The Whisper of Ereshkigal
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EXCERPT: With eyes closed, the tall, bald, square-faced man reveled in the warmth of the sun and enjoyed the gentle caress of the breeze that rustled the leafy fronds of the surrounding date palms. He inhaled the heady aroma of perfumed flowers and listened to the buzz of bees flitting from flower to flower. Like the shimmer of the desert heat, from far below rose the music of drums, pipes, lutes, and lyres, the sweet voices of young women singing, and the muted voices of the crowds.
“Alulim,” a throaty, seductive voice whispered with the softness of the sun-warmed wind.
The kneeling man, dressed in a leather kilt decorated with hanks of sheep wool, opened his eyes and gazed upon a dusky-skinned woman with black eyes and long, raven black hair that fluttered in the soothing breeze. She was decorated with a shoulder collar of gold, blue lapis lazuli, and red carnelian, and with leaf shaped earrings of gold. She wore a long sleeveless dress of colored wool, and she was barefoot.
She smiled and held out a henna-decorated hand, palm up, to him. “Take my hand,” she said with a crooked little smile. “Come with me at last. Enjoy my love.”
Across the twilight sky behind her floated thin clouds on which the setting sun cast shades of orange, white, red and yellow. The life-giving sea sparkled in the distance, as did the waters within the marshes that reached from the sea up to the fields. Shadows crept across the flat, sandy landscape that was marked by patterns of green fields of einkorn and emmer wheat, peas, greens, and onions, all watered by a network of irrigation canals.
The man’s heart sank at the approach of the twilight shadows. Then, a look of suspicion mixed with love crossed his narrow face, and his pleasant eyes darkened.
“No,” he answered firmly.
Her black eyes glittered darkly, and her fingers curled like talons. “Alulim,” she said, “my love for you is all that stands between you and my sister. Come with me.”
“No,” he replied. Slowly, defiantly, he rose to his feet.
Her eyes smoldered like the glowing embers of a dying fire. “I am your only hope.”
“You offer me your love, yet I know what happens to your lovers when you tire of them…”