The scent of steam, oil, and exhaust fumes stained the already thick summer air. The taste of salt seemed to forever linger on my lips. The artificial land gently swaying under my feet. Deep blue lights struggled to pierce the heavy darkness, yet seemed to fail to light anything other than lightly casting large silhouettes of the monsters being prepared to be loosed from their chains. On the horizon was a faint glow that was steadily approaching. The energy of anticipation was readily felt from everyone, though the silence was continued as if to wake the monsters from their slumber would be a bad omen. The light murmur of generators could barely be heard.
In sight of the source of light that was incoming with haste, the thoughts of the old and steadfast Great Wall of China rushed into my mind. The history lessons in my past of how the Chinese would light signal fires to notify each other as a sign of invaders. Though what laid in front of us was not a wall, but of oil rigs; each with eight foot tall flames pouring out of their ventilation stacks, as if warning our enemies of our arrival. The eerie orange glow lighting the path to our destination in anticipation, playing in the air as if taunting us forward into the unknown, slowly casting its light onto the surface of the ship.
As the darkness lifted, the crew appeared as if summoned by a superior power. Scurrying, acting like busy bees. Each with a singular purpose to achieve the same goal. The once sacred silence transformed into organized chaos.
Suddenly the monsters awoke with a deafening roar, as if the commotion interrupted their peaceful rest. One-by-one each beast was released of its shackles, allowing them to maneuver to their will. Their arms lowering, muscles flexing. A belly full of fire, a mind of destruction. With a short yell of anger they leaped into the air and vanished once more into the darkness.
It has begun. The time has come and passed that we were to breath life into death’s momentum. A single motion. Forward into the unknown.
With this, I found myself truly at peace for the first time in my life. Past the fear of the unknown. Past the knowledge of danger. Past the anxiety of what lay ahead. I do not know how it was possible. How I felt connected to the Universe in that one moment with all of the differing emotions that I was feeling leading up to this one point of time. It was as if a switch had suddenly clicked and a curtain of enlightenment had fallen over me, showing me the past, present, and future at one single swoop.
The only thing to do now was wait for the birds of prey to come back to their nest. The monsters. The F-18s I had been slaving over for the prior months, preparing them for this day to come, where they would leap into harms way for our culture’s great cause.
Operation Sea Dragon. I do believe that is what the United States Military has called this bold action. All I know is it would last for five more months. Five more months of this routine of sending armed monsters into the abyss of darkness to do their will. Unveiling their wrath upon the unsuspecting beings far below.
Soon, they will return to me. Empty of fuel and weapons, they will return to the nest for care and needed attention. My crafty hands. My expertise. That is my specialty. My love in life to this point had been the sky.
My grandfather taught me about the wonders of flight when I was 5 years old. I can still remember flying around Camarillo, CA in his small Cessna aircraft. The constant humming of the single prop engine as it propelled us forward at 300 feet. When my grandfather would let go of the controls and speak the three words I had been waiting for, I would joyfully take control and manipulate the craft to my will.
“Your turn, Critter.”
The happiness I found in the air with my grandpa led me to serving the United States Navy as an Aviation Structural Mechanic. For four years this would be my life. Living and breathing all things Aviation.
The months leading to the current point of time was full of activity. First, it all started with a normal packing up of the command‘s gear and personnel, getting them onto the ship. Once deployed on the USS Enterprise we had Qualifications to complete. After qualified the personnel had to undergo special combat training. Once this is all completed, we were to head to multiple hot zones for any signs of trouble. Whether it was for Diplomacy, Pirates, or to just be a physical presence in time of need.
No matter where we went or why we went there, we were still undergoing training to the highest extent. Drills every week. Some lasting for several hours. Some lasting for days.
“Expect the worst. Hope for the best,” the Captain would always ring in over the loud speakers at the end of the drills.
No matter how hard we drilled, it didn’t prepare us for the time to come. Now the time has passed and we were in the Persian Gulf. We were at war. There is no denying it now. Not after casting the aircraft I have adopted as my own into the darkness, ridden upon by men I consider my family. Wishing both luck, and preying for their safe return.
This feeling, it has me mesmerized. I will never forget it. I can only hope to feel it again. Perhaps, one day when I am called upon to be heroic once more I might feel it again. Until then, I will be here, remembering a time where the Universe was on my fingertips, connecting me to my ancestors before me. Giving me the strength to bear what was surely to come.