Emptiness. Wide open prairies. Wheat fields waving gently to somewhere beyond the horizon. Blue sky above, endless to infinity. The vast emptiness is overwhelming, screaming in its loneliness. I stand alone, my mind as blank as this Midwestern plain. I can see the view, but I cannot understand it, no comprehension of its meaning. In front of me is a concrete ramp, a single concrete building, and next to it an olive drab Army bomber from World War II sits quietly.
A door on the building creaks slowly, moved slightly by a dry breeze, a gentle wind that is only passing through with no intention of stopping or even pausing at this tiny way station. I study the bomber. It sits patiently in its basic Army markings. It appears ready to go, awaiting only a pilot to give it reason to fly. I look around me slowly, embraced by the loneliness of this place. In all directions there is nothing to see, not a road or a car or a person of any sort. No crew, no farmers be. Yet as I contemplate my reason for being here, not sure how I even got here, I am somehow drawn to this. Everything about this place seems strangely familiar. Something inside of me is whispering in my ear, the answers to my questions lie in the cockpit and in the blue skies above.
I try hard to remember where I was before this but can remember none of it. I place my hands on my hips, lean back and close my eyes. I listen to the breeze, to the vast empty prairie and take a deep breath, hold it, then slowly exhale. I open my eyes, kneel down and touch the grass beneath my feet, pick up some of the dirt and let it slip between my fingers back to the ground. Real grass, real dirt. I notice then that I'm wearing some sort of khaki uniform, an aviators uniform from the war. I touch the material gingerly. The cotton is clean and crisp to my touch. Ironed, starched smooth and a tailors fit. It's actually quite impressive and strangely comforting. I tilt my hat back and look up again, twist around and confirm what I cannot see. No life as I know it, yet surrounded by the living earth, the prairie grass and wheat fields that seem to now embrace me. "Huh," I say out loud to no one in particular. I try hard to understand why I'm here, where I am, what this is all about. Filled with questions I can sense a comfort inside me, like I'm being gently led. I decide finally that I must be dead, and this place is something like a pilot’s version of the Pearly Gates. Could it be? I can't hardly believe it, but how else can I explain this? I remember then that I wasn't feeling well, I remember that much, finally. I was tired. Yet my old hands are now a young man’s hands. I stand up and cautiously start to walk toward this B-17 bomber. I must start it. I've started many airplanes in my life, how hard could this be? I chuckle to myself. How many times have I thought that and only found disaster instead. But this I'm pretty sure I can do, I'm confident in that. This bit of confidence encourages me. As I get closer I start to walk with more purpose, I begin to review what I need to do to make this happen. I'm formulating a plan.
And then I wake up.