For a few minutes after Gryff had disappeared from the ring of light, no one moved. Chess, his mind in full panic mode, could not even focus on what had just happened.
Finally, Ileana asked hesitantly, “Should we go after him?”
Chess swung his wide-eyed gaze toward her. At least she had given him a thought that his brain could grab hold of. “He’s really angry,” he hissed at her in disbelief. “He’s heavily armed. None of us is going anywhere near him right now.”
Chess did not understand: his best friend had just threatened him. Why? What had he done?
Late that night, after the girls had retired, Chess sat before the dying fire, still going back over the events of that evening. Desperately, he searched his mind for clues, but found only white noise.
And then, without warning, Gryff appeared, standing on the other side of the fire and reminding Chess of the first night that they had met. Chess lowered his gaze to the fire as Gryff walked around and dropped silently down beside him. Chess decided to let Gryff speak first. It took a while.
“Last night, you and Sariel…” Gryff began in a soft voice, “That never happened before.”
Chess’s heart was pounding, but he still felt completely lost. “Uh, yeah,” he shrugged. “Uh, Sariel decides when, uh… Yeah, it’s been a while.” His mind desperately tried to make some sense of this new information. So, Gryff had followed them. Had the guy been nursing a crush on Sariel this whole time? he wondered. He opened his mouth to speak, but Gryff abruptly broke the silence again.
“I just assumed the girls had their thing going,” he muttered, “and you… didn’t have anyone.”
“Oh, well…” Chess sighed, his thoughts lingering on his complex relationship with Sariel for a moment. But then the realization of Gryff’s meaning hit him suddenly and heavily. “Oh,” he breathed.
But Gryff plunged on. “After we escaped from Razor’s men, I was so scared. I thought I had lost you.” He inhaled audibly. “But now I realize… I never had you. It was all just in my own mind.”
Chess looked at him then, unable to hide the shock in his expression. “You’re my best friend,” he stated, feeling bewildered. Gryff met his eyes briefly, but quickly dropped his chin again.
Chess’s mind raced. The idea had simply never occurred to him. And yet, he realized, all this time… He looked sideways at Gryff and felt his heartbeat jump a little, but he pushed the thought away. He liked their relationship the way it was. He had been feeling something that was so close to happy. He desperately needed things to remain the way they were. “I don’t want anything to change,” he said.
“It already has,” Gryff answered. The next morning, he was gone.
The three of them continued on, in the direction that Chess had plotted out, but Chess suddenly felt much less of a desire to get to anywhere. As the days passed, and it became clear that Gryff was not coming back, Chess’s energy dissipated, as did his appetite. And the voice of failure in his mind was louder than ever. It became an effort just making himself function.
At the fire one night, the girls seemed to share his melancholy. Ileana talked sadly about some of her old friends in civ, and Sariel mentioned her grandfather. “I hope to see him again someday.”
Chess lifted his chin from his knees, his eyes half-closed. “I hope to dissolve into ashes,” he muttered, “and scatter on the winds of oblivion.” He rose and walked off, into the shadow of the trees.
Hours later, under dark clouds edged in silver by the light of the moon, Sariel found Chess where he had carelessly settled down to sleep. She wrapped her arms around him, pressing her body tightly against his back. When Chess remained motionless, she murmured, “Your boy is not my fault.”
Chess suddenly realized that she was apologizing. She had probably known that Gryff had been watching the two of them that night. She probably knew way more about Gryff than Chess had.
“I know,” Chess answered, swallowing hard against threatening tears.
“I feared you would leave us forever,” she added.
Chess stared into the darkness between the quiet, surrounding trees. “I know.”
Continued next page...
Courage doesn't always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day that says: I'll try again tomorrow.
- Mary Anne Radmacher
The second story that I find mystifying is the story of Noah and the Ark, set within the story of Gilgamesh. Gilgamesh is perhaps the earliest written story, recorded on tablets dating from about 4,000 years ago.
With a background in Christianity, I am pretty familiar with the Biblical story of Noah, another character from Genesis. Because Noah is an exceptionally good person, the Lord forewarns him about the great flood that he will presently send to destroy all life on earth. And because Noah obeys the Lord, he is able to save his family. In Christianity, this is usually interpreted as a story about the importance of obedience to the Lord.
In the story of Gilgamesh, however:
The great god Enlil once ordered up an epic flood... but, whereas Noah’s god used the flood to punish people for wickedness, Enlil’s motive was less exalted: humanity had been noisy while he was trying to sleep, so he decided to extinguish it.
- The Evolution of God by Robert Wright
Enlil is not acting alone, though: there is an entire pantheon of gods participating in this event. The god Ea, sometimes described as a trickster god, disagrees with this plan for humankind. But, apparently, Ea does not feel that he can stand up to the other gods, so he goes to warn one man, whom, we figure he must like enough to risk Enlil’s anger. Ea whispers furtively to the man and tells him to build a great boat for his family, gives him the necessary dimensions, and also tells him to bring along some representative form of all living creatures.
I found it truly surprising to see this story that I knew so well told in a completely different way, where the motivations are somewhat different, and, especially, where the various and sometimes contradictory actions attributed to the Lord are played out by multiple gods, who get angry with each other over this incident and sort of brow-beat Enlil into his rainbow-of-remorse moment. I wonder if one story was an adaptation of the other or did both come from some earlier source?
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