‘This is Navrani?’ thought Soren to himself, as he stumbled through the night in an unfamiliar forest in a semi-conscious state. He had been taught there was no pain in the afterlife, but the strange wounds in his chest burned fiercely. ‘Maybe this is hell.’ He still thought it odd that whatever weapon the Prophet had used on him still affected him after death, whether this was Navrani or hell. Soren started to have that familiar feeling of blacking out every few seconds.
When he temporarily regained consciousness for the third time in a row, he saw two bright lights. Soren hoped it was the glow of Navrani and not the fires of hell. Already on the verge of finding out what happens when you die, Soren almost found out in an instant as the man driving the pickup truck honked his horn and slammed on the brakes. His truck came to a halt mere inches away from the disoriented Soren.
“Blue blazes and tarnation!” shouted the driver, as he looked at the pedestrian standing in the middle of the dark road. “What in the Sam Hill is your problem, buddy?!
As the truck driver turned on his brights and looked closer at the man he almost hit, he saw the bullet wounds and saw that the man’s clothes were covered in blood. Soren lost consciousness again and passed out on the road in front of the truck. The truck driver’s eyes widened. “Holy smokes and dag nabbit!” he yelled. “That’s your problem right there, buddy!”
The truck driver pulled out his cell phone and started to call the police as he cautiously exited his vehicle, rifle in hand. He got a closer look at the wounded man. “Land sakes and heavens to Betsy!” he bellowed. “Looks like someone was keen intent on puttin’ hot lead in ya, buddy!”
As the police dispatcher picked up and asked the nature of the emergency, the truck driver responded, “Yeah, some fella walked out in front of my truck and passed out in the middle of the road. Looks like he’s been shot at least twice. I’m on Melrose, ’bout two miles south of Birch. I ain’t seen the shooter, so hurry up and get here ‘fore I do see ‘im, ’cause I got my rifle locked and loaded and I ain’t fixin’ to be lyin’ on the road here next to ol’ buddy. Thank ya.”
As the truck driver waited for the ambulance to arrive, he looked down at Soren and shook his head. “Good Golly and Miss Molly!” he said in a considerably elevated tone of voice.
Soren awoke to find himself lying on a hospital bed. He yanked the tubes out of his nose. An aesthetically pleasing woman stood there talking to a man, both of them wearing white coats.
“Where… where am I? Am I dead? Are you Ereshkigal?” The woman turned in shock, having been unaware that the patient had awakened. Then she answered his question.
“You are in the Wells County hospital. You are not dead, thankfully, and my name is Dr. Lucy Meadows.”
Usually, after what he had been through, Soren would have been inclined to demand answers. Instead, he looked at her face and said, “Nice to meet you. I am King Soren II.”
Dr. Meadows raised her eyebrows. “Your first name is ‘King’?”
“No, it is Soren… II,” he replied. “King of Ura-Kish.”
Lucy appeared befuddled. “Okay… Soren.”
He corrected her. “King Soren.”
“Okay, ‘King’ Soren,” said the doctor as she looked at him incredulously.
“And your first name is ‘Doctor’?” asked Soren.
“No, it is Lucy. Meadows. Medical doctor of Wells County hospital.”
Soren’s eyes lit up. “‘Medical!’ So you are a healer then?”
“I prefer ‘Doctor’. Keeps expectations lower,” replied Lucy. “Now you were shot twice in the upper body, but both bullets missed vital organs with clean entry and exit wounds.”
Soren’s eyes filled with rage. “Yes, it was the Prophet who shot me. But I killed him… took my blade and stabbed him through the heart, praise be to Enlil! If you find him, burn his body and throw the ashes in the river!”
Dr. Lucy Meadows’ eyes widened as she took a couple of steps back. “Wait, you’re saying you killed someone?”
“Of course!” said Soren, as if stating the obvious. “I killed the Prophet. He was a blasphemer and he shot loud balls of fire into me. And they hurt… a lot. Are you sure I’m not dead?”
The doctor turned to the wide-eyed nurse and murmured in his ear. “You take a blood test?”
“Came up clean,” the nurse replied.
Dr. Meadows had encountered a lot of patients, but this gunshot wound victim was probably the strangest. “Schedule him for a psych eval,” she told the nurse under her breath.
“Yes, ma’am. The police are here too. They want to question him.”
“Send them in,” replied Lucy.
Two seasoned police officers entered the hospital room and stood over Soren’s bed. “I’m Officer Bud Phillips and this is Officer James Tannen.”
“Are you father and son?” asked Soren.
“What?” said Bud, a perplexed expression on his face.
“You have the same first name… ‘Officer’,” replied Soren. “Like my father before me was King Soren and he named me Soren as well.”
James smirked. “Humor us… which one of us do you think is the father and which one of us do you think is the son?”
Soren looked back and forth between the two of them. “Well, I would assume Officer Bud Phillips is the father since he spoke first,” he said after a few moments. “But it’s hard to tell. You both look rather aged.”
“Alright, enough of that,” said Officer Bud brusquely. “What’s your name?”
“King Soren II. Ruler of Ura-Kish.”
Everybody stared at him with a befuddled expression. This had started to make Soren feel anxious and upset. “Are you on something?” asked Officer James.
“Of course! Are you blind?” said Soren, his voice raised. “I’m on this bed!”
Dr. Meadows and Officer Phillips chuckled despite themselves. This just made Soren angry.
“Do you deign to mock me?” he yelled.
“Of course not,” said Officer Phillips, in an attempt to deescalate the situation. “Now, tell me… did you get a good look at who shot you?”
“Yes,” said Soren in a calmer yet still irritated tone.
“Do you know him?” asked James.
“He was the Prophet of Ura-Kish.”
Bud managed to keep his resolve and act professionally despite the outlandish answer. “Could you describe him?”
“He wore a golden mask and a robe,” replied Soren.
James furrowed his brow. “A mask?”
Bud continued his line of questioning. “Did he drive you out to the forest? The only vehicle we saw was the truck belonging to the guy who made the 911 call.”
“No. I confronted him at the temple. He tried to kill me, but I killed him instead. I’m surprised the body hasn’t been found. Last I saw he still had my sword stuck in his lifeless body right there in his chambers at the Temple of Ura-Kish.”
The room was silent for a moment as the officers absorbed what Soren had just stated. “Wait,” said Bud, as he tried to comprehend what this strange man was saying. “So you killed the guy who shot you?”
Now it was Soren’s turn to look incredulous. “Wouldn’t you?”
“Is the Temple of Ura-Kish code for someplace?” asked James.
Bud followed up on his partner’s question. “When you say Temple of Ura-Kish, what do you mean?”
Soren’s mouth dropped as he looked at the officer. “You’ve never heard of the Temple of Ura-Kish?!”
“I’ve never even heard of Ura-Kish,” said James.
Soren looked at the people around him, his face contorted by suspicion, confusion, and anger. “What dark sorcery is this?”
“We’re just trying to find the guy who did this to you,” said Officer Bud.
“Something is amiss,” said Soren, as his eyes narrowed, a dark undertone in his voice.
“You can say that again,” said James.
Officer Bud looked at his partner and they both started to head toward the door. “Maybe we should give you more time to rest up, gather your thoughts.”
Soren’s eyes widened as a thought popped into his head. “Which kingdom am I in?”
As the officers left the room, James sarcastically answered, “The Magic Kingdom.”
“The Magic Kingdom,” repeated Soren under his breath. “So this must be where the Prophet came from. I must get back to Ura-Kish.” He looked over at the doctor and his anxious frown transformed into a lecherous grin. “But first…”
“Did you say something?” asked Dr. Meadows.
“I was just thinking to myself of how jealous the gods must be of your beauty. You are the apple of Enlil’s eye. Your breasts are plump and ripe for suckling. Your hips are nice and round, their appearance soft yet solid and firm, culminating in that glorious crease on the back of your upper thigh.”
Soren did not get the reaction he was expecting.
“Mister, let’s get one thing clear. I will not tolerate any inappropriate comments of a sexual nature. I don’t care who shot you or what you’re the king of,” said Lucy, angrily.
“I was complimenting you,” said Soren, taken aback. “And my name isn’t Mister.”
“I’m serious. You keep that up and 70-year-old Dr. Paul Edmonds will be your new doctor come morning,” said Lucy. “You can compliment him.”
“My apologies if I offended you. It was not my intention,” said Soren.
The obvious sincerity in his apology calmed Lucy down somewhat. “Just don’t let it happen again,” she said sternly.
She turned back to the nurse, who was sitting and somehow had managed to acquire a bag of popcorn sometime shortly after the officers’ arrival. Dr. Meadows looked down at him and shook her head. “Could you give ‘the king’ some zolpidem? Make sure he’s well-rested for his psych eval tomorrow.” The nurse quickly rose to his feet and spilled popcorn on the floor in the process. He left the room, followed by the doctor.
Moments later, the nurse returned by himself with a pill and a small cup of water. “What’s that?” asked Soren.
“Something to help you relax. Heal faster,” said the nurse.
Soren raised his eyebrow as he looked at the pill. “How does it taste?”
“It’s tasteless. Just wash it down with the water.”
Soren looked at the nurse, the pill, and finally the water before he let out a disgusted sigh. “I’d rather have some wine if you’d please.”
TO BE CONTINUED