Last One
rating: +12+x

Last one, last one.

I show the lady at the gate my ticket. I think it's blank, but she doesn't seem to notice. I go into the tunnel before the plane, lost among the rest of the passengers. I have no luggage. I have nothing on me but my clothes. My name, right now, is Randy, but it hasn't always been.

Last one, last one.

I woke up on a chair, several minutes ago, knowing that I needed to get on this plane. I just know. It's not something I can explain. This is just where I need to be, there's no question about it. I don't know why yet. That's something I have to figure out.

I don't know where my seat is, because it is not listed on my ticket. I confuse many passengers before finally finding a spot that no one else has claimed, at the back of the plane. I buckle in, as I know I must do, and wait for a sign. There's something I need to do here. Something, something. I just don't know what yet.

Last one, last one.

I mutter to myself as the plane begins to move.

"Hello, I'm Finley Fischer, your pilot today, but you can just call me Fin. Please buckle your seatbelts, and remember that there is no smoking allowed in the cabin. In case of an emergency… don't worry! I'm sure it won't happen, and if it does, there's nothing you can do about it anyways. Have a safe flight!"

I grab at the armrest, and scan my environment. A sign, a sign, I need a sign. Sometimes I don't find them in time, and that becomes a real problem. Sets me back years. Can't afford that. After all…

Last one, last one.

This is my last one.

The plane takes off, from where I do not know and to where I do not care. I know that something will happen before we land. It never takes that long. Never, not ever. Could happen any second. I just need a sign, I just need a sign of some sort. The pilot speaks to the passengers again, and I listen carefully.

"Alright, you can unbuckle now. Feel free to get up and move around. Or even stand in the aisles. That might be useful."

I take the offer, and get up. Where is the threat? From what angle will they strike? When do I need to strike? Do I need to strike? Sometimes, the arbiters are cruel — no, it is wrong to think that. They are not cruel, they know what is right, and they will test me. Sometimes the threat does not strike. It is subtler. The signs are important. And sometimes very small.

My feet feel wet.

I look down, and see that there is water lapping at my feet. In it are small floating dots — green. Algae? I take in my surroundings. I don't think that is usual for a plane. Water. Water, first sign, the first sign is water. Important, the first sign is always the most important.

It has been a long time. I don't know precisely how long. Long enough that there were not planes when I was first named, back when I headed the cotton plantation. Since then, I have gained habits. The first sign marks the first prayer. It is always good to pray after the first sign. So I pray.

I put both hands on my forehead, and begin to hum from deep within my throat. A melody, if you could call it one, that I use to contact the arbiters. If I ask for the right things, I will receive them. The first sign always tells you the most important thing to ask.

I know I am right, so it does not surprise me when gills cut into my throat, and thin slimy fins begin to pierce out of my forearms and calves. These will help in the coming moments, but I know I can't spill my hand so early. My fins are already under my clothes, but just in case, I pull a jacket off of a nearby passenger so I can use it to cover my gills. They seem unhappy, but don't pursue me.

Coming down the aisle, I see a lady. A flight attendant, I think? They have a cart, and are pushing past the people standing in the aisle. When she comes to me, I see that the cart is full of jars filled with clams and jars of green water. She mutters "excuse me", and then shoves me into the seats. I let her pass.

After she passes, I make my way down the aisle, scanning each person. Looking for more signs. No one seems perturbed by the water, which is no longer lapping at the soles of my shoes but instead threatening to pour into them. The smell of salt fills the air, and I realize that I can hear the cawing of gulls. You aren't supposed to have birds in a plane. That I know for certain.

The plane begins to shake, and the lights in the cabin flicker to a pale turquoise color. I lean down to look out a window, and see that the view is obscured by clouds — no, not clouds. It's in the shape of clouds, but that is a foam of some sort. Seafoam.

Signs, signs. Water, ocean, plane. People on the plane, they are in danger, they are the ones I need to save. Easy. It can't be that easy, but it might be. The difficulty of my tasks is sporadic. Maybe this is as straightforward as I think it is.

I put my hands on my forehead and pray again, this time acquiring a feature too imposing to be hidden under my clothes; I quickly grow large folds of skin between my limbs. Three, to be exact. From my right arm to my right leg, right leg to left leg, and then my left leg to my left arm. I then pray again, and my arms begin to stretch and multiply, some with folds and some without. I can see that some passengers have noticed my transformation, and are beginning to panic. Strange, considering the sea within the plane does not concern them.

"Fear not!" I command. "I am here to save you! You are not safe, but I can guide you to safety. I am here only to help! I am here to—"

My speech is cut short as the plane undergoes a new bout of turbulence, this time forcing the entire plane to tilt to the left. Then, there is a deafening crash, as a disproportionately large spearhead forces its way through the outer hull. Two passengers near the impact site are thrown, and one falls completely limp and bleeding. I have lost one. All my anxieties return at full force. I know that sometimes I can not save everyone, and the task is still considered holy and complete. But too many more incidents like that, and I will be doing damage control instead of succeeding.

The other passengers, however, don't seem to notice. It seems that it will be difficult to convince them of the current danger. Sometimes, people did not cooperate with salvation. Often, actually.

"I am here to help you! Please, for your own sakes, come into my arms, and I will carry you to safety!"

My current form is too awkward for me to stand with, so I instead learn to crawl and skitter with my arms acting as extra legs. Passengers scream and cower when I come near, but there is no time to argue with them. Without hesitation, I engulf a woman and child. I know that the arbiters like it when I rescue women and children.

Shrieks erupt from the cabin, and muffled ones join them from under my tent of skin. My arms grow longer to accommodate my passengers, forming a couple more elbows. I can feel something sharp — a pen? — jabbing at my soft belly, poking holes. If they will not cooperate, I will have to adapt to them. I bring two of my hands to my forehead and hum, soon growing a slick black covering of scales over my vital areas. I can not wait for it to spread fully before I must continue my collection of passengers.

Something brushes up against me, and I crane my head upwards. Tentacles are pushing open a luggage compartment from the inside, and one has begun to graze my back. Unsure of a threat, I scurry away from the growing mass of tendrils, and begin to pull more passengers under my expanding folds and creases. In their resisting, I am forced to scratch some. The arbiters dislike when I hurt people, but they can be convinced of its necessity on occasion.

The passengers have now split into two groups. Both head away from me, but in opposite directions — one towards the front of the plane and the other towards the back. They are screaming, rushing, pushing each other out of the way. The now knee high water impedes their movement, and I see an assortment of fish swimming between their legs. I will have to prioritize. It occurs to me now that the passengers are very numerous. To save all of them, I will need to become significantly bigger.

Another hum alerts the higher beings of my needs, and grants my wish. There used to be a time that not all my wishes were granted, but I have been at this for a long time. Now, now, they trust me, they trust me so much that I can get away with praying for things I don't necessarily need on occasion. I don't often, though. They get especially upset if I do that and still fail. But I haven't failed in a long time, and I'm not about to end that streak.

Last. One.

I am now large enough that I am pressed against the left and right walls, floor, and ceiling. I am an almost airtight barrier between the two sides of the plane. The group that went to the back of the plane is significantly smaller than the group that went to the front, so I choose to handle them first. My countless arms carry me swiftly down both aisles and over the seats, so that I am soon grabbing and constraining the writhing passengers en masse. The only problem is that my approach has pushed the water level higher as my body lets very little pass, and people within me are beginning to have a hard time breathing.

Another prayer will fix this.

My chest splits open and my ribs part to allow tubes to protrude from my lungs. With the passengers held still, it is trivial to use my extra arms to force the tubes into their mouths, at which point the ends inflate to make an airtight seal behind their teeth. Their jaws will range from sore to dislocated in the aftermath, but it is necessary that they breath. My one mouth and gills can not breath for all of them, however, so mouths and gills burst and flare from the outside of my forearms, outside of the enclosure I have made with my body. Now I will pull in enough oxygen for all of them.

Meanwhile, the passengers on the other side of the plane have made little progress, though some have taken to throwing objects and luggage at me. Where my scales have extended over my skin, I am relatively protected from the brunt, but some land in soft spots between my armor and force me to contort and react. Once upon a time, I had to be conservative with my wishes, but since those days are behind me, I use one to grow a mirror of my current configuration on the other side of my body so that I don't have to handle the hassle of turning around when I take up the full width of the plane.

When my second head forms, I can see that some passengers have begun to retreat from the doors leading to the cockpit, and thus come halfway towards me. A sign. To overcome their fear of me, they must be threatened. But in my current state, I can not get past them. I see blood spill into the water, and realize I can not waste time.

Two hands and a hum allows me to grow three fleshy appendages with mouths at the end. The teeth are so tough as to be almost unstoppable, and I send them to gnaw through to the outside of the vehicle. Once outside, I must fight the unbelievably strong headwinds to creep them up towards the cockpit. To combat the force, they become greased with adhesive and stick to the hull of the plane. While they creep forward, I feel that they need to move to avoid barnacles that have grown onto the plane. Once I sense the cold glass of the cockpit, they break in.

I immediately feel an intense burning. I am about to wish for heat protection when I then feel one of the mouths get smashed by a blunt object. I decide I need more senses. A prayer later and they grow eyes, noses, and ears. Then I see them.

The final sign.

The beings in the cockpit startle me. They look alike only in that they are equally inhuman. One is shaped like a star and covered in pustules and lumps; another is a long, floating, undulating transparent tube with a blue disembodied head floating in its center; a third one is a school of fish flying through the air in a roughly humanoid shape; the last one that I can see is an amorphous mess of wires and hooks with veins and other organs hinted at throughout its mass. It, however, is facing out the open door of the cockpit, into the crowd of people.

It is the menace I must kill.

I wish for more defensive and offensive abilities on my heads, but the prayer is not answered. It seems my well has run dry — I have reached the limit of prayers that the higher beings will fulfill for this task. I hope that will not reflect poorly on me when this encounter is inevitably reviewed. In the hesitation during which I hummed and prayed, the cyst-covered starfish sent an intense blast of heat towards my leftmost head, singing one of its eyes shut and forcing me to retreat out of the cockpit with it. I can not heal that wound. I have only the resources already on me, now. Only this body and these capabilities with which to save these people.

Sweat forms on my body in the few places that still allow it.

My first moves are simple. I reenter with my left head and lunge for the lumpy starfish. Its next heat wave manages to take care of the other eye, but I can still see with my other two heads and manage to land the hit. I clamp down on its body with my teeth and take it out of the cockpit, where I then bite down until it explodes, taking my cheeks and nose with it. Thankfully, my indestructible teeth are untouched and my jaw still functions.

My rightmost head gives me an angle on the floating tube, allowing me to see the distress in its face. Of the three beings, it is the only one from which an emotion can be gleaned, and that emotion is fear. This invigorates me. I lunge for it and it swims through the air and out of my reach. It then launches its head at my own, hitting with such force that I lose my senses for a moment.

In the background of my mind, I can feel a passenger run into my open arms in the cabin. I immediately ensnare them.

I lunge with my middle head, and the tube avoids me just as easily. I decide that its demise is unimportant for now. In my preoccupation with the other two beings, I missed where the school of fish went. I decide that's not worth worrying about either. Next, then, is the hook-beast.

I first attempt to use my middle head's adhesive to stick to it. Once I slam my chin down upon it, several hooks end up burying themselves into my mass, one completely going through my jaw. But when I pull with the head, only those few hooks and the attached strings come with it. Once I get far enough away that the tangle begins to pull the entire hook-beast, it attaches hooks to the doorway around it, which effectively counters my maneuver. At the height of my pull, I end up only breaking the strings attached to those two hooks. Once free, it retreats into the cabin.

As a side effect, many people run from it and towards the groping range of my arms, allowing them to be pulled into my comforting embrace. This does present a problem, however, as my appendages are not long enough to get through the cockpit and then into the cabin. I backtrack with my head that has no eyes, nose, or cheeks, and then gnaw through the side of the cabin, near where the spear punched through earlier.

Once through, I am able to effectively flank the hook-beast. I send my middle head to be as close to the door to the cockpit as possible, while using my burnt head to menace the beast towards the cockpit. My third head is used to attach the bleeding bodies to itself using the adhesive, and bring them back towards my flesh shelter.

While it does that task, the hook-beast begins to tear into both of my heads. It is a mad flurry of blades and points that sends me into spasms of pain, but in doing so it makes a terrible mistake. Once the hooks are buried deep into both of the heads, I begin to pull with them, straining the wire and hooks and organs in both directions. It tries to anchor itself to a seat, but such an action is futile against the tearing tension at the center of its being. Eventually, wires begin to snap, and the mass starts to fall into two pieces.

By now the cabin is halfway full of water, and the hook mass is deep within it. It is difficult to see, but I make out that one half of the snapped mass is still twitching — veins within it pulse with a heartbeat unseen somewhere beneath the metal spines. Unsure of what else to do against such a creature, I do the only thing I can think of.

My burnt face drifts towards the mass, and begins to consume it. The process is slow and incredibly painful, but necessary. The hook-beast only fights back in twitches and spasms, reflex and instinct rather than intent and strategy. I am able to store the majority of it in my throat, freeing the teeth to be used on something else. I retreat the burnt head outside of the airplane, and then peel the majority of it off of the outer shell. Once that is done, I pull it into a loop, and, like an ouroboros, begin to eat at its root. The hook beast lashes out at the soft walls of my large esophagus, but makes no headway before I successfully have the appendage chew threw itself, letting its severed body then fall into the abyss beneath the plane, the hook-beast along with it.

The combat is over. All of the enemies are dispatched. But my job is not over. I need to get the people off of the plane safely now.

Only a few passengers remain outside of my tent, and they are quickly acquired with use of my two remaining appendages. However, I have run into a problem. I am no longer able to exit the plane, as I am too large. Furthermore, I will need to separate my two mirrored halves from each other before we reach the water, and I do not know how high up we are.

I decide the first course of action is obvious. Using both of my appendages, I gnaw through the plane surrounding my two connected bodies, essentially splitting the plane in half and allowing me to fall with all of the passengers in tow. The plane falls apart ungracefully, sputtering off into the distance in the case of the back and into the abyss below in the case of the front. It occurs to me only now that below us might not be… anything, depending on where this plane transported us. We careen through the seafoam clouds. No time to think of that.

The next issue is to separate both bodies. My mouths are too big to be surgically precise, so I end up dealing great damage to my own two spines in the process. In little time, though, it works. I am no longer in control of the one half that was facing the cockpit, which goes immediately limp. My original half, however, is completely under my sway. Now, it is time to use the skin flaps for their real use.

I extend my outermost arms in a fashion that creates a large umbrella shape, catching the air and creating a parachute. I slow down immensely. My riders move suddenly as they can now see the yawning void below us, but can not scream or question due to the tubes from my lungs that still fill their mouths. Panic consumes me as I realize I have no way to ensure that the other body follows form.

In fact, the other body spirals out of control, both of my appendages still attached to it, trailing behind like twin tails. It does not fold open into a parachute — and chances are that if it did, it would not be holding its passengers and they would free fall to their doom. I ruined it.

I lose.

But just as I have that thought, that terrible crushing fear of failure, the void brightens, and I see at once that we are over the ocean. I slowly drift down, and see from my vantage point the landing of the other body. It hits the ocean, but then… it floats. And then I see movement. From under the folds of the body, passengers emerge, pulling the tubes from their mouths and coughing. My body will sink eventually, but they have survived the initial impact. My spirits rise. No one was lost due to my ignorance.

Then, I see the most promising sight yet. A boat. A big cargo boat is passing this direction. They will be brought aboard and saved. Safe. All these people.

I did it.

I did it!

As with all my bodies, as soon as my task is over, I can feel my grip beginning to fade. This vessel will die, and I will return to the arbiters, the deciders of my fate. I have done all that they have asked of me. I only lost one passenger as far as I could tell. Everyone else, everyone had made it out alive.

My vision fades as we land in the water, and I release my grips on the people. I smirk at the humorous thought that I must look like a kind of jellyfish. A jellyfish that just removed people from a sinking plane.

They will be happy with me. When I died, for the first time, I was told that slavery was immoral. That I could not run my business that way. I was told, despite my churchgoing and my god fearing, that I would be sent to hell. Eternal damnation. "Unless," the arbiters said, "you become our errand boy." A position had just opened up, the previous errand boy had proved themselves and gone to paradise. I was lucky even to have the chance.

I asked them what that meant. They told me that to earn my freedom, to become redeemed in the eyes of the lord, I had to do one thousand good deeds. And this…

This was my last one.

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