I recently had the opportunity to write a short story with the prompt: The red flashing lights on the control panel told (him/her) that something wasn’t quite right.
It had to be a maximum of 500 words and submitted by noon today. So I spent the weekend writing my entry. This is what I wrote.
Falling to Life
June 3, 1944
The red flashing lights on the control panel told Bobby that something wasn’t quite right. He thumped the glass hoping the temperature dial of the P-51 engine was simply stuck, but it wasn’t. Coolant was leaking. Smoke permeated his nose. The plane had been shot. He was going down.
Wind whipped across the canopy, whistling like a freight train the faster he descended. Bobby gripped the steering system, feeling the yoke shake as the plane lost altitude. “May day, May day! This is Lieutenant Welch. I’m at 47.1689° latitude, 1.4697° longitude. Losing altitude fast! Plane hit. Losing coolant. Engine has seized! Over.”
“Roger that, Welch. Can you eject?”
“Negative! Over enemy territory. Occupied France. I’ll try to glide her down to the east, close to the Swiss border.”
“Oh geez, Bob,” a second voice came over the radio. It was, Louie, his wingman. “I see you, pal. Your whole back side is smokin’! There’s a field five miles west. Can you see it?”
Bobby’s goggles had fogged up from the heavy breathing he’d done trying not to panic. Ripping them off, he saw the field. “I see it! Guide me in?”
“I’m right behind you.”
It was the last thing Bobby heard before the speed of the fall picked up, spinning the plane into a death roll the closer it got to the earth. Control was gone, lights flashed, beeps rang, dials twitched from side to side, and the stick no longer functioned. Bobby squeezed his eyes, bracing his hands on either side of the plummeting prison he was in, expecting the worst.
Suddenly a light as bright as the sun filled the cockpit. Then, as if a camera reel had started to play news footage, Bobby saw himself next to a faceless bride, holding a black-haired baby girl sucking her thumb, watching three curly-headed daughters playing hopscotch, then joining each girl as he walked them down the aisle. He saw his grandchildren, his wife as an old woman, and finally, himself as an elderly man.
“This is your future, Robert. Not your past,” an ethereal voice echoed in his ears.
“Who said that!” he shouted, releasing his grip and reaching out for the buttons on the radio.
No one answered him, but in the next second, like a rag doll being thrown down by a toddler having a temper tantrum, the bomber hit the ground. As the canopy broke off, Bobby flew out of the plane. He hit the earth with a resounding THUD just as the plane exploded into a ball of flames.
Bobby had only a second to catch his breath before the unmistakable sound of rifles clicking filled the air. He looked up through a haze of blood seeing Nazi soldiers surrounding him.
Bobby raised his hands like he was taught to do if captured, and then he heard it: the same soft voice he‘d heard before saying, “Trust Me.”
A wave of peace washed over him and he trusted what he couldn’t see as the soldiers dragged him away.