Men Djinn and Angels Short Stories
Lilith & Agaliarept
Lilith sprinted; her thin, glistening legs a streak of ebony. She ran as if her life depended on how swiftly she lifted her bruised knees, how quickly she swung her scrapped arms, and how accurately her bare feet met the uneven path. Dust kicked up behind her. Her muscular back, smooth and shiny, curved as she dodged a branch. It straightened when she leaped over an imposing termite mound. As Lilith approached the garden perimeter, she could see the wall of sequoias just beyond the cattleyas. Her lungs burned. She gasped for air. Freedom awaited.
She did not so foolishly expect the world beyond the sequoias to be as sedating as what she left behind. Still, it offered autonomy. She hoped to find more than a swirling firmament. She didn’t care if no more than a dark cave awaited. Regardless of consequence, she knew her escape was the right choice. More importantly, it was hers.
As Lilith approached the trees, she noticed how close they stood. She doubted that she’d squeeze pass them. She hesitated; her breath heavy. She glanced left and right. The line of trees was a fortified wall as far as she could see. To make her escape she needed to find a wide enough opening or risk bruising her naked body by squeezing through the rough bark. Why fear pain when freedom awaits?
A voice called her name. Whether it echoed in her ears or her mind, she did not know. Was it Adamu calling for her? It did not sound like him. Perhaps it was an angel, or maybe even a djinni. She remembered Adamu’s warning about angels and djinn on the other side of the trees. What if she answered? How would Adamu feel about that? Lilith’s desire to rebel against his every command swelled in her chest. She would speak if a djinni addressed her, but not now. She needed to find an opening in the sequoias. She saw one on the left. Hoping it was wide enough, she pushed a leg through. An arm and shoulder; next went her hips and head. She was through. She took a single step to the side and the ground gave way. She found herself plummeting down a slope. Crumbled rocks, sand, and gravel met her tumbling body like hot blades.
By the time Lilith’s limp frame crashed at the slope’s bottom, she was dusty, gravel encrusted mass of tender skin and blood. The air was dry, and the sun seared, licking her wounds like a sandpaper tongue. The heat ate at her from above and beneath. When she stood, dust slid from her shoulders. Sand, like hot coals set her soles ablaze. She surveyed the dry desert, thinking, This is what freedom looks like.
The urge to run left her. She needed shelter. Ahead was a blinding light where rugged soil was dotted with flowered and spiked shrubs. “My beautiful yucca plants.” She named them.
Yeah, yucca. That’s better than what he would have called them.
Lilith felt empowered and would have given more names to things she saw, but fatigue did not allow. She needed to escape the sun. From a rocky mountain range to the west, dark shadows lured her to its caves and promised salvation. She went. The sun crawled behind the mountains. The reaching shadows embraced her with cool arms. She reached the back wall in seven steps. Lilith sighed, her shoulders dropped, and she sat on the smooth floor. The rocky wall cooled her. She smiled and closed her eyes. This is what freedom feels like.
. “I don’t blame you for running.”
Lilith gaped, with wide eyes. She saw no one. She surmised the darkness had a voice of its own.
“He is a tyrant.”
A body of swirling smoke materialized in front of her. She smelled roses like those back in the garden. Her visitor took the form of a gentleman, sitting with folded legs. A silky, red robe draped his frame. Reptilian eyes peered through a skeletal forehead, and as it leaned forward, Lilith saw antlers emerge from the darkness. She saw his full face. Her eyes crawled over his human shaped nose and mouth. When he stood, she saw two sets of white wings. They sparkled, silvery and shimmering as if light fell on them. Lilith studied his scaled face and looked into his eyes – they were blue and moved like dancing flames of fire. Heat radiated from him as he moved closer to Lilith. “I will leave you now,” 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 an angel?”
“No,” he turned and walked to the mouth of the cave, fully exposing the four wings folded against his backside. He slowly turned to face her. “I was there when they made you. I watched life come to you – there by the water. You were remarkable to see.”
She lowered her eyes in shame and examined her scarred skin. It was once soft and smooth.
He moved one step closer. “You are so much more than flesh and blood. You will remain remarkable.” He waited for her eyes to meet his. “You do know he will find you.”
“He will try. I do not believe he will venture this far from the garden.”
“He’ll not need to venture.”
“Then how will he find me?”
“He’ll access your mind by way of your soul. He has spoken of your soul, hasn’t he?”
“When you so desire, the part of you that is not material seeks immaterial worlds. You are so wondrously made – multidimensional. 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 stood by her side 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 hidden from Adamu appealed to her. “I agree if you agree to give secrets to me known not by Adamu.”
Agaliarept eyed Lilith like she was an experiment – a curious lifeforce to him, the scientist. “Take a deep breath,” he advised. “And close your eyes.”
“Empty your mind of all thoughts.”
She obeyed. As soon as her mind cleared, it opened again to an amazing view. Lilith had levitated beyond the cave, high above thousands of structures. She saw spirits – bodies of men and women, some shaped like flames and others with angelic wings spread as they glided through a maze of formations that reached high above. As if from below, the reddish clay ground emanated a glow that illuminated the city. Lilith sailed the skies, bypassing domes and pointed rooftops until she reached a mountain cliff. From her vantage point she could see all that was to be seen. Before her lay a panorama of pyramids and massive cathedrals that radiated bright, golden lights.
From the north, a multitude of winged, transparent creatures approached with incredible speed. With them came a mass of gloomy-eyed figures of fire. They carried lightening swords, javelins, and hammers. The whole host of them fell upon the city with alarming violence. Lilith watched as the structures collapsed and burned. The terra firma mushed into quicksand and rose to swallow the flames and leveled structures. Then came a massive wave and Lilith saw that everything had vanished under the water.
Just as suddenly as the image appeared to Lilith, it was gone. She gazed into Agaliarept’s eyes. He placed his warm hand against her head. A smile spread across his face as if the expression in her eyes confirmed that she saw something.
“What were those things? They were like mountains not made from rocks, but –“
He spoke with a melancholy tone. “That was all my design. It is called a city. What you saw were buildings. They gave access to every sphere in the multiverse.” He hesitated, the sadness in his voice replaced by renewed hope. “That city was once here where you sit.” Agaliarept exited the cave. He looked to the sky and spoke in a dreamy voice. “There are many realms, but this one contained wild, untamed energy that we designed into shapes and structures.”
“And it was destroyed?”
“Yes,” he acknowledged, turning to face her as she approached. Anger rose within Agaliarept’s chest. He clutched his fist. “It was destroyed by the light creatures. You call them angels. Their watchers – djinn, made like we are, of fire; with free will, turned against us.”
Lilith’s eyes showed remorse. “I’m sorry, for you.”
“They blocked us from our birthplace. The firmament surrounds and traps us here.” He turned and looked to the sky again. “I am endowed with creativity, but unable to recreate. It is torture.”
She lowered her head. The sky was dark. Normally, Adamu would have already pinned her to the ground, on her back. Despite her protest, he’d have it no other way. She empathized with Agaliarept’s need to express. She had similar needs.
Agaliarept smiled gently and touched her shoulder. “No one knows torture as well as you.”
She forced a smile and lowered her eyes.
“Our world was thrown into chaos – a void of vapor and water until this world, all that you see, was made over it. Then, to insult us, a tyrant was put here to rule it.” He squatted and reached out to touch the soil. Lilith watched his hand disappear into the earth and return empty. “This earth was made of a matter that we cannot manipulate. We may not rebuild our city.”
Lilith read his sorrow. She squatted beside him. “Perhaps you can rebuild in another place.”
He continued reaching his hand into the soil and pulling it out empty. “The problem is energy. All is made of energy, but there are different kinds.” He became motionless. Then he pulled his gaze from the soil to peer into the darkness. His voice grew soft as the wind in the trees. “I find it both odd and interesting that you have powerful energy. When you entered the cave, I felt it– strong and unbreakable. I am sure it is connected to your will – your desire to escape.”
“If I could give it to you, I’d love to see your city.”
He tapped her knee with his hot scaly hands. “It will not be enough.” He stood. “Besides, 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.” He waved his hand, causing the smoke encircling his feet to rise. The smog grew dense, enveloping Lilith’s body. She looked on, inhaling its flowery fragrance.
“Death is a change,” he continued. “The energy inside of you leaves only the shell of your existence. That shell, too, will change, but much slower. In the end, all transforms back into the energy that formed it.”
Lilith stepped away from the swirling vapor. Her heart raced.
Agaliarept moved with her. She stepped further away, moving towards the cave. “Perhaps you should change?” His voice beckoned boldly now. “Perhaps you have already given up your humanity. You’re already free from Adamu’s imposed life and dogma. Perhaps you can build the city in both realms.” His excitement grew.
Lilith kept her distance. The concept of surrendering her humanity was far beyond the scope of any preconception.
Agaliarept continued. “As one of us, you can be a bridge between worlds. You may procreate progeny to manipulate both realms – simultaneously and maybe even merge them. What do you think of that?”
“I don’t know if I understand. I cannot procreate without Adamu, and I do not 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.” His voice softened. “I can help you with that.”
“I am privileged to a word that contains a vibration – the same word and vibration used by the Creator when he made the worlds. I will give you the word and it will change you, make you more ether than the crude dirt. Then, you may procreate without Adamu.”
She was uncertain. “Will it kill me?”
“No.” He paused. “I can’t say for certain, but I know it will change you; make you less human. You would become something else – something more powerful.”
She didn’t know why his proposal frightened her. Up until then, her choices were reversible. She could, at any time, leave the cave and traverse the barren desert back to Adamu. However, if she accepted Agaliarept’s offer there was no turning back. She relished the thought of procreating without Adamu. He said she was obligated to bear children just as the animals and even the djinn did.
“I would break his rule,” Lilith whispered. “Everything must bear of its own kind.” She crossed her arms rebelliously across her chest. That rule. A perfect symbol of my servitude. Having the power to create and give names to objects would solidify her independence and autonomy.
This time, Agaliarept stepped away. “You need time to think it over,” he said. “Perhaps you must first confront Adamu. When he finds you, be certain that you have the advantage. Place your consciousness in the sands of formation. Whatever you wish to have in your defense or aggression will be provided.”
* * * * *
The sands of formation stretched into the horizon like a golden lake. Ironically motionless, it was alive with energy and a consciousness of its own. It beckoned her to command it. She wanted to oblige but had no ideas to manifest. As suddenly as she won this creative empowerment, her mind was empty. To her back was a long palm tree. It was the only thing that she could see for an eternity in either direction. She looked to the sky. It was blue and empty. The light around her simply existed, dancing in the distance. Lilith was neither sleep nor awake and assumed that her soul had been either pulled away into an alternate reality, or that she looked again into Agaliarept ’s memories.
The answer came suddenly to her in a voice that awakened her deepest fears. “You are in no dream,” it said.
The sound came from behind her – it was Adamu’s voice.
“Neither are you in Agaliarept’s mind.”
She swung around. She saw his cocoa shaded back leaned against the opposite side of the tree. She remembered the calm arrogance in his decorum. Not turning to see her, his eyes continued to stare ahead in the opposite direction.
She took one step toward him. “How did you get here? In my mind?”
“I am not in your mind. The better question is how did you get here?” He turned to look at her.
“I will not come back to you.” She started to move backwards in retreat, when something caused her to halt. “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 the tree, his shoulder still against it.
“I was made simply to exist.” She circled in the opposite direction, content with keeping 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 is your downfall. Your desire to be equal defines your limitations.” He moved faster. She did the same. His voice grew louder. “The flaw in your belief is that you define independence as the choice to be opposite from me; this is the reasoning of the djinn. Only they can see duality as opposite and opposing forces.” He stopped.
She stopped. She wanted to run but resisted.
“There is more to duality if only you would submit; I will teach you.”
“Submit?” The word infuriated her and the rage that surged through her body made her hands hot. She was not sure how the grimy sand reached her hands, but it moved between her fingers, and hardened in her palms, scratching her impulse to throw it. “I’ll not submit to patriarchy.”
Adamu, stepped aside as the objects flew past him. When they landed in the sand, he saw the two rocks she threw at him. “’Stones as weapons,” he mumbled. He watched as they dissolved into the sand. He closed in on her again. She circled the tree. She wanted to keep it between them.
“I was made to protect. It’s my duty to manage.” His voice had signs of impatience. “I must organize a way of life that guarantees your safety.”
She opened her hands, palms facing the sand. She wanted more rocks.
Adamu walked slowly, his eyes on her open hands. “Since you have been away from my protection, you have been manipulated. You are in danger.” He made attempts to soften his tone. His voice patronized her. “You were not made for violence or with the ingenuity to protect yourself. When danger comes, you must defer to me and my conventions.”
“I only need to protect myself from you.”
The fury swelled in her chest. With clenched teeth, she stepped forward and imagined a different weapon. It was a staff – long and solid, made from cherry wood. She lunged at Adamu, but he dodged. Again, Lilith swung her arms wildly, but to her surprise, Adamu had also created a staff from the sand- 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. She swung again, but Adamu blocked her overhead attack. Then he countered, spinning to the left, extending his arm as his staff picked up incredible speed and momentum, stopping only after it lodged in the small of her back. The strike snatched all Lilith’s strength. Her legs buckled, and she dropped to one 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. The sands vibrated beneath her knee. It screamed for her to create. She rose to her feet and imagined the circle was her protection. She gazed at him spitefully. The barrier in her imagination materialized – a perfect wall over the circle. She noticed the sand rising and circling her. The wall illuminated and emitted a transparent burgundy vapor.
“I will change this circle,” she spoke through the vapor. “It will be a symbol of this moment. It will be my symbol – my own spiritual power. Safety with tyranny is not safety.”
With inquisitive eyes, Adamu’s face wrinkled. He cautiously approached the vapor. “What magic is this?”
She snarled at him. “It will replace your safety.” She paced inside the circle. Her black hair shaded her eyes as she peered through it at him. She gritted her teeth. Jaw muscles bulged. Their eyes met. “This circle is the wholeness of my independence and unity to my progeny.”
She laughed. “You cannot procreate without me, but I can do so without you.”
He stepped closer to the barrier. The wall had a forceful repelling energy. He saw the vapor grow darker. He reached out with the staff, to place it against the vapor but as it penetrated it dissolved, reverting to sand.
“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.”
The snarl dissolved and she moved the hair from her eyes. There was a hint of a smile on her face as if she knew a secret. “I cannot lose what I freely give away.”
* * * * *
Darkness overtook her vision. When she opened her eyes, her body was inside the cave. She noticed the gentle heat and flowery smell. Agaliarept was there. “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.”
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 brightened the cave’s interior. She watched shadows taking shape. Smoke stretching like pale arms from the roof of the cave took 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. They surged 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. Then she realized her importance. No longer am I his domestic pet, she thought.
“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 blanketed the barren land from the full circle in the sky.
- Agaliarept’s words come from New Colossus by Emma Lazarus