The Hindenburg: Inimical (final)
Greta didn’t doubt the strength of his argument. But she didn’t feel menaced—she felt severed. The days in her cabin had been easier to bear than her first experience with isolation. She had not been hungry; she’d been able to sleep…and had known she would soon be free. These externalities made her passage a kind of steerage rather than imprisonment. Her mind kept circling around the same questions: What did he think he had done? What would she have misunderstood?
The distant, old-fashioned phrase he had used, did he mean it as dismissal? If you’re only saying goodbye, why say anything at all?
The Hindenburg had crossed the Atlantic, the voyage uneventful; once rid of the nuisance that was Greta, the ship’s state of watchfulness would give way to ordinary practices. They had wanted her off before the other passengers. A steward knocked at the cabin door, telling her he would escort her forward. They walked the promenade, passed the lounge. A shudder rippled the hull. The shudder might have been accompanied by a sound; if so, the sound was soft, and simultaneous with the wave of impact. The steward looked over his shoulder, decided nothing had happened, and said to Greta:
“Why are you stopping here?”
A step forward. Heat like a furnace rushing into the passage, propagating to fierce intensity. It hurt to touch the air…the air was unbreathable. Her steward pushed her to the window.
“Could anyone be blamed?”
“Well,” said Van Nest, slowly, “let me work this out for you. Let’s imagine the world is perfect. We’re going to fly an airship across the Atlantic…and we know all passengers to be above suspicion. We assume nothing will happen. Let’s say now, in a second instance, that all passengers are suspect, but the probability of any particular passenger being dangerous is low…and if one is, we can’t guess which one. We create a standard for security and we adhere to it, treating everyone as equally dangerous, equally safe. Let’s say, in a third instance, we have cause to identify a particular person as a danger, but nothing indicates our suspect is prepared to act. We create a higher standard of security for this individual; we watch and guard him…her. Let’s say we have a fourth instance, in which a passenger is brandishing a weapon, making violent threats.
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(copyright 2014, 2018 Stephanie Foster)