In this edge-of-your-seat horror novel, a four-hour flight takes a nightmarish turn when a supernatural creature gives a group of high school students a sinister ultimatum.
Devon Marsh is haunted by secrets. Like the identity of the person who killed her twin sister, Emily, in a hit and run accident last Halloween, which Devon has vowed to uncover. Like the things Devon said to Emily just before she died.
But she’s determined to start fresh when she boards a four-hour flight along with her classmates for their senior class ski trip. Devon never could have guessed those secrets would surface in the most terrifying way when a supernatural creature hijacks their flight and gives the students a deadly ultimatum:
Choose one among them to sacrifice before the end of the flight. Or the plane will crash.
As the clock ticks down, the creature slowly unearths the passengers’ deepest, darkest secrets—and reveals that one of the teens on the plane is responsible for Emily’s death. The students must agree on a sacrifice, or there won’t be any survivors. But can Devon find a way to stop the creature, or will she give in to her anger and let revenge take control?
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An Excerpt fromFlight 171
“So, class trip poll: if you had to choose between dying in a plane crash or a car accident, which would you pick?” Spencer nudges my back with his elbow as we make our way down the Jetway toward our plane. He has a Twizzler hanging out of his mouth and a wiseass grin on his beefy face.
Resist the urge to turn around and kick him in the shin, I silently tell myself. Sometimes he can be so totally clueless.
Outside the tiny Jetway window is the nose of the Sky Royal airplane we’re about to board. Rain runs in rivulets down the glass, making the plane look like it’s submerged in water. I can barely make out the blurry outlines of the pilots inside the cockpit. The night is dark and full of gathering storm clouds. No lightning yet, but the sky is ominous enough that I can’t help wondering if our takeoff will be delayed. Part of me hopes it is. I’m still not sure if it’s a good idea for me to go on this trip.
“Yeah, Devon, which would you choose? Plane or car?”
I look past Spencer to Billy, his partner in crime and fellow wrestler on the Greendale team. He reaches up to touch the ceiling of the Jetway with both hands, making sure to flex his biceps as he does. Glancing down at his midsection, he adjusts slightly so his six-pack is clearly visible through his T-shirt. Then he looks up at me, one eyebrow raised like he’s expecting me to react more to his body than to the question. “Inquiring minds want to know.”
“Don’t be such utter tools, you two.” My friend Kiara rolls her eyes and reaches around me to punch both boys’ biceps hard, first Spencer’s, then Billy’s.
“Ow!” Spencer rubs his arm.
Kiara points a finger at him. “What kind of question is that? After Emily--the hit-and-run.” Her voice drops to a whisper when she says my dead twin’s name, then goes back up to full volume. “And, considering we’re all about to board a plane, it’s bad luck to talk about crashing.”
Spencer’s smile falters. He darts a look at me, then chews on his Twizzler more vigorously until half of it disappears into his mouth.
I drop to one knee and start to pretend-tie my shoe. I let my hair form a curtain over my face so I don’t have to see Kiara and the boys give me anxious looks. I’m not gonna lose it over one stupid comment. Still, Emily’s face floats unbidden through my mind, the way she looked at me that last time, just before her accident. I didn’t know it would be the last time. If I had, I wouldn’t have done or said what I did.
My throat gets tight. It’s hard to swallow around the lump lodged there. I need my drumsticks. Badly. The old me kept them handy for moments like this, when life was weird or awkward or just plain unbearable. I’d bang out a rhythm on the nearest hard surface until whatever anxiety I was feeling left my body by way of my hands and the beat. But that was before last October. Halloween night.
I don’t play the drums anymore.
I tuck my hands inside my pockets to remind my body of this. Still, there’s the echo of a series of rhythms rolling through my head like an itch in a phantom limb.
To my right, the door to the Jetway slams open. A baggage handler wearing a safety vest slips inside, letting a blast of cool March air rush toward us. He shakes the raindrops from his hair, then grabs a pair of strollers from beside the door and ducks back outside. The sudden drop in temperature makes me shiver violently, but it’s good, bracing enough to make the tears building in my eyes dry up.
When I stand, Spencer’s eyes lock on mine and he winces. “Devon. I’m sorry. I forgot about . . . God, I guess I wasn’t thinking.”
Of course he wasn’t. Thinking isn’t one of Spencer’s strong suits. He’s the guy who fits the dumb-jock cliché perfectly--or at least he willingly feeds into it.
“Yeah, me too,” Billy says softly. He lets his arms drop and stuffs his hands into his pockets.
Kiara glares at them one last time before stepping back into line in front of me.
“Devon, seriously.” Spencer touches my hand tentatively. “I really am sorry. Hey, want a Twizzler?” He shakes the oversized candy bag at me.
“Thanks.” I take one piece so he’ll leave me alone, and nibble on the end. The flight must be crowded, because we’re moving down the Jetway at a snail’s pace.
I’m not okay, not really. I’m tired of everyone treading so lightly around me ever since Emily was hit by a car and died. Nearly five months have gone by, and people still look at me with sad eyes, watching me like I’m a land mine set to either explode or break down. It makes working through things harder. All the constant sympathetic comments are like fingernails picking at a freshly formed scab, making the wound raw all over again. It doesn’t help that the person who hit my sister hasn’t been caught--that no matter how hard I try to find them, I keep hitting dead ends.
I glance at my watch. It’s nearly midnight. Soon we’ll be airborne. I get a squirmy, uncomfortable feeling in the pit of my stomach.
Am I really going on the senior class ski trip without my sister?
When Mr. Lewton announced it earlier this school year, Emily and I attended the planning meeting together. Now she’s gone. And I’m going alone.
I take a deep breath and hike my backpack higher on my shoulder. Time to think about something else, anything else. I glance at the back of the line.
Jack is there.
All at once my stomach is a roller coaster rocketing through a loop-de-loop.
He wasn’t supposed to come. He hasn’t been to any of the trip planning meetings. He’s been homeschooling since the end of last year--since Halloween. I haven’t even seen him around town--not since I accused him of killing my sister.
I still think he did it. I just can’t figure out how to prove it.
Kiara tugs at my arm.
“Don’t. Ignore him.” It’s part plea, part command.
Jack has his earbuds in and is tapping his phone screen. His hair--the exact shade of chestnuts--flops over his face, obscuring his eyes. He hasn’t noticed me noticing him yet. My brain automatically fills in the details of his face. Deep brown eyes with little yellow flecks, framed by thick eyebrows that curve upward when he’s curious about something or someone. The barely-there constellation of freckles that border his jawline and forehead. I spent so much of last summer and fall memorizing the angles and planes of his face, the way they set my heart beating in an entirely new rhythm--one that was all stuttering staccato beats. Until Halloween. Until Emily, when the beats changed. Got harder, vengeful. Full of anger.
I sort of want him to look up. To notice me standing here watching him. Just because the police ruled him out as a suspect doesn’t mean I’ve given up. I won’t let it go, not until I am one hundred percent certain he wasn’t driving the car that hit Emily. I hang on to the flame of anger seeing him ignites in me . . . because there is a traitor part of me, one I can’t seem to squash no matter how hard I try, who still looks at him with longing. And I hate myself for it.
“God, I wish they’d hurry up already. What is taking so long?” Kiara heaves a sigh and picks a piece of lint off her wool coat before she side-eyes me. “You all right?”
“Yep,” I lie.
She tucks her long black hair behind her ears and narrows her eyes. “You sure? Cause if you’re not, it’s okay to back out of this trip. I mean, we aren’t on the plane just yet.”
Now that I’ve seen Jack, part of me does want to back out. I’m only on this trip because my parents want me to focus on something fun, something normal for a change--anything other than the person who killed my twin. How am I supposed to do that with him around?
“Well?” Kiara asks.
I take one last look at the little patch of airport I can make out at the other end of the Jetway. I could just leave my place in line, call Dad, and ask him to pick me up . . . but my mom is already on the plane with the rest of the flight crew. She rearranged her whole schedule to be here. She’ll be disappointed if I don’t go through with this trip. And I made a promise to myself after Emily, after what I did Halloween night, that I wouldn’t disappoint either of my parents again. They’ve been through too much to have to endure anything else.
“No way I’m missing this,” I say, making my voice as Emily-esque as I can manage, all buoyant cheer. I’ve gotten pretty good at sounding and looking like her these days, of banishing what’s left of the old me. If either of us had to die, it should’ve been me, not her. Since that didn’t happen, I figure the second-best thing is for me to become more like her and be less like myself, give my parents back some version of the better daughter.
Kiara pats my back gently, then straightens the scarf around her neck until it’s perfectly draped. She hates when anything is out of place.
“Colorado, here we come,” she squeals.
I take a deep breath and step off the Jetway and onto the plane.
Mom is in the business class galley with the flight crew. Her eyes light up when she sees me.
“There you are. I was beginning to wonder if you’d changed your mind.” Her smile slips just a little.
I get it. I haven’t always been good at keeping promises . . . or doing what my parents ask me to.
“We had to make one last bathroom run, Mrs. Marsh.” Kiara leans in to hug my mother. “Thank you for helping us get such a great deal on this flight.”
“Well, given it’s a red-eye, it wasn’t all that hard,” Mom says, beaming. “And I might have the inside scoop on all the best deals.”
“And it’s the first flight on Friday the thirteenth, so of course it was a good deal,” Billy says, crowding onto the plane. “Not exactly the luckiest day to fly, is it?”
“Technically, it’s still the twelfth,” Kiara argues.
Billy glances at his phone. “Yeah, for about ten more minutes.”
“Hey, aren’t you supposed to be in the cockpit, Mrs. Marsh?” Spencer asks. “I mean, you’re the pilot, right?”
“Not for this flight,” I say. “She’s deadheading from Denver to Los Angeles.”
Spencer looks confused. “Deadheading?”
“Traveling to my next assignment,” Mom says.
“But why not fly this one, too?” Billy asks.
“It’s safety protocol. All pilots have restrictions on how many hours they can fly. We can’t afford to be tired in there,” Mom explains patiently as she gestures to the cockpit. “So I’ll be napping through this flight to make sure I’m fresh for tomorrow.” She locks eyes with me and winks. “I’m mainly here for moral support.”
Translation: she wanted to make sure I got on the plane. Or maybe she knew that Jack was going on the trip and wanted to make sure I didn’t confront him about Emily again. But it’s been more than three months since that happened. I’m calmer now. I’ve changed. I’m more like my twin. I won’t confront Jack again until I have incontrovertible proof.
Obviously my mom still doesn’t believe that the changes I’ve made will stick.
“Devon, you remember Shazia, right?” Mom gestures to the flight attendant standing next to her wearing a hijab the same shade of red as her uniform blouse. “From the Sky Royal launch event?”
“Of course,” I lie. The launch event happened a month after Emily died. I barely remembered how to breathe back then.
“Good to see you again, Devon.” Shazia turns toward the man in front of Kiara and me. He’s holding a very squirmy, very cute little boy with a mop of curly hair who is noisily sucking his thumb.
“Aren’t you the cutest?” Shazia plays peekaboo with him, and he smiles shyly around his thumb.
“He just turned three last week,” his father says, more than a hint of pride in his voice.
“Well, happy birthday.” Shazia holds up a miniature airplane and the boy takes it. “That’s my last one, so hold it tight.”
“What do you say, Kamal?” his father prompts.
“Thank you,” Kamal whispers. He begins moving the plane in the air and making whooshing noises.
Without a word, Kiara moves deftly around the boy and his dad into business class. She’s not one for standing still any longer than necessary.
Before I can follow, Mom eyes my clothes: Emily’s cornflower-blue sweater with one of her white long-sleeved tees underneath and a pair of jeans. I even straightened the waves out of my hair, just like Emily used to.
Mom’s eyes get shiny. She gives me a quick, intense hug. “Try to have fun this week, okay? Let go a little.” Her fingers press against my shoulder blades and then release. What she doesn’t say but I’m certain is implied is: leave Jack alone. Except I’m already turning and seeking him out. I can’t seem to stop myself.
“I’ll be in the crew bunk room if you need me. Shazia can let you in with her ID card,” Mom says.
But I’m still too busy looking for Jack to listen closely to what she’s saying. I can’t see him anymore; people are crowded too tightly around the door.
There he is, attempting to hide behind a middle-aged guy, furtively watching me.
I whirl around fast, too fast. I must pick my foot up weird, because the heel of my boot catches on some uneven bit of the galley floor. I lose my balance and accidentally crash into Kamal and his dad.
“Oh!” Kamal’s dad stumbles into the wall. The toy airplane flies out of Kamal’s hands and clatters to the floor.
“No! It crashed!” Kamal hollers.
“I’m so sorry,” I blurt, feeling my face heat up. “I tripped.”
Kamal starts to cry. He leans over to reach for the plane.
I hurry past, still muttering sorrys, my hands fisted tightly around my backpack straps. I can feel Mom watching me, the heaviness of her constant concern weighing me down. Every move I make--accidental or otherwise--is worthy of dissection. She lost one daughter and now she’ll be hell-bound before she loses the other. I actually heard her say these words to my dad a few weeks ago. I’m not sure what she thinks I’m at risk of--letting my guilt get the best of me? Doing something dangerous because of it? Well, I won’t. That’s why I’m trying to be more like Emily. I hate that they think I’d be that rash.