Duel 1 – When serpents arrive they strike fear and fear dies

Before I got my eye put out
I liked as well to see —
As other Creatures, that have Eyes
And know no other way —

But were it told to me — Today —
That I might have the sky
For mine — I tell you that my Heart
Would split, for size of me —

The Meadows — mine —
The Mountains — mine —
All Forests — Stintless Stars —
As much of Noon as I could take
Between my finite eyes —

The Motions of the Dipping Birds —
The Morning’s Amber Road —
For mine — to look at when I liked —
The News would strike me dead —

So safer — guess — with just my soul
Upon the Window pane —
Where other Creatures put their eyes —
Incautious — of the Sun –
-Emily Dickinson

Heartbeat. Beat… Beat…. Beat…

The pulse of life. I am in absolute darkness: no sight, no smell, no taste, no touch. Only sound in the Nun, the limitless ocean where all things that are yet to form are hidden. In the chaos there is only a gentle, rhythmic ebb.

Beat… Beat… Beat…

The beat grows faster, faster, furiously, into a roar. I can feel something breaking inside. Intricate coils, infinite loops, swim from the void… a huge black serpent! Terrifying! Fire in its eyes! The Devil seizes me in its coils and devours me. I lie dormant as an egg, darkness within darkness. I break free of my own coils, myself shaped as a snake. I erupt from the serpent and chase it to oblivion.

The serpent breaks away into the nothing. Dissolution. Three black serpents take its place. The dark dragons intersect each other, swim to and fro each other and grind beside each other. The waters divide into three terraces. I sink to the very bottom. The snakes bite each other’s tails and swim around the void as one loop. They spin around with such great energy. The waves engulf me. I writhe in the dark waters in dismal despair.

The snakes break their train with force. They align with the terraces, still clinging to each other’s tails. A ladder. The Nun settles, the formless takes shape, solidifies. I can walk on it. I climb each serpent. From each winding stairway I see writing breathed into the walls, breathed by each serpent. The pictures come alive, speak to me as I ascend the celestial staircase.

I see the distilled character of each red-eyed black snake. The eldest twines in luscious coils, her soul black as the Nun itself, her sly eyes grinning with the hunger of a she-wolf. The middle, fiery, her scales blazing as a furnace, a fierce determination in her piercing eyes. The youngest, fine and solemn, her eyes rich and sad. The walls speak of darkness, an endless pit, an endless labyrinth, the Nun itself, but pulses with a sudden life. A sudden potential. A volcano erupts from the earth! A blazing fire! A striking serpent, her quick and fiery bite as lighting. Majestic towers fall to the ground. Convolute temples reduced to ash. From the ashes, lotuses rise, and open. Blue angels awaken and take flight to the stars.

I tread on shallow black water on top of the tower. In the distance I see a huge isle. Its buildings blazing, the burning Sodom sits atop land barely held aloft the crashing wavse. The serpents dance and sing wildly as three women, naked as the day star. Their singing at once beautiful and terrifying. I can see their contours, their hair, their faces. Their dark hair. Their red eyes. Their dances, gate, gestures, movements serpentine. High above the burning Sodom I see a singly bright light, a blue star far away.

The eldest woman once more becomes a serpent. She jealously wraps her coils around the other two and eats them. I see the egg inside her, the serpents in darkness within darkness. The serpent’s stomach bulges and the two serpents break free of their coils. Two against one they fight, and the eldest serpent is chased into oblivion. The middle serpent caresses the youngest with tender affection. Binds to her in love. And too she sinks into oblivion. The youngest serpent rises up to the star, a coiling ladder. I see in the distance the Field of Reeds, a celestial realm of millions of years. I take the first step.

The earth shook as if struck by a mighty thunder. Hassan, rudely awoken, fell off the bench he used as makeshift bed and smacked head first to the floor. He was reasonably well-built – well, for a “womanly scholar” as his father called him – but the impact still hurt him. He had no time to even rub the bump on his head. The President of Egypt, a kindly but old man way past his prime, jostled him out of his dizziness.

His face and eyes were flooded with panic. “We must leave right now, Hassan! Heishin is attacking the Mugamma! We don’t have any time!”

Father!? Hassan didn’t believe it but it was true! Soldiers loyal to the President flanked the main gate outside of the government office complex, standing their ground as best they could, but clearly losing. It was twilight, almost nightfall, so Hassan could see little. But he could hear his father and feel the terrible new might he wielding.

Heishin, flanked by his own soldiers and Ghouls, thrust his fist triumphantly in the air. “Taste the forbidden power of darkness!!!” And he thrust what looked like a golden crook at them like a commanding scepter.

Hassan could see only vaguely what looked like the outline of a colossal beast in the distance. He played Duel Monsters only casually but… was that Gate Guardian? He didn’t have any time to ponder it any further. A savage fount of wind and water struck the main gate and the unfortunate loyal soldiers broke like twigs under the deluge. With all his obstacles easily disposed of, Heishin and his army triumphantly marched inside.

Hassan had no time, not to even save one book. He took the old Presidents arm and they both ran through the corridors, hoping to get to a back door as soon as they could. No such chance. Before they knew it Heishin and his soldiers had already disposed of the rest of the guards, and already Heishin towered over them, blocking their path. Heishin looked calm and chic, almost to the point of appearing smug, but Hassan could see the restless greedy fire in his eyes.

“So good to see you again, President Sadat.” He spoke as if he was ordering dinner, not usurping the Egyptian government and killing everyone who stood in his path. “Hassan, son, it is time we claimed our rightful place in history. Join me as my co-ruler and heir of the new world we will create.”

“Usurp the government!?” The President sputtered in disbelief. “You’ll throw the country into chaos! Are you mad!?”

“Mad? Me? I don’t think so. The supreme power, the powers of darkness lost for eons, is mine. I can easily dispatch you and claim Egypt as my own.”

Hassan noticed his father’s right forearm was blackened as if burned in a fire and his hand like a dragon’s claw. “Father, your hand…” At last he pieced it all together. “You can’t mean the magic passed down to Ancient Egypt?” The golden crook, he reasoned, was just for show, to make him even look even more powerful and intimidating than he already was.

“You finally found something useful in those books of yours, boy. Yes, that power. Will you now come by my side?”

“You don’t know what you’re doing father. The dark power is extremely dangerous. Whoever you bargained with is clearly up to something you don’t know about. Whatever it is, it must be very sinister. You got more than you bargained for. I’ll never join you!”

Heishin lost his patience and his temper. “You stupid boy! You were always weak and cowardly! I should have known better than have your mother raise you while I campaigned in Kuwait! It was she who softened you turned you into a womanly scholar! You have no strength to fight a battle or lead an army, but I will change that now!”

Hassan had enough. It was the last time his father insulted him. He lunged at his father, trying to bulldoze over him so he and the President could make their escape. Heishin easily caught his son off guard and smashed his gut with one swift fist. Hassan gagged from the sheer shock and pain from the assault. Before he could register anything else let alone react in any way he found himself face-first on the floor. His skull blazed with pain. He just caught sight of the butt of Heishin’s rifle.

“Stupid boy, you waste your time! You lack the power to defeat me! JOIN ME IMMEDIATELY or I will imprison you in the darkest dungeon of this land! Do you understand me!?”

Hassan may not have been a good fighter but he wasn’t weak. He inherited his father’s hardiness and in a moment he was back on his feet. Suddenly, the President intervened. He stood between him and Heishin as his shield. “You are like a son to me, Hassan. Don’t give in to the temptations of this vile creature. I’ll hold him off. Use you’re time to escape. Don’t think! Just do it!”

The President could say no more. Heishin already struck him with the butt of his rifle. The President’s old body couldn’t take the assault. He yelped and crumpled to the floor. Silence. Hassan saw his father step over the body of the President, brandishing his weapon at him. He glanced around the corridor in fear for Heishin’s soldiers and Ghouls were closing in.

There was only one option. In desperation Hassan jumped out the window. He didn’t know if he would survive and somehow escape or if he was falling to death. He left it to chance. Among the shattering glass ringing in his ears he heard his father cry out his name.

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