Death was weird, I had to admit. I’d always taken Odin and Thor at face value as Gods, but here they were, looking at me. Talking about me.
“Looks like he’s about done for. Think we ought to try an’ get him to the house?” Spoke Odin as he bent over to look at me. Thor crouched beside me and placed his fingers on my throat. My eyes were open, but he forced my eyelid up fully and placed one hand over my eye then took it quickly away.
“Dunno, Dad. I think we oughta leave him here, he’s as close to dead as they get.” Thor stood and stroked his thick red beard as he wiped the sweat from his forehead.
The two of them stood and stared at me for a minute longer, Odin’s long white beard splitting to flow around his neck as he raised his nose to the wind as if attempting to catch a scent. Finally Odin himself squatted down next to me, pinching my hand “Think he’s mostly just dehydrated. C’mon let’s get him back to camp.”
Thor lifted me in a fireman’s carry, tossing me up on his shoulders as if I weighed nothing.
“Valhöll?” I heard the word and knew I spoke it, but the voice didn’t sound like my own.
I was looking at the ground, but I saw Odin stop in his tracks. “Praise Jesus, he lives! What’d he say, son?”
Thor tried to shrug his shoulders but the gesture was lost with me riding atop them. “Couldn’t say. Sounded like wall pole or somethin’.”
I felt hands on my head and heard Odin say “Pray with me son. Hopefully the good Lord will bless this poor fella with his grace and heal his wounds.”
Odin’s voice dropped an octave or so and I heard him start to speak, but I must have lost consciousness about then as the next thing I recall was laying in a cot next to a small wood-burning stove. Voices began to drift through the void as I eventually began to understand there were several people in the room all talking about me.
Valhöll looked suspiciously like a basement and smelled moldy like one too. Odin was sitting next to me on the bed, Thor beside him in a chair.
“. . .like a soldier. Just look at his clothes.”
“Been prayin’ on him every night at service . . . ”
” . . . delirious and dehydrated. Kept talking about Odin and going to Vahalla. Poor fella’s outta his mind.”
” . . . just gotta keep praying for him, God will save him, if that’s in his plan.”
“He’s awake.” I looked up at the old man who leaned over me and realized Odin actually had both eyes, but must squint a lot. Thor leaned over to look at me and smiled.
“Welcome back.” Thor said as he reached up to his head and pulled down a pair of glasses and looked closely at his watch and began to take my pulse. “Thank God I had that combat lifesaver training, else you’d be talking to the good Lord himself instead of lookin’ at me.”
“Jim, Preston, you two come away from the man, let me have a look at him.” said a new voice, one I hadn’t heard amongst the others as they discussed me.
A stern looking woman with wire rimmed glasses and grey streaks in her once blonde hair sat down on the bed next to me and smiled a rather professional looking smile as she began checking me out, recording my pulse and listening to my heart with a stethoscope.
“Doctor?” I croaked out.
She gave me a prim smile and shook her head. “Midwife and nurse mostly, but I’m doing a bit of doctoring on the side now.” She patted my hand reassuringly. “You’re going to be fine, just need a while to heal. Looks like you were shot in the back. Whoever patched you up did a fine job, but Preston said you look like you’d been thrown out of a moving vehicle when he found you.”
“Shot in the back?” I shook my head “I was . . . ”
She shook her head. “Save it . I said you’ll be fine, just give it some time. You can tell us all about it later.” She turned away from me and produced a bible which she laid on my chest placing my hands on the book as she leaned forward applying her own weight on my hands so I couldn’t move them. “You just rest and read the good book. We all have to go to church soon. You’ll be expected to attend to when you’re feeling up to it. . . ”
I started to protest but the look she gave me halted my tongue and the words died on my lips. “Just read the book and get some rest. No argument.”
I nodded and gripped the book tight, closing my eyes and pretending to pass out. The woman shooed all the people out of the dank room and I heard the door close behind her. I was unsettled when I heard the distinctive click that told me the door had been locked from the outside but I figured this would serve as an extra second of warning before anyone else came in to the room.
I opened the book and began flipping through the pages. I had gone through about a quarter of it when I came upon an adhesive note stuck to one of the pages written in small neat script.
“I put your hammer in your right pants pocket. DO NOT PUT IT ON. Do not for any reason mention your religion or beliefs to anyone here if you want to live. It’s not safe! Just go along with whatever they say and if I can I’ll help you get out of here as soon as I can. Obviously I would appreciate it if you didn’t mention me or this note to anyone. Doing so will likely result in both our deaths.” -Sarah Wilkins
I reached down and felt the hammer in my pocket. I held it thoughtfully for a moment feeling the edges through the fabric of my BDU pants.
I gently peeled the note off the page and reached over to open the wood-burning stove and tossed the paper inside watching the flames spark into brief life before devouring the evidence entirely.
I laid my head back on the pillow and stared at the ceiling. Sleep eventually took me away and I dreamed.