Neo-Exodus: Part I
By: Matt Lucas

Terror permeated the battalion as they desperately retreated across desert sands. Their enemy was in hot pursuit. An entire platoon of battle–hardened Allied troops had been decimated—reduced to ten soldiers. Fueled only by raw adrenaline, the survivors dashed towards their base at Ras Ghareb with the roars of unnatural beasts resonating from the shadows.

Private Isley looked over his shoulder into the black abyss. Just then, lightning struck, momentarily illuminating the torrid landscape. The visage of evil incarnate sent a shockwave of hopelessness reverberating through Isley's very soul.

A fleet of winged creatures blotted the night sky. They bore the roaring heads of lions and the wings of giant eagles. George Isley remembered how they'd swooped down, plucking off his comrades one by one. He shuddered, recalling how they ripped men limb from limb in the sky, raining blood upon the battalion.

On the ground, leopards with serpentine necks and the faces of cobras careened over the dunes. Acidic venom dripped from their fangs. A mere drop of their poison could sear a man's flesh to the bone.

Worst of all were the monsters riding on steel chariots alongside the horrific beasts. A regiment of Nazi tanks and vehicles bore down on the ten survivors with two Egyptian gods in tow. One was an imposing humanoid with a jackal's head. Visages of the beast adorned the temples walls, worshipped like some sort of god. There was also princely man with a cobra's crown. Images of him sitting on a throne littered the temples hieroglyphics.

"Don't look back!" Corporal Dolan, a ginger Brit, called to Isley.

When all hope was lost and Isley could smell the noxious stench of the monsters reaching for him, a glimmer of hope appeared. A set of headlights sped in their direction. Machine gun fire filled the desert air as a hail of bullets assaulted the winged terrors.

Isley realized two of his companions—Sherman and Owens— had made it back to base, jumped in a Humvee, and had driven back into hell for their comrades. Their counterassault bought the fleeing soldiers much needed time. Without Sherman and Owens' quick thinking, the rest of the squadron faced certain death.

Sherman—a grizzled brute from the backwaters of Pennsylvania—manned the gun, unleashing a murderous barrage against the mythical beasts while Owens, the battalion's most prolific killer, drove holding his Thompson submachine gun out the window, launching an assault of his own.

One after another the remnants of a once powerful force leapt into the back of the vehicle. Covered in blood and soot, they turned their weapons out the back, ready to join the fray. Instead, they received a stern warning from the senior–most officer, William Roberts, a curly haired Carolinian.

"Save your ammo!" Roberts shouted amidst the chaos. "We're gonna need every shot! Don't waste 'em!"

As Owens sped off, increasing the distance between the horde and survivors, the crew in the back stared into each other's sullen eyes. Distraught, they had no answers for what they had witnessed in that temple. Was it black magic, necromancy, or some other devilish plot devised by the world's most evil regime?

This was supposed to be a simple mission to eradicate the remaining Nazi forces from North Africa. Berlin would soon fall, and the war would be over. Tonight, however, everyone in the back of that Humvee knew the war was just beginning.

There was no time to waste when the ten weary combatants entered Ras Ghareb at the banks of the Red Sea. Many of the citizens had cleared out of the shantytown when Axis forces arrived in 1940. Four years later, they hadn't returned. The squadron was on their own.

"I need two guns on each side of the main alley!" Roberts barked. "Isley and Lee, I want you in the highest spot you can find to snipe! Get a roof over your heads! Keep those winged creatures from swoopin' in on ya!"

Isley and Lee—a Korean American soldier—grabbed their rifles and headed for the two highest peaks in the ghost town. Meanwhile, Gida, a boisterous Brooklynite, and Dolan scurried to move their machine guns into place.

"Let me, Sherman, and Claypool play bait down the main drag," Owens suggested. "They're gonna come at us full–bore. When they're too much for the gunners and snipers, have them fall back. If we've got men in the adjacent alleyways, they'll have broadside shots once those things break our line."

Roberts paused, leering at the three volunteers. "You sure you can outrun those things?"

Claypool, a blonde haired, blue–eyed Floridian cracked a grin. "I know I don' look like much, sir, but I'm deceptively quick."

The commander shrugged. "It's your funeral. Davis and Goldberg, I want you two in the alleys. Snipers and gunners will join you when the wave becomes too much."

Goldberg, a Polish Jew, who immigrated to America before the war, spoke up. "And what happens when we're overrun?"

"We'll get underground. Get them into close quarters in cellars," Roberts theorized.

Nodding in recognition, Davis, a stout Philadelphian with a deadly accurate shot, and Goldberg moved into position.

"It's not a good plan," Sherman nervously jested, aware of their impending doom.

"No," Roberts agreed, "but it's what we've got."

When the plans were laid, the calm before the storm arrived. Each man nervously grasped the grips of their weapons with quaking hands. Sweat accumulated on their palms and the rhythm of their breathing became hard to control.

Soon, a black swarm of griffins blotted out the stars in the sky, the horde of serpopards covered every speck of sand, and the smell of Nazi tank engines permeated the air. Abruptly, the onslaught came to a halt outside the city walls. As the beasts awaited their next command, three figures strode to the front. The Jackal, cobra–crowned monarch, and a Nazi officer clad in black leather and adorned with medals stepped forward.

"Resistance is futile," the German office declared triumphantly, "lay down your arms."

Roberts shouted his reply while climbing atop the Humvee to man the sentry. "I think we're gonna hang onto our guns. We're quite fond of 'em."

The Nazi scoffed. "Ten men stand no chance against the union of ancient Egypt and the Third Reich. Abandon this silly resistance and witness the birth of a new empire."

Suddenly a shot rang out. The Nazi provocateur collapsed. Gore oozed from his forehead.

Isley, who fired the shot, smirked. "Now who looks silly?" he taunted.

A pause fell across the unholy army. The jackal and prince glanced down at the Nazi's corpse before refocusing on Ras Ghareb. With a blood–curdling screen the jackal thrust his arm forward. At their masters beckoning the army charged.

The initial onslaught took heavy damage. The griffins and serpopards spearheaded the charge ahead of their Nazi allies. Despite their fearsome appearance, the beasts were mere flesh and blood.

Gida and Dolan's machine guns shredded the serpopards' advance. Isley and Lee proved adept sharpshooters, blasting griffins from the night sky like pheasants. What few creatures that broke through the line were quickly dispatched by Owens, Claypool, and Sherman. At this point, Roberts, Davis, and Goldberg hadn't even fired a shot.

As the beasts' bodies began to litter the main drag, a murmur of hope exuded the battalion. Defiant confidence replaced their hopelessness. Their demise was no longer certain.

Their advantage, however, was short–lived. German tanks caught up with their supernatural counterparts. Now, the beaten and battered soldiers weren't simply dealing with mythical predators, they had to contend with mortars, tanks, and infantry. The familiar adversary turned the tide of the conflict.

A well–placed shot from a tank cannon careened into the Humvee just as Roberts leapt from the fiery plume. With their primary source of air defense rendered inept, the burden fell heavily on Isley and Lee. Despite their prowess, neither man could reload fast enough to counteract the bombardment of griffins swooping at the regiment with deadly intent.

Seeing the havoc Dolan and Gida wreaked on the preliminary charge also caught the German attention. Fixating their firepower on each machine gun nest, the Nazis forced the gunners to abandon their position. As they retreated down the side streets, a key cog in the battalion's defense crumbled.

Now, there was nothing to slow down the serpopard assault. The serpentine leopards flooded the main street, snarling as their acidic venom dripped onto the sands below. Still, Owens, Sherman, and Claypool stood defiant in the face of carnage.

"C'mon, 'ya goofy kitties," Sherman provoked the leopard–cobra hybrids, "it's chow time!"

Without hesitation the nightmarish beings gave chase, snapping at the trio's heels as they sped down the main drag. Quickly, the serpopards gained on their prey. Rearing back, the horde readied their killing blow.

Suddenly, a hail of gunfire erupted from each side of the alley. Davis, Dolan, and Roberts flanked from one side while Gida, Goldberg manned the other. It was a perfectly executed ambush, drawing the mongrels into a meat grinding crossfire.

Despite their brief success, there was no time to marvel at their tactical acumen. More explosions rocked the landscape. The heavy mortar fire drew too close for comfort as the Nazis littered the alleys with shells. Fortunately, the Nazis weren't just bombarding the platoon, they were cannibalizing the serpopard advance as well, buying enough time for the squadron to fall back deeper into Ras Ghareb.

Roberts located a storm cellar as they fled the carnage. "There!" He cried out, pointing to the entrance. "Get to cover!"

Some of the men skidded down the stairwell, but two stayed behind. Gida and Davis knew there were still two soldiers enveloped by the fray and they weren't about to leave a man behind.

Gida grasped Roberts' arm. "Sir, we can't leave Lee and Isley!"

"Look out for them, but as soon as it gets too hairy, you get into this cellar and lock the door!" Roberts commanded.

Emerging from cover, Gida and Davis gazed into the abyss. Blood pooled in the street. Many of the buildings were reduced to rubble. Smoke billowed from roaring fires. Hell was here.

The serpopards were fixated upwards, jumping and clawing at the sides of buildings. The duo shifted their focus to discern what caught the rabid monsters' interest. Astounded, they were shocked by what they saw.

On the rooftops of the buildings lining the main drag, Isley and Lee ran for their lives. Though out of the serpopards' clutches, the snipers were far from safety. Griffins dive–bombed with murderous intent; their assault masked by the dense smog.

Bounding from roof to roof, Isley and Lee were sitting ducks. Gida and Davis knew they needed to act fast. Raising their barrels to the heavens, the duo blindly fired into the black cloud. The bodies of griffins lifelessly plunged from the maelstrom, crash landing amongst their abominable kin.

Though they'd granted their cohorts a brief reprieve from danger, the duo also drew the ire of the serpopard pack. As the snake–like felines sped towards the soldiers while Isley came skidding down a fire escape ladder to rejoin his compatriots.

"You boys havin' fun yet?" Isley jested, lending his own firepower to the defense.

"We gotta knock 'em back!" Davis realized. "Hit 'em with grenades!"

In unison, the trio pull their pins and flung explosives into the onslaught. Three explosions rocked the land in quick succession. The serpopards recoiled as shrapnel shredded through their despicable ranks.

They might've bought Lee a few more seconds, but he wasn't out of the woods yet. The final structure he would've used to climb down was just then struck with a mortar. As the humble building crumbled, so did Lee's hope for escape.

Distressed, his eyes darted about, looking for some semblance of salvation. There was nothing. Jumping meant broken legs and certain death. Climbing would take too long. He had no way out.

"Alright, Adam," Lee murmured to himself, "time to get creative."

Clutching two bowie knives from his belt, Adam Lee drew them with his eyes glued to a moving target. A rogue griffin was launching an offensive towards his fellow soldiers below.

The half lion, half eagle abomination crossed in front of Lee. Summoning all his strength, the sniper leapt from the rooftop. For a moment, time stood still. He hovered in the air, completely vulnerable. However, so was his target.

With two might stabs, Lee plunged his blades into the griffin's side. Blood spurted from the creature as it squealed in agony. With fluttering wings, the animal desperately flapped, accelerating its blood loss and helpless to halt their descent.

When they were a meter off the ground, Lee unstuck his victim, dropping to the earth. With a graceful roll, he leapt to his feet and sprinted to rendezvous with the battalion. Pride swelled within him seeing his comrades gawking in amazement.

"That was one of the coolest things I've ever seen," Gida remarked, astounded.

"That was the coolest thing I've ever done," Lee agreed, delightfully shocked that his cockamamie plot had succeeded.

Davis grabbed his cohorts, leading them down the cellar stairs. "We gotta go! You can brag all about it down here."

Once the cellar door locked, the battalion sat in sullen silence. Some tried to rest, though their minds were wrought with disturbing visions of the atrocity they'd witnessed. Others stared into space, desperately working to erase the bloodshed from their memories.

Sounds of monsters prowling above their heads broke the silence. Hateful snarls and screeches plagued their ears as the predators sought out their prey. Each man knew they didn't have much time left. Ras Ghareb wasn't a large place. Their enemies would find them soon enough.

"What the hell happened at that temple?" Claypool broke the silence, keeping his voice slightly hushed.

"Black magic, necromancy, witchcraft," Sherman theorized possible explanations, "at least that's my guess?"

"How would you know?" Gida skeptically jibed.

"I read!" Sherman countered.

Gida turned quizzically to Davis. "Did you know he could read?"

Davis shrugged. "All I know is he's good at killing. Doesn't matter now, no book is gonna help us outta this fight."

Isley sighed. "Since when do the freakin' Krauts care so much about magic and Egypt?"

"Berlin's on its last leg," Owens interjected, "Hitler's desperate. I reckon he'll try anything."

Roberts lent his own knowledge. "Rumor has it that Hitler designed an agency to investigate the occult and mysticism since before the war. Obviously, they found something."

"Why Egypt though?" Lee pondered.

"Isn't it obvious?" Dolan chimed in.

"Not at all," Claypool answered for the group, "please enlighten us."

Dolan's lips pursed. His eyes darted towards Goldberg. He fidgeted nervously before outlining his explanation.

"We've all heard the reports out of Europe," Dolan began, "Jews and undesirables being slaughtered by the millions. Can anyone think of another historical empire bent on enslaving and massacring Hebrews?"

"Who is the Lord, that I should obey him and let Israel go?" Goldberg broke his silence, quoting scripture. "I do not know the Lord and I will not let Israel go. Pharaoh gave that charming tidbit to Moses in Exodus."

"Looks like they're still holdin' a grudge," Davis surmised.

Owen's chin tightened in anger. "Hitler wants to ensure that, if Germany falls, there's someone left to carry out his twisted endgame."

"I'd bet the farm that princely lookin' fella is the Pharaoh that got sideways with Moses," Gida wagered.

"Then what the hell's the dog headed guy?" Isley was perplexed. "I don't recall any jackal men in Exodus."

Roberts shrugged. "Some Egyptian god, probably Anubis, given what I remember from third grade history."

Claypool boisterously threw up is hands in dismay. "They were nothing but myths! Even if some sorcery resurrected Pharaoh, those gods never existed! Neither did any of these other bizarre creatures!"

"The devil's got many tricks," Dolan speculated.

"And we've got front row seats to his newest one," Owens pensively added.

Sherman scoffed. "Somehow I knew this was gonna happen. Been having freaky dreams a week leading up to this operation."

"We don't need to hear about none of your perverted fantasies," Isley's jesting wit didn't cease, even in the worst circumstances.

"Not that kind of freaky," Sherman's solemn tone didn't waiver.

Roberts perked up, intrigued. "What are you talking about, soldier?"

"Been the same thing every night. I saw a shadow, racin' across the desert, consuming everything in its path," Sherman began. "I ran from it, towards the sea."

"Ain't no escape through the Red Sea," Davis noted skeptically.

Sherman shrugged. "I know it sounds crazy. But each night, I saw a dove fly over the sea into a sunrise. Never felt like I was gonna die."

Lee wasn't so hopeful. "Sure as hell feels like we're gonna die."

Claypool smirked, rolling up his sleeve. He turned his arm, exposing a dark tattoo. It was an angelic figure, clad in black armor, wielding a scythe. The angel's feet trampled atop a serpent. Above his head was a verse of scripture.

"You are my war hammer, my weapon for battle," Claypool recited from the book of Jeremiah, "with you I shatter nations, with you I destroy kingdoms."

Owens stood to address the men. "It took ten plagues to defeat Egypt last time. Tonight, we're the embodiment of those ten plagues, reborn to send those demons back to hell."

Roberts lent his voice to the plotting, "We'll radio the Navy. Once we fight our way out of here, we make a beeline for the sea. No man left behind."

"No man left behind," the platoon echoed with courageous resilience.

To be continued


Rate Matt Lucas's Neo-Exodus: Part I

Let The Contributor Know What You Think!

HTML Comment Box is loading comments...