Salome: The Seventh Queen: 13: Slither

Salome raced back to her serving maids.
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The hyenas shrieked and the wheat began to ruffle as the invisible pack of wild dogs came after her. Aaliyah and Etana turned around frantically calling Salome’s name in all directions, their voices drowned out by the music and the cries and the barking of the hyenas.

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Something cracked like the sound  of bones snapping. Salome was buffeted by gusts of strong wind that blew her cloak up over her face.

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An eerie voice floated on the wind, a woman’s voice, calling.

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“ Life, life, life, life…”

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The hyenas laughed and the wind carried the sounds like a whirlwind around the Princess and her maids. Salome pulled her cloak out of her eyes and watched as the woman in the field turned and walked to the left, stopped, smiled at Salome and walked on again. She was followed by an inky black shadow that slithered over the wheat sheaves like a snake.

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“ We must follow her,” said Salome. “Come! We are guided out of this place.”

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“Mistress! I can’t touch the casque,“ cried Aaliyah. “It burns me and oh! He cries so!”

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Salome went to where the casque was laid upon the ground, glowing golden as if the sun had fallen into the field of aurum. There were lilies too, Salome swore that there were lilies white as death standing among the wheat shafts, around the Prophet’s little house. Loud dark sobs echoed  mournfully inside of it. When Salome opened the lid the eyes of Prophet looked up at her, blazing with holy fire.

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“Back! Daughter of Babylon! Come not near the chosen of the Lord. Thy mother hath filled the earth with the wine of her iniquities, and the cry of her sinning hath come up even to the ears of God.”

Salome froze. Had her prayer been fulfilled? The sight of the Prophet speaking through the gates of death was as if a very Angel had descended, a  Seraph from behind the very throne of God. Her eyes swimming with tears, Salome reached for her beloved Prophet’s head. “Oh how I love you, Jokanaan. For me you have come back to life! Oh, how powerful is love that it may conquer death! I know you have come for me, Jokanaan. I am very grateful you have come to me.”

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“Back, daughter of Sodom! Touch me not. Profane not the temple of the Lord God. Ah! The wanton one! The harlot! Ah! the daughter of Babylon with her golden eyes and her gilded eyelids! Thus saith the Lord God, Let there come up against her a multitude of men. Let the people take stones and stone her . . . ”

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“Singing! They are singing!” Aaliyah cried looking up from her cowering. “It is Chorus of the Angels of the Lord. The Prophet summons the powers of God most high. Can you hear the music of God, Princess Salome?”

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“Mistress! The guide is gone far before us. If we do not follow we shall surely be lost,” Etana shouted pointing into the distance.

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“Give me the casquet, Aaliyah. I will carry the head of Jokanaan,“ Salome said moving the trembling Aaliyah aside. “Now I have you my beloved Jonakanaan. You are with me now. Now. Oh how your eyes do shine—-they shine like pattens of bright silver fallen from the hand of the Queen of Syria into the well of the Holy Sanctuary. Thine eyes burn like torches in a tapestry of Tyre. They shine like the breath of dragons in the black caverns of Egypt. Speak to me again.”

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“Mistress, we must not stay,” cried Etana. “Surely if we stay we shall be lost.”

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“Yes, Princess Salome. Listen to Etana. It is unwise to stay. The path to the Fifth Gate is being shown and will not be shown much longer.”

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Salome leaned in to kiss the lips of Jokanaan. He spat at her! She recoiled like a cat.

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“Back! daughter of Babylon! By woman came evil into the world. Speak not to me. I will not listen to thee. I listen but to the voice of the Lord God.”

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The golden casquet did burn Salome’s flesh as she closed the the Prophet’s rage inside, but she didn’t care. Rather she reveled in this small discomfort for the sake of her love. Even though she could not bear his cries, that screamed and pounded the sides of the casque so that she could hardly hold it, she embraced it as she would her lover, and endured.

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“You shall come back to life” she murmured to herself. “You shall come back to life for me, Jokanaan, for I desire nothing on the earth more than you. There is nothing in the world more beautiful than you.”

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The  woman moving through the field had left a ribbon of dark slime along the ground. Salome followed it, all the while in a light trance, dreaming of her beloved’s ivory brow. Suddenly a vision of the woman’s face appeared to Salome’s mind’s eye: skin pale and waxy as a calla lily, hair like a cloud of purple dye, and a mouth so red, it seemed to drip with blood.

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The music died down to a thin wail as the woman, now slim as a snake, slithered through the Fifth Gate.
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“Princess, who was that?” Etana asked. “She had something about her like Herod’s Queen.”

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Salome turned to her Maidservant and raise an eyebrow. “It is not possible.”

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Aaliyah sighed a low, echoing sigh. “I do not think we should follow any more. Perhaps it is a trap.”

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“Again!” Salome said impatiently. “Always!” she gave Aaliyah a hard look. “Go back then, if you must.”

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Aaliyah gazed at her feet and blushed for shame.

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