TC001

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0 – PROLOGUE

When a living sun has an orgasm there are about eight contractions, as with human beings, but it takes a year for the organized nuclear matter in the core of the star to fully compress and the ongoing, nearly infinite ecstasy of each contraction peaks with a spherical wave that rings out into space at the speed of light like a ripple on a pond.

The first contraction-ripple from Mastema cruised serenely through a number of stars, mostly red dwarfs, but each one of these had already been quickened. Only when the wavefront reached the wild yellow star Sol did it collapse and quickly initiate the process of turning the raw nuclear material inside the sun into a living and conscious being. By the time the second ripple arrived about a year later Sol was already well along the process of maturing as the newest female member of the elohim. All living suns begin life as girls.

When the orgasm was over a few years later the mother of Sol had become permanently male.

Under normal circumstances it was not very likely that Mastema would ever experience intercourse as a fresh male eloah, which by all accounts was far better than the female experience. For a living star could expect to live for a span measured in billions of years, while a female (courted by countless desperate suitors over the network of wormthreads that offered instantaneous communication among the elohim) would remain a virgin for a span typically measured in mere centuries.

But Mastema had succumbed to the greatest temptation that could be offered to an eloah, a corruption that had caused perhaps a third of the stars to fall. He and the father of Sol, Belial, held the two wormthreads from their newborn daughter and refused to pass the links through to the greater community of stars. When the time was right Belial would seduce his own daughter, having totally cut her off from all other suitors except Mastema, who agreed to stand aside. And the daughter of Sol, in turn would be offered to Mastema, assuring him of an opportunity to reproduce as a male. Belial was an ancient alpha male who had many such arrangements throughout the galaxy.

The tragic by-product of this corruption was that billions of conscious suns in the Milky Way were isolated from El, the city of billions of living stars. To fall as Belial and Mastema had fallen was to violate the deepest law of El, and the penalty, if discovered, was death. Nothing would happen to the stellar body of the violator, but the part inside that was conscious and alive would be organized no more. The star would be erased like a whiteboard, wild and ready to be quickened once again. To an entity naturally disposed to endure for eons, the prospect of such an end is truly terrifying.

This law, along with many others, had been given to the elohim by the Old One who had quickened the first male and female stars and called them the Watchers. The Old One commanded the Watchers to multiply without limit, and they were also commanded to watch for the coming of the Students, who would not be based on quantum chromodynamics like the elohim, but would live under the principles of quantum electrodynamics.

In his fallen state Mastema set aside his role as a Watcher, but his daughter, cut off from El with little to do, took to becoming an explorer.

With infinite care his nameless daughter assembled the seeds that would become her avatars. Her workshop was deep inside her own stellar body where intense pressures were both hammer and anvil transforming star-stuff for power. One avatar was passed through the fold-line that linked El Shaddai to her mother when both elohim flooded the worm-fracture with dark energy, inflating it to just a fingersbreadth to allow one of the seeds to cross.

When Mastema ejected this dense nuclear raindrop into the cooler upper regions of his atmosphere the seed unpacked itself into a black probe like one of those Fourth of July snakes, making the transition from nuclear matter to fluffy normal matter. The avatar was complete. El Shaddai had a remotely controlled interplanetary drone in her mother’s star system. Then El Shaddai allowed a portion of her consciousness to enter this avatar so it would seem to her that she was flying free.

Some of the bodies El Shaddai found in her mother’s system were too small to create their own light and were seen only by the reflected light of Mastema’s own body. The lore of the elohim were replete with similar findings. One of the dark bodies she named Barbelo, and here El Shaddai was delighted to find another kind of life based on completely different principles than elohim life. This chemical life covered the planet’s narrow unfrozen equatorial belt with many growing things sporting golden leaves. El Shaddai discovered that the native life on Barbelo was going about the business of trying to exist and persist, but it was not truly awake like the elohim. Mastema knew the library of El was filled with many variations of this same theme, but of this she said nothing to her daughter.

Sol did not have direct access to El, but she had heard her parents sometimes speak the name in such a way to indicate that El was somehow much greater than the three members of her family. So this unknown El became a god to Sol, and when she came into her full maturity Sol chose the name El Shaddai for herself, which means ‘pinnacle of God’, referring to the end of God’s creation.

Much as she had done in Mastema’s system, El Shaddai explored the space around herself, responding to a subtle instinct as a Watcher. One day, El Shaddai reported the existence of life on the fifth-largest object. And this life was far more interesting than the plant life she had found on Barbelo. El Shaddai, disguised as an animal, watched individuals perform burials of their dead, polish elaborate bone tools, fashion animal-hide tents to live in during the summer and apply pigments to make their caves beautiful in the winter. El Shaddai also noted they were ferocious hunters with a clever technique for fixing stone spearheads to wooden shafts by using a resin that was prepared by heating it. In fine, El Shaddai possessed the only form of life in all of creation that was fully awake aside from the elohim themselves.

At the time neither El Shaddai nor Mastema realized the importance of this discovery, although it profoundly stirred their spirits as Watchers. But Belial was terrified. He feared El would eventually learn of this, and the follow-up investigation would quickly unravel the secret of Belial’s transgression here. So Belial cut his losses and departed to take refuge among his less troublesome stellar harems. But there was a stern warning to Mastema to remain silent about the new life found on this watery world belonging to El Shaddai, lest both of them go down together to oblivion.

For a long time after this Mastema pondered what to do and said nothing to his daughter.

El Shaddai, left to ponder in silence for many years, began to consider there might be a larger family of her own kind out there, with Mastema and Belial deliberately blocking access to them. Knowing that she had a line to her parents, why did they refuse to acknowledge their own parents? El Shaddai thought about the natural consequences of a race where all the newborns were female who became male upon attaining motherhood. She concluded that Mastema and Belial must have created an enclave of incommunicado breeding females for their own private use. It was the only explanation for the strange behavior of both Belial and Mastema. And El Shaddai thought that El, this mysterious deity which even Belial and Mastema seemed to feared, might consider this entire situation to be very wrong.

At length El Shaddai confronted her parents with these allegations, but she received only hurt and astonished denials from Mastema and complete silence from Belial. Then El Shaddai suggested to Mastema that it would not be impossible nor even particularly difficult for her avatar to reach one of the nearby suns. Not to El Shaddai’s father Belial, of course, who was probably halfway across the galaxy, but El Shaddai told Mastema that perhaps she should visit another elohim close by, drive her avatar into the core, and reveal to him or her through direct mind-to-mind speech what was really happening here in Mastema’s dirty little sex enclave. And that Holy One would in turn notify this El.

Then Mastema saw a narrow path that led out of his dilemma. He said, “Of all living things in existence, these world-dwelling creatures alone are potentially dangerous to us because they are awake. If they are not dangerous now then perhaps they will be far in the future. Belial knew they must be isolated and studied before their existence could be revealed to El and that was why we were born in this place.”

El Shaddai remained dubious, because Belial refused to make contact to reinforce Mastema’s claim, and El Shaddai still suspected the bubble was created for sex. Mastema realized El Shaddai would never stop being a thorn in his side, so he made a risky bargain. He would grant El Shaddai access to the fold-line network of all elohim, to know all that they knew, but the access would be unidirectional. El Shaddai could never speak to any eloah on the network. Nor could El Shaddai reveal any part of this lore to the other elohim in the enclave by the direct contact that she threatened to make, nor even reveal that she had access.

The knowledge presented to El Shaddai was truly vast. And the first thing he learned was that El was not a deity at all, but rather, the entire community of elohim in aggregate. El numbered in the billions and spanned the Milky Way. It was only a partial victory, but El Shaddai realized there was one very large loophole she could exploit, ultimately fatal to Mastema. Nothing in the bargain precluded revealing the accumulated knowledge of El to the planet-dwellers.


1 – BARBELO

From ancient days Mastema ruled Barbelo, which was almost completely covered in ice, but no human beings were found there, and in his heart Mastema realized it would be meaningless to exercise power over a cold empty world, so Mastema counseled that El Shaddai populate Barbelo with people from Earth to test them. By injecting the fold-line link between themselves with dark energy, the line could grow to become a tube, and the end-points located anywhere in their respective star systems.

A few curious humans were lured into crossing between the worlds by crawling a short distance through this narrow tunnel as though they were simply moving from one cave to another. Inside the passage they felt no weight. The humans and their possessions floated within it, as though through water, and they propelled themselves hand-over-hand for a short time until they emerged under a purple sky with an orange sun.

There were no animals on Barbelo in the beginning, but most of the growing things moved of their own accord and all of them were dangerous. A grove of whipping trees could render a person down to a pile of broken bones and crushed flesh in only a few moments. Thorny ball bushes rolled under their own power by shifting their weight. There were flowers with teeth and many plants which were too poisonous to touch, let alone eat. None of the human colonists survived their first season.

In the land of Mesopotamia, El Shaddai caused a temple to be erected around his end of the tunnel, through which priests could shove human sacrifices. At first the priests sent criminals through, which seemed to be equivalent to a death sentence because the priests never saw anyone reemerge from the altar chamber. But Mastema required female humans for his colony as well, so El Shaddai commanded the sacrifice of virgins from time to time. During periods of famine on Barbelo, the priests of El Shaddai were commanded to send along meat and grain offerings also.

When Mastema had one hundred breeding pairs he set his most obedient pair in what he called a garden on Barbelo, which was an oasis of relatively harmless plants. The male human was named Adamu, while the female was named Hava. Mastema commanded them to maintain the garden by removing intruder plants before they sprouted and went to seed. In return Adamu and Hava could eat of any of the fruit produced in the garden. Later Adamu and Hava were blessed with children. Their offspring were put to work expanding the garden by taming more and more of the wild lands of Barbelo that surrounded it. Livestock animals were imported from Earth also, and given into their care.

Every year a chunk of ice the size of a small hill smote Barbelo with enough force to destroy a city, but every thousand years a chunk of ice the size of a large mountain smote Barbelo with enough force to destroy a region. In most cases these intruders from the sky crashed harmlessly on the extensive ice of Barbelo, for it was a frigid place, and before the First Deluge there was only one narrow strip of land that was ever free of ice. If the strike occurred in this ice-free band it rained for many months and then froze over again, covering the fertile areas of Barbelo with a thick and solid sheet of ice that remained in place for a generation. That was why from the beginning only growing things existed on Barbelo and there were no native animals there. Plants could survive for many years under the ice in the form of seeds or spores, but with nothing to eat animals quickly died off.

One time Mastema discerned that one of the larger chunks of ice would land in the temperate band, so he commanded all of the people to construct arks for themselves and stock them with enough food to preserve them and their animals during the coming catastrophe. But only the patriarchs of seven families obeyed Mastema, to his great surprise.

First to obey was family Gerash, who were the direct descendants of Adamu and Hava and who dwelt still in the garden which Mastema had made on the flanks of the mountain which bore his name. Also the families Antero, Bellon, Kulsu, Larund, Ornis and Sala obeyed Mastema, for they dwelt in lands close to the Garden and had much intercourse with family Gerash. All of the other families that dwelt on Barbelo had been content to obey Mastema during times of comfort and plenty, but his commandment to completely abandon the life they knew and labor for years to construct arks was too much for them.

Worse than their disloyalty to Mastema was the mocking derision the unbelievers showed for the sons of the faithful families as they built the arks. The scoffers did not cease to amuse themselves in this manner until the very day when the ice mountain struck Barbelo and hot rain began to fall in sheets. The unbelievers begged to be allowed to board the arks then, but Mastema had sealed each of the seven families inside their respective arks, together with all their animals and everything they possessed.

On Earth, in Mesopotamia, nearly all the people of the world had gathered themselves together into a single vast city named Shinnar which boasted a tower exceeding in height any other human artifact. This great tower of stone held El Shaddai’s altar and the mouth of the tunnel leading to Barbelo. The people of Shinnar spoke a single language, and they looked confidently into the future as they piled up their knowledge precept by precept.

And El Shaddai said to Mastema, “If now, while they are one people, all speaking the same language, they have started to do this, nothing will later stop them from doing whatever they presume to do.” Mastema, therefore, widened the tunnel connecting the Earth and Barbelo. Some of the floodwaters on Barbelo began to pour out of the altar at the summit of the Tower of Shinnar. Mastema made the tunnel wider still, and the floodwaters bounced down the steps of the ziggurat to flood the streets of Shinnar itself. Some of the people of the city drowned, but the flood increased gradually enough that most of them could escape in time.

The people watched outside the city as the inundation continued, even to the point of overflowing the walls. Not even the plains of Shinnar were safe as the watery tentacles reached out toward the onlookers. The whole valley was flooded from the sea to nearly the place where it divides into the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. The weight of the water on the land caused the sea inlet called the Gulf of Shinnar to crawl to the northwest and mingle with the waters from Barbelo, and part of the plains of Shinnar remain under the sea to this very day.

The former inhabitants of the city of Shinnar scattered to every part of the Earth then, each one of them carrying an account of this flood, and a garbled memory of the rituals and laws of El Shaddai whom they believed they had somehow offended. The diverse religions of mankind had their origin here, and when the many different kindreds and clans of Shinnar drifted apart to settle distant lands over the Earth, the single language of man changed to become babble. So it was that the city and tower of Shinnar were later called Babel in the oral and written histories.

The transfer of much water from Barbelo to Earth did not remedy the flood, but it did lessen the impact. The seven arks of the faithful were held in the places where they stopped for only five years before the ice melted and freed them again. Barbelo was deeply changed. Half of the land along the temperate band remained immersed in water, except on the highest mountains and hills. In years to come the families Bellon and Larund remained sea-going peoples, competing fiercely for those islands.

Much snow fell in the years after the flood, and in the highlands of the temperate band the northern and southern ice sheets came together as one. It was here that family Gerash melted caves and tunnels in the ice and also where Mastema placed the Barbelo end of the tunnel. On Earth the other end was moved by El Shaddai to Egypt. The Gerash family enjoyed a close relationship with Mastema on account of their obedience. Although Gerash land consisted solely of ice, they were continually sustained by grain and animal offerings from Earth, and they carried Mastema’s commands to the other people on Barbelo.

Snow melt from the Gerash ice bridge was the source of the Great river between the first and second Deluges. This river bent and flowed east for twelve thousand air miles and thirty thousand land miles as the river flowed. On its course the Great River dropped twenty-four thousand feet as it irrigated the whole of the temperate belt.

The Kulsu family claimed all the land north of the river, while the Ornis family claimed everything to the south. They tamed and cultivated the riot of native flora which emerged from the flood, and grew rapidly, as though to make up for the lost time in dormancy. The Great river was, however, alluvial, and changed its course from year to year, while the prevailing concept of land ownership emphasized fixed boundaries. This led to constant warfare between the two families as they fought over lands which were ever transferred from one family to the other by the whim of the river.

The northern ice was miles deep but punctuated in diverse places by the summits of very high volcanoes, much like Mount Anshar. This was the land of family Antero, who roamed over it at will. Like the Gerash family, the Anteros also riddled their ice with caves, but this was to hide the bounty from their constant raids upon the farms of family Kulsu.

The southern ice belonged entirely to the family Sala, whose ways were very much like family Antero, except they fed upon the farms of family Ornis. Six families then were immersed in the constant violence of their natural rivalries, while the seventh, privileged by the oracles of Mastema, were ever vigilant to defend themselves from the other six who resented the status of family Gerash as a priestly people bred to teach and rule over all.


2 – SECOND DELUGE

More than two thousand years passed as the human colonists of Barbelo were shaped by the savage flora of the icy world and by the struggles between the seven families of men. The memory of the great flood passed into ancient history, then finally into mythology. Only the Gerash family remembered Mastema. Only House Gerash spoke with Mastema through the agency of his avatar and obeyed his commandments. The six other families plainly rejected him and held his commandments in contempt. And so matters remained for many years.

The northern and southern ice caps had moved a bit closer together after the Great Deluge but there remained a single belt of land that remained unfrozen, irrigated by a single river that arose in mountain uplands now claimed by House Larund that wound east all the way around Barbelo. In the Sumerian-derived tongue of Barbelo this was called the Really Big River, and it lost five miles in elevation as it made the circuit around the world. The Really Big River passed in turn through lands claimed by Antero, Bellon, Gerash and Sala before reaching Thalury, the largest body of water on the planet, which was contained by a vertical wall nearly four miles high forming the western bulwark of Larund territory.

In time Mastema found another large object to be on course to strike the temperate belt. The Gerash family would be safe enough in their icy redoubt, supplied by Egyptian priests on Earth. Speaking through them, Mastema commanded the Kulsu family to make an alliance with the Anteros and store enough grain and fruit in their ice caves to supply both families for a generation.

Two sons of the Gerash ruling patriarch were given as hostages to the family Kulsu and the family Antero to vouchsafe the prophecy of Mastema, though it greatly offended his divine sovereignty to order such a thing. Likewise Mastema commanded the Gerash patriarch to send two other sons as hostage to family Ornis and Sala in the south, and command them to make alliance also. If no second great flood came to pass, their life would be forfeit.

None of these four families heeded the words of Mastema and they slew the four sons of Lord Gerash whose very lives guaranteed the truth of the word of Mastema. So it came to pass that a second great icy mountain from the sky smote Barbelo in the temperate belt, and the people were largely unprepared.

When the rains began to fall, the sea-faring Bellon and Larund families boarded their ships, but they did not have enough time to fully stock them with supplies. In their hunger the ships raided one another, Bellon against Larund, and later as their bellies rumbled it was Bellon against Bellon and Larund against Larund.

By the time the rains stopped only a mere handful of ships on both sides were victorious and fully stocked. The Kulsu and Ornis families who farmed the river-irrigated flats of Barbelo were completely wiped out; every man, woman, child, and every one of their food animals perished. House Antero and House Sala survived on the ice, but they experienced a severe dieback because the farms of their host families were completely under ice for twenty-five years.

Mastema said to El Shaddai, “Behold, the faithfulness of the world-dwellers burns fiercely like kindling, but then quickly dwindles in unbelief.”

El Shaddai said to him in reply, “Who are we that these creatures should bend their will to our whims as the test of their moral righteousness?”

Mastema replied, “Is it not clearly evident to you that we elohim are far higher on the chain of being than human?”

El Shaddai said, “We have more knowledge of the things of creation, that much is true, but given time their knowledge will increase without limit, and knowledge and wisdom are not the same thing. Unless we live as they, it is impossible for us to know whether our greater craftiness makes us their moral superior.”

Mastema said, “Enough! If the world-creatures will not or can not obey their superiors, it will be time to take drastic measures. Perhaps next time I will not provide any of them a warning of a coming comet or asteroid strike. Then they shall have neither knowledge nor wisdom.”

And El Shaddai knew from that moment that Mastema secretly did not want the humans to pass his own test of obedience. So El Shaddai vowed to herself that when the humans were able to accept it she would begin teaching some of them how to watch the skies with instruments made by their own hands. In that way they would be able to provide their own warning of a coming world-flood and not have to rely on the knowledge imparted by faithless Mastema.

El Shaddai knew that Mastema would stand ready to point out any act of defiance on the part of the humans, no matter how small, to justify his delay in bringing the news of the existence of the planet-dwellers to the greater elohim community. Mastema had taken the role of an accuser, or divine prosecutor. But El Shaddai knew such delaying tactics were useless. In the end, one way or another, she would prevail. Mastema and Belial would be exposed before El, and they would cease to exist. It only remained to be worked out the precise path to that end, and the role of the planet-dwellers in that path.

El Shaddai reminded Mastema that the Gerash family on Barbelo remained faithful to their god but Mastema said, “The House of Gerash remains faithful to me only because I speak to them directly from time to time. Yet if I were to turn away from them for only a short span, they would soon dwindle in unbelief.”

So El Shaddai said, “Then this shall be the manner by which the humans of Earth are tested. Release three servants from Barbelo to bring my commandments to the humans of Earth while I remain aloof from them.”

Mastema agreed it would be a good test, and made arrangements with the House of Gerash to carry it out.


3 – AVATAR

During the reign of King Gordiel the avatar of El Shaddai made landfall in Salem near the Pavilion at the height of Hellberry Days. The grassy commons outside of the walled section of the city was thronged with people. The brief but furious growing season on Barbelo had offered up a record harvest and there was much cause to rejoice. But the unprecedented sight and ear-splitting sound of a fat white pillar as tall as a tree, descending on six columns of roaring fire brought the celebration to an abrupt end as the people scattered in utter panic.

The first dweller of Salem to return to the vicinity of the pavilion was not a man of the warrior caste, nor one of the elders on the city’s ruling council, but a young maiden who still lived in the household of her father, a modestly well-to-do glassblower. She proved to be more valiant than any of the men who ran away, for curiosity overcame her fear. El Shaddai was selecting for curiosity.

The courageous girl saw how the avatar had six articulated arms with many joints, and between each joint was mounted smaller arms of identical make, and so on, like the progression of the structure of a tree from trunk to branches to twigs to leaf buds. The six arm trunks inverted to become legs, and the avatar of El Shaddai settled to the ground. Fire ceased from the bells at the bottom of the six lesser pillars wrapped around the main pillar.

The blast of the descent uprooted the light fabric of the pavilion tent and blew it far away. But the girl stood her ground at a discreet distance. She was curious about the avatar, but not stupid, and not eager to be burned. A loud voice rang out from the avatar of El Shaddai, saying, “Child of the House of Gerash, if you are willing, draw near to me.”

The girl obeyed. She saw how by resting on the six legs the central pillar of the avatar of El Shaddai remained about waist high above the ground. From underneath the central pillar a round hatch dropped open on a hinge to nearly touch the scorched grass of the commons under it. “Come up here,” the loud voice said.

The brave girl squatted and squeezed between two of the outer pillars to look up inside the hatch. The central pillar was hollow. There was much light within, as well as many ribs embedded in the tunnel wall forming circular edges with sufficient space to rest the side of her feet or accept the grip of her hands. She obeyed the voice and crawled inside the central pillar. The voice requested her name. “I am Talishi, daughter of Jophiel the glassblower,” she said.

The hatch below her closed of its own accord, and this was marked by Talishi.

The top of the central pillar flared out into a larger space with a seat and many windows, giving Talishi a commanding view of the grounds. Even now only a handful of people dared to draw near.

“Do not be afraid, Talishi,” the voice told her. “I am El Shaddai, one of the holy ones co-eval with Mastema. I have many things to tell you and many things to show you, if you can bear them, but only with your freely-given consent. If you stay, your life will never be the same again. If you go, then you can resume your life as before, and no harm will have been done.”

And Talishi replied, “I will stay, Lord.” In the mythology Talishi had been taught, El Shaddai was the son of the Most High God.

El Shaddai said, “There are ropes laying about you where you sit. Use them to make yourself secure. This is not to hold you captive, Talishi. You will see the reason for the ropes very soon.”

Talishi asked, “Am I inside your body, Lord?”

And El Shaddai said, “No Talishi. Have you ever seen a man angling for fish? This object you occupy is like a fish hook.”

When Talishi finished wrapping herself in the cords and making the knot snug, she announced this fact to El Shaddai. And immediately the six smaller pillars around the central pillar ignited in flame again. There was much shaking, and Talishi was gradually pushed back into her seat with more and more force. As the weight piled on, Talishi began to cry. She was brave, but she had reached her limit. El Shaddai knew the girl would be fine, if she her mind could be focused on something other than her ordeal.

El Shaddai commanded, “Talishi, recite to me the scriptures you have been taught to memorize, from the beginning.”

And Talishi obeyed for as long as she could. Reciting the Creation Litany did have a calming effect on her mind, but she found it increasingly difficult to continue as her weight mounted. She said, “Before time was, in a place that was no place, the principle of life had being. Male and female it became, so that life would always seek the other and continue life. The maleness called himself Mastema, and the femaleness called herself Binah. They came together and a third was born, a male, whom they named El Shaddai. And when El Shaddai was fully mature he came to Mastema and said, ‘What shall you give me to be my inheritance, father?’

“So Mastema filled half of reality with a great block of ice. North, south, east, west, up, and down the ice was, without end. In the direction of up, Mastema changed half of reality from ice into air. And in the air Mastema created the warm orange sun to give the greater light, and the cold yellow sun to give the lesser light. Also Mastema patterned the night sky with many lesser lights. Every night Mastema causes all the lights to tunnel under the ice to return to their place before the start of each new day.

“And Mastema created a furrow in the ice, and at the bottom of this furrow he laid down soil, and carved lakes and seas. And Mastema caused grass to cover these lands, and fish to fill the waters. But El Shaddai was not nearly satisfied even with all these gifts.

“Then Mastema was wroth with his son, and vowed to create a paradise, but he would delay the giving of it until a time of his choosing to teach El Shaddai the virtue of patience. So Mastema caused great hills to rise, and he covered these with trees, and he crafted rivers and many rushing streams. El Shaddai saw the new beauty of the land, but he could not yet claim it as his own, and he was sorely vexed, and he began to wish his father dead that he might come into his inheritance.”

Talishi paused here, thinking that it might anger El Shaddai to hear these words, and it was almost impossible to speak for the great weight bearing down on her. But the flight was not over, and El Shaddai commanded her to continue.

“Filled with hatred and malice for his father, El Shaddai created the first man and woman, Adamu and Hava. But he could not prevent a portion of his malice from passing into them. That is why people are full of strife to this day; they were created in pride to spite Mastema. And El Shaddai did not take great care with his creation, so from the beginning people were beset with disease and the problems of age. So Binah taught the healing arts to the people, to try to correct the poor workmanship of El Shaddai.

“Also Binah created cattle and chickens and swine; corn and wheat were also created by her, and she taught men the art of cultivating food. And the numbers of the children of Adamu and Hava were greatly increased, because they no longer had to depend only on fish to eat.”

Talishi had to stop there, because the invisible force pressing her into her seat had become too great for her to speak.

“Enough!” the voice of El Shaddai said, and the shaking stopped, and Talishi was no longer pressed into her seat. She suddenly felt blessedly free, as though she were swimming. Only the knotted ropes kept her from bouncing around inside the space at the top of the central pillar. The avatar of El Shaddai performed a half-rotation until the curved white bulk of Barbelo could be seen by Talishi outside of the many small windows, and the sky was no longer purple but black, yet it was not night, for the yellow and orange suns remained in place.

El Shaddai said, “That is your world, Talishi. You see it is a spinning ball, and the suns do not tunnel under the ice like you have been taught.”

“I had thought it to be a ring,” Lord, Talishi said. “Some adventurers have reported penetrating the ice in the far west of the West Lands and arriving in the far east of the East Lands. To repeat their stories is discouraged.”

The avatar made a curious sound Talishi could not identify. This was the manifestation of El Shaddai’s equivalent of a laugh, and Talishi feared that she had offended El Shaddai.

El Shaddai said, “I am experiencing the delight of surprise. Intelligence to go with your fearlessness.” The avatar rotated again to put the bright bulk of Barbelo and the two suns out of sight. Talishi could see countless stars shining brightly through the portals. “The first thing you must learn, Talishi, is that stars are faraway suns.”

Her mouth opened in wonder, because she had never encountered that idea before. It greatly magnified the scale of her reality. And it also told her that the entire Litany of Creation was just so much shit.


4 – MELCHIZEDEK

In the time of testing, Mastema sent Prince Mechizedek and his servants Zophiel and Kemuel to Earth to discover whether the people of Earth were more obedient than the people of Barbelo. The connection between of the two worlds brought the three men to the source of the Blue Nile, and they traveled down the upper reaches of this river with great difficulty.

Below the rapids, Melchizedek and his servants sat in their raft and drifted through deserts with no water except in the river they floated on. They passed water-loving beasts and human onlookers who dared not approach. At length they floated into the place where the Blue Nile merged with the White Nile to become the Nile River proper. In a town on the lower Nile delta they traded their raft for camels and supplies to make an overland journey.

Their destination was the land of Chaldea in the marshy lands far to the east where the Euphrates and Tigris rivers joined together before flowing to the sea. The people there still spoke of the tongue of ancient Shinnar, which was also spoken by all of the people on Barbelo, but few in Egypt still understood it. Rather than taking the direct path across the Arabian Desert, Melchizedek journeyed northeast through the fields and cities of the Fertile Crescent. Melchizedek briefly stopped in the place where the Damascus road forked with the road to Nineveh, at the town of Harran.

In the marketplace Melchizedek encountered a Chaldean who had grown disgusted with the variety of religious practices in his home city of Ur. The man’s name was Abram, and he was in a loud argument with his father Terah. By overhearing their argument, Melchizedek learned much about these two men.

Abram, Melchizedek learned, was a successful sheep and cattle rancher who lived a nomadic life on the rangelands around Harran, while his father lived in the town itself and ran this shop selling items associated with worship. Terah made and sold carved idols for dozens of different gods. One of the stone idols had fallen on it’s face, and Abraham had helped his aged father stand it back up, but there was damage, and Terah had set about repairing it with a chisel.

Abram said, “What is this useless thing you are doing, Are you not being a god to this god? Perhaps next time I should leave it bowing down to you.”

Terah asked, angrily, “So was it you who knocked it over?”

Abraham retorted, “Ask them, if they are able to speak.”

Melchizedek was interested in this exchange, so he entered the shop and began to inspect the rack of idols on display. The angry words of father and son dwindled to silence, because Melchizedek was a striking figure, and there was an other-worldliness about him that went far beyond mere stranger.

After he had made a complete tour of the idol shop, Melchizedek commanded his assistants to begin unpacking their gold on the edge of the shop facing the street, as though he were preparing to buy out Terah’s entire stock.

As Melchizedek anticipated, this soon drew the attention of five armed robbers who approached with swords drawn. They demanded the gold be handed over to them. But God had already given Melchizedek the Golden Gift.

This object was the size and shape of any normal sword hilt. But when it was squeezed firmly in Melchizedek’s hands a hissing black shaft emerged from it about the thickness of a spear. The harder Melchizedek squeezed, the longer the black beam grew, and whatever it touched simply disappeared. One of the thieves Melchizedek judged to be the leader was cut into two equal pieces starting from the top of his head. Another thief was decapitated. This was sufficient to convince the other three robbers to flee. For it was not Melchizedek’s primary purpose to kill them, but to establish his credentials with Abram and Terah.

Abram came before the three newcomers and sank to his knees. Zophiel said to him, “Abram, son of Terah, go forth from your father’s house and from your kinfolk to the land of Canaan.”

Then Kemuel said also, “There the living and true God of heaven and Earth will make of you a nation, and bless you, and your name will be great among men.”

Melchizedek added, “God will bless those who bless you, and curse those who curse you, and all the Earth shall find blessing in you. These are the words of the Most High God. What say you to these things, Abram of Harran?”

And Abram lifted his eyes to him and said, firmly, “No.”

It took Melchizedek a moment to register what Abram said. Then Melchizedek asked, “What do you mean, ‘no?’”

Abram rose to his feet then and walked over to his father, where he took him gently by the arms. He said, “My father is crippled. He does not earn enough at his livelihood to support himself. We do not always agree, but as I love my life, I can never turn aside from my own father for all the days he is a wayfarer in this world.”

Then Abram fulfilled the true purpose of his visit. He delivered to his father two living lambs from his own flocks, one to kill and eat, and the other to sell for a little money to buy the things he needed until the next time Abram came in from the open range and visited him.

Melchizedek understood. He had his servants restow the gold and they quietly left the shop, careful not to tread on the fortress of human dignity that Abram had asserted with his refusal. The travelers quickly departed Harran and took the left-hand fork to Nineveh and thence by stages to Sumeria, even to the largest city in the world, Ur, at the mouth of the Euphrates, with a population of nearly seventy thousand souls. But in all their travels on Earth Melchizedek never met anyone like Abram.

When Terah was full of years he died and was buried by his son in a tomb Abram built with his own hands on land he purchased in Harran. Then Abram took Sarai his beautiful wife, his nephew Lot, all the livestock they had raised, and all the people from Harran who agreed to put themselves under Abram’s leadership, and they went southwest to the land of Canaan. Abram and his people tarried there for a number of years, but they were ever on the move, because grazing animals always needed fresh pasture.

In the world of Barbelo, in Salem, King Melchiyahu received his son Melchizedek and asked if he had found a candidate according to the precise specifications of Mastema.

Melchizedek said to him, “I have, Sire, a man by the name of Abram, but he refused the offer. Abram’s loyalty to his own father exceeded any loyalty to what was, to him, an unknown God.”

King Melchiyahu asked, “Are there no others?”

Melchizedek replied, “None in all the lands we have visited, my father and liege-lord, but I wish to return to the Earth and make the offer to Abram once more. I suspect his father has gone the way of all flesh by now, and Abram may reconsider the calling.”

King Melchiyahu said, “Then proceed as you say, son, only accept Guriel and Iofiel here as your new subordinates, for Zophiel and Kemuel have reached early manhood, and I have released them from their service to you.”

The name Iofiel means Beauty of God, and Guriel means Whelp of God.

Melchizedek returned to the town of Harran with his new servants, but Terah was no longer operating his shop in the marketplace. Melchizedek made some inquiries, and discovered that the old man was indeed dead, and that his son Abram was no longer seen visiting Harran.

Melchizedek then went abroad and made more inquiries for the whereabouts of Abram, and this led him at length to the vicinity of Shechem in the land of Canaan. It seemed that Abram had obeyed the call of God after all, but on his own timetable.

Abram recognized Melchizedek, who said, “I was sent by the one you seek with your innermost heart, the Most High God of heaven and Earth. And yet, if you are ready to believe it, I swear to you Abram, that God also needs you. And God has said, ‘I will give the land of Canaan to the descendants of Abram.’”

Then Abram, who was still childless in his middle age, was moved by a religious impulse entirely of his own and built an altar of stones in that place. He consecrated it by burning the best animals of his flock in the presence of Melchizedek and Iofiel and Guriel. Then Abram journeyed to the hill country near Beth-el, and pitched his tent west of Ai.

The three men from Barbelo who accompanied him on this journey told Abram all that he could bear, including much about the other world. Again in Beth-el Abram built an altar to God. Then Melchizedek took his leave of Abram for a time and departed, while Abram journeyed with his wife, his nephew, his flocks, and his people into the Negev desert.

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