Wednesday, February 8, 2012
Cold wind blasted at his face, the stench of petrol ever-present. Focused as he was, thoughts of fire reveled in the back of his mind. Huddled over the stick, bundled in layers of clothes, his guts still ached from the hours of shivering.
Looking over the side, the crossroads he sought passed under his wheels. Huddled in the cockpit against the icy chill, inscrutable in the helmet, mask and goggles, the beauty of the land below, darkened in irregular blotches by patches of cloud, a low mist still hanging in some of the valleys, meant nothing. The brazen sun came in over his right shoulder, and the details leapt up at him, but there was no joy in this revelation. It was irrelevant.
The clock on the instrument panel mocked his every desire, and reinforced his every terror. If only she knew what he knew, she would never forgive him. But for her, he had sacrificed everything, and it still wasn’t his fault.
It wasn’t his fault and he didn’t want to pay the price. White knuckles gripped the control column, and his head swung on a pivot, his gleaming dark eyes probing everything with rapier-sharp focus from behind the thin glass. He had no choice in the matter.
The fearful burden that he bore must go with him to his grave, for surely the truth, a truth so obvious, would never be accepted. It would never be accepted of him, never in a thousand years.
One little lie to get somewhere in life, and it had led to this inescapable moment in time. The barrier looming ahead made his lower guts tighten up in anticipation. Heavy straps tugging at his body in the sudden turbulence gave little reassurance.
The white fog obscured all vision and even dulled the sound of the motor. Rarely for him, the tension rose a thousand-fold, but this was different. There was no going back now. He stared at the turn-and-bank indicator in fixed concentration. What people said was absolutely right—there was just no way to tell if you were in straight and level flight inside of the cloud, or if you were in a one-way, one-gravity death spiral, with the cold and indifferent earth rising up to meet you. If the instruments had shaken, or tumbled, or gone off in any way, he might have given up and just let go, but they were serene in their confidence to measure simple forces. Theory was nothing when confronted by the reality.
The parachute bulging so uncomfortably under him was of no comfort at all. The thought of using it for anything other than an emergency, a fire in the air perhaps, had always terrified him.
People also said you couldn’t really tell the difference between vertigo and sheer horror. They said it was a kind of physical, totally-detached temporary insanity, where the whole world was spinning on you. In his experience, people said an awful lot of stupid things.
Normally a very confident young man, he was finding that this one was unfortunately true. He felt sick, deep in the pit of his stomach, a feeling that had been constantly with him for many hours.
Perhaps it would be just as well if he did lose control. He could die with a little dignity and his honour intact.
'Redemption: an Inspector Gilles Maintenon mystery,' is presently free across all platforms, so whether you have a Nook, a Kindle, or an iPad, a Sony Reader or other device there's no excuse not to take advantage of this offer.
I hope you enjoy the story.