Slumped back into the sagging bench seat at the airport, I gazed around at the rush of humanity around me as music blared into my ears through my headphones. I did my best to keep my eyes moving, trying not to linger too much on any one face in case they caught my covert attention.
It certainly was a busy time at the airport, I noted, adding sourly a moment later that this was probably why my flight ended up being delayed as well. Stuck in this place for another couple of hours, waiting for them to finally call over the half-incomprehensible intercom that the plane had finally arrived and was ready for boarding.
My eyes briefly rose up to watch as a eight-foot tall humanoid stomped loudly along the corridor, wearing some sort of ceremonial golden robe – and the head of a black-furred jackal. Must be coming from Egypt, I guessed.
The massive jackal-headed figure moved past my seat and continued down along the hallway. From its angle, it looked like it was heading for Starbucks, or maybe to get some overpriced fast food burgers. It didn’t need to worry about slipping through the crowd, I observed with a little smirk. People moved aside, or risked being trampled.
The jackal passed out of sight, and my gaze moved on. I lingered briefly on a large family of small, chittering furry creatures, trying not to wince a little as they chattered back and forth in incomprehensible voices pitched almost too high for my ears to hear. They hopped along, dodging around the tree trunk sized legs of other travelers.
I pulled my phone out of my pocket, checking the battery. Down to forty percent. At some point, I’d have to go find an open outlet where I could plug in. The thought of undertaking such a quest didn’t fill me with excitement.
With a bit of half-hearted false hope, I bent down to glance underneath my current seat. Nothing around, of course. Some sort of pink praying mantis creature perched on the bench across from me clicked her claws at me in annoyance. “The nerve! Keep your eyes on your own carapace!” she hooted at me from between mandibles wiggling in agitation.
I made sure she saw me roll my eyes at her. I wasn’t sure if the mantis recognized the expression, but the huff she emitted told me that the attitude, if not the exact message, made itself clear.
My little exchange, however, caught the attention of the man sitting on the other end of my bench. I’d chosen to sit down next to another humanoid, at least, and he looked fairly normal, aside from his massive size. I estimated that his arms were at least as thick around as my waist, and the whole bench creaked whenever he shifted position.
“Hey,” he grunted in the deepest bass rumble I’d ever heard emerge from another human’s throat. Maybe he wasn’t human after all. “You need power?”
“Yeah,” I replied, hope overtaking my usual suspicion. “Is there an outlet over there?”
“Nah, but I’ve got a fusion reactor, and you can plug in,” he replied. He twitched aside a flap of the massive black overcoat that covered his huge frame, revealing a glowing blue globe pressed against his side. It looked a bit like he was trying to smuggle a bowling ball.
I frowned at it doubtfully. “What’s the voltage? Hundred and twenty?”
“Nah, two hundred forty.”
“Not any help, then.” I had an adaptor, but I didn’t want to risk burning out my cell phone on some stranger’s portable reactor. Who knows what hacks the guy had running on the thing. “Sorry.”
“No problem,” he replied affably enough, pulling the coat back over the reactor again and facing back forward.
I sat for another couple minutes, feeling mildly amused as a large Asian family lost track of each other when their riding pandas caught whiff of the fast food and began veering off course. As the Asians finally got their mounts back under control, however, I finally hoisted myself up from my seat with a sigh, gathering up my things.
Off to go find a power outlet. Such a bore, but necessary.
Casting one last regretful look back at the seat I was leaving, I headed down the corridor, into the rush of people. The holographic board above my gate still read “Delayed – updates TBA”, which meant that I had at least half an hour at the earliest before they’d be back on track and ready to board.
I moved through the crowd, just one more bizarre face in a sea of grumpy, tired, complaining travelers.