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The story begins with the narrator waking up on an airplane due to a "bump," which she assumes to be from turbulence. Everything seems normal at first, and her thoughts drift. I think most of the text is her own internal monologue and reminisces, but she keeps noticing minor details that strike her as strange. She slowly comes to suspect that the plane was destroyed (by a bomb?) and everyone aboard is being taken into the Egyptian afterlife.

The flight may have been on its way to Cairo or may have just been flying over the area, but I don't recall any particular reason why it should have been the Egyptian afterlife other than that. She may have spotted some pyramids through the window and been thinking about the funeral preparations for the afterlife journey of the ancient Egyptian kings somewhere early in the story.

Towards the end, she looks out the window and spots crocodile-like monsters in the river (the Nile) below. It ends on a note of continuing ever onward into the unknown as things slowly become stranger. I was pretty sure that this was a Dan Simmons story, but I don't see any promising short fiction titles in his bibliography.

I was reminded of this story by another question, but this is apparently not the same one. The story about which I'm thinking definitely begins with the narrator waking up on the plane, and the plane's cabin (plus what can be seen out its windows) is the setting for the entire story.

marked as duplicate by John Rennie story-identification Sep 3 '18 at 4:26

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

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I think this might just be Death on the Nile by Connie Willis, which matches in some respects but differs in others. Specifically Death on the Nile is a novella and the first chapter is quite close to your description. You mention the similar question Seeking a short story title that is set in the Egyptian pyramids though you say this is not the same. However I would guess that it is the same story and you have simply remembered different parts of it.

The story starts with the protagonist on a flight to Cairo as part of a tour group (the protagonist is a woman not a man - I don't think we ever learn her name). The waking scene is when another member of the group wakes during severe turbulence and the protagonist makes a comment (apparently a joke) about a bomb:

His shouting wakes Zoe’s husband up. He blinks at Zoe, confused that she is not reading from her guidebook. “What’s going on?” he asks.

“We’re all dead,” I say. “We were killed by Arab terrorists. We think we’re going to Cairo but we’re really going to heaven. Or hell.”

The protagonist does look out of the window but she sees nothing:

I look past her and out the window at the white flatness where the wing should be. We should be able to see the lights on the wing even in the fog. That’s what they’re there for, so you can see the plane in the fog. The people on the ship didn’t realize they were dead at first. It was only when they started noticing little things that weren’t quite right that they began to wonder.

“‘A guide is recommended,’” Zoe reads.

I have meant to frighten Lissa, but I have only managed to frighten myself. We are beginning our descent, that’s all, I tell myself, and flying through a cloud. And that must be right.

But the story then diverges from yours because it has several more parts covering the arrival in Egypt and a visit to the Valley of the Kings. It is during this that the protagonist sees something like a crocodile:

There is something in the water. Not a ripple, not even enough of a movement to shudder the image of the sun, but I know there is something there.

It is long and dark, like a crocodile. I lean over farther, gripping the rail, trying to see into the transparent water, and catch a glint of scales. It is swimming straight toward the boat.

From this point the story starts getting increasingly hallucinogenic. The group go into a tomb and one by one everyone else disappears leaving just the protagonist. The story ends:

I take hold of the doorjamb with one hand so I won’t fall on the stairs. With the other I hold the book against me. “Get back, you evil ones,” I say. “Stay away. I adjure you in the name of Osiris and Poirot. My spells protect me. I know the way.”

I begin my descent.

  • I think you must be right... it's been several years since I read it, and I didn't think the plane landed, but the quotes you provided all tug on my memory and seem right. Thanks! Hopefully, it really is the same answer for that other question, in which case this should be closed as the duplicate. – Otis Sep 3 '18 at 0:48

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