”Jump, you maggots! Jump!” his squad leader screamed before hurling himself through the jaws of the door.
He hurtled downwards into the endless black void. The coward humans, he knew, had covered their windows with blackout curtains and turned off all their lights. They would be destroyed.
“Humans are cowards,” an old bomb told the troops in training. “They're ugly, hateful creatures who live in darkness.” He stopped pacing and turned to face his charges head on. “What are humans?” he roared.
“Cowards!” all of the recruits shouted together.
The bombs in charge, the officers, all had short fuses, the recruits had been warned. They were liable to go off at any moment, at even the slightest provocation, and it was best not to anger them.
“And what do we do to cowards?” their officer screamed.
“We destroy them!” the recruits answered as one.
Air whistled past Bill’s face as he fell. An inky blackness extended in all directions around him. Then an overeager squad mate detonated early.
A blinding flash illuminated the world for an instant before it faded back into darkness. In that instant though, Bill saw things he had never dreamed off. Unless his eyes were deceiving him, this wasn’t the cold, savage colony he had been taught to expect. He hadn’t managed to get a good look, but even in that instant, he had seen something far more intricate and beautiful.
Other bombs, followers who detonated as soon as they saw someone else go off, exploded as well. The old bombs who trained them would have blown up if they were here to witness that kind of sloppiness, but they weren’t. They were back in the training camps preparing the next group of recruits.
The explosions from these disorderly bombs lit up the land below. Bill felt a burning and tightness in his chest and realized that he had forgotten to breathe for a moment. He forced himself to inhale.
The beauty of the city unfolded before him. From his vantage point, the buildings were but shapes amid the streets’ meandering lines. Across the landscape, bombs who had jumped before Bill made their mark. Craters appeared in the fields and streets with thunderous bangs and buildings toppled and leaned. Smoke curled upwards in lazy clouds.
As Bill continued to fall, the fronts and sides of the buildings came into view. Each had its own look: a flat brick wall or a mural or a delicate façade. No two looked the same and Bill marveled at the variety.
“They hide in their hovels,” the old bomb told them in training. “The humans fear us, so they hide.”
Bill and the other recruits had cheered at this. They were mighty and the humans were weak. There was nothing the humans could make that they couldn’t destroy and with destruction came strength.
“They are cowards,” the bomb repeated. “Cowards!”
These aren’t hovels, Bill thought as the domed roof of a particularly intricate building loomed nearer. These are beautiful. The slate tiles of the roof shone in the harsh light from nearby blasts, and Bill braced himself for impact.
The tiles cracked and crumbled under his momentum and Bill slid through the ceiling. The room he passed through was a blur. It sped by before Bill could focus on anything and then he stopped.
He found himself impaled in the floor. Cracked pieces of plaster and shattered roofing tiles clattered down around him. Bill looked up to see the hole he had made, but his eye was instead drawn to the ceiling around the hole. Elaborately carved beams crisscrossed the plaster ceiling and, as Bill’s eyes followed them down to the walls, melded into pillars that framed tall windows. Even with the tall piles of sandbags that stretched up the walls, Bill could see the windows. They stood tall and thin, and they were made of color and shapes. Beautiful colors, he thought. Far more beautiful than anything he had ever seen. This was not the dark, savage cave of the humans his instructors had told him about. Instructors, Bill realized, who had never detonated. Now that he was seeing all this beauty, he doubted they had ever even made a jump.
Bill’s eyes continued to trace down the wall, down the mountains of sandbags, and along the rows of pews. By the altar, a pure white piece of marble, huddled a ragged group of humans. Even from here, he could make out the softness of their faces and the tear-streaked grime on the children’s cheeks. They shook and sobbed as they stared at him. The parents grasped their children tightly and kissed their foreheads. Bill could see how the adults looked at him, the terror in their eyes, but they did not cry out.
They are not cowards, he declared to no one. They’re braver than those instructors.
Then the urge began. This the instructors had not been wrong about. Bill cast his gaze around the room, frantically scanning for help, for salvation. Slowly at first but as he resisted, the urge strengthened. His eyes settled on the altar and the people huddled around it. Even with all the art and riches in the room, it was to each other they clung. Bill clenched muscles he didn't know he had. He strained and tensed and flexed. But there was nothing he could do. The urge overtook him. It bubbled from deep inside him, tore through his shell, and burst across the room.
The last thing Bill saw was the windows shatter, the bright colors and careful shapes smashed into shards. The last thing he heard was the humans cry out as one and then nothing as their cry was suddenly silenced. The last thing he felt was the floor shake as the pillars trembled and large chunks of plaster ceiling crashed down around him. And the last thing he thought was, what a waste.