Cool waves crashed over his head as he dived into the river. He opened his eyes under water and thought about the Misty Rose, the miraculous herb he nearly died trying to obtain. It was good to have washed away the dirt and sweat of his long journey. His relief though was only momentary - too strong were the fears that urged him home. The waves of the Euphrates spat him to the shore, where he knew his clothes lay safe along with his most important possession: the Misty Rose, a simple herb though important enough to save a life.
No human being had crossed his path in the deserted loneliness that bordered his home land. Naked and with dripping hair, he approached the place where he'd shed his clothes, dropping them with the bundle holding the herb. The clothes were still there, as well the small, grey bag, but his instincts flashed a warning. He stood petrified as water ran from his hair into his eyes. He blinked away the sting from the water and there lay an empty snake's skin , dry and torn.
Upon the bag slithered a fat, brown snake covered with a brilliant yellow pattern, shining in the sun; blood-red eyes watching him. Her split tongue slid over the Misty Rose, then her mouth opened and she started to swallow the hard-fought for herb.
His shock dissolved and with a despairing cry he jumped upon the creature, ready to kill her if need be to stop her from consuming the plant or . . . ready to be killed himself if that was the will of the gods. Without the herb his long journey would have been in vain. As he wrestled with the serpent, it grew under his hands, then snapped for his fingers, sinking her powerful and sharp, poisoned teeth deeply into his palm. Yet, he didn't loose grip of the herb. The snake again tried to swallow the herb as his own body shuddered in spasm. The poison had reached his blood system, his heart pumped it through his body yet his grip remained fierce on the Misty Rose. There was a hollow, crashing sound as the snake's mouth clapped shut with only part of its prize -- a small part of the Misty Rose lay in his hand. Quickly he squeezed it into his fist and stared at the creature as it continued to grow. Her red eyes gleamed like bloody garnets and her tiny nostrils swelled as she started to hiss.
'Nobody sets his foot on my land, human ruler,' she said. 'You have walked my land when I do not know your name. But...' she said as she moved her mighty body over the sand and bare stones dangerously near him again, her look full of deceit, 'I need to thank you for now I am the Queen over all my race. I can change my skin and grow. I am immortal.'
The air was filled with a silent blow. A blow without echo. A golden abyss opened in the snake's eyes; deep and endless. He feared the light shining from her fathomless orbs would burn him and a shudder ran through his body. Ishtar was here, the god of love and fertility, occupying the snake's body. 'You can not win,' the divine voice drowned in his ears. 'I will follow you wherever you go.'
The hiss grew to a storm in his ears. Full of panic he took his clothes and bag and ran upstream, fist clenching the remaining portion of herb as Ishtar's strange, hissing laughter filled his head. 'Go, human king,' it hissed. 'But know your journey was in vain.'
It was one of those Autumn-nights. The leaves fell down with a soft rustle as they loosened themselves from the branches. I can hear them fall, just like I can see things other humans can't -- many things, through all the ages. It has been a long journey for me and my companions; my clique, my band.
Clique. What an odd name to use for me, for us. When I had been born it seemed only natural to fraternize with other men. Later they called us sodomites and other less pleasant things. I must say, I am delighted to have reached this stage of time and this place in the world where to fraternize with my own gender is not worth any more of a mention than that given to a falling sack of wheat. I had experienced the start of yet another millennia, the second after the new chronology. And I wondered if it would bring any good. Considering the past - those gone millennia - had brought only mishap and wars, killing and unbelievable cruelty. Inventions, actually made to please our life, had turned against humankind. In the one hundred years of capitalizing, economizing and industrializing we have managed to enter the path of destruction. All within a short one hundred years truly a blink of an eye for me.
I slowed my pace and opened my senses . . . the entertainment district! Lights turned the nights to days. People crowded the streets. Noise filled the air. There was the reverberating drums of music . . . manly laughter . . . bodies hardly hidden behind corners, offering and waiting, finding relief for a minute and searching on for more. Dates were set up, disappointment followed. All things combined, there was too much excitement and diversion to hold on a moment, to be faithful, to love.
We have something magical, my group and I. I know this. It is like a blurred glow surrounding us. People hesitate, recognize a difference and it unsettles them, but they don't know why. It is the ancient magic that still works its charms.
Romeo next to me turned his eyes upward, seeing a round neon-light that advertised a dance-hall. My Italian comrade conjured a hunter's grin on his face. He smelled men.
'That's it.' Blue eyes fixed on me, then Leopold grabbed Romeo's waist and pulled him along. Leopold had taken over the work as guide. It was his town - Vienna - in a country called Austria in the heart of Europe. I watched his black, rustling overcoat blowing in the cool wind. He had bound back his hair into a Mozart-plait - as he named it - and left the job to me to remember all about this musician. I had learnt his language quickly; one of the fortunes of the kind of being I am. I learn fast.
I went back in my memory to two hundred and more years ago, when the ballrooms of Vienna were famous. Hadn't I met this small young man with the big head and lace-covered breast at the premiere of his first Opera? Yes. It was a complete flop for him, but I had listened to the floating melodies with great affection. The memory caused a shiver. It is not so easy to take when the winds of millenniums touch me. Ahh . . . to master all my memories! They are like a hurricane in my mind at times, some are bright, some pale and on the brink of vanishing. Pictures passed my inner eyes; pictures in pale, powdery colours; yellowed, dusty, like the first Daguerreotypes. But one memory is clear and vivid as ever. In my dreams I still see him: my friend, my brother, my lover, my comrade.
The wind tugged at my black cloak -- an old-fashioned tribute to ancient times. I know I look stunning enough to draw the attention of others. It makes it easier, the search that is. One of the my most peculiar features are my dreams. Back in Mesopotamia when I was a king I had dreamt of him, coming from the steppe into the town to challenge me. Those dreams never left me, no matter in which places I searched. Some dreams were useful; most of them were false. They led me to corners of the earth I'd have been better never to have known.
Sometimes I thought to have found him, but a look in the eyes of the man told me I was wrong again. And my search would continue. Sometimes I stayed with the man to brighten my days, because he reminded me of him. But how long should I stay? To see this surrogate grow old while I remained young?
I try to find him at dance halls that serve the longing to find a mate to sweeten the night. . . twitching, winding, steeled bodies. . . muscles beneath smooth shaven, shiny skin. . . beats and flickering light, impudent, challenging eyes. From time to time eyes would meet mine, but they were not the one's I sought. I wait still for that ultimate prize for which I seek endlessly. I had dreamt about it; eyes, meeting in darkness beyond all barriers, like two beams of searing lasers fixed on each other, causing looks that plough through your very being and rip out your heart; looks that I remembered from so very long ago.
And I waited. So far it hadn't happened and I 'd been searching for so long. Was it 4.000 years? Or more? I reckoned it was rather more; I can not quite put up with the new chronology after the birth of Christendom. I wait for my twin, my soul mate; once found and then lost. I know I will find him. What does it matter if it was a thousand years or more?
Leopold lead the way through the entrance, paid and got carried away by the writhing mass of sweaty bodies. Once he was a brief companion of my empty nights. He was quite young, so careless and proud.
Sean, the Irish member of my group, lanky and pale, but black-haired and blue-eyed like all Irishmen I had ever met, muttered to himself. 'Bad idea.' I understood what he meant. I had found him recently in a pub in Dublin, looking miserable, unable to organize his life.
'Women-lovers', he mumbled, 'I can smell them.' I opened my eyes - wet ponds of anthracite - and took it all in. Before me was the exciting gathering of humans ready for sexual adventures. 'It just brings trouble , Sean said. I knew he despised hetero-orientated men. He unfortunately had fallen always for them. One of another fortunes of our group was that we could now determine pretty closely the sexual desires of the people we met. Call it a sixth sense or a little mind-reading. Today they call it 'Gaydar' only we were much more certain in our senses. In the old days of Uruk, when Babylon had not be founded yet, I had named it seeking for manly friendship. But that was when time was young and we were mortal.
I knew the feeling to be the centre of attention all too well. We shed our coats and cloaks and threw them carelessly aside. It was like a rush of adrenaline blowing through the large, yet surprisingly cosy room. I smiled at Romeo as I pulled him close and placed a kiss on his red, Italian lips to leave no mistake with the party people that we were playing in the same league.
I was deciding the crowd in 'lookers' and 'turn-aways'. And then, it happened. My intestines received a strong blow, almost knocking me over and my eyes started to glow like a silver plate. I received a wave-like shock; an electric tickle that climbed from the soles of my feet up to my hair which flooded, black and silver, over my back and the white silken shirt I was wearing. Though I did not see anyone, the connection blasted me to my core. The walls shook and the lights went dim for a brief moment, enough to stop the music and to leave all in utter darkness. People started to scream, then stopped as the lights came on again.
He was here.
My heart pounded wildly in my throat. I had a bitter taste in my mouth from too much adrenalin and of blood because I had bitten the flesh inside. What would he look like? Which body had his soul chosen to be born again in? Would it be the familiar litheness of a cat; the dangerous glistening in his yellow eyes?
I felt Romeo stiffen as he watched me. My hair crackled and I clenched my hands to fists. In the distance I saw Sean flirting with a boy who looked very uncomfortable at this blunt encounter. Music filled my whole being. It was the kind of dance music that made my feet start moving and gave me an exuberant feeling of joy. I relaxed immediately.
He was here. Somewhere.
And like iron drawn to a magnet I would figure him out. But what would happen to him then? Blue laser beams showed me the way when I crossed the dance floor. White fog hovered over the ground, hiding my boots. I had learned to walk softly with a springy, floating quality, like a hunter searching for his prey and I knew that all eyes were following me. An invisible breeze played with that which was my main pride ñ my hair. I had not cut it for years after his death even though each of my folk had expected me to shave myself completely as sign of mourning. What would he say? Would he believe the enormity of my sadness about his loss? And then, he was there in my sight!
His amber coloured mane gleamed like a mass of spun gold as he sat casually against the wall, watching his territory as he might once had watched his herd of animals on the steppe. Orange light flickered over his face, making it appear as if it were chiselled in smooth stone; translucent like alabaster, cool like the surface of a quiet pond. His corkscrew locks had been tamed with a black hair band that gave him an unfathomable touch of feminine manliness.
I stood and stared. How could I had thought he would look different? His soul had found again his body, the one I was so familiar with. He was man through and through. My man. The sun-shaped golden pendant hanging on the very thin chain around his neck was immediately familiar: the amulet of Shamash.
Would I be able to see the old lines upon his skin? The pale black-red patterns; lines winding upon his arms like desert snakes, building words in a language that had always remained unknown to me? Was the Ibis on his shoulder blade? The one I had kissed so often? And was the secret line drawn down his smooth, hard belly, leading to the mystery that made us two lovers?
I longed for him now as endless relief flooded my body. Relief and fear. My journey had ended. Here I stood, frozen, after a string of endless days and nights -- endless centuries! Who, of all these humans I was surrounded by, could understand this feeling I now had?
I sensed Romeo's hand touch the small of my back. He looked questioning and knowing before a small smile appeared on his dark face. I nodded in silent agreement and he gave me a broad smile in return. The pressure of his hand increased and the moment of my hesitation was gone; it is just not my nature to be timid. I concentrated instead and opened my mind, erasing all thoughts not related to him. 'Enkidu! My soul mate.'
He turned his head and I was drowned in his green-yellow eyes. His eyes sparkled like the steppe by night when the lion's pride gathered under a Jacaranda-bush, their eyes gleaming with satisfaction. I saw the change in his face as I approached. The light, now a pleasant, soft crimson, set his locks on fire; his skin was sun drunken like a peach.
'Who are you?' he said with a voice, soft, like a tongue caressing the inner side of my thigh. My manhood hardened instantly. A quick look told me he was in the same state of excitement. But his embarrassment lasted just a small moment. He adjusted his elbows that supported his body, leaned back even more, opened his legs and offered his body to me. Brief thoughts of men's toilets and steamy encounters entered my mind. I had learned to value those acquisitions of homosexual freedom. The crowd closed around us again, chattering and laughing, as I made a step forward. We were alone, secluded from each of them. Yellowed pictures appeared again; faded picture memories of when I had seen him in reality for the first time, matching him with my foretelling dreams. He was more now. He was flesh whose heat blasted my own.
'I have a gift for you,' I told him quietly. 'Immortality.'
His eyes flashed back like laser beams, and for a moment I thought he would laugh.
'You mean the little death?' His lips curled. 'I can show you.' His head made an imperceptible yet unmistakable movement in the direction of the men's rooms. I stepped further forward, now standing between his legs, and my hands came to a rest on his thighs. As if by chance my palm brushed his groin, feeling the hardness that matched my own. I sighed. I could have him right now, but I would lose him in that very moment of satisfaction. Instead, I locked my eyes with his and spoke his name.
His eyes became glassy before he focused them on me again. 'My name is Lucien.'
Lucien - a name like melting chocolate on my tongue. 'Come to my place,' I said. He rose instantly and willingly, forced by the power of my mind. I felt a little regret. He shouldn't need a prompt from my power, but instead, be the old Enkidu that I loved and lost; one that would need no urging. He'd always been a strong man of his own, with his indescribable youth and innocence . The contrast between strength and innocence always blended magically within him. He followed me and I heard his little gasp when he saw the flood of black hair covering my back . Sean was there, Leopold and Romeo also. I heard their whispers of understanding.
I had rented a house on the outskirts of the city for I liked to be separate. Glow-worms tumbled in the night as we drove through the little park attached to the property. I felt like a nobleman bringing home his conquest. Lucien would not be the same by the time the morning dawned.
He was silent but I felt his eyes on me in the mirror over the driver's seat. 'I don't know your name', he said finally with his smooth-rough voice. Again I sensed his licks between my legs and my all too willing member twitched in anticipation. I needed all my willpower while this little plague in my trousers screamed and my mind scolded me. 'Idiot!'
I searched for Lucien's hand lying beside his thigh and he let me have it. 'You aren't Austrian. Which country do you come from ?'
'From Mesopotamia.' Why start our new life with a lie, I thought? I stopped the car and turned my head to him. There, under the calm facade, something seethed. I felt it, just like in the old days we had shared together. My wild man had been tamed by a trapper and a temple boy, but he still carried the smell of animal and I was crazy for him as ever. I leaned over and parted his mouth with my lips . . . there was nothing but pure fever. With a bolt, it all came back to me -- the heat, a temperature rising to burn myself to ashes.
His lips' movements were the world to me, brushing and sucking; his smooth tongue caressing my own. I couldn't get enough. I had waited close to 5000 years for this kiss and I laid my complete soul in his. My body pressed him to the car's door and I saw his eyes widening . . . in recognition perhaps? It was the first lecture I gave him - a flashback for him to remember: the first kiss of his life. I felt him react and fight with me for domination -- like he had always done, playfully like a lion's cub, but with incredible power in his hands. I tousled his hair, removed the band and his locks fell into my palms like a ripped pillow full of downy feathers. Very softly I heard him moan, a growl from deep in his throat. I felt his palms pressing my head to his own and the kiss seemed never-ending. Then, as our lips separated, I came spontaneously into my underwear! Ah, but what did I care, this source was never-ending!
He stared into my eyes. His face flushed. His lips, a luscious strawberry red, wet and glistening, parted slightly. Then he grinned diabolically at me and I recognized this smile. Yes, it was him.
'Enkidu,' I repeated, touching his lashes, black and thick, and kissed the short, wide nose. 'My name is Lucien,' he insisted, though with a hint of uncertainty. He searched my face for something indefinable, something he couldn't yet fathom. I felt the buttons of my trousers open and eager fingers pull at my penis. Surprised, but pleased, he looked up. 'Are we staying here in the car or will you invite me in?' he asked, pointing to the dark house.
I saw myself in the mirror of his eyes. I saw a longish face with dark complexion and eyelashes so black they framed my eyes like those of an Egyptian king. Ah! To have met those androgynous kings from ancient Egypt . . . but their time was over and I was still alive. I recognized the primal wildness in Lucien's eyes. He had never been able to hide it once we had been lovers. The candle's light, set in each corner of the room, made them glisten with the memory of a foreign country and the smell of the Euphrates whose waves licked softly at the shores. He had always watched me swimming, but never went into water himself. As with the lions, he was water shy; he had lived too long among them.
I smelled burning wax and sensed the heat radiating from his body. He stood still, watching my face. I raised a hand and traced a line from his neck under his ear, over his collarbone and down into the neckline of his shirt. I opened a button and instantly old lines appeared; pale, ochre coloured lines, forming a bird. The Ibis.
My fingertips burned with the heat. The lines vanished as soon as I removed my fingers. His gaze deepened and yet it was shy. Furtive. A little suspicious. 'Why do you call me En . . . what was the name?'
'Enkidu,' I said low. It was a magic word. I had tried this name on several men, but each time I touched them the way I did now, the skin remained unblemished and without change. But then, I had never had this absolute conviction that this man was him, my lover lost so soon in our earlier life together.
'Enkidu,' he repeated as he chewed the word on his tongue. 'What a strange name.'
He wanted to laugh again, but something stopped him. There, again, was that questioning look. He stepped away from me. 'Is this your house?' he asked. I nodded.
'Just for a short time. I plan to return to my home some day.' What was I saying here? I can never return to my home. Mesopotamia doesn't exist anymore. Foreign people, with a foreign belief, have occupied it. The country was separated and covered with wars. And yet I yearned to see the soft winding of the rivers again, making the country bloom -- a small, green patch while the rest of it remains a barren and stony desert. The sun shone different there, the light was yellow and strong, but by night, the exotic scents wafted through the open windows. Here, in the heart of Europe, everything was pale and filtrated with a rough smell of civilization.
'Return to Mesopotamia?' he asked surprised. 'That's the two-river-land, right? Where civilization started.' He pondered a moment. 'Are you really sure? The war has just ended, are you a refugee?'
Refugee. Yes, in some ways I was. I had left my home country after I had searched for him in every corner of the land before I started my journey around the world. He could be reborn anywhere and I feared I would miss the appointed time. But then, hadn't the old, wise man who had survived the Big Flood promised me that I would recognize him? His promise had now become reality, I just hadn't known it would take so long.
I watched Lucien pacing the room, looking at modern paintings on the wall that didn't exactly match the massive, oak furniture. I had rented the house with them, and it just didn't matter to me. Nothing mattered except the completion of the task that was standing before me right now.
'Have you ever been there?' I asked his back.. His broad shoulders shrugged. 'Of course not.'
'Are you sure?'
He turned surprised. 'Of course I'm sure.' His voice was growing impatient and he returned to me. He grinned a seductive smile, implicating the question I was waiting for.
'We have the whole night, if you like,' I answered his unasked question.
'Good.' He grinned broadly, revealing strong teeth of a dazzling white and started to touch me. I jumped away. I couldn't possess him without letting him know. The semen in my pants continued to dry with a coolness that made me shiver. He seemed to be disappointed. His arms hung empty beside his body and he frowned. 'What's the matter with you?'
'I need to tell you a story,' I started with quivering voice. All my strength seemed to leave me.
He laughed. 'A story? A kid's good-night tale?' Playfully he approached me again. 'You are beautiful,' he murmured suddenly and ran his fingers through my hair. 'Is this the fashion in Mesopotamia? Have you ever cut this long, beautiful hair?'
I didn't answer. If I hadn't cut it, my hair would be as long as the distance from Vienna to Uruk. I just kept it in form because he once had loved my long hair.
Again this intense stare covered his eyes as if he tried to remember. I saw the effort with delight. Perhaps the more he touched me, the more the memories would return. 'Chocolate and silver,' he mumbled. 'How old are you?'
Chocolate and silver. My hair still had the old colour and the waves, ending in ringlets, flooding over my back. But the silver was new, an exotic addition indicating my age. I was undying, but I could get older in the row of millenniums. Perhaps it was just a sign of grief and impatience. 'Not a single year older than you,' I said.
He examined my face again, searching for wrinkles and lines. There weren't any, I knew. Just perhaps the skin that had been too burnt from the desert sun.
He smiled. 'Then tell me the story and hurry up.' His hands brushed my groin, setting it on fire again. I guided him to a settee, beige with red roses. 'Are you thirsty, hungry?' I asked, on my way already to the bar, examining the several flasks and bottles. Whisky would do me good, I loved the raw, smoky taste.
'Whisky?' he suggested.
I smiled and returned with two glasses. He took it and let the ice cubes jingle. Then he leaned over and brushed his lips with mine. He hesitated. 'You taste ... familiar,' he managed to say, before he devoured my mouth. The whisky sloshed. 'Are you sure about the good-night tale? You can tell me afterwards.' He set aside his glass, pulled me closer, buried his hands into my hair and chewed at my earlobe. 'I want you. I've never met anyone like you.'
I fought the seething urge in my loins. Not yet, I chanted in my mind. Not yet. Not yet. 'It was in Uruk, when the days were young,' I whispered.
'Uruk?' he whispered back.. Outside a night owl hooted. A soft breeze billowed the long curtains and a scent of rotten leaves wafted through the room. It was cosy. His kisses were promising. Why didn't he whip off his shirt finally? I thought impatiently. Show me your body. Show me the old lines. I touched his naked underarms and pale lines followed my stroke. Desert snakes. Winding and turning. A scar where the claw of a lion had hurt him. They vanished as soon as I removed my fingers. He opened the buttons of his shirt and his skin gleamed through the white fabric. I didn't dare to touch it.
Gently, yet determined, I pushed him back.. 'Uruk. The old capital of Mesopotamia.' I dropped back to my dreamful voice. 'I saw him in my dreams. They said he was the most powerful man ever. His charmed body was strong, the muscles long and lithe. A delicate fur of golden hair covered his whole body, a protection against the burning heat and the coldness of night because he lived outside Uruk, the kingdom town. He had grown up amidst wild animals and spoke their language. The night I had seen him standing at the gate that leads to the entrance through the thick town walls, I had sat up. He was waiting for me. But his body was covered now in clothes, a loincloth hiding his masculine attributes. His skin was smooth and gleaming with sweat. I saw the lines because the Gods had marked him.'
I guided my gaze back to Lucien to find him, mouth partly open, listening to me as a child would had done. His eyes reflected the golden shine of the candles gaining the brilliant colour of a peridot. 'You have seen him?' he asked. 'I mean, you dreamt of him? Who was he?'
'A child of nature. A master of bow, spear and knife. He was eating grass from the hills and with his weapons he used to kill animals for his lion's flock. He used to hunt with the females and mate with the males.'
Lucien's lips curled. 'Mate with the males?' His smile vanished. The eyes, a crystal peridot-shine, became stony like marbles of jade. The whisky glass in his hand trembled.
'Mate with lions. That's gross,' he mumbled, then said in a fainter voice, 'No, it was necessary.'
I raised my eyebrow. Necessary?
'Yes!' Lucien was suddenly very engaged. 'Many do this to keep friendship. To protect the herd, to take away aggression. Didn't you know? It was bloody animal.'
'I watched and then I joined.' Lucien's eyes were far away. His corkscrew locks hung to his shoulders, appearing like a lion's mane. 'It was a ritual for us. They told me it was a great honour when the master of the herd joined their peaceful friendship.'
My heartbeat quickened. Was he about to wake up? I touched his face, but he didn't seem to notice. His eyes were getting a shade darker. 'There was this trapper who saw me and then there was this temple boy, a courtesan from the temple of Shamash, the God of Sun.'
'He was sent from me to tame you,' I threw in furtively. I didn't want to interrupt his memory. My glass was empty and so was his, but I didn't dare to move.
'Why would you send a temple boy to tame this nature's child?' Lucien's eyes were again green-golden like before, oblivious to the memory.
'There are two temples, for girls and boys. They were highly honoured because they served the Gods and to mate with one of them means to be accepted and blessed by the Gods. I wanted to tame the danger the strongest man of our world radiated.'
'And who are you? Why were you afraid of a hunter, living amongst animals? Speaking their language, eh?' Lucien smiled his enticing smile again and I longed to kiss him. But I did not.
'I was not afraid. I wanted to put our strength on trial. See if he was as strong as they said.'
'And this temple boy? Was he pretty?'
I was silent. Lucien should know if he was pretty. The boy had seduced him, making him lose his animal being to become a human man. Again I touched Lucien's face, wiping his forehead and the locks, so soft to my palm. I remembered them well. I saw them flooding over the pillows and the furs covering our bed state.
'He was pretty. He was painted around the eyes, and his hands and feet had patterns of henna-paintings.' Again Lucien's voice hesitated in delicate memories. I closed my eyes and saw what he saw:
To the watering place they came: gazelles, zebras and buffalos, and finally Enkidu came to quench his thirst. He saw the boy with shining hair, pearls in his earlobes and golden rings around his wrists. Both stood and stared, then the boy shed his loincloth and stood proudly in the sun, his sign of manhood very neat and anointed, the testicles smooth like apricots. He circled the child of nature who sniffed at him and took in the scent of manhood. His penis rose and the boy opened his legs, kneeled down and offered himself. He would work a miracle to alienate the wild animals and make Enkidu a man. He gritted his teeth when he felt Enkidu's mighty meat entering him from behind, shedding his hot semen instantly. The boy was surprised, he hadn't even had time to get hard himself, but then he felt teeth pulling at his neck, a licking tongue, and the heavy, fur- covered body pressing its weight upon him, entering him again, shedding his semen, entering him again and again. Untiring like the lions he mated with the boy and with each time he lost his animal being and a man was born.
'After seven days and nights of mating I woke up, satisfied and weak. I looked after my wild pride and they looked at me, but they didn't recognize me anymore. They went away and I was another person, something else completely; alienated and sad. The boy I had used to satisfy my frantic urge, lay beside me and I felt pity. But he was smiling. He rose and neared his face to mine, then he pressed his lips upon mine. I was overwhelmed and imitated his actions. He forced my lips open and played with my tongue. And I was on fire again. It was fever. It was wet and he showed me how to mate gently without haste. First, he guided me to the water hole and washed my body that had lost its fur. My skin was tender and white and he creamed it with an ointment of exotic scent, rose petals and cool cucumber, aloe and cinnamon. I watched him pull out a tool and with it he brushed my hair until it sparkled like fire and was soft and without dust and burrs, but rather smooth ringlets fell down my shoulders.'
I watched with fascination Lucien's face. It had changed. His eyes had become greenish- yellow like a lion's eyes and his skin blazed with power. Between his legs I saw a large bulge had built and I longed to stroke it -- make love like in the old days, when the temple boy had taught Enkidu to be a perfect lover. Gentle but keeping his lust, soft and wild.
I could have jubilee. I did inwardly. He remembered. I took his upper arms. 'Yes. The boy showed him how to kiss, how to love. He told him to eat with knife and fork. He taught him words. And Enkidu learnt fast. And then one day the boy wandered back with him to his home town. Uruk.'
'Uruk.' Lucien woke up. 'That's a very exciting story of yours,' he said broadly grinning. 'It's almost as if I was there. Now,' he peered down at my crotch, 'finish your story later, or how long do you want to wait?' He stood up and stretched out his hand.
I could not follow. Or should I? 'Wait a moment. I need another drink.' Without waiting for an answer I refilled our glasses and sat down again. I could hardly tame myself, but it had to be. I didn't want to lose him. 'Four thousand and seven hundred years ago, Uruk was the capital of the Two-River-Land that spread between the rivers Euphrates and Tigris. That's where our so-called civilization started indeed.' I had taken Lucien's wrist and pulled him beside me on the settee. He drank from the whisky that gave his complexion a healthy, rosy touch. Sun-drunken peach, I thought once more. 'There were wonderful temples for the God of Heaven, Anu, and for Ishtar, the hermaphrodite God of love and fertility. The king of this city state was named Gilgamesh. Do you know what they say about him?' But I fell silent. Lucien had fixed his eyes on me, looking me up and down like a stranger. I saw this name awoke reflections. 'I ... I have heard this name before. In school?' he suggested.
''Gilgamesh ... since the day he was born his name is splendid. Two thirds of
him are God, one third is human. He is the wild bull, the perfect one, awe-inspiring...''
On the gate of the town wall Enkidu hesitated. He had never been in a town. But the temple boy dragged him along. Enkidu watched carts pulled by donkeys pass them. A market. Old men sat on the streets on carpets, drinking tea and playing a game with stones. He sniffed several scents -- roasted lamb and onions . . . fresh bread and sweet millet gruel. And then there was a festively dressed group gathered in front of a brownish brick stone house. They had decorated themselves with garlands of flowers and the ground was covered with fresh petals.
The temple boy held Enkidu's arm. 'Look, that's a wedding. Do you see the bride? And next to her is our king, may Anu be gracious with him and may he have a long life.' He kissed briefly his fingertips and bowed his head.
'What...,' Enkidu cleared his throat from dust, 'what is a wedding?'
The boy's brown eyes sparkled. 'It's a promise between two people to stay together for the rest of their lives, to honour and trust each other in good and bad times.'
Enkidu stared. One mate for the rest of the life? Just one? He could not understand the reason. Was it not the task of nature to mate with as many different beings as you could to have fun and to spread your semen? There had always been just one male in his flock, but many females. Enkidu's lips curled to a smile. But then, it was not Enkidu's nature to mate with the females.
'Our king carries out his right of the first night', the boy continued. 'After a wedding it is his right to deflower the newlywed.'
'It's what you and I are not,' the boy smiled. 'A virgin.'
Enkidu watched the king from afar. He was taller than most. His splendid, brown hair was tied up with silver bands and a ring with colourful gems and jewels wound around his forehead. He appeared very strong. The white, shiny shirt clung over his muscled arms and chest; the rest of his body was hidden by a long skirt that reached to the ground coloured a deep, vivid blue, decorated with golden embroidery. Enkidu's innocent nature did not know any better how to behave in public and so the temple boy took notice that a hard erection strained Enkidu's loin cloth; it was impossible not to notice.
Gilgamesh was about to enter the house with the newly- wedded husband when he turned. His eyes found the child of nature, standing calm with big, amber-green eyes, his face framed by a fluffy mane, a spear at his side. The king's eyes found the unmistakable outline of his hard erection and he let loose of the husband.
He drew nearer and the people fell silent. The temple boy bowed deeply, but Enkidu just stood and stared unblinking.
'You are Enkidu, the son of the gazelle and the wild donkey. Welcome to Uruk.'
The people murmured. This was the big warrior who lived with the lions and wild animals?
'Please bring him to my palace,' Gilgamesh said to the boy, 'and be thanked for your help.'
The boy bowed again.
'I have a task to do,' Gilgamesh turned to the waiting husband standing in the doorframe when Enkidu took hold of the king's arm. 'Do not,' he said. The murmur grew louder. No one was allowed to touch the king of Uruk unasked. Surprised, Gilgamesh turned. 'Why not? It's my right.'
Enkidu's eyes flickered over to the pale man waiting. 'Will he enjoy mating with you?'
'It's not about if he enjoys it, it's about that I enjoy it.' Gilgamesh's voice was a sharp snap, but Enkidu didn't leave. 'Then search for a man who will enjoy.'
Gilgamesh turned now fully to the wild man, the man he had tamed by a trick, and a little smile played around his mouth. His eyes stroked Enkidu's body, the lithe muscles, the pale lines where the Gods had marked him. The wild eyes. The straining erection, matching his own, he realized with surprise. He touched Enkidu's arm, embraced it and went on with him.
'Taught him a lesson, that wild man did, huh?' Lucien said sleepily. I looked at my watch, it was past midnight.
'He taught him you shouldn't need to fight to be friends, like the lions mate for friendship and stop aggression.'
I wondered about Lucien's quick comprehending. He emptied his glass and put it aside. 'And then both went to the king's palace and fucked the brains out of themselves?' he said playfully. 'That gives me an idea.' He stretched out his hand and started to unbutton my white shirt. I didn't know how far his memory had recovered and I did not want to help him remember except with my words telling the story of myself and him.
'They went straight to the king's bedroom,' I continued slowly, 'locked the door and undressed each other.'
Lucien's hands had finished their unbuttoning and pulled the shirt out of my trousers. He stripped it off from my shoulders and ran his palms over my chest. His eyes sparkled again with brilliant peridot-green flares as he locked them with mine and then a significant thing happened. My hair started to crackle from electricity and before my eyes Lucien's breath became laboured and over his face scurried shadows.
'I know what you are talking about,' he said quietly. 'It is as if I have seen it. Was participant. Watcher. It's just... so funny. Such a strange feeling.'
To hell with my caution, I shouted at myself. I wanted him so badly. I couldn't wait any longer, even if I had waited 4,700 years for this moment. Lucien's fingers played between my legs, stroking my covered balls, his head tilted with a rapturous smile on his face. 'First Gilgamesh's long skirt was falling and the loin cloth he was wearing was wet from the droplets of joy he had shed in anticipation. Wasn't it so?'
Lucien's candid, innocent look broke my heart. Yes, it had been so. I rose to my feet, took Lucien's hand and guided him upstairs to the bedroom. I hadn't prepared anything, so I threw a red shawl over the little lamp standing by the bed and pulled back the covers.
'And Enkidu's unblemished soul comprehended that the king of Uruk would make him the biggest gift: his body,' I continued my tale, not without shaking legs. 'Enkidu's senses, still intoxicated from the experience with the temple boy, remembered how to make love. He still had this unbelieving staying power, but, he thought, this would only be natural.'
Lucien laughed while he dropped my trousers, seeing my underpants wet from droplets of joy. 'You live your tale, baby.'
I thought I was about to faint when everything happened at once. Lucien gave me a private strip show, his gaze never leaving my eyes, before he stood proud, naked and erect in the soft glow of the lamp. He approached me and ground his abdomen into mine. It tugged at my heart to the point where I could have screamed. Wherever my hands touched him, lines appeared. They followed my fingertips up his upper arms, over his shoulders, down his chest . . . as smooth as I remembered. He followed my hands with his eyes and I saw in their expression that he was seeing them too. He didn't seem to wonder at their appearance. We both had reached a state where past and present melded together. He hooked his thumbs into the narrow waistband of my pants and pulled them down.
And then he started to kiss me. His fingers fondled up and down the shaft with oh, so familiar movements. He gave me a push and flung me on the bed leaving my lips as he devoured my manhood. 'And Enkidu surely admired the king's size,' he chortled indistinctly, chewing at my meat that filled his exquisite mouth. I was on fire, I was on the brink of explosion and I had to do something about that. Although . . . I knew very well my old lover was untiring. I struggled and removed carefully my penis from Lucien's sucking mouth, sat up and pulled him close. His member swung between his long legs, hairless like the rest of his body, except the trail from the belly leading to the abdomen because he had lost his fur on the threshold of becoming human. 'Enkidu was not shy,' I told him. 'He remembered all the things the boy had taught him. Rimming for instance.' I grinned and saw Lucien's eyes lit up. 'Make it slow, raise the tension.'
I leaned him on his back between the pillows. 'It was a four posted bed, covered with the furs of zebras, gazelles and leopards. Enkidu, now human without his animal friends, didn't object to the killing of them. He lay down on them and spread his arms and legs.'
Lucien spread his arms and legs and I kissed his rosy nipples, licking and biting until they were hard and big. 'Do you see the little ibis? Enkidu had the same.' My hands trailed along, over the curve of his waist, and the flat, hard belly. He was hard as ever when I gave his member a stroke. Long and rather thick it snuggled to his belly in a soft, leftward curve. 'Gilgamesh loved the look of his new lover. He admired his powerful tool and the natural way with which Enkidu was moving in bed, like a courtesan, offering everything. He took his manhood between his lips and sucked slightly on the tip, tasting the crystal droplets...' I was copying the actions of my tale, and Lucien growled. It was so hard for me not to give in, let it end in the heat of a moment, take him, make him mine again, show him how much I loved and missed him. My hands caressed his ball sack, the silky surface, with its delicate heaviness and the velvet line beneath, leading to the place of my utmost desire.
'Let me mount you,' Gilgamesh whispered and Enkidu's ears jerked as if he had to scare away a fly. 'Mount me?' he asked. 'I was mounting the boy for seven days and nights. I don't know what it is like to be mounted.'
'Heaven,' Gilgamesh said. 'I will show you. You must follow my words.'
Enkidu blinked. 'And my reward?'
Gilgamesh's fingers had opened his hole already, massaging the little rough entrance, smearing some of the fluid oozing off his member around the wrinkled place of pleasure.' Lucien moaned. He opened his legs wider and pressed my head between them for me to lick the tender skin. 'Mount me,' he hissed. 'I've never done it before, I was just mating with lions and the boy.'
I removed my tongue and looked up. His eyes were open and glazed. Amber- green. 'Please, be my king.'
He was here. Enkidu. Finally with me. I opened his legs even wider and smeared olive oil around his opening and on my aching penis. I knew how to do it and he knew instantly how to react. I leaned forward over him and pushed. And he pressed.
'Enkidu, my love,' I murmured, kissing his lips which opened like a flower for me to smooth the pain he was certainly feeling. I waited for him, withdrew and pushed again. He arched his back and opened his mouth in a soundless cry before the pain subsided. 'Deeper,' he demanded. I sat on my knees, shoved my hands behind his back and pulled him close to me. He rested on my legs, face to face. 'Deep enough, my wild man?' I asked. His smile was answer enough. His locks fell into his eyes and I stroked them back. His gaze became unfocussed, as he moved gently up and down, placing my hand around his shaft. I teased him, giving it little strokes, tickled it with my nails, until he didn't know if to laugh or to scream for pleasure.
'Seven days and nights you said you mated with the temple boy?' I asked him, feeling the climax building.
'Seven days and nights. I was quick. It just lasted a minute each time.' He moaned when he felt my lunges deep into his hole. 'But then . . . then he showed me how to prolong, to hold on. Oh...!' I gushed my semen into his hole, not able to hold on. It shuddered my body, rocked him and he sprayed our bodies with white cream.
'Let's do it again,' he said after a while of blissful agony spent burying his hands into my hair, 'you're so beautiful. So wonderful.' He kissed me tempestuously, and it was more than I could take. He moved the muscles in his anus. 'Stay hard, will you?' he whispered and I had to laugh. It was not hard to obey when the love of your life demands love.
'And then let's go out and you show me the town. I've never been in a town. There is so much you have to explain.' He swung his leg around my head and stretched out between the cushions. I was still hard as I had been before when I plundered his sweet hole again, pulling him tightly to my body and he let it happen as if he had never known anything different. I stroked his meat until it rose again and he gave little sighs. I was overwhelmed that all my old feelings for him were as fresh as they were on the very first day when we had met and shared the bed together. I found it all again, his heat, the surrender, the tender frantic coupling. I buried my head into his hair that smelled musky like his being and intoxicating like oriental roses.
We found the perfect rhythm, as we had always done before and nothing could have separated me from him; not my second climax nor his release after I had turned him around to clamp my mouth around his spear giving him the intense feeling of contentment and utmost peace.
His whole body heaved when I laid beside him. My fingers ran over his moist skin and with gratitude I protected his spent and satisfied private parts with my palm.
'Am I the only one?' he whispered, eyes closed.
'From now on you are.'
A long glance met mine. 'I'm yours.' He rose to his elbow. 'And now we discover the town, right? I have never been to this temple the boy was telling me about.'
'Beloved,' I said carefully, 'look around. What do you see?'
Lucien looked around. 'A room, a bed, you.'
'Have you seen the furs? Have you seen me?'
A bolt shot through his body. When he opened his eyes again they had their usual brilliant colour and he looked at me like at a stranger.
'What's your name?' he asked sharply.
He untangled his body from mine and I felt cold and alone. I longed for his warmth.
'What have you done to me? Do you transfer your dreams onto me? I saw . . . no, I see that you and that stupid king you were telling me about are one and the same! Are you mad?'
He stood there, hands supported on the bed, shouting at me. I sighed. This was harder than I thought for him to accept.
'And why do you call me Enkidu?! That's the name of the wild man.'
'Because you are Enkidu.' I decided to play it tough. It was now just a matter of time before he would remember everything. 'I lost him and have now found him back.'
Lucien ruffled his hair in agitation. 'But that's insane! How old is your tale? When has this king lived? Before Christ, wasn't it?'
I watched him as he left the bed and began pacing the room. He appeared ethereal in the soft, reddish light. His hair blazed. I felt the urge to take a brush to smooth it. The muscles in his butt cheeks clenched with each step. I saw a glistening trail of oil and semen on his thighs.
I was desperate. What was I to do? Should I influence his mind, transfer my memories to his own, so that my memories would now be his? It would never be the same. Somewhere, deep down under this all too handsome surface was hidden my old Enkidu. My lover, my world, my everything. All those men I had mated with in the flow of thousands of years could not stop the nagging pain of loss I had felt. And now, that I had found him, it should end in desperation? I had to try again, harder.
'Lucien,' I said softly, strived to calm him down and open his mind. 'Look at me.' He turned around, but his eyes didn't show any signs of memory. 'You owe me your name.'
'Gil...' I hesitated. 'Gil. It's Gil.'
He laughed. 'You want to say Gilgamesh, right? The king of Uruk. Are you lost in a theatre-piece? Are you an actor, an author, who can't find the way out of his profession? Is it true that all of your types are schizophrenic?'
He was serious. He stared, then he quickly gathered his clothes and ran through the door and down the staircase. I followed close on his heels. Downstairs, I saw a figure leaning against the doorframe to the living room. It was Sean, watching us with a cynical smile.
Lucien stopped and looked confused. 'I think I should go. A threesome is nice, but not tonight.' He tried to pass my Irish companion, but Sean stopped him with a simple and quick movement of his arm. A questioning look at me from those Irish eyes confirmed I had made little progress. Lucien, his clothes still pressed to his chest, flashed at him and freed himself from Sean's grip, dropping his clothes. 'I don't know what you're playing here, but I'm definitely out of this game.'
Sean didn't move. His blue eyes wandered over Lucien's body. Perhaps he saw the old lines there. Then, in confirmation, he stretched out his hand and touched the Ibis on Lucien's shoulder. Lucien stepped aside and his body hunched, ready to attack anyyone who would do him harm. I recognized the fluent movements with which he had charmed me once -- the underlying power and strength. Lucien was the hunter of the steppe, eyeing his prey. His body was coiled tight as a spring, the muscles in his backside clenched, like the ones in his thighs and calves.
But Sean smiled. 'You better listen to Gil's tale. It's not as creepy as you think. It's actually fascinating.' Fearless, he moved his face nearer to Lucien's. Confused, I looked at the Irish man. There was something threatening about him. Something that had never been there before.
'Do you believe in everlasting love?' he asked now. 'Non aging love? Love that lasts through the ages, centuries, millenniums?' Sean's voice was intense. 'Isn't it fascinating?' I saw his fingers glow where he had touched Lucien's naked breast. Now he slowly lifted his eyes and turned them directly toward me. For a single moment I saw an abyss and in its depth a golden halo, like the fire ring around a sun's eclipse. I had only seen eyes with that fire one time before - back in Uruk, nearly 5,000 years ago, and by Anu, this was not a pleasant memory. But then Sean blinked and the image in my mind vanished, yet my confusion remained.
'Fascinating?' Lucien called out. 'When he tries to creep into my mind? I thought we were having real sex instead of having sex only lived out in my brain.'
'Is that so?' Sean raised an eyebrow. Another face appeared at his side. Leopold. Sean wrapped his arm around his waist.
'Don't be stupid, boy,' Leopold said. 'You'll miss the love of your life . . . of all of your lives!'
I indicated for Leo to be careful. I knew it would be a shock for Lucien to be in the company of immortal men, but the shock would only grow bigger if I was not able to show him who he was. His mind had to awaken from the long sleep ñ his mind and his soul. A good way he had managed, but it was not enough.
'Do you remember the lions?' I asked him, my voice low and calm. Lucien turned. He was still naked, as was I, but his body slowly relaxed; the threat was over. I approached him. 'What did you see when we were together? You were asking me to show you the town. Which town did you mean?'
Lucien looked confused. 'I was born here in Vienna, so why should I ask you to show me the town. You are the foreigner here.'
'We both are foreigners. You asked me to show you Uruk. Where do you think these questions come from?'
'Who are you? Are you playing a game without telling me the rules?'
I gathered his clothes for him and pressed them to my chest. I shivered under his glare. I felt vulnerable. 'There was this look of his, from those wonderful, innocent eyes, that did not know about harm, about the things humans can do to each other.' My voice trailed along, becoming lower and lower as I spoke directly into his face. He was silent, his lips slightly pressed together, but he was listening.
'He was trustful like a child, and in constant need for words for my little temple boy had not had time enough to teach him everything. Enkidu did not know about the Gods, but I saw the pale lines on his skin, a beautiful pattern I followed with my eyes. His exquisite mouth smiled trustfully at me and I knew I wanted him for my companion.' I paused. 'I am talking of you.'
Instantly I felt Sean's eyes on me. He flashed me a gaze that burnt through to my intestines as he looked my naked body up and down. We had never been bedfellows, for whatever reason. I felt distracted and lost my concentration. And felt immediately that I was losing Lucien.
'Why don't you both go upstairs and take a nap,' I said sharply. Leopold got the message and pulled Sean with him.
'You were talking about me?' Lucien didn't seem to sense the interruption. As quickly as I could I crossed the room and took him into my arms. He was cold. My trembling hands traced along his back, over his butt cheeks where I felt the moist fluid still lingering -- my shed semen.
'Look, you were in trance, you saw things of your past. My words just helped to arouse your buried memories.'
'But how can this be? If you are Gilgamesh you are ... ancient! And what am I then? The wild man from the moor who fucked with lions?'
I nodded. He laughed unbelievingly. 'It's impossible!'
'Love, anything is possible! It's like magic, it's always there, you just have to learn to use it.'
'Magic! Wow,' he sneered. 'You're still into your kid's good-night's tale.'
'But you've seen them, the lions, the temple boy. You told me what he looked like and I swear it was the truth; painted eyes, henna-hands and gold around his wrists.'
'Right. Probably you used hypnosis,' he said dryly.
'Sort of, yes.' I shook him a little. 'What's there so mysterious about working with hypnosis. Have you never heard of people talking with foreign tongues? Or experienced lives they have lived millenniums ago?'
'I think that's nonsense.'
'It is not.'
He was unsure, I sensed. Unsure of what to think and uncertain if he should leave me. He laid his head on my shoulder and I pulled him tighter to me. 'Don't leave me,' I whispered. 'It is too good to hold you. I have missed you for so long.' He lifted his head and looked me in the eyes. A little darker they appeared, like Enkidu's eyes. 'Don't you feel it?' I continued to whisper. 'We are connected from head to toe; warm limbs snuggling onto me, your fragrant body, still carrying a scent of a wild animal, ready to give me everything. You have been the master of sensual joy. You have taught me the act of love in its most delicious ways.'
'His name was Siduri.' Lucien looked at me with enraptured eyes.
'The temple boy's name.'
'Oh. I didn't know that.' My heart beat in my throat again. His manhood hardened at my thigh. 'I had mated with him for seven days and nights and then he told me his name, as well as he told me my name.' His look lost itself somewhere in the room. 'Who has given me this name anyway?'
'I don't know, Enkidu. Everyone knew this was your name.'
Furtively I started to stroke him again. My fingertips slipped down the line of his slender yet muscular thigh, over his hip and down his abdomen, outlining the contour of his hard penis. He didn't seem to notice, at least it did not reach his mind.
'Tell me more,' he said finally.
But where to start? 'Didn't you feel the initial attraction between us? Your body was on fire, I could see it. I sensed it.' I started furtively and felt his body stiffening. 'Yes,' he said. 'Happens sometimes.'
I gave him a sharp look and shook his body. 'It happens sometimes? How often does it happen you go with a man you met two minutes ago?'
It happened? Then I had a more old-fashioned conception of . . . what? Sex? Love? Wasn't there anything more than just plain sex or an encounter for one night?
The oddest thing I felt right now was Lucien, trembling as he clung to my body as if he was enjoying my warmth. It was chillingly cool in the living room and the fire was out. 'Do you still want to go?' I whispered. 'Are you still afraid?' His lips brushed my cheek when he lifted his head. I felt his hands raking through my dishevelled long hair. 'Were you really born more than two thousand years before Christ?'
'But ... but ... how?' An unsure smile appeared on his face. 'This happens only in movies or fantasy-literature. And what about the others, living here with you?'
'Wherefrom do you think those writers get their ideas from? If you imagine it, then it's possible to become reality. Had anybody thought it would be possible to walk on the moon one day? And yet it happened.'
His head tilted a tiny bit and his eyes searched for more answers. 'The others,' he reminded me.
'Like me. Undying.' I held my breath. I had said it and waited anxiously for his reaction. 'How?' he asked. His fingers untangled my hair, like Enkidu used to do after a night full of pleasure and fulfilled desire. By Anu, if he just would realize how familiar his movements were, his scent, his voice, the way he kissed me, the way he opened his legs for me with that innate innocence in his amber-green eyes.
'How?' I repeated. 'It's not the time to speak about immortality, love. Don't be afraid of me. All I want is to have you back. . . our shared memories, our shared life.'
'Then tell me more finally. Why do you think I'm Enkidu? What happened to him? Why had he to die while you still lived ?'
Mentally, Lucien had made a step forward. He was accepting the miracle. I searched in his face, so close to mine.
'I have seen that new God.' I paused. 'The son of a God, I should rather say. He was immortal like me. His name was Jesus and he walked through the desert on his mission. Though... I never heard himself claiming to be the son of a God. I didn't know which God he meant anyway, for he didn't even have a name.' I smiled. 'Do you remember Shamash, the brightest of all our Gods? He had given you an amulet to protect you from the wrath of Humbaba, the guard of the Holy Cedar.' I touched the sun-shaped golden pendant hanging on the very thin chain around his neck.
A tickle covered my body when I saw Lucien's wide open eyes. 'This is ...? It's in my family as long as I can remember. Longer than that. It was bequeathed over the centuries.'
I realized his skin had raised into goose bumps. 'You want me to remember, right?' he asked. 'First I have to accept that something unnatural has happened. You speak of soul wandering? You think Enkidu's soul has manifested in my body? And where is Lucien then?' He pulled from me and watched me in silence, demanding an answer. I made a helpless gesture. 'Lucien?'
'Yes, Lucien, me, my being, my history, my life before I met you. I'm twenty two. Is this the age you met Enkidu? How can you suppose I can continue my life as a ... wild hunter of lions? Shall we go to Africa then? Or would you like to live here in Vienna with me? How have you managed your life through the ages? Where do you get your money from? Are you working?'
I shook my head. Too many questions at once, but it was understandable.
'I do have a boyfriend,' he continued, unknowingly hurting me with this statement. 'What about him? What if I don't like you? If I - Lucien - don't want to live with you? And what's the point anyway? You are immortal, I'm mortal.' Suddenly a light appeared on his face. 'Wasn't there a nice Greek story of Eros and Psyche, his butterfly? In the end both were immortal; the Gods can decide. Are you a God then?'
My head still swirled. Somewhere I registered how odd our situation was. Both standing naked in the middle of a cold room with nothing to drink nor to dress. His clothes lay untouched upon a chair. 'Your boyfriend first,' I managed to say. 'What's about him? Do you love him?'
'No. He's just a boyfriend. Nothing that matters for too long.'
'It makes you shallow.'
'Shallow?' He laughed. 'I'm sure you had a million men to satisfy you.' His eyes touched briefly my manhood and I saw a glimmer appear in his eyes. 'Have you lways been faithful to them?'
'A million men?' Now it was my turn to laugh. 'You have no clue, Lucien. Has it ever been so easy for us like it is today, here, in this place? While right now, that old man, who claims to be the representative of the nameless God of Christendom and to have a direct line to him, is preparing another smear campaign against us? Against us: the abnormal, the perverts all the others have to protect themselves from because we undermine the moral fabric of society. We are not worth living in his book. He should be ashamed of himself.' I breathed through my nostrils like an exhausted horse. Hadn't I learnt to change bitterness into tranquillity? I forced myself to speak calm and low. 'We are the ultimate sin according to them, aren't we. We are responsible for the negative results for society and morality. We are damaging the righteous development of humankind.' I grinned. 'I would laugh if it wasn't so sad. And so dangerous for us.'
Lucien stared at me, but didn't interrupt.
'How many of us have been burnt or bashed to death or better yet, gassed in concentration camps? It is just a little over one hundred years ago since the British law sentenced one of their greatest poet to jail which meant the equivalent to a death sentence for him. Oscar was so ...' I screwed my eyes up in painful memory.
'You've met him?'
'Of course. I met each personage I was interested in. Oscar Wilde... he was brilliant, though very, very shy in bed. He was rather a watcher, not participant. His soul belonged to men. His heart belonged to that unfortunate young man who was no good for him.'
Lucien looked at me with unreadable eyes. Not even I could penetrate the unfocussed depth. Something told me that he knew what I was talking about; the other part of him remained in awe.
'And what about all the other, nameless victims?' I said quietly. 'And you ask me how many millions of lovers I had had? When we had to hide in grubby rooms of shacked houses? In backrooms of dubious repute, always on guard for police and informers? I won't mention the inquisition... And now, at the start of a new millennium, are things really easier?' I made a step in his direction, taking his upper arms, stroking my palms over the skin, up and down. 'I learned my biography well to tell my lovers about what I am doing and where I come from. Those lies are nothing to be proud of. But how can I fall in love when I know right from the start that this love is bound to die? I can't hold on. I can't let myself fall into the arms of a man, cheating myself by saying this time it's forever. It is not. It is never forever with mortals.' I took his shoulders. 'But it could be.'
There was a long silence between us. Birds softly twittered sleep-drunken in the middle of the night. Again the night owl hooted. The candles were about to drown into their own wax.
'I like you,' he suddenly said. 'You are right, my body was on fire the second I saw you. It never happened before. You are just so ... frightening, so dark, so mysterious.'
'I saw nothing of that when me made love. You were not afraid.' Lucien nodded. 'When you speak those names - Shamash - our God of the sun, Anu, the God of Heaven, or even Enkidu... it's as if I have heard those names before. They are part of my sunken life, my forgotten life. Something I see in the very distance, but the more I approach the more it blurs. You still have to tell me what will happen to Lucien and the life I lead.'
'Nothing,' I said simply. 'For the world you remain Lucien, but for me you are my lover lost, now found. It won't be difficult.'
'And your friends? Are they ...?'
Overwhelmed he sunk upon a chair at the table. 'You're not pulling my leg, playing a dirty game?'
'No,' quickly I stepped to him, sinking to my knees beside him. 'The more I tell you, the more you will remember. And the final story YOU will have to tell me.'
He looked down on me. 'The final story? About how I died?'
I nodded silently, stretched out my hand and took his. Together we rose and climbed the stair in mutual agreement. I poured two copper beakers full of scented, red, flavoured wine; white pepper, mint and cumin. Lucien took one, inhaled the aroma and drank.
'Do I look like him?' he asked.
'A part of you, yes. Your hair, your eyes ... sometimes. Your movements.' I tilted my head and kissed his lips. 'Your movements in bed. Your underlying power.' I smiled. 'You are my unbridled young man.' My smile fell. 'But now I know we roused the God's disappointment. They had sent you to me as my counterpart. They wanted to see a fight. I had become too strong.'
'What? We had to fight?'
'Yes. But instead, we became lovers. We were spoilsports, so to speak.'
Lucien laughed his bewitching laugh. 'But that's funny. And the Gods were pissed off, yes?'
I nodded, unhappily. 'That's when the tragedy started.' I sank upon the bed, patting the place beside me, our beakers still in hand, drinking. I wished to lick the red wine from his lips, or pouring the liquid over his body, his backside, where it would trickle away in the moist crack of his cheeks, as we had done so often.
'The tragedy?' Lucien said. 'You mean the fight with Humbaba, the giant bird with the big ears?'
I laughed softly. 'You always said he was a bird with big ears! He was a daemon with big wings!'
Lucien laughed with me. 'Anyway. It was creepy!' He paused terrified. 'Did I just say that? A bird with big ears? Humbaba, the guard of the Holy Cedar?' He shook his head. 'Wow. I can see him. I can see us, as we were travelling far away from Uruk to Lebanon. It took us ages!'
I took the beaker from his hand and leaned with him against the cushions, stretching our bodies side by side. 'Tell me more,' I demanded.
'Yes. Those cedar-forests... I still have no clue why we desired this travel to fight a daemon. Do you know?'
'Because we were able to do it!' I halted. 'No, love. Because you complained about your lost strength and power. You had lost your ability to speak with the animals. You weren't their master anymore. You had lost part of your freedom in order to share your life with me. I was so thankful for your presence that I wanted to give you your reputation back. My people should love you as well as they loved me.'
'So fighting the Humbaba, taking away the Holy Cedar to bring it to Uruk would had been a piece of heroism?'
'Yes,' I simply said.
'Hmm. We made a great door from it for the town walls.'
'Yes. A monument for the Gods.' I leaned over. 'Humbaba's cry frightened you to death, remember?'
Lucien nodded. 'We wouldn't have made it if Shamash hadn't sent terrific storms that blew the forest and kept Humbaba at a reasonable distance until we could circle and bash him.'
I searched in his eyes. 'He cursed us before he died.'
A shadow floated over Lucien's face. I laid my hands upon his breast and felt his heartbeat was quick. 'Why did Shamash help us?' he asked.
'Perhaps he was so keen on the monument?' I smirked. 'On a raft, we had made from other chopped cedars, we returned to Uruk.'
Lucien closed his eyes. 'Yes... the Euphrates,' he said, voice tinged with melancholy. 'I remember the lazy flow, the brownish water, the palms along the shore, and the flat brick houses. Workers gathered mud and built brick stones from it, to let them dry in the sun. And there were workshops where the bell's pots were made.' He turned to my side, propped his elbow and peered into my eyes. 'You showed me everything, the mosaic- workers for instance. Their works were later attached to the temple-buildings. Your palace was full of precious things, carpets from Persia, incense from Arabia, spices and ivory from India, copper and gold from Egypt. Your town was full of craftsmen who knew how to make a sweet smelling soap, how to dye clothes, how to work glass. You taught me to understand the pictograms engraved into the stone.' He paused. 'And then HE came,' he said. 'I'd never seen him before.'
'He was a hermaphrodite.' I remembered him. 'Ishtar, the god of fertility, of love and war. He was the embodiment of both genders, he loved women and men.' Lucien shivered. 'Why do you speak in past tense? He's still there.'
I fixed him a look. 'How do you know? I mean, why do you think so?'
Lucien's face became tensed and closed. 'I'm not sure. It's a feeling.' He shoved his leg over mine and started to play with my hair. His lips were close.
'Why can't we return to Uruk?'
I stared into his eyes. Greenish yellow with dark speckles. Round and stressed with black, long lashes. Lion's eyes. My Enkidu was back. 'Love, we can't return. It's not our country anymore. Mesopotamia is lost. It's parted. There's Iraq and Iran and both cherish great enmity for each other. Don't ask me why though. The world has gone mad.' I halted. 'No, the world has always been mad.'
'Enmity? But you're the king of Uruk. You can gather an army to fight against these occupiers.'
I laughed and kissed his nose. 'Those times were long ago. Now I'm king of the world.' I looked deeply into his eyes. 'And if you want to be, you are my prince. My equal. My king.' I grinned. 'Immortal like me.'
'I don't know what it means to be immortal.'
I sighed. It was ten minutes before three in the morning and a deadly silence filled the house. How could I answer this plea for answers. What was it like to be immortal? My quest had come to an end. But the only possibility for me to stay with him was to convince him to live with me. For the rest of ... the world.
'Gil?' he asked furtively. He had always called me this. 'What is it like?'
'I stood in front of the shrine in the white temple of Anu.' I started instead of answering his question. 'It was hidden at the top of the ziggurat. Stones, covered with colourful glazed bricks. I had to climb a ramp leading over several graded quadratic platforms guiding to his small sanctuary. I was alone when Ishtar appeared behind the altar.'
'How do you know it was her?'
'Him. This time she was a he.' I smiled. 'Confusing. Sometimes he was both. An androgynous being with swelling breasts and a manhood we all would be proud of. In my case there was only the manhood. She knew I preferred men to women.'
'Ah! But how do you know?' Lucien insisted.
'You will certainly recognize a God when he's in front of you, love. There was no mistake.'
'He was naked?' Lucien's hands stroked my body.
'Not naked. Although the translucent clothes didn't hide much. Gold and green veils and jewels that sparkled out of his eyes that rested on me, examining my body. He spoke to me with honeyed voice, then with fire. He harried me, he told me how beautiful I was. How strong. How mighty. How could I resist?'
Lucien lifted his upper body. 'You betrayed me with Ishtar?' he called out. 'No wonder you never told me about your meeting!'
'Hey! Calm yourself. I haven't said anything about betrayal.'
'But of course! He was a God and how could you have resisted that manhood!' he hissed. 'I was just a stupid guard of the animals, drinking water from a hole and pairing with the lions, not able to eat with fork and knife, not able to speak properly, biting your neck when I was mounting you.' His lips had curled back and now he had an amazing similarity to an angry cat. I had to laugh good humouredly. I took his arms and rested my hands upon his shoulders. 'Oh how I missed your little outbursts!' Fearless I neared my lips to his, kissed him and whispered 'I love you. I have always loved you and always will.' I felt my manhood rising against his thigh and sensed his palm closing around the shaft. It was a natural movement for him. 'He was bigger than you?' he whispered back. 'He tried to seduce you?'
'Sure he did. He dropped his clothes, and told me to unite with him.' I looked down, where Lucien's hands did a little administering, circling his forefinger around the head of my penis. The memory was still fresh after thousands of years. 'Ishtar was humongous, colossal. Apparently this was his idea of how to seduce a homosexual man. He rubbed his body on mine, lifting my short skirt to feel what was under there, trying to make me hot.
''I'm not only going to make you mine', he said, 'but I will make you my husband. I offer you immortality. Be mine for all time and experience the most sensual life.'''
'Never-ending sex?' Lucien suggested.
Lucien still rubbed my penis with tender hands. 'But you surely got all this from me. What more was there for you to wish for? And besides, I don't think sex is so important.' 'Ah! That's not you', I said light hearted. 'You were a little rabbit, you know. Mating with me for hours, non stop.'
Lucien's cheeks flushed. 'Did I?' His hand continued to work its miracle and I started to shudder. He lifted his forefinger that had trailed around my member and licked it. 'That's embarrassing', he said playfully. His eyes sparkled. 'And what did you then? Spread your cheeks for him.'
'No! How should I have been able to take such a monstrous thing? I refused of course, in favour of you.' Now I clasped my palm around his half-hard penis. 'Of yours.'
He was still as youthful, smooth and straight as I remembered. A perfect size to fit into my hand and into my canal of love. But being offered to be immortal was another thing. Lucien moaned quietly and screwed up his eyes. I wiped his droplets over the head and outlined the rim of his rolled back foreskin. Now he shuddered. 'And what did he do then? Take you against your will?'
I closed my eyes. 'Ishtar showed no mercy in his feverish urge to mate with me. He had promised me everything. There in the dark sanctuary of Anu, he pressed me, tried to force his member into me or persuade me with sweet voice to administer to his tool with my tongue. He promised me a taste of caramelised dates but I still refused. 'What is there so ugly about me', he asked me then, his face burning and flaming with anger and lust. 'What is there to prefer this hunter boy to me? We could live forever, we can reign forever. In love and war.''
Lucien knocked me over onto the bed and started to lick my penis, nibbled my shaft up and down, kneaded my balls until I came into his mouth. 'You taste indeed like caramelised dates', he grinned when his face appeared over mine again, the corners of his lips white like the tongue he put into my mouth to give me a taste. 'It was Ishtar who made you immortal? Why haven't you said it?' With sudden anger Lucien rose and came to sit on my lap. His penis was sticking out between his thighs, reddish, wet, quivering and longing for release. I came up again and started to stroke it. 'No, you have it all wrong. It was not Ishtar who made me immortal. It was...'
'Who was it then?' Lucien succumbed to my hands stroking him.
'I'll tell you later.'
I know I was being evasive. I know I had had a naive imagination of what's it like to be immortal. Never-ending fun or sex, as Lucien expressed it? Never-ending love, never-ending health, the never-ending certainty you can't die and will be able to watch the struggle of humankind to survive. It sure was interesting. It sure was exciting to meet all those personalities of science, politics and arts. Who can claim to have talked to Nefer'titi of Egypt in person? I know the secret of her leaving her husband Akhe'naton, about her vanishing and the place of her grave. I could have made a fortune when I had joinedt those British archaeologists who dug the hot desert to detect finally Tutan'khamun's grave. But did I want it? I had had enough of glory and praise when I was still king in Uruk and honestly I believe in peace for the past ones.
It was an amazing way to follow the developments. If I imagine the old days when life was so much harder, when the bodies were drained from too much of work, getting old before their times, when life was a trap, dependent on the quirks and power of the superiority held by landlords, dukes, kings and clergy. I followed the small steps humankind made with each century. I followed the slave-ships from Africa to the new detected continent which was called after Vespucci, the seaman; I followed the ships with their cargo of sentenced men from England to Tasmania, to see them work and die hard. I saw the turnout of the tribes in America and Australia and I saw Africa coming under the exploitation of the white man. But what had been useful of all this? There were very little things useful. Gutenberg's invention for instance.
But nobody had told me about the never-ending pain to see people I loved suffering and finally going, leaving, dying. I couldn't recall the many times I fled, leaving my lovers and friends because I couldn't say good-bye. And they shouldn't know about the secret of my non-aging appearance. What was I suppose to tell them? Well, a few I told. Romeo from Verona for instance. And Lui-Sa from Edo, the old name for Tokyo. I left immortal men at each continent, but I had chosen them well. There once was a little French boy I had fallen in love with so much I wanted to have him around. He died at the river Somme in that terrible year of 1916; a gun had blown his head away and even an immortal men cannot live without his head. I took him and buried him in the garden of my house in England. And then a miracle happened.
Lucien moaned softly, his head thrown back into his neck, his eyes half closed. He looked so, so absorbed in his own world of feelings that my heart threatened to blow for love. I had found him back, the love of my life, and all the men in between didn't mean a single thing. I had loved them, but nobody I had loved as much as I loved Enkidu. I stroked his penis up and down with a firm grip, the other hand I had laid around his waist to protect him from toppling over, until he came into my hand; large drops hit his chest and mine. Then he opened his unfocused eyes and smiled. 'You're great as ever', he murmured. He wrapped his arms around me while I was gently and absentminded smearing the last of white drools over the head of his member. How was I going to explain to him all of this? About the history of world, seen from a walker through the ages? I appeared as young as I was when we had to part, but my eyes were ancient. They had seen everything.
Quietly I continued my tale. 'Ishtar had almost left me with his still stiff manhood between his legs, outraged and fuming that I wasn't submitting. 'You forget I'm two quarters God', I had called after him. He had returned quickly, piercing my eyes with his bluish pieces of glass he had instead of eyes. 'And yet you are mortal. That one quarter human blood makes you nothing. It ruins your blood and your power', he hissed. And then I had seen it: The abyss opening behind the pupils of his eyes. A blazing flame launched upwards until I was afraid it would slap my face.'
Abruptly I released Lucien's dick and sat motionless. A terrible suspicion rose inside of me. But Lucien embraced me and rubbed his semen into my skin, his flattening penis against my abdomen. 'So you refused him in favour of me, yes? And then?'
'He went away,' I croaked.
'Just went away?' Lucien asked disappointed.
'What do you expect? A wrestling fight with a God?'
'Fighting a God can't be worse than to fight a male lion.'
'Ha!' I laughed. 'You're something. Gods can do magic.'
'And you? Being two quarter Godly? Weren't you able to do something for that?'
'I did,' I said simply. 'We did together. Fighting the Bull of Heaven.'
I detected a blissful expression on his face, before I sensed an all too human urge.
'Don't move', I said to him. 'I need to go to the little boy's room.'
With pounding heart I slipped through the door for the bathroom ñ and there he was - about to enter the room himself: Sean, and instantly I felt the strange sensation of being watched by an abyss again. Sean smiled innocently.
Now he grinned abusively. 'He's still as good in bed as he ever was?'
'How do you know what he's like in bed?'
'Well, why else should you be looking for him? Nobody can satisfy your demands.'
He tilted his head. 'That's the reason you never slept with me?'
I scanned him thoughtfully from head to toe. What was the reason for this banter? He had never suggested before that he wanted to sleep with me. 'And now that I've found him again, you're getting jealous?' I asked, probing the borders.
And there it was: the brief flash of the golden halo around the black pupil in his blue eyes. For a second I had the impression his face would melt into something else. I hadn't told Lucien everything. There had been a second meeting of me and Ishtar: the one that had led to the obvious hatred. I had seen him appearing at most unexpected places. He had become careless; he was walking as a living God among the crowd. In public he tried to corner me, seducing me in each appearance: as woman and as man, and each time he was a little bit more crazy.
Then came the day when I started to fight back, to humiliate Ishtar openly, although I knew I couldn't win against a God. 'You bring mishap to each of your lovers,' I called to him, standing proudly with all his beauty in the market place. My folk started to gather and watch. 'Do you want me to line up in the row of your unlucky or dead lovers? Possessing me and pushing me away after you had what you wanted? Me, the king of Uruk?' People started to snicker. Others stood in awe, ready to receive a divine sentence. Ishtar had the power to burn the town to ashes. His face was dark red with scorn. He moved his arms and vanished. But I had never forgotten the golden abyss, full of hate, in his eyes and from this moment on I lived in fear. So, what now? What if my fears would be real? What if Ishtar had occupied Sean's body to take revenge, now that I and Enkidu were together again; like Ishtar did before when he was possessing the snake, fighting with me for the Misty Rose?
Sean opened the door to the bath room and my impression evaporated. I heard his soft laughter.
'Are you laughing at me?' I followed him, standing in front of the toilet sink, fumbling with the slit of his pyjamas trousers. He threw a seductive look at me over his shoulder and didn't answer.
'You've never believed my quest, have you. And yet you must agree there's something magic around.' I hesitated. 'How is it that you are immortal?' I whispered. 'It's only me who has admission to the herb. Have you stolen it?'
'You don't have exclusive rights to immortality', he said coolly. He stowed his penis and turned to me. 'How long will you need?'
'I'm not halfway through' I said automatically, fixing his eyes. He wasn't his normal self. Sean had never been cynical. He had been unhappy when Leo had found him, and managed his life in the company of immortal men very well. But he had always refused to eat from the herb until he was absolutely certain he wanted it. What had changed? Was he Ishtar? Did the God chose my Irish man and waited for the ultimate fight? How could I protect Enkidu then? And myself?
'Is Leopold the reason? Are you ready to share your endless life with him?' I asked low.
Again that searing look that threatened to burn my soul. 'No.'
He opened the door and left me. At least he had admitted his immortality. When I had relieved myself and entered the corridor, he had gone.
Lucien stood at the window, looking out. He had pulled back the curtains, dressed only in his pants. His arms he had wrapped around his upper body as if he was cold. Silently I went closer until my body touched him. He jumped a little. 'Lost in thoughts?' I asked quietly. He nodded and pointed to the moon, hanging full and bright between the branches of the chestnut trees. 'It's so close tonight', he whispered.
'Yes, it is. It never changes, just in its appearance. But its was always there, sometimes closer, sometimes wide afar. We loved to watch the moon, do you remember?'
Lucien nodded. 'Four thousand years ago it shone into our rooms in the palace.'
'And for four thousand years I remembered and wished you would be here with me.' I kissed his neck. Stinging wetness started to fill my eyes and I had to blink.
'And then came the day when a human set his feet upon it, whirling ancient dust and gravel, marking it with a flag as his own. I was excited and angry at the same time. What was the use?'
Lucien turned in my arms. 'Well, as Armstrong said: it was a tiny step for him but a major step for humankind.' He smiled a little.
'But what for?' I insisted. 'I knew before that it is cold up there and without oxygen and without water and plants. And without the man in the moon.'
He was silent. 'We do it just because we are able to. Aren't you curious?'
'Not any more. I've seen too much.'
Lucien laid his head upon my shoulder. 'Tell me about it.'
What could I tell him? If I spoke for a lifetime, it still wouldn't be enough to let him know about all of my experiences. Except... if he would join my undying being, then we could learn together. 'We were born when Stonehenge was still young.' I said, then continued. 'But we hadn't any knowledge of its existence. They say, you only see what you know. So, afterwards... I had enough time to increase my knowledge to perfection. When you have an endless time ahead you have endless leisure without any need to rush. I visited the hanging gardens of Babylon, one of the seven world wonders, as the coming generations called them. Babylon...' I paused and pondered. 'Babylon rose to unbelievable power while Uruk fell apart after I had left it.'
Suddenly, I had to laugh. 'You know, a couple of years ago I went to the capital of Germany, Berlin, to watch the old Gate of Babylon and its procession street that led into the town. It was amazing to see it again, protected in a museum, under a roof and with many visitors from all over the world. The deep-blue glazed brick stones were still there with the yellow lions. It looked as if it was hardly a hundred years old. I stood and looked and stared and was thankful that the archaeologists had been able to find it again, even if it is lost for our country.' I paused. 'It is the Ishtar-gate.'
Lucien's pupils turned to pin heads, but he said nothing.
'After I had left Mesopotamia I settled down in Egypt where nobody knew me. I worked for the pharaohs as writer and translator. And I was witness to Moses' exodus from Egypt and the seven plagues the country experienced, sent from Moses' God...' Lucien lifted his head, his face a mixture of amazement and doubt. 'The seven plagues? But that's just a legend, isn't it?'
'No. They came. It was a terrible year. The locusts destroyed the harvest on the fields. Gnats and vermin plagued the people. Because the Nile had great high water, the red mud and silt was pushed through the water pipes and so it appeared red when it bubbled up into the fountains. That's when they said that water turned into blood.'
Lucien still looked at me with big eyes. 'And there was an eclipse?'
'Yes. The sign of horrid things to come. It was simply a bad year.'
'And the killing of the firstborn?'
'A fight of tribes. I'm not sure who did it. The God's are brutal in their intentions and devices.'
'Jerusalem had been founded, there on the chalk rock in the mountains of Judea, the town of three world religions and I lived there for a while to comprehend their belief and to study their history. I lived there in several appearances and under several names. Athens had been founded and much later Rome. All those useless struggles for power . . . It seems to be so ridiculous when seen with undying eyes. I lived in Jerusalem until the Romans came and conquered the land. Then I thought it's time to leave. And yet I hadn't found you. Not in Babylon, nor in Thebes. Not in Jerusalem, nor in Rome. You could be anywhere. But one thing the old wise man from the sea had told me: a soul needs seven years for a first re-birth. And if this happens I would feel the signs and it would guide me to the right place. So . . . all I had to do was wait . . . and travel. But you were never among the seven-years-course. The Gods left me waiting way too long. They were angry.'
'Angry,' Lucien whispered. 'Like they were when we were fighting the bull. The Bull sent from the Gods as another test for our love. Surely they had never thought it possible we could survive.'
'Yes,' I said. 'The Golden Bull from Heaven was mighty. He was so huge . . . so wild. Fire flew from his nostrils and his golden skin flamed. He rampaged throughout the and, with his first snort the earth cracked and a hundred young men fell to their death. He stomped with his feet and an abyss opened, killing another few hundreds of our folk. We had to do something to stop it.'
'It was fun, wasn't it.' Lucien released me and started to walk across the room. 'Ishtar had been furious about your refusal to love him and had asked his father, Anu, to kill us. But we were strong.'
'You were the greatest hunter on earth, love', I said quietly. 'Skilful in movement and I was strong. We broke its neck and I cut out its heart, showing my trophy to the people and then placed the heart at Shamash's shrine to thank him for his faithfulness.'
Lucien stopped his pacing. 'And then Ishtar appeared upon the walls of Uruk. A wavering figure with green-golden veils and blazing hair and he looked with great hate at me until I tore off the Bull's right thigh and threw it at him.'
'Yes, you did!' I had to laugh, although this was the last straw. 'I saw him, standing upon the walls, arms raised enraged to heaven to call the God's wrath. His father, Anu, and all the Gods with him saw his shame and his refusal to quit . . . and his utter humiliation. And the people lamented with him, frightened to death. The prostitutes and courtesans came from both temples, girls and boys, and lamented with him or her because for each gender he had the right appearance. Dust swirled around, covered the dead Bull of Heaven, his golden skin became dull and blind. Blood still seeped into the ground until there was no more left. Ishtar then had raised him up to the heavens, leaving the spot where he lay empty and silent.'
Lucien, who'd been staring at me intensely, bent his head. 'That night I had a dream in which the Gods were meeting in council, and Enlil, the God of Earth, was declaring that, because of our involvement with the deaths of Humbaba and the Bull of Heaven...' Lucien stopped. 'I became weak', he finished his sentence abruptly.
I took Lucien's hand and sat with him upon the bed, taking him into my arms.
'You suffered from a high fever. You faded each day a little more. Now I know what happened. Enlil persuaded the others to do me harm. I had become too powerful and Ishtar still envied me my happy life with you. And so it was settled: It was not me who should die, but my pain should be the greatest ever known. They took you from me so I would know endless grief.'
A jolt went through Lucien's body. 'I saw him, the bird with the red-golden plumage that circled around my head. Ready to take me to the underworld. I prayed to Shamash, cursing the trapper, and the temple boy who civilized me, and thus had led to my downfall. But Shamash, the golden mask over his face, reminded me of the good times I had had, and I repented my harsh words.'
'That's what you saw?'
Lucien nodded once in my arms. 'Then I was transformed into a bird myself and led to the palace of the Queen of Darkness. All the inhabitants of this dark place were clothed like birds, and they were once rulers of earthly kingdoms. The Queen of the Underworld was there, and the recorder of the Gods who held the book of death. She looked up and enquired as to who had brought me here. But then.... I woke up.'
Lucien looked at me. 'Yes, you left me alone. I died alone.'
'Shsht, I tried to save you.'
'But I died alone! That's the reason for my sadness. Now I know it. There was something undone, a word I wanted to tell you, but you weren't there to hear it.'
'I feared death.'
'You feared it so much that you didn't want to hold my hand when I passed over to another land?'
'No, no!' I soothed him. 'I feared death so much that I wanted to save you. The Misty Rose. The herb that made old men young. Don't you know that this is my name? Gilgamesh: the old man is young. It was my destiny.'
'Destiny. Fate. What does it mean?'
'Everything. It's the herb that makes you immortal. I crossed the country on my horse until I reached the great mountains of Mashu, and the gate that lead through them was guarded by two man-scorpions.'
Lucien's wet eyes shimmered like cat's eyes by night; golden saucers that reflected the light. 'Man-scorpions?' he asked. 'Did they harm you?'
I shook my head. 'Their bodies were hard and slimy at the same time, one was red and the other black. They menaced me with their big stings though. They warned me that no mortal man had ever done what I was to do. But then they opened the gate for me and I walked in total darkness for many miles until I found myself in the garden of the Gods...' I paused. 'The memory is still strong, still with me,' I continued low. 'After all these thousands of years. I wonder if it is still there, the gems and riches, the meadows and palaces.'
'It is,' Lucien whispered. 'The Gods are still alive, but they fade away because nobody worships them. Nobody speaks about them to preserve their memory. Wouldn't you fade away when the memory of you was dead? Do you think anybody at Uruk or Babylon remembers your name?'
I bent my head. It didn't matter. It was not important if my folk remembered me or not. They are not my people anymore. Our Gods are different now.
'Shamash indeed wore a golden mask,' I continued. 'I came across him in his delicious garden by night, for by daylight I couldn't have stood the glorious brightness. Though he was friendly, he warned me. I wouldn't find eternal life.
Nevertheless, he told me that across the Ocean an old man lived with his wife in the land of Dilmum, the garden of the sun. It was Shamash's own country and he had allowed the man to live there. Utnapishtim and his family had been the only ones who survived the Great Flood.'
I laughed quietly. 'What a nice hotchpotch the book is the Christians call Holy Bible, Lucien. The Great Flood! I had met the man who survived the Great Flood. The Gods made the flood because they were angry with the raucous humans and thus agreed to exterminate mankind. But because the God of Water had pity on Utnapishtim - or Noah - as the Christians call him, he was given warning and so he made a boat and saved himself.'
'And remember, MY story is older than the Old Testament.'
'But what happened then, Gil?'
Lucien's tears were dried. 'Did you find the herb? The misty rose?'
'Do I have to tell you? Look at me.'
'But how? And why haven't you returned to share it with me?' Lucien fell silent. He knew the answer for sure.
'I did. I did return.'
How could I explain? I reached over to the nightstand and refilled our glasses with wine. This time I mingled it with wild honey, stirred it and Lucien took it. I watched his face, pale with feverish, sad eyes. When would he allow me to call him by his right name? Was I allowed to tear him out of his life?
'Tell me the rest', he said after a while once he had finished his sip of wine. He motioned for me to lie next to him, then smiled uncertainly. 'I feel very confused. There are moments when I'm not myself. I don't know what to do. I don't know who I am. I can't be Enkidu for you, although I feel you once were so important to me -- the ultimate love of my life. We were so happy, but somebody was always against us . . . I see all those pictures; faded and yellowed and I know they are true.' His smile now winning out over his confusion. 'Give me more time to rediscover you.'
I felt as light as a bird. He'd asked me for time! 'Love, time is what I have in abundance', I said softly and pulled him close. Nonetheless I was at a loss. How could he deny his life as Lucien and continue a life as Enkidu, the hunter of Mesopotamia side by side with the former king of Uruk, whose history was engraved on 12 stone plates for the afterworld? I felt his pain and confusion deeply.
My fingers stroked the skin over his chest. 'Do you see them?'
'The lines? Of course I do. The signs of the Gods. Can you do magic? Do you have these powers, these abilities to make me remember? To set me back in time?'
'Yes, Love, I do. But I don't want to use them. You can see the lines on your body, that's good. It's a start. I won't pressure you.' I pulled him even closer and started to speak softly next to his ear. 'I loved you the first time I saw you. I knew you were the man equal to me. It was you who taught me to love instead of to fight, you were a great hunter and I had made you weaker and this was my punishment: the endless search for you to offer you my gift.'
I sensed Lucien's helplessness. 'Immortality.' I continued, 'To live through the ages of the world with you. But before you decide, there is so much for you to weigh. It is a mighty gift and sometime you will feel it as a curse.'
A lock of his hair wrapped around my finger. Oh, how good it felt to be together. It was as if we never had been parted. He was my confidante for my days and my beloved man by night; I never had considered another. 'My strong, fair Enkidu,' I whispered. 'Now, that you are back with me I cannot believe the wonder, the miracle. It's like a dream I dreamt a million times yet finally, now, the dream remains upon awakening; so vibrant, so real.' I felt his skin glowing under my hands. Lucien leaned against me in absolute silence though I heard the blood rushing through his veins and the heart beating strongly; the physical process of cells duplicating and the brain working hard to produce pictures of a long forgotten time. And then the miracle happened.
'The servants were there, waiting at the end of my bed.' Lucien started to speak in our old language. He painted the words with Sumerian sound and I listened in awe. How long had it been since I'd heard them? 'Your mother was cooling my hot forehead, I was burning inside. The fever pricked me with thousands of needles; eating me inwardly and the red-golden bird was with me again, circling my head, screeching into my ears: 'He never returns, he never returns'. It is horrible to die alone. I wanted to tell you that you are forgiven for taking my strength away. There had been though, enough of it left to fight with you, side by side, even if I had lost my friends, the wild animals.'
He moved off a bit from me to look into my eyes. His own shone like the sun-shaped pendant around his neck. Was Shamash showing pity? Furtively I touched it and turned it over. There was engraved the holy wisdom of Shamash: 'Hudash' - 'Live'.
'I knew I would never see you again when I closed my eyes and drifted away to a colourful land.' He finished very low. 'Now it's for you to tell me the rest.'
I sighed and started to form the letters to the old language we used to speak.
'Utnapishtim was a still young man, strong and terrible. He told me he would show me the place of the Misty Rose after I had stayed awake for seven days and nights.' I glanced to Lucien's face. He seemed to understand me and listened with closed eyes. He lay as peaceful as he might have laid when he had been passing over to the colourful land.
'But tired as I had been from the journey to Utnaphishtim's land, I fell asleep instantly and woke up seven days later. As proof of the time passing as I slept, his wife had baked each day a loaf of bread and placed it next to my head. I was terrified, not able to think of anything but failing you! I felt you were getting weaker each day that had passed. And then Utnapishtim showed pity and allowed me to dive into the sea to search for the herb. In the deepest depths of the green water I saw it, swaying, formed like a rose with many stems and long, thin leaves. I plucked it and drove back to the shore. I cupped it in my hands as if it was the most precious of all jewels, for it would make you healthy again and none of the Gods could hinder its power. Then, I tried it, put a bit of it into my mouth, chewed and swallowed. And then I was knocked unconscious.
'I don't know how long I'd laid there, but my hands still clasped the herb when I awoke. The world had shifted its colours, they were now bright and shimmering. I wondered if I had followed you to the land of no pain and of oblivion, but my senses slowly came to the surface and I could touch and feel again. I clasped the herb into my fist. It smelled like ocean, green and wild and yet a little foul when I breathed its scent. It was like the bitter taste that lingered in my mouth after eating it. I stood, took my clothes and bag and then, the most miraculous thing occurred ñ I heard the dolphins sing. I understood the screeching of the sea gulls. They warned me to make haste, for you were about to pass into the other land.
'I paused on my journey home only long enough to give myself the time needed to gather my wits. By the time I had reached the Euphrates, I stopped for a quick bath. I didn't want to feel the pain of losing you.'
'And then?' Lucien asked. His gaze rested upon me. Those curious, yet steadfast, round lion's eyes studied me with resignation. 'You brought me the herb, but it was too late,' he said, calmly and without blame.
'Yes. Though I had almost lost it while I was fighting with a snake. She had eaten a great part of it, and there was just a tiny bit left for you.' I paused and shuddered at the memory of the snake's metamorphosis and its hissing. 'You can not win.. I will follow you.' She had been right. I had come too late. Ishtar had won in the end. 'Half-mad I followed the way of the carrier of the corpse to the place of your burial in a crypt. I again came too late. Uruk was painted white. Even the people wore white as sign of their mourning. The greatest hunter had died and the king of Uruk had vanished for good.' I looked at him. 'Did you know that you would return someday? Did you know I would wait for you? Our people believed in rebirth. In reincarnation. Did you have faith, Lucien?'
'Lucien? My name is Enkidu. I was the greatest hunter in all of Mesopotamia.' He raised his upper body and stared down at me. 'Of course I had faith. Of course I believe in rebirth. But what took you so long?'
By Anu, what have I started? He looked down on me like an avenging angel of the Christians. Then suddenly his facial expression twisted and I had lost my Enkidu again. 'Do you still have the herb?' Lucien asked me in his normal language.
I nodded, not knowing what to do. I found it hard to follow his sudden time-jumps.
'Have you made all your companions immortal with that?'
'Not only with the little I had. No. I needed a supply.'
'Supply? You went again to the land of the ocean and dived into the sea to pluck it?'
I shook my head. It was too complicated to explain. Too supernatural, to fantastic.
Outside the sun dawned. A fresh wind billowed the curtains and the morning birds started their first sleep-drunken songs. The night was over and I was tired to my bones. But Lucien seemed to be more awake than he had ever been. My mental energies were getting weak.
'I always dreamt about being immortal,' Lucien said dreamily. 'What I would be able to do with all the time! When I had nothing to fear, when I could watch for life to develop. Which path humankind would take? What would happen to our planet? Would I be able to see aliens arriving someday? Or the final victory over diseases and hunger? Or the ultimate blow in wars and armament? Would I see the final destruction with hunger and pollution, when there's nothing left but cockroaches and viruses as the sole inhabitants of this planet? Would I still be alive then?'
'We are closer to that than ever,' I said. 'But it was a long way for me. I told you about the curse. I am immortal, that's true. But I can die as well. The body is vulnerable.
'What about AIDS? We haven't ...'
'It cannot kill me,' I said softly.
'Only if you lose your head?' Lucien suddenly laughed out loud. 'Like Connor McCloud, the Scottish Highlander!'
I looked confused at him.
'Don't you know the film 'Highlander'!? 'There can only be one'.'
'One survivor. One immortal.' Lucien said impatiently though his eyes belied real upset.
Did he still think I was pulling his leg?
'I know you aren't kidding me,' he told me softly. 'I believe you. It's magic. As you said, when it can happen in movies it can happen in reality. Magic is everywhere, you just have to see and use it. I just don't know what kind of magic this is.'
'I'm not a sorcerer,' I grumbled.
'Do you know what the prize is?' Lucien asked me, ignoring my miffed state of mind. 'The prize for being the last one of your race?' He paused dramatically. 'Mortality.'
'That's a stupid prize. All the fight would had been in vain then.'
'But that's the trick! That's the philosophical outcome. You fight to be the last of all to receive peace in the end.' Lucien's eyes widened as if he just right now realized the meaning of his words. 'It would mean you are unhappy being immortal.'
I said nothing, but agreed silently with a nod. 'You are excluded from life,' I mumbled finally. 'From friends, from family. You carry your secret deeply within you and struggle all the time that nobody finds out. It's not exactly pleasant.'
'But you have money, haven't you?'
'I have. In the nineteenth century, I had a large mine for diamonds in South Africa. The diamonds are well saved and if I need money I sell them in Amsterdam. Some of them are bigger than the Koh-i-Noor.'
'Wow. I should stay with you then.' Lucien grinned a boyish grin, leaned over me and started to kiss my lips. 'It was a joke,' he whispered then. 'I'm hungry. Another day has started already and we haven't slept for a single minute.' He rose from the bed, pulling me with him. As I stood in front of him he ran his hands through my hair, untangling it again. 'Isn't it pretty impractical, your long hair? How long do you need to wash and comb it?'
'I have always someone who helps me.'
'I thought you had shaved it completely when I died, as our folk does,' he said seriously in the old language.
Surely I couldn't bear it. He was jumping from one person into the other without knowing himself. Should I ignore it? Should I help him to find a way out of this schizophrenia?
'I had no time for that. I left Uruk without anyone noticing me except my mother. I said good bye to her, offering her the herb, but she refused. She must had known the mishap it would bring. She certainly had seen it in her dreams, but she didn't stop me from leaving. I had eaten the Misty Rose without thinking it over and now it was too late. The only way to stop it would had been to ask someone to cut off my head, but who was to do this?'
'And jumping from great height? Stabbing yourself? Poisoning yourself?'
I shook my head. 'My body would heal instantly.' I enjoyed his hands in my hair and embraced his waist. 'Come down to the kitchen and I will tell you another story.'
I prepared the coffee machine and he sniffed at the spicy scent. 'What is it?' Lucien asked.
I turned, surprised. Who was he right now? Lucien or Enkidu? 'Coffee,' I said, 'the Arabs brought it to Europe. Well, actually it was the Venetian merchants that brought it in the 18th century.'
'Coffee', Lucien said pensively. I poured him a cup full, added milk and stirred. 'We only had tea, do you remember?'
'Surely.' He tasted furtively. 'It's a funny taste. Bitter and full of aroma.' He emptied the cup. 'What is it good for?'
I smiled. He reminded me of the Enkidu new to the civilized world. He had known nothing and I had been his teacher. Why not start all this again? 'It's a stimulant for your circulation. It keeps you awake when you are tired. The people drink this usually in the morning or in the afternoon.'
When I turned to get some butter and toast Sean stood in the door frame. His arms were folded and he had this new-found, cynical smile on his lips. 'Good morning,' he said, looking curiously at Lucien, standing, still only in his pants. His eyes lurked but he said nothing more.
'Good morning,' Lucien said cheerfully. 'Did we meet before?'
Surprised by the question, Sean sat at the kitchen table as Leopold followed and Romeo appeared around the corner. They all helped themselves to coffee and waited for the toast to be finished.
'Don't you remember the night before? When Gil picked you up in the bar?' Romeo asked, chewing a bite of his toast.
Lucien looked puzzled then his face lit up. 'What's it like to be immortal?' he asked.
Lucien was confused. 'Now, what is it?'
'All of these and more,' I said, trying to figure out which aspect of him was in front of me, Lucien or Enkidu. Judging from his questions it had to be Lucien. 'Then you have to tell me what is the great part of it and what the difficult.'
'Lucien, I told you just now. Loneliness is the most difficult part. And the annoying part is that you have to lie all the time.'
'And the great part?'
'The great part is to share it with somebody.'
'That's nonsense,' Sean interrupted me. 'You can't share your immortal life. You can never fall in love, except with an immortal too.' He looked at me. Again I seemed to see the golden abyss in his eyes and I shuddered. My cup dropped to the floor and shattered. He grinned. Romeo rushed to pick up the pieces of pottery. 'Ouch,' he cursed and put his finger into his mouth. Blood seeped from the cut and d ribbled from his lips. Lucien took Romeo's hand and held it under water from the faucet. When he removed it from the stream, the cut healed in front of his eyes with a rapid speed. 'You see, that's the fortune,' Romeo said dryly. 'Have you told him about the little French boy?' he asked me.
'The French boy?' Lucien asked curious. 'Was he immortal too?'
'There was a French boy that he was absolutely in love with, although he knew it wasn't the man he was searching for,' Sean said sneering. 'You see, he betrayed even your dead body.'
'Sean! What's that talk about?' I turned to Lucien. 'You didn't think I was living like a monk through all the centuries, surely?'
Lucien looked bewildered.
'I knew him for so long and he knew my history, about you. Despite all of it he wanted to live with me as long as it took for me to find you. That was the agreement. He was so.... careless though. He thought he couldn't die and nobody could harm him. He was a daredevil in each place we went, in each war he fought. He became a legend... until the bombs were invented. He died on the battlefields of the river Somme.'
'He lost his head.' I thought briefly about this movie 'Highlander' that Lucien had mentioned and how fiction can impact reality.
'Sad. So you are be able to die. And yet you regret your immortal state?' Lucien asked, looking at Sean. But Sean remained unmoved, nonplussed. I wondered if Leo sensed his different personality too.
'What did you do with his corpse?' Lucien wanted to know.
'I took him to England. That's where I live. We buried him in the garden of my house.' I didn't mention the miracle that happened after the passing of seven years from an immortal's death.
'And you?' Lucien turned to Romeo. 'How old are you?'
'Hm.' Romeo smeared butter ponderously upon his toast, following it with a heap of marmalade. 'I have forgotten. I lived in Verona.'
'Verona! But you can't be THAT Romeo; as far as I know he died.'
Romeo was about to take a bite from his toast and stopped halfway. 'THAT Romeo?' he said. 'I was a contemporary of Shakespeare's Romeo if that's what you mean.'
'So the story is true?'
'Sure it is. Just the end is wrong. Romeo and Juliet survived and lived in Ferrara. It was a sad story, my cousin told me. In the end they hated each other as much as they once had loved one another.' Romeo leaned over the table. 'You see, it was common to marry that young of age as Romeo and Juliet had been, but they forgot how long you have to be together then. Can you imagine being in love with someone for, let's say, forty years? When you breed one kid after the other, see then half of them dying and in the end there's nothing left but disappointment, a tired mind and a drained body? You end up in silence or in quarrel and love dies. That's when I regretted for the first time being immortal. I think Shakespeare knew the troubled end in store and tried to paint a brighter piece. Keep the romance. If you wish to savour the romance, you have to die young.' Suddenly he laughed then finished his toast in one bite. 'But do you all remember the time in Florence?'
Sean remained reserved. He was not able to remember. I had met him twenty years ago and he certainly wasn't immortal then. Leopold joined his laughter. 'All those randy artists! They picked us up from the streets, undressed us and claimed to be interested in our body parts just for artistic studies!' He laughed out loud and his little braid hopped. 'It was really a good time, despite the Holy See in Rome and so. The popes weren't any better then either. You know,' he said, turning to Lucien, 'the real hard times started when the light of knowing flooded the people's mind -- the so-called enlightenment in science. It wasn't the middle ages when the funeral pyres burned, it was the time after, during the breakthrough in medicine and technique, when the church felt they lost contact. Their revenge was bitter.'
'You met the Florence artists? The painters and the sculptors? Michelangelo? Raphael? Leonardo?
'To name a few.' Romeo chimed in. 'The real horny ones pale a bit in contemporary memories. I could tell you stories! Orgies with monks in their monasteries; those poor lads had nothing but each other.'
'I remember the trial Leonardo had to suffer when he was accused of having a love affair with one of his pupils. He was careful afterwards, but we all know what was going on in his studios,' I said. 'Do you remember his painting of 'Holy Sebastian'? Can a man be more effeminate? It's his self portrait, like everything he painted was a portrait of himself, including Mona Lisa. He just borrowed my long hair.'
Lucien stared at me. I could read his mind, his thoughts swirling uncontrollably, trying to sort out what was truth and what was pure invention. But none of this was invention; we had lived through these ages.
'You should tell him about the young men's suicides when they recognized themselves gay and there was nobody accepting them.' Sean said with stern voice. 'I'm not talking about the old times. I was raised in an orphanage in Dublin. Do you know what this means? It was a catholic orphanage. I knew I was different right from the start, but there was no one to help. Instead, the nurses punished me when they found me playing with myself under the bed covers. I had to lay naked in their chapel, facing the altar, flagellate myself. I had nothing to eat for days. I ran away to find relief and other equal-minded men in parks and toilets and ended up regularly at the police station. I was forbidden to love while at the same time the priest was allowed to rape little boys for his pleasure.'
Silence filled the kitchen. What should I say to this? I knew his story. I knew the situation hadn't changed at all.
'Don't forget about the young men they left dying in the fields after they had beat them because they were gay. Don't forget the rules and punishments in Muslim countries and don't dare to travel there. Don't forget the subtle humiliation even in this country. We are outsiders and remain outsiders.'
'Sean. This is not what it is about,' Leopold said. 'You can enjoy your immortal life despite your different sexuality. The gloomy days are over, at least here in Europe.'
'Ireland belongs to Europe!'
Awkwardly, Leopold looked away. 'We have lived through all this and survived. There's nothing more we can expect.'
Leo took Sean's arm and guided him out of the kitchen. 'It's raining,' Romeo remarked while looking out of the kitchen window. 'I'm off.' Then he turned to Lucien who clutched his mug of coffee. 'There is so much for you to learn, Lucien. If you get the chance take it. If you have found a companion keep him. The fortunes of being immortal are so much bigger than the misfortunes, believe me.' He gave me an imploring look and left the kitchen.
I didn't dare turn now to Lucien although all what I wanted was to take him into my arms. Everything that he had heard must have had frightened him. But then I felt him tugging at the sleeve of my bathrobe. When I looked at him I saw his bright eyes. 'I know what I am, Gil. May I call you Gil? I know your full name, but don't you think 'Gilgamesh' is a tad too long?' His eyes twinkled and I nodded. 'No matter what I have been in the past, I want to change my life. You know.... I've felt like a hunter all these years. I've looked for someone equal to me, not just those one night lovers I forget all too soon. I'm young, and so are you. I'm old in the mind, and so are you. We are meant for each other.' He hesitated. 'Where do you keep the herb? May I see it?'
Silently I beckoned him with me to the living room. Romeo had stirred the embers in the fireplace and we were greeted with a cosy surge of warmth. I didn't know if I was doing the right thing. He was still unprepared. Was I being selfish? I could live with him without him being immortal like me. At least I could try and leave his decision for later.
'Lucien,' I started in hesitation, still having already opened the wooden trunk with my key I always carried. 'I'm not sure about this.'
'What? The whole night you've spent telling me how much you loved and missed me and now that you've found me, you aren't sure?' he called out playfully. 'I just want to see it. Please.'
I gave in, felt for the bundle and opened it. A grey-green, dry herb appeared. It still carried the scent of the ocean even though this wasn't the original. It had grown much later when my supply had been almost used up. Lucien stared at it with glowing, interested eyes. 'Is this what the snake had left over?'
I shook my head. This story I would save for later. Lucien stepped closer and touched it with his fingertip. It rustled and began to crumble away. 'The greatest of power can be held in the smallest of things,' he whispered.
'It's a borderline,' I told him. 'Once crossed there's no return. Remember the trouble it would be to die. The burden you would place on someone's shoulders if it would be your wish to die, for you wouldn't be able to do it yourself. You will live through the ages until the end of the world, with all consequences you can't foresee right now.'
'But you are so wise. You are the answer to all my questions. You could be famous. You could claim to be a scientist with great, secret knowledge about all the things humankind has no answers to. I could learn so much from you . . . like I did in the old days, when our love was young.'
'Your family? Your friends, your boyfriend? How will you explain your young appearance when it's actually about time for you to be old and grey?'
Lucien shook his head. 'That's nothing compared to the possibilities you offer me.' He touched the amulet around his neck. 'You forget that Shamash is protecting me.'
Shamash couldn't protect him from the council of the Gods. He had to adhere to the sentence, so why would his power be still strong enough to protect Lucien now? And was he still there actually? I had renounced all God's worship, no matter which one of the new Gods it was. I had decided a life without religion was a better life. I was free.
I placed the herb in a bowl that was sitting on the table in the middle of the room. We both stared at it, not knowing what to do. 'You have time to decide, love. You shouldn't do it if you are not absolutely sure. What does it matter if you take it now or in ten years? We could settle down to our old life, see if we are happy together.'
My eyes betrayed my words. How could I tell him such stupid things? I had searched the world for him and then I told him I wanted to wait? He wasn't the only one for me? He wasn't the one I had saved my heart for?
I stepped to him and took him into a tight embrace. His skin was warm although he seemed frozen. I longed to sleep with him, to savour everything that I had missed for so long. If he desired, we had all the time ahead of us we could want. Literally.
'I love you,' I heard him murmuring at my ear. 'I don't need ten years. I want to stay with you.' My hair covered us like a cloak. But then I heard the crackling sound and the silent blow to my guts telling me it was too late. Behind me I heard a sizzling sound, something was burning and it wasn't the wood in the fire place.
With a jolt I turned, leaving Lucien's body to stand on its own, and I saw the Misty Rose burning in the bowl upon the table. In a flash it burnt to ashes, leaving me no time to do anything to stop it. I cried out loud and swore an old curse, but it was too late.
Sean was standing in the doorframe, arm stretched out, his finger pointing to the bowl with the cindered, smoking herb. In a violent rage I tried to throw myself upon him, but some invisible barrier blocked my movement. I couldn't approach him. Before my eyes, Sean's appearance changed. His face melted into something very ancient. A flame flickered around his legs, licking at his genitals. He was naked. His eyes showed the golden abyss I had seen before, drawing me invitingly, the black hair shimmering like polished ebony, flat to his head, long and fluent.
'You thought the old Gods are dead because you decided to live without them?' his voice sounded through the room. I darted a look at Lucien who stood stock still with a slightly opened mouth.
Ishtar laughed and it sounded terrible. How could I have deluded myself indeed, with such naivety?
'We have lost power this is true. But how can an immortal die? We are always there, although we lost influence. I just needed to wait.' He stepped slowly closer. It looked at if he was rolling on invisible skates; flames still wavering around his feet. With disgust I watched his member grow to the abnormal and unnatural length I remembered from ages ago. He still hadn't learned.
'It was just a matter of time until you found him.' A look from the glassy- fiery blue eyes touched Lucien. 'It was easy for me to occupy the body of this Irish man. He has the Irish spirit. He was sad and easy to manipulate without his knowledge.' I felt the coldness of the flames as he approached me. 'And you still prefer him to me? This minor hunter's boy?' His ringed fingers played with his erect member clearly visible through the silent flames. His eyes lured me, his unmistakable movements tempting my body against my will. I felt something strong tugging at the thoughts in my brain. 'Surrender', it whispered, 'and he will live. Surrender your body, surrender your whole being and he will be saved. Don't you want it? It is huge. It can give you the most absolute pleasure this world has ever known! And it will be yours. We can live as Gods throughout the millenniums.' I watched clear drops of his immortal essence trickling off the long shaft, dripping into the fire. 'It is your choice to save his life.'
Aloud, he said 'Now is the time for us - you and me, Gilgamesh. I will kill Enkidu's spirit once and for all time, just like I eradicated the last of the Misty Rose. It is completely withered now, finally. And it is dead also upon the grave. There is no chance you can revive it.'
I felt sick. There was no chance? Was I to choose Ishtar in order to save Lucien's life? My face contorted in a grimace as I prepared to fling myself upon the flaming god. I would sacrifice myself in an attempt to save that which was most precious of all things.
'Minor hunter's boy?' I heard Lucien's growl suddenly behind my back, causing me to pause in my action. He moved around the table and approached Ishtar's glowing body. The God of love and fertility still mighty and powerful and still of a mind to possess me, shifted his eyes to Lucien, but before he could stretch out his arm with its killing power, Lucien threw himself upon him with a mighty cry, similar to a lion's roar. 'I am Enkidu, the greatest hunter on earth. You don't dare to call me other names.'
My cry died in my throat. I was unable to move. Motionless, I could not stop his attack. I had found him and lost him all in one night. There was no way to overpower Ishtar. Petrified, I watched Lucien walk through the cold fire front, and saw Lucien attack Ishtar's body, nails bent to claws, his golden hair bristling and catching fire. He bared his teeth, ready to tear the God's throat, but still I had no hope. The moment Ishtar would stretch out his finger and use his power, Lucien would die. A fire wall blinded my sight and there was nothing I could do except to stare and pray and wait for the end.
A lightning bolt shot through the glare caused by the flames. I saw the brief flash from the little, golden plate, then the fire parted and I could see again. Shamash's amulet had pressed itself upon Ishtar's forehead as the two writhing figures lay entangled upon the ground. It gave a hissing sound and a thin wisp of smoke appeared. Ishtar's body jerked and he let out a last curse then lay still. As Lucien rose to his feet, I saw the words 'Ishari' - Die - burnt into Ishtar's forehead.
Released, I fell to my knees. All power had left me and I felt weak like a baby. Finding my voice again, I sobbed. Lucien stood though and stared at the scene below him. The God Ishtar's body started to smoke and crumble, then it stood in fire and when the fume vanished Sean's trembling body was left lying there, eyes closed, unscathed outwardly yet seared internally from the inferno that was Ishtar. The body clearly was on the brink of death.
His lips moved weakly. '. . . touched me with . . . power,' I heard. 'Bury me . . . you will . . . live.' And then, he was no more.
Lucien kneeled down to stroke his head and his tears dropped onto Sean's face. 'He was so sad,' he whispered. 'Now we know why.'
Slowly I felt the power streaming again through my body. What had happened? Was Ishtar really dead. The undying one? Had Shamash, the God of Life, spoken a last mighty word to save us? But the herb was lost and there was no supply. I had lost Enkidu for ever. I had to let him go.
Softly, very softly, I felt a touch in my hair. 'Get up, Gil. It's over', Lucien said. 'He said we need to bury him and we would live. What does he mean?'
'I don't know.' I rose and wiped my face. Calmer now, I said 'The dream is over, love. If you want to go I won't stop you.'
'It was magic,' Lucien said. 'I fought for us, like we always had done. You fought for me and I fought for you. We can do this from now on, together.'
I shook him. 'But don't you understand? The herb is gone. You can't become immortal.'
There was a tiny moment of sadness, but the next minute Lucien's eyes were bright as ever. I saw the Ibis upon his shoulder and the lines snaking up his underarms. 'I'm Enkidu for you as long as I live. If you can bear for me to grow old, perhaps there is a chance for you to end your life with me.'
Yes. I saw it clearly. I was tired of living alone. I was tired of living without an end. Was there a better prospect than dying together after a life full of love and trust?
I took his hand. Together we looked at Sean's dead body. In death, he looked more peaceful than he had ever looked in life. I sent a prayer to Shamash and Anu, wherever they would watch. Lucien's amulet was mangled and scorched. He tugged at it until the thin chain ripped and placed it upon Sean's chest. 'We need to bury him.'
Leopold and Romeo were with us when we departed to England, Sean's corpse with us in a coffin. There, in the garden of my house at Cornwall, we buried him under a white blooming rhododendron bush next to my boy from France. His grave had been destroyed. The remains of the growing herb were withered and burnt. Ishtar's revenge had been complete.
But I had no time for mourning. Lucien accompanied me for a long travel through several continents. I initiated him into the secrets of life, the mysteries of history, and guided him to unknown places nobody will ever find except for us. We shared the secrets like two consecrated beings. No one ever knew what happened in the house in Vienna, when magic was close and alive.
It was the seventh year since Sean's death. I urged Enkidu to return home, giving in to my silent hopes. At one point in our travels, the mystery of Sean's final words became clear to me. Though it wasn't possible, was it? Sean had been mortal as he had ever been, just the possessing of his body by Ishtar had made him appear as if he would have ancient knowledge and power. Sean had been wrong. Ishtar's power had not transferred to his body when he was dying.
Enkidu couldn't understand what I was waiting for. We still had the silent agreement to end our lives when it was the right time. And Sean's grave was bare of the Misty Rose when we arrived. I kept my secret to myself. The old man from the sea had told me once that the herb that makes men immortal would grow after seven years upon the grave of an immortal. Was there still hope?
I had modelled our bedroom after the one we had in Uruk. Furs upon the large bed and candelabras beside and bowls made of alabaster from which scented mist wavered around. I held him when he was moving gently within me, remembering his strength and staying power he had gained again year after year. He still was biting softly my neck, whispering words of love and I laughed silently. There was nothing to fear for us.
My first look the next morning was to Sean's grave. And there, a tender shimmer of first green had appeared. The Misty Rose.