Authors: Brian Godawa
Ishtar led Dumuzi on a leash out to the clay pits. It was degrading enough that he could barely walk from the abuse that Ishtar had subjected him to, but to be led like a dog with a collar and leash was a
crown of debasement. Dumuzi struggled to keep from falling, wincing in pain and soreness with every step. His intestines had been punctured by Ishtar’s perverse pleasures. He was bleeding internally and would probably die from the foreign objects that Ishtar had shoved into him. He felt like he was being led to his grave. He hoped he was being led to his grave.
A large group of about one hundred workers followed them to the pit with torchlight. Ishtar had a special task to accomplish this evening.
They got down to the bottom of the pit and Ishtar instructed a couple of dowsers to search for water with their dowsing sticks. When one of them announced a possible location, Ishtar knelt on the spot with cheek and palms feeling the earth for a sign of confirmation.
She stood back up and commanded the workers begin immediately to dig a well. They were to work all night if necessary until they had broken through. They were frightened of the danger
she was placing them in, but she demanded that they work at double strength and double time to find the water table. So they dug.
Ishtar and Dumuzi came back up to the top of the pit and watched them. Ishtar sat on the portable throne from her temple and had Dumuzi kneel beside her. She looked down on him and patted his head like a pet. He was gratifying to her. He was handsome and well built. A rugged strong man could endure more pain, which pleased Ishtar, because she needed more and more violent and depraved acts to satisfy her hunger.
As they watched the workers dig the well, Queen Ninsun arrived with her retinue of servants.
“Ah, Lady Wild Cow,” said Ishtar. “I have been dying to talk to you of the pantheon.”
Perspiration saturated Ninsun’s robes, far more than usual for the heat of the day.
Ishtar continued, “Tell me of Mount Hermon and of the assembly of the gods. Who is left? Who escaped the Flood? Where is Semjaza? Who is in charge?”
Ninsun had no idea what Ishtar was talking about. She had been smoked out by a real god. She had wondered if this would happen one day, and that day was here, and she did not know what to do.
“Are you not a goddess? Do you know anything of the pantheon?”
This goddess was impatient and wrathful. Ninsun wondered if she would live to see the morning.
Ishtar exploded with wrath, “I ASKED YOU A QUESTION, COW!”
“N-no,” stuttered Ninsun.
“N-no, what?” mocked Ishtar. “No, you are not a goddess or no, you do not know of the pantheon?”
“Both,” said Ninsun.
“Ah, well, we shall have to drag out of you just what little political
intrigues you are scheming,” said Ishtar.
They were interrupted by a call from down in the clay pit. They had struck water.
Ishtar had a servant raise the sign flag to command them to the next phase.
Down in the pit, the foreman saw the sign and looked darkly at his diggers. “Hoist the drill,” he said.
The workers looked at him with shock. One of them spoke up for the rest of them, “But sir, if we do that…”
The foreman interrupted him with an angry command, “
Do not question the goddess! Hoist the drill, NOW!”
The workers looked at one another and obeyed. What else could they do? They knew no other life. They had been bred to obey royalty and deity without question. But
they knew that what the goddess had ordered them to do was suicide.
They wheeled over a large mechanical structure made of metal and timber. It had weights and pulleys and looked like an inverted battering ram. By pulling the ropes, workers slammed stone weights into a point sharpened log that would plunge into the earth, penetrating as deep as they could hammer it.
Back up on the edge of the pit, Ishtar grinned diabolically after hearing Ninsun’s explanation. This would indeed be interesting. She had heard about the giant king, about his strength and glory. But this new information was most interesting indeed.
“I cannot wait to meet this
Naphil king Gilgamesh,” said Ishtar. “He and I have much to plot.”
They heard screaming from below. The drill had plunged and penetrated into the water table. But by doing so with the force of the drill, it had
blown the log sky high and ripped a hole that caused a massive release of pressure. Water started to gush out with the force of a geyser. It slammed into the workers and washed them around like ants in a storm. The log hit the ground and crushed a few others. And then the ground crumbled inward and a huge sinkhole formed, sucking the ground first down, and then upward with the force of the releasing waters below. The hundred workers were washed away in a drowning flood and the waters began to fill the clay pits like a drain backing up into a sink.
Ishtar smiled. Ninsun recoiled in horror. Dumuzi was too broken to care.
“Why are you doing this?” Ninsun cried out.
But Ishtar was not going to explain to her that she was covering up her past. So she said nothing. And these were not just the waters of an underground lake that had been dowsed, these were the waters of the Abyss pouring in from the darkness below. What more fitting way to cover her tracks? She would create a lake that would bury forever her dishonor in the jaws of Rahab.
As the water rose to fill the clay pits, Ishtar had the portable throne carried over to the sheer edge of the pit. Dumuzi’s leash had been fastened to the throne, so he was dragged along with it.
Ishtar got off the throne and leaned down to Dumuzi, whispering, “Dumuzi, my shepherd. You have brought me much pleasure. I have much to thank you for. You rescued me from Sheol. You have entered my garden. You have plowed my vulva like a field. Your milk was sweet and thick, my bridegroom. You have made the sweetness of my holy loins quiver with delight. And I will write love poems about it one day to commemorate our beautiful union. But you have outlived your usefulness. Someone must be left behind in the Abyss to take
my place as a substitution. That someone, my dear lover, will be you.”
Ishtar stood up and gestured to the servants of the throne. They picked it up and threw it over the ledge. It splashed into the water,
dragging Dumuzi with it, collared by his neck, into the depths. He was the last connection to the knowledge of Ishtar’s shame.
Ishtar turned to see Ninsun’s terror-stricken face.
“Do not fret yourself, Lady Cow,” said Ishtar. “You are still useful to me.”
And then Ishtar noticed one of the servants in the entourage. A handsome man. She walked up to him and looked him up and down.
Her demeanor changed like a chameleon. She was suddenly soft and seductive with a voice to match. She breathed to him, “And who might you be, handsome one?”
“Ishullanu, the king’s gardener,” he said.
She could see he was shaking.
She said to him, “Oh, I see we have the same effect on one another.
I am quivering in my nether regions as well.”
She softly coaxed him out of the line of servants, and said, “Lead your goddess to her temple. We have a garden to explore together.”
Ishullanu stepped from the crowd of servants like a singled out prisoner and walked silently toward what he knew was his own execution. Ishtar followed him, but a couple of female servants caught her eye. She grabbed both of them by the arms and dragged them through the dust on her journey back to Eanna.
The storm raged on over the Great Cedar Forest. It was like thirteen different winds all conspiring to converge together in this very moment, in this very location. Gilgamesh’s party found scattered locations to try to stay out of the main fury of it all and sit out the night. But they were soaked and chilled to the bone. Gilgamesh and Enkidu hid beneath a huge fallen cedar.
Gilgamesh said nothing. He simply glared at Enkidu, who knew full well what was expected of him.
Enkidu finally offered up, “
Humbaba killed and ate my tribe when I was but an infant nursing at my mother’s breast. For some unknown reason, he spared me and tried to raise me in his domain. But when I came of age, I discovered my heritage and I ran away. Into the steppe.”
Gilgamesh could not believe what he was hearing. He thought he had known Enkidu, but he had not even begun to discover the depths of this
civilized Wild Born.
Enkidu continued, “I should have died. But I was found and raised by a pride of lions as one of their cubs. I was young enough and impressionable. I became as one with them and quickly lost all sense of my humanity. That was the state in which Shamhat found
me. And that is why I could learn language so fast. I was simply reacquainting myself with what I had suppressed inside for so long.”
But he was not done. Enkidu then said, “The lioness that you wounded, the one I killed…” He wanted to make sure Gilgamesh knew which one he was talking about. “She was my feline mother.”
It was like a lightning bolt going through Gilgamesh’s body. He was not going to sleep tonight. He spoke with a sensitivity Enkidu had never before heard in his voice. “Enkidu, I am sorry to have ever challenged your courage. I did not know that this was so much more for you than a mere giant slaying. In fact, I would have no regret in allowing you to stay and watch the camp for us when we seek Humbaba tomorrow. There would be no shame in it.”
Enkidu snapped at him, “How dare you steal from your servant the one thing I have left to offer you, my king.”
A slight smile crossed Gilgamesh’s lips.
“You are not my servant, Enkidu of the Steppe,” pronounced Gilgamesh. “You are my friend.”
orning broke over a quiet forest. The storm had passed. The sounds of insect and animal life awakening filled the air as the beams of sun burst in through the canopy of foliage. But all was not as serene or beautiful as it appeared. They had lost their carts to the storm winds. Everything was destroyed or gone. Smashed and scattered to the four winds were all their food supplies and extra weapons, including their huge war net. They had only the weapons and water skins on their persons. Even Gilgamesh’s bow of Anshan had been lost.
But they had not lost their senses. They were mighty warriors, Gibborim. And they would finish the task that Gilgamesh had started. They would find this Rapha giant
Humbaba and kill him, and cut down his cedars to bring home a mighty trophy of their exploits.
With the help of Yahatti’s sensitive serpent tongue and Enkidu’s animal tracking skills, they traced their huge quarry’s path to the very base of Mount Hermon. The fighting team saw before them an immense house made of cedar. It blended into the side of the mountain as if it grew out of the crags of rock, and it was the size of a small palace.
Enkidu looked up at the mighty house of timber. He whispered to Gilgamesh, “I thought Humbaba would not hurt any trees. This mansion looks like he had to clear cut the entire mountainside to provide the lumber for it.”
“Rational consistency is not a concern of monsters,” said Gilgamesh. “The loudest so-called ‘protectors’ always seem to exempt themselves from their own rules.”
“Well then,” Enkidu replied. “Let us disabuse this titanic fiend of his double standard.”
“Let us burn his house down,” smiled Gilgamesh.
The band of warriors approached the gate of the cedar palace. It was wide open. In fact, there was no gate. The monster had no fear of enemies? Was it a trap?
Gilgamesh led them cautiously inward, weapons drawn and ready.
The structure soared upward all around them and gave the impression of sweeping one up into heaven. The timbers were vertical, the opposite of an earthy log cabin design of horizontal layering. And everywhere was empty. There were no decorations, no furniture, no sign of creaturely presence or habitation. It felt like a cathedral of loneliness.
A chill went through Gilgamesh’s spine. Was this the ‘kingdom of One?’ He felt a strange connection to this beastly prince of the wood. As if he understood him, even as he was planning to kill him.
They pressed on. The next chamber was the first to show signs of residence. But it was a ghastly residence. The inhabitants of the room were dozens of creatures all standing in frozen positions. Bears,
wolves, deer, boar. All of them standing still in eternal petrified positions. But they were not stone statues or carved wood. They were the real flesh of creatures Humbaba had captured and killed. When Gilgamesh examined them up close he could see that they had been stuffed with sawdust. They were the skins of once live animals filled with stuffing to make them stand in perpetual crowd-like community.
“My lord,” said Enkidu. He drew Gilgamesh’s attention to one of the sections of stuffed creatures. Gilgamesh’s stomach turned. They were humans. Skins of once living people
that Humbaba had skinned like animals and stuffed to set up in his taxidermist museum of horror.
The way they were arranged, all looking forward in the same direction, reminded Gilgamesh of the statues that he and other worshippers made of themselves to place in the temple sanctuary of
Eanna and Eanu. The purpose of the little votary statues was to make sure that they had a representative of themselves always before the presence of the deity. Like these mummified trophies with gem stones for eyes, the votary statues had their large eyes wide open as if to give the deity their perpetual awareness. Or maybe their souls, as the eyes were the windows of the soul of man. It struck Gilgamesh that these figures were like an audience of the living dead for Humbaba. They were the closest thing he could have to real creaturely company.
Because this was the first chamber with something of attention, and because they had gotten used to the vastness of the architecture, they had neglected to gaze upward in this room. And because they failed to do so, they did not notice the large net that now fell upon them from above. It was their own huge war net they had brought to capture the giant.
Humbaba must have come to their camp during the storm and stolen the net out from under their noses as the winds howled and raged around them, drowning out all other sounds. Now they were ensnared in their own net. So it had been a trap after all.
Gilgamesh and Enkidu looked over at the stuffed trophies and knew what fate lay in store for them.