Abraham, Jezebel and Zedekiah both started addressing me, and the crew saw fit to not even speak to me, but took their gazes to the floor when they passed me. I was aware, as I sat convincing myself that the warm and foul breeze of the realm was refreshing, that Jezebel’s eyes were on me at all times, and she either looked at me as if seeing someone else but me, someone she knew, or she squinted them to a slice of obsidian judging me, making me feel see-through. Zedekiah was not so direct – he watched me out of the corner of his ever vigilant eye, measuring me in my new person.
And I, I stared at Luna above, a partial body from which I had taken some and then given much more. I asked her wordlessly why choose me. The adrenaline coursing through my body and the urgency to be efficient and to finish this ancient task consumed me. It had started so very long ago, and I could feel the enormous gravitas, the unshakable sensation of it. It excited me as much as it scared me, and I bit my tongue to speak out again, lest I challenge Jezebel’s scolding trait and remind everyone I was barely ready for what was soon to happen.
Almost by some mental coping mannerism I tried to return my thoughts to my previous self, to withdraw a sense of realism from a point there in the past, where I was Steve in my absolute, and when I knew little of this world; when I was just a man who, on a whim had taken a job on a ship with a sympathetic old man.
But I found nothing behind closed eyelids, no memory of Steve’s to return to other then a blurry, hectic set of death images that startled me and made me snap out of the slumber. I blinked once, twice, clearing away the disturbing imagery of my death, imprinted as if in my soul. Abraham’s soul was intact, I thought. There was a new me and he had a clean start – he had no past to haunt him, just a future to fulfil and a presence to prepare in. I carried his history, all the previous incarnations, and I could learn from them and their mistakes. Make none of mine, finish what was started. Save everything, save everyone.
A sudden hard grip on my neck took me further away from grim and heroic thoughts. Zedekiah loomed over my sat figure, a new cigar smoldering between his parched lips. His free hand itched at a spot on his chest, the same where Jezebel’s rebounding lightning had struck. The bold must have shook the old one, I thought. I felt sorry for him. My swollen hand fished in my pocket and my fingers instinctively found the coin there.
“Have you figured it out yet?”
I shrugged my shoulders. “Figure out…what?”
His laughter was more of a growling, the old sea dog. He even looked canine, snarling in his outstretched smile.
“How to make yourself ready. The river lad, we’ll need to cross it – I can near hear the beat of the drum from here and the chatter at Urdun’s Black Bazar. What have you got?”
A large silhouette formed its outlines within the diaphanous mist and I half-expected it to clear and reveal a forgotten castle belonging to whoever walked these lands. As our ship tilted and took a slight turn the massive construct swam out of the thin whiteness, and disappointed I saw it was yet another ruin, abandoned to sink. The base of it was decorated by skulls impaled on spears of various lengths. I locked eyes with one smaller skeleton head, mist ghosting out through its sad sockets. I rose from my seat and walked along the deck admiring the steadiness of Jezebel’s ship. It was merciless against the current and I knew Zedekiah was speaking the truth – we were still far, but steadily advancing towards the Nahr al-Urdun river.
Zedekiah put his arm around my shoulder, as if sensing my doubt, but he was gentler this time, aware for the first time of his own snappy strength and I hoped after the incident of how fragile the line between me and the power of the Ultimate Invincibility was. “Come now, son, I know you got it in you – the spirit, the eagerness, the want! You said so yourself, spoken like a true King. What’s the matter then?”
“What Jezebel said,” I protested, but he shook his head interrupting me. I saw the flick of his fingers and the remains of his crashed cigar flying into the waters. Zedekiah puffed out the last circle of smoke and the ring broke above our heads, leaving barely a trace of the sweet scent.
“Jezebel may say many things, but she doesn’t know you like I do, laddie. I have faith in you, I had it from the very first time I lay my eyes on you. And these peepers,” here he made me look into his eyes, unyielding and even brighter against the sun-kissed tan of his face, “they have seen a great many things, some good, many bad, but they saw you and I knew you were the one. I trust what I see.”
“And I trust you,” I said without hesitation, echoing my previous self and installing the same trusting feeling into this new person-weapon. He padded me on the back making me feel proud and even more invincible.
Then there was a tremor. A fast wave crashed against the ship and made me nearly tumble, the ship suddenly unsteady. I grabbed the railing and peered over, searching the waters for any signs of disturbance. A second tremor erupted this time visibly nearer as I saw the split seconds when something hit the water and disappeared below surface. It caused a second wave, which was bigger, and sent sprinkles at deck level , making the body of the ship rise on its arched back.
After the third tremor came not a heartbeat later, I saw through the above layer of mist a large boulder in flight. The fourth landed just 10 feet from the side of the ship causing an eruption of water and fish to rain upon the deck. The ship took a sharp left and I tumbled backwards, sliding on my back. I reached a hand and Zedekiah took it pulling me towards him. I managed to wrap arms around the railing and rise to a standing position.
Jezebel appeared from the inside of her vessel followed by three of her men. I thought the control of her ship must be in less experienced hands, as it tried avoiding the right embankment, leaning clumsily and throwing us all over the deck.
“I think we’re being under attack, princess.”
Jezebel threw her head back and laughed, “Who would dare?!”
I looked over to Zedekiah who was staring wide-eyed. A great many, I thought, now that there was a new King – me. In the brief given silence, we listened. There was a distant shriek, an epic and powerful Ur Ah! accompanied by rising in volume and closeness war horns. A whistling of sorts reached my ears and I looked up, seeing many bodies burning bright red against the sky. I gasped. It was imminent, I knew. Zedekiah did too, and he made a run for it. I released myself from the railings and grabbed Jezebel’s hand, taking us towards the door in hope for some safety inside the solid structure of her beloved ship.
Not fast enough, I thought in fear, as the first of the rain of large and blazing hot stones fell upon us.