Brian looked down at the sea below, interlocking slabs of endless grey, as cold and unyielding as granite and equally as unforgiving, a deadly adversary. The phrase ‘from here to eternity’ flashed through Brian’s mind. Not a comforting thought for every pilot knew that exposure and hypothermia would inevitably claim his life even if he bailed out before his plane crashed into the sea after being hit by enemy fire. There would be no rescue in wartime. Brian hastily scanned all around him, noting how the tones of the sea and sky seemed to merge as one in a   monochrome of grey, just like a photograph he mused. His mission had been a success. He had located and photographed the position and strength of German troops on the Normandy coast and he understood how valuable these photographs would be in the months ahead. Brian realised his mind was wandering and switched his attention to the controls. The fuel gauge was running low. Visibility was poor and the cloud was moving in thick and fast. Brian tapped the compass for reassurance. He was on course, surely land must be coming into sight soon, he thought. Brian blinked and stared doggedly at the horizon.He blinked again and sighed with relief for the mouth of the sea opened to reveal a glistening silver thread. The land lay flat and marsh gave way to fields and then the strategic landmark of the white chimneys at Snape Maltings came into sight. Brian relaxed. He was home, he was safe.

The charm of the countryside, green field after green field unfolded below him like a patchwork quilt. His mind drifted back to that morning and how the mist hung over the airfield in a soft, hazy, veil obscuring the countryside beyond. How vast and empty the world had seemed and how alone he had felt. Brian relived again the feeling of calm as he drew on his cigarette and inhaled deeply to steady his nerves. Suddenly he was jolted out of his reverie for there below him were the familiar rows of mizzen huts. He circled and lined up with the runway. Instinctively he pulled on the control column and closed the throttle. The Spitfire responded dropping height fast and then the ground reared up suddenly.  Brian held the control column tightly and the plane bounced and jolted rumbling along the runway towards the grass finally shuddering to a halt.

Brian clambered out of the cockpit stamping the ground and beating his arms against his body to restore the circulation to his tired and cramped limbs. He had tried not to think of the cold but now it bit into every fibre of his being and a wave of exhaustion overcame him. He gathered what little strength he had and trudged towards his mizzen hut oblivious to the welcome and shouts that greeted him.

Suddenly the sound of barking pierced through the fog that clouded his mind and Brian looked down, conscious of a light weight pressing against his legs to see his pet Labrador puppy Popsie jumping excitedly up and down at his heels. Popsie, his very own Popsie.

 

Brian knelt down and a warm, wet rasping tongue covered his face.  “Have the women spoilt you girl ” he whispered and  Popsie wagged her tail enthusiastically in reply. Brian buried his face in Popsie’s soft fur.  “I’m back girl,  safe and sound” and as he straightened up and looked up into the sky he thought of his bride to be, Annette and of her beauty and the sound of her laughter.  Warmth sealed his heart as love and hope held him in a gloved hand. Brian smiled for in that moment he knew there would be another tomorrow and many more after with Annette by his side.

Felicity Thirtle

 

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