Aicha Zoubair

Jessica Bell

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Infernal Gates by Michael J. Webb @mjwebbbooks

Chapter 2

Ethan dreamed.

He was engulfed in a strange, penetrating white light. The light was so bright, so strong, so pervasive, he could feel it

It was almost as if the light was—alive.

A man’s Voice—filled with compassion, and love—said with authority, “It was not your fault. None of it was your fault. Do not fear—you were born for such a time as this—”

In addition to the Voice, he heard singing.

Even though it was faint, it had strength and purpose. Before the question had fully formed in his mind, the answer came—


Then, abruptly, his nightmare returned.

He was on a plane—

It was about to crash!

Ethan screamed, opened his eyes, and immediately recognized where he was. He was at home—laying on his back, on top of the king size bed in his master suite—and he had on the same clothes he’d worn on the flight to St. Thomas.

Disoriented, he sat up and glanced at the clock on the night stand beside the bed. The luminous red numbers read 10:00. The A.M. light was also illuminated red.

Something was very wrong.

He looked at the date on his watch and frowned.

It was Monday—not Sunday. Exactly twenty-four hours after he and Lisa and the kids had taken off for St. Thomas.

Lightheaded, he called out to his family.

No response.

His right hand ached.

He looked down and his eyes grew wide. “What in the name of—” he muttered.

A long, thin cut extended from the center of his palm downward through the thick flesh at the base of his hand. The jagged wound stopped just short of where his wrist began. Another eighth of an inch and the cut would have sliced through a major artery. Dried blood lay crusted in flakes along the edges of the newly-healing wound.

He took a deep breath and groaned with the unexpected pain

He pulled up his shirt. A large purple and black bruise, tinged with a yellow-brown rim, ran from just below his arm pit to just above his waist. He touched the ugly-looking bruise and winced.

Confused and frightened, he cried out, “What—is—happening—to—me?”

“Poppa, hurry up! If we don’t leave this minute, we’ll miss the bus.”

Avner Cohen dried his hands then glanced in the mirror. He looked at the surprisingly unwrinkled face that stared back at him with dark eyes—eyes that were for the first time in a very long time filled with the hint of anticipation and excitement. He wondered how many people over the years had seen past the fa├žade; how many of his friends had seen the years of pain and sorrow that had accumulated there and pooled like silt at the bottom of a dammed-up stream and simply said nothing.

He sighed heavily and gave himself a final glance in the mirror.

Satisfied, he put on his coat and opened the bathroom door. On the way through the hall he grabbed his hat, put it on. He also put a smile on his face.

His daughter, Rachel, along with her husband, Daniel, and their ten year old daughter, Abigail, waited impatiently for him at the front door of his small Jerusalem residence. “When you get to be as old as I am,” he said when he reached them, “there are some things you can’t rush.”

“Seventy-two isn’t old, Avner,” quipped Daniel. “My Uncle Elias is almost ninety—and he still rides his bike every day.” A broad, toothy smile creased his youthful, bearded face. There was a sparkling glint of affection in his deep-set, black eyes for his father-in-law.

“What do you know about old age? You’re not even forty yet, you’re married to the most beautiful woman in Jerusalem, and you have the prettiest, most talented, daughter in all of Israel.”

Rachel blushed. “Poppa, stop.”

The four of them walked the three blocks to the Egged Bus Stop.

The bus arrived and they got on.

“Crowded, as usual,” muttered Avner as they paid the fare then found seats near the center of the bus. Abigail settled in beside him. Daniel and Rachel sat in front of them.

Abigail had studied violin for five years and was something of a prodigy. She’d been invited by the Prime Minister to perform at a special function at the University, her first public appearance.

His granddaughter chattered like a bird and talked about her new friend at school.

Avner was only half-listening.

He thought about his daughter. Rachel was pregnant—far enough along to know from an ultrasound test that it was a boy. She and Daniel, along with his help, had already picked out their son’s name—Josiah.

Names were very important to Avner. He believed a child’s name was chosen by God, represented their Biblical calling, and destiny.

In Hebrew, Abigail means father of joy. His granddaughter had more than lived up to that meaning. After all the pain and suffering he’d experienced, God had renewed his hope—and restored a measure of his joy—with her birth. She’d made him laugh so much, and so often, there were actually moments when he forgot the horrors of his past. Now, after a decade of wondering whether or not there was still hope for him to have a lineal priest in the family, God had answered his prayers. He loved his daughter and granddaughter, but had always wanted a son. He’d been relieved, and pleased, when Daniel and Rachel assured him they intended to dedicate their first-born son to the service of God, in keeping with traditional Judaism.

“Are you listening, to me?” Abigail asked.

Avner smiled. “Of course I am, menchkin. You were telling me how you and Leah like to sneak off during recess and tell each other fanciful stories about kings and queens—”

“And dragons.”

“I forgot about the dragons.”

Abigail smiled back and continued talking as the bus came to a stop.

Avner’s attention was suddenly drawn to a dark-haired, dark-skinned young man who looked like he was about fifteen. He watched as the young man paid the fare, then glanced down the length of the bus as if he’d just made some sort of assessment.

The bus driver closed the door, engaged the engine.

The bus pulled away from the curb.

Avner locked his eyes on the young Arab, took several deep breaths, trying to calm his suddenly fluttering stomach, and reminded himself that there had not been a bombing in Jerusalem for weeks. The security fence was working, in spite of what its critics said.

The young man shifted his back pack, shuffled down the aisle.

Avner could not take his eyes off of the newest passenger.

The young man’s pace was slow, purposeful, and he never made eye contact with anyone. He seemed hypnotized, or drugged.

As the young man passed him, Avner smelled—perfume!

Avner knew the smell of perfume on men was one of the primary indicators of a possible terrorist bomber. Young Palestinian men were brainwashed into believing that killing Jews was their sacred duty, that Allah would reward their sacrifice. They were indoctrinated with a horrible lie—the instant they died, they would find themselves in Heaven, where a harem of beautiful young virgins waited for them. Hence the perfume. They wanted to smell their best for the nubile young women waiting eagerly to indulge their every sexual fantasy.

Avner fastened his eyes on the back pack the young man carried. It looked ordinary, the kind a schoolboy would fill with books and snacks. Still, he sensed something wasn’t quite right. Without thinking, he jumped up and yelled, “Terrorist! Bomb!” as he lunged for the young man.

The young man stepped back, out of reach, and yelled out, “Allah hu akbar—” “God is great!” as he reached inside his shirt.

Avner cried out, “Noooooooo!” then muttered, “Preserve me, O God, for in You I put my trust. Deliver us from the evil man; preserve us from the violent man—”

A woman screamed.

It sounded like Rachel.

The bus jerked to an abrupt stop with an agonizing shudder.

Avner stumbled, fell to one knee. A sharp pain shot up his leg. His heart pounded and he clutched his chest. Gasping for air, he looked up into the vacant eyes of the boy, then grabbed him by his leg. “Please—don’t—”

In the next instant, a flash of blinding white light enveloped him as a blast of fiery heat washed over him.

Then, his world went black.

Infernal Gates

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Genre – Christian Thriller, Fantasy, Adventure

Rating – PG-13

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