© DJA/CMA 2016 All rights reserved.
~ A Tale ~
Once upon a time, in a far and distant land…
The Brothers (Prologue)
Every good story begins with a bang; in this case, a supernova. The star in the sky exploded once again and illuminated the world below.
The brothers awoke at first light. The plateau shimmered, covered in a frost that enveloped the rough soil and stone. Once, the plateau had been home to a large plantation and hanging gardens, but the owners long since departed, beaten by the harsh climate and harsher locals.
Dressed in rough woollen shirts and work trousers, the brothers stood on the veranda of their dilapidated homestead. Their breath amplifying in the close mist that drew up almost to the steps. The older brother was lean and tall, with grey hair falling lightly into a fringe either side of his parting. His grey eyes seemingly tranquil, yet spoke of a otherworldliness, a mirage of the distant. The younger, a stocky, muscular and slightly rotund man; greasy black curls that were as untamed as the local goats hung closely to his head. His black eyes gave way to a broad nose; his thick moustache followed the contours of his wide, down turned mouth.
Grabbing their picks they set forth across the rugged ground, their boots gaining little grip on the frozen soil. They walked slowly, no more than 100 yards from the homestead. With a look they moved apart and began breaking the ground with their tools.
The older swung with silent methodical, measured movements, gracefully wheeling the pick round in a semi circle, only punctuated by the crack of the tool hitting the hard ground and the swish of taking aim. The younger took wild swipes, muttering at the unyielding land. By 7.00am they had removed the top giving way to the dark, rich fertile soil of the plateau. Moving mechanically, the older had yet to break a sweat in creating his hole; the younger, already stripped of the woollen shirt, perspiration developing on his brow causing his hair to stick to his temples.
By 9.00am their ankles could no longer been seen, hidden within their work. Soil was shifted to the sides, neatly and haphazardly around the holes. By 11.00am their knees had disappeared from sight. By 1.00pm the holes were as deep as their waists. Stones and twisted roots lay lower and slowed their work.
Sweating profusely, the younger took aim with his pick and struck the ground with determined fury, sending pebbles and soil scattering. With his hands, he scooped up the earth and threw it upwards and out of the hole. Wearing his shirt wrapped around his head to protect from the cold sun, the mist long since burned away and replaced by the dry heat of the windless plateau.
The older, still graceful in his movements stood muddied and smeared with the rich soil. Streaks of sweat in the muddy face paint gave it a striped appearance. Tribal markings from the earth.
The day moved on and the holes grew deeper. The brothers did not pause for a break and worked constantly against the ground. As 5.00pm approached, the sun had started its downward motion to the horizon and a chill slowly spread its grip over the plateau. By 7.00pm they could no longer been seen, deep within their holes. Their work was close to completion. At 8.00pm, with no more than a grunt, they emerged, filthy and unrecognisable.
They ambled slowly back to the veranda and collapsed heavily on a bench. The older faced the floor in deep contemplation, the younger attempted to clean his face with the sweat sodden shirt. They rested. They waited. The sun sank.
In the darkness they sat silently, until a low growling could be heard, distant but encroaching on the homestead. Light beams wavered up and down as an army truck of olive green could be seen approaching on the old dirt track that led to their farm.
In the front sat three soldiers, an older man, greying hair and leathery face assumed authority as they pulled up alongside the holes. The brothers came closer and were stopped by a young recruit, his face tempered with a sneer of youthful arrogance. The older soldier waved them over and gestured for them to go around the back of the truck. The third soldier, scarred and scowling in the cold waited for them there, removed the backboard and opened the tarpaulin covering.
In the back of the truck were the bodies of men, women and children. Stained with blood, arms draped across the faces of the neighbours. Legs, arms, faces, feet and hands. The number of bodies seemed immeasurable to count at the first glance. The third soldier beckoned them over and the brothers, the young recruit and the scarred man began hauling the bodies over to the holes created that day. The older brother picked up a young mans corpse by the legs. The man was stubbled with an incipient moustache of brown, pock marked by a youthful bout of acne, a look of blind resignation on his face. The younger grasping the arms swayed, and half-dragged the corpse over to the holes. They threw the body in.
One by one, the bodies were moved from the truck and filled the holes until after what felt like an eternity, there were no more bodies to shift. The older soldier in charge ordered them to fill the holes with the remaining dirt and the brothers complied.
Once happy that the graves were not visible, the commander waved his men back into the truck and drove away. The brothers walked back to their homestead without speaking. Leaving their dirty clothes in a pile near the stone stove, they went naked to their beds silently. Sleep fell quickly upon them and the plateau was quiet.
The Sisters of the Valley
The Sisters walked barefoot and dressed only in simple white linen smocks. Their bare feet drank in the verdant grass as they joyfully made their way, singing temple hymns as they washed communally in the freshwater of the river, their clothes drying on the shore.
Every day without fail they set forth up the mountain to the plateau. The lush vegetation of the Valley stretching far up beyond the mountainside and distant across the plateau. It was a mirage in green. In twos and threes they sang, carrying baskets of goods for the temple, the sun granting their steps lightness.
Upon reaching the top they stopped, silently absorbing in the nature. The trees of ash, oak and willow; of rowan, holly and cedar. Still as statues, they watched the approach of the sisters. Grasses swayed a path as they walked. Golden corn stood proudly, beneath cracked white arches and distant mountains tailing off obliterated as wisps of smoke into the sky.
Before them lay the Gardens. Older Sisters who could no longer take the creaking of their knees, the ease of youth long dissipated; tended Her Gardens. Slowly, they walked. Solemnly they knelt and tended to the plants, filled the troughs, pushed the wheezing pumps. The water sluiced around the Gardens, dripping a cascade over the plants.
The young Sisters gave them grace and food from the Valley. At the temple gate they met with Sakrisan, a scholar and priest of Hers.
Delah walked barefoot to her home. Beneath a large cedar, her bed of needles and leaves bade her welcome. Slipping to the floor with the fading refrains of hymn on her lips, she sank down into a slow, cool slumber. In her drowsing moments, the visage of Her wove in and out of sight.
The Young Recruit
The man was stood there; his head slumped forwards, defeated. His eyes downcast and humbled. Around his neck was a bright red scarf, wrapped twice, with the frayed ends twitching here and there as smoke passed over them. Soot and sweat marked their faces and hands.
The young recruit stood an arms length away, his arm stiffening from holding the pistol up. He closed his eyes. He believed that if he didn’t see it, then maybe, he will not have to pay for it. He pulls the trigger.
On opening his eyes, he was glad to see that it hadn’t been messy nor had any blood ended up on him. He saw that as a bad omen. Smoke tugged at his boots. It was rising and snaking away. He saw a growing finger of blood make its way through the dirt. How strange blood does not simply fly away like smoke.
The smoke was from the houses. That was not his business. His business was to now move the body and pile it with the others. Sighing, he gripped the man’s ankles and tried to respectfully as possible; drag it over to the rest.
He was hungry and increasingly feeling the cold. It looked like the days work had been done; quiet claws gripped the now burning village. Did they not know they were not supposed to be here?
The soldier with the moustache, what was his name again? Pero? He was older. He said that the Government had told these villagers years ago to go away from the Valley, but they didn’t listen. ‘They were stupid’ he said, ‘stupid people who deserved to die’.
The young recruit listened but did not agree. He thought these people were meant to be here, meant to be here so that they could die here.
He kicked a stone and it bounced twice and into the wheel of a jeep. An order was shouted and he jumped onto the side of the jeep, balancing on the board. His hands rested on the mounted gun. It felt cool and he enjoyed the feeling. The engine exploded and the soldiers drove away.
“She descends the white stairs dressed in rags and barefoot. Her hair unkempt, her face dirty and bereft. Her eyes they do scream hunger, her hands they do tremble.
For She is Poverty and perfect in every way.
She descends the white stairs holding a sword and sheaf of corn. Blinding the ignorant, fallen dumbstruck before Her. A body drops slain, a maiden with child.
For She is Justice and perfect in every way.
She reaches the heavens and brings them to us. She grows the wild green, She embraces our need. We eat an abundance, and dance to Her mercy.
For She is Nature and perfect in every way.
She descends the white stairs, perfumed and adored. She makes the men whirl, the women a-whore. She brings us enjoyment, She brings us delight.
For She is Lust and perfect in every way.
She walks among the hags, in the deepest of night. She dresses in white, her footsteps a-light. She taketh the old, She taketh the new.
For She is Death and perfect in every way.”
Sakrisan II, The Hymn of the first Five Blessings
My formal title is Sakrisan IX, E-Azad-kutu-ana is my name. I am the ninth life to have served Her in total. I am Her hands when she walks the lands, for Her touch alone enough for the bearer to die in terrible ecstasy.
Like all the previous eight Sakrisans, I am the Keeper, Scholar, Poet and Priest of She. As you can see, Sakrisan II, whose name corresponded to E-Pad-hu-ana was not the most eloquent or skilled with word. I find him most indelicate! However, the Sisters adore his hymns and She is most pleased by them. Perhaps I can write as E-Pad-hu-ana did, but I prefer tales of excitement and ardour.
I serve within Her temple. Attending the needs of the people, bringing them before Her. Tending to Her every need. My work is arduous and invokes all my passions. But I am most zealous in my duties, for there is nothing more important than She. Without Her, we would return to the nothingness. For She is Love and perfect in every way.
Tonight begins the Festival of Stars, to mourn a love lost to She. People from all over the plateau and valley will descend upon the temple bearing bright torches. Their faces will be wet from the tears of the broken heart. When the moon is highest in the sky, our hearts will be empty as one. Drained with the unbearable pain of loss. It is a most beautiful spectacle and I invite you to attend. Wear simple clothing, bring an open heart.
For She is Pain and perfect in every way.
Sakrisan IX, humble servant of She.
Delah sat on the grass at the side of the dirt path. Leaning against a wooden, crossed fence of old willow; she winked lasciviously at the husbands taking the journey with their families. To the women, she smiled demurely, bowing her head in respect. To the children, she made faces, grimaces and grotesque smiles, both scaring and delighting them into screams and giggles.
Occasional groups of young men would pass, drop to their knees and weep. Some would sing, some would dance. A few would even clown, dropping to the floor as though the glorious enrapture of her beauty caused instant death upon sight. She dismissed them all, laughing. With a wave of her hand and looked to elsewhere.
Old men and women joined the congregation. She rose and assisted them in the journey up the valley, up and steep, to the plateau.
The night was bright. Stars overhead gave their warm blessings of light; the moon, full and fat and ready to rise. The path rose upwards, through groves of cedar and ash. Boulders from the making littered the path side. On these, families marked their new and the death of the old in concentric circles. Circles enveloping circles. Patterns were drawn of family occupations and of seasonal considerations. Patterns of lust, death, new life, poverty, peace and war. Fertility was the most popular symbol of all.
Upon reaching the apex, Delah released herself from the grip of an old lady, who although struggling to make each step; had proudly explained through a toothless smile, that this was her 58th bereavement. Delah smiled and praised her, as one would praise the pious and devout.
The moon was at almost three-quarters before they reached the temple. The people gathered and silently awaited Sakrisan, the elder. He appeared in flowing red robes when the moon was close to its zenith. The doors of the temple opened, he created the way for She. The people gasped at Her brilliance. The Sakrisan walked slowly before her, head bowed and eyes closed. She stood among them. The moon reached its pinnacle.
At first a low murmur, less than a whisper. It grew until all the people were crying. Weeping for their losses, hysterical and furious and melancholy with emptiness. The sound of Her crying soothed the cacophony; their losses were small, Hers was forever.
The temple doors closed shut and the people were left. They felt bottomless and adrift. The moon gazing down brightly in the windless night. Her plaintive cry lingering on the stillness.
Delah at the peak of the bereavement, with tears pouring and hands gripping her hair; looked up. Looking at her was the Sakrisan. His eyes were filled with a great sadness. Beyond that of loss, of something much deeper and alone. She looked away.
The Old Officer
“I first chanced upon the Plateau and its attendant Valley regions purely through my local guide; unpronounceable in his local dialect, he said Westerners called him Charles. Far be it from me to stand in the way of tradition! Me, Charles and a few peasants and their camels hired for the trek at the cost of less than a penny each, made our laggardly way.
I have drawn a rough sketch of the area and its topological detail; see overleaf. I shall detail the botanical and local inhabitants further below. Descriptively, the Plateau is roughly 10 miles in diameter and seems to make a perfect, or as damn near, flat circle. Around the edges lie the Valley regions, sprawling beneath the oddly hewed mountain. Locals apparently grow opium in some areas of this Valley. The climate being perfect for poppy.
For the Plateau lies within a range of mountains, yet this peculiar mountain appears to have been decapitated! My guide, Charles, tells me that the local legend is about a Goddess from ancient times, who when demanding that the mountain bow before Her, the mountain dare refuse. So, in anger She chopped off the mountain’s head! What utter rot, say I!
Charles, whilst proving an able guide; was a less than talkative chap and quite dull company. The peasants lagged behind often. I dare say…”
He put the book down and rubbed his weary eyes. The old Officer was tired. The Westerners had no better luck than him when it came to taming the area. Now, the Country, the Government wanted the slums removing. The city close-by was being enveloped by slums from the Valley. There were robberies; drugs everywhere. Not that the Government cared about the people, they just weren’t getting enough of the money.
The Officer sat back into his creaking chair. He was told as a small boy that his great-great-great grandfather, on his mothers or fathers side, he can’t remember; was one of the peasants who guided the red headed Westerner to the Plateau. He spent days trying to dig around. He said there were graves there, ancient artifacts – perhaps even towns, under the snow and soil. The Officer’s relative lost a foot in the frostbite and it remained preserved. So they hung it in the home. It was meant to be lucky. Some luck, eh? Losing your foot for a fool’s errand.
The Officer looked at his feet. He liked still having feet. He turned back to the map, trying not to transpose the image of a desiccated foot over the heartlands and mountains; when the door knocked. Feet duly forgotten, he bade enter.
The Officer’s face, dimly lit, the light highlighting the pores in his skin; said nothing. The visitor left. Picking up his beret, he departed to guide the next visitors to the Valley; to explore and discover its secrets and mysteries. Just like his great-great-great-grandfather on his mother or father’s side did.
“One is born to be She.
One is born to serve She.
Some are born to lead for She.
And everyone else lives in peace.”
Sakrisan I, The Book of Beginning
And I am the one who serves She. The Most Glorious of Creatures, Daughter of the Night, Rain in our Fields, Fountain of Fertility, Song in our Hearts. For She is perfect in every way.
Gifts from the people of the Valley still arrive; hoping to mend Her broken heart with offerings. She suffers so for us. But She will mend as we all mend. Grief remains a crack in the cup.
Sakrisan I; now there was an intimidating fellow. Not rotund and bellicose, such as E-Pad-hu-ana, the Second Life for Her. No, this was a man of steel; his face bore splinters. He too was dark haired, like E-Pad-hu-ana; but his hair was straight and fine, not curly and untamed. Our history. His name was E-Lugal-ana.
There have been many women who have served She; from the beguiling En-Lal, to the she-devil En-Zuza. Their names are honoured before our time of Nine Lives. For She has always existed, always exists and forever more beyond into far away days. For She is time and perfect in every way.
The bereavement was to your liking I hope? It is most cleansing to think of the dead and mourn their passing. She was magnificent. Truly, when She is grieving, She is at her most radiant.
To whom do I attribute said beauty? To She, the Goddess, Most Among All! What a strange question. What Sister do you speak of? My life, my love, my servitude only belong to She, until the Tenth Life starts and there after. Speak not of others. I am not flattered to have my devotion challenged so.
On the wall opposite, we consider the bronze relief. Created by the she-devil En-Zuza long ago. It depicts the temptation and the punishment. For all our loves and lives belong to Her. Next to that; a shield depicting the Flood. The Great Flood of Her tears. For She is jealous and perfect in every way.
They were running through a slum. Shanty houses with crude electrical cables, pipes that poured water off corrugated iron roofs into the pathways; gave the urban jungle a wild feel. The young recruit expected a panther or a tiger to jump down and show its teeth.
That had been what they had been learning in school that day. His teacher was describing a large cat with stripes called a tiger that lived in jungles. He imagined a jungle was a strange, dark place; with fluorescent trees like on the cartoons he watched after school.
A tiger was fierce and didn’t think twice about killing its prey, his teacher had said, making clawing movements at the girls at the front. They fell back in shock and delight, giggling and shrieking. The teacher laughed.
Then the door was kicked open. It was kicked because it was normally opened slowly, when the headteacher entered – to give the children a chance to pretend to be working when he came in. But the door smacked against the wall and shuddered.
The young recruit crouched behind some boxes. His ill fitting boots caused him to stumble every three steps and he fell behind the main group. He slunk down with his back to the boxes. He was thirsty. It was hot here. The people, so many people and the heat.
He saw eyes in doorways. I see you. He smiled. But the eyes, they did not smile back.
The soldiers took everyone outside; the girls, boys, teachers, even the janitor. The teachers and the janitor were killed first. One of them, a teacher who taught the older boys, was arguing with the soldiers. He was wearing a brown sweatshirt, a white collar folded neatly over the top. His shoes were shiny and caught the sun.
The young recruit was too busy looking at the sun on the man’s shoes to realise he was dead, his feet crumpled under his knees. The soldiers approached the children. Barking orders, a short fat man with curly black hair, told all the older boys to come forward. He swore a lot. They went through each class, year by year, picking boys out. They came to his class finally. He was the only boy they picked. They said he was big enough.
He heard a sound behind the boxes and tried to stand to look. A boot hit his face. He saw colours whirl, mix together and form impossible rainbows. The spinning stopped and he saw the jungle, the fluorescent jungle made of wires and water pipes. He heard steps of others joining them. He remembered he was thirsty. He remembered he was fierce.
No more boys were chosen after him. All the boys were led to a truck. Inside were dead people. The short man said we had a choice. The young recruit took a gun, following the lead of the older boys. The boys killed all their school friends, all the girls and the remaining boys. They buried them outside the school. They drove away.
They gave him boots and trousers.
A man stood over him; he was sweating very badly. Sweat made his face shiny, almost underwater. The young recruit looked at him and made a claw like a tiger. The man, desperate and furtive, pulled the trigger of the rifle.
His name was Guzu. He was seven years old.
In the Meadows
Rain followed the bereavement. It filled the people of the Valley with hope. Hope for good crops, good times and for children.
The Sisters walked among the people assisting and helping where they were needed. People paid them gladly with food, drink, song and offers of the not-so tangible, much less nourishing kind. Every day they spurned proposals of marriage, to be wed there and then, under the sun in the Valley. They laughed and sang sweet temple hymns.
The Valley bloomed in the Meadows and Highlands. The Plateau itself, vibrant with all the colours nature can offer. This was the season of new birth. Heavily pregnant women waddled to and from the apple orchards. It had been decreed that there was the place for new birth, under the apple trees; granting them life anew.
The Sisters acted as midwives; they also were doctors, herbalists, messengers, an ear in times of strife and a source of tales in times of entertainment. When a new born had entered the community, it was they who carried it into the villages aloft. The baby, held above her head crying into the clear air, for all to come and offer blessings and salutations.
Delah, bloodied and glorious, carried the baby above her head. The newest member had arrived. The father, stumbling over his joy, closely in attendance, leaving the mother a brief respite after the storm. She stood by the cobbled well, tufts of wild garlic and lavender sprouted incoherently from around the base.
Delah picked a sprig of lavender; revelling in the fresh smell, enclosed it in the baby’s tiny, smooth hand. The people cheered. It was a good omen.
Later, as the festivities continued, Delah sat watching a group of small children play the oddest game. They had found a soft barked redwood and were taking it in turns to hit it with their ineffectual fists. They mocked muscles and toughness and exclaimed how powerful they were, that they could hit a tree and it was too scared to hit back.
In her reveries, she missed the approach of the new father; a slight stumble in his walk, not now from joy but from intoxication.
“Sister… Sist- Sistuhhh,” he slurred. “Shorry to trouble yeh in your thoughts of Shuh-She.”
“How may I aid you brother?” Delah inquired pleasantly, smiling expectantly.
“My wuh-wife has picked a name for the born of today.” He burped proudly.
“What be the name chosen for the blessed of She?”
The Brothers (A Slight Reprise I)
They awoke the following morning. They cleaned themselves outside using a tub of cold water. The dirt and memory of the previous day, washed away. Icy water dripped down the torso of the older brother, over numerous scars; long and white and hardened like bone.
The younger was turning to fat. He grumbled and complained; his breath warming the air between them. The older was silent and ponderous. They shivered into their clothes and warily made their way across the still frozen wasteland. The older reached the drivers side of the truck. What was once green, with wooden struts along its bed, was now a mixture of clear steel and rusty blue. The struts remained, but were untrustworthy and not put to use. The engine spluttered into life.
They reached the town without incident, meeting no-one but the few lumberjacks who found business in the local rural mills. Pulling up, in front of the cafe; the engine shuddered and halted. Boots smacking the pebbles, they strode inside. It was steamy and the air was thick with the smells of frying bacon, sausage and egg. The burning of toast and the dripping of coffee.
The scarred soldier and the young recruit were sat at a four man table near the centre. Everybody had given them a wide birth. The brothers sat with them, for they were indeed not everyone. Gesturing to the table, the younger brother barked an order of breakfast for the four. It was payday and this was on him. The scarred man had a bag; the young recruit looked downward at the floor, almost in a trance, at a centipede trying to find a way around a table leg.
The scarred soldier, openly agitated, twisted the bag he held around and around creating a tangled goose neck. He dropped the white and red plastic shopping bag in front of the elder brother, the dull thud of heft rang out. The soldier had twisted it tighter and tighter to avoid the temptation to steal it; to take it home. Each twist kept it further away from him. It was not his business. He told the kid that, over and over again. It was not his business.
The young recruit sat motionless and said nothing. This was not his business.
Everyday the scarred soldier went home, he didn’t live in the barracks. He didn’t have to sleep in a corner of a barn, but in a bed with his wife. They lived on the 5th floor of a tenement in the city. His wages could just about stretch to two rooms, a main room where they ate, slept and washed. They used a cupboard as a toilet for privacy.
He sublet the other room out to a large family from the slums; there were at least 8 or 9 of them; he rarely checked. With the money from the tenants and what remained of his wage, he could afford food for his family.
Climbing the crumbled steps to the 5th floor, he thought of his son. Now five years old and at a small kindergarten and school. He wanted his son to learn to read, so that the mystery of words wouldn’t make him stumble, like he had. Be fast of mind as well of body.
Everyday the scarred soldier went home, he didn’t live in the barracks. He didn’t have to sleep in a corner of a barn, but in a bed with his wife. They lived on the 5th floor of a tenement in the city. His wages could just about stretch to two rooms, a main room where they ate, slept and washed. They used a cupboard as a toilet for privacy.
He sublet the other room out to a large family from the slums; there were at least 8 or 9 of them; he rarely checked. With the money from the tenants and what remained of his wage, he could afford food for his family.
Ascending the crumbled steps to the 5th floor, he thought of his son. Now five years old and at a small kindergarten and school. He wanted his son to learn to read, so that the mystery of words wouldn’t make him stumble, like he had.
He opened the door, his wife was cooking at the stove top. Her face lit by the fading sun from the curtainless windows. She looked radiant. He walked over, putting his arms around her waist and held her close while she cooked, saying nothing. His son fast asleep in the corner on a mattress with a blue and yellow flowered blanket wrapped around him.
His wife smiled. It was peaceful again, his body released the tension of the day into the soft atmosphere.
“The tenants have been crying today,” she said quietly.
He kissed her gently behind the ear and released her. Walking over to the adjoining door, he rapped lightly and opened. It was even darker in here. The soldier couldn’t afford electricity for lights for himself and his family; the tenants had even less.
Some were asleep in the gloom. He saw movement and a slight, bent figure stand and walk to him. It was the old lady; she shivered and creaked.
“How many today?”
“Nine, I think”, the old lady replied in a tremulous and detached tone.
“Tell them to keep quieter, otherwise the superintendent might hear them and then we’d all be out of a home.”
He departed, closing the door carefully as not to wake the sleeping occupants, or his son.
He sat in the only chair they could afford, a tattered mustard yellow armchair. It was ripped and faded, but still comfortable. It was so peaceful here. He never wanted to leave again. He never wanted to go. His wife, placed a plate of beans, grains and rice on his lap.
“Beans and rice, again?” The corners of his mouth were upturned, his eyes sparkling, reflected in his wife’s. “Yes, and you’ll be glad of what ever I give you!” His wife turned her chin upwards, defiant and challenging, whilst struggling to hold back a laugh. The humour shone in her eyes. She was relieved he was home, she always was.
He chuckled softly. He never wanted to leave this place. Never, ever.
The Garden of En-zu
“The joy is in the after, never in the before;
Before the deed lies nothing, in the after She is forever more.
The days, they come; the days they go;
Beyond the silent sleep, a new life a-sew.
Every new replaces the old, every old the shadow of the new;
The golden bull in the thicket, the goat upon the range;
Fire and torch, She is the bright,
She is our Nature, She is our Light,
Until the days are few.”
Sakrisan V, Temple Hymns of Birth
Yes, it is a little fragrant, perhaps. But She must be heard in the ears of the young. For songs such as this are sung for every new life She has gifted us. For She is rebirth and perfect in every way.
My family? My family is you. And everyone else, of course. My family exists beyond the Plateau, to the stars. To every life that has and will ever be. We are all part of She after all. Let me tell you a tale, one of my own. The prose is pitiful and unbecoming. I hope you can forgive me.
It is called The Garden of En-zu:
“The Garden of En-zu was wondrous. From every tree to every flower, bloom and delight awaited all those who cast their eyes upon its splendour.
The tallest trees sang to the birds, guiding them home. The flowers ripe with nectar made the insects and animals drink to stupefaction. There was contentment and beauty in the Garden.
En-zu, so fitful at granting plants fecundity; was childless. With none to maintain her Garden she sang for She; for three days and three nights, she sang for her own shoots. She wept for three days, to She tears did flow. She answered her. For She hears all and is perfect in every way.
Not one child did En-zu have, but twelve. So many children did play and grow within her Garden. It brought great joy to En-zu, she sang every day to Her. The children did grow, mighty trunks and slender boughs. En-zu taught them the wonder of gardening; to watch She create new life from the old.
But the children did not listen; they did not learn the majesty of leaves or the strength of oak. They became jealous of one another. For only one could inherit the Garden. Jealousy begat hate and hate begat murder. Only one child remained, the victorious Holly. For She had granted her poison berries and spiked leaves.
En-zu grieved for the loss of her children. She cast Holly from the Garden, never to provide nourishment for the birds and creatures. En-zu lived alone unto the end of her days, cursed by the glory of her Garden.“
We punish Holly for her jealousy by cutting a sprig every cold spell. It reminds us to not rage against the dying beauty of the sun, because it will arise fresh once more. Only through understanding glory can one know Her ways.
I, myself, have no children She made for me. That is no harm. I have En-zu to thank for granting me a vision of Her wisdom.
Pero was a god among men.
Pero was a short man, with orbits of fat that wobbled as he adjusted his bulk. Pulling his trousers up, he made a leer at the small crowd around him.
“We take what we want.” He began, the youthful crowd weary on their feet shuffled trying to not draw attention to their fatigue.
“We are men. They are rats.” On the word rats, he shook his head vigorously, his dark hair drifting with each shake. His eyes were black and beady, his mouth puckered with his yellowing upper teeth protruding over his bottom lip.
He paused to smooth his moustache. Pero knew how to talk to the people; those under his command. And if they didn’t listen? Well, he made sure they did. Pause. You have to pause, to let them take in the profundity of the words. Let them hang on every syllable, waiting, anticipating. The longer the pause the better.
Pero wasn’t uneducated; in fact he came from a good home. His father, a business man had ensured that Pero had received the best education from the best school. He spoke with a twinge of fury, to underline his authority and knowledge.
“You see me before you, my name is Pero. But I do not want you to remember my name, just my words.”
“This Country, our glorious home; is failing. We’re being attacked on all sides. We must defend ourselves!”
Pero’s father, some twenty years past, held a meeting with local business men. They discussed the scourge of the poor, the pitiful penniless who had invaded their home; their city. They discuss in hushed tones about what could and should be done. At his father’s insistence, Pero listened to the outcome. He heard the only way the city could keep itself clean. The business men, although delicate in speech; believed strongly in action.
“You. You. You,” he pointed at the young men and boys around him with a pudgy finger. “You, like me, are now the men of the militia. We are all men here.”
Pero always gave the new recruits boots; a luxury far beyond the ken of the street urchins and school boys they recruited. He felt their love and gratitude at the hardy boots, at his words that made them unhappy but opened their eyes. He basked in the admiration, his chest swelling up and tears forming in his eyes.
“You make me cry. You are all beautiful. Truly you are the hands of god, my friends. My men!”
He liked hearing them cheer; chanting his name and the name of the Country. That made his heart swell with pride. The pride that he, Pero, was going to tidy up. Make the world a better place, for them, him – for his father. He was their father, these young boys. He wanted to give them the pride his father had given him. Bring them up well.
“With your guns, with your strength; we shall clean everything. We shall live in a utopia!”
The boys glanced around. What was a Utopia? They were tired, some already forced into murder; others still awaited that horror as the other boys described it vividly.
“A man takes. He acts. He acts without hesitation. He is fierce and relentless.”
“You will now do good work. The Lord’s work. Help our fathers and mothers to live in peace and safety. You are chosen!”
“The glory, the everlasting memory of greatness. The world. It is yours!”
Pero’s heart was close to bursting. With joy, hope, pleasure and pride. He was going to do it. He was going to make the world right.
“We. WILL. Win.”
Long pause for applause and adulation. Yes, Pero truly was a god among men.
Aha! There you are! I expected to find you in the library but to no avail. We were speaking of gardens and of regret were we not? It is time I showed you Her Hanging Gardens; although they are not as splendid as En-zu’s, they are still nectar for the eyes.
Come, come! See the works of Her greatest. Built from white and layered in green. It bursts forth in colour in the morning sun.
These gentle gardeners are Sisters, for they tend here. They have the rustle of trees and the blossom of flowers; their diligent servitude forever rewarded in the new life She grants us. For She is Peace and perfect in every way.
The Gardens are tranquil, for Nature is tranquil. The gentle drip of the water from the aqueducts sings to us a nostalgic melancholy and the hope that springs anew. Water. It is our lifeblood. For She is the rain and perfect in every way.
Come, let me show you the Well of Mercy. We tell of the mystical properties of this particular Well. A Sister, elderly and venerable sits there in attendance. Do you espy the Sister in black? She is the Clerk; for she records the names of the accursed. The people of the Valley press their thumbprint to a disc of clay. On the reverse, they etch the name of those who do them harm. They pay this venerable and wise Clerk a token to Her for this service. She drops the soul into the water and the curse remains until the stone is removed or the days are finished. For She is Justice and perfect in every way.
Do you have any enemies? Perhaps people to whom have done you foul? Come, there is clay a-plenty! If you are gracious to suffer more of my woeful prose, then I shall tell you the tale of the Well; of the Wife En-kai and the adulterous Husba–
The Sakrisan broke off suddenly. His arms still fixed aloft, gesturing at the white brick of the well. His hands trembled. For no more than five steps away stood Delah, picking herbs. She looked up, sensing company. Her red curls poured fluidily across her face, revealing her open, honest eyes. The Sakrisan stood transfixed, a statue preparing to die. His grey eyes, unblinking and dilated.
The spell dissipated; looking at his hands and arms anew, he broke away. Flowing red robes billowed behind him as he made an abrupt and furtive exit from the Gardens and back into the temple. He did not look back. The surprise and worry showed on Delah’s face, she made to move to the Sakrisan; raising a tentative hand.
The temple door slammed shut. The World stops.
Her perplexed face etched with anxiety, looks on for a time. She turns. The Earth spins again upon its axis.
Hello? Can I assist you? My name is Delah, I am a Sister of the Valley and a conduit for Her love. For we are all part of Her. Even me! For She is Love and perfect in every way.
Perhaps, seeing as though the Sakrisan seems indisposed, may I offer my services as a guide? The Plateau and Valley are truly wonderful places and there is so much so see. Come walk with me, let take you by the hand and lead you through the land. You are quite safe. Shall I tell you a tale as we go? Of love, of grain or of course of Her greatness; our Mother. For She bears us all and is perfect in every way.
You were talking of peace? I know just where that be found a-plenty. Come travel, fly through time with me. I know just the song; it speaks of travel and places and the wondrous Earth. It will pass the time wisely, come see of Her birth.
“Through field and river, valley and lake;
Wherever She goes, Her shape the land take.
Across our Valley, across broad seas,
To where others do settle, living in sweet ease.
From Her hand and Her heart comes the height and the pit,
From under the Earth, She is warmed and sunlit.
At night, when alls quiet, She is the bright star;
She sits in the sky, looking down from afar,
Guiding us home, from wherever we are.
From near or afar,
She brings us back home.”
The old Officer sat as his desk, vividly recalling the conversation.
When told of his orders, he refused. He could not do this. The Governor got angry, smashing a bust of the previous Governor. That one had a beard, this was one clean shaved and ambitious; the thought arose as he watched a piece of pottery beard ricochet and pirouette.
He didn’t mind the old one so much; he had a way with the ladies, of that there was no doubt. The boys too if he recalled. Whenever he asked the Officer to provide security; the Governor looked at his feet and the Officer gladly complied. He liked the old one more. The old Governor had also smashed the bust of his predecessor. What is it with these Governors?
This one was not so honey coated. He wanted and he demanded. The Officer would not work with the militia. He would not work with undisciplined men. Men? Pah. Boys. They were not even soldiers. Who can work with young children and criminals? What kind of man fights with children?
His grandfather had a saying ‘Hot men only respect heat’. Well this new Governor, he was the sun. That idiot they had sent him, Pero; the little generalissimo. The old Officer was indeed old and he hadn’t gotten old by saying no. But this Pero. Ach! His father would have made him sleep with pigs for the muck he says. No, this Pero was a bad omen.
No respect anymore. No respect of command or authority. His experienced men had faced him in a semi-circle. They had argued to his face and he acceded to their worries. But told them none-the-less, they had duty. And that they had orders. One of them, a man from the slums who had made corporal had insulted his mother; the slur couldn’t stand and they fought. Bare-fisted and bare-chested trading blows until the Officer won. Even his bones hurt, to his very depths after the fight.
The old Officer ran a hand over his face. It was wrinkled and marked from worry and wounds. He didn’t need this.
He got up. Taking a last look at the small bust of the great general on his table, making a mental note to call the stone mason in the morning; he turned off the light and departed.
Walking home, the weather was glum. He had no problem with glum, it matched his mood. It was quiet as he closed the door. His wife still hadn’t returned. He sagged against the wall and cursed himself. He was a lousy husband. He drank too much, smoked too much, complained too much.
It’s a wonder that she put up with him for so long; as her sister liked to remind him. No calls. No messages. He sighed as he moved through into the living room.
One night when he and his wife were still young, he came home fresh from battle. In his sleep he dreamed of a fight. He was surrounded by four men and he had no weapon. So he swung his fists here and there with all his might. His wife woke him, worried by his restlessness. He punched her in the face, giving her two black eyes. He thought he was in his dream. His wife, Lords be truly blessed, forgave him. But still, he had never changed his ways.
Then six months ago, she had enough and walked out. With her suitcase and the dog, to her sisters. He sent her money, but she did not come back. He had sent her flowers and scent, but no. They were orange lily from the gardens she loved. Twenty-seven years of marriage. Puff. In smoke.
His wife was always chasing him, arms aloft. “If you do not do as I ask, I will haunt you”. So, haunted he was, by her memory and loss. His bones ached to the marrow.
He walked up to the foot of his ancestor. Picking it up, he sat in the armchair and brooded.
Let us rest a while, here upon the soft and shaded green. We have only to fly to the top of that hill beyond and our journey’s end is upon us. While we rest, I shall tell you a tale, to ease our aching feet and bring peace to our minds. For it is a peaceful place we are surely to find.
“The woman was all alone in the world; forsaken by all, never to find company or companionship among the living, neither the dead. Forever unto distant days, destined to a life of an emptiness. A fish adrift of the seas. A tree separate from the forest.
She sat by a lake, lamenting upon her fate:
O Woe is me, for I am alone,
O Woe is me, for I have no family,
O Woe is me, for She has left me,
I am forsaken.
She cast her gaze upon the lake before her. The visage of Her looked back. In the reflection, She, our Mother, was sat next to the lonely woman. A smile of benevolence on Her lips.
The woman transfixed by the image cried bitter tears. She wept for moon beyond moon. Her body became cracked. Her hair did grow, so long as to touch the moon mirrored lake.
After nine on four moons, still she wept for her loneliness. The Daughter of the Night still sat with her, smiling and kind. The woman’s hair, brown and tangled sprouted new life, green shoots and leaves of green. They covered her head and they covered her arms. Her limbs became affixed and she was forever cursed to look upon her reflection, lamenting as her hair ebbs and flows with eddies of the lake.”
Over the hill is a lake that is fed by the river. Our beautiful willow resides there and we pay respect with our solitude and silence while she weeps.
Here, look to the mirrored sky upon the lake. The lake blinds with the beauty of the sun, so be careful as you peek. Am I as lonely as the willow you ask? That could never be, for I am Her Sister and with whom travels my every footstep. For She is our companion and perfect in every way.
But I have a love that cannot be, so I sit with in the shade of the willow with my solitude and share my woes. I give her company and She gives it to me.
Do you know the tale of The Fisherman’s Wife? “Every day the Fisherman came home…”
“Every day the Fisherman came home. He always traded his catch for beer. When asked why, he replied “If the fish do drink, then so should man. For fish are the blessed of She.” The wife was bereft and starving. She complained to her neighbours, “O why am I cursed with a fish for a husband?” She would often lament.
She heard her lamentations and in a spirit of wild capriciousness turned the Fisherman’s Wife into a trout. For She is mischievous and perfect in every way.
The Fisherman caught his daily fish, placing his Wife among the catch. He traded the catch as usual for beer and went to his dwelling. Upon looking into his cup, She said unto him “A man may drink as a fish; but without the blessing of companionship, he is but a fisher adrift”. The Fisherman drank the beer and said unto Her “We are now joined, for I traded her for beer and the beer has become with me.”
She, furious at the trick cursed him with pain of head and sickness of stomach; where his wife did now dwell. For She is Justice and perfect in every way.
From this we know; to drink beyond merriment is to lose our companionship. The pain we feel is to remind us of excess. Lamentation must not be in vain, nor are blessings found at the bottom of a cup.
Do I drink to excess? To forget and lament? Of course! And I feel the Fisherman’s Wife within me the following day. She is such an angry, restless old soul. For She is Vengeance and perfect in every way.
“For sacrifice counts when need is great,
To release the white goat, to be commensurate.
Unto the wilds, unto Her night,
The people endure when they bind to Her might.”
Sakrisan VI, The Endurance of She
A red gloom descended. His robes billowed and flowed forth as he paced. The hue of the setting sun casting orange and fire across the stone room from the cell window. His bed and nothing more entertained the room; encased within the sandstone temple, on a lower level.
The Temple was peaked to the sun; on the lower were the gathering grounds. Where the people came to feast, lament and beg Her mercy. The second were the living quarters of the temple inhabitants. The top was Hers and Hers alone.
This was dwelling of E-Azad-kutu-ana, a cell on the second. The same cell of all the Sakrisan before and all the Lives for Her to come. Within the cell, he could hear strains of the elderly Sisters, singing a slow lament for the dying sun.
His mind was dark. It was a bad omen, to have made a scene. Had a Sister seen? Through cataracts and milk; could they have felt it? With withered touch; could they have heard his heart? She was tranquil in his heart. That he knew. She was beauty. He was chaos.
The Temple was to host the festival of fire in two nights. She would be there. She would walk among us. Through the fire and the dance, he would see Her. The silhouette of her body wracked in the ecstasy of the frenzy. The flames would dance too, for her, to catch Her attention and Her pleasure.
E-Pad-hu-ana has displeased Her; long ago in legend. Ever the troublesome man, he took his complaints to Her, to Her dwelling. She cursed him, to never find contentment, to feel discontent and be ill at ease for eternity; and to walk the night with Her forever more. He was cast away, an exile.
The lower must be prepared for the festival. For fire and dance and exaltation. The Sisters must crawl before the fire. The people must beg for Her mercy. That fire and life remain in harmony. This was the season of the high sun. Wrath bathed in flame took their crops and this they could suffer no more.
He dreamed of Her, crawling through the flame. Withered and sobbing. The stars shining down upon the Temple. The Sisters in mourning. He awoke, startled and anxious. A bad omen or one of rebirth, he could not tell. The dream was comforting to him. She had held his hand through the journey.
A great stone dais was to be placed in the centre of the gather. It is here that the fire will burn the deepest; drowning our woes in the sweat and flame. A goat must be procured, for there can be no forgiveness, not without the scapegoat.
He must work hard; for the people depended on him.
The Diminutive Statesman
Pero stood before a mirror, dressed in a pin-stripe suit. His hair had been tamed with copious amounts of hair spray. For tonight he was to make his debut.
His father had contacted the national television station; money and favours had been exchanged and here he was; about to be the spokesman for a generation on the prime-time politics program. The Nation would find him irresistible. They would beg for more, to impart his Wisdom, Justice and Candours on their troubled souls. His WJCs had caught the attention of the public, he was adored.
He spoke hard truths; then smiled – with a pause. As though he was completely at ease with making difficult decisions; that he was firmly anchored, whilst they, the public, were lost in the moral minefield.
Before the television spectacular, he was to meet first with some businessmen; acquaintances of his father. They required his special touch.
Foreigners from some distance. They wore shades and were curt with him. Tempers flared and guns were drawn; but ultimately, his WJCs won through and the foreigners listened and assented to the terms.
Pero liked to give things acronyms; he liked to test his men on their knowledge of them. If they got it wrong, a lash of his crop soon made them remember. He would have lashed the foreigners too, but his father and his business associates, well they only understood honour. They didn’t understand strength like Pero did.
Today he, Pero himself, contacted the stone mason. For the bust of himself he will display. And everyone will see and know Pero. The mason asked if he wanted an inscription, any words. He told him smiling over the phone. Then paused.
Dynamite! That’s what she called him. The television producer said they had more calls than they had ever. All because of Pero, humble Pero.
He was electric; the other panellists were annihilated upon his rocks of reason; his command of logic and humour. His WJCs rocketed into the atmosphere, exploding in their full glory; covering the ignorant with the magic of Truth. He opened their eyes like they were new born babes.
Just in case of a jealous husband or smaller man might take aim at humble Pero, he brought bodyguards. His father had called the station and made sure that the audience were not filled with those ugly, flea ridden protestors from outside the station; but with fellow intellectuals and thinkers.
They cried his name forth, the cheers and chants far outweighing the ineffectual boos of the ignorant.
“My friends. My Country. I am humbled to be here, for I am a no-one. Just like you. I feel your anguish and pain.”
He almost poked a podgy finger towards the camera at the word ‘you’, but that didn’t feel statesmanlike in such refined surroundings.
“I am humble. I only want to share my heart with my fellow country men.”
Later in the debate, another panellist had the audacity to question his manhood. He arose to prove his point, but was becalmed and mollified by the chairwoman and his guards, back into his seat and pants. Pero wouldn’t sink to their level; depraved and undignified. He straightened his tie, integrity unbesmirched.
His bust had arrived. The mason had asked what material he wanted it to be from, he replied granite. As hard and tough as the Earth itself. The bust was a dirty-grey and too heavy to lift. But that suited him, when the bust was in his Governors office they would feel his gravity radiate.
Why Governor? Why not President?
“President Pero meets with the President of the United States for summit talks on global warming and war.”
Pero stood before the mirror. He smoothed his suit with his right hand.
The Aged and Withered Member of an Old Donkey
“The aged and withered member of an old donkey.”
The old Officer thought of his grandfather, on his fathers side. He and his wife lived in a village far from the city in a place where modern medicine had yet to find a foothold. His grandparents after a year of marriage had to conceive and gossip was rife. The grandfather, a no-nonsense sort with a temper that scared even the wildest of dogs sought the help of a local healer.
The healer told him to send his grandmother to him and within the year his father had been created, born and become the delight of his grandparents. His grandfather was perplexed, what could the healer have done? He went to talk to him. The healer aware of his grandfather’s temper; said nothing. Waving him away, he said he couldn’t share the secrets of the Elders.
This would not satisfy his grandfather, so he asked his wife what had occurred. His grandmother, although demure to the point of prudery, had an easily provoked temper over private matters and in no uncertain terms told him that she was unsatisfied and to say no more on the topic. Her eyes dared him to continue his persistence, but he relented, knowing the almighty hue and cry she would inflict on the household.
His grandfather could not contain his curiosity; so one day, while his grandmother was at market, he searched the bedroom. After turning bedclothes and pillows asunder he came upon a strange object; what looked to be the aged and withered member of an old donkey.
What magic did this member hold? His grandfather needed to know the trickery involved; so the spirit of science, he decided to try and procure the member of an old donkey. Fortunately, they owned such a donkey that lived alone in a small field. Wild and as bad-tempered as his grandparents and rarely ever put to use.
His grandfather armed with a saw made for the field. The donkey would in no way comply with his grandfather’s experiment and gave him an almighty kick to the temple. He was concussed for a month and at his grandmother’s strictest behest, pursued no further scientific experiments and became a man of devout faith.
“The aged and withered member of an old donkey.”
That is what he had called Pero. Loudly and clearly in front of the men, both experienced and new. Pero went red and started to fumble with his pants; the Officer thought he was going for his pistol and punched Pero hard, right on the nose.
A fuss his grandmother would have envied broke out. He even got a call from the Colonel himself. He didn’t need this, he was old. Looking at his hand he imagined that his bruised and swollen little finger was the withered member of an old donkey. The wrinkles and scar tissue, burnt brown from days under the sun, held quite a resemblance.
Ach! He didn’t want to be reminded of that wart every time he looked at his hands. All was quiet now; Pero bandaged and scowling, returned from his visit to the infirmary. At least now he would find a few days peace, until Pero’s nose was fixed and he could talk again, without sounding like a strangled camel.
In this spare moment, he returned to the book on his ancestor’s trip with Red-Headed Westerner to the Plateau:
Charles and I
“…I dare say that given the chance, they would sleep or eat at the drop of a hat!
I must say, the Valley below the Plateau takes an odd form. There are areas which seem untouched by whatever catastrophe befouled this quite splendid place. Here and there, you find sandstone ruins. Crude huts and dwelling areas; in the style of early settlements. I shall endeavour to bring samples of the brickwork and whatever crude tools or potsherds I find in my exploration.
In one area the air is both dense and humid, carrying a slight twang of sulphur. In others, it is similar to standing atop a mountain. It is thin and cool and brings a chill. Charles provided us with heat and with a primitive shawl made of goat. Without it, I should have frozen to the core!
However, the following day, the lingering smell of dead goat was quite dire. I asked Charles whether he knew of a stream or fresh water lake in which I could bathe. Henceforth, Charles and I, along with the peasants and their donkeys, came across a quite breathtaking sight. Here was a freshwater lake, approximately half a mile across with the largest and most spectacular weeping willow I have come across in my travails across the continents.
The sketch below does it no sense of justice, for this tree was of the most impressive sort. I took to bathing and Charles, understanding my sensibilities about odour, took to bathing with me. He had the most impressive physique! We bathed together as the peasant’s donkeys made the most terrific din.
Muscles rippled across his bare…”
You see there? By the bales of hay, next to the path of leaves.
The hags and crones have their own stall here; they are loved as healers, cursed as life stealers and most oft serenaded by beer-happy free-wheelers. They trade all sorts of things; if you have a song to sing then perhaps they may give you the withered member of an old donkey, a most useful charm for… Maybe later, you say? No matter, to drink and merriment that await, for workers always get market day to rest their weary feet and souls.
There will be dancing and much flirting through unto the morn. Lit by the stars and the braziers bright, until the fields do cry shear my corn. The people are at their most relaxed here, on this day in the Valley. They dress for comfort and the delight of their beau.
Perhaps a song or a tale; come sit by the brazier, let us settle a while. Keep warm for the days are hot but the nights are cool.
Beyond the throng of the dance, you see the men and women dressed in fur and in hide? They are the hunters, as one with the tribe and with She. They provide us with sustenance in the colder days, clothes and sandals for all. We provide them clothing and shelter and a place to rest. They choose not to live among the villages, preferring to travel and stay where they will.
Over there are the merchants, the scribes and the fools. They appraise, record and clown for the people. They, such as the farmers, the hunters and all others; are afforded a full belly, a warm bed and company on the long nights.
The seamstress plucks at children’s clothes, making them larger for growing young bones. The butcher, the dancers, the Sisters and we. We are all one in the glory of She. For She is Everyone and perfect in every way.
The crone walking among the old, rattling a cylinder? She sells the teeth of the young, together with the gum of the resplendent mastic tree. For the old lose their own and the young gladly offer theirs. The gum melts and the tooth is affixed. They old show appreciation by eating heartily and telling tall tales to the young.
We Sisters offer assistance on this day. We hear the malady and tend to the sick. This is an offering to She.
Some moons ago, I tended a leg of an old farmer. He told me a tale in return for the deed.
“An old man had a malady that made him complain about all. His wife had tried everything to cheer his mood, but to no avail. She ended up stuffing her ears with flax, just to avoid his continuous calamity.
Recently, his village had built a grand new grain house to hold their harvests. It was far bigger than the old and would keep them fed for more than thirteen moons. They decided to celebrate the new building and came together in happiness and harmony, all except the old man.
For he grumbled and groaned, finding fault with the smallest of cracks. It would never last a cold season, he shook his head. In walking to and fro showing the faults, he came before the new grain house unawares and kicked it with his sandal’d foot.
There was a shuddering and a thunder and the grain house fell. The old man had kicked one of those cracks. The villagers were of a rage; angry insults flew and threats of violence sparked in the air. The old man’s wife, upon seeing this calamity, put her hand over her eyes, for she had seen enough.
The rest of the villagers followed her lead, placing their hands over there eyes whenever the old man was in sight; lest they lose their tempers.”
Come and rest here by the fire, as the light dies. Make yourself comfortable in those furs, fluff up the hay. Feel as your eyes become heavy; the light shines off the smoke, casting colours of greens and reds and blues and of yellow. Watch the colours blur into one, then unto the void. Rest your weary bones for tomorrow is yet a new day. Rest now, for all is quiet and safe.
The Festival of Fire Part I
E-Azad-kutu-ana stood before the window on the Eastern wall of his cell. His palms outstretched and pressed flat against the cool sandstone walls. Betwixt, the sun began its daily birth. Falling upon Azad’s face, the light sculpting his features in gold. Warming his forehead, reflecting from his eyes; it fell to his mouth, terse and troubled.
Less than a wisp of wind swept his hair, sending two-three strands twisting together. Holding tight to one another other. The sun was warm, it filled him with a sereneness long forgotten. He basked, tilting his head back, presenting a proud chin to the beam coming through the thin window.
It was the day.
Gathering his thoughts and his robes of ceremony; he departed for the exaltation of the new dawn. Leaving a memory of red cloth and frankincense in his wake, he strode forth into the lower level; calling the people to prayer. Her Wisdom, Her Justice and Her Truth. For She was All to them; Mother, Sister, Friend, Enemy, Neighbour and Sojourner.
Without Her they would have long perished; from fire or drought. The distance of the Plateau from other settlements was far. Guests and visitors keen to see the treasures of Her travails were few. For they were unknown beyond their own memory.
Mountains formed a protective wall around three-quarters of the land, to the last, forests, plains and the sea. They were held within Her safe grasp, safe and snug, like a babe. And they thanked Her for this, for Her creation.
Within their Valley, they lived and toiled. Hunted and farmed. Upon the Plateau grew fields of corn, of hops and of rye. Statues of stone dotted the countryside, often daubed with greens, reds, yellows and blues. The eternal colours of creation.
Beyond creation lay the void; where mystical whites and devouring blacks dwelt. She walked them all.
From his window in the cell, he could see the oxen and other beasts carrying away the loads of their masters from the market. The dull glint of sweat glistened on their hides as they continued on with their burden. In attendance were the farmers, the carpenters and the lads and girls that apprenticed for them.
The elders walked in couplets and quintets, absorbed in somber discussion. The young jostled and played. They flirted and fought. For all were still in good spirits or low of vigour and vim from the freedom and ale of the market.
Around the stone dais, eight Sisters formed a circle. Spaced equally apart, dressed in the red of the Temple, they stood motionless, eyes closed. Arms outstretched horizontally, bent vertically at the elbow, to open palms facing the altar.
Their combined shadows cast an amalgamation of shape and form across the dais. An eight pointed star made out of darkness. This was for purification; to cleanse the altar and the spirit of the Temple. To make space for Her. They would attach rosemary and jasmine, lavender and sandalwood, to burn for Her and sweeten Her journey. The sweetness to form a cloud beneath her, her footsteps to be light and measured.
The sun arose, awakened by the scent. The shadows grew shorter, the star smaller. The ceremony and day had begun. The cleansing of feet and hands within the Temple urns; the cutting of hair in the fields. The people of the Valley were holding to their faith.
A Product of His Time
They were running through a slum. The boy had fallen behind and gunshots hailed from all and any direction. The order was take cover. The boy was behind boxes, some four-hundred metres back. He saw the man, long black straight hair; thin and impoverished. He was dressed in light leathers and white work shirt. He held a rifle upwards.
More shots from the front; he turned away, a building was on fire. He looked back. The boxes had been kicked down, the man over the boy aiming. The world had stopped. He couldn’t shout, his voice failed, his arms heavy with anticipated grief.
The boy died.
And the world began turning again – sound, colour and light clamoured and screamed for attention and action. He raised his rifle and shot twice. The man in the light leathers fell, red circles already staining the work shirt.
He didn’t speak in the truck back to the barracks. He rarely did and the scar across his face discouraged question or boast. He went home as usual; his wife was troubled but didn’t press her woes. He sat and ate in silence; staring off into space. Occasionally, he would glance at his boy.
His failure to save the boy; he held that close to his heart. He didn’t want to forget.
Eventually his wife, her hands white and eyes tearful spoke to her husband:
“The superintendent visited today and warned us again about tenants; they need to be quieter.”
The scarred soldier rose from his seat; walked to where his son was sleeping and crouching, the leather of his boots creaking; he stroked the boy’s head gently.
“He’s dreaming.” The soldier murmured. He rose back to his feet, walked to his wife’ taking her hands in his, he kissed them.
“Don’t worry I am looking for more work; the superintendent is a friend, he will understand. If not, money will help him.”
The room was fading into mere shadows around them; as the sun set, the sounds of life in the city before the Valley could be heard. Cars, horns, feet on concrete; the lights from the bars and casinos gave the city a pale yellow-pink glow. The darkened sky above spread to eternity over the city, the slums of the Valley, the Plateau and far beyond.
Clear and bright, aside from the moon shone a star. Fierce and magnificent.
In the morning, reporting for duty he was to be on patrol again in the slums. He hadn’t been assigned there since that day. It was haunted, a bad omen to return. He thought of his wife and their son. He was haunted.
He broke down walking to the truck; falling to one knee a hand on his face. He showed no tears, made no sound. His comrades helped him to his feet, for Pero was close and he would lash him. Call him names and question his virility. Insult his wife and child, his mother and father. The soldiers knew; they helped each other.
He arose, shakily; groggy from the vision of the boy dying in front of him. He stumbled to the truck, gripped the sides with hands drained of strength; pulled himself aboard. He was on duty, they needed the money. What could he do? What could anyone do?
When they entered the slums; they found street merchants. Pero had banned them. The scarred soldier and a younger man, no more than nineteen, made to arrest the vendor. He dropped his goods and raised his arms above his head, fear registered clearly on his drawn face. His arms shook; he bent his elbows, unable to hold his arms straight for fear. His held his palms open. Look, I have nothing.
The scarred soldier paused; the man was only trying to make a living. The young soldier grabbed the vendor and pulled him roughly over to the awaiting truck.
The street seller was doing what he had to do, to survive. Look after his family. He was doing what we all must. The scarred soldier walked over to the truck. He reached for the vendor and pulled him out.
The vendor froze. He feared a trap. The moment was lost.
“You there, get that rat on the truck and get back out there hunting.”
Pero had spoken.
The Festival of Fire Part II
The near naked dancer wove in and out of the blaze. The scent of myrrh hung heavily on the air. The fire reflected in the eyes of the onlookers; all of them scared to look upon the wrath but mesmerised by the flicker and spark. Reds, oranges and black.
The mass of people encircling the stone dais, mingling into a mass of one. Only space remained, a horse-shoe shape they take; for to the East is a pathway. For Her.
The people were silent; all that could be heard was the crack of wood splintering.
Azad walked to the fire. He called forth the goat. Wild and unruly, it kicked and fought against the bearer before coming becalmed at the altar.
Azad told of the scapegoat to the masses. Tradition tells of…
“Tradition tells of a dark spirit that dwelt in the woods. A demon of the Forest. Every night his booming voice could be heard intoning:
“I am your destruction; my fingers, my body do subjugate;
For I am fire incarnate,
and I destroy all that man do create.
I will burn the creatures, I will burn the trees;
I will destroy your crops and your home, your vain follies.
For nothing does stop me, I will chase you unto death;
Leaving no essence, no soul but ashes,
Your dying breath.”
We asked of She to protect us from this spirit, the malevolence of which knew no bounds. She heard us and took the form of this creature, the goat; wild of spirit and quick of foot.
She entered the woods and our Goddess ran chased by the fire. For moon upon moon they ran. Until finally the demon drained off all strength, drifted defeated into the sky.
The demon hid no longer within the wood, and all the Forest had surrendered unto Her. She brought rain upon rain. She brings forth the Flood, the first. The fire had perished. We were free of wrath once more.
We fell to our knees in thanks.
She said unto us, ‘I did this not for thee but to save my fair Dumuzid. For He is sweet as a date, lad, husband, lord, sweet as a date’
We remember Her fight by releasing a goat unto the wilds. To assume Her fleet of foot and vanquish the blaze once more.
Tonight, the Sakrisan gives his body unto the Goddess in payment to Her and Her sweet love, Her sweet husband Dumuzid.
Tonight I call uponDumuzid, the husband of the Goddess to enter my body; to please Her and walk with Her, my love, for I am He who kisses the holy lips and dances on the holy knees, the holy knees of Inanna.”
Sakrisan I, The Book of Beginning
The Sakrisan raised his arms; the red linen of his robes joined inexorably to the fire. They burned along with his flesh. The Sisters came forth and smothered him with their robes and themselves. Covered he remained, hidden from sight until She entered from the East. She walked slowly, languidly. Approaching the mound concealing the Sakrisan, She released the Sisters uncovering him with a flick of Her hand. Her breath, the words of Enlil, soothing the fire.
‘Away my sisters, O he is Dumuzid, he of the sweet mouth, the sweet mouth that called my name’
He stands and She moves to him. They embrace, They embrace for an eternity.
They walk through the fire, They are not scared, They show no fear. They will not be harmed. She has tamed the fire, it is Her child, Her innocent dancing child. The Sisters follow on their hands and knees, crawling through the fire in Their wake. The Sisters clothes do burn, their clothes of simple white are with the fire. The Sisters do not burn as they crawl.
She has blessed Her people once more.
Inanna and Her Dumuzid Ascend the Heavens
“The day was magnificent, of bright sun and aromatic winds. Within the town square of her Father’s domain Inanna danced; spinning and undulating leaving a trail of colour and laughter wherever she did step. She sang sweetly and of love and devotion, of her father and mother; the King and the Queen. Most of all she sang of her love, the fair Dumuzid.
The day drew forth and Inanna became as alone as a mountain; for all the songs of her love left an ache and a hollow in her heart. She banged the drum and played the bell; to drive away the feelings that saddened her, but to no avail.
She sang for her fair love; to come and ease the pain, the pass the day away with his tender devotions.
‘O come to me my sweet lad, for I am alone, I am alone and in need of your sweet mercy. O my fair sweet husband Dumuzid, come unto me and hold your goddess, hold your goddess unto the end.’
Her Dumuzid enters the square:
‘I am here, O love, O goddess and queen, I am here O queen of mine to embrace. Come embrace and let me kiss the holy lips, the holy lips of my maiden and queen.’
They embrace and become as one. The night draws forth and Inanna must think of home, for her Mother and Father, the King and the Queen and her place with them in the heavens.
Dumuzid sings to his Goddess:
‘Stay with me my maiden and queen, stay with your prince through the night. Stay with me my goddess, maiden, whore; let your love kiss thine lips and thine body, for all of the night and day.’
Inanna must fly, for her father Anu and mother Ningal surely do miss her; where could she be? To what ends was she there?
The sky grows darker and Nanna awakens, rising from the East. Looking down upon the lovers, Inanna grows melancholy for the parting with her sweet lad.
‘Inanna must leave thee, oh sweet nectar of mine, the nectar of your lips leaves Inanna bereft and alone, bereft and alone to be parted from her sweet lad, lord, her sweet lad who dances on the holy knees of Inanna.’
Dumuzid takes her hands, holding them to his heart he pleads:
‘O goddess, O goddess, do not leave your sweet lad alone, do not leave him lone and lonesome. Stay the night, for under the moon we will make love unto next, unto the next moon, which arise from the East.’
Inanna must decide whether to stay with her prince or leave. What must she tell to her father Anu, her mother Ningal. Nanna looks down on the lovers from up on high.
‘My honeyed lips, my Dumuzid, what must I say, what must I say to my Anu and his Ningal, what must Inanna say to spend the night with her love?’
Dumuzid does reply:
‘O my Goddess, my magnificent Inanna; let me tell you a woman’s deceit, a woman’s deceit that tells your Anu and Ningal you spent the night, dancing in the square, dancing and singing within this square. Tell not of your meeting, your tryst with Inanna’s prince; your tryst with your Inanna’s remain secret and forever the tender.’
Inanna looks for Nanna, for she has wisdom and cunning.
Inanna sings to her prince:
‘O Dumuzid, my lad and lord, my lad and my husband; your Inanna will stay. To make love through the night and throughout the day, unto the next moon arise, unto the next moon arises will we embrace. For Inanna will tell her Anu and his Ningal, that she did dance and sing within the square, she did dance and sing through to the new moon arise.’
The lovers do embrace, holding tight unto the new moon. Nanna looks down from below, Utu from above and the lovers do embrace.”
Relief from: http://www.crystalinks.com
Based upon a temple hymn: http://etcsl.orinst.ox.ac.uk/
President Pero stood down from the jeep. He had pondered the need for a pair of trumpeters, to herald his arrival; but decided against it. King Pero needed no ceremony, he got straight to work.
The foreigners were back and wanted more. His father, who had started pulling strings to have him promoted in the military with an eye on the Governor’s post; sent him again.
Trumpets squalled as Pero defeated the glass entrance doors and strode over to them in the hotel lobby, slipping his sunglasses on over his disjointed nose. This was his world, not theirs. They would take what was given, like scraps to dogs. His father would be proud of his son’s prowess.
The Royal Bloodline of King Pero
Pero’s grandfather Antonio Felipe Pero, originally came from a small island off the coast of Brazil. Eager for more land and place to settle his burgeoning family, they made the long journey to the city before the Valley. Across lands, seas and oceans they travelled before finally coming upon their promised land.
Pero’s grandfather was independently wealthy; he came from a long line of minor Portuguese aristocracy, which at some point was married into the family of Philip II, King of Spain. Although his wealth wasn’t considerable, Antonio was an industrious man, a trait he shared with his son; Antonio Felipe II – Pero’s father.
Pero’s father was a shrewd businessman with a knack of being in the right place at the right time. When land in the Valley came up for auction; it was his bid that won. Together with other land owners; they formed a consortium of businessmen. A legitimate enterprise with offices in the city. The consortium grew, refined, manufactured, packaged and distributed heroin world wide. They were very successful. Pero’s father knows everyone and everyone knows him.
Antonio Felipe II is known as being a proud man; never to the point of arrogance, yet distant with people he believed were beneath him. He was proud of two things, his father and his family name. Pero had every intention of adding a third. In clearing the slums, there would be land available once more in the Valley and he, Pero, will have been the mastermind of elegant acumen who would purchase said land. In his family’s name, of course.
Although Pero was clearly in no way a king nor president or governor, he felt one day that he would reclaim the throne of Portugal, his family’s birthright. He simply needed the money and manpower to achieve it. He had never actually stepped foot in Portugal, but had fond memories of the place nonetheless. He also knew that sooner or later he would be inheriting the family concerns. His father, although a robust man, would inevitably come to a less than savoury end, much like his grandfather.
Whilst the shelf life of business men in the city tended to be short, Pero had no intention of staying there. To him, this was nothing more than a rung on the ladder to greatness. His promised destiny.
With the foreigners satisfied with Pero’s terms; they left once more. Flying back to their land a deal signed, sealed and delivered. Pero sighed. This was not work for a man, a man should be killing. In the fields and villages; he should be spring cleaning. He breathed heavily on his Captain’s badge, cleaned the fog with a cuff and straightened his hat.
The King walked back out into the lobby of the hotel, his long moustache wilting in the humidity. These were his people, the people of his country. He was their father. Who would he let live? Only those that came to Pero, on hands and knees begging for mercy. Pero would be merciful. He would gift them their lives. For today the people love Pero and see him as perfect in every way.
Long live King Pero III! Long live King Pero III! Long live King Pero III!
He waved benevolently to the people assembled in the lobby and smiling, he departed through the glass doors.
The Festival of Fire Part III
He awoke upon the cold steps of sandstone leading to the upper level. Naked and not with She, the doors to Her sanctum closed. He took to his feet.
Delah was sat near, cross-legged awaiting his return. “My love has awakened.”
“Why are you here?” demanded the Sakrisan. “Why are you here but to torment me?”
“I am awaiting Her lord, for whom I sit in patience.”
Delah rose to her feet, the distance between them grew short. “For I love Dumuzi, for he is as sweet as a date, of that and all else She tells true.”
The Sakrisan drew back, turning three-quarters away, a hand resting on his chin. “The man, the Sakrisan E-Azad-kutu-ana; servant and consort of She; does love and admire you from afar. But he is not with me, for turning from Her is to bring utter doom upon the world, a fate most unjust for love.”
The Sakrisan bowed deeply, with a toe pointed to the floor.
“I, however, am he who you sought my fair Sister, for I am he your fair Dumuzid.” The Sakrisan moved closer, hands on her shoulders, eyes fixed upon hers. “You are most fair my sweet, my sweet as fair as a Goddess.”
Delah recoiled. “You are not he; you are not he of whom I love; you are but a fraud, a shell. For I do not feel more for the Sakrisan beyond a Sister’s love for a Brother. No, no I am his alone.”
“I am He fair Sister. I am he of who you adore. Dumuzid will prove unto his Goddess, prove unto the Goddess he is the fair Dumuzid.”
Azad cast his arms out wide and sings in a low flat tone;
“The Goddess Inanna came unto me; I was born of Nature and Nature is me. I am the bloom, the verdant green beneath your feet. I am the trees, which guard you whilst you sleep.”
His body glistening with sweat, he pirouettes around Delah, sending her mind a-blur.
Dropping to his knees, arms imploring her, he continues:
“For She came unto me, my Goddess Inanna; and sent me Her sweetest blossom, Her juiciest fruit. For She sent me Her Delah, to love and to please Her.”
Moving to Delah, the Sakrisan’s pressed his body to hers. He could smell the wildflower and smoke; the blaze leaving but a memory of Her blessings.
“For you see, dear Delah, who’s knees I dance across; She gave you unto me, to hold and to please Her. To kiss the lips as delicious as ripe fruit. To taste the blossom of Her creation.”
Eyes drunkenly fixed upon hers, Azad kisses Delah. Raining soft blows with his fingertips down her spine, he kisses her deeply and with great passion. Colours erupt, reds, oranges and blacks. Delah pushes Azad away, far away from her.
“You are not he! You are not the rebirth, the rebirth that fills the world with life. Be gone from me, dare not to follow for I shall steal to Her sanctum; where no male may enter without cursing the world with Her holy wrath. Be gone from me, from me go far away. Do not dare to look upon me again, O foul and accursed Sakrisan. O weak and mortal man. Be gone from me, O accursed and mortal man.”
Delah quickly climbed the stairs to Her sanctum and slipped within.
Azad was once more naked and alone. He fell to the floor, feet crumpled beneath his thighs and wept.
The Brothers – A Slight Reprise (A Journey)
Upon finishing his breakfast; burping and adjusting his belt, the younger brother absentmindedly scratched at his back. The elder of the two, sat silently within the steam of cooking and evaporating humanity. The soldiers left first; the scarred man tapping the young recruit on his shoulder and gesturing for him to leave.
The young recruit slowly got to his feet, tripping on his boots as he tried to make the distance to the door. The younger brother had ceased trying to scratch his back and was rubbing his temples. Curtly, he got to his feet and made to leave. The older made it to the door first and back out into the fresh morning.
By the side of the road, wild garlic and dandelions grew; sprouting from the side until their necks were too long. A car or truck would pass by and crush their break for freedom. Pink and purple wild geraniums stood out brightly among the overgrown grasses and weeds.
They got into the truck and slammed the doors; the frame quivering at the force. The elder, hands on the wheel, sat contemplating the new morning whilst his brother got comfortable.
The colours of summer bloomed through the windows, blurring into lines of pink, smudges of green and flashes of yellow as they drove down the dirt track. The elder drummed his hands on the wheel as they travelled. Between them lay the plastic bag deposited by the soldier, untouched bar payment for breakfast. The neck still twisted and warped, obscuring and pulling the logo on the bag towards the top, like a black hole pulling matter with its irresistible allure in the void.
They drove through the Valley, past shanty towns and fields of poppies. The red poppies trailed for miles as far as the eye could see, climbing the ascent to the Plateau. Makeshift huts were dotted here and there, used to manufacture heroin; fumes and an acrid scent hovered on the air. Everywhere were armed men, wearing dark sunglasses and tense. Their youthful faces an amorphism of black eyebrows, terse mouths, stubble and cigarettes.
The brothers passed through scarred and destroyed areas, trees blackened from fire and lightning, bitten by frost and scorched by sun. The truck wobbled over uneven ground. Past vast warehouses covered in camouflage netting, with trucks waiting quietly outside. Past the airfield with a small prop-plane beginning a descent and making a turbulent landing on the rough stone and sand surface.
They climbed the Valley, through sumptuous woodland, filled with copious grasses and wild flowers. Up the track they climbed, until levelling out onto the wide, cold barren plain of the Plateau. The wheels skidded and twisted trying to gain leverage on the frosty surface. They drove as a mist began a descent onto the Plateau, drowning the few hardy homesteads that could be seen in the clear of the day, in a gentle covering of nothingness.
Finally, they arrived back at their dilapidated homestead. Its timber walls rotting and falling into disrepair. Glass windows scratched and neglected by the weathering of time. The truck stopped with a shudder and the brothers disembarked. The elder walked to the side of the house and took a spade that was leaning against the water tub.
A new hole was to be created and he was to do it. This hole, however, took no more than three shovels to complete. The younger dropped the plastic bag into the hole. Using a disposable lighter, the logo of the company long since faded; the elder set fire to the bag. It burned, colours of reds and oranges and blacks.
The elder watched silently as it decayed into ashes; the younger shifting on his feet, bored and tired. As the fire dimmed, the lean elder brother filled the hole and patted it down with the flat of the shovel. With no further words between them, they ambled back into the homestead, closing the door behind them.
The sands are burning, my friend. Orange and rusted. The rock is cracked, splintered and fragmented. It is desolation, my friend.
Today, a new dawn is born; see the sun in his glory? He is most magnificent, but the light it casts upon me; it shows my weakness. For I am weak am I not? The Sakrisan is but a man after all, a mere mortal like you. She gifted me weakness and I accepted. For She is Generous and perfect in every way.
The fire is dimming in the lower chamber; the light of Utu Her brother brings us warmth in the depths of our hearts.
I tell of Utu and of Rebirth and War:
“For from the beginning Utu, Her brother the sun and all the glory of illumination of the Heavens fought. He fought forever before the days of man and animal, they fought, Him and the Night, Lilith.
Utu wielding a sword of blaze thrust and parried with the dark dagger of Lilith. The Night tiring of blows and the fight for eternity; proposed a deal to Utu. A deal that Lilith would leave and only be found within the darkest of places. The Night however, her eye was bright for Utu’s sister, the magnificent Inanna.
Utu consented to the deal and Lilith stole away to the dark places; with her she took Inanna, for Lilith was a thief who stole the day. Utu found his sister gone and kidnapped. He raged, for moon upon moon, his rage burned the stars above. His fury for Lilith casting light unto eternity, so brightly he did shine.
His fury enlightened even the darkest of places and within the deepest one; far beneath the Earth were Lilith and Inanna. The Night, caught by Utu drew her dagger and once more they fight, they fight unto eternity.”
My prose fails once more to cast radiance upon my regret. For, full of remorse is E-Azad-kutu-ana, Her servant and consort. Desolation lives within my chest and forgiveness to be forever denied. For she has banished me, will not talk nor look upon me. I am weakness and full of remorse.
I sing of sadness and regret:
“For gone are the lost, unto the end;
For each bough does wither, each lie a life bend.
The sands are burning, rusted and alone;
The night above evermore, condemned we must roam.
The ache of the loss, the hollow of the heart;
The diminishing soul, the lovers that part.
In wisdom is loss, the old seen a-new;
Our errors brought light, our memory in view.
Dark clouds do form, where loss is the deep;
Rain as tears, from the eye unto sleep.
Long is the night, made never forget;
The dark sky above, for those that regret.”
Sakrisan II, The Hymn of Regret.
She guides us in our night, O Daughter of the Night. Cast not loss or the exile of the heart from Your eternal realm. I implore thee, I implore thee O Star in the Sky.
She hears not my devotion; for I am weakness.
Where is my wisdom? Why did it forsake me? Why must the hollow exist, unto eternity must it exist? I am sorry, my friend. My words are uncouth and indelicate to the ears of others. For my thoughts haunt me, remembrance of deed and error. And of love, my love for her.
The day begins a new and new acts must follow. For our devotion and love for Her, our Goddess, must always come before all. But I am banished, never to seek redemption. Banished from love and my heart.
The trees looked down, from so high up. The leaves were in the heavens. Guzu lay on his back looking upwards at the spectacle.
A caterpillar crawled near his arm, he slowly moved onto his side, so as not to make a sound. Watching it amble, over bark and leaf. Stopping occasionally, as if sniffing the air and sensing a larger presence watching; the caterpillar scuttled onward, past Guzu’s leg and foot and out of sight.
The forest was not far from the school. He walked the mile to school every morning; before returning home, he would escape the world and sit in the woods. It was so peaceful and colourful compared to the shacks and corrugated metal of the slums; or the prefabricated concrete and paint of the school.
The late sun rays scattered through the leaves; it was getting late and his mother would wonder where he was. Getting to his feet, he brushed away the forest floor and made for home. The smells of the slums always hit first; the raw sewage made newcomers gag. Guzu was used to it and barely noticed it as he entered the shanty town of his home. Waving silently at the older women, he smiled and walked barefoot to his door.
The ground outside his door was stone and sand, much like everywhere else. As he pushed the metal door open he heard his mother’s voice “Guzu? Guzu? Is that you? Go to your aunt’s and get me red peppers.” Closing the door, he walked down the track to where his aunt lived. On the way, no more than a hundred metres from her door, a man barged into Guzu from behind, sending him sprawling. The man, dressed in a red T-shirt, jeans and trainers scrambled to his feet and carried on running. He did not look back. Guzu didn’t recognise the man, but he wasn’t old, maybe nineteen or twenty.
The man stopped, looked furtively towards the direction he had come from and slid in between two shanty huts, into a small dark alley.
Seconds later, with Guzu still on the floor, sitting up and touching his knees to where he felt pain; another man ran past; this one older and tanned. He wore jeans and leather boots with no top. In his left hand he held a revolver, catching the late sun and shining into Guzu’s eyes. The man stopped near the alley; holding his pistol up he walked in. A cry and two gun shots could be heard. No-one stirred or looked, only birds called in alarm.
The man came out of the alley, his arms dropped to his side; in his left hand was the gun. He walked back up the track past Guzu, without even acknowledging him. Guzu got to his aunts and told her what had happened. “It’ll be about drugs, women, money or thievin'” she said. Bringing him the red peppers, she carried on about her usual topic, “We’re meant to be here, just cuz the drug barons want this land doesn’t mean they can have it.” She frowned and looked at Guzu. “They kick us off our land, bulldoze our houses and they still want more. Well I’m not for leavin’; I was born in the Valley and I’m meant to die in the Valley.”
Guzu thanked her for the peppers and left. It was dark now; the slums had little electricity so they relied on moonlight to guide their way more often than not. He got home without any further incident; passing his mother the peppers he turned the small black and white television on. It was still cartoons. He imagined he was in outer space; were there caterpillars there too?
His mother called his name, the food was ready. He turned off the TV; his mother always told him never to leave it on long, it drained the battery. Every shack used old car batteries, mainly from the city to power their homes. They couldn’t afford to replace it often, with Guzu’s mother working in a restaurant in the city, they had enough for food and for him to go to school rather than work, but they had to be careful.
“Get any homework?” His mother inquired. He shook his head; they were doing about animals and the project was going to be a collage made from magazines in the shape of their favourite animal. “Then get your clothes ready for tomorrow, it’s almost bedtime.”
He got up from his chair and took off his school clothes, changing into a T-shirt and baggy pants. He smoothed the creases out of his shirt and shorts and laid them carefully over the arm of the old blue sofa; one of the few things his mother had saved before their house had been bulldozed. Kissing his mother goodnight; he settled on his mattress in the corner. From here he had made it so he could see through a crack in the corrugated side.
Through his spy hole lay the moon and the stars and everything beyond. He stared at the night sky until his eyes grew heavy and he fell asleep.
Whipping the Bull
Pero was downcast. He hadn’t been invited back to the television station since his stellar debut. How could the people hear their Pero if they are not allowed to see him?
There had been some good news though, his father had arranged for his promotion in the military; he was now Colonel Antonio Felipe III Pero. Now there was a title. He referred to himself as The CAP in the presence of the common soldier. Pero now had the respect, title and manpower he deserved. It was a good day. But yet, he was downcast.
He walked to the mirror and stood profile on, jutting his chin out. Pero was a proud man, a loyal man. Why then would some of the officers not do as The Colonel wanted? Could they not see his vision, for a greater future for them and their families? He considered what his father might do; bribe them or kill them. Pero liked the idea of killing them, but the men respected their officers and Pero would not harm his children.
Pero took to bribing the officers with great gusto. Naturally talented at slipping brown envelopes surreptitiously to people, Pero had great success. Another victory for The CAP.
Yet, there were one or two who did not look kindly upon their new messiah. In particular, that old crusty one who spoke frequently with his fists. Pero must ponder his fate wisely, for Pero was not Julius Caesar, who was stabbed in the back by his best friend. Pero wondered if he should make friends with the Officer, become bosom buddies so that Pero may strike first. First and hard. No et tu Pero for Pero.
Pero called the Governor. He could solve the problem and deal with the fists.
On his promotion, Pero had a local historian look up his family’s coat of arms; the heraldry of his ancestors. The historian couldn’t find anything apart from a cousin twice removed of the uncle of King Philip II of Spain had married one of his ancestors. There was no record of any holdings or heraldry of note. Pero decided that he must bring back the strong traditions of his family. He designed a yellow crown with tall spikes and had it created by a local cloth factory as a badge for his men to sew on the arms of their fatigues.
They were the King’s men he told them. “You have the honour of serving royalty and doing the greater good.”
Some of the men had done a poor job in sewing the badge on; with seams and threads showing. A lash to the cheek and a week in the shed soon put an end to that. Now his men had pride in themselves and their appearance. He had mixed militia men, boys and adults alike, in with the regular army battalion. It hadn’t gone down well and there had been beatings and judgements required. Pero shouldered the burden, like Atlas pushing the rock up a hill.
With the bust sitting proudly on a mantel made of sturdy rock; Pero considered the need for a statue. He smoothed his moustache languidly, whilst leaning back on his desk chair. On the desk was a smaller bust of the same subject, a brass ornament of a man whipping a bull and a stack of brown envelopes. He liked to keep things simple.
A statue of him on a horse leading a charge. Firstly, he needed a horse. Pero didn’t have the first idea about horses, so he rang his father. His father had a number of race horses, undefeated and all named for his grandfather. A horse would be procured for his son. Hercules would be his name.
Tall upon a horse, Pero would make for an inspirational monument; Pero on Hercules. A strong man who did great deeds.
Throwing the Book
The Governor had visited him.
Earlier that day Pero had been inspecting the men; the old Officer had them assembled and deflected their complaints. It was not his problem; take it up with the new Colonel he said. He was sick of fighting; his nose already broken once by the corporal and again by a sergeant, it looked as though it was trying to escape his face. He didn’t blame it, who’d want to be a part of his old face anyway?
His wife had gone too and now his nose was trying to leave him. He wondered what it might take to convince his nose to stay; perhaps treating it more kindly might help.
Pero walked around with that lash of his; bawling the men out over their new arm insignias. Two were taken to the shed. Pero had a small building, known colloquially as the shed to the men. In there, men would be beaten and humiliated for the slightest infringement. Pero’s own men, militia and the new ones, the drug runners; they did the punishment. Whatever Pero said, they did.
Most of the officers had fallen onto Pero’s side apart from him and a couple of other old timers. Pero told the Officer to walk with him. They went to the shed. Inside were eight-ten-twelve men chained to the wall; there was blood everywhere. Pero took the Officer to the closest one, a boy of around seventeen. Head or foot? Pero asked him closely into his face, breathing heavily. The lad whimpered; Pero asked him again. The boy said foot and Pero told a guard to take out his pistol and give him justice. He complied and shot the boy in the foot. Pero went round all the rest pointing out what had already happened; hand, hand-hand-foot, hand-foot, foot.
The Officer walked out and solidly marched away. When out of eye shot of the men, he vomited. He swore he would try and protect his men. He needed to see the Governor, and if he wouldn’t listen; the media. Pero said they did this in the militia; it taught respect. He called it ‘whipping the bull’.
The old Officer rushed to his office; only to find the Governor awaiting his return. The Officer was still shaken from what he saw; he didn’t realise the Governor wanted to see him about something else. The politician had received a complaint from Army HQ that the soldier wasn’t following orders. He was to cease causing trouble immediately or be demoted or even court-martialled.
The Officer spluttered; he stumbled over his words as he tried to describe what Pero had just shown him. The Governor grew angry; he had thrown everything off his desk, kicked over his shelf. He told him straight; no more warnings.
The old Officer picked up all the mess; corrected the shelf and sat down. He needed a drink. Calling next door, he saw an old comrade, like him, a fellow refuser. He had whisky and a sympathetic ear; but unfortunately he couldn’t help; Pero was unstoppable. The Officer looked at his comrade a-new. How much? He breathed hotly, his lungs on fire from the whisky. How much did Pero pay you?
His ex-friend told him to get out; screamed at him, called him old country curses.
Back in his own office, he sat down head in hands. He wanted to ring his wife and ask her; but there would be no answer other than his sister-in-law’s insults.
He was powerless and if he said anymore, demoted or in prison. He couldn’t help his men that way and they needed protection from that monster. He sat back, his neck tense and collar chafing. What could he do?
He looked at his fists. This couldn’t be solved by them this time. He cursed himself for being born into a family more famous for brawn than brain. So, brain we are going to have to talk are we? His brain was decidedly silent on the matter.
Ach! What can he do? The old Officer looked at his desk, the mess the Governor had made. Out of the corner of his eye he spotted something he hadn’t picked up; the book about his ancestor and the trip to the Plateau. The book had fallen on the spine, losing his place but opening to his favourite part; the spine warped from smoothing and reading the same passage.
He got up and retrieved the book; sitting back in his chair, he pondered over the familiar words:
“One of the idiots lost a foot today…”
He smirked; that was his ancestor alright, an idiot like him. No brains and now no foot. His feet tingled as he read on.
A Fool and His Foot are Soon Parted
“One of the idiots lost a foot today; apparently the buffoon slept with his foot exposed to the elements of this frozen Plateau! How does one deal with the uneducated in such a place? It has been such a trial, first the smell, then the donkeys and now this. Charles said something in their native tongue, they both laughed and the peasant retrieved his foot and set it within one of the donkey’s saddlebags. They do have such strange customs. I’d imagine they use it for witchcraft of some sort.
Despite the laziness and general idiocy we have made it onto the Plateau and set camp at approximately the centre. From my viewpoint I can see a couple of rustic homesteads, inhabited by the locals. Charles suggests I do not approach them, as they are known for their prickly natures. I concurred and set about excavating and surveying the local vicinity.
The peasants are wary of such actions; superstitious as they are about the presence of an ancient pagan goddess; the same to whom was credited with destroying the mountain for its disobedience! I shall write to the local diocese and inform them of the beliefs of these ignorant folk and request they send missionaries; to spread the word and glory of God and mayhap to teach them about exposure to the elements.
We set about moving the overlaying snow from the surface using the donkeys as a makeshift plough. Charles oversaw proceedings and by midday, the rich soil of the plateau was visible beneath the snow. The peasants balked at this and according to Charles, say that the dead live in the soil. Really now, these superstitions have become a bore and are fraying my patience severely.
Charles and the peasants began digging through the soil and soon came upon what appeared to be some sort of sandstone structure, in disarray and destroyed. A faint vibration could be felt through the ground nearby; I assumed the potential for an earthquake and suggested that we retire to safety and our tents and resume in the morning.
Charles joined me within my small canvas abode and together we kept our warmth in this inhospitable place through our proximity. Charles’ moustache had retained some snow and gave him the startling appearance of a Yeti. I explained my amusement and surprise and we both laughed heartily.
Come the morning, we set about again at the site with shovels; whilst I oversaw and ensured that no damage would be made by the peasant’s agricultural shovelling technique. The fellow with the missing foot being the most enthusiastic at throwing soil around, much to the delight of his compatriot. In future, one must spend more than a penny on the hired help.
As we shifted the soil it became apparent that this was plausibly the site of some sort of sanctuary or rudimentary church to the pagan goddess. A most exciting find! As we brushed the earth and stone away, a black object became visible beneath the…”
The flames exploded in the shape of a salamander; curls of blaze turning in upon itself. The night was dark, the fire was tall; Delah danced low and steady in circles. Two other sisters, all three together; moonclad and dancing slowly with incantations mouthed silently and dark thoughts shadowing their eyes.
Low and stooped they danced; close to the floor, arms a-spread with eyes on the blaze, the dance reflected upon them:
“Fire, fire, take her pain, let us gain your trust;
To burn and wither, scar and break, e’er ashes and dust.
For she was cheated, wrong must be right;
Trust is broken, revenge takes flight.
O Father of the Night, O hear our words,
We beg of thee, will born of thirds.
Make right what is wrong; curse the man, make him thirst,
Curse the Sakrisan, curses be upon him, let him be forever accursed.
“Fire, fire, take her pain, let us gain your trust;
To burn and wither, scar and break, e’er ashes and dust.
O please hear our words, O please hear our words, O please hear our words.“
En-zu, A daughter’s revenge for Delah
Slow and low they danced; hitting the floor with their palms. Delah arose, a knife clasped in her right hand, feeling the strength of the earth rising through the soles of her feet, racing through her body to the hand holding the knife . To her hair she cut and threw upon the fire; to her hand she did bleed and poured it upon the flame. Slow and low they danced.
Delah had slipped away at first light; stepping over the slumbering body of the disgraced Sakrisan she stole away into the Gardens. At the Well of Mercy, she paid her respects and her token. A new name echoed through the Underworld, dressed in red.
Running swiftly down the hillside, she made for her abode; to speak to her sisters. Low voices confirmed her arrival, for they were already met. Presenting her a new cloth to cover her modesty, an elder bid her a grave welcome. The warning and danger present within her eyes.
“Tell us O Sister, O Sister tell us; what became of you this accursed night?” The chorus of voices growing softly on the breeze, the trees joining in with a shake of leaves and the sigh of branches leaning close to hear. “Tell us O Sister; pray tell us.”
“A mortal man, a mere mortal pretended to be our Lord; in blasphemy and infamy I can think of no act worse or more debased.”
The chorus died to a murmur; a young Sister leaped to her feet. “Denounce him Sister, may She deal with his treachery.” The chorus took up the chant of “Denounce him, O Sister denounce him” as Delah stood among the trees. “I shall not denounce him, for he will destroy us all with his folly. No my Sisters, No Delah will not denounce the mortal blasphemer.”
Delah took the arm of two Sisters; “Come, we have work to do this day and night; for curses and destinies are decided when the stars are bright.”
They prepared by cutting away their mortal clothes, discarding unnecessary mass. For they needed to fly as ravens unto Him with their prayers. A pyre created and set a-flame. Two effigies dressed in red tied and nailed to stakes, silently observing the Sisters purify themselves.
Utu began his slow decline and death; Lilith was waiting and so were the Sisters. For they needed Lilith’s assistance to talk before Anu. They prayed and debased themselves for Lilith, crude word and simple deed. They placed the black dagger by the fire. For Lilith, for her hand. The Sisters had to show Lilith sanctuary and defense, for she was still most wary of Utu within the flame.
Nanna rose; the Goddess awakened and heard their prayers to Lilith and Her Father; the great and mighty Anu. She listened and heard the treason and treachery, the fraud and falsehood. She spoke unto Anu and He decreed the fate of the mortal man, the disgraced Sakrisan E-Azad-kutu-ana. The justice set in flame, hair and blood of the innocent.
Lilith heard too; for she was still bright of eye for Inanna. She planned a new romance.
First Night Nerves
“We are men. They are rats.” On the word rats, he shook his head vigorously, his dark hair drifting with each shake. His eyes were black and beady, his mouth puckered with his yellowing upper teeth protruding over his bottom lip.
Guzu stood still, staring at his feet. Scared of making eye contact with the man, scared of the other men. The ground was dark, there was little light coming from the building behind them. The boys stood in a semi-circle around the militia commander, tired but not daring to show their fatigue.
The commander carried on talking but Guzu lost focus; he saw a bird settle on the ground some hundred metres away, pecking and scrabbling. He wasn’t sure of the type but it was small and had a red chest. It looked like it was wearing a red T-shirt. It turned side on and peered at the group of men and boys inquisitively; anxious about interruption in its search for food.
The boys were cheering, half-hearted and tired. Guzu woke from his trance and mouthed what he hoped were the right words. Harsh commands came and the boys were split into groups of twelve; each led by a militia man. The man before Guzu was around thirty; with dirt and dust clinging to his neck and collar, a once white T-shirt and military fatigues.
“Follow me. No talking, no complaining.”
The other eleven with Guzu shuffled off in his wake as he strode towards a small barn; there were at least twenty of them dotted around the main building. It was made of brick and had electricity; the barns were rotten and stank of decay. Stopping outside the soldier pointed inside and gestured for them to go in and sleep. “Do not attempt to leave, or you will be shot. There is a bucket in the corner, use that if you have the need. Don’t bother us, if you get our attention it will be the worse for you.”
After the short speech, he corralled the boys into the shed, closing the door and locking it with a padlock. It was pitch black, the boys jostled with one another for space to stretch out and sleep. Guzu pushed his back against the wall and slowly made his way round to a corner. There was straw on the floor there and in the roof, a gap that showed the night sky.
He curled up, pressed into the corner; another boy’s foot digging into his shins. Sounds of grunting and muttering could be heard. No-one was crying; Guzu held back the tears. He didn’t want anyone to notice him, he wanted to be invisible. He looked through the hole but all was black, he hoped the moon would pass over the hole and smile at him.
They were woken while the sky was still grey and lifeless. Called outside by an militia man, they were lined up as if on parade. They stood there until lunchtime; weary and thirsty, yet none dare speak up. Eventually, a regular army truck arrived. Two soldiers stepped down; an older man of some importance, Guzu thought by the way the younger one treated him. The younger soldier had a huge scar across his face; the boy couldn’t help but look in fascination. He was not scared of the soldier; the scarred man looked at Guzu whilst his commander argued with the militia chief.
They were split into groups of three; some taken to clean the sheds, others like Guzu given rifles and told to shoot at beer cans sat on oil drums. They only had to aim and pull the trigger, the militia man said. He could barely lift the rifle, its wooden stock and heavy metal frame far too wide for his small hands. The scarred soldier was watching him.
“You don’t want an AK son, it’s too much for you. Here-” The man took the rifle from the boy and passed him a pistol. “At least you can hold this.” He crouched down and looked Guzu in the eye, quietly he spoke:
“Listen son; you shouldn’t be here, none of you should. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. If you ever have to do it, you know, kill a man – don’t look if you can help yourself. We all have to pay for what we do lad, but you should be let off a few; if you don’t look, you won’t have to pay.”
He rose to his feet and stroked Guzu’s hair, still wild from sleep on the floor of the barn. “I’m so sorry, son.” With a last regretful look back, he walked off, rejoining his commander still arguing.
Guzu raised the pistol and made it look at the beer cans. He closed his eyes and pressed down the trigger as he was shown. His arm felt like he had touched the car battery they used at home. He had done that once and his mother had cried and told him off and then hugged him. He aimed again, this time holding his arm stiffly.
The Evil Eye
My mind is in disarray, my friend. It is glass shattered from a cliff on cool rock below. Waves crashing, washing away my reason and sense. I love her for she is a goddess; a perfect blossom in bloom. It is useless.
I am alone in my grief; except for you. Everywhere I go Sisters hold the hand to me, on it is drawn the Eye. The Sisters do not grieve like the Sakrisan, they anger and remain ignorant to the depths of the heart; my heart. I am but mortal and love like any other.
The Sakrisan is a respectable man and this will not do. The people of the Valley both love and respect Her and I am the chosen to serve Her. For She is Gracious and perfect in every way.
The Eye follows me everywhere.
“To gaze upon the eye,
is to bring grave misfortune;
Be th’focus destines dreams to die,
‘Neath the bright new moon.”
So say the Sisters of Her. For they have cursed me; condemned my fate to their own hands. This will not do I am Sakrisan of the Temple of Inanna. I was chosen to serve Her and in Her glory my words and deeds are true. O Goddess, let there be justice for your mortal Sakrisan.
The Sisters are well versed in the arts of cursing, for long have they been the repository of the wise ancients. Their secrets confided and passed from one generation to another with tale and song. Their knowledge in cursecraft, healing and the fates is unsurpassed. We Sakrisan are devoted to the study of Her and to Her worship.
The people listen unto the Sakrisan, for he is the consort and minister; the love and the reason of She. The Sakrisan has love unto all and remains nothing less than in complete adoration of She.
I was to tell you of the Well of Mercy were I not? The momentum of the movement continues a-pace, but a tale of the power of the Sisters will ease our motion.
“Of the Wife En-kai and the adulterous Husband E-huz the tale is told thus:
The husband E-huz was a man of great appetites, insatiable in eating, talking and in the bed. His wife En-kai provided well on all accounts; as a cook, listener and whore. However this was not enough for E-huz and he let his eyes wander to the fair maidens abroad. His words smoothed his way into their beds. For She is Lust and perfect in every way.
The wife En-kai was insulted; for there was no better wife and woman than her within the Valley. She sculpted, from the clay of the springs a figure, an effigy of her husband E-huz. She kissed the doll and breathed life into the lifeless. Upon completion she thrust a dagger into the stomach of the figurine. Paying a visit to the Well of Mercy, she both paid her respects and her token and E-huz was lowered into the well.
E-huz so hearty of appetites became unwell; unable to finish the food placed before him by his dutiful wife. Soon his hunger decreased and remained so unto future days. En-kai revisited the Well of Mercy and again paying her respect and token; the effigy was lifted from the well. She removed the dagger from the side of her doll husband.
E-kai tired often of her husband’s talk; thrust the dagger into the mouth of the figurine and it was placed once again into the well. Again, her husband E-huz lost his wish to talk voraciously, preferring the quiet wisdom of the listener. Although hampering his philandering, E-huz continued to bed the fair maidens of the Valley, so was his reputation.
The wife E-kai returned once more unto the Well of Mercy; paying her dues to our Goddess, she replaced the dagger in the figurine’s mouth and thrust it directly and with no little malice, into the tiny member of the doll. Once again, it was lowered into the well and she went to her husband. An illness overtook him; preferring the company of listening unto his wife E-kai to all hours, E-huz felt little lust, just enough to end the talk with taking his wife unto bed.
E-kai was delighted; she paid a final visit to the Well of Mercy. She thanked the clerk and paid her respects and token and had the doll removed for good, closing the eyes and letting it rest. She returned home unto E-huz who became known as the pinnacle of companionship, to the happiness of the great wife E-kai and the jealousy of the fair maidens of the Valley.”
You see, only She can change the nature of a man. For She dresses in the moon and visits my dreams, and is perfect in every way.
‘Neath the Willow
Delah sat sheltered from the rain, droplets rolling down leaves and away. The great willow was melancholy, she felt sadness.
“O Dumuzid, my lord, Her husband of green; Her husband of green who brings the new. O Dumuzid, my lord, Her lad of bark; Her lad of bark and arms of supple bough. O Dumuzid, my lord, Her love and lust; Her love and lust who awakens the maiden.”
The tranquility of the lake enhanced by the white noise of the rain. The maid sat fair on the banks ‘neath the willow. The waters reflecting the white of the sky above. Down a blade of grass, water did flow. Slow and deliberate, before plummeting; a tear of the heavens. Birds took shelter ‘neath the willow’s luxurious mane of leaf. Quietly they stood, twitching and watching the skies for the end of the rains.
“O Dumuzid, my birds and bees; my animals and creature of the lands. O Dumuzid, my willow and ash; my trees and forests of the land. O Dumuzid, my sweet rudbeckia and bush of holly; my flowers and bushes of the land.”
‘Neath the willow sat Delah; eyes unseeing, gazing far beyond the lake. To the land of the gods, where they lived in a city with tall buildings and many folk. Where colours and people of all kinds are found. Where the gods bless them with their presence; with their wisdom and words, acts and dramas.
“O Dumuzid, come unto Delah; come unto Delah ‘neath your creation. O Dumuzid, under the willow; the wise willow is awaiting your Delah. O Dumuzid, the birds sing and rain serenades; nature calls to the father Dumuzid to come to Delah.”
In the city, in the abode of Dumuzid and Inanna; in the city of the young gods. Those who had fought their creators the waters of salt and sweet freshness lived as no other in the city. They lived above, they lived below. Watched over by the Father of wisdom and his son, whose gaze could calm the greatest enemy. Dumuzid lounging at the side of Inanna overheard the plea.
“O Inanna, my Queen and love; nature is a-calling your lad. A-calling your lad to love of another. A willow cries and beneath sits a fair maid awaiting her lord; a fair maid awaiting Your husband Dumuzid.”
In the city of the young gods, Inanna did a-stir from Her relaxation. Stretching Her slender arms, a modest bangle of gold her only adornment; She laughed.
“O Dumuzid, a fair maiden my lad tells me; a fair maid beneath a tree of magnificence is awaiting Inanna’s husband. Inanna sails the rivers; sails the rivers with Her father Anu. They visit with the people and sailors; the sailors of glorious colour and of great appetite for Inanna’s beauty. Inanna offers to them to oil their masts; oil their masts before setting sail to places a-new.”
She throws Her head back and laughs puckishly. Hair trailing through the scented air. Gracefully, moving around Her husband, hands on his shoulders and chest. She whispers into the ear of Dumuzid, Her breath of cardamom and orange sweet in his ear.
“O Dumuzid, my sweet man, sweet lord; you must fertilise for you are Nature. O Nature, O man of the green; My man of the green and Inanna grants you leave.”
Bowing to his Goddess Dumuzid is left of her Her presence and the city of the young gods. To travel among the mortal beings; to bring them creation and growth. To spread new life and leaf wherever his foot did step. To awaken the sleeping and lust a-new wherever his hand did lay.
He came upon Delah ‘neath the tree as a young shepherd in need of shelter. Of song and beauty he did sing to her as the rain fell.
The shooting practice continued the next day. Guzu’s arm ached and he felt like his ears were stuffed with cotton. The sound of the rifles exploding made him dizzy. In the morning, again they were called out at dawn; the slow light of day only just showing on the horizon. Guzu was taken to a row of empty oil drums and told to fire at straw targets next to the fence, some twenty metres away.
He rested his arms on the drum and used it to steady his hand. Squinting, his right eye almost closed he tried to follow the line of the gun and make it line up with a target. He shot and the oil drums shuddered, his neighbour looked at him questioningly and said something Guzu couldn’t hear. He was still mouthing “I can’t hear you”, when a tug on his shoulder caught his attention; he turned to see all the other boys moving toward the parade area.
He shrugged at the neighbour apologetically and smiled shyly at the owner of the hand who had warned him that they were to line up. Pistol heavy in his hand, he stood in line on the second row. The army men were there again and soundlessly arguing with the militia commander, the small fat man. He waved them away and the older man walked inside the building gesticulating furiously with wild sweeps of his hands.
The commander came over to them and barked a command. Guzu watched what the other boys were doing and saw them stand up straight, arms by their sides. He followed suit, hoping it was correct. The rat faced commander walked lazily up and down the three lines of boys. He stopped before an adolescent, a tuft of brown hair on his upper lip. The commander said something and the boy choked and stuttered. Guzu still couldn’t hear and couldn’t understand what was upsetting the boy.
The commander clicked his fingers and two men, dressed in militia fatigues grabbed the boy by the shoulders and half dragged, half walked him to a separate shed. It was made of concrete and had small windows with iron bars. Guzu was looking at the boy animatedly talking with wide eyes to his captors and didn’t notice the commander stop in front of him.
“Something interest you there, boy?”
Guzu’s still couldn’t hear; he was frantic. Should he nod or shake his head or do nothing? He shook his head and looked at the floor. The commander’s stomach trembled from the periphery of Guzu’s vision and he glanced up to see the commander laughing and walking on, away from him. His knees felt weak. From the left hand side, the scarred soldier was stood. As the commander dismissed them he walked over and grabbed Guzu firmly by the shoulders. Shaking him he said; “Never ask about that place boy, never talk about it or look at it. You hear me, son?”
Guzu looked blankly at him, his head still fogged from gun shots. The scarred man mimed holding his nose and puffing his cheeks out hard. Guzu tried and his ears made a painful crack; everything was loud and hurt. The soldier told him again to never look or ask about the shed again. He called it the shed. “It’s not your business son.”
“Say it back to me; it’s not my business.” Guzu copied the man and the soldier smiled. “You’d better get back to practicing; you’re going to need it.” He walked away leaving Guzu alone on the parade ground.
At the end of the day they were given soup and bread. Guzu was starving, he hadn’t eaten in two days and didn’t realise how much he needed the food. He drank the soup and chewed slowly on the bread. It was hard dry rye bread and took many chews to soften it so he could swallow it.
After the food they were returned to their barns and Guzu made for his corner before another boy could get there. Having his back to the wooden wall was more comfortable than the kicks and punches in the night from disturbed sleepers and those having nightmares.
They were awoken the next day before it was light. A number of trucks had arrived in the night and they were pushed aboard. They drove through wooded areas, past huts around which a strange smell that to Guzu felt like something burning was lingering. They arrived at a village; a poor one with no car batteries. He wondered if he had been here on the trek to where they lived now but had no memory of the old, poorly clothed villagers or their dilapidated shacks they lived in.
There were animals wandering freely around a well that had fallen into disrepair. Sheep with lambs and chickens pecking at the wild grasses. They were ordered to get out and line up. In line they were each given a gun; Guzu was given a pistol. They laughed at his size when they reached him; “this one ain’t carrying no rifle, it be bigger than him.” They laughed again, passing him a smooth black pistol. The line on top of the gun that he used to aim was roughened and weathered.
The commander stepped out of a car and walked over to them.
“My children today is the day.”
“The day you begin.”
The Village of My Birth
In the village of my birth were eleven families. Each family lived together; grandparents, parents and children. We celebrated birthdays, mourned funerals, fought and loved each other. We all knew one another. It was nice, you know? I liked it there.
The old Officer waited patiently at the parade grounds at the barracks. The men fast asleep in their barrack rooms, the mess quiet and unlit. The base could be so peaceful for somewhere made out of the need for violence. It was a dark, cool evening; few stars in the sky and no sight of the moon.
His visitor should be here soon; pulling up his collar against the cold he contemplated what good this will do. It was better than doing nothing; sitting on your hands was for another man not him. Still, chances were this would just get him into more trouble.
There were eleven houses, more huts really. Everywhere was muddy with pigs lounging in the congealed mess. The smells were a mix of manure, charcoal and nature; all the nature that surrounded the village. Trees, grasses taller than him at the age of ten even; fruit trees, berries, wild garlic, lavender and a multitude of scents.
The donkeys were kept in a field together, a living arrangement they were not fond of. I remember once as a small boy, perhaps no older than six, trying to ride one of the donkeys. My father and his friends gathered round and laughed; soon they were making bets on how long I could stay on. My father won by betting I’d never fall off and his friends lost their good moods along with their money.
The clothes line with the fresh linen strung up high, so as not to be dragged in the mud. Colourful T-shirts, jeans, shorts, underwear and bedclothes all drying in the low breeze. It was warm there normally, sometimes going through rainy seasons when I couldn’t leave the house to play with the animals or my friends. My father used to play a game with me; he would start a story and I would continue. In turns we’d take it until one of us said something outrageous and we would burst into fits of laughter. Until my mother told us off for making too much noise. Rainy days were not necessarily glum days.
His visitor arrived; cloaked in darkness he stole up to the Officer and breathed a quick hello. They walked together away from the central grounds over to where the barracks opened up to field. Here, not far from where he had waited was the Shed. He crept up quietly and peered through the barred windows. Beckoning, he gestured for the visitor to follow. Come and see for yourself.
The low murmur and high wails of agony seeped out through gaps in the walls. The visitor came closer; on looking through the window he choked and fell to the floor, his back against the wall. The old Officer put his hand over his mouth; quiet he mouthed. The visitor was pale and shaken, but got back to his feet and looked again.
The horror of chains and blood; of broken men, guns and death. The visitor was about to pull out a camera when he saw the face of one of the guards on duty inside. He withdrew his hand from his pocket and pointed to leave. The Officer looked confused, had he seen enough already? Does he not need some evidence?
My ancestors first came to this place many centuries ago; my family and our village have achieved little of note in any history books. Well, apart from my relative’s unfortunate limb losing trip to the Plateau. We lived quietly.
All the families relied on each other, we passed knowledge around freely. Like the father of the daughter with the big head; he taught me how to use dock leaves when I stung myself with nettles, falling from a tree into a bush whilst spying on his daughter getting changed. He then gave me a hiding and told me to get lost.
The men I command are from villages like mine, simple places with simple desires. They know me and I know them. We have our ways and they don’t change much. If at all.
The journalist had said he’d seen enough. The old Officer asked him if he needed pictures and proof. The journalist looked away, back towards the shed. He said he couldn’t follow this story up; it would not get printed. The Officer went red, clenching his fists he asked, voice coarse and full of anger. Why? Why could it not be printed? The journalist said his editor but trailed off seeing the clenched fists.
They would kill me, he said. Me, my family, I cannot do this. The man I saw, the guard in the shed; he is a known drug runner, a very well connected man. I cannot follow this story. I am sorry my friend but I have family to think about.
The journalist walked away leaving the Officer alone in the dark. Still no moon or stars, no light to wish him well. Head bent downwards he made his way to his office.
The Twelve Labours of Pero
Hercules reared and Pero fell from the saddle. Nobody laughed. Two of his men rushed to his side and helped him back to his feet. Pero pushed his shoulders back and raised his chin, squinting at the men on parade. They were stood a metre apart, arms by their sides but at least half of them were making a symbol with their fingers.
“Cease whatever it is you’re doing immediately.” Pero said truculently. The soldiers complied and Pero walking forwards regained some of his composure.
“My men, I love you all. Let us not be enemies.” On the word enemies he stared into the eyes of the men on the front row, they shifted uncomfortably; worried about what he might do next.
“Men, my horse as you all know she is called Hercules. She represents the mighty tasks that lay before me, your commander. Sometimes doing the difficult makes you land on your behind. Hercules knows.” He gestured for the horse to be brought over; standing stroking her mane he continued:
“Don’t you my pretty? Hercules the man had to perform twelve tasks to please the gods; I, Pero, only want one task from you. To follow orders and make the world better. Yes, two tasks only. This way we can all have a golden fleece and eat apples.”
The men who mostly originated from small hamlets, villages and towns in rural areas had no idea why they wanted a golden fleece or to eat apples. A question formed on the lips of a less than bright private, he raised his hand. “Yes.” Pero peered sharply at the interlocutor invading his domain. “Can we sell the fleece?”
Pero looked intently at the soldier, was he pulling Pero’s leg or was he serious? “No. You keep the fleece; anyway the fleece isn’t important. It’s what it symbolizes.” The question irritated him, how could a man of learning like him explain to these idiots how to turn the world the right way round. All they care about is money. “It isn’t about money my friends, but happiness. And power.”
Pero carried a black leather bound notebook in a pocket; in it he recorded his wisdom. Taking it out he read:
1. The first labour of Pero – educate these peasants.
Labours 2 to 4 were concerned with his appearance. His father had become interested in Pero of late and decided he needed to look and act more like his sophisticated pater. A fitness trainer was employed, a hairdresser was harassed and a tailor was press ganged into making Pero more acceptable to his business friends, both here and abroad. Pero took to self-improvement with a zeal both pleasing and alarming to his father; he had not realised that his son was perhaps more ambitious than he had come to expect. An eye would need to be kept on his precious heir and prodigy.
Pero snapped the notebook closed and addressed the men once again.
“I see discipline and strength here, I see men of steel. But I will not have these indiscretions – you there, what is the meaning of that hand sign thing you were doing?”
The soldier looked straight ahead. “Sir, if it pleases Sir, it was the Evil Eye Sir.”
“And what, pray tell, is the, evil eye?” He exhaled the words through his teeth.
“Sir, bad luck, Sir.”
“Bad luck eh? Not for your King, not today. And it is not Sir you stupid peasant it is Your Highness. Guards, to the shed with this one.”
The soldier was dragged away, he turned and over his shoulder he shouted, “Up yours, your highness!”
Such disrespect for their beloved Leader would not do. The men were chastised by being denied their evening meal and sent to bed early. To think about what they have done. Pero raised his chin once more. Justice had been served, Pero had spoken.
Inanna and the Mountain
The maiden Inanna stands drenched in blood; the vanquished lay before her. Her anger, her wrath and need for vengeance gave birth to her daughter Suen, the Lady of Battle. Many are slain, forests are turned to axe and fire. Many are slain by the anger and wrath of the maiden Inanna.
“O Inanna walks the Earth, where she goes the respect to Inanna’s nature of heavens must be shown. The respect must be shown to the daughter of Anu, twin of Utu. The respect must be shown by all of who the holy Inanna meet.”
Inanna, daughter of Anu, twin sister of the mighty sun Utu walked the Earth. Through field and forest, the wind showed the maiden Inanna their respect. By heads bowed and bent limb they grovelled before her.
O Inanna, daughter of the Night, we beseech thee for your kindness.
By heads bowed and by bent limb they paid their respect, eating the dust before them. The maiden Inanna walked on to the mountains. She walked the mountains and respect was not shown. To the Goddess Inanna, O she of the heavenly nature, O she the daughter of Anu and of Ningal, O she the Goddess was insulted by the mountains. She turned to the mountain Ebih.
“Grind your nose to the dust Ebih, O you not recognise the mother of Suen. The mother of Suen the fury and destruction of battle. Grind your nose to the dust and the Goddess Inanna will show mercy unto the mountain. She will show mercy unto the mountain and let Ebih live.”
The great mountain Ebih was fearsome; for he tolerated no man, tree or god. Vast bulk of rock, sheep and goat dwelt within his forests. Snow crowned his head, so tall as to see to the city of the young gods. Ebih bellowed and tree quivered.
“Ebih refuses O maiden Inanna, Ebih refuse to bend before the daughter of Anu. For she is small of stature, not of heavenly nature. No, O maiden Inanna; Ebih refuses to bend before you.”
The Queen of the Night’s fury was endless and burned hot. For Inanna did bellow as the thunder. Her anger forged battering rams, swords and dagger. Suen, hearing her holy Mother’s cry, did raise her own voice. Inanna’s glorious twin, the magnificent Utu rose, making the light of the maiden’s breastplate shine across the land.
She woke Gibil, the Purifier of the land; so loud was her roar. A cacophony of lions. Anu, the maiden’s holy father was roused from his slumber and went to his daughter. Gibil spoke firstly:
“O who has awoken Gibil the purifier? Oh who awakens Gibil and brings upon themselves the Flood? The maiden Inanna awakens Gibil; the maiden Inanna, daughter of Anu what is your purpose?”
Anu reached for his daughter, the glorious and magnificent Inanna, stood proudly in the light of Utu.
“O daughter Inanna why have you awoken Gibil and Anu? O daughter why bring upon wrath and fury, why bring upon Suen?”
The Goddess turns to face Gibil and Anu. Proudly she stands in the glory of Utu.
“O father Anu, O father Anu of the maiden Inanna and Gibil, purifier of the lands, purifier of disrespect. Inanna, the mother of Suen, has brought upon wrath and destruction for Ebih, the mountain shows not Inanna respect. Ebih the mountain shows not the holy Queen Inanna respect and grind his nose.”
Anu, the Father and Gibil the Purity both shrink away.
“He is too fearsome and dangerous, O Inanna my daughter. He is too fearsome for your father Anu to break.”
“He is too big O Inanna, daughter of the Night. He is too big for Gibil to purify.”
The maiden Inanna glows with the heat of battle; she cries and the rams do batter Ebih. Approaching Ebih, each step sharpening her dagger, she walks slowly and deliberately to the disrespectful mountain. Step by step she approaches Ebih and grabs him by the neck. Her children’s fury brings forth fire; fire and dust and smoke. The head of Ebih turns to dust and fire. Rocks do fall from his mighty body, forests do burn. Her children do sacrifice themselves upon her vengeance.
The anger of the maiden Inanna kills the accursed mountain Ebih. She says unto him as he dies in fire and flame:
“O Ebih, the most glorious of mountains. O Ebih the mighty; if you had but ground your nose to the dust, Inanna your Queen may not have killed thee. O Inanna your Queen is merciful.”
Ebih, the mountain dies before Inanna; headless and scorched. Inanna the fair maiden, daughter of Anu, twin to the sun Utu; continues her walk of the Earth.
Based on the temple hymn of Inana and Ebih
Leaning on his brush, Gibil, the night cleaner of the barracks talks:
“Hey there young one. Heh heh heh. The mess they make poor Gibil clean up eh? Wherever I go there’s a new mess that needs tidying. Gibil’s seen it all. Have you ever seen bits of body? You see it all the time if you hang around the barracks. Or clean ’em like Gibil.”
“How long are you here for, Gibil is tired. It’s 2am and all’s well. At least until they all wake up and start fighting like young boys again eh? Heh heh heh.”
“Gibil’s been a cleaner for a long, long time. His daddy was a cleaner and his before him. We pass the brush and mop from generation to generation. It’s out birthright, our heirloom and tradition. Gibil doesn’t mind being a cleaner. Someone has to do it, right?”
“Heh heh heh.”
“We’ve always had messes to tidy; men they can be so untidy, their thoughts and actions fly everywhere. Like a plate of food at a wall. Vegetables, potato and meat all over, sliding down the wall making a bigger mess. Yes, we always have had plenty to clean, men being so untidy and angry creatures. They always make a mess.”
“Do you mind if I smoke? I’m having a break and Gibil likes to smoke when he talks. No, he’s not nervous, my hands are not uncontrollable snakes that need attention. I just smoke. Heh heh heh. I shouldn’t, Gibil’s get sickness and die like everyone. We are just like you after all.”
“What’s that you say? You’re looking for someone. Are you looking in the right places? Gibil knows all the corners, the nooks and crannies. Gibil cleans them all, can’t have dust accumulating now can we. Men like things to look new, even when they’re older than Gibil. Heh heh he- cough.”
“Gibil shouldn’t smoke. But where’s the harm at his age now. I’m no good for running up hills and shouting at all comers, I’m too old. I’m a simple cleaner with a brush. Where’s the harm in a little vice now, at my age eh? Gibil smokes, takes in the night air and watches the world sleep. They’re all asleep now, in beds dreaming of glory. Or girls right? Heh heh heh.”
“Gibil is not boring you I hope? I am unused to people paying attention to me. I am an observer, not an actor. These men, they act for each other. Making plays and dramas and dead bodies. Gibil has seen them come and go. Gibil has seen the dramas they make. Three brushes ago, there was a man who tried to rule the world. He died and made a big mess. Gibil was there; well Gibil’s grandfather. But the brush is our heirloom, so it’s as good as Gibil being there himself right?”
“Well, the cigarette is finished and the sun will rise soon. Gibil still hasn’t swept the world clean yet. You’ll come and see Gibil again yes? Come and spend time with me and my memories? It is good to remember the old. Gibil is old and he likes being remembered, heh heh heh.”
“Come and see me again young one. I like the company at night, when it’s quiet. In the day, no-one sees or hears Gibil, he’s too unimportant. The men are busy making dramas and Gibil is there, to tidy up behind them. Yes, Gibil is invisible by day. At night, I’ll be here, sweeping and smoking. I’ll be here, come see me again. I’ll be here. Gibil like all men is a creature of habit.”
Hello my friend and welcome, for indeed I am in better spirits today. For the sun is rising and the glory of She fills our hearts. For She is Love and perfect in every way.
Yes, She loves us all. O Queen of the Night, our Goddess and saviour looks kindly down upon her subjects. Her eyes smile benevolently at their worries and works. We scurry and hurry and She watches over us. Today is a better day. Yesterday alas was not as good. Your learned friend can be most calamitous in his thoughts. Pay no heed, with a head in the heavens.
On morning worship, I caught sight of a wondrous thing within the lower terrace; a hare. Brown on white she ran over the centre, the altar. O what a glorious omen it was! My gaze so firmly fixed on the creature; I slipped and fell upon my foot. Today, I must use an aid to walk, but the day is fine and my thoughts crisp and with no shortage of clarity.
Let us walk on! Walk through to the Gardens and find somewhere to rest. For today the sun is high and the corn grows tall. Let me rest upon your arm, my friend. I grow ever weary with this ache. It passes soon enough; there. I am better once more. Come, come; let us sit in the feast of flowers and talk of high and holy things and of the Goddess. She is Mercy and perfect in every way.
There, that bench. Let us sit within the cool shade of the cedar. I shall have a Sister bring us refreshment, for the day is long and hot. Waters cooled and fresh from the lake and pomegranates and dates. We shall feast upon the carp with butters, rosemary and perhaps some sweet seasoning; salads of olive, leaf, yoghurts and tomato and unleavened breads made of heavenly rye, Her favourite among the grain. Honey with figs, lavender cream with sweetbreads shall end our brief refreshments. Most unworthy and miserly for you and I can only beg to apologise.
My appetite is poor, not fit for man nor child. I cannot eat my friend and that offends Her, we must eat Her offerings in full lest She bring upon us famine for the disrespect. Calamity becomes those that slight the Goddess; for she is most magnificent and holy O Inanna, O Queen of Heaven and Earth.
Come, eat more; eat more. You are tiny and I am insulted. There, that is better. I shall tell a tale to entertain your ears whilst you eat. I shall choose a tender tale; to ease your food and make sure of no ill. Eat, eat! I shall tell the tale of the Pomegranate and the Plum:
In the city of the young gods stood Inanna and Dumuzid ahead of their wedding feast. The food served was to be only the most divine. The couple stood before the fruit and Dumuzid asked of his Queen, “Which be the most holy of the fruit O sweet Inanna; which be the most holy the pomegranate or the plum?”
Inanna looked before the fruit with her radiant gaze; picking up a plum with her delicate left hand, she takes a bite. The juices run between her lips and down her chin, dropping onto her holy body. “O lad, lord of mine; the plum be the sweetest, O lord of mine, the juice and flesh of the plum does surely be the most succulent.” The Goddess took another bite, this time her teeth biting into the stone. “O lad, lord of mine; the plum has a core like rock, a core like rock from which more flesh does grow.”
Dumuzid opens the pomegranate breaking it unto six pieces. He places the seeds of a sixth in his mouth and crushes their sweetness releasing their blood. The juice of the pomegranate trails down his chin, dripping vivid life onto the floor. The Goddess is alarmed; fearing the poisoning of her husband by a jealous suitor, she goes to her beloved with compassion and care.
Dumuzid smiles; “O sweet maiden Inanna, O my Queen; do not be alarmed, for this is the blood of the pomegranate seed, of which are many and sweet. For the pomegranate is filled with life and is surely the most divine.”
The Queen releases her beloved and raises her slender arms in anger. For she is the trickster not the tricked. She smiles and sings sweetly; “O love of Inanna, O sweet lord; the pomegranate may be filled with life but Inanna shall not grant it the sweet flesh of the plum. Inanna shall not grant it sweet flesh but hard and ill making to hide its glory and divinity.”
Even the most divine of fruit can become a trial; for eating a pomegranate is a trial of patience is it not my friend? Seed by seed; life by life. Much of life becomes the trial does it not?
Delah leaned ‘neath the willow, picking at a pomegranate. Her appetites had increased, the crones had said it was a good omen. She heaved a happy sigh, to be with child of Dumuzid. To have been blessed so by the gods; O it was a joyous affair for all. Upon hearing the news, the lads of the local village had carried her aloft in their arms as she giggled. Through the village and to the orchard where they unceremoniously, yet carefully dumped her on the ground.
Celebrations went long into the night. The shepherd was na’er to be found anywhere. The village was aglow with torches; men bet on races and women laughed at the falls. A name went the cry; a name. Delah had yet not considered a name and held her palm flat to the revellers. “I have no such name chosen. My apologies to thee.” The revellers cheered anyway. “To the unnamed child!”
She awoke to baskets of apples, plums and pomegranates; delivered in the night whilst she was asleep. For the health of the mother-to-be and for the child to grow. Barefoot she walked, still clothed in the simple linens of a Sister, but respect and name grew before her and the people offered gifts wherever she travelled. In one village, before the lake and mighty willow, a crone offered her the charm for protection. Delah smiled at the crone and begged not to receive such a thoughtful gift; for Delah had no reason for Fate to intervene, such as is with a child of the gods.
To the willow she walked; to sit beneath her majestic canopy and consider. If a boy, he shall be Lamu; if a girl Lahamu. To have a child of the gods, O Dumuzid had blessed them so. People came and sat with her, respectfully in silence. Occasionally, a child’s head would poke from round the trunk, face agog and awed. Delah would smile at them; then frown menacingly until they ran, giggling and tripping in the grass.
Flowers bloomed on the trees and flowers and the crops were ripening for harvest rapidly. Every market day that passed; Delah grew more aware of her new godly presence. More fruit was delivered upon waking. She took an appetite for charcoal and for date. Bees drank to their full from the flowers; the Valley was alive. Birds flew overhead in formation in the cloudless skies. At night She looked down from above, clear and bright.
The pregnancy had not gone unnoticed. Lilith picked at her long nails with the pointed dark dagger; the night fell, dark and long. Undercover of darkness, Lilith came unto the Earth and looked upon the mortal; this Delah that had conceived of Dumuzid. She was asleep and pale. A mere mortal, delicate and with flesh that does bleed. Lilith pointed her dagger at the sleeping figure; gods must be born to gods, not unto the weak and fearful, for the children themselves would be weak as a mortal. Fragile and proud; Lilith pointed her dagger and thrust.
The blade did not strike Delah but the air above her. Lilith smiled and withdrew the dagger and disappeared back unto the night.
Delah awoke come the morning; unaware of any fascinations or events during her sleep. She yawned widely and picked a plum. The juices of the flesh bursting forth onto her chin. She tried to stop them but they dripped through onto her clothes. Upon finishing the fruit, she walked to the stream, to wash and clean her clothes. The plum juice had left marks upon the front of the dress, droplets scattered and blurred as they had soaked into the linen.
Removing her clothes she stood naked before the stream, washing herself first and then her covering. She washed the stone of the plum finally and buried it before the stream. Wishing it fortune she walked onward; to the villages and beyond, assisting as usual but spared the temple duty and walk required of a Sister. Her strength would be needed for other things.
At night she took to staying before the communal village fire. She needed the warmth and the company. She also needed a supply of oat that she had taken a fancy to and moved closer to the grain merchant. The fire burned day and night; for the villagers and for visitors to gather around, taking in the abundant heat and tale.
As before, she still awoke to baskets of fruit; but now someone, somewhere had added a small bag of oat to her daily delivery. She smiled and nodded thanks to the onlooking wife of the grain merchant, who nodded back with a finger to her nose.
Delah giggled once more.
The village lay devastated; huts and houses were burning, heat rising distorting the chaotic scenes. Mothers carrying children; men here and there with assault rifles, dressed in military fatigues. Pointing. Shouting. Shooting. Guzu had been lucky this time, they’d only made him kill one; the man with the leather trousers. The first time they had made him do two and on the first they made him watch, eyes kept wide open. There was blood everywhere, all over him.
That time when they got back to the camp they pushed him towards the outside hoses and told him to clean up. They gave him a T-shirt with a faded football logo on and a pair of blue shorts with pockets. The T-shirt was yellow and Guzu didn’t mind it too much; although he preferred his own ones at home. The thought of home brought tears to his eyes, too quickly and he couldn’t stop them. They hit him on the side of the head angrily.
He walked on through the burning village, over mortar shell craters and dust heaps. Dead farm animals were all over the tracks. This slum was more rural than his. They were a long way from home near the city before the Valley. A man was beating another, both drunk and wearing fatigues.
This time after they had made everyone surrender; the militia commander called the militia and the soldiers together. He cleared his throat, but smoke from the burning huts kept choking his words. Little that made sense came out and Guzu wondered if they would have more soup and bread tonight. An order was shouted and they were pushed towards the villagers on their knees.
The militia commander pointed and shouted again and then the killing started. Nobody, animal or human was spared. Guzu tried to hide in a house made of weaved reeds, hunkering down until it was over. He heard shouts and fights between the soldiers, gunshots and screams.
He almost missed the slaughter but was caught; he was thrown over to the surrendered soldiers and told which one was his and to get on with it. They called him a killer and laughed. Broken pots, stoves, tables and bodies lay everywhere. He took the man with the leather trousers to the side and looked at him. The man had surrendered and his spirit was broken.
Everywhere laid the dead. Guzu helped the scarred soldier collect the people and put them in a truck. One by one, they traipsed the battlefield picking up body after body until all that was left was the smoke rising from the buildings. Rising high into the grey of the mountains and obliterated into the sky. The scarred soldier got in the truck and drove away with another man.
Guzu stood still, the world moving about him in flashes of colour. Greens of fatigues, oranges and yellows of fire, brown of the earth under his feet. Out of the corner of his eye he caught a clear image, a fox near the edge of the woods. Slowly, he turned to watch the animal. It had its head low, but the eyes were sparkling. The tail swished and twirled as it surveyed the scene. It had a metal object in its mouth, long and thin. To Guzu it looked like a key, an old fashioned one to open a big metal door of a church or castle.
The fox turned and stared unblinkingly at his observer. They stood, eyes locked together over the flames and mortar holes. Guzu nodded to the fox and smiled. The tail swished harder. Then it bound away with sleek agility into the woods. The order to leave was shouted harshly; by a voice still cracked from the smoke.
Back at the camp and on parade for the commander. Pero’s mood was jovial. A good, strong victory.
“Men, you could destroy mountains with your might. You are reshaping the world.”
“Shoot straight and true with your hearts; build a wall around your enemies.”
“Sleep the sleep of the righteous; for tomorrow is another day. Your commander salutes you all.”
Guzu watched as the commander walked away without saluting to anyone, let alone them all. They were ordered to stand down and they went in search of food. The kitchen, a shack near one of the barns was serving soup again, with bread. As a treat, each boy was given a chocolate bar. On orders of the commander no less. He was very impressed by their work.
He walked and ate the chocolate, looking for the first time at the horizon all around him. The world outside is there somewhere; his teacher and his project. His mother and his aunt. They were all out there waiting for him. His mother might be mad about him disappearing. He frowned; perhaps he could find her a present to take home, to say sorry. There wasn’t much around apart from old tyres, oil drums and beer cans.
As he strolled back to the camp, he saw a brightly coloured hair band on the floor. Golden in the dying sunlight. He put it in the pocket of his shorts and almost bounced back to the barn for sleep. He had found a gift.
Second Hand Smoke
“Heh heh he- cough.”
“So, you’ve come back to see old Gibil already have you? My company is free as usual to anyone who wants to listen to an old windbag cough, heh heh heh.”
“You’ll want the news of the day eh? It’s been a good ‘un, not something Gibil has seen in a long number of years. A proper ding-donger. But Gibil has work to do, places to clean and floors to sweep. You wouldn’t want to get old Gibil sacked would you? Fired from his job, no pension, living on the streets, eating porridge from soup kitchens? Nah, I’m jus’ kidding with you youngster. You’re good and I’m having a break anyway.”
“Ahh- that’s better; resting good and proper now. So young one, what happened today then? Oh what a mess. All the talk is of that old Officer, you know the one. Fisty boy that one; anyway he was talking to the men and such like and things got heated. He wanted to know who was behind him if he mutinied. Mutiny? Don’t that only happen on ships? Heh heh heh.”
“Gibil likes the sea and water. It’s clean is it not? Clean and pretty, the sun, the beach, the girls heh he- cough. Serves Gibil right; he’s too old for that nonsense. And mutiny, that old officer, he was too old too. Not with the times; people need the money and they make a mess. Gibil comes and cleans and it all starts again.”
“No. Mutiny is who pays the most; causes least suffering. That is the times and the officer; no one would help him in his hour of need. He’s an idiot. Heh heh heh. Take the hint my friend; open your eyes muy amigo. Nah he’s an idiot alright, he argued with the men about loyalty and integrity. They pushed back; survival and family. A very difficult conundrum for my not so brainy soldier man.”
“Gibil watches the argument; the officer waves his arms about. Very animated; he cares a lot. The men are unhappy, stooped shoulders and worrying faces. It is very dramatic is it not? Heh heh heh. Gibil likes dramas; he especially likes the dramas of men. Real life, fly on the wall documentaries. Also, anything that involves the sea. Dramas at sea are clearly the best, no?”
“Ach! You young ones are all hurry all bustle and business. Take a moment and breathe in Gibil’s second hand smoke. Look around you, at the dramas of men. They are most exciting and the plot- meh, sometimes good – sometimes bad. Gibil has some homespun wisdoms; made generation by generation. Like a patchwork quilt yes. Some of what I say is pattern less; some making the most sense you’ll ever hear. Gibil is hard work and I shrug. I am what I am. And what I am is old heh heh heh.”
“That officer? No-one would follow him. And when the commander came; that little Napoleon, he ran at him and tried to strangle him! The little donkey went blue, that old officer ain’t so old when he wants to be. It took eight men to drag him off. Eight! He put up one hell of a fight too! He wasn’t for going down until he got blindsided; hit in the back of the head by a rifle. Well, face down he went out cold. The commander was crying and shouting at the same time. They handcuffed the old officer and took him away to a prison cell. Picked him up and carried him carefully like. The men were ready to join him you see.”
“Did you ever hear of the mutiny on the Bounty? A ship sailing the ocean, adrift and lonely. The crew restless and scared take over the ship and find an island. They move to the island and their ancestors are still living there to this day. Interesting, no? heh heh he- cough. So many years later and they still live. The place is not so bad no, Gibil has seen it in books. Remote and lonely. And they live on. Gibil has no truck with gods, but he wonders of heaven and hell. What is the island?”
“You live your life and then you die and sit with your gods. So why make such a mess all the time? Short-term thinking, my friend. Short-term thinking. And when you talk to the gods, they listen. Gibil knows young one; when you talk, you talk with the correct respect.”
“Messes and such like. They come and they go. The officer, he has made a mess now. Gibil his friend will help him clean up. You see, there is a pattern to life. Go look at the island I told you about, heh heh heh. See if you would live there! I would if to get some peace from cleaning. Goodbye for now, young one. Gibil has work to get on with otherwise, he will not be paid. Ach! My knees have gone stiff, help an old man to his feet if you will.”
“The gods they do listen my friend, the gods do listen.”
Grow Up, Be a Man
The woman came with his father’s ringing endorsement; a worshipper and priestess apparently of some sect or another. Pero peered at her strange clothes. “So why do you wear the dead snakes?” He inquired. She made her eyes larger, magnifying the lorry load of mascara she had applied. She reached out with her fingertips hesitantly and tried to touch Pero’s face; batting her hand away swiftly, he reminded her not to touch him.
Pero was not sure about this; voodoo and superstition were not his type of thing. Put him in charge of men or at least a gun in his hand and he would deal with the problem. He took it to his father. He told him of the peasants and their crazy superstitions. His father was less than impressed. “Grow up, be a man.” He went to strike his son; but stopped short as he did not need the press seeing tension within the squeaky clean family.
This priestess was his idea; something to placate his son and his temper. Pero watched as she nailed planks of wood to trees around the base. She started hanging dolls from door knobs; she even made that old cleaner start using a new brush. She was crazy, Pero thought. All this mumbo jumbo, ceremony and ritual. Give him a gun and let him deal with it the way of the warrior; keep the gods where they belong, a long way away from him. This was his world not theirs.
Then she makes Pero wear a dead snake around his neck. It doesn’t look very managerial having a dead animal around your neck, but the smell or the voodoo had calmed Hercules somewhat so Pero acceded for the time being. It did seem to bring him luck; he wore it to a visit with the foreigners, again they were back making more demands of more product and lower prices. Pero chose not to grace them with his kingly presence in the end and passed them onto an underling.
She walked around the soldiers on the base, whispering at some, shouting at others. Most of the soldiers after the initial bewilderment laughed and batted her away, tapping their temples. Pero’s newfound confidence in voodoo began to wane; the soldiers continued to give him the evil eye on parade, but he still hadn’t had an accident up ’til now. Someone had posted a chili pepper with his name on it under the door of his office. He had absolutely no idea what this meant. He consulted with his spiritual advisor and she said it meant he had a temper and the men were worried he was going to lose it with them.
Sounds rational, he thought. Pero had the men assembled.
“My brothers; you are all safe with the CAP. Ki- Colonel Antonio Felipe III Pero is a man of his word; and his word is that you shall all be safe. Under my command we shall achieve great things and no harm shall come to you. I have brought your chilli to prove my word men. I shall eat my temper, swallow the anger and no harm will come of you. Not from your commander Pero.”
Pero took a brief look at the pepper; it was red, red as the devil. It looked hot, but Pero was a man. Pero would eat the chilli pepper and smile. He put it in his mouth and chewed slowly; “it’s good,” he mumbled to the parade sergeant. The men watched as chew by chew the heat of the pepper started to bloom and explode; along with the colour of his face. Some of the soldiers were grinning; some were holding a palm flat towards him. One started laughing quietly, audible in the still afternoon.
Pero tried to grin through the tears when out of nowhere, two hands made out of half cooked sausages grabbed him around the neck and started to choke the life out of him. “Die you evil scrotum of a worm; flea-ridden dog scented donkey member; whore’s old bedspread on which your withered old sow’s c-” Pero could feel himself going blue, when suddenly he was released from the grip and could breathe again. Pieces of chilli dribbled from his mouth as he sat there agape, gasping, sobbing and shouting all at the same time.
A huge fight was going on in front of him but all he could see were blurs from his tear streaked eyes. Eventually he heard a crack then a thud and a groan. They took his assailant off to the stockades and gingerly he got to his feet, spitting out the remnants of the pepper. Chilli red intermingled with blood at his feet. His nose was bleeding but Pero. Pero had dignity. He called for Hercules and mounted up. Trotting to his men he tried to say something, but all that came was garbled so he waved at the parade sergeant and trotted away, tissue held to his nose but poised and dignified upon his steed.
No more than two steps after turning his back, the entire platoon, including the drill sergeant held a palm up to his back. Hercules buckled and once again Pero fell from the saddle to the hard dirt floor. Sprawled on the floor, he turned and saw the platoon; hands held aloft, palms towards him. In unison, to a man they stood silently watching him.
There was a snake, a huge dark serpent. It slid under the doors, fluid like a pool of blood. It moved silently watching me lying in bed. I did nothing but turn my head to watch. My body no less a statue of rigid stone, my palms open and flat. Truly a sight only meant as a message to the Sakrisan, from Her the Goddess. O I was blessed by the Goddess with the dream.
The snake moved unto me and took the form of a woman. Tall and thin, white skin and black of eye. Made of marble and surely crafted by the hand of Enki himself for there has been no such beauty in mortal lives. I could not breathe in Her presence, for O glorious and magnificent She was. Her dress of black held a belt, within a dark dagger. Her right as She has been to the Underworld. She moved unto me.
So wonderful was Her presence. So in awe was I, She spoke and I listened intently. She spoke of blasphemy and redemption. She spoke of sacrilege and balance. She talked of Her husband, the Lord Dumuzid and of the Sister, Delah. I listened intently to Her words, She offered unto me redemption for mortal deed. To stay within Her holy and magnificent thoughts. For mortals do their deeds on the behest of their loves do they not?
I had heard of the child to be; the supposed kin of Her consort. This cannot be! The villagers indulge her every lie and blasphemy and She angers with every blessing. For this is not the child of Her consort but of a simple shepherd; of which no word or trace can be found. A shiftless wanderer and his flock, not a holy visitation. This blasphemy cannot be! This child will be worshipped as an idol, to anger our Goddess.
This betrayal cannot be. For she has betrayed the holy Goddess Inanna and assumed that she, Delah, should bear the child of a god. She can only bear mortal kin and mortal kin alone. This betrayal of my love for her, she has cast aside unto the first mortal man to cross her path. She has broken that which had purity and sanctity within Her heart.
In the dream, holy Inanna showed me a leaf; from a particular plant. She sayeth unto me; “O once lost Sakrisan, O now found Sakrisan; provide this leaf for a brew for the maiden Delah, for the maiden Delah to drink and purify her blasphemy.” I was enraptured and took the idea unto my bosom without consideration. For She has spoken to me and is perfect in every way.
She placed a sprig of the leaf onto my frozen chest and departed as She came. Upon awakening I was reminded of the Gardens of En-zu and their beauty. For she restored them unto nature following the first Flood. There is a tale of three of her children: Of the Birch, Cypress and Dogwood…
“After the Flood; En-zu brought once more beauty unto the world. Her twelve children did grow but three were her especial favourites; the beautiful Birch tree, glorious and golden of autumn with parchment for bark. The majestic Cypress; tall and pointed to the heavens and scented like spring. Finally, the unruly and colourful Dogwood; so splendid in bloom, yet twisted and weak of limb and trunk. Each branch in refusal to another to live in harmony.
En-zu loved each child and the Dogwood remained unruly unto adulthood. Still refusing to follow orders despite his maturity. En-zu despaired; for why must all her children grow unto beauty and wisdom in maturity but the Dogwood. It is said Anu himself heard her despair and answered her thus: ‘It is to remind mortals, it is to remind you of the weak fragility that in yourselves there is apportioned; a weakness and fragility that makes two of three parts good, but one of three unruly and unreliable.’”
In every of us there is much good; mostly filled as we are with good thought and deed and yet there remains a part of darkness. A part which does not want control, which gives us satisfaction. It is a wild, capricious beast and likes not to be told of rules and order. But in some acts it demands, it has that right. She came unto my dreams and told me of deeds. I must take your leave now my friend; I beg your forgiveness for this brief interlude but I have the dream of the holy Inanna to consider. For it asks of me more questions than it answers. It was a dream born of darkness that needs light.
Yeah I know. Shut it before I give you what I tried to give him. I had him good and proper did I not? His men had to save his highness’ behind and I got a clout to the back of the head. All in a good day’s work. Not sure why I laugh but as they say, someone has to and it might as well be the idiot. It’s good to laugh at yourself once in a while, makes you feel free like a big yawn.
And now here I am in the stockade. A rogue soldier, at my age? Ach! Even my wife would laugh at this one. Still she haunts me here, behind bars and with a sore head. Now my head throbs again. Come on, let’s sit down. No point in standing on ceremony in here.
When did I first meet him? I first met the oaf at a fun fair. I was there with my sister and he was showing off at one of those strongman see how hard you could hit the hammer games. I dragged my sister over and he saw me and her watching, so he took his top off. Oof! He was so scrawny at that age. Pfff! Still, he made an effort so we watched and hooted when he slammed the hammer down and the bell dinged. He laughed; he had a sparkle in his eyes when he was happy and excited.
He’s in prison now? Now that I could have told you twenty years ago. I give up on him, I really do. What did he do? To who? Hah! Perfect. That is exactly the type of man he is; impetuous, violent and he knows some horrible curses. He also has a good heart in there too, under the brawn and temper.
You went to see her? Thank you my friend, I am in your debt. Will she come? Oh. Well I shouldn’t have got my hopes up yes? Ah well, here we are again. She knows some of the best recipes I have ever tasted. Oh what a cook. Anyway, no point in talking about food here. Did Gibil send me cigarettes? Please thank him my friend. He’s a good man, if not a little old and slow. Hey, that will be me one day. Too old and slow to go at things with my fists, then I’ll have to use my head more no? Hah! It is good to laugh at yourself. Don’t be so serious. It was worth the pleasure to be here I cannot lie.
So I didn’t think it through properly. That’s me alright, always starting things I cannot finish. Maybe, just for once I might be able to; finish something that is. I bet it feels good my friend. I’ll smoke through the bars; I know people don’t like it as such. Do I regret what I did? Yes. If only for the men I have left unguarded from that monster. I have done them a wrong and if they are punished, I am punished. They are my men after all; if I don’t look after them, who will?
Oh that oaf is useless around the house. He just lies on the sofa and watches television all night. We used to go out, dancing and to parties. He’d twirl me round and show me off to his friends. He was so proud of having me on his arm. I don’t know what happened. He just got sad and stopped dancing. He used to be quick, you know like a fox. He was so witty! But that stopped too; he wouldn’t want to say things he thought of. He told me that once. I told him to not be silly, that he was funny and charming but it didn’t change.
He just stopped- talking to me. Not just to me, to everyone. When my sister would come over for dinner and her husband would bring wine; he’d just Ach! at it and sit sullen throughout the night. It was a shame; they had so much in common my husband and hers. They both liked the same things, but anyway past is past and my brother-in-law died two years past. My husband was sad; I think he liked him really but was just too miserable to show it. Ah well as he says.
I couldn’t take anymore. I just couldn’t. And here I am living at my sister’s house. Two lonely spinsters and my dog. It’s predestined to be is it not?
Did I ever tell you about our honeymoon? When I married her, we were poor. I was only a Corporal at that time and pay was cheap. Pay is still cheap now but it was worse then. We couldn’t afford to go anywhere fancy so we booked a weekend at the seaside. Not far from here, just a little place to stay, with moonlight walks and dances and swimming. It sounded perfect. When we arrived, the place, well it was not so great. It was a dump my friend, a total disaster. But it didn’t matter; we had each other and the walks and dances so to hell with it we said.
The first night it started raining and I swear no lie is spoken; it did not stop the entire weekend. Well, no walks in the rain. We tried but then she got a cold and we stayed in. The house was leaky too, so I had to change a bucket constantly to stop from being flooded. It was miserable, absolutely miserable. But my wife, through all this misery, rain and leaks; she never stopped smiling at me my friend. She never did.
I told you I am an idiot, all brawn and no brain.
Guzu was awoken at dawn again. All cloud and no sign of any sun or stars. A glum day, he thought. The guards took them straight to the hoses, where they sprayed down and washed in the cold water; the hose snaking back to an outdoor tap. When washed they shivered, it usually meant that there would be no breakfast if they washed first. Guzu hoped his stomach wouldn’t start complaining again, it gurgled all the way to his ears. Maybe he could grab something where they were being taken; but usually when they arrived, he had long lost his appetite.
The day started to warm up, a low cloud meant they air was sticky and close. His clothes couldn’t dry, they started to but the damp was replaced by sweat. They shuffled onto the waiting trucks outside the main building. He hadn’t even heard them arrive this time, he had been exhausted and just wanted to sleep. But every time he closed his eyes, the images of people and blood kept him awake. A cinema screen on the inside of his eyelids of every experience in the last few weeks. He could hardly remember home, all the memories being pushed out by the new nightmares. He worried that he might forget his mother; that there was only so much space for memories and the new ones might make him forget the old. Closing his eyes tightly until he heard a buzzing sound in his temple, he would focus and recall his mother’s face; her hands and the sound of her voice calling him home. The memories were still safe for now; but every night whilst the cries of the early sleepers invaded their dreams, he would remember his mother, his aunt and his school. Eyes snapped closed, drowning out the world until all he was left was a picture show of his home. Each memory a photograph of himself, with bent edges and folds from being taken out and looked at so often. The clarity always remained, he would not forget.
The engines started; to him they sound like a roar of a hundred lions and tigers in harmony. They pulled away from the remote camp and onto the dirt track once more. They had not been told where they were going but the boys were resigned to their fate. It would be another nightmare place filled with monsters and noise. They drove down the track and through the endless fields of poppy; bright red against the horizon, each facing the sun being pushed by a gentle breeze, no more than a whisper. He saw colourful butterflies, weaving their way between the flowers, wings beating faster than he could blink. Some of the colours he had never seen before; scarlet and burnt oranges, shocking yellow and soothing blues. Onward and around the vast plateau. It dominated one side of the track, vast walls of dirt and weeds leading up to the smooth plain. Guzu thought he spotted a red fox; sniffing and prowling around the boulders half way up the hillside. The haze of the sun burning through the clouds temporarily blinded him. By the time he could see clearly again, they were long past and the fox just a speck in the distance. He rubbed his eyes and exhaled.
Turning onto a concreted road, the convoy headed past woods and small houses. Here was the cafe that he had been to with the soldier. He hadn’t seen him since the second village. Guzu thought of the centipede crawling around the table leg. Each leg moving in turn, like a ripple. It got caught and managed to work out how to free itself. It was reddish, scaled with tiny red legs. So many legs Guzu lost count no more than a third of the way down its body. He hadn’t paid any attention to the ritual going on; someone, a aging waitress with wrinkles and grey on the sides of her hair put a plate down in front of him. Not taking care, she spilled the egg onto the table; wiping her hands clean she picked it up and placed it back on the plate. She smiled sardonically at Guzu, he smiled back.
The road got wider allowing for two lanes of traffic in either direction. They were headed toward the city it seemed, one of the boys remarked. Guzu listened intently and looked around for familiar landmarks. They past nondescript villages and farms. The buildings became more numerous and broken. He saw his school. There was a day he was there before what happened. They started in assembly, they sat cross legged on the floor while the Headmaster told them a story about a man who helped someone else because it was the right thing to do. He told them to help others whenever they can, be a friend and smile because the world needed smiles. When they went back to their classrooms, Guzu’s teacher had decided it was far too nice a day to stay cooped up. She took them outside into the yard and told them to find creatures, plants and flowers. They were to make a story about them later, when the sun was less bright.
Guzu wandered off alone; he walked to the woods nearby and lay on the floor. He was surrounded by nature and anything he missed would come to him. He saw an ant nest, busy and industrious. What were they making and why the hurry? Perhaps they worried a big animal like him might come along and squish them, kick down all their hard work. He smiled at the ants; he would not do them any harm. From the side of the truck he could just about see the woods. He was less than a mile from home, the slums started soon and the smell would come first. Then the buildings, old ladies and home. The truck came to an abrupt halt, sending each boy falling into his neighbour. The engines were killed and footsteps outside approached the army truck. The backboard was removed by the two soldiers who gave out guns and they were ordered to get off. Other trucks were here, some with boys and some with men. Serious looking men and a lot dressed in army green. Among them Guzu saw the scarred soldier, he tried to wave but his arm was grabbed and thrown down. “Shut it, little killer.” He passed him a pistol, a different one it looked older and not so well looked after.
A shout came and they lined up for inspection. Pero walked on foot between the massed ranks of adults and children. He nodded at his associates and stood in front of them.
“Today is the beginning; the beginning of the end. This is where it starts, a new world to be made by your hands. Be proud, be fierce make the world what you want it to be. Make me proud.”
Pero paused and marched in front of them slowly, hands clasped behind his back.
“I am Pero and I am your guide. Listen to what I say and the world will be right again; it will be our home. We are close now to victory; nothing can stop us. The city begs our help and Pero will not disappoint.”
Guzu stopped listening at the word home. He thought again of his mother, closing his eyes and drowning out the noise. Pero didn’t notice; too busy talking before the assembled media, crowds of adoring fans and men who would do anything for him.
“We will not stop. Say it. We. Will. Not. Stop. We cannot be stopped, we are relentless. Clean the slum, make it good again. Charge them! Charge them and leave no stone unturned! GET THEM! GET THEM! GET THEM!”
The soldiers and boys followed Pero’s pointed hand, directed at the slums behind. His associates shot a warning in the air and the men ran, haphazardly with no strategy or discipline into the slums. Guzu was pushed along in the crowd. He was too small to escape. He could hardly breathe in the crush. A hand reached out and roughly pulled him aside. It was the scarred soldier. “Come with me lad.” He ran off with a group of seven or eight professional soldiers into a side street. Guzu shouted to him he knew the way. They were not that far from his home. They could go to his house and stay with his mother until this ended. He tied his boot laces quickly, the men were running off already and he wanted to keep up. He forgot his pistol on the floor and chased after them.
They were running through a slum. Shanty houses with crude electrical cables, pipes that poured water off corrugated iron roofs into the pathways; it gave the urban jungle a wild feel.
“Men let me tell you a story your Colonel heard a long time ago. Pero knows you have all heard of Julius Caesar, the greatest of the Roman generals. He was loved by his people and they showed him undying loyalty. With their loyalty they won many battles and Caesar, being the great man he was gave these new lands to his loyal soldiers at a knock down price. A bargain for their loyal service.”
It was a grim morning. Pero was on foot, having decided to leave Hercules in the stable. He paced backwards and forwards slowly in front of the assembled parade. He would pause occasionally, smoothing his moustache and looking at the soldiers through half closed eyes. Not really seeing them, but a cohort of centurions and gleaming armour. Pero continued his monologue:
“The Senators in Rome, the fat cats and the lazy who had grown rich off the hard work of the poor; they did not like Caesar, he was too popular. The people loved him too much, so they sent another great general after him. Pompey. A big man with a big army. Caesar was no coward; he and his men went after Pompey. The general thought he could tire Caesar’s men out so they stood still! Well, Caesar saw this and told his men to take a break. Yeah sit down and rest your feet, he said. When they’d had a break, they got up and charged the army of Pompey.”
Pero paused to gauge the reaction. The men’s faces were bereft of emotion; they must be enthralled by his words; unable to take in the profundity of what he was explaining to them. They would learn the lesson of Caesar and Pompey. He would educate these peasants in the manner of a king. The royalty of old, Julius Caesar himself would not stand for such disrespect. Pero had read about the divine blood of royalty; the blood that surged red through his body. Hot and red, like hell.
“The armies met and Caesar had sent his horses ahead. Pompey wasn’t so bright and chased the horses when they retreated. Straight into Caesar’s troops. Bam! Well, they made mincemeat of the first of Pompey’s men and managed to get in behind the rest of them. What a genius Caesar was! Pero is humbled by merely mentioning his name to you. Perhaps one day; a new Caesar will come; perhaps that man is me, my men. Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, Caesar defeated the army of Pompey losing no-one important and chased him back to his camp. Pompey tried to defend but Caesar, well Caesar was relentless… he wouldn’t stop at nothing…”
Pero trailed off as though deep in thought. He reached slowly to his side and took out his pistol. Approaching the nearest soldier to him; some spotty youth that had a face he didn’t like now he had seen it, he raised his arm. Holding the pistol to the young soldier’s head, he fired. The man wobbled and slumped to the floor. The rest of the platoon froze in place. Eyes dilated and breathing ceased; one thawed and started shouting at Pero, moving towards him. Pero nodded to his associates, who had surrounded the soldiers armed with assault rifles and dark sunglasses. They raised the rifles to aim and the soldier stood still once more. The rest looked bewilderingly at the dead man and at Pero. The Colonel holstered his pistol and continued his speech, seemingly unmoved by the preceding event.
“So anyway Caesar, he took the camp and Pompey ran like a coward. He ran and ran and ran, all the way to Egypt. Long way eh? This was not good enough for Caesar, this would not do. Eventually, he got Pompey. Had him assassinated good and permanently. You see Caesar knew, Pero knows too.”
He took his pistol out once again and approached the soldier closest to where he had paced towards. Again, holding the gun to the soldier’s head he shot. This one was older and had a beard. Pero walked over to the next soldier in line and did the same. That one was handsome and blonde; to Pero he looked stupid, just another idiot peasant who had no space in his head for education and improvement. Holding his pistol in his hand he addressed the men once more; eyelids heavy and drooping.
“You see Caesar had won already. But to him it was not good enough. People had to get the message, to learn my children. Learn when you have already lost, or when someone has already won. Do you get the message men; do you understand what your commander is patiently explaining to you?”
“Long is the night the domain of the crone,
Where the living do fear and the dead do roam.
The darkness is all, the fear does grow,
For in the black, evil does sew.
The moon and the Star shine bright in our eye,
To fight back the dark and to uncover the lie.
The night walks among us dressed in black cloth,
O Lilith the everlasting night, when Utu the glory is within his trough.
She walks with her dagger poised to find weakness and breach,
In mortals, she finds what she seeks and unto them she doth teach;
Do unto Lilith what she wants of you,
Your heart will be black by the day is through.
O Lilith the everlasting night, O seeker of the dark;
Let us mortals sleep safely, without memory of your daggers mark.”
Sakrisan II, Song of Lilith the Everlasting Night
Delah sat before the communal fire appreciating the warmth in the chill of the morning. Food had been delivered and she had eaten her fill of oats and raw barley, a new flavour her passenger had acquired. The grain merchant’s wife arrived at first light bearing a steaming brew. She begged her pardon but asked of the beautiful Sister if she might partake in the drink. She said that it had been delivered from the Temple itself, kept warm and safe in the journey. It was called the Gift of Remorse and she, the blessed of Dumuzid was to drink it, for it will bear her child relief from remorse and pain. A most wonderful gift, stammered the wife in awe. She passed the mug carefully to Delah and watched as she drank it down. It was thin and bitter, leaving an aftertaste of tansy and bloom. Delah smiled to the wife and passed the mug back with thanks and blessings of the day.
She rose to her feet, already feeling a swell and pain in her ankles she walked to the village to ease her bones. Onward into the Valley she walked, under tree and past hut. She came upon the orchard; apples on the bough waiting to be picked. She was hungry again and reached for an apple, feeling a slight twinge in her side. Taking an apple she bit deeply, enjoying the flesh and zest of the fruit. It sated her hunger and through the orchard she wandered. Stopping at trees to inspect and feel their rough bark; looking upward at their majestic arms raised towards the heavens. The sun was beginning to fall in the sky as she leaned against an apple tree, gazing into the cloudless sky. Her vision blurred, she felt as though someone had pushed her head with force. Dizziness overtook her as she slid down the trunk of the tree to rest on the floor. It was a passing spell, it must have been the child waking up, she thought. The smell of lavender was pleasing down here, near the dark and soft soil beneath the tree.
Under the tree she remained as Utu burned himself out for another day, chasing Lilith into the dark places. Nanna, the moon bright and smiling gazed at Delah who looked back with reverence. Night was falling and a chill took hold; Delah tried to rise to her feet, but fell to the floor. She could not stand, she cried out for help. The orchards were for the pregnant and the cries could be heard by all, but she had walked far and long. Holding the trunk with nails digging into the bark she leaned over retching. She was nauseous; trying to right herself once more, her vision became shadowed. She vomited without moving her head, blood started to seep from between her legs. No she mouthed. No nonono no. She shouted with a dry rasp, someone had heard.
A crone came to her and finding Delah unconscious and bleeding, she called for help and they took her to a hut. Nanna slept as Utu raged once more. Delah lay in a bed of straw and camomile, feverish and faint. In and out of waking, she saw blurred faces, figures dressed in white and black talking quietly to each other. They were so far away, she strained to hear the words but they came in a jumble. She awoke again to find two Sisters in attendance. Still feverish and yellow with illness of the liver and kidney, she tried to rise up from her bed. The Sisters came fast and told her to stay still, not to move for she was most unwell. Delah raised her arm and looked at her hand, quivering it had a yellow hue. “The child” she said, “What of our child?” The Sisters each took a hand, “he is lost unto us my Sister, he is departed for the Underworld my Sister.”
The World stops.
The Brothers (A Slight Reprise III – The Barracks)
The Earth spins once again on its axis.
The shoddy old truck had been repaired during the day. The flatbed on the back reinforced with metal bars and ready for duty. The front lamps had been cleaned, specially scrubbed for the visit to the city. The brothers had spent much of the day digging; preparing the homestead for the new arrivals and place of eternal rest. After washing and donning new clothes, the old left on the floor by the old hearth, they made for the dirt track and onto the two-lane road that headed to the city from the valley.
The glow of the city could be seen for miles around. The florescence lighting the skyscrapers than dominated the horizon. Colours of soft yellows, greens and pinks; the hue of the city at night. The brothers took the roads through the slums, nothing more than dirt and stone tracks. There was no street lighting to guide them, but the elder drove on slowly; observant for any pedestrian or night walker they may come across. Past shacks and open sewage, refuse and muddy water; the smell causing the younger brother to gag and sneeze. As they approached the city, dirt track gave way to concreted road. The slums were denser as they got closer into the metropolis, the noise of the late night gambling and drinking dens more prevalent. Dead eyed drugged up walkers and prostitutes on the pavements; drug dealers and pickpockets intermingling between the pimps and customers. The slums broke and gave way to buildings, first simple structures of breeze block evolving into brick and concrete. Street lamps made the road less oppressive; opening up a wide cone displaying the throng of humanity, pushing and jostling even at this late hour.
The smells from the late night bistros and fast food joints; the young people stumbling out of doorways, followed by a sonic boom of beats and synthetic sounds. Revellers gathered around a fountain, pushing each other towards the cool water. Into the quiet business district; strictly organised and smartly kept, with neatly trimmed trees and spotless streets. The dark in the offices occasionally perforated by the torch of the night watchman checking for the thousandth time, tired and in need of a coffee. Past the hospital with blue lights flashing, a group ashen faced well dressed people gathered together outside the Emergency department smoking and talking in forced whispers. Inside a man with a dislocated shoulder was shouting at the staff, “Don’t you know who I am?” Security hovering and the exhausted staff with hands on their faces.
They arrived at the Barracks and were faced by a young sentry, armed and with a face more serious than his years should have allowed. The younger wound down his window, spoke a few words and they were waved through without any further formality. The truck came to a halt near the parade grounds, the lights of the main headquarter building were off but an outside lamp endowed the area in a cone of white light. Stepping out, they were met by a Corporal and by Gibil, the night cleaner. The brothers nodded to Gibil who shrugged and lit up a cigarette. The Corporal showed the pair the three body bags; then left to his bed. His business was completed for the night and he wanted his bed and the warmth of the bunk room. The pair hauled them onto the reinforced bed of the truck and then leaned against it, getting their breath back in the night air. Gibil had already started mopping the area from where the bodies had come from, stopping to wring out the bloody and rusted water before carrying on. He grumbled through his work and as the brothers watched a faint smile on their lips. The younger called out to Gibil:
“Oh how the mighty have fallen!”
Gibil looked up, eyes drooping; he slowly raised his arm and made an old country oath at them. The brothers laughed and waved him goodbye. Gibil harrumphed and went back to his cleaning. They backed the truck carefully and turned on parade ground before making their way out of the Barracks. With the windows wound down they drove home, the younger brother complaining all the way.
A soft rain fell as Delah sat upright in her cot. Her face gaunt and stricken, unable to comprehend when the Sisters talked. She arose and unsteadily walked to the door of the hut; opening it she stepped out into the rain, head tilted to the sky. Red curls plastered to her head, she joined in the chorus of the falling drops with tears. It was dawn and everyone was still asleep in the village. Dazed and entranced, Delah walked from the village into the open fields and forests. As the morning grew there was no sign of the sun, just grey cloud and more tears from the heavens. She walked onward aimlessly, through hamlet and nature until coming upon the lake and the willow. Sitting beneath the willow the tree joined her mourning; branches glancing the surface of the lake rippling as droplets fell. Delah looked into the water and saw the Goddess beside her, also crying with grief.
Day after day she wept; food was delivered but remained uneaten. Each day she grew weaker, her appearance bedraggled and muddied. Few stopped to talk, leaving her alone with the sorrow; for it was hers to grasp hold of and they dared not interrupt the bereavement of a mother and her demigod. Delah still lacking in vitality began to faint and drowse ‘neath the willow, her strength leaving her body and returning to the Earth below. She did not care for life nor its accoutrements of nourishment or companionship; she wished to return to the Goddess, to sit by her feet and bless the new arrivals in the city of the gods. The blessing of Dumuzid became a curse of decay; skin melting away, thirst only slaked by a handful of water from the lake. Day fell into night and Delah could only see the dark. Falling in an out of consciousness through sickness and grief, she lay on the floor cheek to the soil. It was in this state that the lady and her husband found her. There to deliver food, they stood talking in hushed whispers; urgent missive with the sharper from the wife. The husband sighed; carefully he lifted Delah into his arms, barely a burden in her diminished state. Cleaning Delah’s face with a piece of cloth, the wife muttered and they left the willow.
The sun was low by the time they reached their abode; their two children Atu and Emi rushed out to meet them when the figures became silhouettes against Utu’s diminishing grace. They had been anxious; it wasn’t like their parents to disappear. Atu, a boy of 13 reached them first ready with a tumble of questions before upon seeing Delah in his father’s arms, silenced. Emi, a young lass of seven with long brown curls ran to her mother, clasping hold of her leg. Her mother rested her hand on Emi’s head and gave her quiet words of reassurance. They were back and they had a visitor, someone very special who was very ill, so the children mustn’t bother her and let her recover in peace. Taking her into the hut, the father laid Delah gently before the hearth and lit a fire whilst the mother started preparing food, a simple porridge would have to suffice for this evening. As she cooked she sang in a low voice, humming and stirring the pot. The children sat near Delah staring at her with amazement; for she was unlike what they remembered. Gaunt of skin and bones clear in her face. The father sat near the fire warming his feet as the food cooked.
The heat and the smell of home cooking roused Delah from her slumber. She looked around confused and with trepidation until she recognised the family and the children. Looking upon Atu and Emi her niece and nephew, a tear left her eye and made its torpid way over the contours of her emaciated face. She silently prayed to Inanna and Dumuzid for release from the pain. The children gathered around her, hugging her tightly as she parlayed with the gods.
High above in the city of the young gods, Inanna was stood, majestic in the moonlight listening the anguish and despaired prayer. Her head stooped and tears fell from her beautiful eyes onto the gardens below.
Lilith at the height of her powers in the dead of the night also heard the plea of mercy. Smiling, she consented to Delah’s wishes and bowed gracefully.
The Useless Coup
The old Officer was wearing his best suit; a navy blue two piece on which he had adorned his medals. He had wanted to wear his uniform but had been refused the request due to the circumstances. A clean, ironed white shirt, a plain red tie and a pair of shined lace up black shoes finished his outfit. He was immensely grateful for the clothes; after calling his wife, he didn’t expect her to arrange and bring them in for him. When she arrived he almost burst into tears until she scolded him for being a useless oaf, a goat of a husband. Smiling, he was in no position to disagree. He held his hands up to surrender but she flung the clothes at him and stormed off, leaving him looking like a human clothes peg. He sat his beret on his weathered and balding head and stared at his reflection in the mirror they had provided him. He looked old, like a pensioner dressing up for a military reunion living past glories while getting insufferably drunk and nostalgic.
Considering his defence for the hearing today; he mentally reviewed what had happened, or at least as much as he could remember following the clattering to the head he took. He had heard what had happened to the men from his jail cell, the guards told him in sombre tones not wanting to upset their visitor. He took it stoically for the benefit of the guards, later berating himself with a flush of anger and tears at his failure to protect his charges. He would see justice served, he vowed. On his mother, father, grandparents and great-grandparents he would see that the men would not have died in vain. The guilt overwhelmed him; where they the men he had tried to recruit? It sounded like Pero had shot them at random, on a whim of merciless finality. He needed to find out more but first he had to face the court-martial. The panel had been chosen; it was to be the Governor, a bigwig from National HQ and someone from the local judiciary. The Governor would see him hang surely; the bigwig would be lenient, a fellow veteran. The local Judge was an eccentric fellow, it was impossible to tell what he might say or do. Prone to outbursts of emotion, he like the Officer came from the countryside. A fellow mud merchant made good, he thought.
He sat down; looking at himself was not the most entertaining prospect. The cracks and fault lines of his face leading to the earthquake that was his nose. No Sir, he was not beautiful or a picture. His features were a landslide and his temper a volcano. He was a walking, talking natural disaster. He laughed out loud at the thought, guards turning puzzled by the good humour. He checked his watch. It was time. After unlocking the door, they placed handcuffs on him and led him away from the cell block. The hearing was to be in a different building and they had to walk to get there. Outside for the first time in a week, the old Officer took in a deep breath of fresh air. At this early hour, Gibil was still sweeping and smoking. Looking up as the Officer passed he gave him a wink and a pat on the shoulder, drawing the ire of the guards who pushed him away. On past the parade grounds through to the main building. Outside, a number of cars and a stray reporter from a local paper. Should he smile or look glum for the cameras, he considered as he was ushered inside.
The room was small, with a table at the front behind which stood three empty chairs. To one side sat behind another table was Pero with three of his men. The Officer was taken to a raised platform with a caged front and handcuffed to it. Sitting in a wooden chair, he looked at Pero and grinned. Pero sneered in return and swore, his men noticing the exchange looked at one another amused. The Officer attempted to salute but couldn’t raise his hand to his head from his seated position and instead half bowed to the Colonel. A crack was heard as the Sergeant on duty struck a desk. “All rise.” Three men entered the Governor with a face like thunder, the bigwig who held a tissue to his nose and sneezed repeatedly as he entered and the Judge. The Judge looked dazed; the Officer wondered if he was drunk. Sliding across the floor dressed in an old black robe over his grey suit, his bushy eyebrows pumping up and down. His face was droopy, thin and gaunt but with jowls that gave it an oblong shape. Clean shaven and with a beak for a nose he took his seat on the left hand side. The Governor took the middle before the military bigwig could get there, paralysed by a bout of sneezing and snuffles in the race to the position of prominence.
The hearing didn’t last long; the only upside being a furious Pero when the Officer compared his manhood to a salamander’s and flicked his tongue. He had jumped from his seat and made for his gun only to be held back by his men. The Governor called for him to be tried for attempting a coup against his superior officer. The old Officer laughed so loud he woke the apparently slumbering Judge who shouted for silence. The Governor tried to continue his speech but the Judge kept telling him to be quiet. The military man felt a demotion to private would suffice and that the evidence for a coup, although compelling would have amounted to nought. The Judge went last, staring silently at the Officer straight in the eye for over five minutes. He scowled, slumped in his seat and whispered his judgement. He was to be demoted to private and rejoin the ranks. His pension and pay reduced with his rank and all privileges of officer-ship rescinded. The Governor made to complain but the Judge stared at him viciously and told him to desist. Released from the handcuffs, he again saluted to Pero and walked from the court room.
Outside the air was still fresh and brisk. The old Officer now Private rubbed his hands together and made for the barrack room; to talk to his comrades and find out exactly what had occurred.
Now Everyone Is Listening To Pero
Cameras flashed as the President made his way across the stage to the lectern. Holding a hand to hush the crowd of press he made the following statement:
Ladies and gentlemen of the press and to the country as a whole. Today, we’ve seen the best our society has to offer; the bravery and self sacrifice that has made this great nation somewhere we are proud to call home. One man, a single solitary citizen just like you or me held back a potential violent coup against our precious democracy. This one man said no to oppression and violence and stood tall when others crouched for cover. Today we honour that man and present him with a medal, the highest commendation we can offer as a people for his bravery. Ladies and gentlemen, General Antonio Felipe III Pero:
Pero stepped up to the President and stood smartly, feet together in his new and highly polished boots. More flashes and murmurs as the President pinned the medal to Pero’s breast. Then a cheer from the assembled crowd as he turned to face them, beaming with a face scrubbed pink and waxed moustache. He approached the lectern and leaned heavily into the microphones.
“Friends,” he started. “Friends, countrymen and women I stand here before you humbled by this gesture. I am no hero; I would do anything to defend this great country of ours.”
His father had appointed him advisors; political spin doctors and speech coaches. They had advised him to keep the speech short, very short. Pero continued:
“I come with bad tidings in this celebration. The world, it is neither fair nor just. We as a country are facing dangers and threats never thought of in our little utopia. We must come together as one and fight back. Fight back against injustice; fight back against corruption and fight back against the undemocratic.”
The President’s smile became fixed; this was most definitely not part of the plan. He looked over at Pero’s advisors who shrugged back in return.
“I am here today talking to you because I was fortunate. Fortunate to be able to fight off countless insurgents, fortunate that the three men I killed are dead and not me. But, those three men were countrymen and comrades. They were my brothers and it breaks my heart to see us fight, for we are a family.”
“The coup was a failure. It failed because it went against our national nature. We do not fight among ourselves, we love one another. These are dangerous times and in dangerous times quick thinking and leadership are a minimum. I did what I had to do but I am not proud. I worry for our future.”
The President made towards the lectern to stop Pero’s monologue, however holding a hand up to him he continued:
“Here my friends, here is our President. He fights hard like me to make the world a better place. He is a brave man, he should be proud of what he has accomplished; my friends, a round of applause for our President.”
The assembled press pack looked slightly dumbfounded, this wasn’t the usual protocol. A smattering of applause broke out sporadically around the room, dying out quickly before the television cameras. Point made, the President returned to his position with the same fixed smile. Again he looked over at Pero’s advisors who shrugged and slapped their foreheads. Pero had no intention of stopping now; not while he had everyone’s undivided attention. However, before he could continue a functionary stepped in and asked if anyone had any questions. No hands were raised and Pero wrestled back control from the civil servant.
“Yes. I General Antonio Felipe III Pero have a question; who cares enough about this great country to help make it powerful again? I ask all of you, do you care? Will you stand up and end the corruption of our great land?”
Finally, someone pulled the power cable to the lectern and Pero was unable to continue his plea. No matter, he thought. I have done my duty today. Stepping away from the microphones, he shook the President’s hand before waving one last time to the people in the press room and left. His advisors followed along with his bodyguards.
A lone voice called from the press pack.
“Mr President, do you have any response to the General’s claims of corruption?”
Pero grinned offstage. He didn’t need advisors, just friends in the right place and at the right time. “Come.” He said, “Let’s go back to the base, we have work to do.”
Azad’s Second Dream
She came to me once again; O I am blessed by Her for the Goddess has chosen me as Her conduit between the mortal and immortal planes. I am most humbled by Her favour and I can only offer zealous duty and faithful love in return, so pitiful are my talents. The dream was clear as the night sky; stars guiding my hand to justice and redemption. She came unto me in the dead of night; dark was the sky without Her presence.
Her beauty is beyond compare. O Inanna our magnificent guide has beauty beyond this world; with austerity of cheekbones high upon her face and dark endless eyes that drown a mere mortal like myself. There was fire reflected in those holy eyes; the fire of rebirth and the death of ill fortune. For only fire can purge the deceit of humanity, the blaze is Her faithful pet and with it comes the new. She stands before me proud and glorious; Her porcelain legs as cold as ice. Contempt, She whispers to me. Whore, She whispers to me. Death, She whispers to me. Fire, She looks unto me Her gaze piercing my weak flesh. I am sat in the centre of the altar; it is night and She raises flames around the perimeter. Black dagger drawn, every word slashed into my heart.
Blasphemy, She whispers to me.
O faithful Sakrisan do not despair,
There is but release from this nightmare;
Your Goddess lusts for flesh and the warm touch,
With Her mortal Sakrisan Her faithful in Her clutch;
The mortal Delah has stolen him away,
Your lonesome Goddess does cry for a moon and a day;
The whore does take what is rightly mine,
With curses and hatred yet he need not be lost for all time;
Contempt, Whore, Death, Fire and Blasphemy make the mortal Delah,
Bring her to the blaze and call your Goddess to come and rescue her;
Your faith gentle mortal will be born a-new,
The curses and hate will no longer travel with you;
I will witness, sign and judge the deed,
And the Goddess Inanna will plant a new seed;
Deep in the Earth in the darkest of places,
She is mine, Her body and many faces;
Bring Her unto me.
She smiled sweetly to me; lips ruby red and face shadowed by Her cowl. My work, my life is for Her. To see the glory and the magnificence of the Goddess once more, to feel her touch. This is what is destined; this is what must come to pass. I am Her conduit once more. Radiating lust and love, desire and birth; the Goddess is reborn unto me and Her words tumble to the deep well at the bottom of my being. But what is it that She asks of Her humble servant? How should one approach and understand the dream my friend? Is it prophecy or fate? These are answers requiring much concentration and dedication. My ill will lives on, my body is failing. My love for Her brings to me a desire for peace. She shows me the way; for lust and for love. And for punishment and atonement.
I feel we have come to know each other, you and I. What do you make of the vision of the Goddess? It becomes hard for the imagination to fully envisage the joy it has brought me. A second vision, a second visitation. It truly must be a blessing, an omen of our Goddess. A request. A plea for mercy. Am I a fool, being tricked by a shadow in my sleep? I do not think it so, my friend. The Goddess understands my love for Her. For She is Piety and perfect in every way. No, you have witnessed my afflictions, my base desires and prostrations before a false goddess. A creature not of the divine but of the wholly human. I have been driven from the right path and She now guides me back. One foot before another I must make my way back onto the path of righteousness and Her divine favour.
It is an unjust Earth and Heavens my friend; where we can we must make justice and repent our blasphemies. The gods, their hopes rest upon our fragile shoulders. Without them, the Earth would devour us. Burn us in fiery mountains; flood us without sign or warning. The gods in the Heavens, they do protect us and we have to obey them at all times.
And at whatever cost we can bear.
The black and orange light of dusk filtered into the room through the curtainless windows. A single candle on the windowsill sent shadows dancing around the silhouette of the couple sat on the seat in the centre of the room. The scarred soldier was sat on the arm chair, wearing only a white T-shirt and shorts. His right arm wrapped around his wife’s waist and the left on her shoulder and she sat on his knees, her head leaning into his neck breathing in his musk. Her arms draped over his shoulders they sat together silently, enjoying the peaceful moment. The soldier was due back from his week’s leave tomorrow morning; he had spent the time entirely with his family, with his son by day and wife by night. They would look up at the stars together and make pictures from the constellations, tracing them out with a tip of the finger. It had been a good week, but alas after the peace of the evening he was to head back to the barracks, unaware of any of what had occurred in his absence.
In the morning, at first light he dressed in his uniform and put on his boots. His wife stood by hand on his shoulder as he laced them up swiftly, with fingers deft from practice. Standing and taking her in his arms, he twirled her round in a bear hug. She giggled and choked; “Put me down you silly man, put me down and get off with you.” She managed to squeeze out in between fits of laughter. Gently placing her back on the cracked linoleum floor, he heaved a sigh. Kissing her deeply on the lips, he went on his way. After leaving the house and trotting down the steps, he made his way to the bus stop for his ride into the city. A neighbour strolled by and mumbled a good morning. He was an elderly man who dressed in cast offs, today pink shorts and a faded yellow T-shirt with a surfboard on. Sandals and a thin coating of grey hair tufts around his ears completed his ensemble. The soldier saluted smartly and continued on his way. The bus was late. It was always late to this part of town. He arrived as the soldiers were lining up for morning parade and duty assignments.
Quickly taking his place in line, he noticed a subdued atmosphere lying heavy on his fellow soldiers. Before he was able to ask a neighbour what was happening; the General arrived by car. It stopped in front of the men and a window in the back was wound down. A hand appeared, waving before it was withdrawn. The drill sergeant called the men to attention as a minder held the door open and Pero emerged from the car. In a pair of knee high black boots and a broad general’s hat balanced lazily on his head he surveyed the men before him. Marching smartly up and down the front row, his riding crop held tightly in his left armpit his large hat bobbled and swayed. The scarred soldier glanced briefly at his colleagues; their eyes were downcast and defeated. What had happened in his absence, where had the fighting spirit of his friends gone?
They were quickly placed into groups of six and delegated to various areas of the slums and the city for patrols. He called over the drill sergeant; “Why are we patrolling the city now?” He asked. The sergeant sucked in a deep breath, filling his cheeks before exhaling slowly and ending with a sigh. “The city has become dangerous, according to the General there are enemies everywhere.”
“What has happened here?”
“You do not want to know, my friend. Just keep your head low and do as you’re told. They’re putting soldiers in the hands of his men now if they don’t fall into line.” The drill sergeant looked at the scarred soldier. “Seriously, do as you’re told. You have family to think about.”
The sergeant gave the soldier a pat on the shoulder and resumed barking orders at the men. The scarred man was to join a city patrol on the look out for thieves and beggars. He was in a group with five younger soldiers, mostly new recruits. Their eyes had the hard glint of criminality. The truck dropped them off in a poor neighbourhood on the outskirts of the business district. The juxtaposition of wealth and poverty divided by an invisible line on the pavements. The patrol set off casually, walking towards an area where trade often took place. Old women sat on the kerb of streets with baskets of produce held between their knees; surrounding a small square dominated by a decaying stone statue of some old Greek god. Traders and hawkers yelled their offers at the passers by; the smells of street food and alcohol lingered as the soldiers made their way around the square. Stopping in front of a trader, a woman in her mid-fifties with greying hair and a face lined with hardship, one of the younger men demanded some of her goods. She was a cloth merchant and the recruit decided that he needed cloth for some new clothes for his girlfriend. The women demurred but capitulated under the gaze of the other soldiers, some of whom were adjusting their rifles and toying with bayonets.
One by one, the young soldiers took their tribute from the traders and old women. The scarred soldier stood on the sidelines, refusing any offers blankly. A recruit with a wisp of blonde hair sprouting on his upper lip approached a young girl selling shells and other worthless ornaments. He was shouting at her and laughing. The scarred man walked to them as the young recruit made a lunge towards the girl, grabbing a fistful of hair in his hand.
“Let her go, she’s just a girl.” He said to the young soldier who sneered in return. “Shut it or I’ll add another scar to that pretty face of yours.” He ambled away with the girl’s hair still in his hand; she stumbled after him trying not to fall and crying in pain.
The scarred man walked over rapidly and pushed the soldier away, forcing him to release the girl. The other young men approached and surrounded the scarred soldier in a circle, each lazily pointing their rifles at him. The recruit who had grabbed the girl laughed. “Looks like we’ve still got some resistance here lads.” The others laughed with him as the scarred soldier slowly turned in a circle to face each one. As he came back to the first recruit, he noticed a spark in his eyes. A thud came to the back of his head and all went orange, red then black.
The Fuss and The Flood
“cough – Let me light a new cigarette, this one is fading faster than poor Gibil. So, you’ve seen it right, the new world order eh? Heh heh heh. Oh yes, times have changed and discipline is the watchword. Gibil has a natural tendency towards chaos; but he does what he can under the circumstances. Sorry my friend, I will stand to your side so my smoke does not blow in your face. You youngsters these days; a bit of smoke and soot and you’re up in arms. Not like in Gibil’s day; fire and smoke made a proper mess back then.”
“My work for the evening is almost finished. They brought in another soldier, knocked out he was – a big fella too with a tattered face. Took him up to the shed the poor man. Still, whatever he did I’m sure he deserves what is coming eh? Heh heh heh. Now, now, don’t think Gibil is a horrible man who doesn’t care for the suffering of others; that would be most untrue! But some things must be and some actions must happen for an equal action to happen. That is science my friend, that is the way of the world.”
“You cannot beat the world my friend, many have tried and every one of them fails. Once in a different place I remember a village that tried to do things different. Not the same as everyone else; they tried to ignore science and the world and the world answered them back with a great flood. It wiped out their fields, their animals and their homes. Nothing remained a good clean up. Heh he- cough.”
“People eh? They all think they are different, that if they do it something else might happen. Oh Gibil has seen them come and go; my father cleaned their mess and fuss and I clean this generation’s. It is always the same; people repeat what other people have done and the same results happen; a fuss and then a flood. The flood cleans all eventually and not even a brave king can hold his hand up to the tide and make it stop.”
“Yes my friend, the new often is the old dressed in new clothes but Gibil sees through them. They never change, they always wants more and demand better things. But things are inevitable. They cannot be stopped or challenged, not matter how hard you punch or sweep. It is not the way of this Earth. What we do has an end and then it starts all over again. Take this cigarette; it is done and now I light a new one heh heh heh.”
“Men follow men follow men. And men follow what they want and need. And everything ends up in the same place every time. Kinda stupid if you ask Gibil, but nobody ever does, heh. The Officer used to have men following him and now those men are dead. He feels responsible but now has to follow other men. This, my friend, seems out of whack does it not? Responsibility doesn’t just go away over night; otherwise who would have children? HEH he- cough. Serves Gibil right; but I like to smoke and I am an old man. My hearing is not what it used to be, speak up. Oh? Is everything futile you ask? What a question to ask an old man. Oh!”
“Some people believe life is a circle, when you die you start again. Something like that when you go, you go to the best place you could imagine. Or the worst in Gibil’s case, heh heh heh. Where you go is not the point, it is what you do when you are here that counts. Trust me, we Gibils have seen many lives; things are not so different now than they ever have been. Just better television and cars, but people are still people, they do what they do and waste their time on horseback carrying big lances and chasing imaginary giants. Gibil can only shrug. He does not know if things are futile but there is a lot of worth in life my friend. You only get so much before it is taken away. Live a little, eh? See the World.”
The Gifts of Enki
With his first breath, Anu created Enlil his son who became everything in between the heavens and the earth. Seated at the right hand of Anu, Enlil begat Enki, the master craft worker of the Earth and assigner of the Fates. Gathering his sisters, Enki gift them each a Fate and employment in the order of the World. Enki, O he who created men of clay began assigning duty to his sisters.
“To Enlil’s sister, the sister of breath and life I assign the fate of the new born. For Aruru, sister of Enlil shall be the midwife of Kings and hold aloft the umbilical cord that binds man to the Fate of mortality. O Aruru, the midwife step forward and receive the lancet for cutting cords and the lapis-lazuli bowl for gathering unto you the afterbirth.”
Aruru steps forward and bows before her nephew, Enki the crafter, receiving the gifts bestowed to her. Enki turns to his sister, Ninisina:
“My sister Ninisina I bequeath the Heavens and the Earth, to ever stand at the side of Anu and bid him companionship and wisdom. O Ninisina, for you are to be the mistress of the Heavens and the Earth. You shall wear the jewellery of cuba stones and stand by Anu’s side.”
Enki presented Ninisina with her gifts and with them the Fate of the Heavens and the Earth. Turning to his other two sisters, Ninmug and Nisaba, Enki gave unto them the gifts of metal working and demarcation; a golden chisel of creating crowns for Kings and a lapis-lazuli measuring tape for assaying lands for portion. They stepped forward, taking upon themselves the Fate of Kings and Lands. Enki bowed reverently before the Lady Nance, she who rests her feet upon the holy pelican:
“O Lady Nance to you I decree the Fates of the Birds and the Fishes; to replenish and nourish, for you to pick the delectable fish and delicious birds for the table of the gods.”
The august Lady accepts her Fates graciously and returned to the side of her menagerie and cornucopia.
“So be it! Enki proclaims to all. So be it!”
The maiden Inanna is disparaged, for Her father the Lord Enki has neglected Her.
“Unto what Fates do I, Inanna proclaim ownership? O Enki, Lord who opens his mouth and plenty is for all; O Enki unto what Fates do I, the maiden Inanna take claim? For you have neglected to gift your holy daughter, you have neglected to gift the holy Inanna Her gifts.”
The maiden Inanna turns from Her father, the Lord Enki. She turns and raises Her slender tanned arms to the Heavens, Her eyes turn to the Earth.
“So be it! Her father cries. So be it! The Lord Enki, father of the holy Inanna proclaims. He has forgotten his daughter; he has forgotten his daughter Inanna.”
Enki approaches his daughter and lowers Her arms, raises Her face to his.
“O daughter, I the Lord Enki have not neglected you, for your gifts are bountiful. You have the gift of Battle, the blood and war cry with passion and death. You have the gift of Words; for ill omen or for good, you my daughter Inanna have the power to make right what is wrong and to make wrong what is right.”
Enki leads the maiden Inanna to the balcony overlooking the square in his domain.
“O daughter, your father and lord Enki has gifted you with many things. You shall never grow tired of admirers. You shall never grow weary of the flesh. I, Enki, Lord of Prosperity and Wisdom has given you the gifts of Good and of Evil. I, Lord Enki have bestowed loveliness upon your head, loveliness and the apocalyptic upon holy Inanna’s head.”
Enki smiles unto his daughter, the maiden Inanna.
“I am the Lord, the one whose word is reliable. I am the Lord, the one who excels at everything. All right! So be it! So be it, my daughter Inanna!”
On the day the Fates were decided upon and apportioned between the gods; the maiden Inanna was bestowed with the most of all. For loveliness and the apocalyptic was upon Her head and words for the greater good or evil became Hers.
Loosely based around ancient Sumerian temple hymns.
Relief of Enki from Wikipedia.
Delah spent the time until harvest convalescing on her sister’s farmstead. She helped here and there whenever her strength was capable of maintaining her efforts. In the between times, she would sing to the children and teach them the names of the trees and birds. They were sat at her feet beneath a grand oak that dominated the front portion of their lands, facing the West as the sun called them to bed. Growing in the gnarled roots and bark strewn floor were Himalayan balsam, with broad pink petals delicately poised to enrapture the local bees. The heavy headed flowers sank earthward, filled with nectar and the scent of the forest flowers. Delah picked a flower and passed it to Emi with a frail smile. She loved her family so; yet felt the throb of loss deeply within her chest. Tears began to flow, Emi stood up and once hugging the leg of her aunt, joined in the sobbing. Atu looked at his sister dumbfounded. “Why are you crying Emi?” He enquired incredulously of his sister. “Aunt Delah is.”
Delah laughed through the tears and picked Emi up and stretched her arms high above her head. The dappled sunlight danced on the girl’s hair as she sobbed, giggled and sniffled in Delah’s strong hands. Setting her niece back to the floor in front of her gently, she wiped the tears from Emi’s face with the front of her dress. “We can’t have you going home looking like that lady; whatever will your mother think of me?” Emi smiled as Atu huffed at his sister, “Emi cheer up – it’s almost harvest time remember!”
The harvest was a time of sombre reflection but also of wild celebration; for the people of the Valley found themselves both praying devoutly but also drinking to the name of the gods that had blessed them so.
“Children, let me sing you a song of the Harvest; for the Moon is fat with the fruits of the Earth. She comes close to us and blesses us, pretty she is my darlings. Ever so pretty and ever so proud.”
“There once were two lovers, laying in a field of ripened corn;
They were two of person yet one of heart;
Lost in each others eyes, clasped together unto the early morn;
They kissed and to the harvest they made to start;
With scythes and twine, gathering gifts of the gods;
Bountiful was the grain and strong was the straw;
The seeds were a-gathered, safely asleep in hard pods;
They knew of agriculture and the eternal need for more;
They planned a life together a shared destiny;
The Goddess granted them plentiful children and lands to beyond the eye;
The rewards for their blessed and sweet fecundity;
The happiness of the harvest and children, with contentment they did sigh;
Long was the day of life and slow the pace of time;
For all was good and proud for the family, a long time they were stood;
With full bellies and hearts and all that is mine;
They lived out their days in the glory of the Goddess and She was ever good.”
Sakrisan II, The Ballad of the Loving Harvest
Delah gazed at the children; trying desperately to ward off the careless speculation and imminent sorrow of how her son, the son of a god would have presented himself. Fair of hair and happy of demeanour, strong as the Ox, he would have entranced the local girls surely. He would dance and sing and make the world spin.
She should not think so of her lost child for he would be reborn again in the light of the Goddess. They will meet again and again, unto distant days. Nobody was ever truly lost, only misplaced for a time. She yearned for the day of lost acquaintance found once more. She yearned with her heart and soul for the day they would meet and she would hold him. Close to her, never to let go she would hold him so tightly to her breast.
The low Harvest Moon would be on them soon; Nanna was awake to the call of the ripened fruits. To harvest and celebrate, to drink and to dance; Delah felt apart from the future melee. How could she be part after losing herself and the future.
“That song was very pretty Aunt Delah.” said Atu, looking at her intently. His voice quavered with the onset of manhood. “I liked it very much. Would you teach it me if you get chance?”
“Of course my sweet boy, of course.” Delah replied resting a hand on his head, the rough curls of his hair between her fingers. “For that has always been our way, we teach each other what we know and sing together.”
Atu grinned, showing white teeth and a wicked spark in his eye. “It will impress the girls in the village.” he added as he smoothed down his jerkin. “O will it now my big man, are you not too small for girls lad?” Delah returned his grin and winked at him conspiratorially. His smile would make the world spin.
The Agonies of Free Will
Today, I am troubled by the endless possibility of the intangible. The dream I told you of, the dream of She weighs heavily upon my mind. Care to join the Sakrisan for wine and to share the burden of godly matters in this library? Please sit in the chair stuffed with straw near the fire; take this cup of wine and contemplate, interpret, prospect and translate with me. For She is Knowledge and perfect in every way.
I can but refer to the texts of the ancients; on dreams they say:
“When the eye is closed and the mind is afloat,
The truth of the matter is clarity so take good note.”
Sakrisan I, Book of Beginning
The original life for Her saw dreams as being Truth dressed in nothing but the simplest of clothes. The next was not quite so circumspect in his views:
“Dreams are where lust and levity remain,
For they are the glory of Her domain.”
Sakrisan II, The Lusts of the Living (Book II)
He saw dreams as the ultimate glory of the Goddess; though he was prone to a turbulent life when not hushed by sleep. The third of our lives was more austere, a careful and considered man by nature:
“When asleep within your bed,
Be only aware of what is done and what is said.”
Sakrisan III, The Troubled Mind of Man
The third felt dream was false desire and the abandonment of hope. To follow rather than reflect would be the way of error and misery. So who, my friend has the correct interpretation of my slumberous wanderings? Dare I say they are Truth? My heart fears at the thought, a weakness in spirit that is shaming.
It is wise is it not, to take solace in the wisdom of the ancestors? For they have lived before all, and have seen much that we cannot imagine nor live again. Their wisdom comes as a blanket, a shroud in which to cover the thoughtlessness of the livings’ exuberance. To them we must delegate ourselves and our own ideas of originality. You speak of progress and of the renewal of ideas? Well then let us talk of more contemporary and pragmatic matters.
A Sakrisan is the chosen of She, Her consort and Her love given in mortal form. The position is one of respectability and conscience; not of physical ailment and the curses of the ignorant. I am to be respected, although not admired for I have not the qualities of a greater man. The people look to me to provide continuity and tradition, without a Sakrisan they are as lost as The Children Beneath the Sea. Their tale is a sad affair, of woe and of being adrift of their roots and kin.
“They sat upon green rock at the floor of the sea; ever to play among the seaweed and coral. Days of wonder and awe with the schools of brightly coloured fishes, Her creations administered by the Lady of the Sea and Air. Dolphins frolic and weave entertaining the children by day; turtles and whales their teachers and mentors. Old is their wisdom, older than the wisest of men. They lived a blessed life by day, but by night when all life had deserted them to return home and be among their kin, the Children were lonesome and afraid. Cold was the night and long was the memory. Neither mother nor father to grant them sweet dreams or warm hearth to sleep by. They were truly set adrift.”
A Sakrisan must lead, be without the weakness that inflicts most men. To do, to dare and to silence when necessary. He must remain above all to the people and to Her. For She is Everything and perfect in every way.
I must overcome my weakness, my conscience; without guidance, we are but children adrift. Ever more to wander aimless and thoughtless creating death and destruction in our wake. O Goddess, O magnificent Inanna; grant your servant the strength to do Your holy will. Let him not fail O holy Inanna. Take the Fates from my mortal hands and grant me only release from this malady that afflicts your servant.
When his ancestor returned from the expedition to the Plateau, he returned penniless and lacking in mobility. He and his friend hadn’t even been paid by the red-headed Westerner; they had upped and left one night and made straight for home. The village gathered round to hear what occurred. His ancestor was in his element as the centre of attention and began telling wild stories of whirlpools, darkness and frozen donkeys, punctuated with jabs of the preserved foot at the enraptured audience. His arms flailing as he tried to maintain his balance on a single foot.
As they originally approached the village; his ancestor was running, well hopping, like a madman in an erratic and convulsive manner. With each hop he bawled out for help from the villagers. He bounced straight into the scarecrow of the village elder that was standing guard in the small field of cabbages. Once the exasperated elder had rebuilt the effigy, he asked him how he hadn’t seen it and moved out of the way. His ancestor replied that his eyes were closed shut.
‘Why were they closed shut you simpleton? Who hops with eyes closed?’
‘I had my eyes closed,’ his ancestor retorted ‘because I needed to concentrate on hopping. If I don’t concentrate I fall over.’
The village elder frustrated with the idiocy of the man told him in no uncertain terms that from now on he was to hop slowly around the village before he did any more damage.
He opened his eyes. Sat on a latrine in the barracks, the old Private caught his breath after the fracas outside. They had been lined up on parade; most of the men acted reverently towards him, as though he was still their commanding officer. One man though, a new one with blonde hair took an instant dislike to him. Taunting his age, the new soldier pushed and jostled the old Private after they were dismissed. The drill sergeant stepped in between the pair as blows started to be exchanged; only to be thrust aside by the new soldier brandishing his bayonet.
The other men gathered nearby held the younger man back and disarmed him. Spitting on the floor, blood mingled with saliva he swore at the old Private. “Your days are numbered old man.” Fists clenched with impotent fury, he walked from the crowd with shoulders hunched.
The drill sergeant dismissed the remaining men and slack-jawed onlookers and took the old Private to one side. “That new one;” he said thumb jerking towards the back of the man now disappearing into the main building. “He’s one of Pero’s. There are a lot of Pero’s men here now and my friend, they do not like you.”
He got up and walked to a sink; washing his face with the cool water and wiping away blood from his once again broken nose. He sighed.
Gathering his overcoat and hat from the mess, the old Private left the barracks for home. Since his demotion, he could no longer afford the house he once shared with his wife. He had moved to a new abode, a small one roomed flat above an adult video shop. It was as far as his meagre pay and savings could take him.
Up the metal stairs to the outside entrance; minding not to stand in anything around the dumpsters outside, he unlocked his door and entered the dark room. Flicking a wall switch, a dim bulb cast a dying yellow light over the tattered sofa and old bed. On one wall he had piled his books up, next to a cardboard box of his office effects. On the other wall on the floor were clothes and mementos he had rescued from his old house before leaving. Not just his, but his wife’s things that she had left behind and her sister had not quickly relieved from him following the separation.
His jaw was aching and his eyes felt watery. At the sink, he poured himself a glass of water after washing the dust first from the cup. The water was saltier than he was used to but he drank anyway, draining the glass without pause. Squinting, he looked over the room with a final mouthful of water puffing out his cheeks. Over by the wall, next to the plant his wife had bought for him to cheer his office up was the object he was searching for.
Swallowing, the old Private placed the glass down next to the sink and walked to the pile of books; with fingertips touching a couple in one stack, he withdrew one and took it over to the sofa. Flicking through, he found his place and settled back into the ripped brown and grey cushions.
As we shifted the soil it became apparent that this was plausibly the site of some sort of sanctuary or rudimentary church to the pagan goddess. A most exciting find! As we brushed the earth and stone away, a black object became visible beneath the…”
Whirlpools, Darkness and Frozen Donkeys
As we shifted the soil it became apparent that this was plausibly the site of some sort of sanctuary or rudimentary church to the pagan goddess. A most exciting find! As we brushed the earth and stone away, a black object became visible beneath the permafrost. It was most peculiar and would require closer examination come morning. Unfortunately the light had grown dim and again we retired to the tent for warmth, dried strips of some unknown meat and companionship.
The temperature through the night dropped considerably and Charles tried as he might to keep me warm but it was to no avail. The chill was most piercing, a thing I have not experienced in all my travels, even when to the East and the great North. Come the morning, the chill had lessened ever so slightly. Upon opening the tent, I arose to the sight of the morning sun and two perfectly frozen donkeys. I say, what a rum scene it made. Stood perfectly stock still in place but entirely encrusted with ice.
I called for Charles who grunted something unintelligible as usual, who then proceeded to make short work of the donkeys with a small skinning knife. At least I am now aware of the source of Charles’ sustenance. Also, may the Lord damn them to the Hells and back; the hired help had upped sticks and disappeared in the night. I considered the possibility that we may have been robbed, but nothing of note was missing from the inventory. Therefore, I must assume that they tired of the honest labour and went in seek of alcohol and a warm bed. Really, the savages here are most intolerable when imbibing the demon drink, less use than a… a frozen donkey.
No use crying over missing peasants; lacking in labour I undertook to supervise Charles’ efforts around the strange black object. On closer inspection the object yielded to the touch, with a feeling of a dense cool gas. The object appears to be neither solid nor liquid nor gas; a most puzzling discovery. Within the object appear patterns; although on first glance making little sense, under a prolonged gaze they take the image of a whirlpool, a whirlpool of darkness if you will. This discovery is most unusual and will require much study when safely ensconced back in Oxford.
It does not seem to hold a particular shape, if anything changing form with each fresh glance. Charles seems perturbed by the object, he has also taken to looking at me in a most strange and unfriendly manner. I shall endeavour to keep my wits and a sharp implement about me at all times, for if he means to rob me of the artefact then he shall find himself coming to a most sticky end for I will make short work of him, Sir! My training and time spent with the Queen’s Rifles in the African campaign has always been useful in dispatching the criminal element.
I placed my hand once again into the object, or area of whatever this substance might be. It has the feel of a soupy mist, almost tangible to the touch yet leaving no trace on removal or any residue. It is without a doubt the darkest sight I have ever laid eyes on; darker than the nights of the Papuan jungles. Whereas head-hunters were the concern in Papua; the growing mistrust between Charles and I is becoming rather alarming. It is not the place of the help to question the master, either through verbiage or demeanour. Hence I undertook to teach Charles a lesson in humility with my crop…
Pero’s stock was rising; smart investors had got in on the ground floor when the price was rock bottom. Now it was blowing sky high, through the roof and into orbit. He was a star, the new rising star leaving trails of pure zeitgeist in his wake. The name Pero was trending, he was a #hashtag, a movement, a school of thought, a brand name and a new hope.
He had even earned his father’s respect with his machinations and political nous. Following the award ceremony, the CAP née GAP considered his next move. He participated in a series of interviews with the newspapers; from the high brow, low cunning of the respectable papers to the gutter rags of the tabloid press. For each he presented an immaculate case; a presentation of whatever appealed to the potential audience. His staff had grown; now complete with two young researchers scouring the internet by day for popular opinions, and downloading pornography by night using the office broadband.
For the broadsheets, he donned a suit and poise of a statesman. Magnanimous to a fault; even forgiving a reporter instantly when he knocked over his WJC bust. No harm was done; Pero was made of sterner stuff. He had a battle board on his wall where he pinned clippings and articles from his campaign. A selection from his interviews made for colourful reading:
The General, when pushed over the issue of economic reform and the creation of a new trading bloc was typically bombastic in his answer; ‘This country will grow, with business and industry hand in hand with the state. The people need jobs, they need pay and answers and we can provide, we can provide for all.
In trade our friends will come begging to us! I have had many dealings with foreign businessmen and I know their ways; they come looking for bargains, they do not understand the true worth of the products we supply through the hard work, sweat and blood of our countrymen. I shall strike a hard deal, we are no pushovers.’
The Financial Gazette, ‘The General of Blood, Sweat and Industry’ (9th Sept.)
‘Those sly criminals in this country and living off the work of the common man. They do not care whether you eat nor have a nice house, they only want to live off the sweat of someone else’s hard graft. These politicians – they are bad – they only care about their salaries and perks, not about poverty and paying people right.’
The Daily Rag, ‘Punchy Pero Fights Back For The Common Man – Pow!’ (15th Sept.)
Pero had one particular cutting set apart from the rest:
Today, in a sensational vote in Parliament, the government lost an opposition motion that called for the impeachment of the President over claims of corruption. Details have emerged following the sensational disclosure by General Pero of the Armed Forces of an elaborate money laundering scheme involving foreign criminals and drug dealers. The paper trail led to the highest echelons of power with the President himself named as a beneficiary of a Swiss bank account, under his wife’s name; which has seen funds deposited in from the mafia connection. The President so far has refused to comment on allegations but a spokesman has denied involvement, with counter accusations that the General is involved with the heroin trade and using child soldiers. Asked for a response to these claims, General Pero, now the forerunner for the leader of a new political party, The Honest Citizens Union, rubbished the story:
‘The President is a powerful man and I am but an officer in the army. He thinks that setting the press onto me will diminish his wrongdoings but he is wrong. We have a fair and unbiased media who I am proud to say would not publish such tripe.’
Voice of the Country; ‘President impeached over corruption and drug money claims’ (16th Sept.)
Pero’s brand appeal attracted cash cows to the cause. Sponsors and backers were found from within finance and business. Industry leaders would lobby and court Pero for attention and he would lend them a friendly ear. With the army already behind him, all he needed was for the people to follow and he would be unstoppable. A tsunami of change and prosperity.
Out on stages, performing speeches around the city he promised a ‘new, honest politics’ where the truth would be told, no matter how painful. Dressed in his full military regalia he was an impressive sight to behold. The preparations for his final victory must be made; on two fronts, firstly the slums and the city must be cleaned, then his attentions must be focused on securing the country; through democratic means Pero had no doubts about his final triumphant march into the Capital. What glory it must be, to walk into a city as conqueror and relieve the beleaguered populace. To emancipate them from the slavery of the selfish politicians, to set them free.
Pero contemplated destiny; the need for a wife and a child to carry on his dynasty. Why lose everything so easily but for the carelessness of not having an heir? His father maintained a respectful distance over the issue, but offers were there.
He sat in his office in the barracks; in a lush burgundy cushioned armchair. His advisors had left him a book to read, they felt it might help his evolution. Pero took an instant love to the subject matter and had even one phrase from it written across his heart. He could imagine a boot stamping down on the face of humanity for all eternity. He envisioned it being his.
Point of View
The smell of sweat and the metallic tang of iron dwelt unmistakably in the dim atmosphere. A low light bulb, yellowed and faded hung over the centre of the room, casting little light on the faces of those imprisoned there. The scarred soldier was delirious with thirst; he had been here for three, maybe four days and not had a drink in that time. His neighbour groaned and thrashed against his chains; the frustration and futility clear on his face. Both of his neighbour’s feet were oozing blood, smashed bone at the ankle and bent to impossible angles. The soldier looked into his face and saw a young boy looking back, eyes frantic and rolling in their sockets. The sheen of fever on his brow and lips stretched back thinly in a grimace of agony.
Unaware of his environment, he did not notice the big one, the one they called Brutus approaching him from behind. A sharp blow to the soldier’s head sent spit flying and his head rolled back, striking the wall behind with a dull thud. “No talkin’.” He willed his dazed head to nod and lower his eyes, but with his head resting against the wall the scarred soldier’s eyes came to fix on Brutus’. He was a large, cleanly shaven man without a hair on his pate. Supposed to be a favourite of Pero’s from the militia; he was chief of the Shed and nobody dared catch his attention and attendant wrath. Lazily he looked at the torturer, blood on his lips. “What you lookin’ at pretty boy?”
The scarred soldier spat and was saved from making a huge mistake, when fortunately a message arrived at the door and Brutus was called over. The big man grunted as he read the missive before pushing the note back on the delivery boy. The guards were called over and they huddled together for at least five minutes discussing between themselves.
“‘TENSHUN.” The men sprang into line and stood rigidly forming a wall in front of the prisoners.
“Stand down men. Stand down. So, how is this fine evening finding these delinquents and degenerates?” The GAP stepped into the Shed rubbing his gloved hands together. The scarred soldier’s neighbour whimpered. Turning to him, “Shush.” he said through pursed lips, daring him to continue with his eyes. The child quietened but Pero, had noticed the disturbance. Stopping briefly in front of the scarred soldier, he walked on and crouched before the boy. He had close cropped black hair, unevenly hacked away and the fear was writ large in his eyes.
“Do we have a problem here boy?”
The boy held his breath, air slipping out between his lips. Pero moved his face closer in, the boy tried to recoil back dragging his broken feet with him; a trail of blood left in the wake. Pero looked at the boy with undisguised disgust.
“He is no man. Brutus.”
Brutus ambled forward, brandishing a pistol in his hand. Holding it our steadily, he took at the boy’s head. Turning to the other guards he laughed, his arm quaking with deep chuckles. Turning back, he took aim and shot. The boy slumped to the floor. Pero turned once more to the scarred soldier; after looking him up and down he sneered.
“This one will do, we need every available hand for the assault. Well not every hand. What is your name soldier?”
With parched tongue and fever ravaging his body, he rasped out his name. “Joh.”
“Joh. Well Joh today is your lucky day. Your commander is going to show you mercy and in return you’re going to give him glory. Aren’t you Joh?”
Pero nodded vigorously, smiling and encouraging Joh to follow. The scarred soldier tried to nod but could only slump forwards, chin to chest.
“Joh? Don’t give up on me now. My name is Antonio, Antonio Felipe III Pero. You see me Joh? Because I see you. If you ever rebel, I will kill you. And your family, Joh. And your family. Family is important is it not? I have a great father; a very astute and handsome man. He gave me a chance with the blessing of life and now I give it to you. We are family Joh, you, me, your wife and children. The army. This great country. We are all one Joh, you would do best to remember that.”
He gestured at Brutus with a dismissive wave of his hand. “Brutus, remind this man of his commitment to his family.” Pero twirled on his instep and bowed graciously to his sidekick. “Et tu Brutus, if you wouldn’t mind. Et tu.” With that he stood back, arms folded while Brutus approached the scarred man. Taking a hunting knife out from a slip in his boot, he grabbed Joh’s left hand, opening the palm out flat. Bringing the knife point to the centre, spinning the blade, the point digging into his palm; sweat glistened on the surface like diamonds. Brutus raised his arm and thrust the knife down, through Joh’s palm. He felt nothing; then froth on his lips and a scream as the knife was retracted.
“Never forget your family, my man. We all love you dearly. Right, clean him up lads; dispose of the rest.”
She descends the white stairs with a rose thorn buried in Her flesh. Blood mingled beauty and creation. Her eyes plead mercy, Her heart beats harder.
For She is Love and perfect in every way.
She descends the white stairs dressed in blood. The vanquished lie slain at her holy feet. She lays her sword down by Her seat. Arms raised, hands empty.
For She is Glory and perfect in every way.
She descends the white stairs dressed in snakeskin. Spitting venom and swallowing men whole. Eyes black and endless; O Her eyes go through to the depths.
For She is Hatred and perfect in every way.
She descends the white stairs and lies at your feet. Sobbing and tapping Her fingers between toes. Dressed in disgrace and all that behove the wrong.
For She is Humility and perfect in every way.
She raises Her head and stares into your soul. Her gaze looks through the thin veil of mind and mood. She leaves nothing but scorched earth behind.
For She is Confession and perfect in every way.
Sakrisan II, The Hymn of the second Five Blessings
The harlot. The whore. She who tried to turn me away from the true path. She is all that I hate and abhor. Harlot. Whore. Abhor, abhor, abhor! The pain, the shame! A reputation to regain. O Sojourner, you have found the Sakrisan in a state of much distress. My head throbs; with each hammer blow it shouts her name. She has tormented me for too long.
I, E-Azad-kutu-ana; the Ninth Life for the Goddess, the Sakrisan of the Temple of E-ana have sent forth the bailiff of the land. To bring the charlatan; the temptress and the witch Delah before a trial of her peers. I charge her with High Blasphemy and the attempt on my life; under good authority I hold evidence that she is to blame for my ills. Sister Delah must answer for her crimes. She called me a mere mortal, an accursed man. It is lies. Lies!
She recoiled from me as a snake would bite a wolf when all I did was display to her a good heart. She is the temptress, the charlatan who would drive me from the true beauty of the Goddess. For She is who I serve and perfect in every way. For She is who I love and perfect in every way. For She is perfect. Sister Delah lies and deceives and then curses the poor Sakrisan; calls for Lilith to send pain into my joints, a numbness to my spirit.
Her red curls play deceit into my heart. Her beautiful face brazenly speaks falsehoods. The pain and the agony must be cleansed. For she will burn for her treason. Her hair will be the flame and the face must see the Fates. It is not I that wishes this; but the Goddess and the good people of the Valley. For they must endure, so I must endure. Our hearts will heal and there will be grace once more upon us all.
O Stranger, you have been the observer. You have seen her blasphemies and demented will. She placed the Eye upon me, you saw that I am most certain of the truth. You saw her and the Eye. She set the Mistress of the Night, she called for Lilith. My only salvation can be found in my dreams, where the holy Goddess Inanna, O fair maiden, visits me and soothes my troubles while I rest. She has shown me the way, with fire once more. With fire we can be free to love and adore Her magnificence with awe. For She is Beauty and perfect in every way.
I have evidence of her treachery and shall present it at trial. Justice will be served for the people and their Sakrisan. Disease must not fester within for it kills the host. We shall have happiness and contentment. Not illness, sadness, jealousy and hate. For Sister Delah must be jealous of Her love to hate Her so. I implore of you Stranger, speak up at the trial. Speak up so all may hear and know the truth. She has shown us the way; we have studied and saw the clay. We know don’t we, my friend. We know of her ways. O my head, my head it does pain me so.
So, my friend; will you speak up? I accuse the Sister Delah of High Blasphemy in the name of our star in the night sky, O holy Inanna. I demand justice be done. I demand an end to the troubles that the Sister Delah has inflicted upon the land and your people. I serve only You, O maiden; with tenacity and love, with fervour and fate. I serve only You, O holy Inanna. Please hear our pleas; please help your people to endure.
Come; speak up the words with me O Stranger; so that She might hear us:
She descends the white stairs holding a sword and sheaf of corn. Blinding the ignorant, fallen dumbstruck before Her. A body drops slain, a maiden with child.
For She is Justice and perfect in every way
Delah was seated comfortably on a log at the front of the hut, her chin resting gently on her hand. She watched over the fields at the children playing with the animals, chasing the chickens and teasing the goat. Adults and older children at work in the fields; picking fruit and crops, sorting the wheat from the chaff. Flax lay bundled together with twine for papyrus, summer hats and clothes; wool from the sheep balled and ready for winter socks, trousers and gaiters. In every direction activity could be seen, hands in a flurry gathering, winding, picking and storing. She had blessed them with a strong harvest.
In the green fields, the cows fat from the broad pastures and sedate life; the trees in the orchards weighed down by the gravity of their burden. Corn rose to the blue skies for the final time, swaying gently in unison; a snake made of the breeze touching the dripping brows of the sun beaten workers in the fields. Whispers and snippets of talk invaded the motionless air; meaningless arcs and portions of the every day world. Sketches of lives erased as fast as they were drawn.
The pace was slow with the heat; the ground firm and dry, cracked and fissured in the late Summer’s sun. Delah served water to the workers in the fields, walking among them with a bucket and ladle. They drank greedily and thanked her heartily. Walking, one foot over the next, she drifted among the people feeling a peace born of the harvest. Too weak to dance and frolic in the sweltering heat, she sang to them to bring swiftness to their hands and labours.
“This be why at the end of the day, is how we live proud indeed,
From the orchards the apple, the apple good health and deliverer of the seed;
Till, toil, pick and sweat,
The harvest is upon us now,
And it is most gladly well met;
O workers of the field, O you who have tilled, toiled and sweat,
Bring us your bounty; your feast of nature, your toil is most gladly well met;
Till, toil, pick and sweat,
The harvest is upon us now,
And it is most gladly well met;
O workers of the field, O you who have kept the people well fed,
O Blessed of He, Her Dumuzid, who brings life once more to the dead;
Till, toil, pick and sweat,
The harvest is upon us now,
And it is most gladly well met;
O workers of the field, O you who brings the field and bough to life,
With your work, the cold winter moons will hold the people no strife;
Till, toil, pick and sweat,
The harvest is upon us now,
And it is most gladly well met;
People of the Valley, the harvest is upon us, make, make with haste,
There is fruit a-plenty, the fields are fat, and not a moment can go to waste;
Till, toil, pick and sweat,
The harvest is upon us now,
And it is most gladly well met.”
Sakrisan VI, Songs for the Fields
Just before dusk as the workers were winding down their efforts for the day; the bailiff of the land arrived. A burly man with thick forearms and red tufted hair, curls that pulled around his ears and onto his forehead. Delah’s sister greeted him amicably, for they had no issue that regarded the law. Inviting him into the hut for refreshments; he bade an regretful decline and spoke in a deep baritone to the assembled folk.
“I am here for the one ye call Sister Delah of the Valley. She is your sister is she not Ezi?” Looking soulfully at Delah’s sister he continued: “She has done deeds most evil and there is to be a trial for her guilt.”
“You must be mistaken Bailiff Fara-ana; she has been most unwell and banished to bed for recovery. What deeds could she have performed? She who has lost the child of the divine and the spark of life?”
Fara-ana glanced at the pale Delah, ever becoming the shadows as dusk descends. “I have no woe for the Sister Delah; but she is accused of High Blasphemy and I have to insist she accompanies me in preparation for trial upon the Plateau, in the Temple of E-ana. There her guilt and fate will be decided by the people of the Valley and there she must be to speak her innocence. I am sorry Wife Ezi, but she must accompany me.”
Ezi moved to her sister’s side, touching her shoulder with resolve. “No, Bailiff Fara-ana; she will not be leaving my homestead. She will face no trial for she has committed no such deed. High Blasphemy? Delah is a Sister of the Valley, the Blessed of She. A love of Her husband Dumuzid. She has not a blasphemous morsel in her being.” She stared hardily at the Bailiff; “No, I say and no sayeth all the people gathered here. She will not be leaving with you this eve.”
The Bailiff replied; “Let us not fight Wife Ezi; I am but the extension of Her will and She demands the presence of the Sister Delah. Will you not see sense, if your sister does not go for trial, her guilt will be assumed. She must come with me and speak her innocence before the people.”
Delah gripped her sister’s hand and rose to speak. Her sister fussed and made to send her to bed, but Delah resisted and spoke in a clear voice to the Bailiff. “I will accompany thee Bailiff Fara-ana; for it is in exercise of your duties to Her and denying the holy Goddess would be blasphemous indeed.” Her sister made to complain but Delah silenced her with soft fingertips on her lips. “Worry not my sister; for I will speak my innocence and the people will make judgement. Worry not Ezi for I must go with Fara-ana.”
Hugging the children, Ezi and her husband; Delah made for the old dirt track in the company of the Bailiff to make the journey through and up the Valley and unto the Temple. The moon would be high before they reached their destination. Looking skyward, Delah saw the bright star of the magnificent Inanna smiling benignly down on Her children.
Young at Head
“So, what do you think? Is there a happy ending in sight or is it all going end bad? Go on, you can tell old Gibil what you think. He knows how to keep a secret. Gibil never concerns himself with outcomes; gambling, ach who wins but the book makers? No. I like to follow, to observe and work after the furor has died down. Before; it is too hectic for my old bones; my heart cannot take the daily dramas any more. So I sit and watch like a television program; tuning in for the latest updates and tragedies. Tell an old man, what do you think is going to happen?”
“Cough – O my heart and bones are old and creaking and leaking. Gibil needs to be seated on his bony behind heh heh heh. Come with me; there is a bench over by the lamp post, it gives off the most serene shade of light. You can see fairy dust floating on a still night. Heh he- I might be old but I can believe in fairies can I not? Gibil sees your point and will not act the foolish old duffer, but look around you youngster. Look at everything you cannot see and tell an old man that you know and see all. Gibil doesn’t and he is old old old.”
“Don’t be so sure of yourself; what do we know eh? There is only so much time, only so much knowledge you can accumulate. When do we have enough? When do we say to ourselves ‘I now know everything I need to know’? We do not youngster, we do not. Only a fool binds himself to destiny in such a way. To declare ‘I know everything’ is to be the Hanged Man; stuck to only the world you know – a small and stunted place. Gibil knows but does not know. Heh heh heh I like riddles and games. Word games are good for your brain, yes? Keeps you young at head.”
“Stuck in a pre-dic-a-ment. Not a great place to be. And disaster does love company, one leads to the next and so on. I love company and create disaster, no coincidence HEH- cough. Soon all this around us, it will be washed away by the tide. There is always water after fire, calm after storm, like a man following food eh? Soon it will all be cleaned away. Like everything; it is always fleeting, nothing on Earth lasts forever even the world herself. One day she will go “Boom!” and disappear into the long night of space and time.”
“I must apologise for Gibil’s meanderings, I am always like this late at night, beneath the fairy light. Do not look at me like that, I am your senior! There are fairies here, but you have to look close, the dust hides them as they jump from atom to atom. Look closer you will see them. It is good to keep preoccupied, to procrastinate. But, Gibil must leave you now. He must bow out and watch the mess from afar. It is better to watch from above sometimes, see the bigger picture. I see you youngster, I know you. But Gibil is but a humble cleaner and this is not his affair.”
“Yes, after this cigarette I leave you in the capable hands of better and bigger folk than me. Not old men who creak and leak but those who are vital and young – well, for now. Or perhaps having the wisdom of the old but still able to act when Gibil cannot. Or will not. Heh heh heh. There is still drama to unfold and speeches to be spoken. It will be most entertaining I am sure! Let us sit a while in peace, enjoy the night air. Perhaps see if we can catch the fairies, eh? Goodnight for now youngster, may the gods watch your path.”
The Mischief Maker and the Three Traders of Ur
Enki the great crafter of all, created the being Enkidu to watch over Gilgamesh and his burning ambitions. Enki, the father of all beings gave unto his creation a task, to be performed in the City of Ur. Providing his son with a fine horse, glorious woven clothing and a heavy bag of lapis-lazuli; he sent Enkidu forth to complete the lesson, he sent him forth to the great City of Ur.
On arrival in the marvellous Jewel of Man, Enkidu became distracted by the many sights; the bare-chested women with jewels in their navels, the brightly coloured birds from the exotic mysteries of the lands far away and the flesh pits and gambling houses that vied for business with the taverns and street shows. Into one such gambling den did Enkidu spend the first day; losing badly at dice games to three traders of the City of Ur, a third portion of his bag of precious lapis stones went to each.
Awaking in the morning; Enkidu rubbed his eyes and looked around where he had slept. Bodies of men and women in various states of undress; disrobed, unclothed, lay strewn around the floor of the house in which he rested. Stepping gently over slumbering revellers, drunkards and whores; he entered the street and into the City of Ur. To the gambling dens he sought; looking for his three companions of the evening before, for those who had each a third portion of the precious lapis-lazuli entrusted to Enkidu by Enki.
All of the day and unto the moon he searched, until coming upon the Three sat behind a table in a den. Each had their back to the wall, each had an ornate chalice in front, filled to the brim with the sweet wines of Ur. Enkidu approached with salutations and much respect, for the Three were the richest and most powerful of all the traders. With palm on top of head Enkidu bowed to the Three. The First, nodded astutely without words to Enki’s creation. The Second, scowled and drew his purse closer to hand. The Third raised his cup and drank to the son of the Creator.
Enkidu joined the traders with an offer, games of dice to coax the night to good fortune. The traders laughed at his proposition.
“We are rich in all ways, what do we need with your fortune?” Asked the First.
“Why you have nothing left O foolish beggar!” Cried the Second.
“To fortune and games! I raise my cup and drink once more.” Toasted the Third.
The traders whispered among themselves. With heads raised to the interlocutor they assented to the games. Enkidu spoke unto the First Trader:
“Who will pay for the refreshments of the evening, O rich and wise Trader? Let the dice decide; for if I have a lower number than thee, I shall grant the tavern keeper my fine horse in payment for our libations of the night. If you should score lower than I, then you shall pay O Trader. Do you consent to these terms?” Enkidu inquired.
The wise Trader consented and dice were called for. Delivered by slave boy, an ornate dice of jade and ivory was placed before the first Trader. He took up the dice, shook it in his palms and rolled. The number was 3. Enkidu took his turn with the dice and rolled wordlessly onto the table before the traders three. The number was 1.
“Tavern master, I, Enkidu shall pay for the refreshments of the three magnificent gentlemen before me for the eve. My fine horse becomes payment for this debt.”
Enkidu gestured and the tavern keep brought forth his finest wine and filled the cups of the Three Traders of Ur. They drank deeply to the health of Enkidu and his father Enki. To the Second he turned, inviting the next game:
“Who will pay for the companionship of the evening, O rich and prudent Trader?” Let the dice decide; for if I have a lower number than thee, I shall pay for the most skilled and rich women of wondrous device to spend the night with the Three Traders of Ur. If you should score lower than I, then you shall pay O Trader. Do you consent to these terms?” Enkidu inquired for the second time.
The prudent Trader considered the proposal; with cajoling from his companions he consented and once more the dice was rolled. The Second took up the dice. The number was 4. Enkidu sighed, for fortunate was not his fate this evening it seemed. He took up the dice. The number was 1.
Enkidu called for the most magnificent women as companions for the Traders. The women approached, glorious in their costume of gold threads, gems hanging from their headdresses contrasting with the tanned smooth skin. They draped themselves over the Three Traders, in payment Enkidu promised unto them his fine clothes; weaved and conceived by the master creator. To the Third he turned, inviting the next game:
“Enkidu finds you but a beggar with only one item of worth remaining O Trader. I offer you a game of the dice. Whichever of us does have the lowest number; shall pay for the gamble with his life before the night is through. For life is the only possession of priceless worth I own. Do you consent to these terms?”
The Third Trader boomed with laughter, the exotic birds that fluttered in the ceiling of the tavern took flight from the quake.
“I shall receive the offer O penniless and unfortunate beggar, for it is not your fate to win this eve!”
The Third Trader took up the dice. The number was 5. A cheer from the Trader’s companions greeted Enkidu’s crestfallen face. He took up the dice.
The number was 6.
The laughter died as the Third Trader fell face down to the table, alarm and acrimony in his wake. The Second checked for life; there was none. The Third of the companions was dead.
“What is this mischief?” Demanded the First.
“You cheated and lied, O wretched beggar!” Accused the Second.
Enkidu spoke to the Two Traders of Ur with a new offer of a dice game:
“O Traders of Ur, O with wisdom and prudence I offer unto you a game; which offers each of you a gift. To the Trader with the lower number, they will receive a Secret. To the Trader with the higher number, I shall gift unto them the Truth. Do you consent to these terms?”
The traders conferred quietly with furtive looks thrown at Enkidu. Eventually, the First Trader, the wise one replied:
“We consent to your terms, O beggar who brings poor fortune.”
Enkidu placed the ornate dice on the table between the pair. The Second rolled the dice first. The number was 2. The First rolled the dice second. The number was 4. To the First was due the Truth and to the Second was promised the Secret. Enkidu stood by the right ear of the Second, whispering but a few words. The Second collapsed to the table in death.
The First and only remaining Trader of the Three Greatest Traders in Ur stood with alarm:
“What is the meaning of this O wretched beggar? What is the Truth of the matter? Why does the cold grasp of Death follow your words?”
Enki’s creation gestured for the First to return to his seat. Resting opposite him, Enkidu spoke of the Truth:
“O Great Trader of Ur, O he who has fortune and possessions beyond the sight of even the gods. I, Enkidu, promised you the Truth and the Truth is what shall be placed in your exquisite hands. Not less than three suns ago, my creator Enki sent me to Ur with a task. To deliver unto the Underworld, three persons who were overdue, who had tried to escape the Fates with wealth, soft living and slaves to work when they would not. The first two are delivered; the last remains. However, why must Enkidu not perform his duties with a pinch of fun? Come unto me O glorious whores, Tavern Master! Fresh wine for us! For the last batch was poisoned.”
Clutching his throat, the last of the Three Great Traders of Ur began his journey to the Underworld. Enkidu toasted loudly and raucously to the Three:
“May your journey be swift, O Great Traders of Ur!”
Tradition speaks of the way:
I – Assembly
The stone circle dais on the ground floor of the Temple of E-ana is ten strides in bisection. Carved around the edges are hieroglyphics and symbols depicting Her sense, meaning and will. The people of the Valley filed in and gathered around the outside of the dais, leaving only space for an entrance to the East; for that was the direction of Her entry, should She deem to honour them with Her holy presence. The people stood in rows as deep as four and five in places, for many gathered for trials. It was their duty as part of the World to be witness and testament that justice was served truly, for if doubt remained, they must stand and speak for any wrong is everyone’s wrong.
Holding torches aloft for justice must be seen as well as served, the people are respectful in their silence, awaiting the entrance of the actors of the drama to be played before them.
For She is Illumination and perfect in every way.
II – The Magistrate
From the West approaches the Magistrate, a village elder of unsullied repute. Wise and honest, considered and just, he has served as Magistrate three times previously. A greying man with long beard and robust red nose. Stooped but stocky, arms rusted by many long days toiling in the sun and eyes that boast clarity and distinction.
He takes his place, seated upon a bench on the edge of the dais. For the Magistrate hears the accusations and the pleas in good measure, but remains one of the people and as one of the people performs his duty.
For She is the Witness and perfect in every way.
III – The Accuser
The Sakrisan E-Azad-kutu-ana, the Ninth Life for Her, Priest of the Temple of E-ana, enters the dais from the left, palms held out for all to see. Only the truth may be told in trial, nothing may be hidden. Resplendent in red robes of office, grey eyes and fine hair catching the torch light of the people; he begins his litany:
“Brothers and sisters my tongue may not lie. Brothers and sisters I come before you torn apart by grief, ripped to pieces by shame and with the Blessing of our Goddess, the holy Inanna, O Lady of the Night Sky looking down on us from above.
Brothers and sisters, I tell of a tale that is not of fantasy but of devious human intention and the greed for power and glory; for the woman, the Sister Delah committed High Blasphemy unto our beloved Light. She is guilty O brothers; she should be shamed O sisters.
For She is our Guide and perfect in every way.
The Sister Delah did come to me the night of the Festival of Fire; where in the blessed blaze of She, the harlot Delah did try to seduce the Sakrisan on return from the Heavens. I- I was weak O brothers and sisters and did not resist with all my might; but eventually coming to my senses in my love and the Light of the Goddess I did shun the temptress Delah from me before harm could be caused.
Upon my refusal to concede to her animal and carnal lusts for I, the Sakrisan, the Ninth Life for Her can only serve but one Goddess, the immortal and holy Inanna; She who holds our fates within Her holy hands; was to be accursed by the dread witch Delah. ACCURSED. She did curse the Ninth Life for Her, putting all our destinies at stake O brothers and sisters. She has harmed not only the people of the Valley with her witchcraft and blasphemies but also deeply offended the gods. For She has visited me twice in my dreams, to that our visitor can testify.
For proof of the damnation, the liar and hypocrite Delah has brought upon us all, look to the Clerk of the Mercy Well. For she has given me the effigy I hold aloft. Yes, it wears the robes of a Sakrisan, that you see truly. Yes, it bears the resemblance of the Sakrisan, that you can observe. Yes, my name and our combined fates brothers and sisters were written in the book of the Clerk. She has condemned us to the wrath and dire destiny of the accursed. The murderer Delah has condemned us all O brothers and sisters. Listen unto the Sakrisan, justice must be served. We must be free of her evil clasp; her careless disregard for life; her harlotry and blasphemous lusts; her crafting of knowledge that harms not heals, for the traitor Delah has betrayed the order of the Sisters of the Valley. They are there to assist Her and the wrongdoer Delah has gone against the sacred teachings.
Save us all O brothers and sisters and see justice in flame is served to the treacherous lecherous Delah, the fallen Sister of the Valley. Save us I beg of you, I beg of you.
For She is Truth and perfect in every way.”
IV – The Accused
The accused Sister Delah escorted from the right by the Bailiff of the Lands, stood off centre within the dais before the Magistrate and the people. She stopped and looked at the Sakrisan, E-Azad-kutu-ana long in the eye, for he remains until the verdict is passed. Long into his eyes she did stare. Motionless and fixed to the Earth the Sister Delah looked into the being of the Sakrisan. She broke away, looking to the gathered people of the Valley to begin her plea:
“O fair folk of the Valley; I am but one of you, the maiden Delah of the Sisters. You who know me well stand and testify to my innocence. I delivered many of the children of the men and women before me; I have blessed and aided wherever I can. I have tried to offer the love of the Goddess, She who is Perfection to each and all. I have failed.
If I am to be delivered to justice, let it be in the knowledge that I accept my failings; for if I had showed the glory of the Goddess but once, then I should not be standing today before you all.
For She is Mercy and perfect in every way.”
V – The Right of Witness
The Wife Ezi did call to the Magistrate:
“The Sister Delah is no blasphemer, for she was blessed by Her Husband the beautiful lord of Nature with child. The Sister Delah is innocent.
For She is the Mother and perfect in every way.”
“Lies,” snarled the Sakrisan E-Azad-kutu-ana in reply:
“For if the poisonous Delah had been with child of the lord Dumuzid, it should not have perished so. For the children of the gods are half creation and cannot become lost unto us without the blessings of the Holy. The child was falsehood, nothing more than the offspring of an itinerant shepherd, fated to ill health and low life. It died for the Sister’s noxious lies and deceit.
For She is Immortal and perfect in every way.”
The Sisters of the Valley cried together in unison:
“The Sister Delah is but good and true; she has shown compassion and tender mercies for many moons over. This trial is a travesty. The Sister Delah is innocent of all. The Sakrisan does tell falsehood many times over.
For She is the Child and perfect in every way.”
“Silence,” responded the Sakrisan; red robes billowing as he whirled before the gathered people of the Valley:
“Silence O Sisters for you do not know of what you speak. I, the Sakrisan am but Her hands in this land. Where I touch, it is becalmed because She made it so. Sisters, O Sisters, you perform admirable duties, you help as you can. But you do not know of the burden of Priesthood or the zealotry of the pious. You are but simple woodland folk and not versed in the laws of our lands, the laws She did give unto us. A child? One who would lead others into the darkness.
For She is the Law and perfect in every way.”
No further stepped forward from the assembled and made witness before the people and the Goddess.
VI – Judgement
The Magistrate did ponder, sat upon the bench. Of each he looked into the eyes; the Sakrisan’s aflame with zeal, the Sister Delah’s filled with simplicity. The Magistrate looked unto them with sadness and much regret.
He rose to give the judgement:
“Gathered and assembled people of the Valley and Temple; you have come to see justice done in Her name and that it shall be. So be it!
The Sister Delah offers but little in defence but the actions of her life. The Brother Azad-kutu-ana, offers much in evidence and the sacred word of the Holy Inanna. So it must be that the Sister Delah meets with the flame, for the gods have sanctioned and we have witnessed. So be it! So be it!
The Sister Delah is found guilty of High Blasphemy. So be it!”
For She is Justice and perfect in every way.
Wreathed in Flame
What was fated to be will ultimately come to pass.
The crowd are quiet as set upon the stone dais were a pole and kindling arranged in the centre. Not unkindly, the Bailiff of the Land took Delah by the arm and led her to the pyre. As her hands were being bound behind her back, Delah looked to the East entrance; a clear night sky greeted her, not a star to be seen. Her head bowed with red curls loose and hanging low, the will of the gods had been decided and they would not be present for her death. Not a star burned brightly in the night sky.
The Sakrisan was aflame with anger and lust; to see the end of his torment filled his thoughts. He was lost for all time, with victory came only defeat. The end of the object of his adoration and love was to die before him. He was lost with mind swirling patterns of gods, fire and flame. The image of Lilith before him within his dream surfaced like a messenger of urgency, cajoling him to repeat the dreams through his mind.
“O Lilith the everlasting night, O seeker of the dark;
Let us mortals sleep safely, without memory of your daggers mark.”
The words came readily; spilling out over his paranoia and zealotry.
“Do unto Lilith what she wants of you,
Your heart will be black by the day is through.”
The blaze of the torches awaiting the order to douse the pyre with the cleansing fire illuminated the blackness of his heart. Hand on heart, face of fright.
The Sakrisan turns to you:
“Tell me stranger; who are you? You who have dogged my steps these last two moons, listened to my every word? Who are you stranger; someone who would listen and advise in poor faith? Why did you not mention unto me falsehoods and error? Who are YOU? O tell me the truth stranger. Do not stand dumbfounded, SPEAK. Speak stranger, open thy mouth and speak!”
You step forward:
“O Sakrisan, I am but an observer and nothing more. The mischief here is of your own creation. I am but an observer in your dramas and now, terrible tragedy.“
You reveal your true self:
“I am but a simple creation; only prominent to hear your words. Your weak lies and your damnable floridly flowery tales. I am Enkidu living within this listener; and this my fair fellow is your night of glory! O Sakrisan, enjoy the show, the stage is now set. Enjoy the fruits of your labours for glorious triumph is now assured! Fare-thee-well, O foolish mortal. Fare-thee-well O corrupt of spirit man.“
With a flourish and a broad, obvious wink, the Mischief Maker takes his leave. Azad turns back to the pyre to see it set ablaze. Quick and fluid the flames rise and engulf the kindling. Frozen, he watches as the flames tease the flesh of Delah, slowly stripping her bare of garment. Horror, as the fire becomes as one with her, face wreathed in flames, red hair burning with brilliance.
The murmur becomes a scream; a scream becomes two as Azad joins his voice with Delah’s. Arms outstretched to the pyre.
The World stops.
A dove, a bird of white emerges from the burning Sister’s chest. Tips of wing carrying the fire to the air. The dove floats and soars around the temple, glancing and igniting the large wooden supports. The dove dives to the floor to the East. A supernova of colour. Reds, whites, blacks and unnameable colours beyond the ken of mankind sear the flesh of the world.
The Earth resumes once again its relentless journey aimlessly onward until oblivion.
Delah is consumed by the fire; the two screams become one. Azad’s voice fails and dies, a terrible silence descends the Temple, punctured by the crackle of wood splintering in flame yet muffled and sounding distant and alone. The people of the Valley flee the inferno, screaming and praying, stumbling and trampling they flee. All that remains is the pyre and the Sakrisan, now kneeling before Delah. Deserted, he remained in the collapsing Temple. A giant sandstone brick that took an age to make and many lives of men to place comes crashing to the floor nearby.
A support withers in flame giving way, with rock tumbling and blocking the entrance to the West. It matters little for death and destruction will come to them all. The dying embers of the pyre upon the dais are surrounded by a wall of heat. Breathing becomes hard, sight becomes misted. Lie upon the floor and accept the fates that have been assigned. Lie down and die. What was fated to be will ultimately come to pass.
Consciousness slips the grip of the Sakrisan, tears form in his eyes. He has failed. It is time to accept the inevitable. Eyes closed finally, breathing shallow and inconsistent. The end is now nigh.
A melodic and most serene voice sings lightly from the East:
“O Sakrisan, O Priest of the Temple of E-ana I call for you. O holy Inanna does call for the Sakrisan of my Temple. Come unto me O faithful man of mine.”
Act V – The Execution of Her Will
For She is Mercy and Perfect in Every Way
She descends the white stairs dressed in rags and barefoot. Her hair unkempt, Her face dirty and bereft. Her eyes they do scream hunger, Her hands they do tremble.
For She is Poverty and perfect in every way.
Today was the day; plans for the final assault on the slums and neighbourhoods of the poor who encroached on the City before the Valley were set in motion.
At the barracks, grim faced soldiers, child soldiers and their overly attendant and threatening drug runner overseers were waiting for transportation. Choosing himself a position near the back, Joh the scarred soldier shuffled on his feet. Looking at his hand made it throb more, so he paid it scant attention and instead, looked around at the men and boys assembled. So many lives waiting for their doom, here and in the slums.
On the front line of the assembly stood the old Private, flanked by two guards at Pero’s insistence. There was to be no repeat performance and his attendance was required. The other men needed to see him behind the commander in all things. He stood there warily, rubbing his gnarled hands together and flexing. Sooner or later they would have to give him a gun; they knew it and so did he.
Hercules was being loaded, albeit unsuccessfully into a horse box. The commander felt that he should speak to the men before the assault; being on horse back would be the most ostentatious display of his raw power. She bucked and refused, snapping at her handlers as they tried once more to coax her into the box.
General Pero had arrived earlier and was awaiting the time for action in the entrance of the main building. Stood impatiently, smoothing his moustache furiously; he barked curt orders and replies to the men around him. He checked his watch. It was time. Two guards held the glass doors open as Pero made his glorious entrance. As he passed through the doors into the open air, a pigeon crapped on his shoulder. His men looked nervously to one another before Pero burst out laughing:
“It is luck my friends! The sign of good fortune! I shall wear this with pride today. Who among us has not been crapped on before?”
Pero laughed at his wit and the men around him relaxed. As he strode out towards the men assembled, the General saw the difficulties they were having loading Hercules into her transportation. Walking over, shooing away the attendant handlers, he whispered soothingly to Hercules. Approaching her left side, he stroked her nose and mane all the while talking softly into her ear. Pero snapped his fingers together and called for a carrot to be placed in his open palm; which was rapidly obliged. Feeding the carrot to Hercules, he smiled and said to the men:
“You see, she only responds to proud people, aristocrats and noble hussars.”
She continued to munch the carrot until reaching Pero’s fingers. Taking them firmly between her teeth she started applying pressure with a wild glint in her eye. Pero broke out in a sweat; his fingers were in agony in the increasing vice grip of the horse’s teeth, but he was in front on the men and strength must be shown. Gritting his teeth he slowly scraped them out from between Hercules’ grinding molars leaving a trail of skin and blood on his fingers. Finally breaking free, he turned to face the men with hand behind his back shaking it furiously.
Field reports from the slums were not as promising as they had assumed. There was organised resistance this time; barricades had been erected all over so the assault would need to be on foot, house by house. Pero’s advisors talked through their strategies for the upcoming battle with him; but he hushed them with a wave of his hand.
“None of you here have the blood of Julius Caesar or Napoleon. None of you have the wit or intelligence. I shall dictate the orders myself from the field.”
And so Pero stood before the men; their ultimate commander, his injured hand tucked into his shirt in the front as though covering his heart. The other arm gesticulated wildly with each assertion of their assured victory.
“This is for the country; we let things go to far. Too far.”
He spoke at length before finally ordering the transportation of the soldiers to the business district of the City; to where it met with the slums, gambling dens and brothels. They were arranged there haphazardly; unloaded from their trucks and given no specific orders about formation, groups or even what they should do. The men crowded across the street as guns were assigned. To the bemused office workers it appeared like a protest, although once the guns appeared and the obvious connotations associated with a large presence of armed military encouraged the managers to dismiss the staff early in the surrounding buildings. Office workers mingled briefly with men in military fatigues, snippets of conversation between the two parties; some jovial when accidentally meeting an acquaintance, others less friendly when the soldiers became unruly and started harassing the female workers with leers and crude offers.
Finally, the street was quiet. The men still in disarray stood across the road while Pero shouted his orders on foot, stood on top of one of the trucks.
“Men.. My countrymen, my brothers. Today we are to begin a new era of prosperity where the bravest are rewarded and take what is owing. Today, we are owed everything. These people in the slums, the whorehouses, the gambling pits and pornographers; the poor and their constant grasp for more. Grabbing at our coats for something they wouldn’t ever bother to earn themselves. Greedily demanding we give them everything and we go without instead. No more.
Go into the slums, these dens of rats and sewer animals. Go in there and sweep it away from our fair City. For the COUNTRY!”
As Pero finished, he slashed his arm through the air leaving only a finger pointing towards their destination. The men charged, in groups of two and three initially. They kicked down doors, throwing grenades into the dark interiors of the buildings nearby. The push of soldiers and boys through the street left two children, two boys crushed under the stampede. Their broken bodies left stranded near the modern art sculptures saluting the office buildings.
The old Private was caught in the first wave. They had not given him a gun and instead laughingly told him when asked what he should fight with, to use his fists. He was pushed along by the surge of humanity towards a huge barricade they lay down the street in the slums. As they approached, it was set ablaze, driving the soldiers back with the fierce heat. A mercenary stumbled and fell, clutching his chest. Blood seeped from his mouth as his sightless eyes gazed toward the barricade. The old Private grabbed his pistol and pushed his way through the throng into a side alley.
The fighting was bloody. Men and boys pushed to the front of the assault were shot down by people from behind the barricade. Their bodies skidding on the slick road and crumpling to a halt before the pyre. The soldiers took cover behind anything they could find, grenades were thrown and a hole was blown in the barricade. Smoke and flames, the smell of gasoline and metal pervaded and invaded the senses of the fighters. The resistance dropped back and took cover within houses and businesses, pushed back until they were dispersed across the slums. Soldiers kicked down doors, dragging the inhabitant out by the hair and shooting them in the street. On another street, a body of a man, machete buried in his side lay collapsed in the doorway of a hovel. Within crouched Joh; the man would not listen to his pleas, his assurances he would help, and attacked him with the knife. Joh disarmed him but he would not stop until he was left with no choice.
Inside the hut was dark and humid, there was no real electricity in the slums and a wrong step was a potential death trap. He grasped around, trying to find a cupboard or side. He found one and within the top draw he found candles and matches. He heard a noise from the other side of the hut. Dropping to a crouch, the scarred soldier quietly raised his weapon in the direction of the sound.
“Who are you?” He growled. A whimper was the response. Lowering his gun, Joh lit a candle with the matches drawing in light to the darkened room.
“P-Please don’t kill me.” A girl, of no more than seventeen with dirty long blonde hair, bedraggled and uncared for sat hunched in the corner, chin resting anxiously on her skinny white knees. Wearing a simple summer dress of blue she looked at Joh imploringly. “Please don’t kill me.” She whispered again crawling towards Joh whilst pushing her dress off her shoulder revealing skinny naked shoulder. She was crying. “Please don’t kill me.”
Joh recoiled. “No girl; keep your clothes on,” he murmured softly. She looked up at him and he tried to smile. “You’re safe, don’t worry. But you need to get out of here.”
The scarred soldier took her by the hand; it was so weak and fragile in his. He cautiously leaned out of the hut, looking both ways. It seemed as though the fighting had moved on, the street was silent. Slowly, keeping his back to the wall he crept outside with his rifle raised. There was nobody there. A few white chickens pecked at the floor some hundred metres up the road. Washed clothes and sheet were tied to lines suspended between the huts, once billowing in the storm of fighting, now hung limply and lifelessly.
“Come on.” He grasped the girl’s hand and they ran. Through the slums, death and the smell of decay and raw sewage everywhere. Joh saw the forest on the border of the slum. Pointing he said, “We’ll make for there; try and get away from the fighting.” The girl nodded eyes wide and trusting. There was no sign of a living soul as they neared the forest. Joh ceased to run cautiously and they ran quickly towards the tree line. The last row of huts remained before-
“What did I say I would do if you rebelled again?”
For She is Lust and Perfect in Every Way
She descends the white stairs, perfumed and adored. She makes the men whirl, the women a-whore. She brings us enjoyment, She brings us delight.
For She is Lust and perfect in every way.
“O Sakrisan, O Priest of the Temple of E-ana I call for you. O holy Inanna does call for the Sakrisan of my Temple. Come unto me O faithful man of mine.”
His cheek crushed against the rough stone floor; the Sakrisan E-Azad-kutu-ana opened his eyes a crack. At first there was nothing; then a blur of orange and red. Slowly his vision focused and through the heat and the haze of the flame he could see the outline of a woman stood at the East entrance. She was short, tanned and had long black hair, all else was obscured by the flames between them. Grunting, he closed his eyes. Drool began to accumulate and rivulets of saliva fled from his mouth.
“O E-Azad-kutu-ana, I call for you; your Goddess Inanna calls for you. For She is most lonesome and alone. The Holy Inanna is lonesome and in need of your sweet company.“
His eyes flicked open at the mention of his name. The figure beyond the fire was leaning back against the wall of the entrance; arms raised high and head writhing. Another large stone fell from the ceiling and shattered on the floor sending debris flying and forcing a wracked cough from Azad’s lungs. A fine layer of dust settled like snow over his face. It was peaceful once more. Sleep beckoned.
“Look unto me O Sakrisan of my temple; look unto your Queen Inanna. For the moon herself would bless our union. For Nanna herself lends her light to our lust.”
Grumbling an incoherent murmur from cracked and dusty lips, Azad groggily looked to the East once more. There, in the doorway stood the woman. She was formed like a star, with arms and legs wide apart. Her head was tilted back into the gaze of a full moon, giving her face the visage of a silver landscape. Her beautiful face. Wide clear eyes of brown, small nose and chin with a twisted smile that invited further attention.
He tried to raise himself; arms weakened and choking, with soot and dust streaked face he looked again at the woman. She was dressed in strands of gold, a dagger on her waist, the pommel shaped like an ibex leaping. She looked at him and stooping to a crouch, beckoned with her index finger and sang sweetly:
“O mortal man, crawl unto your Queen. O Inanna needs your flesh by her flesh; needs your flesh by her flesh and sweat and tears to mingle. O come unto the holy Inanna, for the Heavens await.”
Azad choked again on the smoke, it was rapidly filling the Temple. Flame crept up the walls, blackening the stone. Huge beams of oak chopped and lovingly carved into the great supports of the upper floors were alight. The blaze was everywhere, yet the Sakrisan sat within a circle of safety where no flame had entered. He dragged himself forward, his legs and feet numb and useless. Grasping the gaps between the floor stones, he pulled himself toward the edge of the circle of flame. He would need to stand to reach the woman. On trying to rise up, his lame legs gave way and sent him crashing against the floor, splintering a tooth as his face collided with unyielding stone.
The woman laughed gaily as a songbird. She sang once more for her troubled and embattled love:
“O joy of my heart, O heat in my thighs; you must come to your holy Queen, for she needs you now.”
Grunting he pulled himself back onto his front and crawled through the flame. The agony was unbearable for the flame licked and consumed him; searing flesh and burning hair. Beyond the circle, Azad felt strength return to his limbs and rose. The woman was a wonder of wonders, dancing in the moonlight with the doorway framing her splendour. She looked to Azad and smiled; slowly untying a strand of gold and letting it slide away revealing a sliver of thigh around which was tied a red cloth strip. The strand of golden weave fluttered to the floor and hissed before disintegrating to ash. Behind him, a stone crashed once more to the floor but he was unaware, caught within the trap of her beauty and sensuality.
In a trance state he stumbled towards her, arms hanging limply by his sides, his glorious robes of office relegated to tattered artefacts of another life. She laughed once more at the sight of her love, the sight of his will to meet for their blessed tryst.
“O my lord and lad what battles you have fought in; in what battles you have slain many to come unto me dressed so. O my sweet Sakrisan, your clothes are unbecoming; your clothes are unbecoming of your holy Queen.”
She turned from him. He cried aloud and raised his strength-less arms. He tried to shout for her to look back. The woman peered back over her shoulder and with drowsy eyes, untied another strand revealing a glance of back and further more. With a guttural moan he stumbled forwards to the entrance of the Temple; a beam fell and struck a blow to his shoulder, sending him sprawling not five strides from the archway. She turned to him and crouched once more, blowing her aromatic breath to him. It smelt of pomegranate and plum, he could taste the sweet fruit. Her finger beckoned him once more, with long nails and rings. Bangles of metal on her arms striking together in harmonious rapture.
Azad rose and walked once more, his pilgrimage almost complete. She looked to him and smiles alluringly as he approached. The chaos of the Temple behind him, flames wild in their hunger as they tore through the holy enclosure. Rock melted as the heat soared from his hunger for her. The tinkling of her laughter resounded once more.
For She is Glory and Perfect in Every Way
She descends the white stairs dressed in blood. The vanquished lie slain at the holy feet. She lays her sword down by Her seat. Arms raised, hands empty.
For She is Glory and perfect in every way.
The air was crisp, the sky was blue and the sound of heavy gunfire was somewhere in the distance as Pero stood enjoying the early morning sun. He had sent his two bodyguards away; “Go and join in the fun,” he ordered and was left alone as the battle raged on. Every so often a boy, one of the press ganged soldiers would appear from a side street or alley looking confused. He would shout for their attention and once gained, took a shot at them with his pistol. Sometimes he hit them, sometimes not. But they all ran or limped away, back into the fray. Pero laughed at their impotency.
Walking with hands crossed behind his back and chin held high, the hair of his black moustache tingled with vibrancy. This was what life was about; these moments and the pleasure before he got what he desired. Pero saw chaos as a tool of creation from which was born the new, the stronger and wiser. Today, he was creating a new world. Today, he was a god. Men obeyed his command, enemies were vanquished. What he dreamed of became reality, his hands moulding their shape.
He imagined the press conferences and intimate interviews: his immediate future as the rising prince of the press. He designed the motif of his new insignia, to be made into a swimming pool for children to play in. A new country and with it a new symbol of pride, and it was all to be his.
In the still air he floated, buoyed and drifting with his imagination and excitement. Nobody approached him nor came within sight after a few hours. Pero walked forth into the poor areas to inspect. The burned out brothels, the destroyed cheap cinemas with their faulty neon lights blackened with soot, fractured by shrapnel. Stepping over bodies of men, women and children; some wearing uniform others in harsh brightly coloured nylon and pauper’s fabrics of cloth cast offs and worn hand-me-downs.
There would be a park here, he decided. Where good people can have picnics and walk their dogs without being mugged or cheated. A splendid park where everyone is wearing bright smiles and clean clothes and they all adore him, Pero, the individual who gave them prosperity and peace. The burnt out tenement block would be a playground. The rubble that was once a convenience store: a car park with cheery attendants standing to attention, ready to help the customers and good people who visited this new miracle of rebirth.
He thought of the new youth he had formed from the detritus their parents had left behind. The boys filled him with pride; they were his personal achievement. A new generation of men; stronger and fitter than any before. Pero had made a new breed of man, the civilian soldier. From now on, all boys from the age of six would begin military training. It would be the first command of his new government. The second would be to invite the business leaders in; they would discuss the victory and how best to use the new power they had. He would suffer them, fools that they were. He needed munitions and industry and they had the key to the long-term future fruition of his desires.
There was a World out there that was crying for Pero. Wailing and beating their chests in the frustration of being frustrated. Unable to articulate for themselves what it is they hated about the World; Pero would help and put the words in their mouths for them. He would show them the right way. Around the World, his portrait will hang on banners like in the history book he read. Brother Pero is watching you!
Pero walked on through the smouldering ruins and tracks littered with corpses. Against an undamaged shack lay a rusty ladder to the roof. Squinting and covering his eyes with a hand, he looked up at the corrugated roof. It looked sound enough. Holstering his pistol, Pero climbed the ladder and had the view of a god. In front of him, in almost all directions lay shacks, pressed against once another. A forest nearby finished the border. The sun high in the sky, hanging over the mountains and the Plateau. He turned slowly in a circle, basking in the sunlight. This was his glory: burning shacks, explosions and gunfire. Opening his eyes with a contented sigh he saw in the distance a pair of ants running towards him; a man in soldier fatigues holding the hand of a blonde girl in a blue dress. They were headed toward the forest; Pero frowned and climbed down quickly. Taking shelter and shade within a doorway, he waited for them to arrive. Patiently smoothing his moustache whilst leaning on the door frame.
Loud footsteps; one heavy wearing boots, the other light and barefoot. They flashed by, a streak of blue and green, the girl’s hair trailing behind her. Pero grinned in recognition and stepped out from the shade:
“What did I say I would do if you rebelled again?”
The pair froze.
For She is Love and Perfect in Every Way
She descends the white stairs with a rose thorn buried in Her flesh. Blood mingled beauty and creation. Her eyes plead mercy, Her heart beats harder.
For She is Love and perfect in every way.
Behind him lay the Temple, engulfed and overwhelmed. In front was Her, the Goddess Inanna. She looked at the Sakrisan coyly:
“O Sakrisan keeper of my Temple; O mortal man protector of my sanctuary; how much does thee adore your holy Inanna? How much would thee sacrifice for the love you have for your Queen?”
Azad coughing from the smoke billowing out of the Temple looked at the Goddess filled with shame and self pity. The fire roared and further bricks came loose. The Temple was falling behind him but he could only gaze to the Goddess for She was overpowering. Will crumbling, he fell to his knees before Her, head bowed he spoke:
“O Holy Queen of Heaven and Earth; the magnificent Inanna, daughter of holy King Anu; your servant is bereft of strength and lost in destiny. He is not worthy to serve Inanna, the eight pointed Star, he is not worthy to live in Her glory. I forsook the maiden Queen for a mortal, a mere mortal. She- she has gone unto the Underworld and it was of my making. O holy Inanna, forgive thy servant for his mortal frailty, his fragility of spirit and dissipation of will over desire. Your servant accepts his wrongs and his deserved fate.”
Falling to hands and knees, Azad awaited the judgement but none was forthcoming. The Star in the Sky laughed and walked slowly around him in a circle, touching his crown with a fingertip painted plum. She came to a halt once more to face him; lifting his chin with the same finger gently, She peered curiously then looked away, downcast.
“O Inanna cannot be loved! The holy Inanna is unlovable! She is forsaken by Her servant who has no love to spare. No love to spare and the well has run dry; all love has become ruin. To ruin goes hope. With hope goes Inanna. For She is unlovable, a mortal could never adore such imperfection and disgrace.”
From the Temple came a shuddering sound that reached the ears of all who lived within the Valley, a sound they dared not speak of nor dream. For this day was to be their fated day and the Temple came crashing to the floor in an almighty thunder, sending stone and dust outward with such force as to reach the start of the Valley. Rock rained down, wood shattered and burned. The Gardens, once luscious with growth and fruit reduced to rubble and twisted vine. The cold of the night fell sharply; the winds arose and carried the ruins to the far corners of the Plateau. Scattered they became, the memory of the glory and light of the temple dimmed, extinguished. The wind devoured the remnants of the blaze, and then it too left the Plateau once more.
“Am I not lovable sweet Azad?”
Eyes wide, filled with fear of his rejection; nervous of glance and deserted by calm, the maiden Goddess continued:
“My sweet Sakrisan. My wondrous Azad, can you not be bright of eye? Can you not be bright of eye for your Goddess and light?”
He looked up with compassionate tears:
“O holy Inanna! My Queen, my guide, my everlasting light; You are most worthy of the love of all. You are worthy of the love of all men, alas I am wretched but adore and love you until distant days. Until the Stars have shone and the Sun has become the blackness. I pledge my ever more love to you my sweet Queen, O magnificent daughter of the great Anu.”
She pulled him to his feet and sang with delight:
“O glorious mortal, O clay made to life; your Queen accepts your pledge. Your pledge to serve and adore for ever and for more. To love Inanna, to be at Her side. Embrace me my love; embrace your holy Inanna with adoration and love and all once more will return to goodness. Goodness and sweetness and all that is deserved. For your place at my side is now my love, wholly reserved.”
Drawing himself shakily to his feet, the cacophony and destruction still ringing in his ears he looked to his Queen. They embrace so closely, so tightly that they meld into one. His head against Hers, his whispers of devotion. Her hand drops to Her dagger with the ibex poised to leap and rests it so.
In the night; two eyes observed, ceaseless and unblinking.
For She is Death and Perfect in Every Way
She walks among the hags, in the deepest of night. She dresses in white, her footsteps a-light. She taketh the old, She taketh the new.
For She is Death and perfect in every way.
The end is nigh. What was meant to be must now happen. The end is upon us all.
Particles of dust were falling, dark snowflakes of the devastation. The rampage battled on through the slums. The fighting fierce and determined; the rebels, the poor, displaced and migrants in search of money to send home stood firm against the onslaught. Bullets fired and bodies fell in slow motion; the blood and death in vivid black and white, colour and life long since left. Unreality and melancholy on the faces of the combatants; comrades and neighbours lost in the fighting. Families wiped from memory; to be remembered only by the dead.
The old Private ripped his army shirt from his back and threw it to the floor. Spitting on it he walked into the slums, away from the fighting. Eyes looked on him as he strode onward. Slum dwellers made to stop him, but were discouraged by their companions. Pulled away gently, “Let him through.”
With pistol in hand he walked on. The chaos of the slum devouring him; explosions and fire in the vicinity. Dropping to a crouch, he peeked around a corner. Three criminals disgracing the uniforms Pero had awarded them were pushing a small boy around between them, laughing. The boy wearing regulation boots was one of Pero’s orphans; children torn from their mother’s arms and forced into murder at the barrel of a gun. The child soldiers; the pawns of the unforgivable, unrepentant murderers of hope and innocence.
He approached them unafraid, unstoppable and shot the three dead, leaving the boy stood frozen to the spot. The boy cowered and liquid trickled from his shorts. The old Private crouched and turned the boy gently to him and smiled. Holding the boy’s head in the palm of his hand he whispered for him to leave this place, find somewhere quiet and safe. “Run”, he said with a dry throat, “go away from the noise and guns, run the opposite way.” The boy’s eyes, still wide with fright now changed to determination and understanding. He reached to the old Private and ran a hand over his battered and weathered face and said: “Mikael.”
With a quick smile the boy departed, running away from the battle. The old Private loaded his gun once more and understood what his purpose was. His part in the tragedy was clear.
Standing he looked to his surroundings and retraced his steps back to the front lines. They were clear now; all that remained were the ruins of battle and the sacrifices to vanity that lay scattered and unattended. He walked among the bodies closing the eyes of both soldier and citizen alike. He wished them good luck and good journey. Not a single living person was in sight as he moved forward through the destruction. The sun high in the sky beating him with unrelenting heat, he looked up shielding his eyes. A figure against the sun standing on a hut. An unmistakable figurine of deep shadow, one he could identify in the anger of his dreams. Stood silhouetted against the sun with arms outstretched before stopping suddenly and turning toward the East, where a forest lay.
Quickly the old Private ran in the direction of the figure and forest. He slowed on approached and heard a voice and a scream. Pointing his pistol before him, he turned the corner to see three people. Pero, a soldier and a young girl. The girl was lying on the floor, looking upwards terrified. The soldier was heavily scarred, a veteran of a tank battalion. A good man with a good heart called Joh. A family man with a wife and son. The old Private remembered Joh as all of his men. The soldier had been disarmed and was faced by Pero. The General stood pistol to Joh’s forehead, talking softly:
“This is my World now Joh: my World. Not yours or hers. You’re done here. And I am only just beginning Joh. This is the start of greater things, bigger plans.”
The old Private hoarsely barked: “Drop your gun you idiot.” at Pero. “Drop your gun and fight me like a man,” he added as he walked within a metre of the three.
Pero laughed; “Oh what are you doing here? You think you can stop me? You never could stop me you old fool. Never. You haven’t learned that yet? Pero cannot teach an old dog new tricks, so I’ll have to put him down instead; before he turns rabid. Walk away old dog; walk away with your tail between your legs.”
The old soldier held his pistol to Pero’s head. “If you kill him I will kill you.” He stated flatly, without emotion.
Pero laughed heartily, his cheeks flushing red and glossy moustache bouncing with each guffaw. “You cannot kill me you old mongrel; I am your master, I am your King. Now go, find a corner before I beat you.” He said in a lyrical tone as his laughter began to fade.
To Joh, Pero spoke in an imperious tone:
“It’s time to go, Joh. Oh no!”
Two gunshots were heard; birds in the trees of the forest scattered, dispersing to the four corners of the world. The girl with the dirty hair screamed, long and piercing; scrambled to her feet. With a brief glance at the old Officer, she ran not for the forest, but for the Valley, where she belonged. Dropping his pistol by the two bodies, tears formed in the eyes of the old Private. He felt weak, broken. He was tired. He missed his wife terribly. His leaden heart ached.
He walked to the trees sobbing. Stopping to lean against the truck of an oak, he cried and called for his wife. His voice hoarse and cracked, he shouted at the trees around him.
Where was She? Where was the Light of his life?
He stood and looked once more to the slums before disappearing into the dark forest in search of what he had lost.
For She is Justice and Perfect in Every Way
She descends the white stairs holding a sword and sheaf of corn. Blinding the ignorant, fallen dumbstruck before Her. A body drops slain, a maiden with child.
For She is Justice and perfect in every way.
Grasping Azad close unto Her the embrace warm and tight, the Goddess Inanna did whisper in his ear:
“Worry not Azad, O worry not faithful servant of Inanna for the maiden Delah does dwell in the night sky with Me. The maiden Delah will dwell forever in the night sky with the Eight Pointed Star, living in memory and shining bright unto eternity. But you, O Sakrisan, you must atone for your crimes.”
With hand clamped round his neck She lifts him from the floor. His eyes agape with shock and surprise; he claws at Her hands but to no avail. The holy Inanna looks up to Azad with curiosity and interest; studying his face as he thrashes and pulls at Her fingers.
“O accursed mortal; O weak and cowardly man. Did you not look unto Delah as She burned, as She burned with your hot lies. Well, O mongrel most vile, you shall no longer talk. Your tongue will be silent, silent as the long night without the light of the Moon to aid your sight.”
Squeezing his throat, She forces Azad’s tongue loose from behind his bluing lips. With dagger of ibex handle, She slices and drops it to the floor, where it burns brightly with a green flame. Lowering him to the floor, the Goddess releases Her grasp leaving Azad choking, gasping for breath as blood dripped from his mouth. He looked up to her with perplexed horror.
The Queen walks slowly, languidly once more in a circle around Azad, as he follows her gaze whilst on hands and knees. Blood pools beneath him, the dark fluids gathering. She points to a star, bright in the darkness. Pure and white, warming the Earth:
“That O servant is the maiden Delah; the maiden Delah you will see every night from now unto distant days. For you are accursed Azad-kutu-ana of the Temple of E-ana. You are accursed thrice so. For the death of the innocent maiden Delah you have been delivered unto silence. For the love you forsook for your Goddess Inanna-“
She picks up Azad once more by the throat, holding him in place whilst slicing away the tattered and scorched remains of his robes of office. Deliberately and with great care as Azad wailed in agony, She drew the Eight Pointed Star upon his chest.
“For the love you forsook for your Goddess Inanna, may you be reminded daily of your vows and love. Of Inanna’s love and compassion for the Sakrisan, the Ninth and last Life of the Temple of E-ana.”
Dumbstruck and in great pain Azad looked to Inanna before him and tried to mouth the word ‘third?’. Sticky blood seeped from between his fingers on his chest and abdomen, where the blade had left a perfect relief of the Eight Pointed Star for him to carry unto death.
The Goddess smiled:
“O Sakrisan, weak and cowardly worm; death will not come unto you. Death will not come unto you and release you from your pledge to your Queen. For you will walk the night with Me, gathering unto the Earth the dead and diseased. You will walk the night unto distant days being the digger of graves, the guider of the dead to the Underworld, to the arms of my Sister, the wondrous and dread Erishkigal. So be it O Sakrisan, so be it!
You will not lack for company O accused mortal for you will see that those who make the Goddess Inanna BEG for the love of a mortal are never forgotten. O sweet Azad you did make your Queen beg your sweet mercies and that will remain seared onto your being unto the end of all time.”
Turning to the broken remains of the Temple she proclaimed loudly to the people of the Valley:
“O people of the Valley, O those who have lost the love of the maiden Inanna, daughter of Anu. I do curse you to an eternity of war and bloodshed. Nothing will grow apart from seeds of violence; the weak and desperate will be drawn here only to be betrayed by the greedy and malevolent. For in payment for My Sister Delah, this place is accursed for ever more.
I curse this place to never-ending war, until the day My temple stands once more.
So be it! So be it!”
To Azad She sneered:
“There will be death and no glory to be found here O accused man, but your work will be long and ever needed. You will receive neither joy nor payment for your servitude for now and for ever more. So be it you night rat, so be it.
Now be gone from this place of desecration and desertion of the holy gods. Leave this place but know you can never leave this Plateau or Valley; you must always return each night and perform your duties. Be gone from My offended sight. Justice has been done this night.”
Quavering and mumbling nonsensical noise, Azad rose and scurried away into the night.
From the darkness came a quake of feminine laughter and Lilith did enter the stage from the shadow in the left:
The Black Ballad of Lilith
With laughter so light and black dagger in hand,
Lilith in dance and in shadow enters the land,
To Inanna she turns and draws tall to command,
‘O Lilith does deliver the Queen a sweet message to understand:
‘O ripe maiden Inanna, the glory of the night,
She is the one who makes the heron take flight,
She is the one who makes my eye sparkle bright,
This evening you follow me where the Sun cannot alight;
To the darkest of places we go, where seekers avoid,
Where the creatures that dwell are savage and annoyed,
Where the shadow does eat all and maketh a void,
To the darkness we go, the Lady Lilith will not be toyed;
Where the creatures that dwell do defend you from rescue,
And the shadows that play will devour your virtue,
Where Lilith will disrobe and lie with you,
And there be no windows, no light in which to take view;
In the depths of the dark we dwell together in peace,
Your skin of velvet, your lips of cerise,
My ardour for the Goddess shall seldom cease,
Inanna my love; now come to the Lady Lilith, my scanty clad tease!’
Inanna does recoil from the Lady of the Night,
‘O scoundrel, O crook, Inanna surely will fight,
To battle we commence, I will not suffer this sleight,
My blade will fall on thee Lilith, fall from great height.’
The maiden Inanna draws her dagger and does battle,
Thrust and parry, metal on metal,
Back and forth, the Queen Inanna in fine fettle,
The Lady Lilith steps back laughing ‘O your blows are most estimable!’
‘Fight me you hag, you creature of shadow,
I shall be the victor of this tale of woe,
Inanna shall win, leaving Lady Lilith nought but sorrow,
For the Queen Inanna shall strike you, with death in one blow!’
The Queen Inanna raises her dagger and does fight,
The Lady Lilith is stronger and strikes her with might,
The Queen Inanna does flee and change to a Kite,
The Lady Lilith conjures a cage and stops her from flight;
‘In my golden cage lies Inanna, the Queen of the Sky,
For what Lilith does claim and no rival will vie,
The enchantments of the Lady Inanna mine to untie,
O glory this night, the Lady Lilith and the Queen Inanna together shall lie!’
To the ruined Temple did the Lady Lilith go,
With Golden cage, mirthful laughter and chaos in tow,
To the Temple ruins, from where the beginnings did grow,
To the World, Lady Lilith waved goodbye and made for a barrow;
To the darkest place they fled, ever to remain,
The cursed Plateau and Valley where life is in vain,
Death and bereavement where the people are slain,
Led to cheap death by those of scant restrain;
The death of Pero – a fate most deserved,
The life of Guzu, with innocence preserved,
The horror of wars, morality wavered,
The lies of man, so thoroughly undeterred;
The Everlasting Night does fall on the Plateau,
The place will remain one forever of sorrow,
Darkness lingers while Inanna lays victim to harrow,
To the end we must travel, to the end we must go.
The Black Ballad of Lilith
The Everlasting Night
I placed my hand once again into the object, or area of whatever this substance might be. It has the feel of a soupy mist, almost tangible to the touch yet leaving no trace on removal or any residue. It is without a doubt the darkest sight I have ever laid eyes on; darker than the nights of the Papuan jungles. Whereas head-hunters were the concern in Papua; the growing mistrust between Charles and I is becoming rather alarming. It is not the place of the help to question the master, either through verbiage or demeanour. Hence I undertook to teach Charles a lesson in humility with my crop and beat him black and blue.
I do not appreciate the sullen looks he keeps giving me.
The black object is so dark and deep. It seems to travel on forever.
I awoke earlier than my usual routine this morning as I had business to attend to. Taking it upon myself to offer myself, a civilised man the correct respect and protection deserved of someone with my intelligence and well-traveled experience; I killed Charles before he would do me harm. I approached him in his sleep and stabbed him through the neck with my trusty knife which has served me well all over the World when dealing with the unruly help.
The weather still being most inclement chilled me to the bone; therefore utilising whatever I had to hand was of the utmost importance and I undertook to skin Charles with his strange knife he used on the frozen donkeys. It was most efficacious and I was able to sit within Charles’ skin which provided me with a adequate level of fat to absorb most of the cold. For food, Charles provided sustenance as I dug around the black object in an effort to see it more clearly. It is mesmerizing. Surely a cheap trick, I considered initially; but lo! The object grew in my mind until it became prevalent.
The everlasting night. It is dark. It is long.
The night is long and she comes for me. I know it! Charles does too! Tell them!
Charles help me!
The Everlasting Night is here…
These were the final words in the journal discovered by locals on the Plateau located in _______. With the journal they found the renowned explorer, botanist and entrepreneur Sir Randolph P. Bottomley, son of Baron Grayson F. Bottomley and heir to the Baronet of ______ in rural Clwyd, North Wales in the United Kingdom. Sir Randolph was found in a state of distress, wearing what was described as an outfit granted to him by a local witch doctor by witnesses.
He returned to the United Kingdom the same year by steamboat, a journey that took 6 months. He was deposited at the request of his relatives in the Regency Asylum in Camden, North London where he remains for a period of convalescence.
Richard S. Bottomley, London, England 1842
The Brothers (Epilogue)
The Sun arose in the East and the brothers woke early and dressed. Walking out onto the veranda, Azad-kutu-ana and Pad-hu-ana; the Ninth and Second Lives for Her stretched their weary bodies and considered the day’s work.
“Cat got your tongue, Azad?”
It was the same tired joke from Pad-hu every morning. The Second Sakrisan scratched viciously at his leg as the silent Azad looked on grimly. The air was crisp, it was a fine morning. The sky blood drenched as the Sun rose, spreading its gaze across the Plateau and Valley below. In the distance, smoke could be seen rising from the slums and city. From that direction came an army truck, driven slowly and carefully.
“It’s the boss today, right?” Asked Pad-hu. Azad nodded in assent.
The truck made its tired and deliberate way up the track to the brothers’ farmstead before coming to a halt five metres from the veranda. The driver’s door opened with a creak and a figure stepped out, wheezing and huffing. The door was slammed closed and out emerged a figure dressed in the beige brown nylons of a domestic worker. Replete with light brown leather belt and name tag slightly askew off centre to the right hand side of his chest; Gibil the Purifier reached into his pocket and withdrew a packet of cigarettes.
The brothers looked at one another before closing in on the old man.
“Good morning,” he coughed, before being seized by a fit of spluttering and wheezing.
“Morning boss,” replied Pad-hu. Azad held up a palm in recognition and bowed slowly in respect.
“Two customers; round back. You’ll know ’em.”
The brothers walked to the back of the lorry and let down the backboard, within were the corpses of General Antonio Felipe III Pero and Joh, the scarred soldier.
“Come over here youngsters,” called Gibil. The brothers returned and stood before him.
“They can wait; we should attend to our visitors first, no?” Gibil the Purifier said, whilst jerking his thumb towards you.
“Goodbye my friends, perhaps we meet again heh heh- cough”
Gibil the Purifier waves at you; Azad-kutu-ana and Pad-hu-ana both raise their right arms in synchrony, fold in their elbows and wave goodbye to you. Goodbye from the Plateau.