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General


            I’m too young for this. I shouldn’t be here. That’s all I can think right now. Sure, I’m 18, and if I hadn’t of volunteered, the draft would have taken me anyway. Better me than my twin brother, Sammy. He doesn’t have the disposition for war. Maybe I don’t either? No, he is the one to go to college, become a doctor, and save thousands of lives that way. But he can’t, not until this war is over. For now, he has to take up my place, working the corners to sell newspapers to feed our five younger siblings. Man, I hated those hours pushing pages to strangers who just didn’t give a lick. Now I’d give anything to be back there again. It’s weird the things your mind thinks of before you’re going to die.

            “We aren’t dying here today, boys!” The Sergeant yells back at us. We all had the same thoughts painted on our faces. Aside from worried looks, not much else could be shared amongst the roaring of our aircraft’s failing engine. 

            Sergeant turned back toward us across the cabin. “Strap in, boys, we’re coming in hot!” I don’t know why he was telling us that, we’ve been buckled in our seats lining the walls of the C-45 since take off. He’s the one shifting between the pilots and the crates, making sure nothing else is falling apart on the plane. If he saw the smoke dancing outside our windows, he ignored it. Cause, what else is there to do when a Kawasaki fighter plane starts shooting bullets at an unarmed carrier plane?

            This was all intended to be a simple supply run. Food, blankets, and medical equipment; all dire resources our allies need. It was either bad luck or good espionage on Japan’s part. We were given clear skies to sail from Taipei, Taiwan to Okinawa, the most southern point of the country. 200 kilometers off base, a fighter aircraft clips our right engine. 

            The pilot speaks out, “Sergeant, initiating emergency landing. No response from Ishigaki base, but it’s the only chance we’ve got.” 

            “Do it!” 

            I can see the land breaking through the white and grey clouds. It feels like we are already going much too fast for this landing to go well. My eyes and fists are clenched tight, and the sharp jerk of impact knocks the breath out of my lungs. The banshee scream of the tires on pavement echoes through our metal chamber and the smell of burnt rubber makes the air hard to breathe. There are extra pops and cracks coming from outside the airship, and all of our bodies are jostled around. My nose makes contact with one of the crate boxes that came lose, and a shock of white pain ripples through my face. I can taste the blood before I see it. At the same time, the motion and the sounds of panic end, and I open my eyes to see the mess the cabin has turned into. Everyone else looks pretty fine, if not like a cat shaken in a bag.

            The Sergeant barrels his voice trough the chaos, “Christ, Wilson, is this your first time or what?” 

            “Wilson is out sir!” the Co-Pilot’s voice is shaking, “He knocked his head on impact. There were crates of supply on the runway sir. They were unavoidable.”

            “Well is he breathing?” The Sergeant asked.

            “I…I think so? I just can’t get my… belt loose.”

            I think the Co-Pilot is panicking. Something isn’t fairing right with this scenario. 

            “Everyone, get your asses off this plane!” The Sergeant pulls the lever that drops the back hatch, and men shuffle their way through mounds of canned meats and gauze wraps. The solider closest to Sergeant has a bum ankle from one of the crates, so he shoulders him out of the craft.

            On the runway, we see other American soldiers racing towards us carrying fire extinguishers and long water hoses. Then the smell finally hits me. Fire. Maybe because of my busted nose I didn’t notice before, but I turn and see now that half of the craft is engulfed in flames. 

            “We’re two heads short,” the Sergeant yells out to the crew and the rescue team approaching, “Who’s still in there?”

            “Wilson and Kemper, sir!” the private with the injured ankle shouts.

I don’t even think. I run back towards the plane.

            “Kirkland, get back here!” I hear the Sergeant, but I ignore him. If I’m not dead, I’ll get hell for that later. I can’t not try. I’ve never been one to think before I do, that was more of Sammy’s M.O.

            The air in the cabin is dizzying, and the heat chokes whatever air is left in your lungs out. Crouching low and covering my mouth with one of the dispensed medical gauzes is the only help I can get in this situation. Up at the front, I can see the silhouette of a man trying to carry another body along with him. The C-45 isn’t that big of a plane, but the walk across it now feels like miles. I reach Kemper, who has Wilson’s knocked out body slumped over one shoulder. 

            “I can’t carry him. I think I broke some ribs. He’s too much.”

            “I’ve got him, just go.”

            The pain in his eyes seems to be coming from a stronger place than just his ribs. He’ll make it out of this, but will he make it through the rest of the war? The fire is skirting across the floor as if it is asking us to dance with it. Wilson’s limp body is being dragged through the hot material. Those wounds will not heal easily for him. I cringe with each step of his weight on mine. Is he even alive? Am I carrying a dead man right now?

            The distance back is twice as long, but once out, the rescue crew swoops in to carry both of us out. Most of the exterior fire is snuffed out, but none of the supplies from within faired the trip. I get a verbal beating from Sergeant, which is to be expected, but I can see across the med tent that Wilson is awake, and responding to the doctor’s questions. Kemper does have broken ribs, but luckily nothing was punctured. He’s lying next to me on a cot with a cold rag draped across his torso. 

            “So, does this mean we go home now?” he asks me.

            I tell him, “No, I don’t think it does.”  

April 05, 2020 19:57

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