The Last Breath

“Brace yourself for an inconvenient truth about being human.” Dareen pauses to prepare his audience of nearly 2,000 gleeful participants for the moment they have been waiting all weekend for.“

This is the moment I’m sure many of you signed up for!” He looks audience members directly in the eyes; sitting in their seats and standing around the large hotel ballroom. He’s silent as he makes his way from one side of the room to the other, admiring the perfectly aligned chairs his brilliant team of assistants and production crew have maintained throughout the entire weekend.

“We’re going to do a little exercise in a moment to drive this next point home. This is going to come as a huge shock to many of you, but here’s the inconvenient truth about being human…” He pauses again, still making his way through his massive audience and finally up to the stage.

He can tell some participants in his seminar are starting to get annoyed with the constant pausing. Dareen smiles gleefully, knowing he has his audience exactly where they need to be for this next important part of his seminar.

“You have zero control over what happens in your life!” He pauses yet again to scan the faces of the audience. “I can tell, most of you are shocked! But Dareen, I came here to gain power in my life. I came here to gain control of my life. This isn’t what I signed up for, and you’re dropping this in my lap on Sunday afternoon when the seminar is almost over! How many of you are thinking something along those lines?” He pauses as a few participants begins nodding their heads.

“Show of hands.” Nearly everyone in the audience raises their hand.

“Great! Now, I said we were going to do an exercise to drive this point home, and now we’re going to do that.” A large digital clock slowly drops from above the stage to just 3 feet above Dareen’s head. It shows 1:00.

“I want everyone sitting upright. If you’re standing, please have a seat. I don’t want you to injure yourself.” He waits while everyone standing goes back to their chair in the perfectly aligned rows of chairs.

“Now, take in a deep breath and hold it for a few seconds. Then exhale loudly.” The audience follows his instructions precisely.

“Now, we’re going to do that again. Only this time, we’re going to use this clock conveniently placed above my head to help you count out a minute in your head while you hold your breath.” He hears a number of participants start laughing. “I can tell that some of you are already getting where this is going, but don’t ruin it for those who don’t get it yet.”

“Please. Let them get it on their own.” Dareen pleads with the seminar participants who he sees laughing.

Dareen leads them through the breathing exercise. Shortly after 20 seconds, dozens of people in the audience begin breathing again. After 30 seconds, it’s scores of participants. 40 seconds, hundreds. 50 seconds, all but one person has begun breathing frantically.

“Is there anyone still holding their breath?”

The hand of an old man raises in the back of the room.

“Okay, you keep your hand up while you’re still holding your breath.” The audience begins to chuckle and turn to see if they can catch a glimpse of the old man still holding his breath.

As the digital clock continues to count, Dareen smiles. 30 seconds… “Someone make sure he’s not turning blue.” The audience laughs. One of the production staff walks over to check on the man, who gives him a thumbs up.

90 seconds, the audience is beginning to chatter as Dareen smiles on stage, “I once had a mountain climber in the audience who was able to hold his breath for 5 and 1/2 minutes. We could be in for a long wait, so please be patient.”

180 seconds, members of the seminar are standing up and trying everything they can to catch a glimpse of the old man. Each of the audience members who has interacted with the old man during the seminar tells the people around them a story the old man had shared with them. The stories are as colorful as a fairytale, ranging from the old man being in the last Great War of Europe in his 20s to being a fishing boat captain when he was in his 30s, a tech company CEO and venture capitalist during his 40s, traveling the world on a motorcycle during his 50s, competing and winning the Hawaiian Ironman every year of his 60s, to the pain and anguish of having lost all his brothers and sisters and half of his nieces and nephews during his 70s, and now searching for meaning in his life as he begins his 80s having been diagnosed with cancer.

300 seconds, the old man finally drops his hand and begins to breath normally, as if he hadn’t been holding his breath for nearly seven minutes. Dareen leads the audience in an eruption of applause! “Please come up on stage!” Dareen shouts as the audience gives the old man a standing ovation while he slowly makes his way to the front of the massive room all the way from the back row.

Dareen keeps applauding the man as he makes his way up the stairs. He reads his name tag. “Everyone, please welcome Gabriel to the stage. Gabriel how many years young are you?”

“I just turned 81, Dareen.”

The audience collectively shouts, “wow!”

“That’s impressive, Gabriel. Very impressive! You topped everyone who has ever done this exercise. Before I get to the point of the exercise,” Dareen looks out into the audience, “which I think everyone in the audience is getting at this point. Before we get to that, I’d like you to share what you were thinking about during that 5 minutes.”

“Well, Dareen. The first minute I was thinking this was going to be a breeze, and I didn’t really understand what the point of the exercise was. Since holding my breath for a minute was easy for me.”

Dareen interjects, “Clearly, one minute was no match for you!” The audience laughs.

“80 years was no match for me!” Gabriel shouts with joy!

The audience explodes with applause!

“Then I started thinking about life, Dareen. I started thinking about my dear family who I’ve outlived all of them and even some into the next two generations. I started thinking of all the men and women I saw killed in wars and all the petty squabbling between neighbors and nations. I thought of the injustices I’ve seen in my life, how the rich will steal from the poor and the needy, how people will align themselves with what they believe is just only to find out it’s a fraud. I then started thinking about all of the amazingly beautiful things and places I have seen in my life. And then I thought of the most beautiful of them all, my late wife, Claire.”

Half the audience begins crying, and even Dareen’s eyes begins to well with tears.

Gabriel’s voice begins to shake. “I thought of my beloved, Claire. I though of how just last year I was holding her hand in our bed as she took her last breath, and how blessed I was to share that moment with her. I felt like I was back in that moment just before she told me she loved me with her last breath. And I thought of how her and I had promised each other we’d go together, holding hands. And then I thought about how I failed her. And so I thought, what would be more perfect than for this moment to be my last breath too. To make up for that failure.”

People in the audience can be heard sobbing as Gabriel shares his experience.

“I tried, Dareen. I tried damn hard, and I’m a tough man, you see. I’ve been through it all. I’m strong.” Gabriel breaks down and wraps his arms around Dareen and sobs uncontrollably as Dareen consoles him.

“I’m the toughest son of a bitch you’ll ever meet. I tried, Dareen. I tried so hard, and then I heard my sweet Claire’s voice, and she told me to wise up, and then it hit me, Dareen.” He pulls back from Dareen.

“What’s that, Gabriel?”

“Everything I thought about. Every moment I relived, and every breath I took and shared… Even the last breath my beloved Claire shared with me…” Gabriel chokes up again and then continues, “I had no more control over it than my own breath, Dareen.”

Gabriel and Dareen smile as they stare deeply into each other’s eyes, having reached a point of full understanding of the exercise.

“Ladies and Gentlemen, another round of applause for Gabriel!”

Gabriel walks off the stage and down the stairs as the audience give him another standing ovation, tears flowing from their eyes.

“That’s exactly what this exercise is about. You might be an 81 year old bad ass, but you have no more control over the events in your life than you have over your own breath. It’s how you react to the events… that’s what you own! What you do with what’s happening in the world around you, near and far… and even what’s happening within your very own body that… you… have… no… control over… That’s what’s yours! That’s what you own! Your reaction is the only thing in this world that is truly yours. Now, own that? You’ll own your reality!”

Loyalty

Moses seemingly glides along the path atop his mule while his second lieutenant’s mule bounces uneasily as they make their way through the narrow valley. One third of his troops in front of them, one third behind, and the remaining third split atop the ridges to ensure safe passage below and provide lookout.

“Moses, what’s your plan?” His lieutenant asks.

“This should be an easy victory, my friend. These Zephon raiders have become more brazen this season. It means they are growing in number. We’ll deal with these raiders and then ask Apepi to pair with Seqenenre to eliminate the threat for the coming generations.” Moses replies.

With a slight chuckle, his lieutenant responds, “No, Moses. I mean, what’s your plan with Tharbis? You marry the most beautiful woman in all of Cush and bring peace for all the lands? Is that the plan?”

Moses solemnly stares at his lieutenant, “You don’t like that plan?”

There’s an awkward pause as the lieutenant cannot determine if Moses is joking or not. The sound of the mule hooves and troops steps are deafening. Then Moses lets out an enormous laugh that echos through the canyon!

“My plan, my friend, is to go off and enjoy the rest of my life in peace and harmony. Let the Egyptians do their thing. Let the Hyksos do their thing. Let the Cushites do their thing. And let our people do ours. We’re at a crossroads of monumental peace between all our people. That’s my plan.” Moses gleamingly smiles towards the heavens.

A commotion begins to stir among the troops ahead of the men. A small cloud of dust is seen off in the distance by the troops on the ridge, and they signal down to Moses. A messenger is coming on horseback.

#

Moses has ascended the ridge with his lieutenant, and they are watching the small dust cloud far off in the distance. They notice a dark cloud of ash beginning to rise even further off in the distance beyond the next range of hills where the messenger is riding from. Followed by a second and third cloud of ash. All three are shortly snuffed out.

“Bring out the merechayin,” Moses commands.

His lieutenant ushers over a group of men carrying a large wooden crate that they set before Moses. Four of them open the lid of the crate and gently place the lid upside down on the ground and level it. They remove the poles they were using to carry the crate to set them into each of the corners of the lid. Another four remove the merechayin from the crate while the original four lift a rounded out wood structure from the crate and fit it to the four poles attached to the upside down lid. The merechayin is placed on top of the rounded out wood structure.

Moses is holding his wrist while the assembly is taking place. “Either my heart is beating slower, or your team is getting faster. Great job, men!” He smiles and the entire team is filled with great appreciation.

Moses stands atop the wooden platform, and the men slide it along the dirt as he gives commands to adjust the platform while looking through the merechayin. He steps down from the platform and motions to his lieutenant, “Five and eight.”

The lieutenant stands atop the wooden platform and performs the same commands as Moses. “Yes, Moses.”

While Moses and his lieutenant have been looking through the merechayin, the eight men who assembled the apparatus have also setup a sun dial to measure the time and a scribe writes down five and eight on a scroll of papyrus.

“Send the Darom ahead with clear instructions to stand down under all circumstances,” Moses commands. “And half Maarav to follow my lead.”

“Yes, sir.” The lieutenant answers. “And the rest?”

“Flank.” Moses commands.

#

Moses arrives with the half Maarav contingent at the camp setup by the Darom contingent who has setup a stronghold on the ridge overlooking a small city that’s under siege. The horseback rider, Meaachad, has met up with Moses along the path and briefed him on the siege taking place that’s been underway for 4 days. The walls are expected to be breached at sunrise.

Moses sits down with Miriam in a goat-skin tent that’s beaming with light inside as Meaachad draws on the ground the map of the town and the siege ramps being built against its walls. Meaachad reminds them of the number of troops at each post as well as the second contingent their spies have determined are on the far side of the hill just north of the town. Moses looks on with skepticism as Meaachad continues to explain the details the spies had relayed to him before he left to seek help.

“You say, these men are wearing Amalekite garb?” Miriam asks.

“Yes, my lord.” Meaachad responds confidently. “I have seen them with my own eyes.”

“These siege patterns are not the patterns of Amalek,” Moses asserts.

Miriam asks Meaachad to leave the tent. “Moses,” she begins, waiting for Meaachad to be ushered away from the tent. “These are our siege plans.”

“I know, sister. I would not expect this from Amalek. We have been at peace with them for generations. If they were in need, Amalek would come to Apepi as he has in the past and ask for grain and substance.” He turns to Miriam as the two look at each other in deep contemplation. “Do you think the conspirators are making their move?”

“There have been no signals, and they are much too cunning for something simple like this.” She responds.

“There is a third party?” Moses asks.

“There is always a third party, brother. And a fourth and so on.”

“So, we just sacrifice this city?” Moses says in anger.

“The flanks won’t reach their positions until the following day. The walls will be breached tomorrow.”

“I won’t let this happen!” Moses clenches his fists in anger.

“It is too early to intervene.” Miriam warns. “And we don’t know the numbers on the other side of the hill.”

“We can take those men too!” Moses shouts.

“At what cost, brother?” Miriam understands Moses’ anguish. “Just because we can doesn’t mean we should. Our losses will be catastrophic to defend this town without the flanks. You know that. Has your dreams of your Cushitic bride clouded your vision?”

“That is uncalled for, sister. She has nothing to do with this.” Moses snaps back. “And for the record, she will never cloud my judgement or make me soft in my dealings on the battlefield.”

“She merely softens your heart?” Miriam says sarcastically.

Moses smiles his overwhelmingly handsome smile, which disgusts Miriam. “That’s a poetic way to put it, sister!”

#

The morning of the siege breach arises. The roosters of the town are crowing, unaware of the pending doom about to befall the people of the city. The raiders begin their fires at four points around the city and pile on timber to grow the flames.

As Moses’s contingent on the mountain watch, he reasserts that they are to stand down no matter what and must watch on to see the brutality of their enemy. Some of the men in the ranks are visibly upset and are uttering against Moses. Suddenly, one of them breaks ranks and begins running down the hill towards the city.

“Stop him!” Moses shouts.

“He is too fast! Not even a messenger can catch him. He is too light of feet.” One of the soldiers says.

Moses turns to one of the archers. “Shoot him down!”

The archer and the surrounding men stand in disbelief at Moses’ command. “I cannot, sir. He is too fast.”

Just as he finishes speaking, a young soldier grabs his bow and an arrow, steadily takes aim and shoots down the soldier running down the hill. He turns to Moses and stares him in the eyes without saying a word. Then he turns to the archer and throws his bow back into his arms. The men look on, stunned as the young soldier walks away.

Moses looks back down the hill at the fallen solider who is still alive but has an arrow threw his right heel and can no longer run. He turns back to the soldier walking away, “Either your aim is incredible or you are a terrible shot and got lucky!” He shouts.

Not turning around, he replies, “I have terrible aim. I was aiming for his left heel.”

Moses looks back down the hill at the soldier grasping his right heel as he snaps the arrow and removes it from his leg. The soldier picks up a pile of dirt from the ground and pours it over his head and weeps.

Turning back to see the young soldier return to his rank, Moses asks, “What’s your name?”

“Sir, Caleb, Sir!”

Moses hears the soldier next to the archer utter, “A dog.” The two chuckle as Moses looks at them sternly.

“Yes, loyal. Faithful. Honorable.” Moses says to them.

“Obedient.” The archer says as Moses begins to walk away.

Moses pauses and turns back to the archer. He growls, “If you ever disobey me in front of these men again, I’ll hack your head off myself and roll it down this hill.”

#

The gates of the city are burning. A handful of archers and their assistants position themselves atop internal watch towers and await for the breach. The raiders stand just out of shot of the archers, as they begin to hoot and chant. The sounds can be heard atop the mountain by Moses’ men as they begin to grow increasingly enraged.

“Channel that anger, my brothers!” Moses shouts! “Feel that rage grow inside you just as the flames are growing against the gates of our beloved city below! Pull that anger inside you and prepare for battle. We will unleash our wrath upon these men when the moment is right. They will reap what they sow when our time is right!”

The contingent from beyond the other side of the far hill begins to march towards the city. It’s massive! More than ten times what Meaachad had estimated. Miriam stands next to Caleb, who was promoted to Moses’ assistant in the morning. She looks at Moses as the two silently confirm they made the right decision to not intervene against the siege.

The men of Moses watch as the massive fleet descends upon the city. Moses walks over to the soldier shot through the heel by Caleb and pulls him up against him, relieving the soldier who was helping prop him up so he could watch the siege unfold.

“I am sorry, Moses.” He says with tears streaming down his face.

“Your heart was in the right place, Jaleel.” Moses pulls the soldier in tightly. “I’m sorry I failed you as a leader. That you did not have enough faith in me to understand my plan. I promise you, these men will receive revenge two fold.”

The city gates crumble under the fire. The raiders begin to hail down arrows upon the towers containing the archers as they send men through the gates. The massive contingent from beyond the far hill begin running towards the city as quickly as possible as the defenses of the city walls topple. Crying, yelling, and wailing is heard atop the mountain where Moses’ men watch on boiling over with rage.

Moses is sitting in the tent with Miriam and Caleb, discussing the patterns of the siege and the raiders that they have witnessed so far. Moses orders Caleb to separate the soldiers according to genealogy in each of their ranks.

“Miriam, I have a suspicion that there is dissension against us.” Moses says softly.

“The folly Caleb handled earlier was an omen?” Miriam smiles.

Moses ponders deeply and runs through the events in his mind and the reactions of the soldiers. “Miriam, where did Caleb come from?”

“He’s the son of Yefuneh. From Judah.” She replies with a puzzled look on her face. “You suspect Caleb?”

“No, sister. And also no,” Moses replies. “How did Caleb end up in this contingent? According to my reckoning, he should be with the Shamalla.”

“Brother, I’m not sure you should be having these mental problems at such a young age,” Miriam chuckles. “Is there some sort of trouble?”

“No, sister. And also no,” Moses replies. “My mind is as clear as the evening sky. Despite this day of tragedy, Our Creator is smiling down upon us this evening. I’m going down in the day break with our brothers in arms. I want you to stay here with the foreign soldiers. If our prophecy is correct…” Moses pauses and looks to Miriam’s soul through her eyes.

Miriam nods.

#

There’s a sudden flash of light against the tent. Then another, coming from the different direction. The flashes repeat three times.

Miriam is holding a large bronze mirror as she comes running to Moses. “The flanks are ready, brother!” She yells, almost in song.

“You heard our sister, my brothers!” Moses raises his arms. “May no mercy be felled upon any of our adversaries this day. Not one prisoner shall be taken, my brothers. Not one!” Moses rallies his men and sends them down the mountain.

Six men remain with Miriam at the top of the mountain along with Caleb. Moses turns to them and says, “May we pray that we not need you on the battlefield today, soldiers. But if it is called for you to join, Miriam will do as accordingly to plan.”

Moses mounts his mule and heads down the hill as Caleb and Miriam take distant positions from the six foreign soldiers who watch the flanks begin to close in on the smoldering, sacked city. Moses’ contingent from atop the hill converge like a wave on the city.

The raiders, drunken from their spoil from the invasion, are easily overcome by the flanks and Moses’ men. Meaachad signals to Moses that the leader of the raiders is attempting an escape through one of the breaches in the wall. Moses quickly rides his mule with a handful of horse mounted soldiers in the direction of the breach. They take up position against the enemy and single out the leader.

The leader stands defiantly in front of Moses wearing his armor helmet and mask.

“Remove your mask, so I may see you face to face before I kill you!” Moses commands.

The leader says nothing and raises his sword to challenge Moses. The soldiers laugh. An archer raises his bow against the leader. Moses holds out his hand to stand down as he dismounts his mule.

Smiling, Moses unsheathes his sword. “You’re not from Amalek.” Moses says as he takes up an attack position against the leader.

The leader nods.

Moses begins a sequence of sword moves, attacking the leader. All of which are defended by his opponent with ease! Moses’ soldiers look on in amazement as they’ve never seen anyone defend themselves so well and for so long against Moses.

Moses can sense the leader is a greater combatant than he initially thought. He’s well trained. Perhaps even better trained than he, Moses thinks to himself. Moses continues with another onslaught of maneuvering and attacks, each defended against easily by the leader. Then the leader makes an attack against Moses! It’s furious and treacherous, nearly getting the best of Moses were it not for a rock that causes the leader to stumble and miss Moses with what would have been a fatal stab to the heart.

The soldiers look on in amazement and prepare to attack the leader if he bests Moses. Moses has a vision of when he was younger and in military training and sparing against others in the royal guard. He begins anew against the leader with different tactics. A flurry of moves and the leader is slashed on his arm opposite his sword.

Moses switches his sword to his other hand and begins another onslaught of moves against the leader. The soldiers of Moses look on in amazement as he maneuvers even more skillfully with sword in opposite hand than with his normal hand. He artfully slices wounds in the leader’s body, slowly and painfully weakening him until the leader collapses on to his knees and falls to his left side.

Moses slashed the leader’s arm holding his sword and he drops his sword. With the leader completely defenseless, Moses kicks the sword away and tosses his own sword away. He sits down behind the defeated leader and removes his helmet and mask.

The soldiers gasp!

Moses begins to weep as he holds the leader’s weak body in his arms, “Seqenenre, why did you do this, my brother?”

Agent Lee

“He’s by far the most promising recruit we’ve seen in the history of the program!” The medical director says to Fredrick Prophet as he leads him down the hallway.

“And his DNA analysis?” Fredrick asks.

“80 percent match, sir.” the medical director smiles as he opens the door to the room where Cadet Lee sits quietly reading through a history book on mid-American history.

Fredrick motions to the medical director to leave as Cadet Lee abruptly closes his book, places it on his desk, stands up, pushes his chair in, and stands at attention saluting Fredrick. Fredrick smiles, “I’m not one of those, Cadet Lee.” Cadet Lee relaxes and let’s out a big sigh.

“The medical director tells me you’ve shown the best results of anyone he’s ever seen in the program. I know that might come as a surprise to you given your subpar grades.”

Cadet Lee doesn’t understand where Fredrick is going with the conversation, so he remains silent and keeps his stern face.

“I have a special assignment for you, Agent Lee.” Fredrick says as he looks out the tiny window in Cadet Lee’s room.

Cadet Lee’s stern composure turn to surprise at the sound of “Agent Lee”. He cracks a smile and almost laughs in the process.

“I’m not joking about the agent part, Lee.” Fredrick says, not even turning around to see Cadet Lee almost laughing. “You have something within you of particular value, and I’m hoping for you to reach the potential I know you’re capable of.”

“With all due respect, sir, I’m not sure I understand what you’re talking about. I don’t even know why I’m still in this program. I should have failed out months ago. I’ve seen others with better grades get kicked out. So, whatever you’re talking about, I don’t understand, sir.” Cadet Lee says as he sounds disappointed in himself.

Fredrick turns to Lee and looks him in the eyes. “What you can’t see, I’ll help you see, Agent Lee. The confidence you lack is a minor hurdle for you to reach your full potential. You are destined to change history, Agent Lee. I’m here to take you to the next level.” Fredrick smiles. “You’re next round of training starts now. Come with me.”

Cadet Lee flattens his smile and has a dumbfounded look on his face. Fredrick walks over to the door and grabs the handle. Not turning around, he says to Cadet Lee, “Don’t pack anything. My team will take care of it. Your sole responsibility from this point on is to follow my orders, Agent Lee.”

#

Cadet Lee lies submerged in a float tank with a series of wires connected to his head. He’s in a deep state of meditation as Fredrick Prophet and a team of scientists monitor his vitals and an application that’s providing them with direct insight into Cadet Lee’s near real-time brain functions.

“Maurice, how’s everything looking?” Fredrick asks the lead scientist directing the operations.

“It appears that Cadet Lee is the closest he’s been in months, Fred. If he can maintain this level of meditation, we should be able to make contact within the next 10 minutes!” Maurice responds in suppressed excitement.

They continue monitoring Cadet Lee for another 10 minutes as Fredrick begins to grow increasingly anxious. The program suddenly begins printing data to the screen at a rate that nobody can read! Cadet Lee’s body jumps suddenly in the tank and he awakens. He’s pulled out of the container and several scientists help him untangle himself from the mess of wires he’s become trapped in from thrashing around uncontrollably in the tank.

“What was that, Fred!” Cadet Lee yells into the rafters, knowing that Fredrick is monitoring him along with several other scientists in the observation room up on the mezzanine. “What in the crazy ass hell was that Fred!” He yells again!

Fred runs down the stairs, “Lee! You did it! I need you to tell me everything that happened!”

Cadet Lee jumps out of the tank, snapping several of the wires in the process and shoves the scientists away from him as he heads, drenched, towards Fredrick in a rage. Just as he’s about to reach Fredrick, he drops to his knees and then collapses into convulsions. Fredrick rolls Cadet Lee on to his side and then removes his sports coat and covers Cadet Lee’s naked body and comforts him until his body stops convulsing and Cadet Lee falls into a deep sleep.

#

“Agent Lee…”

“Agent Lee…”

Cadet Lee feels warm sunshine on his face as he awakens inside of a dream state. There’s a beautiful grassy hill in front of him with a single large Terebinth tree at the top. A glowing orb shoots out of the tree and begins to swirl around him, and he begins to spin in circles trying to catch the orb until he blacks out and awakens in an empty building.

A man who is just a silhouette walks towards him and begins speaking even though he has no face or mouth, “Agent Lee, it’s nice to finally meet you. Welcome to our home.”

Cadet Lee looks around at the empty surroundings. “Our home?” He asks.

“We’re going to be spending some time together, Agent Lee.”

“Fred? Is that you? Are you playing some sort of mind game with me? Nobody calls me Agent Lee except your stupid ass.” Cadet Lee says with anger as his relationship with Fredrick Prophet has greatly soured over the months they’ve been working on Project Bishop.

“No, I’m not Fredrick.”

“God?”

“I’m not God.”

“Satan?”

The figure chuckles, “No, Agent Lee.”

“Do you have a name?” Cadet Lee asks in confusion.

“No, Agent Lee.” The silhouette responds.

“That doesn’t help much. How should I address you?”

“Just call me.”

Cadet Lee waits for an additional response and finally breaks the awkward silence. “Why am I here?”

“To spend time with me.”

“And why are you here?”

“To spend time with you.” The silhouette responds.

Cadet Lee throws his hands up in despair and places his hands on his hips, looking disgustedly at the silhouette. He begins walking to his right away from the silhouette and notices that the walls of the empty building are moving so that it appears he’s in the same place in the middle of the empty room. He turns back to the direction of the silhouette, and it’s gone.

“Where did you go?”

The silhouette suddenly appears in the same location it was before and begins walking towards him. Cadet Lee starts walking towards the silhouette and the two begin gliding towards each other until Cadet Lee finds himself floating inside the silhouette. Suddenly he begins to feel like he’s falling faster and faster until his flesh and bones disintegrate from his soul and his soul splatters on the ground.

He watches as the puddle of his soul slowly spreads out on the floor of a semi dark room. There’s a light source, but he can’t tell where it’s coming from.

“Who are you?” He hears a strange voice he’s never heard before. “What are you doing here?”

He answers back, “I’m Agent Lee. Who the hell are you?”

Agent Lee waits for an answer as he hears the other man breathing heavier with each passing moment.

“How can I help you Agent Lee?”

“You can start by telling me who you are.” Agent Lee demands.

“Who sent you?” The voice demands back.

“The Bishop sent me.”

“Which Bishop, Agent Lee?” The voice asks in a more relaxed tone.

“Maurice.”

Agent Lee responds to several more questions with information Fredrick has been training him with for the last several months. The voice sounding less and less skeptical with each question.

“Call me Mr. Phillips, Agent Lee. Tell the Bishop I need three days after the data drop. I will speak with you soon.”

Agent Lee looks confused, but Fredrick had prepared him for this moment for months.

“Congratulations on the promotion, Agent Lee.”

“Thanks, Mr. Phillips.”

“Oh, and Agent Lee, watch out for that first drop. It’s going to hurt.”

Agent Lee suddenly feels himself dropping again. Faster and faster. This time he feels the pain as his flesh begins to disintegrate from his body.

#

Agent Lee suddenly wakes up in a hospital bed. A doctor is sitting at his bedside and touches him on his arm.

“Agent Lee”. She says softly to him in a soothing voice that immediately calms his anxiety.

“How did I get here?” He calmly asks the doctor.

“Fredrick brought you here. I’ve been monitoring you for the last six weeks.” She responds.

“I’ve been out for six weeks?”

“Yes, Agent Lee. You might feel a bit weak. From not moving much, but we’ve been taking very good care of you. Fredrick himself has been changing your sheets and rubbing the skin treatment on you.”

Agent Lee looks confused and starts to respond, “but he’s an asshole, Doc.”

The door opens and Fredrick enters the room. The doctor stands up and walks towards Fredrick. “He’s doing well. I briefed him on his status, and he was just telling me how thankful he was for your care.” She says to Fredrick.

“I bet he was,” Fredrick says. He walks to Agent Lee’s bedside and places his hand on the guard rail. Looking at Agent Lee with a big smile, he turns to the doctor. “Doctor, Harvey, can you bring in the transcripts from the session so that I can review them with Agent Lee? Thanks.”

#

Agent Lee is a bit nervous the evening before his third trip for Project Bishop. He’s sitting with Fredrick, Doctor Harvey and Maurice Lane, the chief scientist, as they paint the picture of the most important, and final phase of the project. Agent Lee is to deliver the final set of data that will be necessary for Mr. Phillips to complete Operation Bishop.

Over the last several months, the friendship between Fredrick and Agent Lee has greatly improved as Agent Lee now understands the full scope and importance of the work Fredrick has chosen him for. Plus, he’s learned to understand why Fredrick had to keep him in the dark about the true purpose of the project at the onset.

Fredrick has become a father figure to Agent Lee, a father figure he never had growing up. As he’s staring out the window, Agent Lee thinks back to the conversation he had with Fredrick a couple of weeks ago.

“Fred, I have to tell you something that’s very important to me.” Agent Less said to Fredrick.

“Go ahead, son.”

“See, that’s exactly it, Fred. I never had a father growing up. He died before I was born. You’ve been the closest thing I’ve ever had to a father in my life.” Agent Lee’s eyes welled with tears. “You’re more of a father figure that I think an actual dad could even be. I just want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for believing in me and supporting me through this entire project.”

“I appreciate the sentiment, Lee. It means a lot to me. This project is your destiny. It’s been generations in the making. In many ways, I feel like your father. In full disclosure…” Fredrick paused for a moment as Agent Lee felt like he was giving great consideration to what he was about to say next. “Your father and I worked together, Lee. I made a promise to him that I’d watch you and shepherd you if anything were to happen to him. He was a great man, Lee. He understood just how important you were going to be. He too believed in you as I do.”

Stunned, Agent Lee was at a loss for words as Fredrick continued. “The truth is, Lee, your family has been a target for generations because of Project Bishop. Same with Doctor Harvey and Director Lane. The coup plotters changed Oswald’s name to Lee Harvey to send a signal over the generations since 1963 that your lineage and Doctor Harvey’s lineage are to be targeted. Someone’s a trader, Lee. I’m not saying you or Harvey, but I’ll be honest…”

Agent Lee had never seen a more serious look on Fredrick’s face, “I’m not ruling out Maurice, Lee. Don’t give him all your trust. If you ever wanted fatherly advice that’s it. Don’t fully trust Maurice.”

Agent Lee contemplated the enormity of what Fredrick was saying. “You think my father was killed because of me?” He asked.

“Absolutely, Lee. Someone on the other side found out who your father was. I think that was one of the reasons for the name change. It wasn’t to just let us know that they figured out we went back and faked the assassination. It was to leave a breadcrumb for the future so that someone could find it and attempt to thwart Project Bishop. Your entire lineage has been a target, and your father was the closest they ever came.”

#

Agent Lee sits across the table from Doctor Harvey as they eat their regular pre-meditation breakfast. “Are you ready to make history, Agent Lee?” She smiles.

“You ever wonder if all of this has any point to it?” Agent Lee asks.

“I’m not sure what you mean, Lee. We’re saving a great man’s life.”

“Are we really? In all the history books, he’s dead. And the agency we’re working for and the men I’m talking to back in 1963 are all implicated and blamed for the assassination or at the very least not stopping it. What’s the point?” Agent Lee says frustratedly pushing his bowl of oatmeal away from him.

Doctor Harvey slides the bowl back closer to Agent Lee. “I know it’s not easy for you, Lee. I know this whole experience is borderline torture for your mind. You need to eat.”

“You haven’t answered my question.”

“Yes, Lee, I believe this all has a point. I believe we’re answering a higher calling than we could possibly understand. And most importantly, I believe that you were given a gift.” She places her hand on Agent Lee’s hand and continues. “You were given a gift that allows you, and only you to make this happen. Now, if you want to know why I think you were given this gift, I can’t even begin to fathom. I’m a pretty smart woman, Lee.”

Agent Lee interrupts, “You’re absolutely brilliant, Doc.” He smiles.

“Thank you, Lee. Despite all that intelligence, I haven’t a clue who chose you or why. What I can comprehend is that it’s you. You save this man’s life. You make history, and the world is a better place because of it.” She pauses as she searches for the right words to say to Agent Lee.

“Quite honestly, Lee, I think the world is a better place because they think he’s dead. It allowed him to operate behind the scenes and engage with the deepest members of the teams that all lead to us sitting here this morning.”

Agent Lee smiles at Doctor Harvey as the two stare deep into each other’s eyes. They become almost lost in each other’s trance as they’ve become close partners during the execution of Operation Bishop.

“Let’s go make history, Doc!” Agent Lee stands up and the two hold hands as they walk towards the observation room.

Deep Euphoria

Mitchel double checks the air mixture filling his SCUBA tanks. His diving partner worriedly looks on as Mitchel’s behavior grows increasingly erratic. For years, he’s been watching Mitchel become increasingly addicted to diving deeper for longer; becoming increasingly addicted to nitrogen narcosis.

He thinks back to the dive a week ago where Mitchel dove 20 feet deeper than him and wouldn’t come back up no matter how much he pleaded with him. Mitchel eventually stopped responding, so he dove down, retrieved him and slowly brought him to the surface. He thought for sure that scare would convince Mitchel of his increasingly dangerous challenge of the grim reaper.

“You okay, Nick?” Mitchel says to his diving partner who is lost in thought.

“Not really Mitch. You know the only reason I’m on this boat with you is because I think you’re going to kill yourself out here without me.”

“You take life to serious, Nick! If there’s one thing these waters have taught me…” Mitchel pauses as he looks off into the distance.

Nick seizes the moment, “That you should hang up your fins and tanks for a bit. Maybe get the help you need to deal with whatever you’re dealing with?”

Mitchel laughs, “Nick, I think today is the day. I’ve seen this exact day. This exact horizon. I’ve felt this exact moment before.”

“What do you mean, Mitch? The day for what?” Nick asks out of concern.

“I didn’t think it would ever happen, Nick. But I’m telling you that today is the day they’ve been telling me about. I have to tell you something important, Nick.”

“What’s that, my friend?”

Mitchel walks up to Nick and stares deep into his eyes. “Don’t trust Lucy. It’s all in the letters. Just remember that it’s all in the letters.”

Nick is confused, “That girl from college? What letters, Mitch? You know, it’s shit like this that makes it clear you need help, man. Let’s sit this one out.”

Mitchel turns away and gets back to prepping for the dive.

Nick thinks back to all the conversations with Mitchell over the years about the visitors he receives when he’s on a deep dive. Over the last several months, they’ve been visiting him in his sleep and just a few weeks ago, Mitchel confided that they were visiting him while he was awake and watching television.

Nick had been pressing Mitchel to seek psychiatric help, but Mitchel kept telling him that the visitors were warning him not to see a psychiatrist. “No drugs. No alcohol. Nothing that will make you suggestible by them,” Mitchel would always tell him. “Them” was some hidden group of super evolved humans with tremendous knowledge and advanced abilities to manipulate the minds of certain humans. Mitchel told Nick he had a theory that he was part of their lost tribe and that they make attempts to communicate with people to determine if they are worthy of joining their hidden group.

Mitchel would tell Nick that the group provided him with insights and hints on important work he needed to perform, but they couldn’t provide him with the answers. Mitchel needed to figure that out on his own. Presumably to determine if he was worthy of being part of the group.

In one heated conversation, Nick pressed Mitchel for what those actual insights were; what advanced knowledge these visitors were providing him. “I can’t let you know that kind of stuff, Nick. It’s against the rules.” Mitchel told him.

Nick could only think of one response: “Bullshit, Mitch”

As the boat drifts on the open water, the sun makes its way passed the shadow of the cockpit and warms Nick’s face as he’s lost in thoughts about his past diving adventures with Mitchel. He closes his eyes and smiles as a small tear clings to the corner of his left eye.

Mitchel tosses his fins at Nick’s feet. “C’mon, man! You’re dragging like an anchor in sand. Let’s get diving!”

As Mitchel impatiently waits for Nick to finish suiting up, the boat captain comes over to Nick and leans in to speak quietly as for Mitchel not to hear, “I love you guys, but I think Mitch has lost it, man. Don’t do this.”

Nick stares the captain in the eyes, “You know I’ve got my buddy. We’ve been doing this for years. The two diveteers.” He smiles uneasily.

The two jump off the edge of the boat into the deep.

#

“We’re coming up! Captain, Mitch is out! He’s not responding. Do you copy? Pull the line! I’m coming up as fast as possible” Nick frantically calls to the boat captain over their radio connection.

The captain scrambles into action. He triggers the line pulley that helps aide their ascent and calls to the Coast Guard. Mitch is air lifted to a decompression treatment center and remains unresponsive. Nick places calls to Mitchel’s family members. There’s little surprise and mostly disappointment from the family members as Mitchel had become estranged from them over the years of his increased addiction to nitrogen narcosis.

Eventually, Mitchel is moved into a hospital room where he lies in a coma. Nick is sitting alongside his bed, waiting for the doctor to visit. She enters the room and closes the door.

“You must be Nick?”

Nick stands up and shakes her hand. “Nice to meet you,” he pauses as he looks at her name tag, “Doctor Bennet.”

“I understand you’re the closest thing Mitchel has to family?”

“Yes, Doctor Bennet.”

“Please, call me Lucy.”

Project Hyacia

Thomas’s hand trembles as he lifts it from his keyboard and points at the text on his screen. “Read that, Janice.” His voice trembles as he slowly stands up to let Janice sit at the computer. He walks over to the door of the panic room he installed in his basement with his arms folded tightly across his chest.

If you are reading this message, I must first warn you that you are in immanent grave danger. The upside is that you are in control of your fate as at least seven of you I know have taken action as an outcome of receiving this message. Those seven and I shall remain nameless. Your locations and time periods shall also remain undocumented as are mine.

With that out of the way, here is what I have discovered that is of the utmost importance to the past and future of humanity and beyond. I discovered a method by which I can receive data from the future. The third message I received from the future was the schematics by which I can transmit data into the past. And I am not the only one to have decoded these messages.

The schematics by which you too can transmit data into the past, I have already sent. Despite knowing that none of you who read this decode the message and build the system to transmit data, not even the seven, I transmitted the data anyway. I remain hopeful, as I cannot truly know everything.

I relate to you now, what I do truly know. My first course of action to alter the past was abundantly clear to me, ensure Adolf Hitler does not rise to power. This single event ripples throughout human history with deleterious effects long into the future. I apologize for the vagueness, but I must not provide details that would lead to harm of me or any of the seven.

I input into my system a process that would ensure that Adolf Hitler was not able to enlist in the Bavarian army in World War I. I had calculated that absent his war experience in the first World War he would not have been involved in the Second World War, and the European continent, medical technology, and space travel would forever benefit.

As you are aware, there was a clerical error that permitted Adolf Hitler to enter the Bavarian Army. I figured my first attempt at a major change to the history timeline could meet challenges, so I decided to make another attempt. Shortly after my first attempt, strange and unusual occurrences began to take place in the city I lived. We encountered unprecedented plagues of famine, violence, and disease. I thought this too coincidental, particularly when I traveled, the epicenter of the pandemic would follow shortly thereafter.

#

As Janice reads the text on the screen, her eyes widen and her jaw begins to slowly drop. “This is unbelievable, Thomas! This is exactly what we’ve been looking for!”

“Keep reading,” Thomas says, not even turning around.

As the plague spread rapidly, it was not long before I realized that my time may very well be limited. I had received no more messages from the future, so I took it upon myself to do the only thing I felt in my heart that I must do. Kill Adolf Hitler during World War I. I transmitted data back to effect the Battle of Somme, and again my plans were narrowly thwarted with Adolf Hitler being injured rather than killed. I made other efforts than these two, but divulging them would risk uncovering my identity.

There are theories of multiple timelines or even infinite timelines. What I have witnessed is that there is only a single timeline and a concept I call infinite probable timelines. I have been able to alter outcomes of the past in some cases with my data transmissions, but in most cases when I predicted my data should produce a new outcome, it has not.

I attempted to alter another major but less complex historic event: stop the assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy. This is when I came to realize that someone much more intelligent and resourceful than me had this same technology for sending data back in time with a greater level of accuracy and efficacy. I decided to focus my efforts on uncovering who these other players were in this game of history and how it was that they were always ahead of me. This, I thought, was my true calling in having received this technology from the future. This is also where I discovered an unbelievable truth!

It appears that multiple parties were involved with a plot to send data back in time to assassinate JFK. The ultimate winner in the probable timeline was the precursor to the Government Office of Intelligence Management, the CIA. They send data back in time to help fake the JFK assassination. This brilliant maneuver signals to the other parties that the then United States of America is well positioned in the future.

But the consequences are devastating. The other parties infiltrate the CIA at the highest levels and set off a series of attempts at manipulating world history that even predate the formation of their predecessor, the OSS! The infiltrators purposefully arranged the outcome of the Second World War, with Russia decapitating the Nazis and nearly capturing all the scientists and scientific knowledge, if not for the brilliant maneuvering of William Donovan, who is a virtual receptor of data transmission.

There are special humans capable of receiving direct data feeds from the future or the past. Thankfully, Donovan is one of them. His undying loyablty to God and country is instrumental to the salvation of Earth.

I discover at least four other entities from the future attempted to manipulate our history in the 1963 (which I already mentioned), 1981, 2001, 2023, and 2053. There may have been others, but I have not been able to find evidence. None of them were successful in their attempts to alter the timeline, and the CIA was always just steps ahead each time with their orchestration of events.

#

“This is not what I was expecting!” She smiles as she turns to look at Thomas again, who is still facing the door.

“You must read the whole thing, Janice.” Thomas says with morbidity in his voice.

The infiltrators reach new heights of injustice, corruption, manipulation, and cruelty. They create numerous projects within the CIA that are cruel and disturbing at best. The eventual unveiling of the infiltrated CIA as the orchestrator of a fake multi-national power struggle in our future greatly harms the agency. Calls for its dismantling reach insurmountable levels. It’s disbanded, and the technology for timeline data transmission is forever in jeopardy and darks times are upon us! The CIA needs your help in the present day!

You have the opportunity to save the CIA from this probable timeline where the infiltrated CIA becomes increasingly destructive and fractured. The result is the near complete annihilation of humanity through famine, disease, and violence.

Knowing this future, someone transmits data that ultimately leads to an action in your near future that forever changes the outcome of humanity and our planet. The majority of humanity is wiped out (this method I cannot tell as to protect the identify of the entity that makes this unfold). What remains of humanity builds well organized governments free of corruption, manipulation, and injustice. A technological revolution catapults humanity and AI into the future and into the stars. One of the outcomes of the technology is transmitting this data.

It’s imperative this timeline unfolds. It will likely cost you your life in this realm, but what the future holds, and what I can promise you is that you will have life after death. You will help usher in a technology that transforms mankind and our universe for an everlasting good!

With that bright future at hand, I must inform you of grave news. This technology has been compromised. My outcome along with yours is unquestionably grim. I am sending this as my final transmission before neutralizing my system, and I plead with you to know that your certain death is not in vain. Every action you have taken and all actions you are about to take ensure the outcome I have described will indeed happen. For most of you, your death is instrumental to the future of humanity.

Janice turns in the chair to face Thomas. “This doesn’t have to happen this way, Thomas. Isn’t that the whole point of the AIex finding this information? He’s giving us an opportunity to change our timeline!” Janice practically has the sound of pleading in her voice.

“You really think that’s a real message from the future? The CIA is some benevolent agency that’s under attack from within?” Thomas shouts. “We’re dead, Janice! We’re not going to outsmart these people! If that message is from the future, the people we’re up against are literally hundreds of years ahead of us! If it’s not from the future, and I’m saying it’s not, they have technology far more advanced than even the AIex!”

#

Thomas pulls up the next file he received from AIex. He plays Janice a voice recording of two men discussing plans to abduct Janice when she arrives in New Orleans. Janice is shocked listening to the two men discuss the details of when and where she’s going to be abducted.

Janice has a looks of skepticism on her face, and Thomas asks, “You don’t think this is AIex?”

“I think someone on the inside who wants to help us figured out about AIex and figured they can use AIex as a cover for getting this kind of information out.”

Thomas rubs his chin while keeping his arms folded across his chest. “Or maybe it’s someone trying to entrap us. That seems more likely to me.”

“I’m not so sure. I think someone on the inside is giving us data about the infiltration in the CIA.”

“Why not just send it to a bunch of reporters then?” Thomas says as he remains doubtful of Janice’s theory.

“The majority of the reporters work for or are directly influenced by the CIA, and how do we know which ones are in the pockets of the infiltrators and which ones are on our side? AIex sent me a list of reporters who were safe. You’re on the list with maybe 20 others around the entire world.” Janice pulls up the list of reporters on her phone. “You ever work with John Stossen?”

“I haven’t worked with him directly, but we’ve corresponded. He’s one of the best independent investigative reporters in the industry.”

“You know how to get a hold of him securely?”

Thomas turns to his computer and pulls open an application and starts typing a message to John. As he’s typing to John, a message shows in his chat thread with John: DNC24!

Thomas pauses and sits back from his computer. “Got anyone else on that list you want me to contact?” he says with a grim look on his face.

Janice stares at his screen in disbelief as another message arrives from another one of Thomas’ contacts that matches someone on her list: NC72!

“You think your list has been compromised?” Thomas gestures to Janice’s phone.

There’s a sudden and loud thud, and Thomas and Janice feel the house shake as if it has just been struck by a bus.

“I wouldn’t take New Orleans as a place for earthquakes, Thomas.”

Thomas pulls up his security camera footage.

“Nothing out of the ordinary. And for some reason that seems out of the ordinary.” Thomas says as he looks closely at each of the camera streams. “I’ve got military grade encryption from the camera to my receiver right here. You can’t fake the signal. At least not with any technology I know of.”

Janice stands up and places her hand on Thomas’ shoulder. “You have a backdoor out of this place?”

“Of course. A tunnel that leads to the sewer system.”

“Is that backdoor monitored too?”

Thomas pauses as he takes a closer look at the video from the tunnel camera. “Let’s head out the front, Janice.” He lifts the cover over a red button and enters a code on a keypad. “Now!”

“What’s wrong?” Janice asks as they quickly exit the safe room.

“That tunnel was flooded during the last hurricane.” He says, leading the way up to the his living room. “I installed a device that turns on and off a light in the tunnel in a pattern that matches an algorithm linked to my neural implant. The lights weren’t flashing in that sequence.”

#

Both Janice and Thomas are startled as the doorbell to Thomas’ house rings. Thomas looks at his security camera video feed he has through the eye hole in his front door and sees a couple of Girl Scouts standing on the porch.

“Even if that’s a trap, I’d rather be killed by Thin Mint cookies than whatever is coming through that basement!” Thomas says with a smirk as he opens the door.

“Would you like to buy some Girl Scout cookies?” they hear in stereo.

“Sure! Uh…” Thomas knows that his house is set to burn down in the next 60 seconds, so he hurries the girls off the porch. “We were just leaving, but we can buy some and eat them on the way.” Thomas continues as he shepherds everyone off the porch and down the walkway.

As they make their way to the end of the walkway outside Thomas’ house, the van with the Girl Scout cookies opens. Sitting inside, surrounded by Girl Scout cookie boxes is a young man wearing strange looking goggles. “The two,” He starts before pausing briefly as if he’s trying to recite lines in a play he’s learning. “All four of you need to come with me right now.”

The Royal Wedding

BASED ON A TRUE STORY

No greater vows had ever been spoken before this day. Some say no greater vows will ever be spoken. Vows so great, this writing dare not contain them! The vows just witnessed by hundreds from all walks of life are so powerful, so moving; of such divine inspiration, that as Moses completes his vows a single tear drops from his left eye! As he gazes upon the face of his soon to be wife, tears stream down her face as she has never heard such beautiful words, nay… poetry, nay… music, in her entire life as princess.

But it’s Moses’ single tear that moves her to break down sobbing. This rugged man, a true man’s man, endowed as much in spirit as physical prowess and mental acuity, has shown her why she fell in love with him in the first place. Not only has she chosen the most handsome, courageous man she has ever known, he’s a poetic master and genuine gentleman. She has chosen wisely! She gathers her composure as she looks longingly into his magnetic eyes; His own strength being so powerful that he elevates her in spirit to begin her vows.

“Moses,” she begins, “from the first time I saw you, I knew this was true love.” Moses smiles, and her heart briefly stops. A smile that inspires all who gaze upon it to enjoy their own lives that much more. A smile that lifts up all who gaze upon it to a higher plane of existence. A smile that she remembers from that fateful day she first gazed upon her now to be husband.

She continues, “I believe it was shortly after our special forces had made their way through your surrounding defense line. While you had directed your men and orchestrated a masterful siege insurgency of this beautiful city, we thought for sure that our special forces had the upper hand against you. It was our two finest remaining special forces against one, with no immediate escape available to you.”

She looks down and wipes the tears from her eyes before continuing. “I have never seen such beautiful sword wielding in my entire life. Watching our two finest warriors attempt an assault on you was like watching my young nephew swing his club wildly in training. It was as if, for a moment, all of time stood still except you. You carved through our two finest warriors like a banquet feast. The way you danced effortlessly around both of our soon fallen…”

She pauses to catch her breath. “Much like the breath was taken from my cousins that day, I am left breathless just looking upon you. As I watched you from on high, atop this fortress wall, your sword and armor glistening with the blood of my fallen cousins, I knew this was a special moment. I had never seen anything of such beauty.”

She looks over at each of the men standing with Moses in the bridegroom’s party. “I knew at that moment as I stared down at you and Nun, who arrived just as you finished off the last of our special forces…” She looks back to Moses, “I knew that I must give myself to you. I knew that I must become your wife. For what would be my life, if it is not to be honored for eternity as your wife? I turned to my father and asked him to please call off the next wave of soldiers so that our peoples can make peace and you and I may join ourselves together as one, witnessed by both our great nations.”

While seemingly impossible, Moses smiles an even bigger, more radiant smile than ever before. It is said that some where blinded for this brief moment and the glean was seen throughout the whole land of Cush. The princess continues, “I know that at times I have not always seen eye to eye with your brother and sister.” She turns to face Moses’ sister standing behind her as her bridesmaid, “But I promise to always love and support you and your family.”

Turning to all the witnesses, “I promise on my father’s name that you will always be the lord of my heart and the guardian of my soul. Just as I admired you from my tower on high, my heart is solely devoted to you and only you for all eternity!”

Cheering erupts from the princess’ side of the wedding witnesses. The priest completes the ceremony, and Moses and his princess walk down the aisle to cheers from both sides and mandrake flowers being thrown at them from every direction.

#

The reception is a boisterous, jovial event. A wedding reception unlike any seen before! Moses and Tharbis make their way from family to family, receiving praise for their matrimony and thanking their family members who attended from all the lands, near and far. Moses’ relatives trekked from lands so far, they were not even on maps of the day.

Moses embraces his uncle Izhar who is enthusiastic to introduce him to his newborn son, Nepheg. Holding Nepheg in his arms, Izhar hands him over the Moses. “Say hello to your cousin, Moses.”

“He is to become a handsome young man, my dear uncle.” Moses smiles as he embraces his newborn cousin. “Where is Korah?”

Izhar calls to Korah who comes running over to Moses and reaches as high as he can to give Moses a big hug around his waist. “Cousin, Moses, when I grow up, I want to be just like you and conquer the great nations and lead our people and marry a beautiful princes.”

“Now, Korah, let the new bridegroom have his space and allow him to continue on to meeting with other families,” Izhar says as he pulls Korah away from Moses.

Moses gently hands Nepheg back to Izhar and kneels down to eye level with young Korah. He holds Korah’s head in his hands as if Korah is his own son. Speaking to him, he says lovingly yet firmly, “My dear cousin, I am thankful that you look up to me, and I admire your enthusiasm. But you must promise me that you will follow after your father. Learn all the ways of his many successful businesses. My life is not the life for you. Promise me that you will follow after your father and not chose my path.”

Korah looks down, dejected.

Moses gently lifts his cousins chin, “Korah, I love you dearly. I love your father dearly. Promise me you will follow after your father.”

Korah smiles, “I love you too, Moses. I promise I’ll be the most successful businessman you’ll ever know.”

“Of that, I have no doubt, young man!” Moses says as he stands back up to face Izhar.

“Thank you, nephew. Thank you very much for helping set him straight.” Izhar says to Moses with a big smile.

“We are family for all generations, each with our lot. Shalom!” Moses cheers!

As if everyone attending had focused entirely on the words of Moses and the music had stopped so that everyone could hear, “Shalom!” shouted the party!

Onward to Hebron, then Shedur, then Zuar, Gideoni, Deuel, Enam, and the rest of the tribes and their descendants. Moses and Tharbis make their way through Tharbis’ family as well. The joy of each family is felt with every embrace.

Moses embraces his father who kisses him. “I wish she had sent a representative to see this day, father.” Moses says quietly in his father’s ear.

“Don’t be a child, Moses,” Amram says to Moses as he embraces him with all the love of a just and righteous father. “You know that is not possible. Enjoy this blessed day and pay no heed to what troubles your mind.” He steps back from Moses and gives him a stern look. “I saw you speaking with the piece of shih’et son of Jachin. I dare not mention his name, lest I am shih’et myself.”

“Yes, father, I was speaking with…” Moses starts.

“Don’t say it, son. Don’t mention the son of Jachin!”

Moses smiles and places his hands on both of Amram’s shoulders, “I love you father. I will honor your wishes, but you must allow me to honor Jachin and his sons.”

Amram nods and sends Moses off to visit with the rest of the attendees of his wedding. It is as if all the nations of earth have gathered for this occasion. The festivities continue through the night and to dawn. A celebration of unity unlike any seen before.

#

As the sun begins to rise, Moses and an exhausted Tharbis stand at the top of the same tower where she had fallen deeply in love with Moses. They look longingly into each others’ eyes and are about to kiss just as there’s a commotion.

“Moses! Moses!” a messenger shouts from the base of the tower.

“What is it, young man?”

“Moses, you are needed immediately. We have received unnerving word from home! Please come immediately!”

Moses kisses Tharbis and holds her face with his palms, “My beautiful bride, I assure you that I will return in one degree of a sundial.”

Moses makes his way down the tower steps and sees a great commotion with his top advisers waiting for him. “What is this commotion?” Moses demands.

“Sir, several upper towns have been seized by a growing band of marauders and two messengers have confirmed marauders speaking Qis is next, within the new moon.”

Moses pauses for a moment as all his advisers hinge on his words… “Let Tzav send word to Seqenenre that I am returning from Cush. Call half the commanders to service immediately. The other half shall remain here to assist my wife and her family with whatever tasks her nation requires.”

The advisers head off, each knowing what they are to do. Moses holds back young Nun. “You are not to come with me, Nun.”

“These thieves are going after our homes!” Nun exclaims defiantly.

“And who are these thieves, my young friend? I know them well, but do you?” Moses replies. “Stay here with your wife and tend to my bride and the Cushite people. Setup the networks we have discussed. I will send you a messenger upon completion of my mission, Tsephon. This is not an adventure you can take part in, and you cannot convince me otherwise. I need your brains and your youthful energy here.”

The veins along Nun’s jaw bulge as he clenches his jaw, “I understand,” he growls.

“You are my most trusted adviser, Nun.” Moses smiles and lightly smacks Nun’s face, “As beloved to me as Aaron or Mariam.”

Moses returns to the tower to face Tharbis. His face turned down, Moses approaches his new bride who embraces him with all her love. She watches as Moses’ troops are assembling outside her fortress.

“I am truly sorry for the timing. I will return, my dear,” Moses says with tears welling in his eyes.

Tharbis hands Moses a gold ring matching a bracelet she is wearing. “I believe your God is calling you for your glorious destiny, my love. You will forever have my support and all of my love. My heart will be with you everywhere you journey.”

“This is a simple mission, my dear Tharbis. I will wipe out these marauders and return within a phase of the moon.” He hands her a rolled papyrus. “I have written you a poem that you mustn’t read until I have left your land. I am also leaving behind my most trusted adviser, Nun, along with half my men to help you and your nation rebuild.”

With those words, Moses kisses Tharbis and they embrace. “You must go, Moses,” Tharbis says as she pulls back from his loving embrace. He begins to walk away, holding her hand until his arm is outstretched still. As their fingertips slip passed each other the heavy sound of tens of thousands of soldiers marching begins to shake the walls of the tower.


Grandma’s Visit to the Beach

Sam puts the van in park as he looks at Martha and they both smile lovingly at each other. He looks over his shoulder at his grandmother, snoring loudly with her head drooping to her right side and a puddle of drool forming on her right shoulder. His eyes well with tears as he gently touches his grandmother’s knee to wake her.
“Grandma,” he says softly. “Grandma, we’re here.”
Martha opens her door and gets out to stretch. The final leg of their 4 day journey was a winding three hour drive through hairpin mountain turns to get to the California coastline. She closes her eyes and breathes in the fresh air, stretching her arms high into the air.
Sam opens the van door and steadies his grandmother’s head against his shoulder. She’s still snoring loudly, barely moving even as Sam struggles to pick her up and place her in the wheelchair.
They lockup the van, and Sam pushes his grandmother along the rocky parking lot until they reach the opening to the beach. None of them have ever been to the beach, and Sam instantly receives Beach 101 knowledge: wheelchairs don’t roll in sand!
“What are we going to do, Sam?” Martha asks her husband as he stands with his arms folded, pondering how he’s going to get his grandmother to the beach.
Sam hears his grandmother’s sweet, still small voice, “Are we there, Sam?”
“Yes, Grandma. We’re here. The beach is just over that sand dune.”
“Take me there, Sam. Please, take me to the water, so I can put my toes in the ocean.”
Sam gently picks up his grandmother, all 90 lbs of her, and carries her like a precious child up the sand dune. Mustering ox-like strength, he powers his way over the sand dune, cradling her securely and keeping a steady stance with each step with his beloved grandma.
His grandmother smiles as she feels the salty air on her face. “Please, let me put my feet in the water, Sam. That’s the last I’ll ever ask of you.”
Sam carries his grandmother over to the water. “It’s freezing, Grandma.”
“That’s okay, Sam. Just let me feel the water.”
Sam wades into the water until the small waves are crashing against his upper thighs. He adjusts his grandmother so that she can reach her feet down into the ocean water.
“Thank you, my dear, Sam. Thank you so much. That was all I needed.”
As Sam carries her back to the beach, she lifts herself up to his shoulder and whispers in his ear, “Grandpa said he loves you.”

What’s Your Emergency

This is a writing exercise. My writing prompt was: A senior with Alzheimer’s reporting a crime to the police.

“What’s my emergency?” she asked. It really wasn’t MY emergency. I couldn’t care less if my neighbor was being murdered or if she was ringing her cat’s neck, but the noise was keeping me up and I had an important meeting in the morning with the President

I’m not sure why this lady on the other phone is asking me so many questions. I’m really not even sure why she called me. It’s probably because of that screeching cat in the neighbors house. I told her I’ll go take a closer look to see if I can figure out what’s going on. For some reason, she doesn’t want me to do that. I can understand that. Not everyone is as fearless as a war hero like me.

Some have accused me of losing my mind, but I haven’t lost a step. I’m as sharp as the bayonet on the end of my rifle. I tell you, trench warfare will change you. It changed me, but this lady on the phone doesn’t want to hear about that right now. She’s only interested in that damn cat!

Fine, you want to know about the cat! I’ll find out about the cat. Still, she insists that I shouldn’t go check on the cat. I remember having a cat when I was a child. Or was Tiger my sister’s cat? I’m more of a dog person. I don’t know why this lady on the phone is asking me about a cat when she knows I’m a dog person. Everyone knows I’m a dog person.

I knew someone who had a tiger when I was growing up. It tried to attack my dog once. Cold blooded killer were it not for my bravery! See that cat lady! I’ve been brave my whole life! Hey, someone finally made the neighbor’s cat shut up. Finally, I can go back to sleep. Good night lady on the phone. Click.

descent

Thrice prior destroy thrice latter
Still, onus the latter to destroy not the former
Fourth branch graves dug and filled in with debt
Atop the hill of no regret
The great equalizer beckons
What you sew suffocates
You are reaped with their last breath