Chapter Two

His first awareness was of pain.  His throat hurt and he had difficulty catching his breath, but that issue was overshadowed by the throbbing of his head.  He reached up to his scalp with his right hand.  Feeling nothing, he suddenly remembered that his right arm was missing.  He reached again with his left and withdrew a bloody hand.  “Ow!” he moaned.  The vivid memory of Joyce forced to stand on bloody stumps crowded into his awareness and he forgot his own agony, looking over to his companion.  She lay there inert, peaceful in death, and he wept bitterly.

“I’m here, Earl,” his wife said to him.  Astonished, he looked back to her and saw her eyes open, their whites contrasting sharply with the blood that coursed down her face.   The eyes blinked and squinted against the pain that wracked her abused body.

He crawled to her side and wrapped his good arm tenderly around her shoulders.  “Thank God you’re alive,” he spoke fervently.  He turned his face upward and addressed his thanksgiving directly to God.  “I don’t know why we’re back here, but thank you, Lord, for bringing Joyce back to me.  I do know that everything you do has a reason, and I have faith that the reason will end up being good for Joyce and me.  In the meantime, though, I – we – would sure appreciate it if you give us the strength and especially the courage to handle his new situation and allow us to honor You in the process.”  He half expected to see Wisdom with words of advice and encouragement, but She didn’t show.  “I guess we’re on our own, honey,” he said to Joyce.

“At least we’re alone for the time being,” she replied, her eyes following the backs of the mob moving away from them, undoubtedly looking for more prey.  “I think we’re going to be okay for now, Earl,” she said as she cautiously moved her arms and neck.  “Seems like we got a partial healing, enough to keep us alive for the duration of whatever job we’re supposed to do.  Do you have any idea what that is?” she added.

“Not a clue.  We’re not far from the RVs.  Maybe we should go back there and see if anyone there needs our help.”

“First I need my legs.  Can you see them?”

Earl found her right prosthetic against a wall.  It was covered with blood, most of which had belonged at one time to Joyce, particularly the clotted mess where the leg connected to her stump of flesh.  But the blood around the artificial foot spoke of the leg’s use as a club.  That, too, might have been Joyce’s, he thought with sadness.  He couldn’t see the other one.  He gathered up his strength and stood upright, searching the area.  He found the other leg discarded a hundred feet away amid a cluster of broken liquor bottles.  He saw another object lying there, one that spoke of an inappropriate, degenerate enjoyment of their dark work, as if the spree of torture and killing was conducted in a party atmosphere.  He turned his eyes away in revulsion and returned to Joyce, handing both legs over to her.  He grimaced in sympathy as he watched her struggle to connect the prosthetics to her damaged flesh.

“Aren’t you worried about sepsis?” he asked her, looking at the filthy appearance of the prosthetic with a dubious eye.

“What, that maybe I’ll get sick and die?” she responded with a grim laugh.

“Oh,” he said.  “I see your point.”

“Okay,” she said eventually, having strapped them back on.  She stood, wincing at the pain of her abused stumps, still bleeding from the cruel treatment she’d received from the vicious mob.  Earl reached out to help her, but she bravely waved him off.

“Something I’m just going to have to get used to, Earl,” she told him.  “Well, now that we’re saddled up, its time to roll.”  They moved out together toward the RV inhabited by Jimmy and Millie.

They hobbled past a number of bodies that lay scattered about the park, their crumpled and damaged remains mute testimony to the brutality that they had suffered.

The other couple were there inside the recreational vehicle, but they were no longer alive.  They had been so obscenely dismantled that they were far better off being dead.  Here again there were signs that the couch had been used in a way that suggested these animals took pleasure in their wanton destruction of life.  Beer cans littered the floor, and crudely-drawn graffiti declared their victory over their helpless, innocent victims.










Chapter Three











The ground gave a solitary heave, rather weak and little more than a tremble, but enough to awaken Jacob from a sound sleep.  He raised his head and looked around, his awareness returning slowly.  I’m in our cave, he thought.  Let’s see what’s new.  Damascus no longer exists, our kibbutz was bombed, I’m lying here with my lovely wife, Wisdom tells us not to worry, and nothing else really matters..  His arm pressed against Moira’s side, reassuring him with the comfort of her soft but firm flesh.  He let his head drop down and with his nose he parted her hair.  He kissed her neck and she stirred, turning around to face him.  “’Morning,” she said with a smile and kissed him on the lips.  “Are you trying to tell me that we’re still alive and that the world still exists?  I don’t believe it.”

“All’s quiet on the front right now.  The loss of Damascus scared them off, those who survived the hungry ground that ate a bunch of tanks and troops yesterday.  I need a shave, honey.  Maybe we’d better go back to Dafna and see if my razor’s still there.  As well as Dafna itself.  And, of course, our beloved friends.”

“I’m worried about them, too.”  She rose up, stretched and pulled him upright.  “Let’s go.”

They were still some distance above their kibbutz when they were relieved to see that the crater from the explosive detonation they’d seen the night before was a good two hundred yards from the nearest building.  “Looks like their aim was off,” Jacob remarked.

“Wouldn’t have done them any good to have aimed better.  I think Wisdom is rather fond of our community.  That miss is just more proof of it.”

“Right you are,” he responded brightly.  When they arrived the greeting was made with hugs and much thanksgiving to God.  “They’ll be back,” Jesse said, frowning darkly.  “They’ve got too much hate in them to quit now.  But we’re not going anywhere.  We’ll be ready for them as many times as it takes to wise them up.”

“We’ve got some pretty fine backup, Jesse,” Moira said to their ex-Marine weapons instructor.  “Makes our role in all this more of a witness than anything.  You can’t see the valley from here, but we’ve got news: Damascus no longer exists.”

“You don’t say!” Jesse exclaimed as the rest of them murmured in surprise.  “Well, we knew it would happen someday.  It’s right there in the Bible.  Somewhere.”

“Isaiah Seventeen,” Jacob replied.  “We’re going to clean up and then we’ll head back up.  There’s nothing going on now, but I’ll bet they come back before evening.”

A friend grabbed Moira’s arm.  “Come along,” she said.  “We’ll fix you both a good breakfast.  Then you can shower and fix yourselves up.  As for me, I want to hear more about what happened to Damascus.”

Moira, freshly cleaned up and with an enormous breakfast residing comfortably in her stomach, continued to talk to her friends while Earl took their rifle instructor Jesse aside to discuss the weaponry that their enemy had arrayed against them.  His most urgent need for information concerned the massive arsenal of tanks.

“Describe them as well as you can remember.  What about the front, the bow?  Was it rounded or straight?  How many driver positions were there?  One or two?  Did it have skirts over the roadwheels?  Did it seem extra large, or not?  Did . . .”

“Hold on, Jesse.  You’re asking so many questions I’m going to forget half of them.  About the bow – I think it might have been straight.  No, cancel that, I remember one that was curved.  As a matter of fact, they probably all were.  No skirts over the roadwheels, and, as far as I can recall, there was only one driver.  It was big, but I think I’ve seen bigger.”

“Sounds like the M48 medium tank.  They were still in use when I was in the Marine Corps.  As a matter of fact, I think I have an old manual on it back in my hooch.  Let’s go.”

Jesse pulled a brown book from his extensive shelf.  Turning a page to a figure, he showed it to Earl.  “Is this what it looked like?”

“Yes,” Earl replied.  “That’s it exactly. “

“It’s an M48 then.  Medium tank, fifty tons.”  Jesse quickly reviewed the manual, eventually speaking up again.  “Powered by a Continental air-cooled V12 putting out 812 horsepower.  Seems like a lot of muscle, and if you were to look at one of its cylinders you’d think you were staring at the inside of a garbage can, but for fifty tons it’s not.  Top speed’s about thirty-five, and it really lugs down climbing a hill.  Built like a fortress, there’s a good foot or more of homogenous steel between the driver and the outside, and the steel’s pretty thick on the sides and turret as well.  Where the armor’s weak is on the underside and in the rear, where the engine sits.  I don’t think the armor’s more than an inch thick at either locations.  The engine uses gasoline, by the way, not diesel fuel, so if you can get them to burn, they’ll light up the sky.  A good RPG shot into those locations might be able to defeat the armor, so when you go back up the hill, take one with you.  Let Moira carry some extra ammo, as well as her rifle.  And don’t forget to take yours too.”

“Thanks, Jesse.  I appreciate the info.”

“Hey, if you take some down, you’d be doing us all a favor.  We should appreciate you.  As a matter of fact, I think I’ll come up later and join you.  Another thing you should watch.  The M48 carries a powerful main weapon besides a .50 caliber machine gun mounted on top of its turret and a .30 caliber little brother to it on the side of the turret.  The tank has a four-man crew: tank commander, gunner, loader and driver.  The tank commander operates the big machine gun, and the gunner the other one and the main weapon’s a 90 millimeter cannon – a real boomer.  Take a good look at those big guns, and then see if there are any tanks with guns that look shorter and thicker.  If you see any of those, be very careful.  They’re flame tanks – T67s.  With a range approaching two hundred yards, they can do a lot of damage, but they’re vulnerable too.  There’s a big tank full of napalm inside the turret, and it’s under a lot of pressure.  If you can manage to place an RPG round inside on of those babies, you’ll get a real show.”

“Given the character of this lot, I can imagine them enjoying the prospect of herding frightened Israelis with burning napalm on their tails.  I’ve got news for them: they won’t be finding any Israelis running away.”


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