I was God. Men feared me.
Yet I was unworshipped.
No one paid homage.
No one left tributes at the altar.
I was the God who decided when and how men died.
Should they bleed out, be consumed by fire, have their innards eviscerated?
Yet no matter how they perished, they were deserving. They were born my enemy.
My domain was not of the earth, for I arose from the sun. The God birthed from the sol.
But that all changed moments ago.
Call it spiritual revenge, the inevitable, or the proof of statistical averages.
Now, somewhere above me, there was a newly minted god. He would be revered for a day, perhaps a week or a month, before he was replaced. The cycle would repeat until powerful gods decided this should end.
I earned my deification by appearing from thick gray clouds, deftly maneuvering, and precisely firing into the enemy’s underbelly. This skill earned me adulation and praise in officer’s clubs in both camps.
But that was then – the then of seconds ago.
Now, without my shell, I was falling, spinning and tumbling uncontrollably. But my training kicked in. I became pencil-shaped, arms to the side, feet pinched together, toes pointed earthbound.
It worked. While regaining control, I found myself in a new reality. I was at 20,000 feet, a mile below from separation.
Another thing I remembered: do not deploy early. A chute opened at this altitude is an easy target. It was better for them to think I was already dead.
Random thoughts came to me:
32 feet per second squared. Why squared? Why not doubled?
Other thoughts were more lucid, more practical:
Where was my last reported location? Which side of the river was I falling into?
Will the people below be sympathizers or come to my aid?
Although alert, my world quickly turned black. I was dropping through a cloud deck. The dampness clung to my jacket. I had no sense of vision. My lungs ached from the intense cold.
Yet, somehow, a calm came over me.
I was untethered. Not only from my wounded ship, but released from scoring another kill, depriving another man of his life, painting another cross on the fuselage.
And there was more. I was no longer part of a squadron, a flight, a division, or a corps. I had left the familiar noxious smell of fuel, the adrenaline rush, confusion, camaraderie, petty insults, and the quest for dominance.
It was up there, still being played out. A continuance I was no longer a part of.
It was up there, two miles, and 10,500 feet ago.
I broke through the clouds. Things became brighter, though my goggles still fogged. My gear flapped wildly as I sped up.
I was no longer the prey of an opportunistic Me-109 pilot. The clouds had cut off any pursuit.
I was no longer accountable to anyone. I had completed my life’s mission.
I would be given up for dead, both by friends and foes.
I just needed to pull the ring, slow my descent. Soon things would be different.
And then another more vivid realization came to me.
I was not defeated. Instead, I was the victor.
I alone determined my destiny.
I was God again.
Image: T/Sgt. Douglas White / Public domain – (I just couldn’t resist this image – taken in 1944) – dd