‘A Little Night Music’, by Jeanette Turner Hospital

The Australian author Jeanette Turner Hospital’s  collection Isobars is uneven in places but its themes of unreliable memory, fugue states and global connections are persistent and powerful. (An isobar, in meteorology, is a line on a map where linked points have the same atmospheric pressure occurring at a given time). All anxieties about flying are fully indulged in this brief ghost story, written about an eleventh-hour passenger who boards a plane at the last minute. The narrator of the story, a woman, is highly apprehensive, with good reason: the previous night a flight on the same route had been blown up by a suicide bomber: there were no survivors. Her seat companion for this flight is a young man who speaks little English and appears distracted and tormented. The woman seeks to comfort him. After they both fall asleep she is ravaged by terrible dreams; when she wakes to daylight, the man has gone. Not to be read on long-haul, unless you’re  a complete masochist.

(From Isobars, Virago Press, 1990)