When on High

Copyright 2011 by Marcin Wrona

Smashwords Edition

Chapter 1: Six Ablutions

Rimush had no idea how long he had knelt. It was difficult to measure time with a forehead pressed to the tiles. Not that he could have seen Anki’s Chariot here in any case, in this warren of corridors lit by the pale imitation of light offered by oil lamps and braziers.

Atta-maruhat, the Glowing Mountain, was the foremost of Anki’s homes upon the earth that he and his siblings had shaped. Outside, the god blazed a path across the sky. Inside, in this place some called the Home of Light, there were only dusty corridors and low ceilings. Braziers and candles, laughable attempts at matching Anki’s glory, cast dancing shadows on the floor before his eyes.

Rimush enjoyed the irony. It helped to pass the time, which was a great service in this world of goat’s blood and incense, ablution and prayer.

The hour’s silence finally came to an end—Anki was merciful—with the hiss and pop of incense thrown on glowing coals. Rimush raised his head in time to witness a second green pellet suffering that fate. Soon, nothing remained of his morning’s work but sweet smoke and the green stains he still carried under his fingernails.

“We gather here to …”

Something something, praise Anki.

Rimush threw his hands up at the appropriate moments, and sang all the right songs, but his mind was a distant thing. There was too much going on today, and besides, he had spent four years attending one ritual or the other. Surely, Anki would forgive a lapse or two in concentration.

Dimet-Resu droned on from the High Priest’s pulpit and struggled to clothe a tiny effigy in linens. When he finally gave an embarrassed smile and pointed a palsied hand to Rimush, the younger did not realize he’d been called, not until a throat cleared and a neighbour’s elbow found his ribs.

“Forgive me, Your Eminence. I was caught up in the song’s poetry.”

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