“Saturday, Day 723
“I think I know what is about to happen outside this tent, but I was told to write down my observations, not my speculations. So here goes.
“Everything I see around me is abnormal. Those strange clouds which hang so close to the ground are certainly not normal, nor is that cavalry facing us from maybe a hundred yards away. And where did it come from? It’s as if it materialized with the sunrise, scores of horsemen brandishing sabers, bows, arrows, spears and shields…like some ancient horde. But even that extraordinary sight is overshadowed by that sky. The red-purple-orange streaks rippling through the clouds can’t really be described—or explained. And the flashes of color are unnaturally constant and soundless, like some furious mute monster. These clouds seem to have descended from some other world.
“Although I have seen inexplicable things before, including the Disappearance of all the Christians from the earth and many things since then, nothing has disorientated me more than this sky and this cavalry—neither of which belongs on Earth.
“Nor do the rumblings I occasionally feel and hear beneath my feet. They promise more than an everyday earthquake. They suggest something monstrous and alien struggling to its birth from deep within the bowels of the planet. I expect to see it thrust its angry head up through the earth’s crust any moment, spewing fire and brimstone—as if midwifed by that alien sky above. If these conditions extend beyond this visible section of wilderness then Earth itself has ceased to be a suitable home for mankind.
“Now those clouds seem to be growing even stranger and more solidly red. They seem…”
Daniel Goldman broke off writing in his journal and laid his pen down. He could no longer ignore the images from the dream which had awakened him little more than half an hour ago. He kept seeing that woman with two faces struggling in the arms of the hooded giant with the pale blue eyes. And those two faces were not generic. One was the face of his future wife, Rebecca Shaul, the other, his “adopted” little sister, Catherine Meyers. As the dream had played his slumbering consciousness kept telling him that Rebecca and Catherine were both in grave danger—and that he couldn’t protect them. He had just now begun to suspect there might be even more to the message, but he couldn’t quite capture it in words.
Daniel tried to push the dream away so he could continue recording his observations as instructed, but before he could collect his thoughts his business partner Chagai Silvers burst in from another section of the tent.
“Sorry to interrupt, Daniel,” he said, “but I wanted you to know our progress. I think we are set with the drone camera. It is now stable, currently about a kilometer to the north and performing well. We are trying to stay just below the clouds so we can see the ground. We are hoping the sporadic radio connection will improve so we can better control the system. If everything goes well we can send the drone out to about five kilometers, the limit of its signaling capability under the best of circumstances.”
“Thanks, Chagai. Has God told you anything else about this battle you’re to film?”
“Only what I already told you. But…I think it will be a good turning point for our people.”
“I hope you’re right.”
Chagai nodded and returned to the section of the tent which housed the drone control station.
Alone once more Daniel quickly reviewed what he’d written. It had just occurred to him that he might be able to use this journal-writing exercise to coax from his subconscious some hint about how to protect both Rebecca and Catherine at the same time. But before he could write the next word Chagai thrust his head into Daniel’s section of the tent again.
“Daniel, you will not believe what we are seeing! You need to come see this for yourself!”
Without waiting for a response Chagai turned and rushed back the way he’d come.
Daniel dropped his pen, closed his journal and hurried after Chagai. When he entered the big center section of the tent he saw two very busy drone pilots sitting on folding canvas chairs. They were wiggling joysticks and staring at a digital tablet lying between them on a portable metal table where images sent back by the drone camera were displayed. Daniel inched closer so he could see them. As the drone’s view-angle switched under program control from one perspective to another he could make out small tributaries of marching men coming together along the east and west sides of the Jordan River. They all carried the same primitive weapons he’d seen among the mounted cavalry just north of the tent. As the warriors marched south they gradually formed two large rivers of men, with those on the east eventually crossing the King Abdullah Bridge to join their brothers on the west, thus forming one large human pool at the cavalry’s rear.
Daniel glanced over at Chagai, who was looking at him expectantly. Daniel nodded at him.
“I see what you mean,” he said. “There’s no doubt now. Prophecy is being fulfilled before our eyes!”
Part One: Stealth Army
Chapter One (seventy-eight hours earlier)
The former Israeli spy becomes aware of leather slapping softly against stone and of quietly gurgling water. He soon realizes the soft slapping comes from his own walking feet, and that the gurgling comes from a stream flowing just to his right.
He stops to study his surroundings and finds he is alone in a tunnel bored through stone. Two stone walkways, each about a meter wide, line both sides of the shallow open channel of water flowing through the center. He now knows where he is. He is under the Temple Mount with its newly finished Third Temple built by the enemy of his people, Vicente Romani.
He looks down at himself. He wears the robe of coarse camel hair which mysteriously appeared among his meager belongings a few days ago, and around his waist is a thin scarlet rope. Seeing his dress he also understands why he might have been brought here. He might be here to see if he is worthy of the destiny for which he has longed from boyhood.
Ahead of him the downward sloping tunnel, with its ceiling dotted every ten meters with bare yellow lights on both sides of the water, disappears into the distance. He sets his face in the direction of the water flow and resumes his steady march.
From boyhood he has longed to be like the patriarch Joshua when he took the Promised Land over three thousand years ago. It was that desire which led him to join Mossad in the first place. Maybe God has indeed answered his prayers and brought him here to this tunnel. Maybe he is to deliver God’s judgment against a temple that, because of the obvious evil of the man who provided it, could be no part of His work. Perhaps his mission is to emulate Joshua when he tore down the walls of Jericho using only trumpet blasts. Such a calling of God might also explain the images which have filled his waking and sleeping visions so many times in recent days, images he thinks of as the red rage. In these images he sees low-hanging storm-clouds permeated by silent red lightning flashes. Perhaps he is to release the mighty power of the God of Israel!
But maybe not. Maybe this catching away will not be like the first one two months ago which miraculously spared his life. Perhaps this one will end it.
Either way, he will soon know.
He becomes aware of voices and footsteps drifting toward him from the darkness up ahead, from just beyond the most distant band of yellow light. He snaps out of his reverie and quickly locates a shallow alcove bored from the left side of the tunnel. He steps back into it and struggles to quiet his breathing.
When the footsteps draw a little nearer he distinguishes two male voices and determines their spoken words are not Hebrew. This does not surprise him. Jointly with Mossad, the Roman Lake League protects this place around the clock, which means any two temple guards would as likely be speaking Italian as Hebrew.
He understands only a few Italian words but is able to discern that the two men joke about what they intend to do after going to the locker room to get their personal belongings. They are obviously going off duty. He also realizes they approach along the stone path on his side of the flowing water, which makes the inadequacy of his shallow alcove all the more troublesome. The guards will pass less than half a meter in front of him, so close they will surely sense his presence. They might even smell his hair robe!
At least the nearest light does not fall directly on his little niche.
He presses his back more tightly against the stone and holds his breath as the footsteps and voices come closer, closer—and then pass in front of him and continue on up the gentle slope.
When the two are no longer a threat he starts breathing again and cautiously glances in their direction, the same direction from which he’d come. He has no idea how long he’d been walking before becoming aware that he had been caught away again. He doesn’t know if he’s perhaps left open a door or a gate some place behind him in the tunnel which might alert them to his presence and send them rushing back looking for the intruder. Breathing quietly he remains in his shallow stone niche. Hearing no new footsteps or voices after several minutes, he resumes his journey under the pale yellow lights.
Soon he comes to an enlarged circular node in the tunnel and spots the anticipated steel gate to his left. He stops and studies it in the light of the bulb fixed to the ceiling immediately above it. The gate will swing outward, toward him. To his right the water continues on for a few meters before turning left and disappearing. The gate’s bronze padlock and steel chain lie on the floor at its base. He can see no other locking mechanism. He leans his ear near the gate. Voices, barely audible over the babbling water, drift down from above, from the top of the stone staircase which rises immediately beyond the gate. He also smells cigarette smoke tumbling down that same stone shaft.
He can’t imagine how he can climb these steps and walk unimpeded past whoever up there smokes and whispers, any more than he can imagine the mechanics of being caught away, of being one moment lying in his tent and the next standing here beneath the Temple Mount.
But for the catching away there are only two possibilities.
This is either the Most High God of Israel at work here—or some powerful demon. And to know which it is he will not have long to wait. The Holy of Holies in the temple above has already been ceremonially sanctified—and that is where he will soon be standing. On pain of death the Law of Moses forbids him to enter the Presence of God in the Holy of Holies, and that Presence is what he will encounter if the temple is genuine. Therefore more than his physical life will be forfeited if the Presence is there. His dream of being like Joshua of old and doing wondrous exploits for Israel would die in there as well.
He looks at his watch and realizes it has been Wednesday now for almost an hour and that this may be the last new day he will ever see. Drawing a deep breath he checks the rope coiled over his coarse robe and finds it to be firmly attached. He pulls open the gate and without further hesitation begins climbing.
Daniel Goldman gestured for his lead attorney to step across the threshold ahead of him. The portly man virtually sprinted through the door and headed toward an assembly of stuffed chairs and sofas arranged around a low coffee table in the far corner of his private office.
Over his shoulder the attorney said, “Let’s have our discussion over here, Daniel. I don’t need to establish dominance by making you sit like a supplicant in front of my huge desk. Plus these seats are softer.”
Daniel had to hustle to keep up. “Good idea, Major,” he said.
Daniel had essentially inherited his lead lawyer from his mentor and guardian, Henry Sperling, after that great man had been taken in the Disappearance a little over three years ago. In that time Daniel had come to trust Major Sebastian implicitly, which was why his lawyer was the only man outside Daniel’s own inner circle of family and employees with whom he had fully shared his status as a member of the 144,000 end time Jewish witnesses.
As Major stopped in front of a well-padded sofa and motioned for Daniel to take an equally well-padded arm chair across the table, Daniel smiled and said, “And I’m glad you still consider democracy a worthy aspiration.”
His lawyer first arched his eyebrows, pantomiming confusion, but an instant later said, “Oh. You mean not making you sit in front of my big desk? I’m afraid any cultural dictates of democracy went out with the Disappearance, Danny. Beneficent autocracy is the new global ideal. But my motive in coming over here was less egalitarian. I just didn’t want to embarrass myself by pretending to outrank you.”
Daniel smiled at him but before he could respond he heard, I have called my last prophet. You must shelter my people from the coming storm.
Sudden and without warning the clear voice inside Daniel’s head startled him. Since he hadn’t heard the voice in six months this latest message had to be important, but he would need a few moments of quiet to decipher it. In the meantime he pretended nothing unusual had happened and took the seat his attorney had offered.
Major plopped down on the sofa but seemed to have some new thought and popped straight back up.
“Would you still drink a cup of coffee this late on a Tuesday afternoon, Danny?”
“Not right now, Major, but why don’t you go ahead?” Daniel pointed to an ice bucket on the coffee table. “A bottle of cold water will be good for me.”
As his attorney rushed off toward his small refreshment alcove Daniel laid the manuscript he’d been carrying on the coffee table so he could pretend to review it. He pulled a bottle of water from the ice and had begun silently replaying the startling message when Major poked his head back around the corner of the alcove.
“If you want to start reading to me,” he said, “go ahead. Just speak loud so I can hear you while I do this.”
“No hurry, Major,” Daniel said. “I think we have time before your associates begin gathering downstairs. I’ll collect my thoughts while you fix your coffee.”
Major disappeared back into his refreshments closet and in the new silence Daniel replayed the voice a few more times. Although as calm as it had always been it nonetheless managed to kick-start Daniel’s pulse rate. The use of the word ‘shelter’ seemed especially ominous, because over the past few weeks that’s what he’d told himself he needed to do whenever he’d found himself worrying about the safety of Rebecca Shaul or Catherine Meyers. He’d told himself he needed to ‘shelter’ them. He especially felt he needed to shelter Rebecca. With her it was almost a premonition of imminent danger—which was another reason for lamenting the absence of his inner voice. In times past God would have simply spoken to him and told him what to do.
From the alcove Major poked his head around the corner again. “Sure you won’t have a cup, Danny? It’s not very old. Just needs to be reheated.”
Daniel saw an opportunity to buy a little more reflection time. “You know,” he called back, “I’ve changed my mind. I think I will join you, Major. Just black. Thanks.”
When he heard Major going through the motions Daniel tried to guess why he’d just now heard from God after such a long silence. He could certainly think of nothing special he’d accomplished recently. His movie venture with Chagai Silvers and Catherine Meyers had produced a modest profit after less than two years, but lately increasing legal fees were seriously eroding even that limited measure of success. And there had been few other forms of success he could think of. Daniel’s anticipated spiritual impact from their movie venture had yet to materialize. He’d expected by now to see Americans, if not the whole world, responding to their first film, Stranded, by taking to the streets in protest against Vicente Romani’s creeping authoritarianism. Instead, the majority of his own nation were actually in favor of giving up direct control of America’s military assets to the Roman Lake League in exchange for making “world peace” a permanent reality. It would certainly be understandable if God blamed Daniel for not being able to influence even his own countrymen.
So why had God decided to favor him with His voice again after six months of silence?
From the alcove Daniel heard, “Got some cookies in here, too, Danny. Not the least bit stale yet.”
“Why don’t you nuke a few, Major?” he called back. “I might try one.”
When he heard Major Sebastian rummaging around again, Daniel decided to simplify his analysis. He would forget his personal anxieties and focus exclusively on his overall assignment. But after a few seconds all he could think about was that God had to be disappointed in him. The fact that, until this afternoon, Daniel had received no new messages for six months obviously confirmed that disappointment. In his frustration Daniel occasionally wondered if his Disappeared mentor Henry Sperling, in his resurrected body, had actually appeared to him and Rebecca under the fake Coliseum in Rome that night to convey Daniel’s special assignment—or if that was merely a figment of his imagination. Although most of the time he did not seriously doubt that wondrous event, the six months’ absence of his guiding voice had begun to erode his confidence.
“Daniel,” Major called out from the alcove. “You want chocolate chip or oatmeal? Or both?”
“Chocolate chip sounds good.”
“You got it.”
Daniel thought about the words ‘prophet’ and ‘witness,’ two Biblical words which had much in common. If God had said witness, the first part of the message would have a clear meaning. It would mean that the last of the 144,000 end time witnesses—the group of which he and his business partner Chagai Silvers were a part—had been completed. And that would seem reasonable, because after Chagai had been added to that group a little over a year and a half ago Daniel had learned of many more fellow witnesses being called from the twelve tribes of Israel. They came from all parts of the globe and from every field of endeavor but they all had the same purpose of proclaiming the ‘good news’ of the coming reign of Yeshua Meshiach, Jesus Christ. If God had said witness the first part of the message would be both humbling and gratifying. It would mean God still valued Daniel enough to inform him of such a milestone.
But…God had said prophet, not witness. And while those words were similar they were not exactly the same. Which left Daniel confused by the first part of the message…and anxious about the second part. Because regardless of how he spaced, metered or accented those final words about a “coming storm” they continued to sound not only imminent but ominous.
“Okay, Danny,” a smiling Major said as he re-entered his main office. “Simple comforts.”
He set a silver tray covered with chocolate chip cookies on the table and whirled around to return for the coffees. Over his shoulder he smiled and said, “We have plenty of time. And if we run over, the others can wait. After all, I am the boss.”
Daniel absently nodded his agreement without breaking his line of thought. Based on his recently increased knowledge of Biblical prophecy, he decided to guess what coming disaster might be implied in this latest voice message—but before he could even begin Major bounded back out of his alcove with the coffees.
“Okay, Danny,” he said.
He settled onto the sofa and placed the two coffees on logo-imprinted leather coasters. He pointed to the manuscript.
“Why don’t you read me the troublesome passages? Let’s see if you’re concern is justified—that a film based on that unpublished novel might enrage Romani’s newly revved up censors.”
Accepting that further reflection on his latest voice message would have to wait, Daniel took a deep breath and began to read aloud.