A Dance for the Fallen

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Gilgamesh said, “Saw you my mother and my father in the place wherein they dwell?”

Enkidu said, “I saw them.”
Gilgamesh said, “How fare they?”
Enkidu said, “Amidst the carnage upon the field of battle, the two of them do drink of malodorous water.”

--The Epic of Gilgamesh, Tablet XII


The palace was abandoned. Michael’s followers had destroyed every angelic body here and throughout Sumer, so that their trapped souls could be subjected to the massacre of the nephilim sons. The women loyal to them had been taken, with their daughters, to the ark. It was a bold, cruel statement: the time of women was at an end. Had he let them die like the nephil brothers, their memory might have maintained the privilege of equality. Instead, he enslaved them to his chosen people, stripping them of even their personhood. In Michael’s world, the female would be breeding stock, suppressed so that none might ever become what I had been. He blamed me for what he saw as Earth’s corruption--and so, he made all like me suffer.

I cried, the first nights in that silent tower. I cried for my daughter, not strong enough yet to be born, not even her soul able to survive when all was lost; I cried for my husband and son, so far from me that when I perished, I would never find them again. I cried for my generals, my friends, and my people, until at last there was nothing left to cry over. Then, I too was absorbed by the silence.

This is what happens when I want, I decided. The rest of the world can be selfish, gluttonous with their desires--but if I ever reached too high, all came tumbling down. I should have known that. The lonely angel clinging to her Father, afraid to be too close to her brothers, had correct instincts. Her brothers were not like her. They would strip her wings and cast her down because she was made wrong.

Except, Father had made one other, wrong. The beastly angel who swept down and caught her in his great dark wings, who declared her to be his everything. She had let him slip away. Her everything.

I kept myself alive, as Michael knew I could. I crafted melons or bread out of particles in the air, too numb to taste anything, but requiring the food to sustain my form while my daughter’s heart still beat. I had spent so long obeying the rules of Father’s planet, for what? So that it could all be washed away, while I pulled up a chair and watched.

Sitting at the table where my husband and I once took our tea, I crafted an apple in my palm. I drew back the curtain, staring at the sky through sheets of rainfall. I ate. My baby kicked, lightly, but even she was slower since the rains had come. I stared out over the courtyard, disappearing beneath the water, expecting nothing.

A figure, standing in the downpour. Far off, but there.

I knocked over my chair standing, life sparked back into me. Someone, alive. I ran to the balcony, throwing open the doors, rushing to the ledge even as my gown grew sodden and heavy. My earring burned. I could see him now: Lugalbanda.

I screamed down at him. He reacted, seeing me. He rushed to the base of the tower, out of my sight, though I stumbled to the other side of the balcony to try and follow. I finally realized that insane man was climbing the stone with bare hands and feet, making his way to me.

I don’t know how long it was before he vaulted over the edge, heaving--his nails chipped and bloody, hair slicked across his face. I caught him when he stumbled, shouldering his weight until he threw his arms around me, pulling me down to my knees with him.

“I’m here,” he whispered.

Suddenly, I was furious. I hit him as hard as I could in the chest, as many times as I could.

“You weren’t supposed to come back,” I hit him harder. “You’re supposed to be with Gilgamesh! Why aren’t you with Gilgamesh?!”

He let me hit him. He sat there like stone, until I was done. When I was, he clutched my fist and kissed it, and rest his forehead against it. Overcome, I cried tears I thought I had already spent.

My husband carried me in from the rain. We stripped each other bare, leaving our wet clothes strewn across the room; I toweled his hair with a blanket I had been using to sleep on the floor, denying all luxury to punish myself. He kissed my breasts, my stomach, laying me out on the bed where I sighed to sink into sheets.

“You’re bigger,” he murmured.

I laughed; he kissed me. All was right, again.

Exhausted, I curled onto my side to watch him when he put a kettle on the fire. He took a small box of tea leaves down from a shelf, setting them beside the honey jar I had filled only days before Methuselah came. Hearing the popping of logs, feeling the warmth fill the room, I was taken back to the first days of our union.

“Do you regret loving me?” I asked, holding my pillow.

I saw his smile, lit by the flickering glow.

“Does a bird regret flying?” he asked.

“You’re absurd.”

He chuckled. As the water boiled, he added a handful of leaves to the pot. I inhaled deeply, smiling: lemon.

“Just look at this mess, Lugal,” I said, my strength fading. “What we’ve done.”

“What Michael did. He’ll be made to answer for this, someday.”

“He’ll cast us the villain.”

“So let him. I’ve never cared much how they see me.”

Lugalbanda lifted the pot from the fireplace, pouring a cup for me, then him. He heaped honey in both cups, before carrying the offering to my bedside. I sat up, cringing at a pain in my side, but he was patient. Together, we enjoyed a warm drink, and rainfall.

We knew we were going to drown together. It was never something that needed to be said aloud, just an accepted truth. We passed the time how we pleased. We whispered to our daughter, as if she would live to see the world we spoke of; we made love. Now and again I went to the window, seeing the water rise against the stone, burying shrubs, then trees. Sometimes a body drifted by, and Lugal pulled me away.

The silence was different, when he was there. Firm, yet soft. Warm as his embrace, or his lips.

“Will you find me, in the next life?” I asked him.

He nodded, resting his forehead against mine.

“I’ll always find you.”

The water seeped into our room, beneath the balcony doors. He held me on the bed, as I held him. Neither one of us could make a sound. I blinked back tears as the fire was doused, our cups floating apart.

We didn’t have to say, “I love you.” We knew.

When the water rose over our heads, we kissed each other. We shared the last breath we had, between us. Then, we were gone.

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