Change of Venue by Lori D’Angelo

Change of Venue 

At first, Lance’s biggest worry was that he would be late, that his plane would not land as scheduled, that he would miss his job interview in Fresno. 

It wasn’t until after takeoff that Lance realized something was terribly wrong. 

Initially, his unease was minor. The captain’s accent seemed off. In fact, it had changed from British, to Love Boat captain, to Crocodile Dundee Australian, to cartoon-type Pirate speak. 

“Ahoy, Mateys,” the captain was saying. “I am sorry to inform you that the clouds over Kansas City look a little janky this morning. So we might have to make an emergency landing.” 

What, no, Lance thought with irritation, he needed to be in California, not Missouri. It was only after Lance’s initial bout of rage over the potential flight delay that Lance noticed other issues. It wasn’t just the message, but the volume of the loudspeaker that seemed off. In fact, it sounded faded or prerecorded. 

Lance looked around. The other passengers didn’t look disturbed. They didn’t look anything, Lance realized, because they were mannequins. 

How could Lance not have noticed this when he boarded the flight? Was it because it had taken him an extraordinary time to get through airport security and most of the other passengers had already been seated when he boarded? 

But hadn’t there been other people boarding the plane at the same time? Hadn’t there been a crew? Without a crew, how had the plane gotten into the air? 

The speaker volume got weird again, and the message got weirder. Now the plane loudspeaker was playing ice cream truck music. 

Lance hit the call button, but he didn’t hold out much hope for a response. None came. 

The plane began to descend. Lance suspected it was pilotless. And, yet the descent wasn’t particularly shaky. The plane went down smoothly, as if someone or something was guiding it into an airport in Kansas City. 

To Lance’s immense relief, the plane landed without incident. An announcement came on, that simply said, “That’s all, folks.”

Lance got the message, unbuckled his seat belt, and got off. Mysteriously, the door to the plane was open, though he didn’t know how that had happened it or when. He didn’t even know if he would be the only passenger leaving. 

When Lance got to baggage claim, the interviewer was waiting for him. 

“Thank you for being so understanding,” he said, “about the change of venue.” 

“Of course,” Lance said, uneasily, suppressing his questions. “When the clouds get janky, what can you do?” 

“Right,” the man laughed, patting him on the back. “Most candidates don’t make it this far.” 

“Really, that’s surprising,” Lance said, envisioning them jumping off the plane. But Lance, whose mother had dropped him off at his aunt’s house on New Year’s Eve when he was three years old and never returned to pick him up, wasn’t most people. He had survived so many botched departures.  

“I’m ready,” Lance said. This, he thought, was just another irritating itinerary change.

Lori D’Angelo is a grant recipient from the Elizabeth George Foundation. Recent work has appeared in Anti-Heroin Chic, Bull, Bullshit Lit, Ellipsis Zine, Moon City Review, North Dakota Quarterly, Rejection Letters, and Voidspace. Find her on Twitter and Bluesky @sclly21 or Instagram and Threads at lori.dangelo1.

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