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  • Writer's pictureMike Sovelius

Time of Merit


 A Time of Merit (Short Story) Jerusalem Cross
Jerusalem Cross

Overhead lights illuminated his wounds as the surgeon checked for a pulse.

“Doc, the colonel gave the order to jump to the alternate location. An armored battalion has breached Alpha company!”

As they carried him off the table, he felt something around his toe. Soldiers in stretchers lined the corridor.

“What happened to Ted?”

The surgeon removed the bloodstained gloves and replied,

“He took the brunt of incoming rounds, saving the chaplain.”

The room fell silent as the purple-robed figure entered, his robe flourishing.

“All rise for the most esteemed."

Urial surveyed the room and acknowledge all whom paid homage.

“Please be seated. The condemned is guilty of violating the moral law. We have decided he will receive purification for his battlefield heroics instead of the ultimate punishment,” Urial said.

The counselor’s face contorted in disagreement before addressing Urial.

“We object! The condemned has acted with the utmost depravity. It would not be fitting to spare him from his accountability.”

The condemned concealed his face with his hands to hide his despair of disobedience.

“Do you recant your statement before the most esteemed?” Urial asked.

The condemned stood to address Urial. His face radiating a soft glow where only before there was shame.

“I have no reason to recant my statement.”

The counselor slammed his fist on the table. "It is unjust! We have documented his transgressions and spent a lifetime influencing his behavior. He always pleased my master," the counselor said.

“I will not tolerate another outburst, counselor! Plaintiff, do you have anything to add?”

The plaintiff rose to address the Urial. His full height towered over the condemned.

“No, your esteemed grace,” the plaintiff said.

Ted could hear approaching footsteps. A fog like substance accumulated in his cell through the open door. Restraints prevented him from noticing the person. His only field of view was above him.

“Who is there?” Ted asked.

His eyes focused on the metal grating as the fog dissipated from the ceiling.

“Identify yourself,” Ted asked.

Drops of black liquid fell onto the metal grating above them.

“I am Captain Orlando Carter, 1st Aviation Brigade, United States Army.”

Orlando struggled against restraints that pinned him to a stone slab and limited his field of view. Ted scowled, listening to the confident voice only a few feet from him.

Just my luck to be stuck with an officer? Ted thought.

“I would salute you sir, but I am tied up at the moment.”

The viscous black liquid continued to accumulate in channels cut into the metal grating.

“You're a soldier?” Orlando asked.

The shackles around Orlando’s wrists, ankles, and forehead dug into his skin.

“Don’t struggle. Those restraints will be the least of your discomfort,” Ted said.

Orlando tried to relax, but the discomfort shifted to his back, aching from the stone slab.

“Yeah, SGT Ted Casey of the 9th Infantry Regiment, Manchu Keep up the fire. Did we kick the commies out of Yongson?”

The viscous black liquid moved with determination along the channels of the metal grating.

“We haven't been fighting with the North for 70 years. My unit deployed to Iraq from Korea," Orlando said.

Ted listened to Orlando’s shallow breathing before responding.

We did not unify Korea, Ted thought.

"Why are you here, Sir?”

The fog dissipated from Orlando’s side of the cell, revealing the metal grating above him.

“All I remember was the copilot yelling as our helicopter was taking rounds and I woke up here,” Orlando said.

Orlando’s breathing returned to normal.

“How did you end up here?” Orlando asked.

Ted followed the path of the black liquid, hoping to discern its direction.

“The crunching sound of the frozen ground alerted us to incoming artillery rounds. I saw the chaplain out in the open and scrambled from our fighting position, tackling him to the ground before the explosion,” Ted said.

The Drops of black liquid turned towards Orlando.

“You woke up here?” Orlando asked, oblivious to the black liquid.

Ted exhaled, relieved the liquid was not pooling above him.

“I remember meeting someone who knew everything about me. Things I had suppressed or forgotten. He questioned me about my life, what I believed, and why I saved the chaplain. I thought it was a court-martial. I am not so sure. No one wore a uniform."

The black liquid moved along the grating above Orlando.

“If it were a court-martial proceeding, they would have been in uniform. What did you tell the person?” Orlando asked.

An opening in the metal grate beckoned the oncoming liquid.

“I told him about my childhood on a farm. My Pa was a short scrawny man. When he drank, he must have felt 10 feet tall because he would fight anyone who crossed him. He would come home drunk with a black eye and take it out on us. In 7th grade, I outgrew his hand-me-down clothes and he left me alone,” Ted Said.

The black liquid trickled onto the grating on Ted’s side of the cell.

“I was chopping wood after varsity football practice, and I heard my mom scream. I went inside the house with the ax. My mother never feared for her life again. No one ever intimidated me after I buried him until I met those individuals after I saved the chaplain. They were taller and bigger than me. I feared the one who sat next to me the most. He was in the house when my dad was drunk and would whisper in my ear when I was older,” Ted said.

Ted agonized as the viscous liquid moved like syrup toward the openings in the grate above them.

“It burns like hell? Are we prisoners of war?” Orlando asked.

Orlando convulsed as the drops seared through his skin.

“I don’t think we are POWs. You’re the first person I have talked to since I’ve been here,” Ted said.

Orlando’s eyes tracked the black liquid. His gaze fixated on the source of the pain.

“What is this black liquid that falls from the ceiling?” Orlando asked.

Ted sighed, relieved the black liquid was falling on his cellmate instead of him for once.

“I don't know. It accumulates when I think about how I've hurt people.”

Ted closed his eyes, hoping for a respite from the torment, but the visions continued to provoke the release of the black liquid.

Orlando screamed in agony as the liquid fell onto his face, seeping into his eyes, nose and mouth. Unable to wipe it away, he writhed in pain.

“How do I make it stop? It feels like sandpaper and fire sliding across my eyeballs!”

The drops of torment always found their mark. Nothing you can do but suffer, Ted thought.

They both drifted between consciousness and excruciating pain. Their offensive memories triggered the liquid. In rare moments of respite, they longed for something greater than themselves.

“Have you ever seen silver liquid?” Orlando asked.

Ted struggled to speak. Black liquid residue clung to his eyelids.

“No.”

The silver liquid had the same viscosity as the black liquid.

“Perhaps another method of torment, or maybe they ran out of black liquid,” Ted said.

The silver liquid accumulated above Orlando, inching towards the openings in the metal.

“Looks like you’re the guinea pig,” Ted said.

The drops fell on Orlando. Ted waited for the screams of purification.

“Orlando, are you ok?” Ted whispered.

The silence of their cell becoming oppressive.

“Yeah, I'm ok. The pain vanished the moment the silver drops touched me,” Orlando said.

More black liquid pooled above them.

“What caused the silver drops?” Ted asked.

The black liquid fell from the ceiling.

An intense light filled the room, illuminating the swirling fog that entered through the open door. Gregorian chanting filled the corridor outside the cell.

“Is this the fog you mentioned earlier?” Orlando asked.

An entity materialized from the fog, extending a hand towards Orlando.

“He can’t hear you while in agony,” the entity said.

Orlando's ears detected the sound of shackles being removed, freeing him from his restraints.

“Who are you?” Orlando asked.

The entity motioned for Orlando to follow through the open door.

“I have been with you since you were born.”

The entity led Orlando along a corridor filled with colors and constructed of materials beyond his comprehension.

“Where are we going?” Orlando asked.

“You know the destination. It is what your heart longs for. You may now enter what most of humanity can't because of their choices."

The corridor reverberated with a celestial chorus unlike anything heard on Earth.

“What will happen to Ted?”

The entity peered down at Orlando, its expression resembling that of a parent hearing their child speak for the first time.

“He will remain in his cell until the last drop of allotted black liquid falls from the Jerusalem cross. The agony and torment will continue unabated unless he receives the silver liquid.”

The singing permeated deep into Orlando's very being, stirring a mixture of emotions.

“Why was I released while Ted remains in the cell?”

A portion of the corridor wall opened to reveal: soldiers kneeling in the sand, Orlando’s family gathered around a flag-draped casket and strangers with rosaries.

“The time of merit is in the material world. People have been praying for you. Their prayers released the soothing silver liquid to reduce the time spent in purification. Ted and others don’t have people praying for them. Very few prayers reach souls for solace during these depraved times. The evil one tricked the world into denying purgatory,” the guardian angel said.

Please comment or like if you went Beyond the Normal

3 Pooches Publishing


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29 lug 2023
Valutazione 5 stelle su 5.

The times be depraved. Be sure to pray.

Mi piace

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28 lug 2023
Valutazione 5 stelle su 5.

Good story, maybe I should go to church more.

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18 lug 2023
Valutazione 5 stelle su 5.

Interesting. Makes one think of what’s in store after this world.

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14 lug 2023
Valutazione 4 stelle su 5.

Wow! Went beyond the normal.

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