HOME, SWEET HEAVEN INSTALLMENT #36

Chapter Thirty Six

 

 

 

 

 

In its lust for oil the Chinese government turned its face from the portent of doom in the sky above. Its leaders, having survived many internal battles through cleverness of mind, had been quick to perceive that this Earthwide crisis was not the first to have been experienced in the memory of mankind. Recognizing the basis of the ever-present appearance of dragons at important events, they had early on made the association between portents in the sky and massive disturbances in the earth below. They reasoned that although this latest catastrophe might be the end of all mankind, whatever course China took wouldn’t matter. On the other hand, if by chance mankind managed to avoid its ultimate doom and survive, and China ended up taking possession of the earth’s greatest cache of oil, China would dominate the world from that time onward. It was worth the gamble; besides, what did China have to lose?

GLOW’s anger, meanwhile, had developed into an insanity that drove him to battle in the face of the bigger issue in the sky above.

 

Well before I-day the vanguard of the enormous Chinese expeditionary force crossed the now dry Euphrates River under a gray and threatening sky. It was initially unopposed, but GLOW reacted with a hastily-assembled army of his own, which raced into the Mediterranean Sea and along the land routes traveled before by the invading hordes of the Russians and their confederates. GLOW’s objective was the same: kill the enemy in Jerusalem and take over the state apparatus, particularly the control over the Israeli oil field.

GLOW’s response had restored unity to the ten regional governments, as did his demand for the immediate drafting of troops from each region. It didn’t matter that the draft quota that he imposed involved most of the workforce: if he didn’t get the oil, there would be no need for the workforce anyway.

In some respects the resulting battle for Jerusalem was a reprise of the earlier battle waged by the Russians and their Mideast cohorts. The objective was similar: remove Israel from the world map. The routes the GLOW power took to get to Jerusalem were virtually the same, and their entry into Israel began at the port that used to belong to Haifa. But other aspects of the battle were quite different: The motivation of hatred was replaced by an even more evil indifference to the fate of Israel in the greedy quest for oil. The routes of advance, while similar to the earlier ones with respect to GLOW’s Western powers, involved the additional route from the east taken by the Chinese army. Haifa, being the location of the first assault, now no longer existed, although the ground upon which it stood was trampled by the marching feet of soldiers too numerous to count. The advancing troops weren’t told that the ground beneath them was so radioactively hot that in merely being there they had probably signed their own death warrants. No matter: they’d last long enough to do the job.

The new combatants, in representing all the peoples of the world in a vast conglomeration, was more racially and ethnically diverse than the earlier invaders; there were more of them, too – far more.

Now, with the immanent approach of I-day, Jacob and Moira viewed the assault from the same position they had taken during the Ezekiel 38 war. This time they had Sid and Mary with them. “I don’t know how many angels that God is planning on deploying in this battle,” Moira said, “but from the looks of things down below, the entire world is showing up to kick the Jews into the Med.”

“Yeah, looks that way. Whatever’s going to happen next, it’s not going to be pretty. I feel badly for our brothers and sisters in the middle, engulfed by all that vicious sub-humanity. But at least you’re here and not there, and, I’d hope, safe from what’s going to go down in Jerusalem.”

Before he could speak further, Jacob and Moira were tossed into the air. They returned to the ground to be shaken like they were in the teeth of a violent, angry dog, complete with a rumbling growl.

They heard Wisdom speaking to them through the noise of this enormous quake. “Hide your eyes,” She warned them. “You don’t want to watch what happens next.”

Still shaking, they buried their heads in the ground. Even with their faces in the dirt, their eyes registered such an overwhelming brightness that they could see the bones in their hands. Multiple seconds later the shaking of the ground jumped to renewed life and the couple began to think that the end of the world had just arrived.

The shaking slowly subsided, only to be replaced by a windstorm of epic magnitude. Cautiously raising their heads as this new force diminished, they saw that most of the troops were no longer standing, but were flat on the ground. Looking back, Moira noticed that the blast and its aftermath had leveled the buildings of Dafna. The destruction saddened her. “Look behind us, Jacob,” she said. “No Dafna.”

“Too bad about that,” he replied. “But look on the bright side. There’s still us. Besides, Wisdom is around to comfort us. God matters more than anything else.” His eyes returned to the battle below, and Moira’s soon followed.

But then, as they continued to look, they saw the majority of the closer troops raise themselves back up to standing positions. “What was that, Jacob? God or man? Nuclear or something else?”

“No, it was nuclear, all right. Look at the mushroom clouds. They look like textbook photos. GLOW may have set them off, judging from where they hit southeast of Jerusalem. Look over there,” he said, pointing to the largest cloud. It was still glowing red from some massively hot internal violence as the central column reached for the stratosphere. “That entire area was filled with human beings before the bombs, and now look at it. It’s completely barren for acres upon acres around the central column, empty of soldiers. And I wouldn’t count on anything living inside the column itself, not even the meanest snake.”

The battle for Jerusalem continued to rage for three days. The attackers had breached the defensive lines of the city and had entered it, bent on the utter destruction of its terrified inhabitants. The horrified people of Dafna looked out on the distant slaughter taking place in their beloved city. Their own front had remained quiet, but the spectacle of what was happening in Jerusalem tore away at whatever relief they may have enjoyed.

“Bury your heads again,” the two couples heard from above, and responded instantly. What happened next dwarfed the turmoil of the nuclear blasts. As I-day arrived, the ground thrust them upward again, but this was an impact shock, not a quake. Several more shocks occurred in rapid succession, each closer to them than its predecessor. Once again, the air above them moaned in hurricane strength. After a chaotic eternity, this next phase of violence settled down. Once again Jacob and Moira lifted their heads, to be confronted with the shocking sight of massive dirty-gray columns that reached upward beyond their vision. They had the appearance of exceedingly broad tornadoes, but they were stationary. At their bases the ground bulged upwards in circular rims. Flecks of red revealed the molten state of the soil beneath the surface. The columns extended beyond the land to the Mediterranean Sea, where their color was whitened with water. Even as they watched, the water began to fall with majestic slowness into a sea troubled with enormous impact waves which raced toward the shore. Awe-struck with the overwhelming visual magnitude of the events playing out before their eyes, they recoiled in horror as the first tsunami breached the land and overwhelmed the waterfront buildings and continued inland, virtually unimpeded by the apartment blocks and even high-rise constructions and the hills upon which they stood. Before the first wave receded, another came crashing ashore, to be followed by many others. The troops, so impressive in their size before these catastrophic events, were washed out to sea like so many tiny ants.

“Now that looked like an asteroid strike!” Jacob said laughingly. “Did you see how it dwarfed the nuclear attack?”

“Give it to God. But I wonder about Jerusalem, being in the middle of all that.”

“I don’t know,” Jacob replied. “I can’t see it any more.”

The sky was so cluttered with the columns of smoke and pulverised earth that Jerusalem was no longer visible to the pair. “I wouldn’t worry, though,” Moira said. “Jerusalem’s special to God. Somehow it must still exist.”

Jerusalem did continue to exist, but virtually every city, town and community throughout the world fared less well. The American Midwest was hit particularly hard. The impact of that day on the newlywed couple George and Linda Kasik was typical of that area. Awakened by tremblings and rough shakings, they had arisen from their happy bed and left their country cabin hand in hand to survey the commotion outside, still secure in the knowledge that their love was sufficient to overcome any kind of trouble that life could throw at them.

They had walked about a quarter of a mile when the tremors sharply increased in amplitude. George and Linda continued to hold hands as they rode out the undulations of the ground beneath them. There was a sharp jolt and they squeezed each other fiercely in a mutual gesture of support and reassurance. Not more than half a mile to their front the ground reared up as if it had suddenly come to life. It refused to stop, but continued to rise more sharply. They realized to their horror that where they were on flat ground scant moments before they were now on a slope that was rapidly becoming steeper, and were looking up at a crest of ground that was reaching heavenward.

Looking back, George was astonished to see the ground recede below them. He was overcome by vertigo and put out his free hand to cushion his dizzy drop to the ground. As his hand touched the earth it recoiled from the intense heat, and George suddenly apprehended that the ground was smoking. Attempting to return to an upright position, he wobbled drunkenly as the surface gave way and a gaping red crevasse opened up beneath his feet. Fixated on the landscape rising above her, Linda felt his pull on her hand and screamed in horror as she saw him sink to his knees. Close to fainting from fright, she struggled to pull him free even as she saw the flesh of his legs bubble and redden. His eyes pleaded with hers and then she saw him accept his fate. He jerked his hand free and with remarkable grace allowed himself to sink into the widening crack. Wailing, Linda averted her eyes toward the rising peak.  They focused on another crack that was racing downward directly toward her. Screaming again, she ran downslope. The path she took ended abruptly a hundred yards ahead in a hump, the far side of which was rapidly developing into a cliff. Then the wind came up.

Screaming all the way, Linda ran down to the hump and just kept going out into empty air.

For over an hour after the Kasiks came to their abrupt end, their neighbor Billy West had been laying in a virtually prone position in the lee of a huge boulder, unable to move more than a fraction of an inch for fear that the screeching wind would pluck him from his shelter and fling him into the midst of the airborne debris that had hurtled past. Some of the debris had been human, damaged beyond anything recognizable. The ground here had remained cold, and it was robbing him of heat where he had soiled himself earlier. He was shivering, but he did not recognize his discomfort, for he was held in the thrall of a terror so complete that it occupied every nerve in his body.

Suddenly the vicious motion of the air stopped, as if something larger and infinitely more menacing was sucking it into its maw. The screaming ceased, to be replaced by a lower, more distant rumbling, so powerful that the ground trembled and quaked. This ominous sound was frequently interspersed with the hollow thumping of objects falling from the sky. Billy felt one land nearby. It had once been a dog, but was now a mixed bundle of fur and red flesh like he used to see infrequently on the side of the highway. There was another thump, and he saw another bundle of raw flesh, to which tattered strips of clothing still clung, smack into the dog. More human remains landed about his inadequate shelter and he began to smell the cloying stench of raw meat mingled with contents of stomach and intestines. He saw these things but he didn’t react, for fear continued to prevail.

His present location was several hundred miles inland, so Billy had no thought of danger from the ocean. This state abruptly ended as he peered around the boulder, looking to the east. In that direction a new mountain range stood as a sentinel to protect the land about him. But now he stared in disbelief above the mountains, so far above them that the distant intruder was obscured in haze, an enormous but rapidly moving wall. Even as he looked it passed overhead, blocking the sun and casting his world into deep shadow. He trembled involuntarily. Unnoticed, his bowels moved again.   As the top of the cliff receded into the distance tens of miles to the westward of his position he felt the shock wave as its base collided with the mountain range to the east. His eyes watched but failed completely to grasp the scale of the event they were registering as mountains were dwarfed by white spray. Moments later the ground began to vibrate and the spray spanned the thirty miles or so between his position and the mountains, and continued on past him like the top of the wall, a low, dirty grey roof that rapidly darkened as the wall continued to advance westward.

He had just a short but indelible glimpse of dark water following the white spray to breach the mountaintops when the mist began to settle about him and cut off his view. Now he was in the midst of a dark fog and could only hear the roar of the turbulent sea reaching toward him.

The first blast of water kicked him like a football. He was still conscious but trying to will his crushed chest to breathe as he tumbled through the air. He hit the ground and lost his consciousness a quarter of a mile from the point of first impact and remained unconscious as the water kicked him a second time and rolled him like a pebble. The third impact buried him beneath the moving wall of water and crushed him into jelly that quickly diluted into nothing.

[to be continued]

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