Authors: David L. Golemon
Tags: #United States, #Military, #Fantasy, #Science Fiction, #Science Fiction & Fantasy, #War & Military, #Action & Adventure, #Thriller & Suspense, #Literature & Fiction, #Genre Fiction, #Adventure, #Thriller, #Thrillers & Suspense, #Suspense, #Crime, #War, #Mystery
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For Valisa, Eunice, Steve, and Buck—The members of my first EVENT … I miss them beyond measure.
To the extensive libraries of H. G. Wells and Edgar Rice Burroughs, so helpful to an author with some very strange questions.
Also, for Albert Einstein, someday they will prove that you were one of them all along!
History is a guide to navigation in perilous times. History is who we are and why we are the way we are.
MESOPOTAMIA, THE TIGRESS AND EUPHRATES RIVERS (FIRST AGE OF MAN)
The family gathered as the sun broke free of the black, roiling clouds for the last time. All forty-two men, women, and children sat silently on bedding of wool and goatskin. The evening meal was a heavy one. A virtual feast compared to normal building days, for the great father had warned all who would listen that there would be many days of hunger ahead. Three goats and twenty fat, roasted goslings sat before the group untouched as the darkness and an uncommon cold reclaimed the world after their brief taste of sunshine. For many in the group that darkness brought on horrid visions of what was to come. The family of men grew silent as each one heard the same sounds emanating from the closed-off world outside.
It was a three-year-old great-granddaughter who broke the spell of silence when she began to cry. Her mother, only fourteen years of summers herself, was feeling the fear just like her daughter and all of those gathered around the meal that night. The young woman began to remove the child from the supper circle as others of the family averted their eyes.
“No, bring me the child,” the great-grandfather ordered moments before the young girl could slink out with her crying daughter clutched tightly to her chest. “She is only feeling and saying what the rest of my children are thinking and hiding. Everyone at our circle of family wants to do nothing less than the child is doing, even unto myself, so how can I fault the child?” His granddaughter reluctantly handed over her baby.
The large family watched as the old man held the girl to his face so he could see her better in the tallow-fueled illumination of the lamp bowl.
“I shame myself, granddaughter, but I cannot remember the child’s name,” he said, not so much in embarrassment but as a way of reminding his extensive family that he had been rather busy the past fifty-six years. Or was it simply because the elder was ashamed that over those same years he had completely ignored the trappings of a normal father—he failed to know and therefore love his own kin.
The girl-child stopped crying and started hitching her breath when the old man’s long and graying beard caught her attention. She slowly reached out and took a small fistful of whiskers and tugged. The move elicited the first smiles around the meal fire in what seemed like many years—ever since their father had ordered the family away from their ancestral home to this makeshift tent village deep inside the last forest near the confluence of the two great rivers.
“Her name is Leah,” his granddaughter said as she looked apprehensively to her husband when the baby took hold of the great-grandfather’s beard. He was smiling at the baby and so she relaxed. Finally there was a great belly laugh from the man most of the older children had not seen jest in their entire lifetimes.
“You have named her after my sister?” the old man asked as he finally managed to control his laughter.
His wife of sixty-five years laughed also, happy to see her husband finally view them as his family and not the slaves they had been for the past half-century. All thoughts of the darkness and shadows were absent from the old man’s mind for the first time in years. The angels of the Lord may have been God-sent, but the old man knew exactly what they were—the deliverers of death. He despised the orders of the Lord to allow the destruction of so many innocents, and he was not allowed to help them. God was allowing children, such as the girl-child he was now holding, to be destroyed by his edict. His enemy was now those very same blackened angels of death that haunted his world. The old man and his God had come to a crossroads and the split was evident.
He again saw the eyes of the child as she laughed and continued to tug at his beard. His eyes softened and he allowed the thoughts of darkness and angels to slip out of his mind as his great-granddaughter convinced him he had done right by his family.
The design and building of his life’s ambition had been given to him in thought and dream by the Lord God. It had also come to him in dream that his was the only family of man that would survive God’s wrath. The shadows punished him every time he attempted to convince his onetime friends and neighbors of their true plight. The old man went against the decision of God himself.
His wife reached for a wooden bowl and started filling it with meat and herbs for her husband. She ladled thick brown gravy over the meat. The old man handed the child back to her mother and then nodded his head in thanks when his wife held before him the steaming bowl.
The mood was soon broken and the smiles died away as surely as the sun setting behind the darkening storm clouds to the south and west. The elder was the first to see the shadows near the animal pens move. He knew
were there with his family. He had been warned in dream and nightmare many years before that the shadows would be with them in the days leading up to this night of nights. He averted his eyes so that the children would not notice what had joined the family this evening in the midst of the last days.
“Father, I saw a long line of soldiers today. They marched to the south. The gossip near the two rivers reports that the war you predicted began two years ago in the great southern sea and the ringed island at its center.”
The old man, grateful to turn away from the hovering shadows of
, placed a piece of bread into his mouth and looked at his second-eldest son.
“And how does my son Shem know this when he was to be harvesting the bounty of hay and barley our livestock will need upon our great journey?”
“Because it is now impossible to travel anywhere without crossing the paths of many soldiers gathering to fight the evil in the south. Your son Shem has learned that there are even strangers from a distant land calling themselves Greeks among the rebels that are joining forces.”
The old man continued to chew his bread and look at his son. His eyes moved to the darkest corner of the enclosure and saw a large shadow break free of the wooden side of the Ark and then disappear through the unpitched crack in the large loading ramp. That shadow was soon followed by four others.
“Father, if what you have said is true, we are out of time. The war has been raging for two years now and from rumor we hear that the final blow to the evil ones on their island fortress has commenced. They say the combined barbarian army will win.”
“My son Shem has always been the thinker, and now we learn that he is a war general also.” The old man smiled for the briefest of moments. “You are so sure of this great military campaign that you are predicting outcomes, both victor and vanquished?” He tossed the remains of his bread into the fire. “Tell me, Shem the thinker, the family’s master general; do the barbarians have the essence or the sheer power to end our world with their bone-edged swords and wooden ships?”
“How would I know this? We here in this valley know nothing of war, nor even the people fighting it. The barbarians like ourselves wear nothing but skins, hides, and roughly woven homespun, when the false gods on their island kingdom wear finery the likes of which we have never before seen. They have science, we have goats. They have riches and slaves while we have nothing but mouths to feed. No, father, the barbarians cannot end this world. As you have said to us as many times as there are stars in the heavens—only God can end the time of men.”
The old man knew the shadows, although departed from the interior, could still hear and feel what was being said in their absence;
always had. He again tried to ignore the thoughts of shadows. “You think, but you do not take the path that will allow you to think it through without cloudiness, Shem. The barbarians are no better than those they see as evil. They want the power and knowledge of the island people, and if they had this power of knowing God’s sciences they would be no gentler a taskmaster than the Titans on the ringed island. This is why the world ends. All of this”—he gestured at his family who watched him now with their frightened eyes—“will be gone and that is the way it was meant to be. The great ringed island has brought the very power of God’s elements to bear upon the world—a power only the Lord our God was ever meant to wield, and thus our world will come to an end, and only the righteous”—he smirked at his gathered clan—“or the stubborn will live to start anew.”
“Grandfather, will our family be the only ones left upon the face of the world?”
The old man smiled in all sincerity and then reached over and placed his hand on his great-grandson’s cheek.
“No, there will be thousands, hundreds of thousands who will join us for the second coming of man. It will be a time and a place where we can live and grow together and not seek the ways and riches of those civilizations before us. No, we will see and come to know many different peoples on our path back to our home.”
The great-grandson was about to speak again when the first rumblings from the earth were felt through the furs and homespun cloth upon which they sat.
The father slowly stood with the help of Shem and looked at his large family as the shaking earth gradually settled.
“The time of the end is upon us.” He looked at his three sons, their wives, and many, many grandchildren, and using the strength of his convictions the old one remained calm. “We must set our minds to what is to be done in this, the beginning of end times. You must harden your hearts, for the next two days will be the most horrible of your lives. You will all, every one of you, see friends and yes, even family, perish as the world shakes off the evil that has dominated it for over five thousand years.”