Zest Lit Issue 2, October 2013 - Page 128

Firestorm | G.D. McFetridge

The steep face of that mountain blocks the crosscurrent, the updrafts a series of deadly crossfires and ambushes, the copilot with his headphones, his binoculars fixed, the radio squawking commands and flight patterns. Out on the red and silver wings the big twin engines roar, the props a blur of motion and frantic sound. The body of the plane is vibrating, tail rudder to port yet still that massive column of menacing smoke ahead – an ocean of flames underneath and everywhere.

Like some angry Greek god, the way that fire and gray-black pluming cloud has grown, like the netherworld uplifting, called forth by devil winds and incantations, the lips of mad infidels in black robes, pentagrams, and rusted iron rings; and then Griff, four years out of the Coast Guard – only his third firestorm as pilot of a borate bomber – believing in himself, his skill, his dreams, his courage, though apprehensive now because this forest fire makes the others seem tame. And then the crosscurrent, that is, its absence in the lee side of that sheer granite face, and his hands tighten, his eyes stay fixed on the immensity of billowing clouds. The big plane shudders, buffeted by the firestorm’s whirlpool winds and tentacles of scorching flame. Griff, the victim of this inferno, the unholy majesty of its rage, turns the plane too hard . . .

But hadn’t the simulators covered this scenario? Hadn’t they told him ten times, twenty times; hadn’t he heard the lectures, read the books and instruction manuals? Yet somehow when sky and cloud and burning forest blend into one indistinguishable nightmare, when