Chapter Thirteen

Washington, DC

Event + 48 hours


                A small shelter had been created from a few tree limbs, aluminum signs, and some canvas spread over the V-shaped niche formed by two large New Hampshire granite blocks laying near where the Rose Garden had stood two days earlier. A fire had been built at the mouth of the refuge and the smoke seemed to hang in place just over the flames. A constant sprinkling of thick gray ash the color of lead fell and accumulated on the ground. As they fell into the fire, the ashes would try to douse the flames, and it had become Alan’s job to keep the fire going. Alan was diligent in this duty. He could handle nothing else, but this he would do. At the faintest flicker of the flames, Alan would jump up and attend to it, adding a little wood or carefully fanning the flames.


                He had spoken to no one else since he and five other souls had escaped the catacombs below the East Wing. His Lord and Protector was now the fire, and its, him. The table had been a good and efficient god but it had proven not to be omnipresent.  The fire, on the other hand, offered more than just protection as a god, it offered other miracles like heat and hot food, and unlike the table, mobility. How could he have ever believed in that false deity made of wood and paint?


A flicker! Kneel, blow, wood, blow, blow. God lives again!


                “You know he has completely lost it, right?” Director Clarkson said to the President, his eyes on Alan, kneeling in front of the fire.

                “I think we all have.” The President responded, his eyes on the flickering fire, his arms around his ten year old daughter, Caroline. He leaned his chin on her forehead and kissed her hair. She was still in shock, and hung on to her father and refused to let go. Every few minutes a deep sob or sniffle would escape her, but she had been very lucky to survive with nothing more than a broken left arm. Unfortunately, her sister and mother had not escaped at all. Tom Hayward could not bring himself to mourn yet. He looked across the small enclosure at the Secret Service agent that had saved his life. The agent, Frank Strum, had also survived, but had remained unconscious and had a nasty cut on the crown of his head. It had already begun to get infected. Frank was being attended by a female NSA Lieutenant, Amy Hunt.

                Lieutenant Hunt had been the only survivor to escape without a scratch. She had been guarding the rear exit to the bunker and had guided the rest to safety through that exit. A number of return trips to the destroyed PEOC had resulted in no more signs of life.  Tom had found the bodies of his wife and daughter crushed under a slab of steel and cement on the last trip underground. He had recognized them only because of his wife’s wedding ring attached to a bloody hand protruding from the heap, holding on to their other daughter’s hand.

                Tom turned back to Director Clarkson and asked, “What do you suppose happened? Why were we hit early? Why wasn’t the whole world destroyed?”

                “I have been giving that some thought,” he replied, “and I am not sure. I do not think we were hit by the whole ship. It is more likely that we were hit by pieces of it or missiles. The holes in the sky… somehow the aliens caused them, but I am not sure if they are the result or the cause of the devastation. Most of the damage we can see seems to be natural, probably caused by strong earthquakes. The columns of smoke across the sky yesterday and the ash rain today lead me to believe various volcanoes have erupted around the world.” Clarkson paused and pulled up his collar as protection from the light but cold breeze. “The trees have fallen parallel,” he continued, “and this probably means that they were knocked down by hurricane force winds. All natural events, even if extreme, except for the holes. Those are not naturally occurring, but if they are what I think they are, they are not holes and I have seen them before… A string of pearls

                The President was perplexed.

“You have? I have never seen nor heard of anything like that” He said.

“Yes you have Mr. President. Everyone has” Director Clarkson said in a tired and raspy voice.

“What do you mean, Bill? When?”

“When the comet Shoemaker-Levy hit approached Jupiter it broke up into a number of pieces. Twenty-one of these fragments exploded in the Jovian atmosphere over a number of days. The images of the fragments approaching Jupiter resembled a string of pearls; the images of the strike zones later resembled our holes in the sky.”

                “So you think they attacked us on purpose?” The president asked.

                “I don’t think there is a doubt. There is also little doubt that the aliens did not want to completely destroy the planet. You were right when you said they were not on a suicide mission, Mr. President, they seem have an entirely different plan.”

                “Do you have any idea what they may want?” The president unconsciously covered his daughter’s ears as he awaited the response.

                “I believe so, Mr. President. I think they want the planet. They do not come as conquerors to enslave us. They want us out of the way.”

                A brightening of the fire caught their attention and they saw Alan wave a stick, it’s end aflame. They were both stunned to hear him speak.

                “…And I beheld another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb, and he spake as a dragon. And he exerciseth all the power of the first beast before him, and causeth the earth and them which dwell therein to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed…” Alan seemed to be in a trance. He brought the burning wood to his forehead. A sickly smell of cooked meat immediately filled the air.

Tom and Bill tried to get up and rush to him, but Lieutenant Hunt reached Alan first, swiftly removing the burning stick from his hand and throwing it to the ground.

Alan turned to her, his forehead already blistering and still smoking, eyes wide open, his mouth moving in spasms as he spoke.

 “…And he doeth great wonders, so that he maketh fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six."


Chapter Fourteen