Aphelion Issue 239, Volume 23
May 2019
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Clap Clap

by Nikhil Kshirsagar

When you think of military aviation, what do you think of? First class pilots? Top Gun? B-52 bombers? Uniforms? You know what I think of? That high, that intoxication, that buzz, that feeling of soaring gravity-less and making figure 8's, banking on tailwinds with flaps retracted. Defying nature's basic law of wanting you to stick to the ground, right? Wings making white trails for all to see, and catching the glint of the sun, clear lakes zooming by below! Going sideways, upside down, straight up at times! (I once flew straight at a blinding noonday sun to throw off heat seeking stealth projectiles. I survived.)

The same sun appears so mellow and benevolent in the late evening, as you take off again for round two in the lengthening shadows, take cover under the darkness, and do what all that rigorous training has ingrained into you, evade capture and get the job done! What a feeling! It's better than sex!

And believe me, I have way more of that than you.. way more.. I've combined the two as well.. Two highs are better than one, no? So more often than I'd care to admit, I'd hook up while flying!

See what I think is, the shorter you live, the longer each day is. Who wants to live long steady lives? Live fast, blaze bright, burn away to nothingness like a meteor in the stratosphere, your dying gasp amidst a thunderstorm of applause! Claps, claps and more claps to accompany your demise! None of that slow torture in sanitized soothe-boxes, those white bright lit nursing homes, surrounded by nurses who lie and doctors who lie, and stewards and surgeons and physicians who lie, telling you that you can buy time with your money.

No sir, I know how I'm going to go, and it's not going to be cholera or malaria or yellow fever. One day something hot will explode into the left wing, or a streak of electric lightning will burst into my fuselage, and down I'll go, trailing streaky liquid into the air.. positioning the nose straight down at the enemy.. for a final attempt at victory!

Speaking of death... embracing danger doesn't really take away the fear of death, it does however take away the fear of life! You haven't lived till you dodge multiple projectiles, defy nerve gas, pierce through enemy lines, drop your payload, even use your bayonet if it comes to that, and then scoot to safety, alive! That's the keyword! I'd like you to remember that. Death is so UN-sexy. Heroes don't die, like martyrs do. I hate martyrs. I've seen their bodies strewn about while I'm on routine aerial surveys. They suck. Sucked, rather. First rule of our unit? Don't end up dead.

And now I want to tell you a story about how I evaded certain death, using a mixture of luck, evasive maneuvers and some timely help from my fellow comrades! We'd taken off one late evening, there was a light drizzle making everything so much harder.. and visibility was low. Stormy electricity crackled, there was an audible buzz in the air, everyone was on edge. Been quiet for a while, and everyone's literally salivating at the chance to see some action, I'm not kidding.. We're flying real low, avoiding every possible detection mechanism, ultrasonic scanners, tympanic trackers, you get the drift.. Because once you're detected, its over. Done n dusted. They'll come at you with everything they've got, shock and awe you and you'll drop from the skies before you know what hit you, no human to hear your cries of terror. They take no prisoners, these guys on the other side.

Anyway, I banked left, swooped down and zoomed in on my target. Couldn't afford to be heard, so being the fool I am, stupidly landed, disarmed and stabbed him, felt the rush, (we have no guilt), and then while I'm taking off back to base, suddenly there's a whoosh below my right wing, and before I knew what happened, something took away my rudder. Like that, its gone and I just have a hole at the back, pipes and wires hanging out, and begin to pitch and yaw uncontrollably. Great.. just great..

Down I go, spiraling away on lucky winds that take me further away from the pursuer, but he's locked onto me and chasing me, intent on seeing me dead. This war takes away all that is human in a person.. (no real humanness here either).. He's not happy with me just being injured. He wants me dead. What a prick, what a lousy miserable prick.

And then a clap of thunder reverberated all around me!, with me cocooned in the space at the center, and I was enveloped in sound waves receding away from everywhere all at once. Mach 2 I'm telling you. I know this because I tried screaming and all I could hear was !!

I collapsed on the ground like I was made of cotton. My legs didn't work so well. (I later found out one of them was broken). I scurried off into the undergrowth and managed to find a way out of that hell because they'd been distracted by other units who attracted their fire while I escaped. The others never returned.

I found my way back to friendly territory many days later, looking like a bearded wastrel. But just a few days of peaceful Zzz ensured a rapid recovery, and once all the repairs were complete, I was good to fly off again, baying for their blood! It's not really revenge that's on my mind. It's just that I'm kinda hungry.

It's not easy, being an anopheles mosquito.


2018 Nikhil Kshirsagar

Bio: Nikhil Kshirsagar is a software engineer with a major IT firm. While he works mostly at night, he calls it his day job. In his spare time he writes short stories and strums a few chords. He also rapidly tires of writing about himself in the third person.

Website: Nikhil Kshirsagar

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