The 737 ripped in half. Or into thirds or fourths, I can’t be sure. Regardless, it came apart at aisle 17, just two rows in front of mine. And now I’m falling.

The cold air whips at my body. I’m freezing, though I feel a certain warmth, a wet something, coming from my left ear. Must have been the explosion. I can no longer hear – I can only feel the living wind whooshing past me. I try desperately to pull my arms into my chest, to keep them from flailing about. I continue to fall.

Other passengers, faces terribly distorted, soar past me, plummet to the earth some 18,000 feet below. I try unsuccessfully to close my eyes. I start to spin, pitching downward, still attached to a bit of undestroyed plane, buckled in tight. Passengers, once beside me – gone forever. I see nothingness before me, a beautiful blue emptiness enveloping me, and a dimming sun against clouds that beckon to embrace me.

I’m going to black out. I’m going to be sick. It’s so cold. I need out of this seat. Can I fight the centrifugal force to release the safety belt? I try. I fail. I try again. I fail again. Then, success. I’m free.

Everything begins to move in slow motion. I carefully push off, away from 19C, and watch it slip away into the void below. I’m falling, completely alone now, unrestrained. For a moment, I’m at a loss for action. Then, gradually turning into the rising wind, into the earth that holds the horizon at bay, I spread my arms like some majestic bird and dive.

My life does not flash before my eyes as if in some kind of made-for-television movie. I have no final memories of loved ones. No reminiscences of times past. No recollections of anything I have been or have ever done. Everything I am, everything that defines me, the good, the bad, everything, all of it leaves me, falls away from me like some baggage that only now I realize has held me captive for so long.

I am no longer John . . . I am not my name. Names, words, words that rarely ever succeeded, they fail me again. But this time it’s somehow different – language disintegrates, and along with it the necessity to be understood. My thoughts are finally free to simply exist unencumbered by any need for meaningful exposition. They have survived the linguistic storm, and thus reveal themselves for what they have always been – pure truth, pure reaction to sensation – unnamed, undefined, unjudged.

Time comes and goes. My body hovers ever closer to what must surely be the end. My clothing tears at my flesh. I rip off my shirt, then my pants, desperately trying to disengage from them. Finally, I am as I was upon my arrival. I am flesh and I am blood. No more, no less. I smile.

For a brief, beautiful moment, I am once again human.

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