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Fire raged in a burning torrent through the bomb blasted school as
Ginny Taig rushed to find the exit. The smoke was thick and dark as
midnight as she tried to make herself heard over the cries and screams
of the children she was trying to lead to safety.
“This way!” She shouted through the burning murk.”Come this way.”
The children might not have understood the words she used but they
followed her voice. In a frightened mob they found her and she ushered
them as fast as she could out the door. The medics outside gathered
them up as they escaped the flames to see to their burns and make sure
they were clear of the three story building that was starting to
collapse in on itself.
Ginny was about to get clear herself when she heard a scream from
inside. She knew the building was on its way down. She knew going back
in was suicide. She knew there was a child somewhere in that building,
Running back into the smoke thick hall, she followed the cries to a
room. There in the clearer air she saw a young boy. He was curled up in
a corner, tears streaming down his face in the sunlight from the
Ginny ran over to him. He was a small thing, probably about seven
years old, the same age as her daughter. As she started to pick him up
to carry him out a groaning crash from the floor above told her that
her time had run out.
Thinking fast she grabbed a desk and slammed it into the window.
The panel she knocked out was big enough for the child. As the ceiling
above her started to collapse, she picked him up and threw him outside.
The groaning noise sounded again. As the collapsing building
crushed the life out of her, she thought one last time of her daughter
Sarah, who she would never see again.
Ginny was lying on something softer than she had ever felt. Was
this a cloud like she had seen in the cartoonist’s idea of a Christian
heaven when she was a child? Looking around she saw that it was not a
cloud. It was a very big, very fluffy, feather bed like the one her
grandmother had when she was little. Looking at it a bit closer she
realized it was the same bed. She could see the v she had scratched
into one of the posts as a child.
“What the hell?” She said. “Where am I?”
“Not in Hell,” a voice answered from behind her. “But where you really are will take a bit of explaining.”
Ginny sat up and turned to look at the source of this voice. He was
a big, heavily muscled man with bright red hair and a wild full beard
growing halfway down his chest.
He was wearing what looked to be some
sort of scale and leather armor.
“My name is Eric.” The man said. “And you might as well call this place Valhalla.”
“Do what?” Ginny gasped in surprise. “But that’s just a myth.”
“Well it’s the best we could do to match your beliefs.” He replied
in a hurt tone. “You pagans seem to try to make your religions as
eclectic and confusing as you possibly can.”
Ginny burst out laughing at the testy note in his voice. He scowled
at her a moment and then started laughing with her. He had a big
booming laugh that fit his Viking appearance as perfectly as the almost
whining voice he had just used did not.
“So why am I here?” She asked after her laughter died away. “Is this the afterlife for people who died of stupidity?”
“Not at all!” Eric answered. “This is the place heroes come after they die.”
The words struck all the mirth from Ginny. Her a hero? There had to
be some mistake. She was no hero. She had never done great deeds to be
passed down in songs.
“You are a hero.” He went on, as if he had read her thoughts. “You
died saving the life of that boy. You ran back into what you knew was
probably death to do it.”
“I am no warrior.” She said. “I have no love of battle. I hate war.
I just joined up because it was the onlly way I could find to pay for my
college. I didn’t even believe in what we were doing.”
“You truly are a hero, or heroine if you prefer.” Eric replied.
“Being a hero is not about politics Virginia. It is not about soldiers,
or wars. Heroism is the courage to put yourself on the line against the
forces of destruction. Heroism is the willingness to give everything
you have if it will save the lives, homes, or ideals that you hold
dear. Death is the easy part. It is having the courage to make that
stand. To say to the world ‘I will give all I am and all I have for
this one thing’. That is why you are a hero Virginia. And that is why
you are here.”
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