Gilgamesh Immortal (Chronicles of the Nephilim) (24 page)

“Wait,” interrupted Urshanabi. “
You are seeking immortality?”

“Yes,” said Gilgamesh.

“Is that why your face looks sunken, your jowls hollow, and your mood wretched?” said Urshanabi.

Sunken face?
Thought Gilgamesh.
You should talk, skeleton man
.

“My friend, Enkidu, whom I loved deeply,” started Gilgamesh. But then he stopped himself. “I am not going to rehearse for you my
reasons. Noah ben Lamech is my distant relative and I seek his audience. Now, how are you going to help me get there?”

Urshanabi thought for a moment, then brightened up.

“I have an idea,” he said. “Go into the forest and cut me three hundred punting poles, each, one hundred feet long.”

Punting poles were used to
propel a boat along in shallow waters.

“Since no human hand can touch the Waters of Death, then you can use each pole once
to propel the boat forward, and leave it in the water. That way, you need never touch the deathly seas.”

It was genius.
It would get Gilgamesh to his destination.

And it was a lot of hard work.

“Three hundred?”
complained Gilgamesh. He had just exerted every ounce of energy he had taking down four rocky brutes and now he would have to cut down, trim, and furnish three hundred poles with two broken ribs and no strength left?

Urshanabi gestured to his
own scrawny figure and said, “I would help you, but I think you would be waiting a long time before I would be of any benefit.”

Gilgamesh
chortled in agreement, picked up an ax and was about to embark on his new exhausting task, when Urshanabi dropped a big egg on him.

“But you had better hurry.
It takes three days for us to get there and the new moon arrives in four days.”

“So,
what is the problem?” asked Gilgamesh.


It is spring tide season. At the full moon the tide will be so low, we could get stranded in the Waters of Death. We would be unable to get out and wade the waters without perishing.”

“But
do not tides change from low to high every twelve hours?” said Gilgamesh.

“Not in Dilmun,” said Urshanabi.
“In Dilmun, its every fifteen days.”

Gilgamesh gave him a skeptical look.

Urshanabi turned defensive. “It is a magical island. Do not blame me.”

Gilgamesh sighed and said, “Well, it
does not surprise me. I have had one pain in the rear end after another. And I am sure they are not going to stop after this.”

Chapter 43

It took Gilgamesh a little longer than he had hoped to cut down his punting poles and trim and furnish them for the trip to Dilmun and the Waters of Death. He shackled Urshanabi to a tree to insure that he did not try to run away. Unfortunately, Gilgamesh wished that he
had
run away because his relentless croaking critical voice was insufferable. He critiqued almost every move Gilgamesh made. First, his chop was sloppy; then, his poles were not trimmed straight enough; then he was not applying a thick enough varnish of bitumen on them. Finally, Gilgamesh decided to shackle Urshanabi’s mouth so he could finish his task in peace. He stuffed some leaves into his cake hole and wrapped a piece of cloth around his mouth to keep them from coming out.

When he finished piling the poles on board the craft, he released Urshanabi and ungagged him.

But before Urshanabi could begin a new string of complaints, Gilgamesh held up his finger to his face to shut him up and said, “Urshanabi, I am done with your belligerent faultfinding and calumny. You will not speak unless spoken to or I will cut out your tongue. Am I understood?”

Urshanabi nodded his head yes. He was trembling with terror because he knew Gilgamesh would do it.

“Now, how many days did you say we have before low tide?” asked Gilgamesh.

Urshanabi was afraid to answer.

“It is all right. I spoke to you,” said Gilgamesh, trying to calm his fears.

Urshanabi
kept it concise as he was thinking of losing his most valued appendage to the blade. “Three.”

Gilgamesh had taken a full day to accomplish hi
s task.

Gilgamesh smiled. “Well done, boatman. A
single word answer, and
that
without complaint or provocation. I am proud of you.”

Gilgamesh slapped him on the back. His
larger than life personality was contagious. Urshanabi gave a half smile and caught his breath that was almost knocked out of him.


I packed the beer and food as well,” said Gilgamesh.

Urshanabi raised his hand like a humble schoolboy.

“What?” smiled Gilgamesh.

Urshanabi
said darkly, “It is a five day row.”

“I thought you said three days,” said Gilgamesh.

“For a Stone One who does not have to rest,” said Urshanabi. “You did not stipulate.”

They were already a day behind when Gilgamesh began his task and it
had taken him the better part of a full day to cut, trim, and finish all three hundred punting poles now in the boat.

He thought to himself for a moment.
He could not stand fifteen days with this unbearable bellyaching malcontent, waiting for the next high tide. Keeping him gagged for those fifteen days would only breed bitterness and revenge that would backfire on Gilgamesh. He would simply have to push himself to the limit, double his efforts and row a five day trip in three days, while suffering complete exhaustion from the previous two days of fighting Stone Ones, breaking ribs, and cutting three hundred punting poles.

“Well,
it should not be too difficult,” said Gilgamesh. “We had better get cracking.”

They pushed off to sea
in the fifty-foot long “square boat,” a common design for Mesopotamian water craft for both river and sea. It was crescent-shaped with high prows both forward and aft. It contained a large comfortable canopied throne lounge in the center, obviously for the self-important Urshanabi to be rowed around by his stone crew. The boat was made of fresh water reeds that were tightly bound and covered in and out with bitumen pitch for sealant against the water. It was a sturdy sea-worthy vessel that was reinforced in order to support the extra weight of a single Stone One as oarsmen on each trip. The punting poles were laid on both sides with their extended lengths sticking out the back of the boat into the air.

Urshanabi got in and sat on his throne.

Gilgamesh pulled off the canopy and rolled it up.

He quipped, “So sorry to
inconvenience you from the perilous rays of the sun, but we are going against the wind so this canopy will slow us down.”

Urshanabi just gulped
and nodded. He was grateful that Gilgamesh did not trust his scrawny muscles to any of the rowing.

“By the way,” said Gilgamesh, “how will we know when we have arrived at the Waters of Death?”

Urshanabi answered, “When the island is in sight, and the waters glow.”

Gilgamesh sat and held the oars. He took a deep breath and a sigh.

And he began to row.

And row.

And row.

 

He achieved a kind of meditative state that helped him to dissociate from his body of pain into flights of fancy, not unlike what he did in the Path of the Sun with his bruised shin. He rowed for almost eighteen hours straight before he took his first of only two half hour naps.

Urshanabi woke him and he beg
an to row again without pause. He had become like a Stone One, soulless automaton of work. The thought had passed through his mind that this was not much different from what every life amounted to anyway. Live, work, eat, and die. And the dreams and hopes and pursuits of human passion amounted to a temporary hallucinogenic state of imagination before it ended — for everlasting unto everlasting.

 

They arrived at the Waters of Death with about six hours left before low tide would strand them to their deaths. The island of Dilmun was in sight, but it was still a distant speck to his reckoning. All around them the water glowed an iridescent greenish blue. It was the normal color of water, but with a shining that almost dared one to dive in. These shining waters guarding the Land of the Living reminded Gilgamesh of the shining Cherub guarding the Garden of Eden that he had heard of in stories during his youth.

Gilgamesh
stopped rowing before they hit the glowing waters. He put the oars away. The act of rowing caused too much splashing to be able to make it to the island alive. He pulled out his first punting pole and said the Urshanabi, “Is there anything else I need to know before I place this pole in the Waters of Death and jeopardize my life?”

“Just
do not let the water touch your hands,” said Urshanabi. “Leave the pole behind you without raising it out of the water, and use the next one.”

“Easily spoken, not easily done,” said Gilgamesh. “You
better pray to Enki, because your life depends on my life.”

“I
do not mean to be critical, but we are still behind time,” said Urshanabi. “We have got about three hours left, but we need about six.”

“Now see, Urshanabi,” said Gilgamesh. “
That is the difference between you and me. You avoid the impossible because it cannot be done. I seek the impossible because it cannot be done.”

“I
guess that explains your search for eternal life,” said Urshanabi.

Gilgamesh smiled and p
ut his first pole in the water with the words, “It does indeed.”

 

But Urshanabi had been wrong. Gilgamesh once again caught them up on time with double speed. But it was not time that they would run out of,
it was punting poles
. Gilgamesh had come within a mile of the island of Dilmun and he had but two poles left in the boat. He stopped. These would glide them another few hundred feet or so, and they would be stranded in the Waters of Death with no means of propulsion. They would not make it after all. Urshanabi had miscalculated.

Gilgamesh glared at him.

“You think I want to die out here with you?” said Urshanabi. “I thought three hundred poles were more than enough to make it through the waters. Even these changing winds cannot push us far enough in time. Can we please put the canopy back up, so at least I can die without a sunburn?”

Gilgamesh lightened up. “
You are right. The winds have changed. They are now at our back. Now, see, Urshanabi, within your own words lay the solution to our dilemma, but you could not see it because you refuse to face the impossible.”

Urshanabi was confused. He watched as Gilgamesh rummaged through the bottom of the boat and pulled out the large canvas canopy that he had taken down at the start of their journey.

He took out his dirk and cut some holes in the ends of the canopy. Then he cut some lengths of rope and began to tie the canopy to one end of a punting pole. When he finished, he did the same thing with the other side of the canopy on the other punting pole.

Gilgamesh smiled and said, “We cannot punt our way in, but we can sail.”

Urshanabi filled with hope.

Gilgamesh said, “Urshanabi,
grab the tiller. There is not much time.”

Urshanabi grabbed it and began to steer while Gilgamesh held up the last two punting poles with canopy tied between them. It was a makeshift sail. It caught the wind and they began to glide over the Waters of Death.

Gilgamesh had to lean into the wind with all that was left in him. His arms were stretched out wide holding the poles, and the wind created a driving air pocket that sailed them toward Dilmun.

Chapter 44

They arrived at the small port harbor of Dilmun just as the waters were beginning to draw back into the sea.

It struck Gilgamesh how oddly crammed the port was with boats and ships from all over the world. From the Indus Valley to Egypt, their styles spoke of the universal appeal this paradise had over the minds of mankind. But there were no people. Anywhere. It was like a ghost harbor.

Furthermore, the beach was also crammed with older decaying ships all the way up into the tree line.

“What is this?” asked Gilgamesh. “Where are all the people? This is Dilmun?”

“Yes,” said Urshanabi as he tied up the boat to the dock and led Gilgamesh to his destination.

Gilgamesh complained, “Well it looks more like the Land of Ghosts than the Land of the Living.”

Urshanabi said, “Now you are beginning to sound like me.”


You never told me about this,” said Gilgamesh.

Urshanabi
gave a wry jab, repeating Gilgamesh’s own words to him, “I am to speak only when spoken to.”

Gilgamesh rolled his eyes,
a victim of his own temper.

“Okay, Urshanabi,” snapped Gilgamesh, “I grant you the royal privilege to explain to me what in Sheol is going on here?”

As he finished his words, they arrived at the peak of a hill overlooking a vast expanse of barren land. It was a graveyard. A gargantuan necropolis. It was larger than anything he had ever seen before. Miles and miles of “tumuli” burial mounds and other tombs completely filling the land as far as the eye could see. There were hundreds of thousands of them.

“Welcome to the
abode of the blessed, the Land of the Living,” said Urshanabi.


You mean the Land of the Dead,” said Gilgamesh.

The only sign of life was
a handful of tomb builders laying stone for underground burial vaults and several small lines of priests at various locations carrying sarcophagi in funerary processions. Smoke and incense trailed their handheld censors and small troupes of minstrels played dirges.


On Dilmun, Death is worshipped as a religion,” explained Urshanabi. “Everyone comes to the island hoping to find eternal life.”

Gilgamesh felt a shudder go through him. Was he just another fool in pursuit of the impossible?

Urshanabi continued, “They believe that by entering Sheol through this Paradise, they will have a better chance at blessing in the underworld. The island is an antechamber to the spirit world. The island’s inhabitants perform the ceremonies for a fee paid in the possessions of the client. Thus Dilmun has become a trade center for the world.”

“Where are the living?” asked Gilgamesh.

Urshanabi said, “Over the hills on the
south of the island. But you are not here to meet them.”

Gilgamesh nodded.
“Take me to Noah.”

 

They travelled along the shoreline of the island until they arrived at a small beautiful jungle full of life. It was like a real oasis on this faux oasis. It was a pocket of life on an island of death. Gilgamesh could hear insects, birds, and monkeys screaming out their instinctual tones.

When they walked inside, they were besieged
by a world of foliage and plant life he had never seen. Huge palm trees spread across the ceiling of foliage, creating a canopy over a moist interior. Animals ran around without concern for their human presence. And Gilgamesh was not wearing his magical animal skins. They came to a huge waterfall of crystalline water spilling over into a bubbling river alive with visible schools of fish.

Now, this is more like it
, he thought.
This is the kind of beauty that one could conceive of as Paradise.

Urshanabi found a small clearing with a modest couple
of huts and a small garden beside them.

Gilgamesh glanced at Urshanabi, who nodded to him.

And when he looked back, he saw a man and woman step out of the hut to greet them. A very old man and woman. They were a bit bent over. The man had a cane to steady himself. The woman held onto him, he could not tell whether it was to help the man or keep herself steady.

Gilgamesh’s eyes teared up. He had travelled so long and so far, and had suffered so many hardships,
all in pursuit of the impossible, that it all came flooding back into him like the waterfall behind them.

The old man and old woman recognized Urshanabi so they were not afraid. But they did not know who this nine foot tall giant was stumbling toward them, bawling his eyes out.

They stepped back in caution. Urshanabi gestured to them not to fear.

Gilgamesh dropp
ed to his knees yards from them. He could not make it the rest of the way. It was as if his strength had failed him. The old man and woman closed the distance with their hobbling pace.

They arrived at the kneeling weeping giant.

Gilgamesh muttered, softly, painfully, “Grandfather.”

Noah ben Lamech,
well over nine hundred years old by now, reached down and lifted the head of the blubbering giant.

Emzara clutched Noah’s arm and started to weep
sympathetically.

Noah said simply, “Son of Cush.”

Then he sniffed and wrinkled his nose, and added, “You stink to high heaven.”

Gilgamesh’s crying turned to laughter. Through all the exertion of his mighty strength in battle and in toil, since his evening with Shiduri the ale wife over a week ago, he had failed to wash his body or his clothing
. It was true. He stunk to high heaven.

Emzara added, “
Let us get you washed up and in some clean clothes.”

Other books

Eye Candy by R.L. Stine
Above Suspicion by Lynda La Plante
Fate Interrupted by Kaitlyn Cross
The First Book of Ore: The Foundry's Edge by Cameron Baity, Benny Zelkowicz
Legion by Brandon Sanderson
Rebel Glory by Sigmund Brouwer


readsbookonline.com Copyright 2016 - 2022