2023 Short Story Competition

End Credits

Trigger warnings: plane crash, major character death.

Their engagement had been almost perfect. He’d planned it out immaculately
—kidnapped various rings from her jewelry box to get the measurements right, called six
different florists five weeks in advance to make sure they’d have the right shade of pink
chrysanthemums, prepared the meal he was meant to pack for the picnic four times over, and
only just managed to distribute the leftovers at the tent city a few blocks away before she came
home from work, so she wouldn’t see them in the compost bin. But there was no accounting for
the group of rowdy college kids with their round, kool-aid blue plastic speaker who’d taken it
upon themselves to DJ an otherwise idyllic summer evening.
He’d tried to move their blanket, but the first open spot they’d found was still within
reach of the melodic strains of Pitbull. At the second, they had almost escaped it, but they were
now in the vicinity of what seemed to be a high school girl’s birthday party, and Olivia Rodrigo
was jumping in for a duet. When he stood the third time to scout for another unclaimed stretch of
sand, she giggled, one knuckle pressed to her lips. All the trouble he’d gone to was more of a
gesture, of course. She knew him far too well for him to surprise her.
“We could always go to another beach,” she said.
But they couldn’t, because there wasn’t another beach where she had first reached out to
twine her fingers with his as the sun vanished beneath the waves.
“I think people who play music in public should be shot,” he’d told her, and she’d smiled
and said, “Are you going to propose to me or what?”

The choice of shooting had been entirely arbitrary, he thought now. Rather unoriginal.
Death by fiery plane crash was just as apt a sentence. He only wished he would live long enough
to appreciate it.
The plane was careening down through a layer of clouds at a 45-degree angle. The
intercom had gone silent several minutes ago, which he took to mean that any evacuation
instructions were moot. There were babies wailing, total strangers sobbing and clinging to each
other, a dozen frantically overlapping voices trying to get last calls to their loved ones to go
through. But that was all partially drowned out by the idiot two rows in front of him who had
decided now was the moment to blast “See You Again” by Wiz Khalifa (featuring Charlie Puth)
so loudly it was a miracle they hadn’t blown their speaker out.
They probably thought they were having a poignant moment. Maybe it was a good thing
he wasn’t going to call her, he thought, or else their final words to each other would have been
scored like a fucking Fast and Furious sequel.
She wouldn’t have her phone on. She was in a meeting. An important one, which was the
only reason he’d bought the in-flight WiFi package, in hopes of not having to wait a second to
hear it when she told him the good news.
He opened their messages instead.
He typed: You’ll never believe this moron on the flight with me. Imagine thinking you’re
the main character of a plane crash.

He typed: Maybe I should’ve let you make me late to the airport just this once.
He typed: I adore you, and then he fumbled in his bag for his ear plugs, so he could enjoy
one last minute thinking of her and no one else.

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