The mountain regions of southern Yemen: Jan 26th 2011, 5:45am
Emir awoke as he heard his dog’s persistent whining at the side of the bed. The screams of the previous night’s dreams were still ringing in his ears.
As his eyes focused, he saw that the cramped one room dwelling he shared with his grandfather was still shrouded in the pre-morning gloom typical of the late winter. A glance over to the left told him that his grandfather had already risen and left for morning prayers. The boy made his way cautiously through the darkness and opened the makeshift door. He paused in the doorway to allow the dog to scamper in front of him into the dazzle of the new rising sun.
After a few weaving steps, Emir joined the dog in his morning urination at the rubbish heap located to the house’s rear. The boy watched twin streams of steam rise up from the frozen earth. He stretched his neck and drew in the sharp daggers of the winter mountain air in to his lungs. It was a good feeling, both stinging and refreshing at the same time.
The process always seemed to clear his mind after a difficult night of dream walking. The idea of what was happening to him scared Emir. He had so many times prayed that the path of his life would be altered and the cursed blood of the angelic Kindred would never take root his body. But now, after his eighteen short years of life, Emir knew his destiny was coming.
Emir shook his head slightly as he recalled the terrors of last night’s dreamscape. His grandfather’s training had reminded him that the images were borrowed from another person, that what he had seen and heard came from probing the unconscious of someone else. What Emir had seen in the man’s dream disturbed him deeply. The images he recalled clawed at the boy like serpent’s teeth. He had seen children playing in front of a house with a strangely shaped ball. As they did so, a woman stood far off, weeping tears of blood. Emir felt he should remember the man’s name, but it had faded from his mind like the morning’s fog.
The boy sighed deeply. His dreams in recent months had become a confusing tangle of other people’s faces, lives and futures. His grandfather had explained in his plodding, patient way that this explosion of his dreamtime was a normal process for a Nephil dream walker.
While his grandfather would wax eloquent about the glorious nature of their kind, the Nephilim, all Emir could see were the burdens of their peculiar race. Always hiding, holding themselves apart from mortals, watching and praying. To him there was no glory to be had in such a life. Just the whispering of secrets between the ears of his grandfather and certain strangers. Secrets that were older the mountains that surrounded Emir. Secrets given from one Nephil to the next over the long millennia, from the time before time to this very day. Secrets that had to be protected.
Or so he had been told. Most of the great teachings of the One in Secret, who mortals struggled to name in what they called their religions, had been kept from him. The time to learn would come, grandfather would say. Soon Emir would learn and protect the secrets of God from those would pervert or blaspheme their glorious purpose. Not that Emir had ever seen a blasphemer up here. As far as he knew, such a being might have six heads and three arms. In his few years, Emir had never ventured farther than the lowland crossroads village whose mosque his grandfather worshiped at during certain seasons. The village was a simple, unadorned place, full of inhabitants whose dreams flew no further than the boundaries of their day-to-day lives and whose horizons were limited by the bonds of family duty and religious expectations.
The boy thought about the few people who did venture intothese mountains. Those poor souls esteemed Emir and his grandfather with such overwhelming superstition that they would hardly raise their eyes from the ground in their presence. Most other mortals of the outside world had long forgotten the offspring of angels and men ever existed. Always there was talk of enemies and secrets; but whether they were real or imagined, the boy did not know. What threat could there be from these simple creatures of flesh? His grandfather never gave him any solid answers.
All of it made little sense to Emir. Most mortals couldn’t be bothered to even think past the evening meal, much less concern themselves with the weighty matters that had consumed his grandfather for the many years of his life. It made no sense for mortals to consider these mysteries, he thought Emir. Their lives at the most would stretch what? Nine decades? Ten? Not even enough time for the stars to complete the turning of an age. Why should they worry themselves about the secrets of the Hidden One and the intentions of the Spirit? Their lives were too short and their scope of the cosmos was too limited.
Sometimes, only to himself, Emir doubted his grandfather’s actions were the actual will of the Hidden One. The possibility had to be considered. Emir had never seen the angelic fathers or the city beyond the stars. The Hidden One had never revealed anything to Emir personally. He had been forbidden since childhood to even venture near the Well of Souls hidden just above the next ridge. Who could know if all the things he had been told were real?
Emir felt the damp touch of the wind coming from the hidden shore of the Red Sea. Even at the great height of the mountains, Emir could feel the coming change of the seasons in the wind. Soon, the winter would break and spring would come again. He suddenly wished with all his heart that his sister Sulya would be with them once more in the home of their ancestors. No one Emir had ever seen loved the coming of spring as she did. As the mountain side sprung to life with the wild grasses and flowers of the season, Sulya would dance with the joy of having oneness with the works of the Spirit. Emir so clearly remembered how she would gather his toddler form in her arms and make him a part of her rejoicing of spring’s return, whirling and dipping him until he was nearly breathless.
But Sulya had departed across the sea to America in years past. With his grandfather’s blessing she had become the disciple of Elijah the Zealot. At first, she left merely to learn the inner secrets of his ancient order. Then, she stayed in the world of mortal flesh to become his wife. She had not returned home for sixteen years. Her dancing was the only true memory that Emir had of her.
Emir surveyed over the top of the ridge looking for the wizened figure of his grandfather in prayer. Not seeing him nearby, Emir moved up the rocky incline of the slope behind the house, towards the high plateau favored by the old man during special occasions.
Emir marveled that his grandfather so often undertook this climb when even he, a youth, generally had so much trouble climbing it. The old man was not well. Emir could see it in his eyes. He could hear it in the labored sound of his breathing at night. He could see it in the slowing of his once powerful steps during the day. The old man’s walk with God had lasted now for nearly eleven centuries. But his days were coming to a close and both Emir and his grandfather knew it. The inner spark of the Spirit would soon leave his grandfather’s body and return across the sea of night that separated the cosmos from the walled garden of Paradise.
A brief hope flickered in Emir that Sulya might soon return to claim their grandfather’s place as the guardian of the Well of Souls. If the old man was too weary to continue his duties, she surely must return. If that happened, he could go to America and see the wonders of the mortal’s New World. He had heard of their mighty buildings and teeming cities of men and women. Such an idea excited him almost beyond words.
Emir often found himself wishing he was away from the cold, eternal nature of the surrounding mountains and amongst the hot, quick lives of those who had mortal blood. It was there his true destiny should be and not here under the pressure of ancient duties and bizarre expectations. Let Sulya with her years of training become the keeper of the Well and the angel that slept within its depths. Let me have my freedom, thought Emir, and I will fly away without a second thought from this arid life to that distant and vibrant world.
As Emir dodged the weaving path of his dog, he heard the sound his grandfather’s low, steady voice drifting down from the top of the incline. He had come to that point where the climb ascended sharply, causing him to have to balance himself against the side of the cliff face. Steadying his footing, he cautiously gathered himself for the few remaining steps between him and the top, motioning the dog out his path with a wave of his hand.
The power of the sun’s rays on the mountaintop brought a moment of blindness to the boy’s unprepared eyes. As his vision adjusted, Emir was barely able to make out the form of his grandfather as he was outlined by the full glory of the new day’s dawning. Emir saw the whole of the valley below being slowly brought to life by the spreading sun. On a clear morning like this, one could almost see to the lowlands of Dhmar from up here. But Emir’s eyes stayed focused on the figure before him, bent on his knees in prayer to the east.
The boy could hear that these were not the usual morning entreaties, not in Arabic, nor in the local dialect. No, now the old man’s strong voice whispered out a language of ancient secrets. He spoke in the forgotten speech of angelic Halflings whose world had disappeared under the waves many centuries before the time of the Prophet. Emir’s mother had instructed him in it as a child. Today for the first time, he wished he had paid closer attention to her lessons. In the morning stillness, he strained to understand the old man’s words:
"To the Most High; we heard You speak before all things were created . You are The Hidden One; we saw You not, not at any time.
In the darkness, we heard You speak and the Words became Life.
We saw You not, but You saw us,
And in Your glory we became a living soul and were the glory of You in all things.
May the Most High be praised."
"To the Most High; we stood in Your glory alone, higher than the powers and the thrones. You are The Hidden One, we saw You not, not at any time.
As they fell from You, Most High, we fell from You, Most High,
As they wronged You, we wronged You, oh Hidden One,
As You punished them, You have punished us. Be not far from me and hear my voice, Most High.
If all forget, we alone shall remember; if all are false, we shall be true.
We shall call to You, Most High One; we shall call upon You,
You will hear our voices and remember us in the time before your displeasure
You alone, Most High, will hear our voices and the Fallen shall tremble before You
To Most High; we heard You speak before all things were created
You are The Hidden One, we saw You not, not at any time."