Is This Dying? (excerpt from THE RESISTANCE)

3

HELL FIRE

For an instant, as Evans free fell from the spiraling bomber, he was certain the right wing was going to pound into his body like the arm of a giant windmill. Hot black smoke engulfed him, choking him, the heat from the burning engines suffocating him, singeing his hair. The ground rushing closer.

Why had he not gone into the infantry? As God intended, both feet firmly on the ground? He hated heights, always had. “Keep your eyes on the instruments and fly the plane,” his father had knowingly advised him.

He didn’t remember pulling the ripcord. Just a violent wrenching as his chute harness tried to crush the breath out of him, then nausea, and wincing pain in his left shoulder.

Then silence. His ears ringing from the chaos of noise he’d just escaped—engines roaring, machine guns spewing bullets, the high-pitched whine of the Fw 190s, more machine guns firing, the horrifying rush of air as he free fell through the bomb bay. And now silence, utter, floating silence.

For an instant, Evans wondered if this was death. Had he died and was this floating to heaven? Was there such a place? War had made him a firm believer in hell. But was there a heaven? And if so, who on earth—on such an earth—would be going there?

Then, behind and somewhere below his right boot, hanging prone from his chute harness, he heard a sickening crash as 25,000 tons of doomed aircraft hit the ground. Straining to see, he watched his B-17 erupt in a belching cloud of orange flame and black smoke. No, only a delusional fool would deny hell fire.

Tearing his eyes from the burning wreckage, Evans counted parachutes, one, two, three—he looked upward at the taut underside of his chute—four. Six of his crew didn’t make it. They were gone. A violent shudder ran down his spine. He was responsible for his men. He hoped they had died before the crash, before experiencing that burning inferno. He would write letters to their families, if he got the chance.

Suddenly, two of the chutes below him sagged and deflated. Two of his men were on the ground, in a pasture, bordered by a narrow road, enclosed on either side by a hedgerow. Alarmed at the sudden intrusion, three or four white cows kicked up their heels and fled.

His navigator’s chute and his own were drifting sideways in a breeze, westward, as near as he could calculate. Then he saw them. Three trucks, a staff car, and two motorcycles.

His heart sank. Gunmetal gray paint, iron cross on the doors, swastika fluttering from the hood of the staff car... Douglas Bond, author of a number of successful books of historical fiction, biography, and practical theology, podcasts at The Scriptorium, speaks at churches and conferences, and leads historical tours in Europe. Order a signed copy of The Resistance at bondbooks.net.

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