“Dimension Airlines welcomes you to Flight 815 with service to Hawaii and Sydney, Australia. Please line up and have your boarding pass ready for the attendants who will assist you with the embarking procedures.” The loudspeaker announcement broke with a short squeal from feedback. “Please form
Cameron and his long-time girlfriend, Kate, shuffled into line with the roughly 2000 or so fellow passengers. The pre-boarding process for Dimension Airlines was a pain, sometimes taking over an hour to complete just from the sheer number of fliers, but at just $100 per round trip ticket to anywhere in the world they flew, there were rarely any complaints about the long wait. Or the special procedures they used to keep their costs so much lower than their competitors.
Kate squeezed his hand tightly.
“Hey, what’s wrong? Nervous?” he smiled down at her, giving her hand a small pulse of reassurance.
Her eyes shot up for a moment as she silently nodded.
“It’ll be okay. They go out of their way to make this seem just like a normal flight.”
She laughed. “I don’t like normal flights either!”
He suddenly looked alarmed and reached into his pocket. “Oh shit.”
“What’s wrong? Did you forget something?”
“Yeah, I forgot and left my iPod in my backpack. I’m not gonna be able to listen to it until after the flight now.”
She nudged him with her elbow. “Poor baby. I guess you’ll have to talk to me the entire flight.”
Since they were in the back of the plane, theirs was the first group of 100 to enter the boarding chamber. Cameron had flown with Dimension before, so knew exactly what to expect. It still didn’t alleviate his own nervousness. They were ushered into a large cyndrilical chamber with grey walls and multiple pairs of yellow footprints painted on the grey concrete floor.
“Please move to the far side of the room and place your feet on top of a set of footprints,” the gate attendant instructed.
By the time the cylinder was filled, they were all packed in like sardines. The footprints were not very far apart, and there were an unusually high number of plus-sized passengers. It didn’t take long for the temperature to rise in close quarters. The attendant shut the outside door with a large clang, and a humming noise immediately started up.
Kate looked over at Cameron and squeezed his hand again, taking a deep breath as the pre-boarding began.
To describe Dimension’s pre-boarding process, is a bit like describing a free fall, such as when you go over a hill in a car or on the downside of a roller coaster ride. Except in slow motion. It’s an intense feeling in the stomach, not entirely unpleasant, but definitely unnatural.
Cameron felt Kate’s hand start to pull away from his own, but not before he felt it grow slightly in his palm. So neither would have to unnaturally stretch, he gave her one last reassuring squeeze before having to let go. The room was feeling much roomier now. He looked around as everyone was spreading out further and further apart.
The grey walls of the interior gave little indication as to any change, and the darkened ceiling didn’t give any hint either, but when he looked down at the floor, he noticed that the yellow footprints were slowly enlarging beneath his feet. He lifted one of his shoes and placed it in the center of the painted outline and laughed at how the mark was now roughly twice the size of his own foot. This was his third time with Dimension air, and he never got tired of the feeling of butterflies in his stomach combined with the expanding footprint. Those were only two of the three signs that he would ever notice that anything had even changed. Dimension was good at keeping up the illusion of a regular flight.
After a couple of moments, the humming came to a halt. The footprint below him was close to the length of his entire body, and the rounded grey walls now looked more like an aircraft hanger than a silo. He looked to his side about 20 feet and saw Kate staring around in awe of the giant footprint beneath her. He walked over to join her.
“You weren’t…” She let out a high pitched half-squeal, half-giggle as she clutched her throat. “Oh my God! I sound so weird! I want to hear what you sound like!’
“I told you before…” Cameron started as she now doubled over in laughter. His own voice sounding like a chipmunk on helium.
“…the vocal cords are so close together that it causes our voices to sound funny. This is the only part I don’t ever get used to.”
She stood close to him and examined him carefully. “Hey! I’m as tall as you are!”
“Actually, you’re as short as I am.” He corrected her. “They reduce everyone to exactly 12 inches tall. Everyone in here is the same height now. Although you’ll hardly notice it the way they set everything up.”
“This is so cool!” she said excitedly, or maybe it just seemed excitedly because of her high-pitch chipmunk voice. “I like being as big as you. Maybe when we get to Hawaii I’ll ask them to make me five-foot ten like you.” She paused for a moment. “Or… maybe I’ll ask them to only grow you back to 5 foot tall”
“But you’re 5 foot 2.”
She just grinned and said “Mmm-hmmm…”
“They don’t do that. It’s printed in their brochure.” He couldn’t tell if she was serious or not, but wasn’t finding humor in either scenario.
Ending that conversation, he grabbed her hand and led her to the door on the other side of the cylinder, this door was much, much further away than the one they had entered. Another gate attendant, who was the same size as everyone else, ushered them into a very spacious lounge, that was perfectly normal looking despite everyone’s reduced stature.
“Everyone, please relax, have some complimentary drinks, and enjoy yourselves while we prepare the rest of our passengers for boarding. And thanks for choosing Dimension Airlines for all of your travel needs. Your plane will be ready to board in approximately 45 minutes.”