The atmosphere in the coach section of the plane is precisely like the inside of a bag of about-to-be-popping popcorn, though not a single passenger on board will themselves draw that analogy (having themselves never been microwaved).
Stewardesses hustle back and forth from the back of the plane to the front. Every effort they make along the way to herd people back to complacence is rendered futile: their responses are ten decibels too loud, their forcefully calm faces are betrayed by their panicky gate, and their stark white knuckles leave impressions on the dark blue headrests.
Just two seats from the bathroom facilities, sitting in 64A and 64B, there is a boy and a man. The boy is maybe eight. The man is maybe sixty-two.
The boy has gold hair so soft that it shudders when he blinks. His fingers are like tiny hot-dogs, unwrinkled and always finding their way into his mouth. His body is displaying all the white it can --- cheeks, eyes, fingernails, etc. --- and when you look at him you know right away that he is not only alone on this flight, but off of this flight as well. It is in everybody's best interest that he is tucked away in a window seat at the back of this plane, because he is so clearly the perfect physical manifestation of the rising fear filling the minds of the six flight attendants that if any of those attendants were to look him in the face, they would surely crack.
The man next to the boy is red with brown spots, his body hair ever whitening as you approach his top. His eyes are settled deep and birdlike in his brow, like lost caves, and his nose slopes severely away from his white-capped peak. He is like a mountain in the summer.
Again, you see that man and boy are not travel companions or relatives, don't you? If not by their total lack of resemblance, you would know it by the way the man recoils slightly each time the boy coughs or whimpers. The way his shoulders wilt away from the boy, you can also deduce that the man has spent very little of his life around children; siblings, offspring, or otherwise.
"Miss!" he calls to one of the uniformed women rushing past.
"BE WITH YOU IN A SECOND, SIR," she says tersely through the back of her head.
They've been saying that up and down the aisle for the last eight minutes, returning to no-one, being "with" nobody.
The boy's breathing is clotting; instead of the short bullet breaths of five minutes ago, his mouth is sputtering long whistley whimpers, a balloon neck being stretched ever so slightly.
"MISS!" calls the man, but his voice is eclipsed by a crack of thunder that sounds more interior than exterior. The thunder evokes a collective double take from the passengers - at first everyone is still, silent, then all at once they bubble up into a frenzy.
There are medical reasons why the boy is not speaking, but the man does not know this. All he knows is that the boy's eyes are like moths in their sockets, and his little hotdog hands are pulling frantically on the man's thick sweater. There are historical reasons why the man cannot abide his sweater being stretched, but the boy does not know this. All he knows is that today he is going to die.