She walks among the hags, in the deepest of night. She dresses in white, her footsteps a-light. She taketh the old, She taketh the new.

For She is Death and perfect in every way.

The end is nigh. What was meant to be must now happen. The end is upon us all.

Particles of dust were falling, dark snowflakes of the devastation. The rampage battled on through the slums. The fighting fierce and determined; the rebels, the poor, displaced and migrants in search of money to send home stood firm against the onslaught. Bullets fired and bodies fell in slow motion; the blood and death in vivid black and white, colour and life long since left. Unreality and melancholy on the faces of the combatants; comrades and neighbours lost in the fighting. Families wiped from memory; to be remembered only by the dead.

The old Private ripped his army shirt from his back and threw it to the floor. Spitting on it he walked into the slums, away from the fighting. Eyes looked on him as he strode onward. Slum dwellers made to stop him, but were discouraged by their companions. Pulled away gently, “Let him through.”

With pistol in hand he walked on. The chaos of the slum devouring him; explosions and fire in the vicinity. Dropping to a crouch, he peeked around a corner. Three criminals disgracing the uniforms Pero had awarded them were pushing  a small boy around between them, laughing. The boy wearing regulation boots was one of Pero’s orphans; children torn from their mother’s arms and forced into murder at the barrel of a gun. The child soldiers; the pawns of the unforgivable, unrepentant murderers of hope and innocence.

He approached them unafraid, unstoppable and shot the three dead, leaving the boy stood frozen to the spot. The boy cowered and liquid trickled from his shorts. The old Private crouched and turned the boy gently to him and smiled. Holding the boy’s head in the palm of his hand he whispered for him to leave this place, find somewhere quiet and safe. “Run”, he said with a dry throat, “go away from the noise and guns, run the opposite way.” The boy’s eyes, still wide with fright now changed to determination and understanding. He reached to the old Private and ran a hand over his battered and weathered face and said: “Mikael.”

With a quick smile the boy departed, running away from the battle. The old Private loaded his gun once more and understood what his purpose was. His part in the tragedy was clear.

Standing he looked to his surroundings and retraced his steps back to the front lines. They were clear now; all that remained were the ruins of battle and the sacrifices to vanity that lay scattered and unattended. He walked among the bodies closing the eyes of both soldier and citizen alike. He wished them good luck and good journey. Not a single living person was in sight as he moved forward through the destruction. The sun high in the sky beating him with unrelenting heat, he looked up shielding his eyes. A figure against the sun standing on a hut. An unmistakable figurine of deep shadow, one he could identify in the anger of his dreams. Stood silhouetted against the sun with arms outstretched before stopping suddenly and turning toward the East, where a forest lay.

Quickly the old Private ran in the direction of the figure and forest. He slowed on approached and heard a voice and a scream. Pointing his pistol before him, he turned the corner to see three people. Pero, a soldier and a young girl. The girl was lying on the floor, looking upwards terrified. The soldier was heavily scarred, a veteran of a tank battalion. A good man with a good heart called Joh. A family man with a wife and son. The old Private remembered Joh as all of his men. The soldier had been disarmed and was faced by Pero. The General stood pistol to Joh’s forehead, talking softly:

“This is my World now Joh: my World. Not yours or hers. You’re done here. And I am only just beginning Joh. This is the start of greater things, bigger plans.”

The old Private hoarsely barked: “Drop your gun you idiot.” at Pero. “Drop your gun and fight me like a man,” he added as he walked within a metre of the three.

Pero laughed; “Oh what are you doing here? You think you can stop me? You never could stop me you old fool. Never. You haven’t learned that yet? Pero cannot teach an old dog new tricks, so I’ll have to put him down instead; before he turns rabid. Walk away old dog; walk away with your tail between your legs.”

The old soldier held his pistol to Pero’s head. “If you kill him I will kill you.” He stated flatly, without emotion.

Pero laughed heartily, his cheeks flushing red and glossy moustache bouncing with each guffaw. “You cannot kill me you old mongrel; I am your master, I am your King. Now go, find a corner before I beat you.” He said in a lyrical tone as his laughter began to fade.

To Joh, Pero spoke in an imperious tone:

“It’s time to go, Joh. Oh no!”

Two gunshots were heard; birds in the trees of the forest scattered, dispersing to the four corners of the world. The girl with the dirty hair screamed, long and piercing; scrambled to her feet. With a brief glance at the old Officer, she ran not for the forest, but for the Valley, where she belonged. Dropping his pistol by the two bodies, tears formed in the eyes of the old Private. He felt weak, broken. He was tired. He missed his wife terribly. His leaden heart ached.

He walked to the trees sobbing. Stopping to lean against the truck of an oak, he cried and called for his wife. His voice hoarse and cracked, he shouted at the trees around him.

Where was She? Where was the Light of his life?

He stood and looked once more to the slums before disappearing into the dark forest in search of what he had lost.

To Chapter Seventy-Five – For She is Justice and Perfect in Every Way

Cover: Ereshkigal, Sister to Inanna/Ishtar and Goddess of the Underworld