Forever Fallen

Written By Matthew Tolbert


Published in Worlds Apart #1



            “Let’s get this over with. Just go ahead and kill me.”


            “Hey, all I asked was if this seat was taken. What’s your problem, buddy?”


            “Oh yes, woman, I do have a problem. You see, I’ve been killed by more men than you have bedded.” He turned slightly, just enough to look at her wanton appearance, “Then again, maybe not.”


            Amber Bottommiller stood there, unmoving, startled by his comments. As she started calming down, she discovered that she’d been staring at the side of his head. Though the bar was poorly lit, she could still see that this man’s face was covered with many large moles, freckles, and even a grape-colored birthmark on his temple. Amber’s eyes widened as she saw a large mole right between his eyes. She couldn’t control herself as she gawked at that dark blemish that filled the entire area between his hairy eyebrows.


            The muscular, dark man rolled his eyes because once again, someone was gazing at his face. So, in kind, he stared at her cleavage that was predominately displayed. This quickly got her mind off his mole. Feeling uneasy about this whole situation, Amber backed away while positioning her right arm in front of her breasts.


            He smirked, and then shook his head in his usual slow motion as he said to her, “You’re not going to kill me. You don’t even have the willpower to kill a house fly.” After dismissing her, the man returned his attention back to his glass, half filled with a dark red zinfandel.


            With her patience exhausted, Amber Bottommiller turned and quickly ran out the front door, promising to herself that she’d give her old boyfriend a fifth chance.


          “Uncle Bob’s” was one of those typical small, dusty bars you find in a downtown area. It’s been around for years and is a landmark for regulars that over-drink every time they come in. Since its opening forty-two years ago, nothing special ever happened at “Uncle Bob’s,” which appealed to their clientele of low-income escapees.


            Unmoved by the whole incident, the husky man finished his wine and motioned to the bartender for another. Carefully, he placed the empty glass next to the other six. He pushed his head back to look at the bartender and motioned again, this time with more anger. “Bartender! I’m in a hurry! If you’re not too busy soliciting women, instead of doing your job, I would like another drink NOW!”


            Across from the empty barstool sat a short, thin man, who had been watching the whole scene with much interest. He wore a brown, inexpensive sport jacket that didn’t match his gray slacks except for the fact that they were both wrinkled. His dated wire-rim eyeglasses leaned down to the right side and his hair revealed his belief to only comb it once a day. His lack of fashion awareness was consistent with all his patterns. Though only in his early thirties, he was already depressed about the hand life dealt him.


 He blinked a lot as he studied this peculiar-looking man sitting near him. Finally, he took a big gulp of his Bud Light and said, “Sir, I don’t want to kill you either, but I’d be very interested in talking to you. Can I buy you that drink?”


            The eighth zinfandel was delivered by the annoyed bartender and was immediately snatched up by the dark-haired, dark-clothed man. He quickly took a large sip and responded, “Listen to me, citizen, only women interest me.”


            The young man sat up, worried about what he had said, “No, that’s not what I meant ... uhm, or wanted. You seem like an interesting guy with an interesting story. Wait, that doesn’t sound right either. Listen, my name is William Flom and I’m a reporter. I’d like to know who’s going to kill you and how you know you’re going to die.” William did not quite tell the truth. He was a reporter until he was fired this morning. He’s hoping that this story will get his job back.


            Sluggishly, as always, the man turned toward the blinking, nervous journalist. He stared into his wide eyes then moved his view down, eying his tired clothes. This made Flom so nervous that he got a quick shiver. Though still feeling uneasy, the small man still managed to stare at that enormous mole between his eyebrows.


            The stranger offered his large hand, also covered with moles, freckles, and scars, “Greetings, reporter.”


            “You can call me William. And your name is ...” As he shook the man’s hand, he was amazed at how his grip was totally engulfed by the stranger’s.


            “Gamal. So, if you’re a reporter worth your weight in gold, prove yourself. Tell me where the combat is.”


            “You’re kidding, right? There hasn’t been a battle in Olympia for hundreds of years.”


            ”Fine, then maybe you can tell me what famous person lives here,” Gamal’s satirical challenge was followed by another large sip of wine.


            Flom’s eyes looked around as he thought. He took a sip of his beer and then started tapping his fingers on the glass in frustration, “Well, I can’t think of anyone famous around here besides a local cartoonist.”


            “This follows my curse: I finally meet a reporter and he’s as smart as a jackass.”


            Flom quickly responded, “There is a famous visitor in town. Does that count?”


    A slow shake of his head and a heavy sigh followed, “Listen, prodigy, all I want to know is which famous person is supposed to be visiting this bar and when. If that is too much to ask of you, I’ll question someone with more knowledge, like a newborn babe.”


            For some reason, Flom was desperate to impress this malicious stranger, “President Medley is in town but I don’t see why he’d stop here at this bar. True, ‘Uncle Bob’s’ is downtown but it’s not near the capitol building.” He paused then became worried, “Gamal, why are you interested in the President?”

“Reporter, shut up and let me ask the questions first. Tell me what year it is.”


           Flom started looking around the bar and smiling, “Is this one of those practical joke shows? Am I on TV?”


            No response.


            “Okay, I’ll play along. It’s 2021.”


Gamal took a long, slow sip to finish his drink. He sighed and said quietly, “By all the gods, it’s been nine years since I was here last.” He paused then started yelling, “What’s wrong with you people? Whatever happened to mayhem, destruction, and carnage?  For the sake of mankind, where are the wars?”


Seeing an opening, Flom quickly pulled out his note pad and pen. “Just between us, Gamal, you can talk to me. Are you planning to kill the President?”


            The question made the stranger return from his gloom and caused him to breath a laugh, “Let me tell you something, reporter. Unfortunately, I don’t kill anyone. I’m the one who dies. Every time.”


            Flom stopped writing and looked up, “I don’t follow.”


            Gamal motioned, “Bartender! This man here is going to buy me another drink. In fact, he is going to buy me a bottle of your oldest, driest red wine. Then, and only then, will I tell you my story, reporter. It’s probably about time that I told someone anyway. Besides, it appears I have time to kill.” He smirked.


            As the bartender walked up to them, the blinking reporter started to fidget and gestured for him to wait. The bartender was a tall, thin man, who maintained the 1998 popular style of a bald head, goatee, and dark sunglasses. He was growing impatient and abruptly stopped in front of them, “So, you dudes want a bottle or not?”


            Flom tapped his pen against his note pad, realizing he was quickly in over his head. This whole scene was more than he had ever experienced in his three years of reporting and he was losing control of the interview and the situation. Flom knew his gullibility had always caused problems for him. However, he believed this time could be different. This man’s story could be big or it could be something made up by an escaped mental patient. Flom’s editor always limited him to small town profile stories of mom and pop shops. But he always wanted more, always felt that given the chance he could be the best reporter at the Columbian. And then there’s always that Pulitzer Prize dream. That’s why he got up the nerve to roll the dice and continue, “First things first. If you have a great story, I’ll buy you that bottle and maybe more.”


            Gamal smiled at the bartender, who grinned back and quickly left before the reporter changed his mind. The smiling man returned with a bottle and proceeded to open it while listening closely.


            Gamal leaned close to the wide-eyed Flom, “I’m an eternal warrior.” Then he leaned back and pointed to his empty glass.


            Flom’s thoughts quickly went from Pulitzer Prize winner to the laughing stock of the office.


            “I’m all ears. How so?” asked the interested bartender.


            “I have lived and died for hundreds, no, thousands of years. I have fought in a myriad of major and minor battles. Every time, in every conflict, I die. I then awaken in  the middle of another war. This is my curse. I can never remain dead. Satisfied? Now quickly fill my glass because I don’t know how long I have till I am to die today.”


            “Wait a minute,” said Flom, totally convinced this man did not have both oars in the water, “you expect me to believe that you are some mythological character that is a champion fighter; the hero that always returns to win the battle.”


            Gamal started shifting his weight on the stool and turned to face the satirical look on the reporter’s face. “Not the champion,” Gamal lowered his voice, “but the first to die.”


            Flom smiled, “You mean, every single battle you are in, you die right away?”


            The wide-eyed bartender jumped in, pointing his finger at Gamal, “This is like so cool! I get it! You’re like the guy in “Star Trek” that has to beam down with Kirk and Spock. He never has any lines and he always wears a red shirt like at a bullfight. Oh yeah and I know in every show that that guy is toast.”


            A confused Gamal looked at the delighted bartender and barked, “Shut up and pour!”


            Surprised by the outburst, the bartender quickly filled Gamal’s glass. In fact, he over-filled it slightly, disgusting his customer.


            Though Flom was intrigued with the notion, he didn’t yet believe a word of it. “Gamal, how is this possible? And why?”


            Gamal started playing with his many empty glasses, moving them into a marching formation. As he told Flom his tale, he ended each sentence with a sip, “I was young, idiotic, and could hardly wait to prove myself in battle. All my brothers were great warriors, earning many honors. My father was very proud of them, whether they survived or died, as long as they were brave and fought hard. So, I trained solidly for years to please my father ... if that was at all possible for me. Finally, my time came and I went to war to squash a rebellion. The pharaoh asked ...”


            Flom held up his hand, “Wait a minute. First off, you need to talk slower and second, I need details, names, dates.”


            “And I need more wine.” Surprisingly, the glass was empty.


            The bartender quickly poured more zinfandel for Gamal and brought out two more glasses. He filled them, pushed one to Flom, sat down, and took a sip from the other. He motioned toward Gamal with his glass, “This is the bomb, dude, so sweet. Go ahead, my man, tell us more.”


            Flom was fascinated by this bald man’s lingo. He hadn’t heard these phrases in years. Maybe there’s a story here about how slang changes so frequently and why. Suddenly, his thoughts were interrupted.


            “Hey bartender,” a man at the other end of the bar yelled, “how about another drink here?”


            “I’m on a break! Go ahead, dude,” he grinned and took another sip from his glass.


            Gamal smiled at Flom, “A drunk barkeep is a customer’s blessing. Anyway, I discovered later that historians call the year 1468 B.C. My pharaoh was the great Thutmose III, and the battle was at the land called Megiddo. We were to stop a rebellion.”


            “Wait a minute,” motioned Flom with his pen, “I was a history major. I have studied military history since high school. I know a lot about wars and what you’re describing is the first battle ever recorded in detail.”


            Gamal let out a sigh of contempt, “Do you always open your mouth before you think? Why do you ‘think’ it was the first one recorded? I was the one who made sure that battle was written by the historians. Now may I continue, oh great scholar?”


            Gamal took a quick gulp so no one else could interrupt again, “As I was saying, we surprised the Canaanites by coming through the Aruna Pass. Upon hearing this, they sped back to attack us. There I was on the front line, facing the charging, yelling enemy. I had trained for years for this moment, my first battle. I was so excited. What a fool I was. As we rushed to meet their charge, a spear was thrown by a Canaanite. Naturally, it landed right in my stomach. My blood was the first drawn.”


            He paused and took a long swill before he continued. “As I laid there dying far from the battlefield, I cursed every god and mortal I could think of. I cried out for justice and my father’s forgiveness. I pleaded with the sky for a second chance. Suddenly, the sun was blocked by a lone figure standing over me. He looked down and ignored my cries for help. Though he was dressed in Egyptian armor, I didn’t recognize his face. He was not part of our troops. Then I noticed he had these strange, glowing red eyes.  Finally he said, ‘I can give you what you want. In fact, I can give you more than you’ve ever dreamed possible.’ ”


Gamal paused, realizing that this was the first time he has ever told his story out loud. “I was only 19 years old, dying, and wanted more than anything to be saved. What could I say but ‘Yes, anything. Just save me so I can fight again,’ I cried out as I strained to stay alive, ‘Whoever you are, please save me.’


            “He knelt down beside me and said, ‘You can call me Set and, oh yes, I can help you. If you agree, I can make you a warrior that will fight in many battles for many years. I will give you an eternity of great wars and famous battles. All you need to do is give me your commitment to fight and I will give you life for thousands of years.’ ”


            Flom rolled his eyes, thinking to himself, “Oh no! Not another ‘gave my soul to the devil’ story.”


            Luckily for the writer, Gamal didn’t notice the disrespectful motion and continued, “Of course, I knew Set is our god of evil, but I also knew I was about to die. So what could I do? I agreed to his offer and then I died anyway. I awoke on a front line of another battle. This time I was a Canaanite, the same people who were my enemy just moments earlier. I was standing behind this large wall, protected in the town of Jericho. I thought I’d be safe in this battle since the walls were so strong and tall. Until this Joshua person from the attacking Israelites had his troops blow on these ram horns. I thought it was quite funny until the sound caused the walls to collapse on me.”


            Gamal reached up and pulled his shirt collar low, exposing his lower neck. There was a large freckle. He pointed at it and said, “That’s where the wall hit me, killing me instantly.”


            Flom sat there, unmoving, staring at Gamal’s neck. Whether the story was true or not, the reporter was so involved with the man’s tale that he forgot to write anything down. After looking at the freckle, he motioned to Gamal’s whole body.


            “You mean to tell me that every mole, freckle, blemish on your body is a symbol of how you’ve died?”


            Gamal said, “Figured that out on your own?”


            Flom started pointing frantically at the man’s spots, “That would mean you’ve been in a lot of wars.”


            “More than I can remember. Or want to.”


            The bartender refilled the glasses, finishing the first bottle. As he drank from his glass, he tapped on the bar as though he was counting and smiled, “Wow, so you’ve been alive for almost 3,500 years. Way cool! Way cool! So, what was your favorite battle?”


            “I enjoyed serving with Attila the Hun when we fought the Romans and the Visigoths at Chålons. It was so exciting the night before the combat was to begin. Attila was so filled with fury that he promised all of his cheering troops that he’d rather commit suicide than surrender.” Gamal turned to look at Flom, “Of course, the next day, I died on the front line and the great Attila retreated to Hungary to live out his life.”


            Whether these stories were true or not, the journalist was totally engrossed in them, “Gamal, what other great leaders have you met?”


            “I’ve met more famous people than all the drops of wine that have touched my lips today.”


            “Wow, that’s a lot of people,” laughed the bartender.


            The dark man continued, “Alexander the Great was inspiring and brave. However, he had a bad temper and drank a lot, (an art that he taught me). I met him as one of his Macedonian soldiers. Along the Indian frontier, his troops decided to mutiny against him. In a fit of anger and drunkenness, he yelled at us and chased us with his sword. I was the only one he struck and, of course, killed. It’s one thing to die by an enemy’s weapon, but when your own ruler kills you that was my most embarrassing death.”


“Were you in the Civil War?” Flom asked.


“Many civil wars, but I presume you’re talking about the one in the United States since America is all you Americans seem to care about. I was at Gettysburg serving under General Lee. He had just come back from some major victories so I thought I was finally on the winning side. In fact, our mission was simple: attack the center of the town, Gettysburg. Thirteen thousand idealistic fools marched forward into battle and less than half survived. And guess who the first to die was.”

With the mention of America, the reporter started writing again. As he caught up, he asked, “The worst leader?”


            “That’s a difficult question since there were so many.” Gamal played with his glass while he filtered through his memories, “Joan of Arc. She cared more about how she looked in her armor than she did about the battles. Sure, she was smart and brave, but she was only eighteen years old. Teenagers do not make great leaders. I gave my life in an idiotic battle just so she could recapture Paris. Never liked the French anyway.”


“World War I?” the bartender yelled, a little too loud.


“Do you remember this pilot from Germany called ‘The Red Knight?’ ” Gamal asked.


            “You mean the Red Baron, who shot down eighty planes?” the history major

proclaimed, showing off his knowledge.


            “Take a wild guess who was his first kill. However, I did return to that war. This time, unfortunately, I was a Frenchman and we were defending Verdun from the Germans. As we waited in town, eating day-old pastries, 1,220 guns suddenly opened fire on us. I must have taken half of those shots alone.”


            “World War II?”


            “My greatest disappointment. I was a high-ranking general serving under Adolf Hitler as he marched victorious across Europe. I thought that I had finally beaten this curse and I would stay alive this time. After all, I wasn’t even involved in the fighting. I was a great general. Ha! Everything was going well until some idiot German officer planted a bomb to kill the Fuhrer. Hitler escaped death and the bomb only killed one high-ranking general.”


            Gamal pointed firmly at the empty bottle, his empty glass, then right at the bartender’s forehead as though he was aiming his finger to kill him. The bartender threw up his hands, “Be coo’, bro. I’ll be right back with another. This one’s on me.”


            Gamal turned to Flom, who was still writing. He spoke loud enough for the others in the bar to hear, “Just once I want to meet a server that does something without having to be told. Sure, things change, but people remain just as idiotic as ever.” He paused, and then continued in a lower voice, “I hated the dirty Crusades, not enough food and too much praying. I loved being a samurai ... for both days. I thought the Desert Storm was obnoxious, too loud with all those bombs flying about.”


            “Wait, slow down.”


Gamal continued at the same pace, “Napoleon was the smartest man I have

ever served under. Don’t blame him for Waterloo. I was there and he did the best he could with the soldiers he had. Most of them were idiots. I was proud to be the first to die of the twenty-five thousand casualties. The Vietnam War forced people to become something they weren’t ... and that’s true for both sides. I liked the Vikings. They were fun people to drink with. I never understood why the Irish were so angry all the time and why the English were involved in so many wars. Are you sure England is not involved in any battles right now? I must have been an Englishman a hundred different times and I never learned to enjoy their tea. And don’t even ask me about those long conflicts, such as Hundred Years’ War, War of the Hundred Days, and Thirty Years’ War, since I was only there for the first days of each of them. There. You have my story, now leave me alone. I need to use the water-closet.”


            As Gamal staggered away from all the wine he had drank, Flom was so involved in this story that he didn’t even notice Gamal had left. He was trying to write quickly so he wouldn’t miss any of these details. He also didn’t notice the sweat collecting on his brow from the exhilaration he was feeling. His right leg was shaking nervously and his untamed thoughts were racing.


            “Flom. Did you hear me? I just asked you if eternal life sounds like a dream to you.”


            He stopped writing and looked up at the bartender, who had returned with more wine. He continued talking as he opened the bottle, “You were a history major in college, right? So imagine what it would be like to live through all of history instead of studying it,” the bartender motioned to Flom’s pad, “or writing about it.”


            Flom put the pad and pen down on the bar. He took his first sip of the wine and

squinted at the man across from him, “Your voice ... your voice changed.”


            “Let’s get right to it, shall we? I’ve spent too much time here as it is.” With that, the bartender lowered his sunglasses, exposing his bright red eyes.


            Dumbfounded, the reporter let out a puff of air.


            “Listen, William Flom. I can still release Gamal from his promise and give him a normal life. To do that, I need someone to take his place. Look at you. You have a boring, stagnant job and a life filled with ‘what ifs’ and ‘if only I could win the lottery’ type of dreams. I know you, William Flom. I’ve followed your life. I can give you excitement beyond your fantasies. Imagine William, you could be there during the upcoming Third World War in Saudi Arabia, which isn’t that far away. You could experience using laser weapons on the Solar Station Battle of ‘54. You, William Flom, could be the next eternal warrior.”


            The young man shook his head, “You mean I could forever be a fall-guy.”


            The bartender filled the reporter’s glass and replied, “Semantics. Listen, I’m forever fallen too, so I know all about this stuff. Either way you look at it, you will experience all of life’s major battles. You will be living history as it happens. And when you’re tired of experiencing this dream-life, you let me know and I’ll find someone else.” He glanced at his watch, “C’mon, William, what do you have to lose?”


            The writer looked at his pad with the numerous pages of notes he had taken. The bartender was right. Flom had always wanted to live the life he wrote about. Since childhood, he had always dreamt of being a knight of the Round Table or being a World War II tank commander. He remembered trying to enlist into the Army after high school but his colon problems were too severe. His dad, a retired corporal, was disappointed. So to try and please his dad happy, William was placed on military reserve.


            Since he could never live any of these fantasies, he decided to read about them. He became a history major to learn about time’s great warriors and wars. Then as an adult, he became a writer, someone who could create his own worlds, live his own melees, and pretend to be the great fighter that never fails. Though he enjoyed this escapism, it never fulfilled his desire to experience battle. None of his stories were ever accepted for publication so he became a journalist to pay the bills. As of this morning, even that didn’t work.


            “Listen William,” the bartender interrupted his thoughts, “this is the real thing. No more pretend paint-ball combats for you. Plus, the timing is perfect. You have no wife or children. You’ve been lonely since you’ve only had three dates your whole life. Your parents are always too busy for you and your dad has given up all hope of you making him proud. And your brother thinks you’re a loser.”


            “He does not!”


            “Trust me. Consider this, my friend; I’m giving you something no one else can get. Eternal life on earth. All I ask is that you commit to going to war each time. William, don’t give me that look. I discovered that the more people I have at a war, the more that will die. William, let’s review. You have no job, no money, no love life, no family, and no hope of that ever changing. So, what do you have to lose?”


            “If I were to agree to this, what do I have to do?” Flom took his coat off, finally realizing how hot he was.


            The bartender smiled, “See those six men in the dark corner there. They are from the ‘Al-Salaam’ Iraqi military group. They secretly arranged for President Medley to stop here at this bar after his dinner across the street. He thinks he’ll be meeting with the delegates from the company,  Microsoft / IBM.”


            “Wait a minute. Microsoft and IBM haven’t merged.”


            “Oh, that’s right, that hasn’t happened yet. Anyway, as with all politicians, all Medley cares about is his reelection. One of his aides will tell him that someone from Microsoft wants to meet in secret and make a substantial donation to his reelection fund. Of course, it’s a set-up and those six men will attack from the shadows and kill your President. And you, you get to be here for the start of the Desert Wolf War.”


            Flom started blinking, “Let me guess. I die in the battle but come back for another.”


            “I promise. You then start your journey, experiencing every glorious battle. And when you die, it won’t even hurt a bit.  Plus, you get to keep your soul. It’s not part of the deal. Besides, you’re an atheist, you don’t believe in souls. Okay?”


            Gamal walked up slowly behind the reporter. His face became flush with anger as he saw the red eyes of the bartender. His fists were clenched, ready to strike. “Why are you here, demon god? What more do you want from me?”


            The bartender put his hands up in defense and said, “I’m about to offer you freedom, Gamal. If William Flom here agrees to take your place, I will release you today and you can live a normal life.”


            Gamal’s fists relaxed and his facial expression immediately changed. He walked over to the reporter, put his hands on top of the man’s head and said, “Do it or I will kill you.”


            “Now, now, Gamal,” said the bartender, “you’ve had a little too much to drink and are not thinking clearly. Let’s approach this a different way. William, I’m not as bad as the epics describe me. To prove to you that I can be quite reasonable, I will release Gamal now from his eternal journey. And, I will do this whether you take my offer or not. I know I will have no trouble finding someone else to replace him if you won’t.”


            With that, his eyes blazed brighter and Gamal collapsed to the floor. Using a stool, the large man slowly picked himself back up. Gamal was surprised as he looked at his own body, “I’m so weak. I had forgotten how vulnerable I felt ... how scared I was. I had forgotten about the constant fear… of dying.” He looked up at the bartender, “Does this mean I can leave and go anywhere I want?”


            The bartender smiled with an exaggerated wink, which he made sure Flom saw, “Go. Start a new life and when you perish, you will be dead permanently and experience the life after. Thank you, kind and faithful servant.”


            Gamal stood up straight, shook the bartender’s hand, much to everyone’s surprise, and turned to Flom, “Thank you, reporter. May the gods be with you no matter what you decide.” Gamal then smiled and clumsily walked out of the bar into the night’s air. At the bar’s entrance, he bumped into two secret service agents. Gamal looked at them and then laughed as he saw the President following.


            “See. I’m a reasonable angel,” the bartender pointed out as he pushed up his sunglasses, hiding once again his eyes.


            The door opened and the two agents walked in, inspecting the front part of the bar and the few people there. The bartender leaned closer to an overwhelmed Flom, “See friend, it is all happening like I said it would. You need to decide now.”


            Gamal kept walking forward into the street, looking behind him as the agents andthe President entered the small bar. He shook his head and laughed to himself, “Idiots all.” While watching history begin, a drunken Gamal didn’t see the truck speeding toward him. Nor did the truck-driver see Gamal since he just noticed the President of the United States across the street.


            Both Gamal and the driver became aware of each other just as they were about to collide. Gamal dove out of the way as the truck swerved. Its fender struck his ankle, breaking it instantly. Gamal laid on the sidewalk, making sure he was still alive. He had also forgotten what it felt like to be hurt. Though quite painful, he enjoyed the feeling. As he slowly stood up, leaning on a bench, he looked up to see a mini van, suddenly turning toward him in order to avoid hitting the side-swiped truck. He painfully jumped away as the van crashed through the bench and kept going.


            The six men from the corner of the bar stood as more agents entered, followed closely by President Medley. The bartender whispered to Flom, “It’s forever or never.”


            Everything seemed to be moving in slow motion for Flom. The six men rose up from their chairs, pulling out automatic weapons from under their long coats. The agents started yelling as they saw the men approach. The President was pushed down on the floor. Flom only thought was that he could save the President. He leaped forward to cover Medley but before he could even leave his stool, a shot struck him from behind. He fell to the bar, heavily bleeding from his shoulder, as more gun fire started. He looked up at the bartender, whose hand was offered toward him, and grabbed it, “Okay, I’ll do it.”


            Flom shook the devil’s hand and suddenly, time resumed. The Iraqi soldiers continued to fire a number of shots across the bar. The next one struck Flom in his  back as he was sitting up. The new eternal warrior barely had time to notice he was shot before his consciousness left his body and moved on to his next battle, in China.


            The clash at “Uncle Bob’s” was short and bloody. In the end, the President had been killed, as well as all of the “Al-Salaam” soldiers. Three of the eight secret service agents were still alive. Seven by-standers had been killed, two survived, and the bartender was unharmed.


            “Excuse me dude,” said the bartender to an agent as he peaked over the bar as the last shot was fired. “There was another member of that group that left just as you arrived.”


            “Yes, I remember him,” said the agent as he motioned to another.


            Gamal painfully stood up. He had scraped his knee on the sidewalk and ripped his pants. It hurt, but at least he was alive. He limped away slowly. Just then the door opened to the bar across the street and two agents ran out with HK MP5s drawn. One fired at him, striking his arm.


            The bartender smiled as he watched Gamal running away on a broken ankle, a scraped knee, and a bleeding arm with the two agents giving chase with guns blazing. He whispered in a low voice, “Enjoy your life, Gamal. It will be long, as you wished, but filled with near-deaths and many injuries. Soon, very soon, you will be begging to die.”


            With a satisfying grin, he turned from the bar’s window to the lone agent, who was inspecting the dead. “So Agent Olds, I understand you want to be more like James Bond?”