Past Life or Imagination?


Steve Johnson

My eardrums are assaulted by howling winds and the roar of the planeís engines. As I gaze out of the open door, smoke and fog whips by, mixed with flames and oil from the heavily-laden aircraft that bears our comrades as terrifying fire from the ground engulfs them. Ear-splitting cracks and booms surround us as anti-aircraft fire rains upwards, shrieking fingers of death reaching out to pull us into their lethal grasp.

Imagine the loudest noise you can and multiply it to infinity and that is what I can hear. The sounds of Hell.

Then the green light comes on and Iím falling, falling, spinning and turning, ground becoming sky, becoming ground again. Iím wrenched upwards as the parachute inflates, halting my descent so sharply that for a brief moment I think that Iím ascending.

I am in a bubble of calm somehow. The roaring engines and cacophonous gunfire have ebbed away somehow. Iím drifting from where Iím supposed to go, a heavily-armed leaf at the whim of natureís breath.

Then I hit something. Itís not the ground! Iím sinking in cold, cold water! The weight of my equipment is dragging me down. I manage to cut away as much as I can and swim to the surface, but the parachute engulfs me, traps me beneath the water. I struggle, my lungs bursting, but soon all becomes dark. 

The above scene could be taken from any book or movie about D-Day and that terrible night as thousands of Allied paratroopers descended into Hell hours before the Normandy beach landings.

It didnít, though. What you have just read are, what I believe, my final recollections as a soldier in World War II, twenty-three years before my birth. Hard to believe, I know, and it is the only recollection I have from that time that feels like a real memory. Not something I have read or seen on television, but an actual event that may have happened to me in a past life.

I do not know what the name of that doomed warrior was, who his family were or even if it is a real memory, I have only my belief that I died in the cold water in northern France in 1944, only to be reincarnated in 1967.

What makes me think that I have lived this tragic past live? Well, itís hard to express in words. Feelings ever since childhood, fears and emotions that seem out of place or peculiar at the time. I have always had an abject fear of deep water (i.e. water that I cannot stand up in), but I suppose I share that phobia with many people. Certain noises will spark an inkling of memory, a brief flicker of cognition before receding back into the darkness of my subconscious. Noises that remind me of those terrifying minutes standing by the open doorway of the troop transport.

It sounds peculiar, I know, but the first time I thought, ĎIíve heard that sound beforeí, was while watching the movie, Contact, the science fiction film starring Jodie Foster. In one scene, she is waiting to enter a capsule built from alien designs. Beneath her rotate massive rings, the power plant of the machine. The roaring, echoing, thrumming sounds that are used in the film seemed very familiar to me. Not the sounds themselves, but the familiarity of being in that position Ė standing at a great height with an almost deafening racket going on around me. An over-active imagination? Perhaps.

The real clincher for me was the HBO television series, Band of Brothers. The second episode, Day of Days, in which our heroes are dropped behind enemy lines hours before D-Day really affected me. I was absolutely certain that I had experienced the same thing. I was affected at a guttural level, almost unable to watch as the drama unfolded. And then it passed almost as quickly as it appeared. Was I the victim of a clever film-maker playing with my emotions, expertly depicting what happened on the night of June 5-6 1944? Again, this is a possibility, but I canít shake the feeling that there was more to it than that.

I am not prone to wild acts of emotion and, while I do have a certain amount of imagination, I really feel that this is not the case in this matter. I have never met anybody else who claimed to have led a past life and I have never even considered trying to find out who the man I think I was may have been. I am not even interested in the history of World War II, beyond what the layman knows. I am also not prepared, for personal reasons, to undergo hypnotic regression to try and get to the bottom of this mystery.

It is an enigma that will live with me for the rest of my life and, who knows, maybe somebody in the future, long after I am dead, will think they were me. God help them!

© 2005 Steven Johnson


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Updated 16th August, 2012