Authors: Jacqueline Druga
Book Three: Last Days Trilogy
Last Days Trilogy
Last Days, Exodus, Purge
By Jacqueline Druga
Copyright 2016 by Jacqueline Druga
Original Copyright 2003, (Shroud – Final Battle)
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to any person or persons, living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.
Thank you so very much to Kira and Shona for all your help with this series.
A special thank you to John P. Rutledge, Michael J. Vaughn and Dead End Street LLC for their extensive editing of the original book. And to DES for giving it its first chance.
Cover art created by Christian Bentulan
“At that time Michael, the Archangel who stands guard over your nation, will arise. This will be a time of anguish greater than any since nations first came into existence. But at that time, every one named in the book will be rescued.”
“There is always a beginning
The purest of skin had turned vile, drained of innocence. A hue took over his complexion, an outward reflection of his being and objective. All of it... dark.
Every battle, no matter the cause, is the same. There is evil
The thick hand of Lucifer darted to the throat of Gabriel the angel, gripping him. Sadistic and angry, he lifted the angel with a laugh, glaring momentarily before propelling him out of the way.
Gabriel landed where others before him had landed. Angels of God, created and chosen, had become particles and pieces. Wings of flesh carpeted the ground, receptacles for the blood dripping from the limbs that dangled from every tree.
and there is good
But Gabriel was stronger than most, and he was not down for long. He regained his strength, rose from the carnage, and charged with a vengeance toward Lucifer. But, without warning, a blasting wave spewed from Lucifer’s mouth, lifting Gabriel and hurling him once more.
“There is always a victor
A golden sword, mighty and long, sounded off with thunder as it careened down Lucifer’s back. The surprise, more than the blow, shook him from his stance and buckled his legs. An unseen force encircled him, creating a whirlwind of air that struck and stung him, weakening him to a fall.
and always a conquered
Crying out, Lucifer was crushed between the ground and the force that pinned him there. The struggle was short. Down went the sword, swift and hard, ending the being, but failing to silence the screams of anguish as his soul plunged into darkness.
“But that does not mean there is always a winner
The never-ending struggle between good and evil, lightness and darkness... had begun.
In the modern-day world, Michael faced a view that could have been from any era in time. On the east edge of Kyle Stevens’ property, he stood on a hill with Reggie Stevens, overlooking a field that appeared as if nature’s hand had speckled it with paint. The field was empty, but multicolored with overgrown foliage. “Do you understand what I am telling you, Reggie?” Michael asked.
The wind whipped through Reggie’s hair. She removed it from her eyes. “Yes and no. Why did you bring me here to tell me that?”
“More so to show you.” Michael’s hand pointed outward. “The emptiness of this field will soon be filled with warriors in training.”
“So we’ll be starting soon?”
“Soon, very soon. But you, Reggie, will train here.” Michael touched her temple. “And here.” He laid a hand over her heart. “This field, it is symbolic. Just as this field is now empty, so, in essence, was your Earth. And just as this field will soon be graced with determination and meaning, so will the value of Earth when the battle is finished.”
“And we’ll beat Devante like you beat Lucifer.”
“I brought on the fall of Lucifer; I did not defeat him.” Michael turned to face her. “If I had, would we be here now?”
“No, I guess not.” Reggie shook her head. “But...” She changed her tone to one of certainty. “This time will be different.”
“Yes. Because this time, the battle of good and evil, Heaven and Hell, once and for all...” His voice dropped to a whisper, “will end.”
Refugee Camp Number SLM-23
If the bodies were the players, and their moans the music, then the assembly of the sick was a symphony of agony, bellowing through the camp. It wasn’t the urgent summons that caused Devante to rush to the tent at the camp’s center. It was the deep desire to stop the irritating, endless noise. Adding to the cries of the afflicted were the mobs of physically unaffected, shouting their concerns.
Devante yelled “Silence!” but it brought no results. He gave the tent-flap a frustrated whack. Leonard and Todd followed him. Fifty gravely ill people jammed the tent. They shook violently, swollen, their skin a deep, burning red; their dark eyes rolled back into their heads. Family members gathered around, adding to the confusion.
Devante stepped to the nearest cot and flung the covers from the man lying there. “See?” The skin on the man’s chest bubbled as if it was boiling. Elevations of the skin erupted like tiny volcanoes, seeping a misting, yellow pus.
Leonard swallowed hard and turned his head. “Radiation.”
“Radiation?” Devante asked.
“Yeah.” Leonard coughed once, then held his fist close to his mouth. “From the bombs that fell a few days ago.”
Devante lowered the cover. “I assure you, this is not radiation.”
“Then what is it?” Leonard asked, trying not to look.
“The mark of a non-believer.”
Todd, who had been silent, spoke up. “The plague of boils.”
Leonard coughed and lifted his head. “What do we do?”
“Spread the word,” Devante answered with an eerie smile. “Those who believe in me will dictate the course to be taken.”
Todd worked on a charcoal sketch of searing flames, but it didn’t capture the horror. A mound wide and high was set aflame. Blazes of orange reached out like arms, snatching anything tossed toward the fire.
Devante stood behind Todd at a distance, arms folded, watching as two men dressed in protective clothing dragged a woman. The dirt created a cloud beneath her trudging feet, as the woman fought for her freedom with slowly swinging arms. Her face covered with boils, she screamed as she was pulled, receiving reprieve only when she dropped to the ground. Before she could regain her footing, the two men grabbed her again. Now held by her head and feet, she was tossed into the mound of burning bodies.
Her cries rang out as her body succumbed. Her crime was her illness; her judge and jury her peers. She wasn’t the first, nor would she be the last, of those marked with the punishment of death.
There was something different about the sky, Kyle Stevens noticed it right away. Not a cloud in sight, yet the sky had lost its blue. It now carried purple tones. And, although the daylight approached, Kyle could not find the sun. He knew why. Quite simply, heaven had closed its gate. No more souls would enter, not for a while, anyway. The people on Earth had one of two purposes: fight for good or battle against it. The army of darkness was mighty; the army of light had barely begun to recruit.
The streets of Seville were deserted. Kyle hadn’t seen anyone in days. They’d fled in fear to a place where they felt safe. Unfortunately, that particular sanctuary was the den of pure evil.
Slow and steady, Kyle pulled a cart filled with survival supplies. It was his daily trip. He had collected far more supplies than would be needed for the seven others who lived on his property. But Michael had told him to gather all that he could because a great army would soon flourish on his land. Kyle wondered if Michael’s preplanning was based in fact or wishful thinking.
For now, the squeaking wheels were the only sound Kyle heard. He stayed in town a while longer, hoping that somebody might appear. But no one did. No one answered his calls. It was, without a doubt, absolutely dead.
. I’d like to say that was the start of it all, but that’s not true. I’d have to go back to at least the age of nine, because that is when my fascination with Jesus began.
When I was twelve, our preacher told me, “Marcus Leon, boy, I swear you and the Good Lord are the only ones who know what’s in that mind of yours. So don’t tell me, tell it to the Lord, or keep it to yourself.” Perhaps it was a harsh thing to tell a child, but I was always more than a child. I challenged our preacher with my radical theories on biblical occurrences. He never wanted to hear any of them. Especially my remarks about the impossibility of re-generating three-day-old, deceased flesh without some remnants of decay. Did I believe my theories? In a way, yes. And I vowed to prove them all… someday.
Having grown up in the strictest of Baptist homes, getting feedback on my thoughts was impossible, so I began to journal everything as best as I could. A sort of therapy, obscurely suggested by Pastor Malcolm Wilson.
Though never a steady habit, my journaling got me through college, internships, and a stream of bad marriages. I used recording devices rather than paper, mainly because my handwriting is so atrocious. They weren’t for anyone to hear, anyway; they were for me, a representation of my sanity.
Then, my biggest impediment was time. Now, it’s my biggest enemy. So I write.
How did it get this far? Why did I let it? I had the power to stop it. My childhood obsession became a scientific fixation.
Devante should not have happened. The cloning process was supposed to give us a baby in nine months, not a giant Jesus look-a-like in thirty days. When I saw him forming, I should have stopped it. I never read the signs. My dreams were prophetic, and the scientist in me ignored them. My ego and determination overrode all the religious common sense my mother gave me.
I wanted success, and it was handed to me on a silver platter. The price was humanity. I take responsibility for the clone, but I will not blame myself for the stupidity of mankind. They embraced him as a savior. They followed him. And instead of standing against him when he began to destroy our world, extinguishing countless lives, they believed in him more. Those who were spared, thanked him, pathetic, mindless sheep following a wolf to the slaughter.
Devante’s followers are numerous and engaged, while the faithful of God are either imprisoned or scattered like pollen. But
are united in fear, not will or faith, and because of that, there is no doubt in my mind how this will end.
There will come a time, when you will lift the flat stone, reach into the earth, and pull out the sword that marks you a true warrior.
Michael’s words played in Reggie’s mind as she hurried to the stone for her daily attempt.
“It’s there, I know it,” Reggie said, as she spun and ran ahead of Michael.
“Reggie,” Michael called.
“No, I feel it,” she said, now running backwards. “Seven bull’s eyes in a row. I’m cool.”
“You mark with expertise, right now, but you still...” Michael shook his head as she turned and ran faster. He picked up his speed.
At the edge of the property, Reggie dropped to the ground. “I’m so excited.”
“Reggie.” Michael knelt and grabbed her hands as they reached for the flat rock. “Perhaps we should continue training and not take this break.”
“It’s not a break. I want the sword for our training.”
“If you insist on…”
“You’re messing up my concentration, shh.” She returned to the rock and closed her eyes. “It’s there,” she whispered. “It’s there.” She lifted the rock, and stuck her hand in the hole. “It’s... Damn it!”
“It’s not there.”
“No shit. Did you know?”
“I had a feeling.”
“Thank you for telling me. Jerk...”
“I still do not understand this term ‘jerk,’” said Michael. “Is it a movement, or a title?”
“Both,” Reggie answered. “But in that instance, I wasn’t telling you to move.”
“Ah, so I am a jerk? Like we called Marcus. That is an endearing term that means someone that performs an act of kindness.” Michael pointed to his temple. “I remember. You compliment me. I thought you were angry. Thank you.”
“Sure, don’t mention it.”
“But I must. I was merely trying to stop you from…”
“That’s it.” Reggie snapped her fingers. “You stopped me. You broke my concentration.” She stood. “I couldn’t concentrate enough for it to be there.”
“If it was not there when you reached in, no wishing or concentrating would have made it so. Understand?”
Unconvinced, Reggie answered, “Yes.” She held out her hand.
“What is that for?” He stared at her wiggling fingers.
“I’m helping you up.”
“Reggie,” Michael snickered. “I do not need help in getting... perhaps I shall take your aid.” He grabbed onto her fingers and stood. Reggie took off running. “Reggie! Where do you go?”
“I’m thirsty. Wanna race?” She began to speed up.
“No,” Michael answered, but she was gone. Looking to the sky, Michael shook his head. “One day I will put her haste to good use.”
Where was everybody? Reggie walked about the first floor of the house in a faint search. It not only sounded quiet, it felt quiet. Marcus was supposed to be teaching her son, Seth. But books lay open on the coffee table, and a video game on the TV was on pause. Reggie walked to the kitchen for some water.
The pitcher sat on the counter; she poured a glass. She felt the soft brush of lips against the back of her neck.
“Hey,” Marcus whispered. “There’s the love of my life.”
Reggie smiled and turned around. “The sweaty love of your life.”
“Yeah, but I have to say…” Marcus tilted his head. “I like this look the best.”
“Oh, yeah?” Reggie asked. “Want me to stay like this… for when we’re alone later?”
Marcus scoffed. “You really think we’ll ever get time alone?” He reached for a glass. “Your heavenly teacher is glued to your side.”
“He’s not now.” Reggie winked.
The kitchen door opened with a squeak, and Michael walked in.
“You were saying?” said Marcus.
“Ah, Reggie,” Michael said. “I see you’ve found your water. I would like some, too.”
Marcus shook his head at Reggie and extended his water. “Here, Michael, take mine. I’ll get more.”
“Thank you, Marcus. You are a jerk.”
Reggie laughed, spitting out a mouthful of water.
After wiping the water from his face, Marcus handed a towel to Reggie with a huge grin. “What meaning exactly did you teach him for the word, jerk?”
“Kindness.” Reggie wiped off her face and returned the towel. “Thanks. Now, back to training.” She gave him a kiss on the cheek before stepping back. “I’m gonna learn to slice some apples with a pretty big knife.”
“Sword,” Michael corrected.
Reggie paused at the door. “But take note, Marcus. It isn’t
sword. The ground was empty.” Reggie pushed open the door and walked out. Michael was on her heels.
Marcus chuckled and poured himself some more water.
Eleven-year-old Seth was more preoccupied with searching through boxes than helping his grandfather organize them. Aside from machinery and tools, Kyle used the old shed for storage. A lot of times, when his house needed a good cleaning, Kyle would collect the junk laying around, put it in a box and stash it in the shed. He had a theory on that. He figured that if he didn’t miss it in a few months, he never would, and it was safe to toss it out. Unfortunately, Kyle had boxes in that shed from thirty years ago. And organizing and cleaning was no longer a thing he’d have the luxury of getting around to. But he did have to make room for the new supplies.
“Seth, come on now. You can’t be rummaging. That’s not what I’m paying you for.” Kyle stayed focused on the boxes.
“Pap,” Seth snickered. “You ain’t paying me. And… Marcus said this isn’t school.”
“Sure it is. If you start counting up them boxes, then you have math. See?”
“You’re funny,” Seth laughed.
“No, I’m busy. And you aren’t. We have to make room for…”
“Who’s this?” Seth lifted a photo from an open box. “Whoa, there’s like a gazillion pictures of her.”
Kyle froze. He didn’t have to look to know which photos Seth was talking about.
“Pap?” Seth questioned.
Kyle set down a box, put on a clueless look and faced Seth. “Let me see.” He reached out. “Hmm. Well, this would be Lil.” He gave the picture back. “She left twenty years ago when I was your mom’s age, and when your mom was about your age.”
“Is this my grandmother?”
“We don’t call her that, Seth. She has never earned that, ‘cause she never came back. So, everyone calls her Lil. I call her ‘It.’ And all those pictures should be tossed.”
“But isn’t she still a grandmother anyhow, and a mother?” Seth asked.
The gentle voice of Eliza Leon called out right before she stepped into the open doorway. “Kyle?”
“No, Seth.” Kyle snapped his fingers and pointed at Eliza. “There’s a mother.”
Eliza looked horrified. “Why am I being called names?”
Kyle smiled. “No. Mother. Mom. You. The woman who birthed the man who started the end of the world.”
“Very funny, Kyle Stevens.” Eliza folded her arms. “Now if you’re done making jokes, I was wondering if you’d mind if I picked some of your tomatoes for supper. They seem…” She paused and stepped into the shed. “Good Lord, Kyle, do you have enough?”
“I think so. Michael says no. We need the supplies for his army.”
“Will there be a lot?”
“Eliza, it’s an army. I’m thinking… yeah.”
“Well, where are we gonna put them all?” Eliza asked. “I certainly hope I don’t have to cook for…”
“Eliza.” Kyle halted her. “Before you have a breakdown, remember that he first has to find this so-called army. I’ve been out there, and there ain’t nothing or no one for miles.”
Still rummaging through the box, Seth spoke up nonchalantly. “Michael and my mom know where to find them. I heard them talking.” He looked at another picture. “At least forty. That’s what they said. Gonna get them tomorrow night.”
“Seth?” Kyle asked. “Are you sure?”
“Oh, yeah.” Seth looked up. “I eavesdrop all the time.”
“Do you know where they’re getting these men from?”
“My mom said they all live together… because none of them believe in God.”
Kyle nodded knowingly. “That makes sense.”
Curious, Eliza turned to Kyle. “How’s that? How can they fight for God if they don’t believe in Him?”
“Right now, it doesn’t matter if they believe in God,” Kyle said. “As long as they don’t believe in Devante.”
Refugee Camp Number SLM-23
In a large tent furnished with only a few cots, Devante sat on a blanket, knees to his chest, arms folded over his knees. He stared at a youthful Todd, who sketched rapidly. Todd’s charcoal pencil moved across the paper, and images appeared almost magically. Devante didn’t notice Jack Ross, one of his henchmen, as he entered.
Jack’s demeanor screamed for Devante’s attention. When he didn’t get it, he tossed a tin plate to the ground. Devante glanced at the plate only briefly and raised his eyes to Jack.
“That…” Jack pointed down. “Is what you are feeding people.”
Devante looked. The contents of the plate had spilled. At first it looked like rice, until the grains started to squirm.
“Maggots,” Jack said. “The food is infested with them.”
Devante lifted his head with a smile. “They should be happy they are eating.”
“You can’t feed people maggots.”
“If they wish to eat, they will eat what is given. They have been told that fresh food will be impossible until the nonbelievers stop bringing death to everything.”
“That shouldn’t matter,” Jack argued. “I won’t eat maggots.”
“If you’re all that powerful, then why can’t you create better food?”
Like a thunderstorm, Devante rose to his feet. “You challenge me!?”
“On this, yes,” Jack answered, nervously.
“Then it is the last time you have challenged me.” Devante gripped Jack’s throat, lifted him from the ground, and squeezed his fingers, snapping Jack’s neck.
Jack’s head flopped to the side like a rag doll. Devante released him to the ground. Todd paused, peered at Jack, said nothing, and returned to drawing.
Leonard walked into the tent. “Devante, I…” He stopped when he saw Jack’s body.
“Yes?” Devante asked.
“I… I, uh...” He cleared his throat and forced his eyes forward. “The woman you sought. A...” Leonard looked at his notepad. “Mary Beth something or other? She’s no longer viable. Tennessee prison said they found her dead.”
Devante’s eyes widened. “How? When?”
“They found her this morning when you asked for her. She killed herself sometime in the last two days.” He flipped the notepad closed and shuffled a little further from Jack’s body. “I have a question, though. You’re searching out this woman to infiltrate the town that’s going to be the camp for the other side, right? Well, if they’re that much of a threat, why don’t we just wipe out the town?”
“I wish it were that easy.” Devante laid his hand on Leonard’s shoulder. “Unfortunately, they are protected by a force you cannot see. That force can only be broken from the inside. One of them. An invited guest.”
“Dude!” Todd barked. “Like with vampires.”
Devante and Leonard gave him identical looks.
Todd continued. “You render yourself powerless against a vampire if you invite him into your home. So, like, if they invite one of us into their camp, their force can’t protect them.”
Devante stared at Todd, blinking with confusion. Then his face returned to normal. “Yes. You are correct. They are powerless while we are in their camp.”
“Cool.” Todd returned to his drawing.
The sketch caught Devante’s attention. “Another way.” He faced Leonard. “There is another way. I sense it. I feel it.”
“What is it?” Leonard asked.
“The answer is in the prison camp near here. I want you to go and question the prisoners. I am certain you will find the answer.”
Leonard laughed. “You can’t be serious. There are seven thousand people there.”
“Talk to them,” Devante stated.
“Seven thousand people? Do you know how many seven thousand people are? Most of them are defiant and won’t even...”
“Talk to them,” Devante instructed, sternly. He stepped over Jack’s body and walked out of the tent.
Leonard shook his head and glanced at Todd. “Do you suppose he doesn’t know what we’re looking for? Or do you think he’s just making us work for the answer?”
want to question him?” Todd gave a nod toward Jack’s body.