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Tuesday, September 26, 2023



"The End Is Nigh!" had always sounded hokey to Richard Blaine when proclaimed by the sidewalk prophets of New Orleans.

Now, his own instincts are shouting it, and it does not sound hokey at all.


“If I cannot sway Heaven, I will awaken Hell!”

- Juno


Each day is a little life: every waking and rising a little birth, every fresh morning a little youth, every going to rest and sleep a little death …

to prepare us for the big one, the last one, the final death.

The door behind us opened and two voices overlapped: Amos’ and Theo’s.

וואס איז דאס?”

“What the?”

Theo rasped, “Amos? Did I see wings that just disappeared?”

“Yes. We both did.”

Helen twirled around gracefully as if preparing for a Pirouette, going from angelic armor to Spartan fatigues in an eyeblink.

Amos croaked, “Wer bist du?”

“Who am I?” Helen laughed airily.

“I am certainly not German, Amos … nor any earthly nationality for that matter. I am of another species entirely.”

Theo,  no-nonsense as always, said, “You are Rick’s Helen Mayfair.”

It seemed to amuse Helen to no end. 

“No, loyal and true sergeant. I am my own personage. But Richard does hold my heart within his.”

She flicked definitely unamused eyes to Sister Ameal. 

“An allowance on my part considered most unwise in certain circles.”

“Not unwise,” grumped the not-nun, “fatal.”

Helen shrugged. 

“All sentient beings make moves considered fatal that matter not at all to those who make them.”

Amos, ever the peacemaker, walked cautiously to the unhappy nun. 

“Ah, Sister Ameal. Rick has spoken so warmly of you so often.”

My “I did?” and Sister Ameal’s “He did?” mingled one with the other.

“In your infrequent comas, you talked aloud about that which most touched your heart.”

He nodded first to Helen, then to Sister Ameal. He raised a quick palm to me.

“I am a Rabbi, remember? Your secrets are safe with me.”

Sadly, since I remembered so few of them myself, they were locked as if in a vault to me as well.

Helen assumed her chief librarian mode.

“As fascinating as all this has been, there have been drastic developments that necessitate Richard speaking to the remainder of the Spartan 300.”

She led me briskly to the door as if to forestall any more delays. “Let us make your Henry VI speech, shall we?”

“I’ve never been a speech maker, Helen. You know that.”

“Start now, or I will.”

The others trailed bewildered in our wake as Helen, on a tear, was a force of Nature to behold even without the wings.

The remaining Spartans were rumbling and grumbling as was their wont. 

I tried to remember my orphan days in New Orleans when my only worry was how to survive my fellow orphans.

I remembered them only vaguely as seen through a veil. And even that much I remember with such effort and vagueness as attends the recovery of a dream.

Sometimes I almost doubt that that orphan had ever existed.

The Spartans came to my rescue.

“Hey! It’s the Major. He’s all right.”

Porkins sputtered,

“I bet that gal is his Helen Mayfair! Hey! How did she get here? She and that nun didn’t come by us.”

Helen laughed.

“Franklin, you would be surprised at what route I took. But it wound by your Betsy. I hand-delivered your letter to her myself.”

“How? I just wrote it this morning!”

With a flutter of leathery wings and the sun striking fire from her gleaming armor, Helen became a warrior angel again.

All my Spartans sprang back.

Reese drew his Stinger rifle from over his shoulder …

which he promptly dropped as sparks flew from the longer than I remembered fingers of her right hand to his weapon.

“None of that, Trent! Save those bullets for the true enemy … whose numbers and natures have changed … and definitely not for the better.

Sister Ameal stepped beside the angel of my heart. “Which is why the angelus Helen Mayfair and ….”

Taylor dug his elbow in Evans’ ribs.

“You hear that? The Major is sweet on an angel.”

Sister Ameal sighed,

“Stewart, you catch all the wrong implications in your listening.”

Eric huffed, “Ain’t that the truth, Sister.”

It began to snow. Flakes of it fluttered in my face, stinging my eyes.

Snow in June?

Sparks of fire were sailing down beside the cold flakes. Both stung my chin. What was going on?

Helen whispered, “It means the Enemy is at the city’s edge. Only heartbeats before they strike.”

I stepped closer to the stairs’ railing. “I cannot ask you Spartans to face these increased odds and monsters.”

“M-Monsters?” gulped Floyd.

I nodded. “Yes. They go by the name of  the Nephilim.”

Amos gasped, “Gehenna!”

Kent groaned, “Damnation! They are real?”

“What are they?” Porkins managed to get out of a rapidly closing throat.

Dickens sighed as if his heart had been transformed to heavy iron.

“The terrible progeny, the children, of fallen angels and human women.”

I almost sighed myself, but I fought it.

“They are at least fourteen feet tall … and they can fly.”

André's cigarette fell from the corner of his lips.

Evans scoffed, “Oh, a truckload of ‘Hell No’s’!”

Dimitri laughed, “Fly!? What can we do against something like that?”

Cpl. Sam Wilson said low,

“We can prevail that’s what we can do. Each of us met the Major when we was about to die. He saved us. All this past time is gravy we wasn’t supposed to get in the first place.”

Vincent asked me,

“How many of them are there with those two hundred Nazi psychos?”

Theo looked disgusted with them.

“Don’t forget the three Tiger Tanks.”

Vincent laughed ugly. “Three Tigers!”

Helen stood defiantly beside me, flaming sword drawn, trembling in her quivering fist, and spoke dangerously low,

tears of fire seeping from her eyes that seemed portals into Hell.

“There are 100 Nephilim, Anthony.”

I felt like Colonel Travis at the Alamo.

Turning to Sister Ameal, I asked, 

“If I fight a delaying action, can you transport the Spartans to safety?”

“No. they would burn in my essence as you did when leaping from Rommel’s castle window.”

Helen looked horrified at Sister Ameal. 

“Oh, do not! He survived, Angelus!”

Sister Ameal turned baleful eyes first on the Spartans and then, on me.

“But Reinhardt König conceived of an instrument of teleportation which I have perfected.”

She turned to them. “With it I can transport these Spartans

She seemed to spit the last word … “to safety in their former barracks.”

I nodded and turned to my men. “Any of you go if you choose. I will not think any less of you.”

“I will!” spat Helen.

“Hey, Babe,” laughed Vincent. “You’re a damn angel.”

Helen murmured, “You have the ‘damned’ part correct, mortal.”

Amos and Theo stood beside me.

“We’re staying with you, Rick,” they both said as one.

Porkins cleared his throat. “Tell us the truth, Major.”

“I always do.”

“O.K. If you could leave right now without anyone knowing, would you?”

I drew in a deep breath, closed my eyes, and squeezed the bridge of my nose.

He deserved an honest answer. Would I? I had no death wish. Helen might think less of me, but she would forgive me.

I slowly took each of them in with my eyes.

“If I left, this moment would never leave me. Never. For the rest of my life, I would see it each time I closed my eyes.”

I felt Helen’s own eyes on me.

“I have seen the helpless raped, murdered. The ones they loved forced to live with the raw wound of it. There is an Evil behind all this world’s madness and agony.”

I took off my Spartan helmet and ironed my face with fingers I no longer felt.

“And this Evil is coming for me. If … if I failed to face this Evil and ran … I would still lose. My actions would hold to naught the suffering and deaths of others who could not fight back. To naught! To nothing!

It would be as if I said all their suffering meant nothing to me … that only my own life mattered.”

I placed my Spartan helmet back firmly on my head. 

“I may die this day. But I will not lose!”

I turned to Helen. “But you escape, and I will ….”

Her face lunged right up to mine. “Hell … no. Hell, no!”

Helen wheeled to the Spartans. “What say you? What?!”

As one, they all roared, “Hell, no! Hell, no!”

Helen twirled her fiery sword, dipped her long fingers into the liquid flame, and drew white-hot lines along both cheeks.

Her lithe body soared into the sky, and she screamed,

“Réveillez l'enfer ! Awaken Hell! Réveillez l'enfer !”