Day One Thousand Two Hundred Thirty Three #DiaryoftheEndoftheWorld

Had we entertained beforehand the thought of going to Damascus, we would have changed our minds when the city came into view. It was a city no longer. What was left was little bigger than a village. A village broken down and smoldering.

I had a flash of concern for our people in the hiding place. And wondered if what befell Damascus had spread its impact that far afield.

Elijah spoke up and put my mind at ease with his assurances.

Tomas, soon after, diverted us onto another path and what was left of Damascus slipped from our view.

I wish I had talked once more with Tomas before he and the Captain took the lead and departed this life.

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Day One Thousand Two Hundred Thirty Two #DiaryoftheEndoftheWorld

There were signs of a recent occupation when we reached the village at the edge of the wilderness. But we didn’t realize just how much until we set out this morning.

One entire building was filled up with dead bodies, our attention drawn to it by a swarm of buzzing flies. A makeshift hospital I assumed, but Mr. Kagi called that into question when he observed that all of them wore the uniform of the army of the North. A detail that bore a more sinister connotation.

While Tomas and the Captain ranged ahead, picking a way for us off of the beaten path, Elijah walked with Mawuli.

Mr. Kagi and I marveled at the depth of the lad’s understanding.

Day One Thousand Two Hundred Thirty One #DiaryoftheEndoftheWorld

We found the redoubt empty and in disarray. It had been abandoned in a hurry. Whether it was to join the battle or to flee we didn’t know.

Mawuli and Tomas opted to keep vigil. Through the whole night.

But I took over at midnight and sent them in for a much deserved rest.

Actually there was nothing to watch or guard against. Save wild animals. And none put in an appearance.

Elijah led us out in the early morning. He wants to reach the village at the edge of the wilderness by tonight.

No matter how late.

Along the way the Captain shared a premonition. He doesn’t think he and Tomas will arrive at the hiding place with us.

Day One Thousand One Hundred Ninety Four #DiaryoftheEndoftheWorld

There were many roving patrols we had to dodge up on these heights above the altar. And we had to set up even further back as Moglen had positioned an outpost where we hid when last we were here.

After we were in place, we sent Tomas back down the trail. From the hills on the way here we had spotted Sy’s group emerge out of the village into the wilderness. He will meet up with them and lead them up to this position.

Elijah and I made a quick trip down for a closer look. We saw that all its stone work appears to be back in place. But as of yet no golden idol.

Five days to go.

Day One Thousand One Hundred Ninety Three #DiaryoftheEndoftheWorld

We have left behind the area affected by the earthquake and passed the village at the edge of the wilderness, which we note had been severely damaged. We should arrive above Sy’s old redoubt tomorrow.

I had to remind Tomas we needed to select a pathway just outside the village to obtain the heights above our destination. He had another in mind farther along, but agreed that this selection best met the intentions behind our plan.

I asked him if fatigue was overtaking him and if so suggested a halt.

He protested that we had not the time. That’s when Elijah broke in and ordered a halt.

We set him down and laid hands on him, praying for his strengthening.

Day One Thousand One Hundred Forty Six #DiaryoftheEndoftheWorld

Just as Elijah had forced us on day and night, so now that we have reached the village at the edge of the wasteland, he has forced us into a prolonged rest.

The village is still deserted, yet strangely, any vestige of the sentry camps at either end have all been removed.

We had our pick of accommodations in the inn off the square. Reuben took the first watch and the one after that. To me the heaviness of desolation hangs over the place. Reuben felt this keenly too, a fact he confessed to me when I relieved him. And the reason he took the two shifts. I think he dreads the thought of closing his eyes in this place.

Day One Thousand Forty Eight #DiaryoftheEndoftheWorld

We passed into the territory that lead to the village at the edge of the wilderness that surrounds our destination. Only at the sight of that town did I realize that we had not encountered the patrolling drones that plagued us on that former occasion.

I remarked on their absence to Elijah. Even as I did so we both knew the answer. They were needed elsewhere for a bigger military operation.

So too with the village. It was deserted. And there, signs were evident of abandoned encampments at both ends of the town. Neither of which had been there the last time we were in the vicinity.

We stopped to rest in the town square, then took up our march.

Day One Thousand #DiaryoftheEndoftheWorld

I was wary about leaving before the arrival of the Purser and the second group, especially since no word has come from them.  And the fact that Jezer and Tomas had not returned from their latest run only heightened that concern.

Elijah, however, was insistent that we pay a visit to Reuben. I was about to protest – when he gave me that look – and I knew I was not to worry.

It was an easy trek to Reuben’s hometown. It’s a forlorn place, not much standing. We shall have to bypass it with the larger groups.

Reuben and Elijah’s pupils greeted us and so did most of the surviving citizens of the village. They all desire to come with us.

Day Nine Hundred Seventy Two #DiaryoftheEndoftheWorld

Tomas, as always, was out front where he could observe and report back to us what was ahead. I think he has increased the occasions he returns just to check up on us. To be sure we are not succumbing to some adversity or other.

Once it was to ask if we should enter a village off the beaten path. Elijah thought it best, so we found ourselves the focus of suspicion in their midst.

First, they believed we were from the government and bitterly complained about not having their water cistern filled. Then realizing we weren’t, their young men emerged. They were fearful of forced conscription.

We left soon after, it being clear they knew nothing about our friends.

Day Nine Hundred Forty One #DiaryoftheEndoftheWorld

The wind changed and was at our backs when we walked out of the wilderness into the village. The streets were deserted but we didn’t think it strange, given the time of day- early afternoon.

The only building not closed up was an inn on the main street. We entered and were greeted by the innkeeper. He remained friendly even after we said we would not be staying. When Elijah asked after the news of the day, a youngster sweeping the floor sidled away.

The innkeeper had just finished his account of police patrols combing the area for two strangers, when in burst five men who seized us.

As they placed us in their vehicle I saw the pesky villager.