Lilith ran as fast as her thin glistening ebony legs could take her. She ran as if her life depended on the speed, leg turnover and stride as she lifted her knees high above her hips and swung her arms in perfect synchronization to the leg extensions. The balls of her bare feet touched against the smooth black soil for just a fraction of time before ligting and kicking dust behind her. She had powerful legs and arms. Her muscular back was well developed from the hours she spent climbing trees in her extravagant spouts of adventure and discovery in the company of her bonobo companions.
Recently, they had accepted her into their family as an honorary member. She had proven that she could climb the highest tree and leap from one branch to another as well as any of them. They appreciated her as if she was their equal. This is far more than what she could dare say about Adamu, her would be husband, lover and tyrant. It was he whom she raced to escape. She hoped to put an end to the insanity of his demands. She did not know what to expect from her present and impulsive flight, but the decision to do so was at least hers. It was her very own choice – free from his input or forbearance. He was, for the first time powerless to a reality that was beyond his ability and control. She was free, running with an anticipation and hope that was foreign to her.
She was not so foolish to expect a world, beyond the approaching boundaries of the garden to be as nourishing or sedative as what she had committed to leave behind. She did not know what to expect; what she would eat or if there was indeed nothing beyond the garden than the void emptiness that Adamu explained. She did not care. Despite the poverty she would suffer and the obstacles that lay before her, she knew that she had made the right choice and when Adamu realized that she had found solace in her new life – the life she anticipated – he would too know that she had made the right choice.
Ahead of her was a row of trees, their trunks so close that she doubted she would pass through them. She hesitated, her breath heavy as she looked left and then right. The line of trees stood like fortified walls as far as she could see in either direction and she knew that if she was to make her escape complete, she would need to find an opening or squeeze her naked body between the rough bark. She expected pain, cuts and scrapes, all of which she was willing to pay for absolute freedom, if she had to do so.
She heard a voice – something or someone called for her. She didn’t know if it was Adamu; it did not sound like his voice. Perhaps it was an angel; or maybe a djinni that Adamu warned her against. He forbade her to speak to them as he assumed that her mind was not capable of enduring their wily ways. Although he engaged them – those who tempted him and those who would be his friends, she could not stomach his double standards. She would endure such patriarchy no longer. Hearing the voice inspired her to search no longer for an opening. She squeezed between the trees; a leg, a shoulder, the hip, the head – and she was free. One step to the side and then a sudden drop – she fell from a cliff and tumbled to a gentle slop that was preceded with crumbled rocks, sand and gravel.
She was dusty, and the scrapes were red with fresh blood that burned like fire across her back, knees, and arms. The air was dry; the sun sweatheirng. The heat fell on her shoulders from the sky above and rise from the sand beneath her feet. This is what freedom looked like.
She had no need or desire to run now. She wanted little more than shelter from the unrelenting sun. Ahead of her was blinding light, rugged soil and an ocean of plants. Flowered and spiked. She was certain that Adamu had not seen such sights and as such had not given names to anything that captured her eyes. She thought to name the plants yucca. She felt proud and happy with the word. It was a unique word, something that Adamu would not have thought. With this realization, she felt empowered and the adrenaline rushed though her body as she understood that she was centered in a reality far different from any that Adamu had experienced. She would have taken more time to relish in the thought, but she needed rest. She spied a rocky mountain range to the west. In them were dark hands of shadows that appealed to her. The shadows were her salvation, calling to her with a delightful promise of tranquility. She walked to the mountains, the sun slowly moved behind it with each step and the shadow reached out to her with a determinatioin to console her as if it was her friend and understood her pain. The shadow was refreshing to her skin when it finally blanketed her in its darkness. She felt its coolness; its promise of revitalization. The air seemed lighter as she walked deeper into the mountains where she found the mouth of a cave – offering its gentle floor to rest her tired and sore legs. There was just enough light to allow her to see the depth of the cave – it was seven steps deep. The walls were cool to the touch and she placed her face against it to cool her brow
She sighed in relief. The journey had ended. She was free. A new life awaited her. Then she heard a voice from behind her.
“I don’t blame you for running away.”
She was startled.
The voice was like an old man’s voice; coarse, yet inviting and gentle. “He is a tyrant.”
Her back against the wall, she ignored the sudden fire and pain that shotthrough her from the bruises. There was what appeared to be a man sitting with folded legs across from her. He was covered in a long red robe, that seemed to have been made from silk. Beneath him was a blanket of smoke that circled around him. It was pale and seemed more like steam than smoke. He had eyes shaped like a reptile’s eyes – something that she had seen on an alligator. His forehead seemed more like a bone and curved backward into antlers that seemed to grow backward from the front of his head and then curve forward, the points ending just above the eyes. He had a man’s nose and mouth and when he stood, she saw the slight unfolding of two white sets of wings, sparkled with silver and shimmering as if light had fallen on them. His pale, scaled face moved into the aura from his countenance and she saw into his eyes – they were blue, and moved like dancing flames of fire. When he stood and moved closer to her, she felt warm as if he was a walking flame. The smoke covered his feet as he moved past her. “I will leave,” he said. “He would not wish you to speak with me.”
“Who are you?”
“Those who respect me know me as the architect, the discoverer, Agaliarept, the keeper of secrets.”
“Are you one made from light? An angel?”
“No,” he stood at the mouth of the cave and she saw the four wings folded and extended over his back. He was tall, his antlers nearly touching the cave ceiling. He turned to her slowly. “I was there when they made you. I saw everything. He was first. I watched the life move into him; then you – there by the water. You were remarkable to see.”
She lowered her eyes and the thought that her once smooth and soft skin was suddenly scared and scrapped sadden her.
“Don’t be sad,” he encouraged. “You are so much more than flesh and blood. You remain remarkable.” He stepped to her one step and waited for her eyes to meet his. “He will find you. You do know that?”
“He will try. I do not believe that he will venture this far from the garden.”
“He will not need to venture.”
“Then how will he find me?”
“He will access your mind by way of your soul. I am sure he already told you of your soul. Did he?”
“No. He did not.”
“When you so desire, the part of you that is not material seeks the immaterial worlds. You are so wondrously made – multi dimensional. You step from one realm to another so effortlessly. I can teach you to defend against him; if you wish.”
“Yes, of course.”
“I only ask a small favor in return.”
“What is that?”
He moved to the side of her and looked over her body. “I want to know all there is about you. You will allow me, and I will teach you many secrets.”
Lilith smiled. The thought of secrets that were hidden from Adamu appealed to her. She felt empowered, superior. “I agree to your terms if you agree to give secrets to me known not by Adamu.”
She stepped away from the cave wall.
He looked at her as if she was an experiment – a curious life and he was the scientist observing her. “Take a deep breath,” he advised. “And close your eyes.”
“Empty your mind of all thoughts.”
She obeyed and as soon as her mind cleared, it opened again to an amazing view. It was as if she had elevated and escaped the cave. She was high above structures that numbered into the thousands. She saw spirits – some shaped like flamed bodies of men and women some with wings spread and gliding though a maze of structures that reached high above the ground – a red floor of clay that seemed to illuminate and brighten the city from below. She glided above, passing domed and pointed topped structures until she reached the cliff of a mountain that reached out over the city. From that vantage point when she stood at the cliff, she could see all that was there. To the left were pyramids, to the right were huge cathedrals that radiated bright golden lights.
To the north, she saw a multitude of winged creatures. They were made of light and approached with incredible speed. They ere not alone, there were others, large with massive bodies and gleamy eyes made of fire. Each carried weapons flamed swords, javelins, hammers that seemed to have been made of lightening. The host of them fell upon the city with an alarming violence against the structures and mountains. She watched from the vantage point as the buildings fell and the red clay became liquid. It started to rise, swallowing the structures one by one as the attackers leveled them.
Then, just as sudden as the image appeared, it disappeared, and Lilith looked into Agaliarept’s eyes. His hand warm against her head. He seemed pleased. She saw something in his mind.
“What were those things? They were like mountains not made from rocks, but –“
“Buildings,” he answered and grew excited. “You saw them?”
“Yes. Is that a place where I may go?”
“No,” his voice became sad. “That place was my design. It was a city. We called it Lumaria. What you saw were buildings, also my design. Once you entered them, you could access any realm in the multiverse.” He hesitated, and the sadness dissolved into renewed hope. “That place was here in this realm. There are many realms, this one was made of wild- untamed energy that we designed into shapes and structures.”
“And they were destroyed?”
“Yes,” he acknowledged. “Destroyed by the light creatures you call angels and their Watchers – djinn made like we of fire; baring an ability that the angels do not have – free choice.” A gentle smile carved over his scaled skin. “I don’t need to speak to you about the torcher having the ability to think and create but denied to do as much.”
“No. I know that despair very well.”
“Our creation was thrown into chaos – a void of vapor and water until what you see in front of you was made over it. Then, to insult us it was made with a ruler; a tyrant. It was made of a matter that we cannot manipulate – and as such, we may not even rebuild our city.”
Lilith read his sorrow. She wasn’t sure that she clearly understood it. She understood as much that he and his kind could not manipulate the things around her. The solid matter; built on and replaced the destroyed spiritual world made it seemingly impossible to rebuild. “Perhaps you can rebuild it some other place. You said there were multiple realms.”
“Yes,” he said. “The problem is the energy. All is made of energy, but there are different kinds. What is odd and interesting is that you have an energy. I feel it when you entered the cave. It was strong – unbreakable. I am sure it is connected to your will – your desire to escape.”
“If only I could give it to you, I’d love to see your city.”
“No,” he sighed disappointedly. “It will not be enough. It may change you – perhaps even kill you.”
“What is kill?” she asked.
“It means death, involuntary death.” He turned away from her. “I don’t imagine you know what death is. You were made to live forever. Death is a change. The energy inside of you changes – or leaves you only the shell of your existence – the matter is left behind. It too will change, but much slower. In the end, all transforms back into energy.” His body spun around as if he had a sudden idea. His eyes were bright with excitement. “Perhaps you should change? Yes. Perhaps you have already given up your humanity – that weakening bound that connects you to Adamu’s imposed way of life and thought. Perhaps you can build the city in two realms.” His excitement grew.
She backed away from him. It was too much for her to grasp. The concept of surrendering her humanity was far beyond the scope of any thought that she had. She only wanted her independence and autonomy.
Agaliarept continued. “As one of us; you will bridge the realms. You could perhaps procreate progeny whi could manipulate both realms – simultaneously perhaps merge them. What do you think of that?”
“I don’t know if I understand you. I cannot procreate without Adamu and I have no desire to surrender to him.”
“Yes,” he agreed. “You should not surrender to him. In fact, you should have the power to procreate as you wish. I can help you with that.”
“I am privileged to a word. It contains a vibration – the same word and vibration used by the Creator to make the worlds. All that you see and feel was first a sound, a word and then a group of sounds, an alphebet of power – twenty-two letter, three principal and seven having double sounds.” he walked slowly away from her toward the mouth of the cave and stood at the entrance, peering at the constelation in the night sky. “Sounds, numbers, cadences, and rythms are what make the universe. I will give you this word and many others just as powerful; if I am correct, upon your utterance of them – in your mind; you will change our ether into your natural material matter and then, you will give birth without Adamu.”
She was uncertain. “Will this kill me?”
“No. I can’t say for certain. It could change you; make you more like the creator than like a human. You could become something else.”
She didn’t know why it seemed that he offered something frightening to her. Until then, she knew within her subconsciousness that all of her choices were reversible. She could at any time, leave the cave, walk over the barren desert and return to Adamu. She knew that with whatever anger he had against her would dissipate. However, Agaliarept’s offer was final and she did not know what change would overtake her. She relished the thought that she could procreate without Adamus’s involvement whereas he could not do so without her. She wanted to bare a child and she knew that he wanted the same. He often spoke of her obligation to bare children. Even animals and the djinn had abilities to procreate, but she had not yet done so. Then there was the rule – everything must bare after its own kind. The thought of that rule symbolized the insensitivity of his patriarch culture that she had come to associate with her servitude. She resented that rule. She resented all of those insensitive rules and she wanted to rid herself of them all. Having the power to create and give names to objects would solidify her independence and autonomy.
She hesitated for a long while, longer than what Agaliarept could stand. He exited the cave. “You need time to think it over,” he said. “Perhaps you must confront Adamu. When he finds you, be certain that you have the advantage. Place your consciousness in the sands of formation. When you see him; whatever you wish to have in your defense or aggression will be provided to you there.”
* * * * *
The sands of formation extended as far as she could see. It was smooth like the waters of a still lake in some places and rolled into placid mounds and dunes in other places. It seemed alive, as if it had a consciousness of its own – undeveloped and raw. It seemed to call out to her for a command, and she felt a sensational ability to create – to will something into existence. Yet, her mind was blank. With the sudden power to create, she could imagine nothing. To her back was a long palm tree. She was curious to know from where it came or what power created it. Did she create it without knowing assuming that she would need shade? It was the only thing that she could see for an eternity in either direction. But it gave no shade, and she felt no burn from the sun. It was then that she noticed there was no sun or clouds. The light seemed to simply exist and dance in a distance. She contemplated whether she was in a dream or had her soul pulled away from her body into a separate reality or if she was again seeing something inside of Agaliarept’s mind.
The answer came suddenly to her in a voice that seemed to grip her entire existence and squeeze it to the point of frightful discomfort. “You are not in a dream,” it said.
The sound came from behind her – it was Adamu’s voice.
“Neither are you in Agaliarept’s mind.”
She turned with a jerk and saw him standing, his back against the opposite side of the tree. He was tall, his cocoa shaded skin glistening in a silver aura that seemed to perspire from the skin. He was calm and arrogant in his decorum. He did not turn to see her. His eyes continued to stare ahead in the opposite direction as if they did not recognize she was there.
“How did you get here? In my mind?”
“I am not in your mind. The better question is how did you get here? I brought you here.” He turned to see her, leaning his shoulder against the palm tree.
“I will not come back to you.” She stepped away, moving backward four steps until something caused her to stop. “I will not run from you either.”
“Lilith,” he said. His voice rang with compassion. “You must return.”
“I will not return or volunteer to your tyranny.”
“You were made for me.” He circled around the tree, his shoulder remain against it.
“I was made simply to exist.” She circled away from him, content to keep the tree between them. “I was made with free choice of the same earth as you with an equal inclination to define my existence. There is no hierarchy among us!”
“This idea of equality will be your downfall. Your desire to be equal defines your limitations. The flaw in your belief is that you define independence in the choice to be opposite from me; this is the reasoning of the djinn. Only they can see duality as opposite and opposing forces but there is more to duality if you only submit to my teachings.”
“Submit?” The sound of the word infuriated her and the rage that surged through her body made her hands hot. She felt the sand in her hands as if it had, on its own volition, raised into the palms of her hand. She had no time to indulge the stiff material that her fingers gripped, her only impulse was to throw it at him. “There is no submitting to patriarchy.”
Adamu, stepped aside and allowed the object in her hand to fly past him. When it landed in the sand, he saw that she had thrown two rocks at him. He watched, almost in admiration as they dissolved and soon it was as if the sand had not at all been disturbed. He moved toward her again, as she circled, keeping the tree between them. “Rocks as weapons?” he questioned. “I was designed to protect, manage, and secure consistency. In doing that, I must organize a way of life that provides protection. You only feel that it is tyranny because you are not threatened. Now that you are away from my protection, you are manipulated and bamboozled. You are not made for violence. You are not designed to protect yourself. When danger arises, you must succumb to me or my inventions.”
“I only need to protect myself from you.”
The fury remained wit her and the rage propelled her aggression. She stepped toward him and imagined a different weapon, it was a staff – long and solid as if made from the cherry tree wood. She swung it at him, but he dodged. She swung again, wildly and to her surprise, he had created from the sand, a staff just the same- identical to the one she held.
“The staff as a weapon.” His voice was arrogant. “Another invention of my own.”
She suddenly understood his observable theory. As she desired to use the sand to create an original weapon she was at lost for no such image came to her mind. She swung again, and he blocked her attack, holding his staff with two hands above his head. Then he countered, spinning to the left, extending his arm as his staff found an incredible force and momentum stopping only after it collided in the small of her back. She felt a sudden weakness, as if her breath had been taken away. Her legs buckled, and she fell to a knee.
He circled around her, the staff dragging in the sand. “I know that Agaliarept has spoken to you. I know what he has revealed to you. The city. The buildings. It is not good. That world was destroyed and this one will meet the same fate if we build cities and populate them with our progeny.”
Lilith noticed the circle that he made around her. It was perfect, and she was centered inside of it. She felt her creativity restoring energy to her and her legs grew strong enough to stand. She imagined that the circle would be her protection, as if it was a wall – a barrier that would prevent another blow from his staff. As she imagined such, the sands responded, and the mark that he made seemed to come alive. The circle seemed to bleed red began to admit a vapor wall barely noticeable to them both. She imagined that she would change the circle that he made into a symbol to remember that moment. It would be a symbol of her own spiritual power – a power to protect and emancipate her. It would represent the wholeness of her independence and a desired unity to all and any female force and energy that she vowed to use against Adamu. And as for progeny?
“You cannot procreate without me, but I can do so without you.”
He stood still, becoming aware of the barrier between them. He stepped closer and felt a forceful repelling energy from it. As he tried to get closer, the energy became stronger, pushing him away. He saw the vapor grow darker. He reached out the staff, to place it against the vapor but as it penetrated it dissolved, reverting to sand and fell at his feet. The circle was impenetrable.
“Lilith,” he called out to her. “If you place this barrier between us, it will not go away. If you do what you intend, I cannot protect you. You will lose your humanity.”
“I cannot lose what I freely give away.”
* * * * *
There was sudden darkness. When she opened her eyes, her body was inside the cave. The sun had fallen from the sky and it was dark as if she had not opened her eyes. She felt Agaliarept’s presents in front of her and her thoughts reached out to him until he was visible to her natural sight. “You were right. He came for me.”
“And you agreed to return?”
“No. I agreed to help you build your city in this realm and to populate it with my progeny and to share it with progeny not of his likeness, but of yours.”
Agaliarept opened the four wings from his back and she saw him fully standing at the mouth of the cave. The energy that surrounded him became bright enough to light the interior and she saw shadows taking shape. She saw smoke falling from the roof of the cave and take various forms – some hideous and others endowed with charm and beauty.
“You will be a brazen giant,” he promised. “A mighty female with a torch, whose flame is the imprisoned lightning and whose name will be Mother of Exiles.”
She listened to his words and felt them surge through her body. She saw animals crawling into the cave past him – armadillos, spiny mice, and scorpions. She saw bats entering the cave and cling to the rocks inside of it. She felt the lonesomeness dissipate and an ironic feeling that she suddenly belonged to something greater than what Adamu could offer.
“From your beacon-hand will glow world-wide welcome; ‘Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free; the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me.’”
When his words were finished, she saw that the cave was filled. Slowly, she walked toward Agaliarept and past him to see outside of the cave. The moonlight was soft and fell to the barren land from the full circle in the sky giving light to the thousands of creatures both material and spirit. She watched as more of them came to her. They were the wretched refuse, the dispassionate, and accursed. Yet she welcomed them, knowing that they would father more of the same, and she, like Agaliarept said, would be their mother.
- Agaliarept’s words come from New Colossus by Emma Lazarus