class cabin, the kind of seats she usually preferred. After all, at this moment, what she needed the most was another person's warmth, especially warmth so similar to the most precious woman in her life. She would just pretend that her mother was with her, cajoling her lightly as if she had just scrapped her knees.
Closing their eyes, both women silently bonded at the end of their respective roads.
There were probably worse ways to face death. But for Mia Simmons, her reality was to descend into darkness , two months short into her thirtieth birthday.