As I walk up to the plane, an uncanny sensation penetrates me, like a brisk wind right through my body, giving me goosebumps. I know then that this will not be an ordinary mission. With a deep breath I climb up into the plane, into the copilot's seat, and I put my headset on. A moment before the engine was drowning out all other sounds but now all is quiet. I can't even hear the radio communications because this headset is made specially for me and this flight. I can tell. I look over at my pilot and give him the thumbs up. My Guardian Angel looks back at me with a smile. We both look forward and I notice that this plane has a peculiar feature. There are no controls or instruments. Instead, it has a glass cockpit. I can look anywhere.
The plane starts to move, gliding along the ground as if on a cushion of air. We move faster and faster until slowly the ground begins to slip away. I almost don't notice. It is so subtle, sneaking away stealthily. Soon the earth is far below. I look up at the impressive cloud cover. The sun filters through in a few places, producing beautiful sun rays. We climb gently but steadily. One thousand feet, two thousand feet, three thousand feet.
Finally we reach the clouds and are immersed in what looks like thick fog. Then, abruptly, we break free of the imprisoning clouds and my breath is stolen. The clouds stretch as far as I can see, most of them white and of impressive shapes. Terrifying dark cumulus nimbus clouds, often referred to as black anvils, are scattered here and there, dominating over the other clouds and seemingly reaching the stars in the sky. I look up at those stars. There are so many of them! Each one shines brightly like an angel, all of them watching over us. Up here the sun is larger, more magnificent. Brilliant rays of light shine in all directions; just like God, bringing life, warmth and light to the earth. Then, the moon. Cold, lifeless, colorless, cruel. Like the devil, it is sitting there, waiting to claim lives forever.
Then, an amazing sight. Out of nowhere, a meteor shower begins. Like a horde of demons desperate to break through and ensnare souls, the meteors come. Blazing a furious evil red, they appear to be winning. But like Saint Michael and his Arch Angels, the atmosphere repels each and every one of them, burning them up into nothingness.
During this spectacle the clouds were up to something. Now all of them are black and menacing. The air is warmer, and an occasional flash from below reaches us in our small plane. We are descending rapidly until we reach the clouds. Slipping through a small hole into the world below all of my senses are overwhelmed. As soon as we burst through the cloud layer, we are plunged in a terrifying storm! I can feel the heat. Huge lightning bolts branch out in every direction, lighting up the menacing scene. Tremendous booms follow, rocking the plane. I can hear clearly now because my headset has disappeared. Rain and hail slam into the seemingly frail glass cockpit, but it looks like it will hold. Wind rushes by, howling as if in pain.
This terrifying scene continues for what seems like eternity. By the end of it I am cowering in my seat, afraid to look, with my fingers in my ears though it is a futile gesture as the noises are too loud. Everything goes blinding white and extremely hot as a lightning bolt passes nearby. I see what looks like a black angel come from the lightning and straight at me. Frozen with fear, I stare into its dark, evil eyes as it passes on its way to Earth.
The storm stops. The clouds move off, leaving a beautiful clear blue sky. A glorious rainbow arcs majestically across the sky and the sun shines brighter than ever before. Ahead of us is a gorgeous meadow. Descending now, it is clear that the meadow is our destination. As we approach, I can make out a man standing in the center of the meadow. We touch down, and roll to a quick stop. We are still a good while away from the man. The angel and I get out and walk toward the man. The air smells of spring, birds are singing in the forest surrounding this miniature heaven. The colors here are somehow different, more vibrant. Light is emanating from the stranger, and as we draw closer I can see figures dressed in pure white singing and bowing down low to him. Finally we reach him, and stand there for a moment. Then my life flashes by. Everything I did, from the bad to the good. That time I drank underage, the time I almost committed suicide. But, ending on a high note we also saw the time I got married, and the day I became Christian, the day I joined the Air Force. I am puzzled for a moment, wondering why I am seeing this but then it hits me. I remember being stationed in Afghanistan, being shot down and captured. The endless torture, and the failed escape. I remember now the order for my execution, being lined up with other prisoners. And finally, I remember my guardian angel waiting to take me up to Heavens' gate right after the shots are fired. I look at God, and he nods an affirmative.
With tears in his eyes, but a smile on his face God says, "Welcome home, soldier."
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