She did not come alone, but in the company of one of those slovenly trappers. He led her along, grunting the chant that belongs to the herd driver. I watched as the two grains on the distant roadway increasingly grew, looming in their midnight shadows. I could hear the trapper’s heavy-footed stomp transition into a tiptoed dance, his throaty chant becoming a singsong drawl as the distance between him and his beloved city increased. As they silently arrived at the barrier between man and beast, the leaves rustled with scuttling animals – those brotherly creatures of mine who had always been intimidated at the presence of these aliens. And with seasonal predictability, all of the trapper’s courage perished at the hands and sounds of the jungle, and he balked at the very thought of approaching the brush and the encompassing greenery behind it. He trembled in his murderous boots, his slothful belly shifting its weight across the taut ropes around his waist. Sweat crept into beads across his calloused palms, as he nudged her forward. He himself plodded backwards, and loosed his grip on her arm as he mumbled some strange tongue, too quietly to recognize. His cowardice was sickening. He turned slowly, thoughtfully, and then braced himself into a slight trot, ever-quickening into a run as he sank his heels into the dirt-hewn path that led back to the city. I had hidden behind the thick bark of an elderly tree that marked the entrance into the unknown. Moonlight glinted off the mane that fell on my shoulders, creating slatted bars of hair through which I peered. “I am Shamhat,” she announced into the nothingness. I sensed a fear in the shaky desperation of her apprehensive voice. Shamhat. The beautiful, the mysterious, the divine. What will of the gods would ignite the creation of such a wonder? I began to retreat silently, but the moon gave me away with the blink of a shadow, and I was discovered.
That was seven days ago, seven days that were spent in her companionship. This forest has acted strangely towards me ever since. The branches angle away from me as I walk and the grass groans with my weight. For years I was lord of these surroundings. The animals took to me as the young take to suckling from their mother. I was their protector, the great warrior of the wilderness, the feared and loving one! I foiled the weapons and trickery of the hunters and the trappers. I grazed with the gazelle, drank with the wild, and sang with the flocks. We were of one blood, smiled upon by Ninurta!
The watering hole still beckons to me, twinkling in its starry gleam of purity and life. My arid lips long for the quenching fire of that spring. But I am no longer welcome there. The water itself appears to darken and muddy with each forward pace I make. The animals shrink from me, scattering at the approach of my footsteps, disguising themselves among the foliage and darkness - afraid at the inhumanity I have become. They do not understand that I am their friend, the same Enkidu, the loving, the gentle. Enkidu, born of silence, mighty as the vault of heaven! They cannot distinguish me from the fires of Uruk, the fires that blaspheme and desanctify all that we creatures of the world hold dear to our hearts!
Now my coarse and rugged hair has thinned and shortened. That pale white underbelly, essence of vulnerability, has become exposed as the blaze of the daylight cuts into my flesh with searing willfulness. I was once able to pounce and sprint with the most fearsome and free and wild of beasts. Of that I am now wrecked. My feet wander slowly with new tenderness and timidity. My leaps are graceless, my steps a burden. The land is foreign and unwelcoming to this once-loyal denizen. My best efforts are nothing more than fertile teardrops to water the earth, and the return of order as I depart the forest and leave the wild behind. I am treading toward a shameless existence, one defined by battlements and barricades. One in which a heady king creates the will of the people. This Gilgamesh, this serpent in the vines - it is he who has left me forsaken! He has stolen the life from beneath my feet and taken the very soul from my breath. Ah, he shall pay for tempting me, for showing me the way of the weary. I will prevent his cruelties from scarring one more creature.
I know your kind, Gilgamesh! Shamhat has given me knowledge, made me wise to your ways. I know the purpose in your enticement, and your fear of me. I know of your cancers, your deceit in rule and the suffering you’ve inflicted. I know of the unities you have damned, the gods you have slighted, and the stone walls you have built with the burden of men. I will avenge my newly gained brothers. Gilgamesh, you are a hunter of men, just as the trapper is a hunter of beast. I will loose the ropes that bind the feet of the men of the city, just as I spent my days in the forest loosing and filling the traps of the hunter.
I can see the pillars of lamp-oiled fire burning high, eating away at the base of the clouds. The city is before me in the distance, its massive walls like an unwanted funeral pyre in a sacred realm. The hint of charcoal and roasting meat decries its scent across my face, and the crackles of flames are thunderclaps in my ears. How they laugh at me in my foolishness! I hear the muted sounds of the marital parade echoing on the tips of the trees. Ah, the darkness has come - nightfall has sunk its fangs into the horizon like the helplessness that swims beneath the blackened waters of death. Now I must cross this netherworld of dirt and enter the mammoth stone archways, to assemble a new age of rule among the people.
His fortress waits. I am Enkidu.
[The Epic of Gilgamesh is an ancient Sumerian legend, contained within inscriptions upon 11 or 12 ancient stone tablets. It contains the adventures of Gilgamesh, a true hero-king from around the 26th century B.C. One of the most prominent supporting characters in the epic is Enkidu. Enkidu begins as a foil character, a polar opposite of Gilgamesh. He is a man of the earth, protecting wildlife and forest, while Gilgamesh is a king who suppresses his people. Both are near-deities and very powerful. After Enkidu is tamed by Shamhat the courtesan, he enters into a power struggle and battle with Gilgamesh. Gilgamesh prevails, but both men have newly defined respect for each other and become the dearest of friends. ]
[This is a story I wrote for BYU's Collegiate Post, Summer 2005 issue.]