A Strong Right Arm #writingprompt

Pixabay image by Brigitte Werner

A Strong Right Arm – written in response to Diana Wallace Peach’s Myths of the Mirror #writingprompt for May 2019.

When Jackson de Ville came to, he was seated and Electra was straddling him. The knife was in his clenched fist and there seemed to be some mental compulsion preventing him from letting it go. She moved forward, so that the blade began to impale her soft flesh…

For a second he had to fight to remember how he got there…

Jackson’s bodyguard work on the inner planet Folis 12 was supposed to be the climax of his distinguished career as a cop. ‘Cop’ was an old word now, but it had stuck. The Enforcement, for which Jackson worked – had been on Electra’s tail for an age… now the undercover detective and his sidekick, Brocco, were closing in for the kill.

The woman giving the talk was the fabled Dr Rosenthal. Specialist in the new meta-science of system balancing, she could draw an audience from across the explored galaxy. Her ‘systems’ were complete solar systems, within which her new family of non-linear equations could adjust an entire set of planetary orbits, bringing about harmonic changes so that each planet could be farmed, using the energies of the others…

It wasn’t rocket science. It was way beyond rocket science. He remembered whistling with admiration as the invited crowd of VIPs surged towards the thick quartz observation window, flanked by the two gothic-looking towers on either side. The whole building looking down on the desert below from the edge of a rocky escarpment.

Dr Rosenthal had turned and motioned he and Brocco into one of the small towers where she said they’d get a better view of internal and external proceedings with a wider angle. They had been assigned to protect the genius lady, who turned out to be far more attractive than Jackson had expected. He could see by the grin that Brocco, found her so, too…

That perfume…. rich and expensive. Where had he….?

Rosenthal’s voice could be heard closing her speech from the adjacent chamber. Jackson stood in the doorway, scanning the audience.

“So, honoured guests, please continue to look down on this desert that is about to be transformed into high yield agricultural land for food.” She moved towards the door to the chamber containing Jackson and Brocco, still speaking. “I will make our final adjustments and rejoin you as you watch our very first act of Solar System Terrafarming…

And then the fragrant lady they were protecting was sliding into their strange little tower and Jackson’s alarm bells were drowning out coherent thought. He was startled when she pushed past them both and hit the middle set of buttons on the chamber’s small console.

There was a roaring noise and the room shook. At first, Jackson thought the tower had tilted to allow for a better view, but then he saw that they were climbing into the sky. A mile below, three large black machines surged into the desert plain and spaced themselves out in a huge triangle. Within seconds each had spawned smaller replicas whose role was to fill in the sides of what was becoming a vast stockade. He gasped as the interior became a sea of self-replicating drilling machines…

By then, his head was hurting and his heavy body was clinging to the edge of the console, trying not to fall to the floor. His last view out of the window was of a desert plain thousands of kilometres wide, filled with frantically-moving black machinery.

Then he hit the floor and someone strong whose perfume was beautiful but deadly was rolling him into an acceleration bag, which inflated just as he began to black out. The tiny chamber was now dark. As he lost consciousness he saw the blackness of space through the perspex panel over his face.

————

He moaned. His muscles were stretched taut. A warm body next to his ran its fingers over his skin in response.

“Welcome back…” it said.

He shivered.

“Don’t worry, she was already dead.” The fingers played and teased with his right nipple.

“Who?” he managed with a hoarse whisper.

“Who – the dead Dr Rosenthal or who – your captor?”

“Shit,” said Jackson.

“Only me,” said the perfume he now knew was Electra Eckberg’s. Her disguise had been perfect!

“Shit,” he cursed, again. “Didn’t you get enough last time!”

“Petulant…” she said, kissing where the fingers had teased.

Her voice changed, becoming hard business. “Sadly, we can’t take another vacation.”

Jackson fought the urge to tell her what he thought of her sick humour, but she put a soft finger over his lips. The conditioned response kicked in and he turned mute. He hated himself for it. It was a form of hypnosis – like the effect of the deadly perfume.

“I’m dying,” she said softly. “Really dying. Folis 12 is now generating more oil than humanity needs for the next twenty years… Don’t hold it against me, I had to fund my retirement and I’m very good with molecular machines…”

He swallowed, wondering, irrationally, if swallowing was allowed. His heart was racing. He sucked in air and fought to be calm. The fingers stroked his skin. No pain so far…

“Brocco?” he asked in a whisper.

“Thanks for the sympathy, bitch!” she barked. Then, softer, “He didn’t make it. Wasn’t expecting two of you and I only had one acceleration pouch.” Her strong fingers squeezed. He winced, swallowing.

“Don’t tell me I was wrong…”

She slid her body off the cold metal table. The perfume – dark hybrid roses spiced with opium at three in the morning: she had made him learn it when he was at his most unhinged – walked around his head.

Then came the whirring noises. He looked up to see a canopy of tiny drills sliding over his body.

“Electra, please.” He was begging. Six foot four of total muscle. All begging.

“I could have killed you a long time ago. Stop being such a bloody baby.”

But it didn’t stop him screaming, even though the million sources of pain were more like tiny electric shocks than agony.

After a while he blacked out. When he came to, he was seated and she was straddling him. The knife was in his clenched fist and there seemed to be some mental compulsion preventing him from letting it go. She moved forward, so that the tip of the blade impaled her soft flesh.

Lights flashed outside the tiny escape craft.

“Where are we?” he shouted at her, seeing tiny drops of blood. Knowing she wasn’t kidding – she was dying…

“Akkatura,” she hissed.

“The orbiting pirate station?”

“Yes,” she managed.

“And you think a cop will be welcome here!?”

Her hand came up to pull his neck. “You’ll see… now kiss me,” The whisper faded to a tiny “one last time…”

He couldn’t help it. He was alive, even if his flesh was screaming. She hadn’t killed him. He bent forward and did as she commanded, sliding the blade home as their lips met.

The taste was bitter sweet. Like her perfume. The loss of consciousness was instantaneous. The lip gloss had begun its work…

He woke in a strange but opulent room. Hours had passed, he could tell from his beard.

“Good morning, Mr de Ville,’ said the robot voice. You are safe and one of our guests. Your account is pre-settled. You can leave when you wish but a rather large amount of money is conditional on you staying here for a short while…”

He looked around, then noticed a light blinking on the room’s console. “The late Ms Eckberg wished to you to have every…” the voice hesitated, seeking the right word. “…comfort while you recovered from your operation.”

Operation! His head was screaming as he ran to the bathroom, remembering the rig of tiny drills. He moaned as he caught sight of his body in the mirror. He had be re-engineered… A complex mass of electronics and energy cells lined his right torso, but the biggest change was his right arm, which appeared to be completely bionic.

“You bitch!,” he hurled at the image. “You tormenting bitch… I hope you went straight to hell and burn there…”

He watched in horror as his right hand began to climb in slow motion up his flesh, in what was obviously a silent parody of cyber-movement. When the digits reached his nipple, they tweaked it. At the same time a familiar and perfumed voice said in his brain, “Now, I hope we’re not going to hurt each other, Jackson…”

© Stephen Tanham

Stephen Tanham is a Director of the Silent Eye School of Consciousness, a not-for-profit teaching school of modern mysticism that helps people find a personal path to a deeper place within their internal and external lives.

The Silent Eye provides home-based, practical courses which are low-cost and personally supervised. The course materials and corresponding supervision are provided month by month without further commitment.

Steve’s personal blog, Sun in Gemini, is at stevetanham.wordpress.com.

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Gilgamesh descending (2)

I enter the temple at the head of the twin columns of the Dancers of Fate. Those of the kingdom enter behind their King in silent reverence as we pass the Guardian and bow our respects.

Alone, but knowing they follow, I cross the centre of the exotic floor and move towards the east of the temple. The gold-draped chair is waiting. I turn and stand, watching the precise formation of Fate Dancers peel away left and right, to literally flow down the circumference of the large circle that is the enneagram; the heart of this temple of the mysteries.

All wait for the King. I take a deep breath before beginning. He is waiting in the space around the golden chair… The familiar feel of an autocratic king from thousands of years ago.

I realise that I am the break in his continuity. Settling into the seated vessel, once more, this ancient king breaks with tradition and gazes across to look at the woman who is half human, half goddess – Ninsun, his mother. The memory is still fresh in his mind: the dream of the rock that fell from the sky to the ground, the way it was adored – the way he hugged and loved it! His strong body curls with the strangeness of it; the embarrassment of how he knelt before her as in a trance, asking her to tell him what it meant…

A friend, Ninsun had said. Even a man capable of being a brother! He was to come into my life… I can feel the King’s astonishment, even though I know he is cuniform words in clay from nearly three thousand years ago. And then the separation leaves us… and there is just Gilgamesh the King on his large throne, whose arms curl up into two wooden hands that hold his beloved sword. He is calm… purposeful. But the most powerful man in the world knows that world is changing.

He was beloved of the Gods, he knew. Why else had the world fallen at his feet? Surely, he had nothing to fear.

Now, there is no more time to indulge the mystery. The women are dancing again and he must watch, captivated. The women known as the Fate Dancers had devised these movements for his pleasure, though he divined the hidden hand of the gods in the way it stroked his heart, like a lyre whose music was not heard, but felt.

Everyone in the royal palace loved the hypnotic flow of the Fates’ dance. Shamhat had even petitioned him to let them make its gliding patterns permanent in the floor of the royal chamber. And he had agreed; at a great cost to the royal purse… for the dancers, but most of all for her. For Shamhat.

But that had been before she refused his advances, saying she had served her time and no longer answered to him but to the Divine Council, alone. His fingers grip the blade of his sword. No other circumstance in the world could have frustrated him like this! The Fate Dancers dance on… unperturbed.

“Shamhat!” He spits out the word. The High Priestess’s name etches a bitter taste on his tongue… Before him, like flickers of half-seen light, the Fate Dancers maintain the perfection of their movements; but Gilgamesh, with his hawk-like vision, sees their eyes flicker, before, smiling, his fingertips bid them continue.

Shamhat! He would make her pay for her public refusal to share her bed with the God King. But it would have to be subtle. Like him, she was partly God, partly human… and clever.

He looks down from his throne at the elegant and beautiful movements across the glistening white floor of his chamber. The Fate Dancers’ feet follow a pattern of lines that intersect the large circle at nine points. Three of them are formed into a triangle bounded by golden stars set into the white crystals. The other six lines intersect like the ghostly pattern of a gemstone and their intersections with the circle are marked with stars of dark blue lapis lazuli.

All this had been created for Shamhat, working – he now saw – to aid in this strange contest of the mind and body with which she saw fit to challenge his authority. But he loved the movements of the dancers. So much so that he could feel his world shifting each time they began to flow across the magical glyph before him.

There would be time to fix this, he thought to himself, settling back into his throne and reaching for his golden cup of mead.

He must have dozed off… Before him, the floor design glitters in the flickering light of the tallow candles. A rough man dressed in furs kneels at the edge of the court and he could sense another behind him. Gilgamesh reaches for his sword, but the vizier’s hand stops him, gently.

“My apologies, King Gilgamesh, I sought not to disturb your rest. There is no threat.”

Gilgamesh lets go the grip on his sword. “That is a dangerous place to stand, even for a royal vizier!”

The vizier bows and points at the kneeling supplicant. “He has news we felt you would wish to know, especially in these… uncertain times.”

Gilgamesh can taste the dawning of the new in the air all around him.

“Speak, man!” he shouts at the trapper. “If what you say is true, let us have no ceremony. What is it you have seen?”

“Why, I have seen a giant, my king!”

The king laughs, refreshed, relaxed and alert. He is amused. Good-naturedly, he tells the trapper that he has been listening to tavern stories. The man protests and the king is about to dismiss him as a fool when he realises that the description of the powerful and fleet wild man is remarkably close to how he, the king, would be described by a stranger, had he lived from the land.

“There is truth in your voice,” Gilgamesh concludes. Reluctantly, he asks the trapper why this has such importance that he risks his life coming to the royal palace to report it.

“My Lord,” says the trembling man, “he could be your very twin.”

Gilgamesh takes a breath and gazes upwards, letting it out slowly. No-one can see his smile.

Time passes. The royal chamber is empty, apart from the king. The tallow candles have burned low. They are making sputtering noises in their flickering death. Gilgamesh follows the spirals of soot high into the dimness of the chamber.

He is pleased with himself. The trapper has been despatched to find the high priestess, who will be told that she is to use her divine arts to seduce and civilise the wild twin. He knows that this action will open up a new sea of possibilities, but he does not care.

All that matters is that he will have vengeance on the woman he used to love…

Other parts in this series:

Part One,

©Stephen Tanham

Lord of the Deep, the Silent Eye’s 2019 April workshop, was created by Stuart France, assisted by Sue Vincent.

This narrative is a personal journey through that ritual drama in the persona of Gilgamesh.

Header image by Sue Vincent, copyright the Silent Eye.

Stephen Tanham is a director of the Silent Eye School of Consciousness, a not-for-profit teaching school of modern mysticism that helps people find a personal path to a deeper place within their internal and external lives.

The Silent Eye provides home-based, practical courses which are low-cost and personally supervised. The course materials and corresponding supervision are provided month by month without further commitment.

Steve’s personal blog, Sun in Gemini, is at stevetanham.wordpress.com.