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Red Skies

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And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs come out of the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet.
For they are the spirits of devils, working miracles, which go forth unto the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty...
... And he gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon.
Revelations 16:12-16


A series of deep, inconsistent vibrations ripple through my being. A powerful rumble travels through the ground and rattles my skull, yet I hear nothing.
Why am I here?

Despite the attempts to move my body, I cannot. Nor can I find the strength to lift my eyelids and release myself from this darkened state.

Why is this happening?

The severity of the vibrations is escalating, their origin moving closer.
I need to move.

At this moment, a powerful wave sweeps over my body, causing me to wake. I open my eyes in time to watch the dust of the latest explosion settle. 15 meters from me lies a large crater in the earth, obviously the source of the blast.
Mortars.
Before I can contemplate this further, another disturbance comes from close behind. I feel it's intensity, but I can’t hear it.

I need to move.

I am lying face down on a dry mound of dirt with little feeling and control over my limbs. A searing pain rips through my chest when I exert myself to stand. It feels like a broken rib, or several. After numerous attempts, I am able to push my torso off the ground, followed by my shoulders and head. Now on my knees, I look around. My vision is somewhat blurred, but I can make out several pieces of debris scattered across the desert terrain. I see dark, heavy smoke in the air that blocks out most sunlight, giving the atmosphere a red hue. Countless aircraft litter the sky. I then realize that my hearing has partially returned when I perceive the faint roar of a fighter jet as it passes overhead.
My normal vision is returning as well. In the entire expanse before me, I can see plumes of dust and rubble as they are thrown into the air. I notice the vague silhouettes of soldiers and military vehicles as they move in and out of sight through the scarred and rocky terrain. Various airborne weapons appear from behind the rolling hills, leaving crisscrossing smoke trails in the sky. The once yellow sun, now shining half as bright, is approaching the horizon line. The day will soon fade from existence. It is now dim enough for me to see the distant flickering of firearms as they engage their enemies.
I find my feet and concentrate on standing upright. This soon proves to be difficult due to the recently disturbed and unstable ground below me. My palms and elbows sink into the earth as I attempt to push myself up. With one final exertion, I find a large, stable rock to support my arms and bring my knees off the ground.
Sensing the approaching danger, I begin scurrying off the giant mound of dirt. Struggling to move quickly, I stumble through the loose soil. Panic begins to sink in when I realize my pace is too slow. Another powerful blast comes from behind, propelling me head-first into solid ground.
The skin on my face and hands is rubbed off when I land on the asphalt. My nose is bleeding and my body, aching. I lay on my stomach for only a second before I spin around to a sitting position and look towards the direction of the explosion. Another crater presents itself about 10 meters from me. Looking down at my bloody hands, I feel a bit dazed. After a thorough check and finding no fatal wounds, I count myself lucky to be alive. Normally, the shrapnel would have penetrated someone that close.
My eyes move back down to the asphalt I landed on. I follow it down a route that winds between the rolling hills and into the heart of the raging battle. This was once a paved road. As I look, my eye is drawn to the edge of the lane, causing me to notice the unmistakable treads of a humvee protruding from a deep ditch.
That's when I remember, my men!
Despite my aching joints and exhausting injuries, I'm able to find my feet again. I slowly step over to the site of the crash, almost limping. As I move closer, I notice another large indentation slightly behind and to the side of the ruined vehicle.
Mortars! So many.
Advancing on the wreckage, my eyes clear the edge of the road, revealing complete devastation. I marvel at the sheer damage such a weapon can unleash, the vehicle being completely beyond repair. By the looks of it, the shell landed directly on top of the moving humvee, leaving a gaping hole. The unrecognizable bodies of my comrades are scattered across the clearing. Unable to specify which limb belongs to which torso, I know the mortar left them no mercy when it hit. I am not sure which part of the scene horrifies me most.
After some thought, I understand the magnitude of my luck. When the mortar struck, I was on foot patrol nearby the humvee. I was close enough to be knocked unconscious but wasn't killed.
Too many close calls for one day.
My memory of recent events is slowly returning. I was on a mission in enemy territory with my fellow soldiers. We were on a patrol. There was a battle - no doubt the battle currently happening - surrounding us. We were armed and ready for action. At this thought, I look to my hip and find a standard issue M-16 assault rifle strapped to my side. I hadn't noticed it in my entire journey from bewilderment.
At this moment, the sound of a chopper passes overhead. I raise my rifle at the aircraft and follow it towards the horizon.
It's ours.
Amidst the loud rumble of bombs, mortars, missiles, and gunfire, I hear quick-paced footsteps approaching me from behind. I immediately spin around and point my weapon in the direction of a possible threat. A man in a dark green uniform comes into view. He stops several feet from me as soon as I spot him. He then holsters his pistol to his hip and proceeds to raise both hands to the sky, signifying surrender. The man stands very tall and is heavily muscled with an abnormally thick neck. He seems to be built for war. He also fashions a large, black moustache accompanied by a stern, masculine face. His look is penetrating, striking a sense of fear within me.
Friend or foe?
The man begins speaking in words I don't understand. The language sounds familiar. I know I have heard it somewhere before. He stops speaking, looks to the wreckage of the humvee, and back to me.
"American?" He asks in a strong, middle-eastern accent. He points at my left shoulder with a shaky hand. "AMERICAN?" He persists.
I follow the direction he is pointing and come across a dust covered patch of the United States flag. I hesitate, looking him up and down before I speak.
"... Yes... American!" I answer, weapon still fixed on the strange man.
"H-hurt! You. Hurt?" He questions.
"No. Just scratches. Who are you, soldier?"
The man holds his hand up to quiet me, and begins looking to the hills surrounding us. He slowly raises his weapon to follow his head as he scans the landscape. I notice a familiar symbol on the man's shoulders. He wears the Star of David as a part of his uniform. He must be Israeli, an ally.
"Now wait a minute..."
"Ssshhh!" He silences me again.
My peripherals still trained on the man, I accompany him with my rifle and cover his back. I find nothing but dusty hills and rubble with little plant life to be seen. There are several slots between the slopes that require particular attention. I watch closely for any signs of movement.
I'm startled when the Israeli sends a bullet through the air. He slipped out of my notice for a split second. I spin around in time watch the body of a civilian-soldier fall to the ground, just outside the safety of the hills. The attempted assailant, wearing a simple, tan-colored robe, drops an AK-47 in the dirt. The Israeli cautiously walks forward to retrieve the weapon and finds ammunition amongst the bloody carcass.
Still facing the direction of the slowly dying man, my comrade carefully steps backwards toward me.
"Let us go," he turns to look me in the eye. "Move."
I don't feel like arguing. There is nothing to argue about. I have nothing left and nowhere to go. After I decide to put my full trust in him and with one last glimpse of my fellow soldiers, I follow closely behind as he leads me from the paved road into the hills.
As I run behind my newest ally, the battle surrounding us seems to be disappearing. The sounds of screaming men and weapons of war are slowly diminishing. Perhaps we're leaving the battle and moving to safety.
The Israeli darts between large boulders and narrow crevices. I find it hard to keep up with him. He knows the landscape well. After minutes of running, we're leaving the harsh, dry desert I found as I woke and entering a dense, green forest within the hills. My legs beg me to stop and the injury I have sustained in my ribcage is eating away at me. I have no energy left. Exhausted. I begin to slow when the Israeli stops dead in his tracks, head tilted towards the sky.
"Har..." He trails off.
"What is it? Why'd you stop?" I say as if I could have kept running. "What did you say?"
"Har-Megiddo." The man is sweating profusely. He suddenly seems as drained as I am when his shoulders drop and he falls to his knees.
"Har-Megiddo," he says again. "... hill... of Megiddo..."
"I can't understand you!" I shout at the man as I walk to his side. "What are you saying?"
He points to a large hill in the distance; a hill that seems larger than those surrounding it. Still, I see no reason for him stopping so urgently.
"It's only a hill. We need to move. Remember?"
Another jet passes above us. This seems to pull the Israeli out of his trance. He returns to his feet and spins around to look at me.
"You moost come wit me," he says with a stern and confident look.
"Where? Are we leaving the battle?" I question.
"No. Battle hass joost begun. We noot abondon our people to theese peegs." He reaches to touch my shoulder and smiles as I move away. "We searve de light. Everything weel be fine." He pauses and points back to the hill. "Follow me theere. We moost reach de top!"
What could be at the top? It might serve as an excellent vantage point, allowing me to see the battle from a good elevation and giving me a better chance of spotting Americans.
With new purpose, I direct the man. "Let's go then! Hurry!"
We begin sprinting again through the forested hills, my legs and ribs no longer ache. The thought of finding my fellow soldiers excites me. Remembering the men I worked with on the patrol motivates me even more.
Just as I am thinking this I hear the unmistakable war cry of a Jihad fighter. As my ally and I round a corner into a rock strewn canyon, the non-uniformed, Muslim soldier is waiting for us. He stands at the edge of the forest looking down upon us from the top of the fissure. I immediately look up at him to see his gun pointed in our direction. Without my notice, the erupting battle has reached my ears once more. It's difficult to hear the bullet that has been stopped by the Israeli beside me. I don't even flinch when warm blood sprays across my face. Before I can understand what has happened, my ally's lower and upper halves are sent in two different directions. The Jihad’s shooting large bullets, not to mention him having the high ground. I train my rifle in his general direction and quickly take cover behind a boulder twice my size.
Waiting is the worst part of war, especially when the two possible conclusions during the down-time is the death of oneself or killing the other b******. After patiently waiting for ten or so seconds for my enemy to make his move, I dart beneath him and put my back against the wall of the canyon. Soon after this movement, I regret it. I no longer know where he is placed along the fissure. Looking upwards to maybe sight the barrel of his high-powered rifle, I conclude that no one could be so idiotic to bring themselves that close to the edge.
Well I guess we're at a little stand-still, my friend.
I don't have to contemplate things much further when a number of rocks tumble off the cliff several feet in front of me.
Thanks.
I take advantage of the opportunity. Before he moves, I run to the middle of the canyon, spin around, and litter his position with hot lead. This did the trick. I know it when I see one of his hands dangling limply over the edge.
Now that I can move freely, I’m unsure of which direction to take. I refuse to go the way I came and pass by my men a second time. The hill is closer anyways and there’ll be more Jihad and foreign soldiers no matter which direction I choose. I then make the decision to continue the way the Israeli intended for us to go. He probably knew best anyways.
The canyon is short, because I walk no more than a quarter of a mile when I see a clearing of trees and the large hill after them. I feel thankful for the less demanding terrain. One more quarter-mile and I’ll be at the hill’s trough! After making this calculation, I decide I have enough energy to run. Anyone who hears me will have a hard time catching up in such a short distance. Plus I'll have the high ground first.
During my half-sprint through the forest, I'm left undisturbed. Because of this, I stop to drink from my canteen. I hadn't noticed how extremely thirsty I was. To my relief I drink all of it. If I can't sight my fellow Americans after reaching the top of the hill, I'll just stay where I am and lay low without water. The sun's setting and I feel somewhat fearful of looking for them after dark. After my short break, I proceed to climb the hill.
The ascent is pure drudgery. My muscles ache and the pain in my ribcage is returning as I rapidly loose motivation. Grasping dried roots and sturdy rocks, I slowly make my way to the top of the hill. With one final effort I pull myself over the last boulder and force myself to stand. What I see behind the hill utterly astounds and frightens me.
I'm overlooking an enormous valley; a valley in which the mountains on the opposite side have almost completely faded from sight. While the smoke in the air gets thicker the farther off I look, I can still make out the flashing lights and explosions that are occurring across the entire expanse before me. Not long into my observation, a helicopter passes close above. It's my reflex to duck. As I continue scanning the valley-wide battle, I notice that countless aircraft are heading towards the center of the valley from all directions. Most of the conflict seems to be happening in the innermost part of the lowlands. After a more thorough investigation, I can see that one fighting force is surrounded by another; trapped, without escape, by numerous vehicles, troops, and war birds. Some of the choppers rain bullets on the seemingly helpless and outnumbered soldiers stuck in the middle. They may be far off but I can tell that the Americans, most likely accompanied by the Israeli Army, are the ones in the center of the battle. With nowhere else to go, I begin to move quickly down the hill and into the valley.
To my right I can see large ranks of uniformed soldiers marching around the hill and into the valley as well. They were just behind me. It’s a good thing I decided to run. With a second look at the soldiers, I see that they’re British. Enemies. Halfway down the hill I come across some old ruins. As soon as I have them in my sights, I open fire from behind a large, stone pillar. I know exactly when I hit them, too, because they collapse like rag dolls. Instead of heeding me, they continue looking forward and marching into the lowlands. This leaves me in astonishment.
Are they really so fearless?
I cease fire for only a moment to see hundreds of jet fighters and bombers enter the valley. Their sound is deafening. The intensity of the battle is escalating and things are about to get much worse. My fears are realized when the aircraft send numerous missiles through the air and the bombers drop their loads over the entire battlefield. Everything is chaos. Powerful shock waves blow past me and the ground erupts in a violent quaking that makes it difficult to stand and forces me to my knees.
Will the entire valley be destroyed?
I bring my head out from under the protection of my arms and look to the sky in time to see a light with the intensity of the sun descend upon the battlefield. Fearing the worst again, I look down to the ground and prepare myself to be incinerated by what is likely a nuclear blast. Without my notice, the earth below has moved away. I’m no longer kneeling in the dirt. Instead, I find myself floating safely into the sky as I watch the world below me engulfed in flame; burning from existence.


And the seventh angel poured out his bowl into the air, and out of the temple came a loud voice from the throne, saying, "It is done!"
Revelations 16:17




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