I still remember the time my mother took me on my first airplane flight. For two weeks leading up to the departure date, it was all I could talk about. To the point my sister, who wasn’t going, got so fed up, she snapped, “You’re just going to KL, get over it! You’ll fly up and 10 minutes later, you’ll fly back down!”
I blinked and gave the itinerary some thought. Michelle watched me closely, no doubt hoping to see my face fall, now that she’d burst my bubble. I blinked again, and shrugged. “Who cares if it’s a 10-minute flight!” I said. “I’m going on a plane and you’re not!”
That flight changed my life. It showed me, for the first time, that the world was bigger than Orchard Road. That there were places in this world that were farther away than even Changi — which, in those days, to a seven-year-old, might as well have been the end of the world.
It was also the first time in my life that my mother smacked me on the head.
I remember pressing my face against the seat window watching the big fluffy clouds float by and being particularly impressed by how incredibly blue the sky was. A thought occurred to me and I turned to my mother who, even then, was not a great flyer — which explains why she was, 10 minutes into the flight, already on her second gin and tonic.
“Mummy?” I remember asking.
An ice-cube clinked in the glass. “Hmm?”
“How does the plane stay up? Why doesn’t it fall to the ground? Is it because…owww! You hit me! Why’d you hit me! What did I say?”
Apparently, that was the real beginning of Mother’s chronic aviophobia. In the space of a few seconds, I had successfully transformed a mere dread of flying into a chronic, crippling terror. To this day, she’d rather take a slow cruise that will take a month to get from Singapore to London, than to hop on a 13-hour flight. It’s also why she and I literally never took another flight together ever again.
All this came back to me the other day when my sister asked if I’d seen Blood Red Sky which she said is currently the No.1 film on Netflix.
“That’s one movie that won’t be shown on KrisWorld any time soon, lemme tell ya!” she said.
“Why? Is it about a plane that crashes?” I asked.
“You should just watch it,” she said.
So, that evening, Saffy, Amanda and I sat down with a bowl of popcorn each, lined up the movie, and hit the play icon.
Two hours later, as the credits rolled, a long silence gripped us. Saffy’s bosom heaved silently as she stared at the screen. Amanda’s lips were pursed. She looked like she’d just swallowed a rat.
Of course, I immediately picked up the phone to call my sister.
“Isn’t that just about the most disturbing thing you’ve ever seen in your life?” Michelle demanded.
“Well…” I began. “The middle bit was basically lifted straight out of the plane scene from World War Z…But that mother is giving me the genuine heebie-jeebies!”
“Me too! But I loved the son,” Michelle added, always looking for a silver lining even in a horror movie. “He was so good!”
“That mother!” I repeated. “The way she twitched towards the end!” I could feel the creepiness of her face shimmy up my spine.
Saffy later said that Blood Red Sky was clearly made by people who are completely mentally unwell. “I mean, as if flying isn’t already a terrifying experience!”
“You mean, how the plane stays up?” I asked.
Saffy’s bosom heaved. “Yes! That! So why make it even worse? It’s like that awful Snakes on a Plane! Did you know I still have a phobia about sitting on a toilet?”
“That movie gave me a phobia about opening the overhead compartment!” Amanda chimed in. “And now I’m going to have a phobia about flight attendants! Especially the ones in First Class!”
“What is wrong with people?” Saffy said, returning to her original theme, though there was something about her tone, and the sideways glance she gave Amanda, that indicated that she was now also talking about Amanda.
Days later, we’re all still haunted by the movie. Saffy says hopefully we’ll have gotten over it by the time the borders reopen and we can all fly again. “I close my eyes and I still see the scene where the mother starts loping towards the son in the airport field. Oh. My. God.”
Meanwhile, Michelle told our mother about Blood Red Sky and Mother said the world is full of sick people. Apparently, one of her mahjong kakis recently asked her if she’d ever watched Poseidon. She said she’d been this close to smacking Auntie Ling on the head.
Blood Red Sky is now streaming on Netflix.