Muhamed was not a doctor. He could only guess at what chemical reactions might be taking place within the woman’s living human body. His elixir of life had been made to bring the dead back to life, not bring life to living tissues. The woman developed a high fever. He knew that much, even if he was not a doctor.
When the woman stiffened, he imagined the elixir killed her. He thought, double life might be death. She felt cold to his touch, and lay unmoving. He checked outside. He hardly noticed the dead body of the man by the door. The sun began to set. It appeared bright outside the window beside the bed.
Muhamed sat again at the table. He had waited and watched all afternoon, and now it became time for supper. He thought he might finish what little food the couple had, then he resolved to go. He decided it would be a waste of his precious elixir to try another drop on the woman’s possibly dead body.
Earlier, when the sun began to drop in the afternoon sky, Muhamed spied the glint of sunlight off the walls and domes of a distant city. Of course, he could not be sure because he did not cross the Assyrian wilderness on his way out of the last time zone. An angry Ashtoreth brought him to the time gate, instantly, and yelled at him. Muhamed chose not to think about that, lest it make him angry again. He thought instead that the city in the distance might be the same city from the last time zone, where he brought the zombies to life.
While he sat, and watched the woman, and nibbled on the bread, he wondered how the time zones worked. He figured he jumped fifty or more years into the future when he passed through the time gate. This city, if it was the same city, would be fifty or more years later. He guessed it was Babylon. He had been educated. He did college before pharmacy school. He knew something about ancient Mesopotamia. He knew enough to recognize Assyria, even if he guessed. The Tigris and Euphrates sort of gave it away.
“The distant city must be Babylon,” he said to himself, out loud, before he held his tongue.
The woman moved. She stretched, and Muhamed heard the clicking sound of bones falling into place. He thought he might have dislocated a few, and maybe cracked a rib or two. The woman sat up. Her eyes popped open to stare at him. He stopped still, a piece of bread half-way to his mouth. He returned her stare. Her bruised and bleeding face healed itself, piece by piece, until she appeared perfect, beautiful, and quite possibly younger than before.
Muhamed swallowed when the woman put a hand up to block the light of the setting sun. She swung her legs to the floor, stood, and closed the shutters. Then she surprised Muhamed when she spoke, and in perfect Arabic.
“The bright sun always gives me a headache.” She turned and appeared to smile. At least Muhamed thought it might be a smile. In his uncertainty, he moved to the chair on the other side of the table, and pushed the bread toward her.
“Are you hungry? he asked.
She sat in the chair Muhamed vacated, and nodded. “Yes, but bread will do for now.” She ate some, and Muhamed watched until he thought of what to ask.
“How is it you speak modern Arabic?”
“I seem to know a lot of things now.”
“How do you feel?”
Muhamed slipped his hand to the pommel of his knife. “I hope you have no desire to get revenge on me.”
The woman laughed. “Why should I do that? You destroyed a good woman. You killed a good man. And I have a feeling you have more that you wish to kill and destroy. I think I will help you.”
“Besides,” she said, and stared at him so intently he had to look away. “You have the elixir of life, and know how to use it.”
“Good,” Muhamed said. He let go of the knife, but kept his hand from going to his inner vest pocket where he kept the elixir. That would have given its location away, and that would not have been wise. He thought instead to explain.
“They began five days away, but they are on horseback, so slowly catching up. By now they may be three or even two days away. We will go to the city where we can get lost in the crowd, and wait for them. Since they will eventually catch up, we might as well let them find us in a place where they cannot find us.”
She smiled at the thought, and said, “You have a way with words. I appreciate confusion.” Muhamed knew what he meant, so he continued.
“Once they arrive, and I will point them out to you, you can help me kill them all.”
The woman seemed to appreciate the idea of killing. Muhamed wondered what kind of psychotic the man in the doorway married. But he shrugged it off, thinking the madness of unbelievers was beyond his understanding. He took no classes in psychology, or theology. He became a simple pharmacist.
“We will leave when it is dark,” the woman said. “It will be safer to travel in the night.”
Muhamed shrugged. He had gotten used to traveling in the dark, and knew it would be safer. Homes, villages, and wilderness campfires, in particular army campfires, were much easier to avoid in the dark. He stood and walked to the door to look. He felt glad the sun had nearly set. The woman behind him started giving him the creeps.
“Let me go in alone,” the woman insisted. “The widow who lives here knows me and will raise no alarm.”
“Why don’t we just go into the village?” Muhamed asked. “The sun will be up soon enough, and we are less conspicuous, being a man and a woman traveling together. We should be able to beg bread easily enough.”
The woman shook her head. “I won’t be long,” she said, and walked to the front door of the house. She knocked. Muhamed watched closely and fingered his knife. It appeared as if the old woman of the house did know her. She got invited in, so Muhamed relaxed.
Muhamed heard the scream. He stood, but hesitated in indecision. Which woman screamed? Surely the old woman, but why? He had a feeling he knew why, but he did not want to think about that. Shortly, the young woman came back, a bag over her shoulder. In it, she had bread, some vegetables and a bit of smoked meat. Muhamed did not complain, or ask what the scream was about, as they walked the rest of the way to the village. He did not want to know. He imagined the young woman had to hurt, or maybe kill the older one. He did not see the young woman lick the blood off her lips.
When they got into town, the young woman took him to the well in the village square. “I know a shopkeeper,” she said. “He is a lonely sandal maker, very poor, but he will make a room where we can sleep today.”
Muhamed used his hands to cup some water out of the bucket meant for the well, and he stared at the woman. He asked, “Why are you helping me?”
“Your wish is my command. Honestly,” she said. “Farm life is terrible, hard, and boring. You saved me from all that. And you have such wonderful plans—to kill people and destroy so much. It is exciting. I can’t wait.”
“Good,” Muhamed nodded, but decided the only safe thing would be to lose her as soon as the deed was done. He would hurry into the future, where she could not follow.
She touched his arm. Her hand felt cold. “But, wouldn’t it be better if there were others to help?” she asked.
Muhamed had already considered that, but her encouragement helped. “You find the sandal maker. I will stay here by the well for a while. In the cool of the morning, people will come to fetch their water.”
“No,” she said, quickly. “Come and see the place, so you know where to go. Then come back here, and I will prepare food for us. I will not bother you in your work, and you can stay by the well and come when you are ready.”
Muhamed stood. He did not argue. He figured that was one way to do it, and if the woman wanted him to watch her make contact, and be there in case something went wrong, he thought he could do that. He fingered the pommel of his knife. She was only a woman, after all.