Zest Lit Issue 2, October 2013 - Page 131

dignity toward that landing place, that once serene home to fish and dragonflies and wild ducks.

Then the smashing sound, the loud slapping sound of water – the shiny aluminum belly landing violently upon it. Behind and to the right, the wall of fire still advances, coming faster like a mad banshee howling in the dark, the supreme firestorm, the implacable fire, racing beneath an oceanic expanse of smoke and rising ash. Gobbling up the forest. The wing dips, catches too much water and tears loose at the engine. The plane veers hard, nose down, in an explosion of white spray, burying itself in soft brown mud, fifty yards from cattails by the shore. Strange, eerie silence. Momentary numbness, shock, disorientation, but Griff knows he’s still alive, and there’s a torrent of cold water rushing in.

The survivor in him understands where water and air will convene, the precision of that line. His head breaks through, pierces the elastic membrane between these disparate worlds. He breathes the smoky air, spits water and coughs, breathes again. He pulls off his helmet. His water-soaked boots are heavy; he kicks at the murky water and pulls the stainless steel ring of the lifejacket – momentarily under water, fighting again – and the jacket hisses, blows, and floats him to the surface. The sky is blacker than ink and thick with smoke. Sunset an hour away. The bottom of the sky is ablaze in bright orange, with flurries of crimson shooting into the roiling blackness above.

Another fire plane is overhead, making a slow turn above the lake. They must have seen him go down, but there’s not enough daylight, no rescue helicopter fueling up on a landing pad. So Griff looks to the lake around him. The broken body of the dead plane is halved,