Neo-Exodus: Part III
By: Matt Lucas

Davis reached Anubis first, with a mighty swing, he bashed the butt of his Thompson against the beast's jaw. Undaunted, Anubis' powerful hand burst forward, gripping Davis' throat, squeezing the breath from his lungs. His scorching hand burned Davis' neck while simultaneously crushing his windpipe.

Air squeaked from Davis' esophagus. His eyes went dark as he smelled the flesh on his neck burning. Death was imminent. His only hope was that his sacrifice was enough to save his men.

Davis wasn't Roberts. He had no wife and no child waiting for him in Philadelphia. He wasn't a family man. That desire was never built into his heart. Instead, he spent his life in the Army, training to be a warrior and yearning for a warrior's death. There was no more honorable death that to lay down his life for the lives of others.

Just as he welcomed death's poisoned kiss, Davis felt himself falling back to the earth. Breath returned to his lungs as he gasped for air. His sight returned and his eyes darted about, searching to discern what caused his salvation.

Owens had buried his axe squarely into Anubis' chest. A symphony of anguish reverberated from a griffin and serpopard chorus. Anubis released Davis, wrestling to pull the axe plunged into his chest.

Summoning all his might, Owens grappled with the jackal, pressing forward and straining to push the blade deeper into the beast. Stunned by the turn of events, Davis watched in amazement as Claypool and Isley charged Anubis as well. Sherman, Dolan, and Goldberg, soon arrived on the scene as well, lifting Davis back to his feet.

The jackal roared in agony, straining against the might of mere mortals. Claypool and Isley pulled against Anubis' right arm, wresting it away from the axe and allowing Owens to bury it deeper into the monster's chest. As they struggled, resolve welled within Davis.

This was their moment. Anubis was rendered immobile. The tank's gun was in position. However, the soldier's strength waned against the jackal's supernatural might.

"Get back to the tank," Davis commanded Dolan, Goldberg, and Sherman with stern resolve, "tell Gida to fire the shot."

"What about you?" Goldberg queried.

"We're gonna hold him still," Davis confirmed, undaunted by what his order meant.

"Are you kidding me?" Dolan was astounded by the idea. "There's gotta be another way!"

"You'll die!" Sherman protested. "What happened to no man left behind?"

"This is war," Davis replied, "men are always left behind, but there are no men forgotten as long as those who knew them survive."

Without waiting for a reply, Davis rushed Anubis. Latching onto the terror's left arm, he pulled at it with all his strength. A spirit of faith fluttered in his soul, summoning a power he'd never known before. He wretched away the beast's arm, freeing Owens to release a final, vicious bombardment.

Understanding what was about to happen, Owens made his own contribution to the effort. He pulled the axe from Anubis' chest and began to swing away like he was chopping down a tree. With each powerful stroke, Anubis and his army wailed in strife.

It was a fitting conclusion. Owens had once been a promising baseball prospect before the war began. Known for his prowess with a bat, he'd been drafted to play for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Yet, when his country called for him to stand against the greatest evil this world has ever known, he answered the call.

Now, as it turned out, every swing Owens ever swung on the diamond came to fruition in this moment. He remembered his father, a pastor, teaching him to swing in the park behind his childhood home. Today, in his last moments, his father's wisdom returned for one last word of encouragement.

"Talent is what God taught you before He sent you to Earth," Owens heard his father's words in his head. "You've got a talent for swinging that bat. Rest assured, boy, He's gonna use that one day."

Goldberg, Sherman, and Dolan made a sprint for the tank. After, sliding down the hatch, they shared Davis' final order.

"Take the shot," Goldberg uttered with mournful sadness in his voice.

Gida reared back in disbelief. "Our men are still out there! I'm not taking the shot!"

"No way!" Lee lent his voice to Gida's defiance. "I'm not killing my friends!"

"They know what they're doing," Dolan solemnly reckoned, "this was their plan. It's our only chance."

"No!" Gida bellowed. "I'm not—"

Gida's stand was viciously interrupted by Sherman, who shoved him aside with vengeful tears streaming down his face. Lee tried to block the husky brute, but he too was tossed aside. With his obstacles removed, Sherman clasped his fingers around the firing mechanism.

A brooding pause overtook Sherman. His hand quivered at the realization of what he was about to do. Those soldiers were his brothers, closer than any blood relative could ever be to him. He knew what he would do in their shoes.

"They'll die as soon as Anubis breaks free," Sherman reasoned, "every moment we waste is a second closer to them dying for nothing. If it were me, I'd want to die for something"

With a heavy heart, Sherman pulled the lever. A booming shot rang out, but none of the men in the tank heard it. Their sorrow was so great that it dulled their senses. The faint hum of griffins and serpopards bellowing in anguish confirmed they'd hit their mark, but every man knew the cost of that victory.

Goldberg mustered up the strength to stare through the periscope. Four bodies lay limp around a kneeling Anubis. Pools of blood surrounded Owens, Claypool, Isley, and Davis. The four brave warriors laid down their lives so the men in the tank could live to defeat the legion of evil.

Not lingering on his brothers' lifeless bodies, Goldberg shifted his focus to Anubis to see what they'd earned at the cost of their brethren's lives. The jackal's body was torn and mangled. Shards of bone were exposed, erratically jetting out in all directions. The heat of the blast scorched its flesh, leaving only the sinew below exposed. The bottom half of its jaw was blown off and its eyes hung limply from their sockets.

Parts of Anubis' limbs were blown off. The Egyptian god was missing its left arm at the shoulder and the bottom half of its right leg. The jackal's torso was split at its left shoulder as a bloody fissure line spread down to its naval.

"We got him," Goldberg declared numbly, in no mood to celebrate.

"Now's our chance," Dolan proclaimed, doing his best to remain focused on the task at hand, "if we go full–bore to the sea, the Navy should be waiting."

Sherman commandeered the driver's seat, pushing the lever forward. As the tank lurched down the main drag towards the sea, Goldberg refused to tear his eyes away from the scene at their backs. That was when he noticed something strange.

The Pharaoh approached Anubis' mangled corpse. He took a moment to inspect Claypool, Isley, Owens, and Davis' bodies. He spat on the ground, indignantly protesting their sacrifice. After he desecrated the memory of the fallen soldiers, Pharaoh laid his hands upon Anubis.

Goldberg watching in horror as new limbs sprouted in place of the old. The fissure in the abomination's body slowly fused together once more. Anubis' eyes retracted back to their sockets and its bottom jaw regenerated. The abomination was good as new, as if he'd never suffered a direct shot from a tank.

"Hey, guys!" Goldberg shouted in distress. "This isn't over!"

"What's happening?" Dolan failed to hide the worried inflection in his voice.

"The Pharaoh healed Anubis," Goldberg confirmed.

Suddenly, a blood–curdling roar erupted from the Egyptian god. Anubis raised his fist in triumph and the griffins took flight. At their master's behest, the serpopards charged forward, careening across the desert sands in pursuit of the tank. The Nazi soldiers joined their supernatural counterparts and gave chase as well.

Desperately, Lee got on the radio, calling out in the hopes that a Navy ship had arrived on the scene. "Does anyone copy?"

"This is the USS Iowa," a voice confirmed on the other line, "we received a distress signal."

"I need you to fire every gun you've got on that ship into Ras Ghareb!" Lee urged.

"Sir, we would risk friendly fire," the naval officer answered in confusion.

"There are no friendlies left here!" Lee countered. "We stole a Nazi tank and are about to break through Ras Ghareb's outer wall, just blow this place to kingdom come!"

"Oh my God," the sound of disbelief came through the radio as the officer saw a legion of griffins blotting out the night sky. "Fire everything!"

A thunderous wave of explosions rocked Ras Ghareb. The tank quaked with each impact, rattling the men within. It was as if hell were unleashed on the tiny Egyptian town.

"What's happening out there, Goldberg?" Gida boomed in terror.

"Navy's slowin' ‘em down!" Goldberg roared back. "I think we're gonna make it!"

Just then a stray shell rocked the tank. The blast sent the steel chariot hurdling forward, rolling like a tire down a hill. The occupants violently bashed into the interior walls as they were flung about the cabin.

Thankfully their roll eventually came to a halt. The tank came to rest on its side as the occupants woozily stumbled to their feet.

"Everyone alive?" Dolan inquired while kicking the top of the hatch until it flung open.

"Depends on your definition of alive," Roberts groaned, waking from his poison induced trance.

When they emerged from the carnage, they turned around to find Ras Ghareb was nothing but a smoldering ruin. The main street they'd escaped through was littered with serpopard and Nazi bodies, still smoldering or aflame. A plume of smoke covered the entire area like morning fog.

The survivors found a shard of the tank's wheel that had been dislodged by the impact. They rested Roberts on it as a sled. Lee and Dolan began dragging their officer across the sands as the Red Sea came into view.

The USS Iowa floated in the water like an imposing monolith. Witnessing the devastation it had wrought on Ras Ghareb, filled the remaining fighters with hope that they might make it out of this alive. However, their hopes were dashed just as quickly.

Hundreds of griffins swarmed overhead. They mercilessly bombarded the vessel. The platoon looked on in horror as sailors were ripped from the deck and shredded alive in the sky.

Gunfire and desperate shouting filled the air as the mythical beasts shredded the unprepared ship. Soon, an enormous fireball lurched through the sky, hurtling towards the Iowa. When the fireball crashed upon its target, the vessel was consumed in flames. As the Iowa sunk below the waves, their hope drowned with it.

Out of the smog, Anubis and Pharaoh emerged, accompanied by their conjoined Nazi and serpopard forces. Knowing their prey had no escape except swimming, the army calmly approached, confident in their absolute victory.

Unwilling to give up, Sherman, Dolan, Lee, Gida, Goldberg, and Roberts limped to the banks of the Red Sea. The sun was just beginning to crest above the horizon. The visage was bittersweet.

"At least we made it through the night," Gida attempted optimism amidst their imminent doom.

Lee proudly smiled. "We gave ‘em one hell of a fight."

"Not a bad way to go out," Dolan agreed.

Sherman wasn't satisfied with this ending. "No, we've fought too hard. This isn't how it's supposed to end."

"Sometimes you just gotta embrace the inevitable," Roberts reasoned.

"No, we're not gonna die, I just know it," Sherman refused to surrender, "I can feel it in my bones."

"Listen, Sherman," Goldberg chimed in, "the ship is gone, and we're damn near out of ammo. There's no one left to save us."

Suddenly, a dove flew out over the water. Sherman wasn't sure if everyone else saw it, but he certainly did. White as snow, it gracefully flew over the sea.

Harkening back to the recurring dream he had before this mission, Sherman was renewed with hope. The certainty of survival consumed him. As if he were controlled by something other than himself, Sherman stretched his hand out over the waters.

A strong easterly wind began to blow. Starting with the water at Sherman's feet, the waves began to part. In amazement, Sherman watched as the line that began at his feet stretched deeper and deeper into the sea.

The others' eyes widened in shock as they witnessed the miraculous phenomenon. Soon enough, the entire sea had parted, leaving an alleyway for the soldiers to cross. They looked around at each other, desperately trying to fathom what was taking place before their very eyes.

"Go," Gida breathed.

They broke into a full sprint down the tunnel of water. Oddly enough, the ground beneath their feet was dry, as if it had never been a seabed. With renewed stamina, they pressed on, failing to tire.

Roberts, who looked backwards, saw a look of terror overtake the Pharaoh's expression. He bellowed a command and his forces charged forward in pursuit. Despite the Allied soldiers' enhanced endurance, they were still no match for the serpopards' speed.

The beasts were quickly gaining on the retreating squadron. Pulling his pistol from his waistband, Roberts figured he'd make himself useful.

"Lee, hand me your sidearm," Roberts ordered.

Lee unquestionably obliged.

With the serpopard forces gaining and the griffins' refocused attention, the battalion wasn't out of the woods yet. Despite having lost use of his legs, Roberts remained in the fight. Dual–wielding pistols, he relentlessly fought to keep the advance at bay.

Unfortunately, there was no way to counteract the aerial assault that was about to be unleashed by the griffins. The escapees were sitting ducks, waiting to be picked off by the winged lions. Soon enough, the same horde of griffins that sunk the USS Iowa hovered above.

"Here they come!" Dolan shouted, announcing the death from above.

The mongrels careened towards their prey, growling and snarling with blood dripping from their salivating jowls. It was as if the beasts knew nothing stood between them and their next meal.

As they came parallel to the highest points of the walls of water, something peculiar happened. The walls instantaneously conjoined, creating a protective ceiling above the platoon. The waters engulfed the mythical creatures and a strong current funneled them to the depths where they were held to drown.

No matter how many barraged the group from above, the griffins could not break through the wall of water. Yet, they continued to try until their numbers waned to zero.

The chase continued for some time. However, the Nazi and Egyptian army couldn't gain on the survivors. While, the Allied soldiers walked across dry land, their counterparts travelled across dense, muddy sand. Throughout the entire duration of the ordeal, the distance between the two forces remained the same.

As the sun rose above the horizon, the Allied survivors reached the other side of the sea. They climbed from the depths onto the opposing shore with a wave of relief cascading over their souls. When they reached the opposite side, they turned back to watch the army in pursuit.

Pharaoh, Anubis, the Nazis, and the serpopards slid in the muck and mire of the sea floor. The pristine, powdered Pharaoh was covered in grime. The man who deemed himself a god looked more like a pauper than a prince.

Anubis fared no better. The malignant jackal desperately hurled fire at his enemies to no avail. Each fireball launched was immediately extinguished by splashes of seawater that whipped each attempt into impotence. This god was no match for the God who governed the sea.

When Lee and Dolan pulled Roberts onto the other shore, it happened. The dual walls of the Red Sea collapsed. Rushing water washed away the Pharaoh, Anubis, the Nazis, and the unnatural abominations.

The dove that had guided the soldiers through the sea glided over the waters once more. As it flew, steam began hovering over the surface. Curious, Dolan knelt and touched the water.

Wincing, Dolan pulled his fingers back after making contact. "It's boiling. They're being boiled alive." The was no empathy in Dolan for the maniacal men and heinous creatures.

Their eyes followed the dove as it soared over the sea. Soon it turned and flew past the surviving soldiers. It rose into the sky, disappearing into the sun.

Once the mysterious dove left, the soldiers shifted their gaze across the Red Sea. Smoke billowed from Ras Ghareb, though the decimated city was out of view. With the long night over, they reflected on the legacy their hellish night would leave.

"The world needs to know what happened here," Gida declared.

"They never will," Roberts advised, "as soon as we report this to command, they'll bury it. If people knew what happened here, the world would plunge into mass hysteria."

"Nazis wouldn't be the big bad anymore," Dolan agreed. "If they knew monsters and demons were real, humanity would descend into madness."

"Claypool, Isley, Owens, and Davis died," Lee mournfully reminded the group, "and you're telling me that no one is ever going to know why?"

"No," Sherman solemnly declared, "because that's the sacrifice we made when we signed up to wear the uniform. We spill our blood for people that we'll never know so they'll never know the horror we've seen."



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