Chapter 7: A Vision's Dream
(1164 BC Earth Time)
She moved Talmido in such a way as he had never before experienced, closing his mind’s eye to the reality of life, especially his own.
The sweet smell of her perfumed skin pulled at his heart to such a degree that he could not banish her from his mind. Loneliness had been his companion for decades, and he was so tired of its persistent dialogue of self-deprecation.
Such was my state of mind that I grasped for answers at any moment, wishing upon wishes, hoping upon hope that life would provide the solutions or direction I needed, but nothing—nothing was given. What was this? Why did this exist, this state of being—my life beyond life, my life after the lives of loved ones. After the experiences of history that I now do not even recall the counting, as the diseases of death and fault, carry on year after year, decade after decade, with such a surety that time finds no fault or end.
Her skin shone in the bright light of the day, glistening with the sweat of her work and carrying itself across to me. The scene drew me out with such intensity, grabbed me by the loins, and hefted me up by the ears so much so that I sucked in my breath and held it until my nerves calmed down.
Death had been such a part of my life that I found it difficult to adjust my mind toward the thoughts of love and creation. Desire was now pushing me toward her with such ferocity that I could not hold back the steps of history, which were beckoning me forward with tantalizing questions of necessity.
I approached her one day as she worked at folding laundry. I wanted to introduce myself, to eventually get to know her more.
I walked up to the laundry tent and stopped at the entrance, waiting until she noticed me.
Eventually, she raised her head. “Oh, I didn’t see you there. Who are you? Is there something I may help you with?” she asked. She smiled and stood up to greet me.
“My name is Talmido. I noticed you working here and since I have nothing to do, I thought I may introduce myself.”
“Well, Talmido, come in and help me with this laundry. It never seems to end. What do you do?”
“I am a soldier of the emperor. I just came back from the front and I’ve been rotated for a rest period.”
“Oh…a soldier. You must see so much death. How can you stand it? The laundry you see here is for the wounded. There is so much of it,” she said with eyes full of pain.
“Yes…there are many that come back with terrible wounds. The enemy is persistent in its resistance. Many times we barely escape with our lives. The enemy is a tough adversary.”
I spent some time with her talking about the front, the war, and her day-to-day work. We seemed to meld into one person as we spoke. She would look into my eyes with compassion and respect, and over the days and months, I could feel my heart slowly slipping from the bonds of denial to the possibility of hope. As my life moved forward in a never-ending cycle of fighting, resting, working and then back to fighting, I could not for the life of me get her out of my mind. I was captured – heart and soul.
I knew her to be owned by a particular man of ill repute among the soldiers, a man of malevolence and low stature of character. This man had acquired her through the devious machinations of a smear campaign and final accusations of treasonous acts that led to a poor man’s eventual execution. All the rank and file soldiers knew of this situation and tried to keep clear of his unwanted attention.
As a scribe, he was the man who apportioned the loot from the fighting and kept all the records; hence, it became dangerous to challenge him in any way. He was a slave, however—a slave of the general—and had much power of persuasion.
I could not get her out of my mind, and the longing became almost an obsession. I thought if I approached the scribe with enough gold, he would sell her to me, so I went on my way to talk with him to come to a reasonable agreement.
“Hattusili, may the gods be kind to you,” I said as I approached him.
“Ah, Talmido, and may the gods find favor in you also,” he replied. “What is it that brings you to me?”
“I have noticed a certain woman, a slave of yours, which I am interested in perhaps purchasing, and I am wondering if you will consider selling her to me.”
“One of my slaves? Well, well, that is interesting, and why would I want to sell her to you?”
“Hattusili, you are a shrewd, patient, and reasonable man, and I thought that with enough offered gold, perhaps you would accept my inquiry,” I replied.
“So, Talmido, who is this woman that I should be so generous as to sell her to you?” Hattusili asked.
“She is Sapalulmea, a Parthian of little importance.”
“Hmm, I vaguely remember her. Quite a meal, that one, if I remember correctly,” Hattusili replied while looking up at the sky to fake his remembrance. He knew exactly who she was, as he had eaten from that table many times in the past and had quite enjoyed it.
“I’ll tell you what I need. I need something done, and if you accept and are successful, I’ll consider selling the woman to you.”
“What is the matter needing assistance with, and what is the price for her?” I asked, knowing I would probably regret this arrangement and never see the light of day in our negotiations.
“Oh, just a trifle situation. I need your special talents to relieve a certain officer of his signet ring and then deliver it to me.”
“Hattusili, that is impossible. You know those rings are never taken off. They represent the emperor’s solemn vow to an officer for legal and military support. This would be a suicide mission, in addition to being completely illegal, and it would put me in a terrible situation,” I retorted.
“Well, I suppose we do not have an agreement, then.”
“Wait, wait. Give me two days to think about this, and I’ll return with my answer.”
“Two days, then, Talmido,” Hattusili replied while looking intently into my eyes with a smirk on his lips, all the while knowing he had me right where he wanted me to be.
As I contemplated Hattusili’s counteroffer, I unwittingly walked by Sapalulmea’s tent. While I was trying to figure out my way through this predicament, she emerged from the entrance with her arms laden down with linen. She jumped, startled, and fell to the ground with her load. I bent down to help her back up and assist with the bundle.
“Sapalulmea, please forgive me for startling you. I did not mean to do so.”
“Talmido, what are you doing? Why are you skulking around? You know whose tent this is? You scared me. Remember, we agreed not to see each other here,” she said.
“Yes, but I cannot resist any longer. I need to see you. I have been thinking that perhaps I should talk to Hattusili.”
“You would talk to Hattusili regarding me? Oh, Talmido, thank you. He is such a despicable man. I hate him with all my heart,” she whispered.
“Yes, I will approach him soon,” I replied with awestruck eyes of desire as I looked her up and down, to my immense pleasure.
She walked with supple grace. Her eyes of deep brown, almost black, beckoned me in with the ease of a quiet heart. She swung her hips in a rhythmic fashion of such hypnotic beauty that my mind and soul threw themselves to the wind. I shut my eyes and swallowed hard, resisting the temptation to grab her then and there and have my way with her. I wanted her, of course, but I wanted not only her body but also her love.
The women of the camp were there for many reasons—acting as slaves, wives, mothers, prostitutes, cooks, gatherers, and general, all-purpose labor. I had been with a few women of the camp, knowing there to be no future with any of them; each was just a relief from the tension of warfare and daily grind of life. I had moved beyond that need and wanted a relationship based on a consensual desire for love—deep, meaningful love—not for a moment of passion but for an endearing, ongoing result of our mutual want.
I approached her, not knowing what to expect while looking at the curves of her body and holding her in my mind’s eye with a clarity that I could still recall in all its glory centuries later as if it had just happened. This was my first introduction to love within my camp life.
Battles had come and gone with the repetitiveness of the dawn or sunset. Days went by without notice as I fought, recuperated, and assisted with the camp duties. This went on for years, perhaps even decades. I had lost all track of time then. We eventually defeated the Babylonians, taking the northern part of the Chaldean Empire and extending the Assyrian hegemony. The captains of my company noticed my propensity toward the death of the enemy, and I was subsequently commissioned to command a company of my own. I honed my skills, whereby I became the destroyer to the enemy without as much as a thought, earning praise and accolades from my companions. It would seem that plunder and glory were all we ever thought about.
I had accumulated slaves, gold, and land, as they were all I wanted. Life was simple. Nothing mattered at this time as I requisitioned a place for myself within the hierarchy of man, trying to cleanse myself from the brutality of war. I broke the will of the enemy through brute force and determination. I made calculated attacks on cities, lands, and women. I took all there was to my satisfaction. I could think of no need for reflection or examination as I felt it was my divine right to choose and have whatever I wanted. It seemed the gods desired me to become a man of my own making—a man of my own destiny. What else was I to think? The accumulation of gold and wealth fed my desire for more. Taking was all I knew at that point—the taking of lives, wealth, and families. I wed my pain to the death of my enemies and the gathering of my wealth. There was nothing to stop me in my quest for self-gratification. I became what my father feared the most—a monster among men. I preyed upon the government-sanctioned weakness of its enemies to my own exultation, thus building the foundation for my own demise, which was unbeknownst to me at that time. Yes, time has a way of correcting the evils of man, and yes, it has a way of bringing balance back into the harmony of life.
I am quite sure she was aware of my desire and probably used it to her own advantage as she seemed to accentuate her stature whenever I approached and smiled with sparkling eyes of pure happiness. Two days came and went with such swiftness that I could hardly fathom how I would decline Hattusili’s request with any form or reason.
“What have you to say for yourself, Talmido?” Hattusili asked.
“Who is it, and when do you need the task done?” I asked.
“Ho, ho! So you will take me up on my challenge, then? This slave must be quite something to you for you to take such a risk.” Hattusili laughed without smiling. “Five days from the new moon, Mindroos, an officer of the Red Tigers regiment, will be out on the front for his rotation. I will send one of my slave girls to him as a present, and she’ll slip the ring off him and stow it under his sleeping mattress where you will find it and bring it to me.”
“Why do you need me to fetch it when the slave girl can bring it to you?” I asked.
“Do you take me for a fool, Talmido? I cannot have this mission linked back to me. No, it needs to be someone not affiliated with me in any way.”
“I see. I’ll do it,” I answered. “However, I need your signet ring until the deal is done and I have Sapalulmea purchased. I will do your bidding and pay five talents of gold for her. Is this acceptable to you?”
“Five gold talents, you say? That is a large sum to pay for such a slave, Talmido. Yes, I accept,” Hattusili replied while taking his signet ring off his right middle finger. “I want the ring back with the gold once I receive Mindroos’s ring. Is that understood?”
“Yes, absolutely!” I replied while grasping Hattusili’s arm to seal the agreement and pocketing the ring, so I had his insurance tucked away until the arrangement was finished.
The night came, and I quietly stole into Mindroos’ tent while under cover of darkness. Reaching under his sleeping mattress, I found the ring, but I hesitated, closing my hand, not quite wanting to ruin a well-respected officer. I knew what would become of him with Hattusili at the helm of his demise. I shook my head and shut my mind to the betrayal and quickly slipped the ring under my belt for safekeeping and stole back the way I came in. The next day, I went to Hattusili and presented the ring and the gold for the purchase of Sapalulmea. Hattusili gave me a papyrus parchment with the cuneiform writing that indicated my purchase of Sapalulmea.
“Thank you, Hattusili, for your careful consideration of this transaction. Oh, and here is your signet ring.” I touched my forehead and bowed in respect while turning to leave the tent.
“And thank you, Talmido. Until next time.” Hattusili smirked into his goblet before sipping on his wine of the day.
The day had come. I walked up to her and took her for myself without a thought of her own perception, leading her back to my tent with haste. I had to have her and make her mine.
She fell into our lust and desire. Her smooth skin felt as soft as the best wine on a clear night, and it filled my head with thoughts, not of this world. Her breasts leaped out at me as I tore off her clothing, beckoning me to sample their intoxication while my eyes ran down her supple line of beauty toward her belly, which undulated with anticipation and deep breaths of excitement. She trembled under my hands. Her lips parted with a sigh of blushed ecstasy, introducing her to me with her unfulfilled needs as a woman.
So it was love’s first taste of sensuality and desire that took me beyond that day to perhaps a future of belying calm and peace. She embraced me with acceptance and wholehearted love that I could clearly see in each dawn of our ensuing days.
We lay in the dark, sweating from the heat of the night. Love had come in a wave of tumultuous passion that was unhinged and bursting out from the banks of time and desire. Undulations from tender caresses cascaded over our bodies while we dove into the depths of our minds’ longing and our bodies’ needs.
Sighing with pleasure’s delight, we two lovers lay embraced within our world of safety, which held back the reality of the night’s long shadows. The taste of gentle lovemaking shook me to my core. I had not experienced such raw need—such natural desire. It was a frightening consequence of my pent-up demand for expression within an expressionless society of brutality, domination, and greed. It was a beauty of such unrelated satisfaction that it overwhelmed us with tears of happiness, yet we too had tears of pain from, perhaps, our knowing the final outcome.
I stared at the fibers of the tent’s ceiling, contemplating this new experience. Why? I asked. Why is this so profound—so much a part of me? What travel of consciousness could possess this depth of the mind and heart? Why do the gods play with me, a mortal man? Why add the dimension of the meaningful desire called love to the permanent biological makeup for procreation while letting the gods of war wait patiently in the shadows, steadily craving for destruction, pain, and death? Why divide a man’s natural desire for peace, love, and security into fragments of occasional moments almost forgotten in the daily fight for survival?
“Will you want me tomorrow?” she asked.
“Yes, tomorrow and forever, but the future is another day unknown to us. Who knows if the gods will see fit to allow us to live on?” I replied.
A trembling sigh of resignation ran through her body as a shiver of a heart’s cold acceptance. I pulled her to me, kissing her gently on her lips while caressing her cheek with my fingers. She buried her face into my chest as her tears flowed freely, cascading onto my muscles and slowly traveling down toward the bedcovers to finally land on the hearth of love's plain—never to find the waters of life’s answers. It was too much for Sapalulmea, and she cried herself to sleep with fitful starts that pulled me out of my revelry—out to the questions I have asked all my life—toward the answers just out of reach. Is this my purpose? Is there a purpose to any of this?
I sighed and rolled over to fall into a deep sleep that had escaped me for so long that I fell into a trance of a vision’s dream from which no man or god would have been able to awaken me.
Movement out of the corner of my eye caught my attention, drawing my sight to the right. A dark figure was running at a right angle toward me, slowly coming into view. Its mane snapped against the wind as it ran, throwing up clumps of dirt high into the air. Powerful muscles stretched and contracted, gleaming under a black hide of sweat-slicked hair. Terror whipped out from its eyes, striking me with dread. The horse ran harder, lunging for the mountains in the east with a panic unknown to such a beast. Tendrils of fear moved up my spine toward the nape of my neck, imploring me to flee as well, but I held on to my sanity and planted my feet firmly into the earth and looked to the west—the source of the horse’s fear.
Dark, roiling clouds of seething blackness tumbled over each other and chased the sun away from the day while pursuing the stallion with the pealing cackle of lightning’s glory, spraying the barley fields with pebbles of ice, and breaking stalks in a tumultuous display of satisfaction.
Thunderous bellows beat down from the sky like drums of war, announcing the destructive intent about to be wielded toward man and beast alike. A lightning bolt flashed across the roiling clouds with a soul-shaking blast of energy, immediately emitting a profound quake of thunder. The earth jolted in agony as the storm whipped across the landscape, churning the ground into a faceless unknown—a dead sea of mud. Gradually the surface split open, and a dark chasm of death opened up in front of me, displaying a blackness beyond comprehension. I screamed in complete terror, looking east then west for an escape but unable to move, unable to think clearly in my irrational, heightened level of panic. Slowly the sound coalesced into a voice of booming resonance that thundered within my chest, making my legs tremble with its awesome power.
“You, son of man, why do you cry out with such pity and destitution?” the voice asked. Trembling and looking around for the source of the voice, I replied, “Oh, my lord, I did not mean any disrespect. I am terrified by the actions and portents being spread out before me. What all of this is to mean, I do not know. I only wish for answers to the purpose of my life.”
“And what is it that bothers you so?”
“I have been blessed with life everlasting, but none of my people have this blessing. Why? And what is the purpose of this?”
“Do you consider this to be a malediction?”
“I am not sure, my lord.”
“Do you see the clouds, the earth, and the mountains? Where did they come from? Who or what formed them? Tell me, if you know.”
“I do not know, my lord. I am but a poor wretch of a soldier in my master’s army. These things are beyond my understanding.”
“Know this, son of man—the ways of the earth are like the waves of the sea, rolling back and forth without end, eating away at the very fabric of rock since time immemorial. Man is the fringe of the earth’s garment, however, rocking its ways and creating unexpected terms. What is to be the outcome, son of man? Where will this take you? The sea and the earth cry out with pain and sickness of heart, wanting to be healed but to no avail. Is a man to ignore this sickness and suffer the consequences? I ask you, will you ignore this plight? Sand sits on the wind and is thrown from here to there. As tiny as it is, its outcome causes such a hailstorm of discontent. Storms of damnation and destruction fall toward the blood-soaked fields of men. Tell, please tell—what is to be done?” it asked as it looked me straight in my eyes with a seemingly vast understanding of all that it had said; appreciating the fact that I could not know.
“My lord, I am not able to tell as I do not know. I am sick with shame and regret. I do not know what is to be done.”
“Cut the snake off at the head, and it dies. Strike the bull through the heart, and it dies. Feed the Leviathan, and it leaves for another day. Heed my words, son of man. Heed my words until he who comes with a reply strikes the very ground you stand on with a staff of unenviable wrath to heal the times and days that are to quickly approach,” it rumbled, pealing across the sky like thunder at night. “The nature of man, the fundamental fabric of what it means to be human—you are to observe and write down what you see. These writings are for future times and ways to ponder over. What do you say, son of man?” it asked.
“Yes. Of course, I will do all you have requested,” I answered.
“I will return to you in the future when the time of compilation and discovery are required. For now, do as you say, and wait for my return.”
“Yes, my lord. As you wish.”
My legs gave out at that moment, and I fell to the ground as a dead man, darkness overtaking me in an envelope of quiet eternity.
With a start, I awoke, covered in sweat and shivering in the cold dark of early morning. I sat up and wrapped myself in my blanket to fight against the night’s cold embrace. After standing, I walked out of the tent and looked up at the stars, contemplating the meaning of the dream while trying to shake off its effects. I had never felt such soul-destructive terror—such complete panic. I shook my head to clear out the memory and to try to claim some meaning from it. My hands trembled at the possible portents. I looked down at them and noticed white points where my fingernails had bitten into my palms. The fear was so great. I looked up into the star-filled night sky again, wondering.