The U.S. of After Chapter 40
The waiting, as the song goes, is sometimes the hardest part.
The first battle was difficult, but we managed to hold back the onslaught of the enemy with some success. Clayton’s prayers were indeed answered even if some of the humans gave their lives so that the villagers could escape. Jacob had been given this information ahead of time and had told Mr. Coffman the details in a rather cryptic way. Coffman didn’t believe him at first, but when the time came, Coffman dug down and used what courage he had learned to muster during three tours in Iraq so many years ago to hold his ground. We did our best to help by manifesting in front of them and sabotaging the enemy’s weapons. I could hear the Captain’s profane shouts and curses as he was dragged from the battle, Morax skulking away with him into the dark shadows cast by the bridge as they climbed back up to the highway.
At present we were in a holding pattern, watching as the two pontoon boats loaded with people coasted down the river, following the light current that pushed them along in the near darkness. Things would have looked very bleak if not for the shining light that beamed out of Clayton across the water. As the boats floated by the bodies of the men who sacrificed themselves for their loved ones, other lights began to shine inside the boats, lights of faith and prayer that wafted upward into the sky, shining vertical tails of tiny comets, drifting in the wind. I began to feel the energy that powered the universe flow through my bones as I stood on the edge of the ridge overlooking the water and looked over at the horde of demons and militia that waited in ambush on the bridge.
One of the men lit a rag that had been stuffed down in a bottle of oil and tossed it over the railing of the bridge where one of our number nudged it ever so slightly to fall harmlessly in the water. This prompted the man to throw yet another one, but this time I watched as Moloch enveloped it with his smoky black body and helped it to shatter and explode on the roof of one of the boats. It caught the roof alight, and that was when we jumped to action.
Several of us engaged the enemy in flight, clawing and punching, kicking and wrestling in mid air, nearly a hundred birds of prey in a struggle for survival. One of the militia on the bridge fired his rifle into the fiery roof of the burning boat and I managed to deflect the bullet enough so that Judy Oaks would not be mortally wounded. I wished I could do more. Through it all, the prayers kept bursting outward and upward into the sky.
We could feel the speedy answer to their desperate requests.
Morax looked at me through the darkness, and I could see his two red eyes, his eyebrows furrowed in utter hatred, his mad mind screaming with thoughts of murder. I smiled at him, and he leaped from his perch, the image of a tattered raven, and shot out at me. He locked onto my neck with his talon-like hands and forced me down into the water. Curses spewed from him, a black bile of sickening hatred that he had once caused to flow from the lips of a scrawny little Austrian.
We struggled for several seconds, bullets whizzing through us and around us, and I forced Morax out of the water onto the shore where we fought as we did so many years ago in the Coliseum at the feet of Ignatius. But the Most High had other plans as over the ridge came a thick cloud of locusts that clicked and hopped and flew in every direction, covering the men on the shore. We were ordered to action, and I left Morax fuming, his mouth uttering vile insults and threats. I joined my brethren protectors as we circled each boat and guarded them with stalwart swords at the ready.
We spread our arms wide, and a light shone out of us that was completely out of our control, powered by He Who Made the Universe. The enemy horde shrank away in fear, retreating to the assumed safety of the militia men on the bridge. The locusts swarmed around us, overtaking the men on shore and flowing out across the bridge to cause the bulk of the militia who were able to escape use waiting horses to flee down the highway into Texas. I could hear the Captain cursing and bellowing as they went, even over the roar of the ravenous insects.