CHAPTER 1: Call Me Prophet
“Freedom is sacred,” my father used to tell me, “but it never comes free.”
I didn’t fully understand the words until he paid the ultimate price for my freedom with his own life. I lost my family and friends the day another piece of America was absorbed into the New World Order. Two thousand thirteen, the Great Shift and the time before Newmerica was born from the ashes. I wasn’t named Prophet at birth, I earned the name after becoming a soldier. I served in World War III, left in a forgotten place where I went digging for water and found an unusual object; a beautiful, golden amulet. I remember the wasteland like it was yesterday.
The air was painfully thick; fine grit dust swirled above my head in powerful winds. Except for my left arm, I couldn’t move much. I reached across the hot sand, my bloody hand quivering. I tried to wipe my burning eyes but it was too late; I was blind. I stretched my muscles another quarter inch, grappling for whatever I could find, when I cut my wrist on a piece of shrapnel. My fingertips touched the cushioned radio antennae, my life-line. I pulled gently at first, then harder until its speaker rested against my mouth. I licked my salty, cracked lips and held the button down.
“Dragon Core,” I coughed up burnt granules, “this is Prophet. Do you read me? Over.”
I barely talked above a whisper. It would take a miracle to hear me in this storm. The radio crackled before my team broke through. I lifted my ear.
“Dragon Core… it’s Prophet, I repeat, this is Papa1. Relay my position, over.” I dropped my head and tried to breathe. I waited but my team didn’t respond. I blacked out.
I woke to a dark sky, alone and in the same, God forsaken place; my body buried in sand with a over glorified walkie-talkie for a pillow. The hard box didn’t bring me comfort but it kept my head elevated; I lived to see another sunrise.
The storm dissipated. The bombs had moved on; their signatures lingered in the vomit green sky like a floating mushroom farm. Those damn things looked tasty. I rolled to my side and felt a bone snap. I was too hungry to care which one. I searched my pockets for food and found bug infested granola. I cringed but ate them all; licking my fingers clean before the crawling protein could escape.
I was a soldier with the Special Ops unit, survival was what we did best. I was no exception. I would be found. In what manner, dead or alive, was up to me. The granola would seal my doom… I needed water.
My entrenching tool was in my pack a few broken legs away. I used my arms to drag myself, folded arm over folded arm. I yanked the shovel from my ruck sack. I don’t know what possessed me to move any more than what I had already, but I guess I relished in torturing myself further until I was satisfied with the perfect digging spot.
I don’t remember how many suns came up to burn my face or went down to chill my bones, but several more mushrooms sprouted by the time I finally struck water. My hands were raw and blistered. I found my trusty pen stuck in my boot and took it apart. Everything I needed, the barrel and round screen at the end, was all there in this genius design.
I put the makeshift filtering straw into the hole and thought back to when I was a kid, drinking old fashioned Root Beer Floats in my grandfather’s illegal, watershed distillery. His were the best, and the only place in town, in the state for that matter, where you could still get a soda. The desperate townsfolk would have turned Gramps in, but not us kids. We kept secrets and my grandfather was good at giving us our due rewards. Father knew the dangers but he was an American, through and through. He passed the torch of courage, the family badge of honor, on to me. I promised to wear it proudly just as our family always had.
I never broke my promise. I never will.
I still remember the glimmer coming off the amulet’s amazingly unmarred metallic cage. It seemed the hardened soil wasn’t ready to release its pretty prisoner, but the artifact wanted to be found, and I was the one it had been waiting for. I became its Keeper. Like my father before me, and his father before him, I was destined to keep the artifact’s secrets hidden, protected until the proper moment. The chain it hung from wasn’t heavy but the burden of responsibility was far greater than I had ever imagined it would become. None of my visions prepared me for this.
I put it around my neck and tucked the amulet beneath my uniform. Within minutes my luck changed as my radio sparked to life. “Papa1, this is Dragon Core. Do you copy? Papa1, this is Dragon Core. Come in, Prophet… where are you buddy?”
I was exhausted. My arms failed to drag my body anywhere. I barely turned myself around when the transmission failed and static returned, but it didn’t matter.
Somewhere in the distance I heard chopper blades whirring. It was them, I knew it, Dragon Core had found me and locked into my coordinates. I was finally going home.
“You’re already home, Prophet. It’s time you wake up and remember.”
“Who’s there?” I reached for a weapon that was no longer at my side. I turned my head but I was still alone. The chopper was off in the distance but it sounded so close.
“Sir Kay, you need to remember. Wake up!”
I sat up, perspiration pouring down my face, my hand clasped around a poor ferret’s neck. I heard the whirring of chopper blades outside. I was in a Monastery.
Suddenly, it all came back to me. “Wait!” I jumped to my feet but I fell to the hard tile floor. “Oh God, please…” My legs were weak. “No, don’t leave! You can’t!” I called for help but no one came. “Come back!”