By the rivers of Babylon Chapter 1

By the rivers of Babylon

Chapter 1

Richard Carter heard the voice of his wife, as if from a long distance away.

“Ricky! Ricky, wake up!” she shouted

He shook himself out of the dream, and woke to find her shaking him.

“Wha ... what is it?” he asked, blearily.

“You were having a nightmare.” His wife Anne said, worriedly.

Richard shook the sleep out of his eyes, and sat up.

He was debating whether to tell his wife about the dream when she surprised him, saying, “Hon, I ... you weren’t the only one with a dream. I had one, too.”

“What did you dream about?” Richard asked.

“I dreamed of Iraq. Of you, in your uniform. Except it was like I was seeing everything from your point of view.”

Richard looked at his wife, and started to be afraid.

“What did you see?” He managed to ask.

“I saw a temple, Ricky. And a madman trying to use your men as a sacrifice to a god.”

“I haven’t been talking in my sleep, have I?” Richard asked.

“No. I’m telling you that I just dreamed this. Is that what happened?” Anne said.

“Yes. that’s exactly what happened.” Richard replied.

“So, how did you get away?”

“Well ... here’s the thing. We didn’t. Not really.”

“Okay, I think I need to hear your side of the story now.”

“It was ten years ago, during the war to get Sadam out of Kuwait ...”

Richard, Ten years ago on the Iraq-Kuwait border ...

Command had spotted what looked like an abandoned building not far from where our unit was. So they sent three of us to go check it out - Me, Corporal Donald Ford, and Specialist Mitch Woodward.

However, as soon as we were out of sight of the unit, a freak sandstorm kicked up, blinding us temporarily.

The sand was blowing so hard, I could barely make out my squadmates.

“Where the heck did this sandstorm come from, Sarge?” Donald asked me.

“Do I look like I’m a weatherman to you, Corporal Ford?””

“Sir, no sir!”

“You get anything, Woodward”?” I asked the specialist.

“Nothing, sir. Communication is out.”

“Keep trying. I’ll feel happier about not being able to see an inch in front of my face if I know where our unit is.”

Then the wind died, and I could see a building in front of us.

The corporal whistled, and said, “Look at that place!”

“Looks like a temple of some kind. Maybe something from Babylonian empire days.” Woodward stated.

I gave him a look, and he actually blushed, and added, “Bit of a history and archaeology buff, sir.”

I knew I’d have to make a decision, and quick. These two young men were counting on me. So I said, “Okay, we can take cover at this ‘temple’. Woodward, with the storm gone, keep working on radio contact as we go, and if you get through, tell them that’s where we’ll be. Ford, you take lead, keep an eye out for hostiles. I’ll be covering the rear. Move out!”

It didn’t take us long to reach what looked like the main entrance to the place. We hustled up the stairs, and reached the front door, and I realized I had another decision. Saddam could have stationed a unit or even several, here, and I had a feeling it might be a while before any friendlies joined us.

On the other hand, staying outside wouldn’t be much safer if anybody inside was alerted to our presence, so I said, “All right. We’re going to go in stealth, get a scan of the entry area, and if possible establish a hold point there, preferably one where we can see anybody coming before they see us. On three, go in. One, two, ...”

Ford opened the front door quietly and smoothly, and the three of us slipped in, and quickly closed the door behind us. The entryway had two alcoves on either side, so I had Ford set up in one, while Woodward and I went to the other. Quick looks out seemed to suggest that no hostiles had noticed us, so far, and I let a breath go I didn’t even know I had been holding in.

I watched Woodward work while keeping an eye out for any company. He’d managed to set up a system so he didn’t even have to whisper to try to send messages, reducing the chance of giving our position away.

Meanwhile, in the other alcove, I saw that Corporal Ford had put on infrared goggles, and then take them off, shaking his head. I knew what he meant by that. The place was dim with the door closed, but there was obviously enough light coming in to make the goggles less effective. Still, I was pleased he had at least tried them, to be sure.

For a moment, all was quiet, and then I heard a voice. I couldn’t understand what it was saying, but something about it caused me to step out of the alcove. I was so focused on the voice I that barely noticed that Ford had also stepped out, too, and we started walking toward the voice. Behind us, I heard Woodward calling our names, and then cursing as he followed us, but I couldn’t seem to make myself care. I didn’t pay any attention to our environment, so I can’t describe the temple, but soon we found ourselves in a room with a lowered section of floor that looked like a bowl, and on the edge of the bowl was a man standing at a small altar speaking in a strange language.

Even in my blissful state, and even though I couldn’t understand the language, something about what he was saying sent a shudder through my body.

That shuddering got worse when I realized a shape was taking form at the bottom of the bowl. Despite the fact that the shape started to look more like a beautiful woman, I wasn’t getting less scared.

In fact it was the opposite ...

She began speaking in the same language as the man at the altar, but somehow, my brain started translating what she said into English.

“You have summoned Negal, mortal,” she said to the man at the altar.

“And I see you even brought me a present” She added, looking at Ford and I.

She licked her lips, and sweat started seeping from my brow ...

Then she looked behind us at Woodward, and hissed.

“No! No female can be present during this ritual!” She shouted.

And just like that, she was gone.

Before I could even ask Woodward what that was about, the whole place shimmered, and flickered.

“We have to get out of here!” Woodward shouted at Ford and I. He grabbed the two of us by the arm, and pulled us out.

The next thing I knew, we were just outside the temple, and it looked totally different. Besides the door and entryway with the two alcoves, almost the whole building had collapsed. Worse, it didnt look like it had just happened, instead it looked like the kind of damage on a ruin you’d expect after three or four thousand years had past.

Had we somehow been pulled into the past, and now returned to the present?

I had no idea.

My thoughts were interrupted by Woodward’s communication set starting to work, as Command asked for a report.

Woodward somehow managed to sound perfectly normal as he told Command that we had found only ruins, and no hostiles, and were returning to base.

So we walked back, and I asked Woodward about why that creature had talked about a female in the room, and he told me about feeling like more of a girl than a guy, that he had joined the army to “man up”, and that because of what had just happened he was going to leave the service as soon as the war was over, and find out how much of a woman he ... or she, I guess, could become.

Today

Anne listened thoughtfully to Richard’s description of what had happened, nodding as she realized it matched the dream she had just woken from. Then she said, “That was what I dreamed, Rick. I can understand why you might dream of it, but me ... Rick I think the dream was a warning, and a summons. Can you get ahold of Ford and Woodward?”

Richard nodded, and said, “I still have contact information for both, I think.”

“Good,” His wife said, then she added, “you find those contacts, and I think I better pack. I don’t know why, but I have a feeling we’re going on a trip.”

To be continued ...



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