1. the metallic element mercury.
verb (used with object)
2. to amalgamate (metal) with mercury.
before 1000; Middle English qwyksilver, Old English cwicseolfor
(translation Latin argentum v?vum)
literally, living silver
In Babylon, it was not a crime to lie with a woman out of wedlock. While I am not a Celibate, I am no defiler of beautiful young maidens. I would never spoil something so precious with vile atrocities of anger and emotional impotence.
She: my accuser, my long time lover, my nemesis, stood on the temple steps for three days. Harking injustice upon me in tenets of false accusations until I was detained, arrested and hauled to the cellars under the hanging gardens. She made a point of passing me in shackles, fixating me with the same malevolent hex from the previous nights malefaction. That green-eyed Juno had me incarcerated for the rape of her sister, Merope, the Virginal Pleiades. But in that vindictive stare I knew, she had so much more in store for my infidelities. I had betrayed her for the last time.
Under the testimony of the clearly distraught girl who was in a near catatonic state of fear, I was convicted of such heinous acts and branded a criminal by thirteen elderly council members. Much to my chagrin, this counsel of old men all have age appropriate daughters. All of whom have, unfortunately, come under my aimed attentions in recent months. Oh, you clever Medusa, I stared at her directly with that thought, through the throngs of attendees. Some gathered between us lamented in long sobs into tear-stained silk handkerchief’s. Others condemned me in pernicious waves of their fists, shouting for justice to be served by my undoing. She, my personal Witch of Endor, smiled with victory as I felt the irrefutable weight of utter, and complete defeat.
“You must be strong to survive, Orion.” The stooped old jail cell attendant reminded me while passing me a pipe of desert poppies tar. Though his day-labor’s had him feeding and watering the wicked and debauched; at night when the rest of the City sleeps under the rule of King Nabonidus of Babylon, this man toils with magick. Old, ancient writs of the first (and hidden) Kaballah under his practiced, learned hands come to life. He knows inalienable truths; Words of Power that kill instantly, the craft of Golems, and the creation of the most wicked servants of all, the Dybbuk.
The Chartom continues his lesson of tomorrow’s festival of the great Mesopotamian God Anu. “Only love will save you and render you free of mortal sufferance,” he asseverated. “Then, perhaps, your great Anu come to you again, as when you were a child, and bless you with his gift of transcendence. Before that, I fear, You will know excruciating pain and sorrow over the days to come. I will help you escape these as best I am able, of this I swear an oath.”
“Why would you help me?” I remember asking through the halcyon of the opiates meant to ease my anguish. “Your Yahweh would never allow you to aid we, the idolater’s.” The cloying smoke was a pervasive effluvium, exhaled out between the bars to hang around the old mans head. To his credit, he did not buffet it away. Rather, he sat illuminated in aura and fog. “Many years ago there was a young hunter, whose brave arrows staved off the crush of Persian Cuirassier’s upon my tribe.” Recalling that once, I had been gallant and intrepid. The paradisiacal effects of the tar’s smoke had begun to take me under its promise of escape. “How many days.” The words slurred thickly, where I had left off finishing the question.
Then he touched my chest with two fingers, painting some symbols I could not make out in my narcosis. “Three days you will boil in the oscillating amalgam. The priests will pour liquid metal over you until your skin absorbs layers of a metallic shell. You will die because your body will no longer be able to vent itself. Then you will become the living effigy of their Lord of Constellations.” Gods do not place value on statues, this I knew. They requite actions of great faith and belief in their power. Men however, find them priceless.
I was instantly thankful for my previous zealotry and prowess in their names, for their glory. The old man’s sandaled feet sloughed against the mortar and dirt. The roots have grown through from the garden’s above framed his exit in strange living curtains.
The following morning they came for me early. Hauling me off under the arms, while my slack, bare feet dragged behind me. When I had finally roused enough to see the world straight and true, I was being bathed in the Vestal pools, by a thousand tiny hands. All of their colors blending together in a pastel wash amidst the Opium induced dreams. I felt them, all of those diligent little hands, crown my head with Anu’s golden tiara of leaves. I felt the weight of my long bow placed into my hand, overwhelmed with a sense of gratitude to the God Anu who had blessed me with his guidance and wisdom as a lost child, following his glinting stars in the heaven’s above, until I found my way home. In his name, I had slain armies, I had known great achievements, earning me the title of The Great Hunter. The voices in my head argued until I could no longer think when the Priests came for me with their censor’s vacillating.
They led me naked to the grand oratory where the acrid smell of herbs stung the back of my throat and only added to the daze I suffered from being drugged into compliance. Outside I could hear the raucous of a Festival going on. In my mind, I could see the parade of masquerading bon vivant’s twirling under wands of ribbon and the flutter of late spring petal’s falling from the lush tiers of the famous gardens. I was placed into the cauldron of warm, thick liquid. There was no real discomfort at first; this was to be a slow process stoked each night by another load of cedar logs. They didn’t wish to damage my perfect body; only to encase it as tribute. When one layer of the Metallurgist’s amalgam absorbed, the fastidious Priests would come to ladle on another layer to take its place. Slowly, as the mercury began to poison my mind, I felt the truth of this circumstance; that I would feel every bit of the remaining days to come.
On the second night, I felt the first pangs of pain when my muscles began to roast beneath the skin now coated in a metallic sheen. I was alone and shuddering in shock when I heard the scuttling footsteps sneaking their way through the night time shadows around the hall. It was the old man, come to fulfill his oath. Trepidation had him looking over his shoulder as he spoke low to me. “Smoke, it will help.” His rheumy brown eyes squinted, and I could have sworn they glowed. I drew upon the stem of the pipe he held in shaking, arthritic hands. The cessation of the worst of the excruciation came within a few minutes. Though I ached and I burned; Conflagrant, I could barely shake my head around the torrid scalding. I screamed for the first time and lost consciousness until the drug worked its magic. I began to hallucinate, illuminated under the moon of Sin. The Chartoms visage shimmered like heat from the pavement in transformation. His smile was youthful and handsome; his carriage became broad and round with muscles, and his voice became deep and resonating. “I told you when you were so small; you are beloved.” He boasted with pose in his new kingly bronze regalia. It was phantom of the God Anu. The dreamscape continued to toil and revolve when a nude woman’s visage came up from the flames around the cauldron. The lovely goddess Inanna on fire, dark skinned, and sublime. I felt her kiss me, and then I felt nothing at all. Desire welled up inside me. She licked the mercury from her mouth and dragged a finger across the plush of her thick lips, and with that, I was reinvented. Then she was simply gone, it was all gone. A dull aching pain returned, but the promise of its release on the next night bolstered my resolve. I would die as their Champion, rather than under the curse of a red-haired Xanthippe’s machinations for absolute power.
By the third morning in cognizance, my anguish had become a vivid reality of pain. Prayer did not soothe me. My pleas fell upon deaf ears of my spectator’s who paid a copper stamped coin for a glimpse at my persecution. The frenzy of their cruelty broke me, and I fell into tears of anguish and shame at my weakness. In a rush of lunacy, I reached down into a vat of boiling metal and splashing the onlookers with an anger forged in self-pity. I hated them for their inconceivable spite; for their joy and elation at the sport of my nine crimes. The priests came to usher them in daisy-chains of clasped hands out into the celebrations of the streets of Babylon where riots of pleasurable sensations would quell their indignation at my outburst. Then they began the ritual of basting me, for the last time. No longer was there pain, just as the Chartom had promised, the liquid had permeated my body through and through. I had only hours to live before the poison and inability to sweat would suffocate me under the hardened shell.
At the moment my limbs began to stiffen, I accepted this fate as my own. Wrath as only I could have engendered with all of my peccancy, coming to fruition under Gale’s indubitable master plan. A plan where I was to be the martyred lamb laid to the altar.
You were a beautiful, incomparable, avaricious, cunt. It is no wonder I loved you so.
It was then when the scene and my fate started to unravel.
I cannot tell you, in my state of in between life and death if what I recollect was wholly true.
The cauldron burst from the deodorant bonfire of cedar logs beneath it. Remnants of liquid doused the flames that erupted into St. Elmo’s fire, melting the very marble on which I was still standing. I remember seeing through the blue flame; the three Deities; Anu, Sin, and Inanna now weeping openly. Beyond their grief, I saw why; the flicker of red hair on the breeze from the explosion. Her eyes wild with their witch-fire smile as her hands conjured the magicks of seven devils. I watched as the priests melted instantly into pools of human sludge and then flaked up and away carried by the very air that fueled her rage. I felt the layers of my new skin begin to blister and broil.
“Did you think,“ I heard her say with caprice. “That you would ever be free of me?” Then I knew the absolute truth: She did not kill me, she created me. Blessed by Gods, Cursed in her Thaumaturgy.
From the coals of my funeral pyre, she plucked the remnant of my demise; a solitary lump of shining alloy. I imagine it was still warm when she held it in her greedy fist and walked out to the panicked chaos ensuing. People were running for help, for their lives, for their homes. I can picture the smile she wore, and it sets my fervid heart ablaze.
The bête noire of my beginnings lies within the end of existence on a mortal plane and being thrust as a token of affection and amorousness into the heaven’s where Anu cradled me as the constellation of Orion, and renamed me Aero Holter: The Arrow Hunter — A conjured creature beholden to the wearer of a necklace, a mere cheap trinket on a leather cord from where my beloved paramour could summon me as an assassin, her lover, or the time traveller of her spite-filled heart.
The author wishes to credit Gale to the talented, THECAST, with gratitude for her use in the historical.