Wandering in the depths of what he decided was hell, John Miller, still wearing his British army uniform, still carrying his rifle, approached the dead tree. He didn’t remember it being here; but then, he didn’t remember too much anymore.
He touched his chest, where the millie ball entered, breaking a rib and his heart. He didn’t die instantly, as he hoped, but suffered while men around him took his place, firing into the forest where the rebels were holed up like Indians.
“Take down every tree,” was the last thing he heard before being sucked down into this gray and black world. This was hell, because it definitely wasn’t the heaven he was promised. He wasn’t Catholic and felt guilty about that.
“I believe in Christ,” he usually said aloud, though it never came out in a voice. It was an audible thought. Maybe if he thought that enough, he would end up at the right hand of God.
He got closer to the tree and thought he saw a pair of arms stretched across its branches. He walked around ro see a body, flayed open, the organs exposed, legs dangling. Miller looked around but saw no blood.
Everything was gray, including the body. He forced himself to look at the face. Framed in long hair was the most beautiful woman’s face he had ever seen, that his heart broke.
Helen of Troy looked like this, he thought. He untied the body from the tree and gathered the flesh that was split along the woman from neck to groin. He lay the body down in the dusty ground.
The woman gasped, opened her eyes.
Miller also gasped. Let me help you.
You have, she answered in his mind.
She closed her eyes and shimmered. He backed up as her yellow light got brighter, illuminating everything. The tree was light brown. The ground was gray with the fog and dust dissipating in the light. The sky dark gray, as if perpetual clouds were over the light of the sun.
But the sun shined before him, a woman with bronze skin, glowing naked before him.
“You come to save the Queen of Heaven,” she said. “Ishtar will reward you, warrior, if you help Her people.”
“What kind of reward?”
She approached him and plucked the rifle from his hand. The brown and silver color flowed over it when she touched it.
“You will return to the world. At an appropriate age, you will no longer grow old and that is when you will begin to help the people.”
He didn’t have to think twice. “Yes,” he said. He had unfinished business.
She touched his shoulder, and his uniform turned its normal colors of red, gold and white. Black boots appeared on his feet.
“Now, to leave.”
“We can leave?”
“Ishtar can leave now that She has found the warrior of T’annu Sehutu, the Little Twins, Gemini.”