Sometimes you hear a story that you just know can’t be true. This is one of those stores, and while I swear it really happened, there is nothing I can do to prove it to you. All we brought back with us was the sand in our clothes. We gathered up as much of that as we could, and put it in this little glass jar, but it looks like regular old sand. I know what you’re thinking; you could have just filled that up with sand from Lido Beach on any one of a thousand trips there. We didn’t, but unless some scientist can prove it’s from 2500BC Sumer and not 2018AD Sarasota, you’ll have to take my word for it.
Before you hear the story, I guess I should tell you a little bit about how this whole thing got started. I blame everything on my best friend Nicky. It’s his fault we got stuck with the topic we ended up with in the first place. See we were sitting in our world history class when our teacher, Mr. Reed, gave us an assignment. We had to work in pairs, so no problem me and Nicky of course. Each pair had to select a topic from the board and complete a research project on it. This is where it becomes Nicky’s fault. As my best friend, he knows I sometimes get lost in my thoughts in class. He was supposed to pay attention and get us a great topic, but he didn’t. In fact, he waited till the very end, and we got stuck with Gilgamesh. I mean how horrific is that? I didn’t want to do a report on some stupid old giant that might or might not have been a real person, but it didn’t matter, thanks to Nicky that was our assignment.
Something else happened, I’ll explain later, that makes this whole thing even more Nicky’s fault, but I guess I should tell you a little about us first. My name is Danielle Elisabeth Samuelson, but everybody calls me Dani. I’m your typical thirteen year-old seventh grader from Sarasota, Florida. I have sandy-blonde hair, brown eyes, and a decent tan, even though I don’t really work on it. When you live where I do and your mom drives a convertible, you just automatically have a tan. Nicky is Stephen Nicholas Richards, and we’ve lived in the same duplex for as long as either of us can remember. I live in the top half with my mom and little brother Tommy. Nicky lives with his dad in the bottom half. Nicky has really blonde hair, blue eyes, and a smile that says; don’t turn your back on me because you never know what I might be up to. Nicky is usually up to something, but he’s actually pretty harmless if you don’t count the time he took a picture of me to school from when I was three and playing on the slip-n-slide in just my Little Mermaid panties.
I think Nicky and I are best friends because we are so much alike. We live in the same house, we take all the same classes at school, we like the same music and movies, and we both only have one parent. Well, I actually have two, but I haven’t seen my dad in so long that it hardly counts. My dad left my mom when my little brother Tommy was born. Now that I’m a little older, I can understand why my dad left her. I just don’t understand why he left me. See my mom and dad are both white like me, but when my brother Tommy was born half African-American, my dad left. At first I would see my dad everyone once in awhile, get a card on my birthday and maybe a present at Christmas, but I haven’t heard from him at all in about three years now, so I guess he’s forgotten I exist. It doesn’t really matter. My mom makes pretty good money and she really loves me and Tommy. I’ve never met Tommy’s dad. Mom says he was just a male model she met about ten months before Tommy was born. Male model you ask? My mom works for this big clothing store chain in the marketing department. It’s her job to hire models to wear the clothes for the sales papers and stuff. She said he doesn’t even know Tommy exists, and that’s just the way she likes it.
Nicky lives with only his dad because his mom died in a car accident when he was two. He says he doesn’t even remember her, so it’s no big deal, but I know better. Sometimes he gets really sad, and I know it’s because he wishes his mom was still here. I share my mom with him a lot, and he shares his dad with me, so it all works out. My mom and Nicky’s dad don’t date or anything, but they help each other out, and we do things together like go to the beach, baseball games, play miniature golf things like that. They eat dinner with us a lot, so we’re really like a big extended family. That’s why Nicky knew it was his responsibility to pick a better topic than Gilgamesh.
The other person involved in our adventure is my little brother Tommy. I kind of felt sorry for getting him into the situation, but we had to take him to the library with us when we did our research, so he got dragged along. In the end, I guess it’s a good thing Tommy was with us. It’s also a good thing he’s pretty smart for a ten year-old boy, despite the fact that he’s madly in love with Selena Gomez. I said he was smart. I didn’t say he had good taste. Tommy is adorable, and that’s saying a lot coming from his big sister. He has big dark eyes and dark curly hair that mom lets grow to about his shoulders. He also has the brightest smile I’ve ever seen. Looking at Tommy, I guess I can understand why mom went for his sperm donor, as she calls him.
Getting back to what happened, since I didn’t know much about Gilgamesh, I mean what kind of a name is that anyway, we had to go to the library. Mom dropped us off that Saturday morning and Nicky’s dad was going to come pick us up three hours later, so we would have plenty of time to find enough information to fill the three-page requirement. I had to take charge of finding books on the topic. Who knew there were so many versions of the same old thing? We picked out a couple versions of The Epic of Gilgamesh and another book called Never Grow Old by some guy named Trent. Nicky picked out this book called Gilgamesh the Hero. I think it was because of the picture on the cover. It had this guy, I’m assuming was Gilgamesh, standing on the head of a huge bull and pulling on its horns. That was definitely a guy picture.
We picked out a table and sat down, but that is when Tommy started being a pain-in-the-butt. “I don’t know why I had to come. It’s not my report. Blah, blah, blah.”
“Why don’t you go find a book to read?” I told him.
“Like what?” he asked unable to think for himself, since it was Saturday morning.
“I don’t know,” I said being a little terse. We just learned that word in reading class. Never thought I would get to use it, yay! “Why don’t you get Harry Potter?”
“Read them all,” he said, which was true.
“Then get Percy Jackson, something, but you’re not gonna sit here and drive me crazy,” I told him.
“Geez, Dani, wake up on the witch-side-of-the-bed this morning?” Nicky said.
“You don’t think I’m going to do all the reading do you?” I asked looking at him because he was just sitting there.
“I was hopin’,” he says with a grin.
“Well hope again,” I said pushing his bull book in front of him.
“Fine,” he said then started looking through the book, for pictures I’m sure.
Tommy came back a few minutes later with a book in his hand. “Seriously, why would you get book three of a five book series?” I asked getting aggravated.
“Because you didn’t go to help me,” he said plopping down in the chair next to me.
“Oh come on,” I said taking his hand and dragging him back to the ‘R’ section. By the time I put his book back, grabbed The Lightning Thief, and got back to the table, Nicky was gone. “Just great,” I mumbled thinking he was off playing around.
I started to read the one book I picked out that wasn’t just the Epic of Gilgamesh. I was just starting to get into it when Nicky showed back up with this really dusty, smelly book in his hands. “What’s that?” I asked glancing up at him.
“The librarian came over and saw what we were reading. He suggested I get this book and take a look,” he explained. He put the book down on the table, sending a tiny cloud of dust into the air then started turning the first few pages. I went back to my reading not saying anything else, Tommy, thankfully, seemed to be getting into his own book, and Nicky was quietly turning the pages. The part of my brain that wasn’t focused on what I was reading was thinking; he is so wasting time.
About ten minutes later, Nicky said, “Look at this.”
“What?” I asked a little aggravated at being interrupted.
“There is this, poem like thing here,” he said turning the book so I could see it.
“Incantation,” I said correcting him.
“Whatever Miss Smarty Pants,” he said with a grin. “It says we can go back in time if we repeat it.”
“I’m not putting your name on this report, if I have to do it all myself,” I told him.
“Seriously I think we should give it a try,” Nicky said, which got Tommy’s attention.
“Why would you even want to go back in time? They don’t have Taco Bell or Mountain Dew,” I said knowing he could never give those two things up and survive.
“Can’t you just humor me?” he asked, and I could tell he was actually serious about trying this.
“You do know we aren’t doing a report on H.G. Wells?” I said, remembering the book we read last year in our reading class.
“Please Dani,” he said now begging. I hate it when he does that.
“Yeah come on Dani,” Tommy said now joining him.
“Fine, if it will get you back to work,” I told them and put my book down.
Nicky walked around to our side of the table, so we could all see the book right-side-up, and we started reading the lines out loud.
History is all around
Within these walls it will abound
But nothing here will serve as well
As going to that time to dwell
If courage you have and knowledge you seek
Continue on, these words to speak
Lead me to the ancient time
When I complete this ancient rhyme
“See,” I said picking my book back up, “Nothing, now please get back…”
That’s when it started. I don’t really know how to describe it. My head was spinning, and I felt like I was falling through some kind of tunnel. It was like being dizzy and on a waterslide at the same time. The funny thing was I wasn’t alone. Nicky was next to me with this crazy look on his face like; oh my god it worked, and Tommy was just behind me screaming his head off. It seemed like we must have gone on this way for at least ten minutes. When we finally cleared the tunnel, we landed on this huge sand pile. I’m not talking about some pile you might see on the beach where some kids gathered sand in their pails and dump it out in one spot. I’m talking about a pile like twenty dump trucks dumped their loads all out in one spot.
“That was freakin’ awesome,” Nicky said trying to stand.
“Watch out,” I yelled when he started tumbling down the sand.
“I’m Okay,” he called back when he came to a stop close to the bottom.
I turned to my little brother who landed just to my left and a little higher up on the pile. “Are you okay, Tommy?” I asked him because he had a really confused look on his face.
“Where are we?” he asked looking around.
“I have no idea,” I told him honestly.
“We’re gonna be in trouble with Mom,” he said, and I could tell tears are welling up in his eyes.
“Please don’t start crying. We need to worry about getting back first,” I told him.
“Are we really in the past?” he asked.
“How could we be?” I told him with a smile that I hoped was reassuring him ‘cause it was not working for me.
Once Tommy and I reached Nicky at the bottom, Nicky had already made a lap around the pile. “I think we’re in Sumer,” he told us with a huge grin on his face.
“I think you’re full of…” I stopped myself because, as much trouble as I was already going to be in, the last thing I needed was Tommy telling Mom I was cussing too.
“Let’s see if we can find somebody,” Nicky said like we were looking for the nearest crossing guard on our way to school.
“Are you crazy?” I asked grabbing his arm. “Let’s just say, and I’m not saying I believe it, but let’s just say we really are in Gilgamesh’s Sumer. Look at us. They’re gonna lock us up for being aliens from another planet then we’ll never get home.”
Nicky looked at us for a second then said, “You might be right. We’ve gotta find Gilgamesh without anybody else seeing us.”
“First of all, what makes you think Gilgamesh wouldn’t lock us up, and second of all, what makes you think we would be allowed to get anywhere near him? He’s the king,” I said getting a little scared not just at not knowing where we were but at the thought of really being in the past.
“He was a demigod for one, so he would accept weird things. I also think he would want our help,” he explained.
“How could we help him? We haven’t done any research yet,” I asked while my head was wondering how he even knew anything about Gilgamesh.
“You’ve got that book,” he said pointing at the item I hadn’t even realized was still in my hand.
“We can’t change the past,” I told him. “Haven’t you ever watched Star Trek? Really bad things happen when you go back into the past and change how things happened.”
“Okay, we won’t change anything, but we can help him get where he was going anyway,” Nicky then suggested.
“Are you that determined not to read? You want to risk our lives trying to live this instead of getting back home before we get in trouble with our parents?” I asked him seriously getting ticked.
“Come on Dani, please,” he begged again.
“Can we at least look through your book and figure out how we get back home first?” I asked thinking that, in case we do get locked up, we might still get home.
“Deal,” he agreed then we found a shade tree, sat down, and poured through his book.
There wasn’t a whole lot in the book Nicky brought about how to get back. There as a simple incantation, but it said it wouldn’t work until we had learned what we came for. I was a little worried about that since I didn’t know what the heck we expected to learn. We decided to give the incantation a try, but of course, nothing happened.
“I guess we had better start walking,” Nicky suggested.
For some reason, I took Tommy’s hand. I guess it was the big sister instinct to protect him. Amazingly he squeezed it and didn’t let go. Any other time he would have thought it was gross to walk around holding my hand.
“Everything is going to be fine,” I told him trying to smile as I said it.
He nodded and kept walking.
After maybe twenty minutes, Nicky stopped, looked from me to Tommy then said, “Are we going in the right direction?”
“How should I know,” I said thinking we’re in the middle of the freakin’ desert. Besides the occasional palm tree, nothing was there to help us figure out anything about where we needed to go. Nicky stood frozen like he was now afraid to go the wrong way. “Look, this incantation, whatever it is, brought us here. It has to be leading us down the correct path, doesn’t it?” I was hoping he would agree just so I would feel better.
“Yeah, I guess you’re right,” he agreed and started to walk again.
“So why are you going in the opposite direction now?” I asked.
“What?” he said looking confused.
“We were going that way,” I said pointing in front of me and Tommy.
“Sorry,” he said then did a one-eighty and started walking again.
We walked for several more minutes in silence until I couldn’t take it anymore. “What do you hope to learn on this adventure?”
“Quest,” he corrected.
“Fine this quest?”
“I don’t know. I don’t even know what Gilgamesh did,” he answered truthfully.
“Maybe one of us should be reading this book, as we walk,” Tommy suggested. He was now carrying the book I checked out of the library.
“How can we read and walk at the same time?” I asked remembering the time I knocked over the Christmas tree because I couldn’t put down my copy of The Hunger Games.
“What are you gonna run into out here?” Tommy asked.
“He’s got a point,” Nicky said with a laugh.
“I’ll read it,” Tommy offered.
“Maybe somebody who will understand it better should read it,” Nicky suggested.
“You calling me stupid?” Tommy asked with his feelings clearly hurt.
“No, I… I just meant that we’re older and might understand it better,” Nicky tried to explain.
“Fine,” Tommy said handing me the book.
“Look you go ahead and read. If you don’t understand something, ask about it,” I said refusing the book. The last thing I wanted was for Tommy to start acting like a baby because Nicky was treating him like one. I’ve seen that too many times. Besides that, Tommy is an excellent reader, ahead of his grade level by a year, so I wasn’t too worried about his comprehension. Since I had started reading the book, I knew it was a pretty easy read.
Now that Tommy was involved in his reading, I turned my attention back to Nicky. “Your dad has probably already come to pick us up and knows we’re gone,” I said.
“Probably has,” he agreed. I didn’t think he was going to say anything more until he said, “I hope they don’t get too scared.”
“My mom will be scared the second she knows we’re gone. I’m sure she’ll think we’ve been abducted or something,” I told him, since I knew my mom would never for a second think we would run away.
“I hope you’re not mad at me,” he says after a few seconds of silence.
“Why would I be mad?”
“I’m the one that found the book with the incantation. I’m the one that insisted we try it…”
“And you’re the one that got us stuck with Gilgamesh in the first place,” I reminded him with a smile.
“I don’t remember hearing you speak up,” he said defending himself.
“You know what happens to me sometimes,” I said, but not wanting to get into an argument, I left it at that.
“What do you remember about Mesopotamia?” he asked me.
“Not much,” I answered honestly. “I know it is where Iraq is today.”
“I hope we don’t run into any Iraqi militants,” he laughed.
“I think we’re a few thousand years yearly for that,” I said laughing with him.
“Maybe we should figure out a way to leave them a note. Don’t let anybody named Hussein take charge.”
“We promised we wouldn’t try to change history,” I reminded him.
“It was a joke, but it would save a lot of lives don’t you think,” he said with a wishful look in his eyes. Nicky has an uncle in the Marines that spent a lot of time in Iraq. He’s in Afghanistan now, and I know he worries about something happening to him.
“Does something up ahead of us look different?” I now asked. It wasn’t like a village or anything. Nothing rose on the horizon. It was still flat, just different.
“It looks shiny,” he agreed. “What else do you remember, about Sumer I mean?”
“It was where the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers come together. I also remember they build temples to their gods. That’s about all,” I told him. “What about you?”
“They were the first known civilization, with the first writing,” he says.
“Cuneiform,” I said remembering what the writing was called. “Is that water?” I asked now pointing up ahead of us.
“Yeah, I think it is,” he said then took off running. I followed after him leaving Tommy behind us still reading.
It took a few seconds for him to realize we were running ahead. “Hey, wait for me,” he yelled then started running as well.
“It’s a river,” I said noticing it was running and not sitting still like a lake would.
“Do you think it’s the Euphrates?” Nicky asked.
“I don’t know, but I’m thirsty,” Tommy said reaching his cupped hand into the water. With that Nicky and I realized that walking through the desert can take a lot out of you and started doing the same thing.
We eventually took our shoes off and put our feet into the water in an effort to cool off some. As I looked out across the water, I said, “I bet you couldn’t do this in this river today.”
“Probably not,” Tommy agreed. “It’s dammed in a lot of places. This could be under water or almost dry where we’re at.”
“How do you know that?” Nicky asked surprised at Tommy’s input.
“We were studying water sharing,” he said casually.
Nicky shrugged and looked out over the water like he was trying to remember this spot for future reference. Of course, there wasn’t anything special about it. There definitely weren’t any landmarks around to find on a map.
Once we decided to keep moving, we had to make a decision on which direction to go. “Uruk is on the Euphrates River,” Tommy now informed us, “So we need to follow it.”
“What is Uruk,” I asked.
“Isn’t that what they called the Orc things in Lord of the Rings?” Nicky asked.
“They were Uruk-hai,” Tommy said, and he would know. He’s got the video game. “Uruk is the city that Gilgamesh was the king of,” he went on to explain.
“Okay, so are we upstream or downstream of Uruk,” I wondered out loud.
“Flip a coin?” Nicky asked pulling a quarter from his pocket.
“Heads we go upstream,” I agreed. I figured that flipping a coin was as good a way as any to decide, and if we were on an incantation driven quest, maybe we were getting some super natural help that would control how the quarter landed.
“It’s tails,” Tommy said. “I guess we go downstream.”
It was dark by the time we arrive at the first sign of civilization. It isn’t like there was a big sign that read Welcome to Uruk across the front gate. Of course, we wouldn’t have been able to read it even if it did.
“These walls are massive,” Nicky said admiring the handiwork. “There’s no way we can climb over them.”
Nicky was right. I couldn’t even see the top of the wall when I looked up from the bottom. Each stone looked like it was about two feet wide and just about as high. I couldn’t tell how thick they were but I was guessing they were pretty thick.
“What do you suggest we do?” I asked looking at him.
“Maybe we should walk around and see if there is an opening someplace,” Tommy suggested.
“We should put something here, so we know when we’ve been all the way around, if we make it that far,” I told them.
“I have a nickel,” Nicky suggested pulling it from his pants pocket.
“And what if somebody else finds it?” I asked. “That would be too big a risk.”
“I have a Pokemon card in my pocket,” Tommy offered.
“That would be even worse,” I told them. “I hate to do this, but give me the book.” Tommy handed me the book he was reading in the daylight. I found one of the back pages they add to books that never have anything on them and tore a piece of it out to mark our spot.
“Stick it down into the sand, so it won’t blow away,” Nicky suggested. Once that was done, we started to walk around the outside wall of what we hoped was Uruk.
“We still have to figure out how we can get to Gilgamesh before anyone else gets to us,” Nicky said, like I somehow would have a plan for that.
“We wouldn’t even know where to look,” I told him.
“Maybe we should start with the temple,” Tommy said.
“That’s a good idea,” Nicky agreed just as we came upon what appeared to be a little stream running up to the wall then under it. “Could we fit through the opening?” Nicky continued.
“Doubt it,” I said. “It probably has a grate or something over the other end to keep things out.”
“Maybe we should check it out,” Tommy suggested anyway. “I volunteer to go see.”
“I can’t let you go alone,” I told him. “Mom would kill me.”
“We’ll all go,” Nicky said and at that Tommy charged into the water and easily made his way crawling through the opening at the bottom of the wall. It was a little harder for me and even harder still for Nicky, but somehow we all managed to squeeze through.
“Guys look at this,” Tommy said in a whisper once he reached the other side, which did have a big metalwork grate over it. Chalk one up for me being right.
The water seemed to fill most of what would have been the streets in a normal city. I’d seen pictures of Venice, the one in Italy not the one just outside of Sarasota where we live, and that’s what this reminded me of.
“We’ll never get through here,” I told them. They both nodded in agreement and we made our way back out the way we came.
Once we got back out from under the wall, Nicky said, “That was a huge waste of time,” as he stood ringing water out of his shirt.
“At least we know the irrigation ditches do have grates,” I told them rubbing it in just a little that I was right.
“Doesn’t it seem like it would take more water going into the city than this to keep the streets full?” Nicky then asked. “This isn’t very much water.”
I hadn’t thought about it while we were in the water pipe or whatever you would call it, but Nicky was right. The amount of water going in didn’t seem like enough to provide the people with enough water to live on let alone keep the streets flooded.
“Maybe it’s a seasonal thing,” I suggested since clearly they had plenty of water.
We continued to walk around the edge of the wall for what seemed like an hour, and we still had not made it back to our original spot. In fact, I didn’t even think we had made it half way around. This place was huge.
“What’s that sound,” Tommy whispered, as he grabbed my hand.
“I don’t hear…” I had started to say when suddenly I did hear something.
“It sounds like crying,” Nicky whispered back. “Let’s keep going, but be careful.”
We walked several more minutes, and the crying got louder and louder. Eventually it was so loud that it was actually painful to hear, but we had no way to muffle it. Nicky was the first to actually notice the person, or thing, that was crying. He was sitting outside of the city walls on what to us appeared to be a huge boulder. Funny thing was he still had his feet on the ground.
“Look how big he is,” I whispered.
“Do you think that’s him,” Tommy asked now squeezing the crap out of my hand.
“Maybe,” Nicky said just as he stopped in his tracks. “Before we get any closer, what are we going to do?”
“Maybe we can sneak up behind the boulder and call out his name. See if he responds,” I suggested.
“Then what if he does?” Nicky continued.
“Well you’re the one that seems to think he would accept us because he’s a demigod,” I reminded him.
“That was before I saw how huge he is,” Nicky replied. I could hear in his voice how scared he was.
“Should we just walk out there and talk to him,” I said wondering what difference it would make sneaking up on him. He was clearly upset and scaring him might just piss him off.
“Okay, let’s go then,” Nicky said taking my hand. “Tommy you stay back a little, just to be safe.”
I thought it was sweet that Nicky was worried about my little brother. Tommy is kind of like a little brother to him too, but usually he just picks on him like a big brother would. Tommy nodded that he understood.
We got most of the way to the giant before he ever noticed us. Of course it helped that he had his head hung and was still bawling. When he did see us, I thought he was going to fall off of that boulder.
“What are you?” the giant bellowed. His voice was so loud I swear I felt my brain vibrating inside my skull.
“Lord Gilgamesh?” Nicky asked trying not to sound scared but failing at it. I couldn’t blame him, though. Gilgamesh could have easily lifted one foot and put it back down on top of us, and we would have been a greasy spot there in the sand.
“What are you?” he bellowed again even louder this time, if that’s even possible.
“We’re kids from the future,” I finally said wondering how we were actually communicating, since I knew we didn’t know Sumerian, and I doubted he spoke English, since it wouldn’t be developed for a few thousand more years.
“You are spirits come to torment me more,” he said looking at us suspiciously.
“No, my Lord,” Nicky said, “We are here to help you.”
“You are not real. Look at your skin. You are spirits sent by Ereshkigal,” he insisted reaching for the torch that stood next to him providing his light.
“Who’s Ereshkigal?” Nicky whispered.
“This is really bad Nicky,” I said starting to panic as Gilgamesh pointed the fire end of the torch at us. I really thought we were going to get locked up at best or stepped on at worst. It was at this point, I guess, that the light made Tommy visible to the giant. Gilgamesh’s eyes widened, as he appeared to be trying to decide if his eyes were playing tricks on him.
“You, you look real,” the giant told Tommy. “You come forward.”
I knew Tommy would be scared, but I guess he figured out that only he would be able to save us. He stepped forward now standing between Nicky and me.
“My Lord,” he said trying to sound brave.
“Are you with these spirits?” Gilgamesh asked my brother.
“Yes, my Lord, they are with me, but they are not spirits. They are not here to hurt you. We want to help,” Tommy told him.
“Help me with what?” Gilgamesh asked.
“Why are you crying?” Tommy asked. “Where is Enkidu?”
“How do you know of Enkidu?” Gilgamesh asked as he stood. At this point, I thought we might be in danger again, but the giant just stood waiting for Tommy to answer his question.
“I know he is your best friend, your brother,” Tommy told him.
Gilgamesh sat back down on the boulder, and for a moment I didn’t think he was going to answer. “My friend Enkidu is dead. Punished for my own deeds,” he told Tommy.
“My Lord you must not blame yourself,” Tommy told him. “You went on the journey together didn’t you?”
I was really proud of my little brother at that moment. He really had understood what he was reading, and now he was saving our butts with it.
“I must bury my brother. It has been six days, but I cannot find the words to say goodbye,” the king told Tommy.
“He probably doesn’t need any words. I’m sure he knew how you felt about him,” my brother told him.
“Because of me he will now suffer in the afterlife for all eternity with little time above to relish,” Gilgamesh told us.
“You don’t have Heaven?” I asked him.
“I know not of this Heaven you speak, not for people,” he replied to me.
“Heaven is like paradise for good people after they die,” I explained to him.
“Anu, Enlil, and Enki do not believe there is enough good in people for them to ever obtain this Heaven of which you speak. Only the immortal gods may dwell in Cedar Forest,” Gilgamesh explained.
“That sucks,” Nicky told the king. I was suddenly glad God decided to explain it differently to Abraham.
“Is that why you went to Cedar Forest?” Tommy asked which was a really unexpected question. All of a sudden it seemed that my little brother had become a psychologist. I knew what they were like because my mom took me to see one after my dad completely stopped communicating with me. He always asked a bunch of questions instead of giving me answers like a real doctor.
“I was angry. I do not want to die and spend eternity in the Netherworld. I want to live forever. I never want to be forgotten,” Gilgamesh told us.
“Forever is a really long time,” Nicky pointed out the king. “You might want to consider what you ask for.”
“Maybe we can help you,” Tommy offered. “But you must protect us. My friends do not look like everyone else. Even you were afraid of them at first. If you promise to help us, we promise to help you.”
“I know not how you can help me, but I will protect you. You have been kind. You have listened and said kind things about Enkidu,” he agreed. “Now I must prepare for the funeral.” Gilgamesh took his torch in his hand and stood. “Come with me but stay close,” he told us.
As we started to walk along behind King Gilgamesh, I hugged my little brother. Who would have thought he would be saving our lives just because his skin was a little darker than ours.
We entered the city staying as close of King Gilgamesh, as we could. We got plenty of stares from the villagers on the streets and the men in the canals controlling the boats. Since we were with the King, no one said anything to us, but we heard murmurs behind cupped hands as we passed.
“What has he brought back now?” one old woman said loud enough for us to hear, though I doubt the king heard her.
He led us to the palace then gave orders for someone to bring us food. I hadn’t thought of food in a couple of hours, which was strange since none of us had eaten since breakfast. I guess we were running on fear and excitement. King Gilgamesh left us alone to eat, and while it was not food I would want to eat if I had a menu of choices in front of me, I ate it all. When you don’t know when, where, or if your next meal is going to come, you’re less picky. Nicky and Tommy ate everything, as well, while Tommy filled us in on more of what he had read in the book.
After we finished eating, the guard, at least we assumed he was a guard, led us to another room. There were a few people around. Everyone was looking very sad, and it didn’t take us long to figure out why. In the center of the room, a bed sat on a raised pedestal with an unusual looking man, I use that terms loosely, lying on it. He was dressed more like a king than the king himself, but he also looked like what I would expect a caveman to look like. Not Fred Flintstone but Conan the Barbarian with a lot more hair. It was clear that the man on the bed was dead.
“Enkidu,” Tommy whispered to me and Nicky.
From what Tommy told us, after it got too dark to keep reading and then as we were eating, Enkidu was not from Uruk. He was a wild man that had been sent, by the gods, to become a companion, BFFs if you will, with Gilgamesh, so the king would stop being mean to his people. Tommy told us the king was sleeping with all the women, especially brides on their wedding night, and forcing the men to work all day seven days a week. Over dinner I decided that maybe I’d better take over the reading. The book seemed tame, but now I was beginning to wonder. Anyway, he told us that the gods’ plan worked. The two of them got into a fight and beat the crap out of each other, but when it ended in a stalemate, Enkidu and Gilgamesh became closer then brothers. Tommy told us a little about their adventures and how the people of the city came to think of Enkidu as a hero. We decided that we should show our respects to the dead.
The only funeral I had ever been to was my grandfather’s and I was really little, like kindergarten. I wondered if Tommy would be scared, since he was too little to remember even that one. I guess from what he had read already, he was sad Enkidu was dead. I saw tears streaming down his cheeks, as we knelt beside the bed. I said a prayer to God, and whatever other gods Enkidu believed in, that King Gilgamesh was wrong and Enkidu would get to go to Heaven. After a couple of minutes, we stood, went to a corner of the room and waited for the king to do something else with us.
Eventually everyone else in the room left. We were alone with King Gilgamesh and Enkidu’s dead body. The king came to our corner and sat down on a window ledge. When the he didn’t speak for some time, Nicky asked, “Lord Gilgamesh may we hear what happened?”
I didn’t think he was going to tell us, but eventually he started to speak softly.
“Enkidu came into my life at a time when my people were starting to turn against me,” he started. “I must admit now that some of my actions were not very royal. On the other hand,” he said with a slight smile, “Maybe they were a little to royal.”
My being a girl, I thought the king was cuter than any Hollywood actor when he smiled. I suddenly wondered why he had to stoop to sleeping with girls on their wedding nights. He was so cute that I would have thought a lot of girls would want to be with him.
“Enkidu made me see the error of some of my ways. He made me want to be a better king, a better man. When my city was about to be attacked by King Aga of Kish, we devised a plan that would send the bravest warriors of Kish fleeing for their lives. We ended the attack before it even got started. This brought both of us the love of the people.”
“If you had already turned things around with your people, why did you go to Cedar Forest,” Tommy asked.
“We decided that we would go on a quest. We would do something no other men had ever done. We would do something that would make us legends and live forever. We decided to go to the Cedar Forest and slay Humbaba.”
“The beast that guarded the place?” Tommy asks curiously.
“That would be the one,” the king said.
“What is Cedar Forest?” I asked. I could tell the king was actually feeling a little less sad as he relived his adventure with his great friend.
“That is where our gods live here on Earth,” he explained. “For thousands of years Humbaba lived in the ancient forest keeping man out. It is a most beautiful place. We had a little help from the gods in our effort to slay the beast, but still it was not easy. Once we completed the task, however, we did something that angered those very same gods. We cut down some of the trees in the ancient forest.”
“What happened then,” Nicky asked.
“We returned here to Uruk. Oh, my people were happy. They welcomed us as returning heroes. We had slain the feared Humbaba and brought his head back with us. Then I was offered a reward I did not wish to have. The goddess Inanna offered to bed me, to become my wife.”
“You turned down a goddess?” Nicky asked, and I could tell by the look on his face that he was wishing he could get an offer like that. Of course, Nicky would probably settle for any girl’s offer to take his virginity, even me, but that wasn’t going to happen in a million years.
“Inanna is the goddess of love, war and sex,” he told us.
“So she should be really good at it,” Nicky said with a grin.
“I would assume so, little man,” the king told him grinning back. “I’ll be the first to admit that I enjoy sex, a lot of sex.”
Maybe the king could read the look on my face as I looked at my little brother, because he didn’t go any farther with that thought.
“Why she took up in my city I may never understand, but she is here, and so are her prostitutes. That temple over there,” he continued and pointed out of the window to the one atop a huge ziggurat we noticed walking through the city on our way into the palace. “That is hers. She offers her hookers there to anyone who can pay, but being with the goddess herself carries a much heavier price. Good fortune has never come to any man that has bedded her. Most soon meet a terrible fate.”
“I guess she wasn’t too happy that you turned her down,” I said thinking of that expression my mom told me. “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.”
“That would be an apt statement my fair maiden,” the king said to me. “Anyway, Inanna is a spoiled rotten child. It is regretful that her father, the great god Anu, has yet to tell her no. He allowed her to unleash the Bull of Heaven on my city. The destruction you noticed when you entered was caused by the creature. It was killing my people, drinking all of our water, eating all of the beasts in the forest, and I had brought this on my people. I prayed to the gods to return the beast to its rightful place, away from Uruk, but they did not honor my cries.”
“Were they upset about the trees?” Tommy asked, and I was surprised at how closely he was following every word the king spoke. He was sitting cross-legged with his elbows on his knees and his chin on his hands waiting to hear more.
“I am sure they did not explain to me why, but that would be a wise assumption.”
Tommy got a huge grin on his face then looked at Nicky as if to say, call me stupid.
“I had to do something to save my city, my people. Enkidu and I had to slay the Bull. I was dreadfully sorry for that. Of course, this only made Inanna more irate. She walked the wall day and night screaming and cursing. She cursed Enkidu, the people, me. Enkidu could ignore her hatefulness toward himself and the people, but my dearest friend took offense to the vile rhetoric she hurled at me. He threw a hindquarter of the Bull at her. She was nearly knocked off her perch. He was an incredible shot,” the king said with a smile of remembrance. “That is when his dreams started. I had dreams during our quest. Dreams that my dear friend assured me were good omens, but now Enkidu was the one having dreams. They were of his death. Not so much in how he would die, only that he would very soon. I sought council with the gods. Only Utu, the god of the sun, would explain. I assume he did this as a favor to my mother, she being one of his followers. It was he that assisted Enkidu and me in our defeat of Humbaba. He spoke on our behalf when Inanna used her hate to turn the gods against us. Despite his best efforts, there was nothing he could do. He was not alone in standing for us, but Inanna had turned more against. The gods decided that we were to be punished for invading the Cedar Forest, killing Humbaba, cutting down trees from the virgin forest, killing the Bull of Heaven.”
“But you didn’t have a choice. I mean with the Bull,” Tommy cried.
“We set the wheel in motion, son,” King Gilgamesh said sadly.
“The gods decided that Inanna’s sister Ereshkigal, the goddess of the Underworld, would take Enkidu and punish him for what we had done. I prayed they take me instead, but they would not hear of it. I was more god than man, and I was a king. I believe they knew that inside they were killing me as well for I cannot find the will to carry on without my friend.”
“But you have to, King Gilgamesh,” I told him suddenly afraid he was going to kill himself.
“Tomorrow I will bury my friend then we shall see. The hour is late. We shall all retire,” he told us, and with that story time was over, at least for tonight.
We were taken to a sleeping quarter with two large beds. Tommy and I climbed into one and Nicky took the other. I was laying there thinking about how sad it was that all of this had happened to King Gilgamesh. I wished we could have gotten here before Enkidu had died. I would have liked to have met him. I had started feeling a little bad for not wanting to do a report on Gilgamesh, when Nicky called over from the other bed.
“Dani,” he said softly.
“Yeah,” I answered.
“I’m really glad we came here.”
“Me too,” I told him honestly. “I’m glad we got King Gilgamesh for our project.”
“Goodnight Dani, Tommy,” he told us.
“Goodnight Nicky,” Tommy replied for both of us then we all fell asleep.
I was woken the next morning by someone I took to be a palace servant. “Come, you must get ready,” she said softly.
I immediately noticed that Nicky and Tommy were no longer in the room. “Where are my brother and my friend?” I asked a little concerned.
“They are getting bathed,” the servant told me.
We’d been treated well since King Gilgamesh brought us into the city, so I decided that I would trust his staff. I was taken to a fountain to bathe then she gave me a beautiful gown to wear. It was light blue and shimmery. I didn’t think it was satin, but it was just as soothing to my skin. It reminded me of something a Greek goddess might wear except that when I looked in a mirror, it was so thin I could almost see right through it. I asked about undergarments, but apparently the Sumerians didn’t grasp the concept. She gave me some golden sandals that were a perfect fit, braided my hair then led me to another room.
I was happy to see Tommy and Nicky waiting for me. As the servant had said, they were freshly bathed too. Both of them were in tunics that could have been made from the same material as my dress. They were also both wearing a kilt. Normally I would have given them a hard time about wearing a skirt, but since the king had been wearing one the night before and looked extremely manly in it, I decided not to say anything.
Tommy came over to me and whispered, “I’m not wearing any underwear.”
“Neither am I,” I whispered back. “Just watch how you sit.”
Just after I arrived in the room, an older woman entered. She was beautiful and regal looking. She was dressed just like me. She walked straight to me and took one of my arms placing a bracelet around my bicep then repeated the act with my other arm. When she finished, I thanked her and bowed. I didn’t know who she was, but I figured that since we were now dressed just alike that she must not be a servant.
“I am Ninsun,” the woman now told us.
“King Gilgamesh’s mom?” Tommy asked surprised.
“Yes,” she replied a little surprised as well. “You are guests in my son’s home. I will see to it that you get anything you need. You are now dressed in royal garments. I trust that you will carry yourselves in a royal manner,” she continued with a warm smile.
“Yes ma’am,” we all said in unison.
“Come, we shall nourish our bodies then attend to Enkidu’s burial,” she said then led us to breakfast.
We had hoped to see King Gilgamesh at breakfast, but I guess he didn’t feel much like eating. I couldn’t blame him any. I wouldn’t have been eating if I, god forbid, were going to Nicky’s funeral. This meal was a little more to my liking than dinner had been the night before. There were a lot of fruits, grapes, sliced apples, and melons, some type of bread that was a little dry but with some honey it wasn’t bad. We drank milk that didn’t taste like what we were used to, but it was cold. There were eggs, though somehow I doubt they were from chickens, Tommy really liked the slices of pork.
Lady Ninsun hardly ate. As thin as she was, I figured that must be normal for her. I was just cleaning my plate when the king entered the dining room.
“We must see to the burial,” he said then exited just as quickly as he came in.
Tommy was the first to go after him. By the time Ninsun, Nicky and I caught up to them, Tommy was actually walking beside the king. Without a word between us, I guess we all had the same idea. We stayed back just a bit and let the two of them walk alone.
They led us outside of the city walls, which wasn’t a big surprise. What I wasn’t expecting was going to the river; at least it used to be the river. It was now empty of water, as an earthen dam had been built to stop the flow. It suddenly occurred to me that this dam must have been why there wasn’t much water going through to the city the day before.
“I don’t understand,” Nicky whispered to me, as we walked across the stones that had been placed in the mud.
“Let’s just go with it,” I whispered back. I was shocked when I saw there was a hole, a grave, dug in the middle of the riverbed. Several of the men from the city soon carried Enkidu out to where we stood. King Gilgamesh had the men stop and hold Enkidu to the sky.
“O mighty Anu,” he started with his hands lifted toward the sky. “I call upon you to hear my prayer. Allow my friend, Enkidu, into the Heaven of the Gods. He is a worthy soul. Goddess Ereshkigal, keeper of Kigal, the sacred underworld, we place our fallen hero into your hands. We place your body my friend Enkidu into the keep of Tiamat and Enki. May the earth and river protect you for eternity.” The king then gave a signal and Enkidu’s body was lowered in the grave. The men then placed several objects into the grave with him. I thought maybe they were Enkidu’s belongings, but they looked very expensive for a wild man.
Even though we had never met Enkidu, Nicky and I were both crying. Tommy was all out sobbing. It was Lady Ninsun that put her arms around him.
“Everyone must die,” she said softly. “Enkidu was a brave and noble warrior. He will live on in our hearts and in our thoughts.” She then took her son’s hand in hers. He gave her a silent nod, and she led Tommy back to the shore. Nicky and I stood silently by King Gilgamesh with tears streaming down our faces. I noticed that the king was also crying and made no effort to try and hide it.
Once we returned to the shore, the men started filling the grave. We watched for only a few minutes then the king led us back to the palace. Along the way, the people of the city bowed to him, but it seemed more a sign of sympathy for his lost friend than anything else. As we approached the palace steps, a woman appeared before us bowing to the king.
“My king,” she said then waited. I guess she needed permission to speak.
“It is done Shamhat,” the king told her.
“I truly loved him my Lord,” she told the king still not raising her head.
“Then leave Inanna’s temple. Renounce your evil goddess and live among the people of this city who also loved Enkidu as you say you do,” he said.
I didn’t understand exactly what was going on, but Tommy had told us that Enkidu was civilized by one of Inanna’s prostitutes. I was guessing this was her.
“It will be done, my Lord,” she told him then crawled out of our way and waited for us to pass. I glanced over my shoulder as we went up the steps and watched her stumble off into the crowd. I noticed Nicky was watching too, though I was betting it was for a different reason. She turned back to look in our direction just before she melted into the crowed, and that’s when I saw that one of her eyes was gone. It looked like whatever happened to it must have happened recently as it was all bruised around the empty socket. A shiver went through my body then she disappeared.
I was still worried that King Gilgamesh might try to commit suicide, so I was glad when he stayed with us after we entered the palace. He sat down and was quiet for several minutes. We all decided to sit as well, being mindful of our lack of undergarments. The floor was made of stone. I wasn’t sure if it was marble, but it was just as cold on my butt. I noticed Nicky trying to shift his kilt around so he was sitting on it, but he wasn’t having much luck.
I was starting to wonder if the king was waiting for one of us to speak when he finally said something. “You said you could help me. You have known many things that only a citizen of Uruk could, yet you are not from here. This future you spoke of, when you first appeared before me, tell me what it holds for I certainly do not know.”
“We cannot tell you the future my Lord,” Nicky said softly. “What it holds is not known to us exactly.”
“We can tell you that you will go on another quest,” Tommy continued. They were working like a well oiled machine. I was beginning to wonder if they had planned this conversation while they were bathing.
“Another quest,” the king said like he really wasn’t looking forward to that. “I cannot undertake a quest without Enkidu. He is the one that gave me the courage and strength to do…” he trailed off not finishing his thought.
“You are the mighty King Gilgamesh of Uruk. You built these walls around your great city. You have turned the fear of your people into respect. You befriended Enkidu when all others were afraid. You can do anything,” I told him.
“We’ll go with you,” Tommy now told him excitedly.
I shot him a look that said; we can’t go with him. Are you crazy? That’s when the king stood.
“Then we must prepare,” he said. “We will leave today.”
“No my son,” Lady Ninsun said walking to Gilgamesh. “You have suffered a great loss. You need time to grieve. You should not leave your city, your people in their time of need.”
“I cannot lead these people when I am lost myself,” he told her softly. “You will be in control while I am gone.”
“I beg you not to do this,” she cried to him, but his mind was made up. We were going on a quest with King Gilgamesh, and I only hoped that we weren’t going to screw it up for him.
It’s not like we had much, Nicky, Tommy, and me, that we could prepare for the impending quest with the king, but we went back to our room to change out of our funeral clothes. We did find that our normal clothes, the ones we time traveled in had been laundered and were sitting on our beds. I for one was glad to have my underwear back. We all decided to put our clothes on underneath the peasant clothes we were given for the quest. The king wanted us to blend in with the time period, and it was a good idea. After lunch, we were each given a pack containing food and weird looking bags that contained fresh water for drinking. King Gilgamesh appeared a few minutes later and announced that he had decided what he needed to do on this quest.
He told us of a man who was born mortal and was bestowed the gift of immortality by the gods. As far as he knew, this had only ever happened one time. The king intended to seek this man out and determine the secret. He explained that he wanted to live forever and keep the memory of his heroic acts with Enkidu alive in the minds of men forever. I wanted to point out that we wouldn’t even be here if he wasn’t still a legend thousands of years later, but I decided that maybe it was the two quests combined that made that happen, so I kept my mouth shut.
Nicky asked what this other man did that pleased the gods enough to be given immortality. It was a fair question. The king then explained that there was a great flood. The gods had become displeased with mankind and decided to wipeout civilization and start over. This one man, along with members of his family, was chosen to build a boat, collect animals, and ride out the storm. The question was obvious, but of course it was my brother Tommy that asked it.
“You mean we’re looking for Noah?” he said.
“I know not of this Noah,” the king said. “Utnapishtim is the man we seek.”
“Do you know where he is?” Nicky asked.
“Not exactly,” the king answered. “But he is rumored to live near the end of the earth.”
“But there is no…” Tommy started to say when I stopped him. I remembered that it wasn’t until around the time of Christopher Columbus that people started to believe the world was round and not flat. Of course King Gilgamesh would think there was an end, and I guess we were going to help him find it. Later on, when we were alone, I explained to Tommy why I didn’t let him tell the king the world was actually round. He thought it was dumb to think it was flat, but he agreed it would have been bad to tell him.
I was beginning to wonder just how long it would take to get to the end of the world, especially when we didn’t know where it was at. I started wondering then what my mom and Nicky’s dad were doing back home. I was sure they were devastated. The bad part is I was actually starting to have a good time here with the king and didn’t really care how long it would take us, as long as we would eventually get back home.
When we set out into the wilderness that evening, the king actually gave us weapons. He also told us that he would protect us and the spears were for just in case. Nicky and Tommy of course thought this was the coolest thing in the world and were ready to hunt big game. Me, I was ready to stick as close to King Gilgamesh as I possibly could. Heck, I would have been happy if he had offered to carry me on his back, but that didn’t happen.
We made pretty good time for three kids and a giant demigod. I’m sure we were slowing the king down, but he didn’t seem to mind all that much. When we made camp that first night, he told us he was glad we were with him. I don’t know if our being there took his mind off of things or forced him to be brave for our benefit, but I thought I even saw a smile for a brief second when Tommy accidentally ripped a big fart during dinner. I could tell he was still sad about losing his friend. Despite giving him a proper burial and providing tokens for the gods, as part of his grave, I know he was still worried about Enkidu’s afterlife. He seemed to be accepting the fact that nothing was going to bring his friend back, and I wasn’t worried so much about him killing himself now.
After dinner, the king put Nicky and me in charge of staying at camp and making sure no animals came along to take our supplies while he and Tommy scouted around to make sure we were in a good place to get some sleep. When they came back and told us they had seen three lions about halfway down the other side of the mountain we were on, I was too scared to sleep even though I was dead tired. Okay maybe that was a poor choice of words. Anyway, King Gilgamesh told me not to worry. He was sure the moon god would protect us, but that didn’t stop me from saying my own prayer to God just to be on the safe side. Even still it took me a long time to fall asleep. I was sure the lions were about to pounce on us with every noise I heard.
Sometime in the middle of the night, I woke to yelling that sounded like a battle cry. Of course I thought we were under attack, but that wasn’t it. Tommy and Nicky were out of their bedding, lying on their bellies, as they watched over the crest of the hill.
“What’s happening?” I asked.
“Shhh,” Nicky said glancing back at me and motioning for me to stay down.
At first I was tangled up in my bed, but once I finally made it out, I crawled over and joined them. I had to rub my eyes a few times because I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. King Gilgamesh had his spear in one hand using it to hold back one lion while he had a second lion in a choke hold. The third lion was nowhere to be seen. The lion he was holding was thrashing its body in a desperate attempt to get free, but it was clear that wasn’t going to happen. After what seemed like forever, the lion went limp, and Gilgamesh whipped its body around. I could hear the neck snapping from where we watched. When the first lion’s body hit the ground, the second lion charged. The thought that popped into my head was, dummy you should have attacked while the king was busy killing your friend, but even then I didn’t think it would make a difference. The spear sailed into the lion in an instant. The beast screamed out in pain and jumped to try and dislodge the weapon from its side. It didn’t work, and the next thing we knew, the king was over the second lion. He pulled the spear out, which I figured had to hurt more than it did going in. The lion raised his head to bite at its attacker. It never got the chance. Gilgamesh brought the spear back down in a quick jab that went through the lion’s jaw and out through the opposite ear.
It was at that moment I realized where the third lion had gone. It had circled around camp and was now standing behind the three of us ready to attack. If there hadn’t been three of us, which I figure required the animal to take a second to make a decision on which of us to kill first, I think the king would have been continuing the quest alone after burying three more companions. Since the lion did hesitate, while we screamed our heads off, there was just enough time for Gilgamesh to charge back up the hill, hurdle over our heads, and throw the spear at his third victim. The spear landed in the lion’s hindquarters, which made it really, really mad. It sprang at the king, and for a second I thought it had managed to grab his throat with its mighty jaws. The king’s back was to us, and the lion was hanging off of the ground, what would you have thought? But Gilgamesh eventually turned to face us. I screamed, or was that Nicky who was sitting next to me, somebody screamed anyway. It was more in amazement at this point. The king had the lion with its top jaw in one hand and its bottom jaw in the other. He was prying the lion’s head apart from the nose back. Bones were snapping as he went. Maybe the grossest part is that the lion was still alive while its head was being split in two.
When the lion finally dropped to the ground, Tommy and Nicky jumped up and ran to King Gilgamesh.
“That was awesome,” Tommy yelled. The king stood for a few seconds collecting his breath then he ruffled Tommy’s hair.
“What happened?” Nicky asked.
“I was visited in my dream by Nanna,” Gilgamesh said. “The moon god I prayed to before sleep. He warned me that the lions were on the attack.”
“You killed them with your bare hands,” Tommy said utterly impressed by the performance.
“I had to protect you,” the king said then led the boys back over to where I was crouching. “Dani,” he said softly kneeling in front of me. “It’s over.”
I started shaking. I knew we were safe now, but what we just saw was more than I could comprehend, more than I could accept. Before I realized I was losing it, I was sobbing. I never expected King Gilgamesh to pick me up and hold me in his arms, but that is what he did. Besides Nicky’s dad kissing my knee when I scraped it in the backyard a few years ago, that was a first time a man had comforted me since I was really little. It felt…nice. He actually held me until I cried myself back to sleep.
When I woke again, the sun was peeking its dewy head over the top of the mountain. Nicky was eating breakfast and Tommy was helping Gilgamesh skin the lions. When Nicky noticed I was awake, he scooted over to me and offered me a piece of his bread. I sat up and took it from his hand.
“You alright?” he asks softly.
I said, “Yes,” but I guess my expression must have been saying something else because he put his arm around my shoulder and kissed my forehead. Nicky had never kissed me before, ever, not even when we were little kids. It made me feel almost as good as when King Gilgamesh was holding me.
We didn’t immediately break camp that morning like we had planned the night before because the king wanted to take the lion skins with us. He probably could have skinned them faster, but he was taking the time to show Tommy how to do it and let him help. As I sat watching the two of them, two thoughts came into my head. The first was that Gilgamesh would make a really good dad. The second was that Tommy finally had a father.
The king eventually sent Nicky and me to a fresh water spring he had spotted, while he and Tommy scouted the area the night before, to refill our water. He and Tommy finished their work with the lions. When we got back, I made two horrifying discoveries. My little brother was wearing a lion skin, and my mom was going to kill me if the stink didn’t wash off. The other discovery occurred when the king asked if we got all the bladders full of water.
“Bladders?” I asked curiously.
“Our water containers,” he said. “They are called bladders.”
“That’s a strange name,” I replied curiously. “In our time, a bladder is an organ in your body that holds pee.”
“Yes,” he said with a smile.
“What?” I replied hoping I was misunderstanding him.
“That’s what the goats used them for first.” That’s when I dropped the one I still had in my hand. “Be careful,” the king told me. “They are quite strong but they can bust.”
“That’s it, I’m not drinking anything else for the rest of this trip,” I said trying to make sure I didn’t puke.
“Yeah, right,” Tommy said with a grin.
The king offered Nicky and me part of the skin from the lions before we set out again, but I politely declined. The smell was going to be bad enough with Tommy and Gilgamesh walking around with those things on. I didn’t need to actually have any touching me. Nicky decided he’d pass as well, but I think he did it because he thought the two of them looked ridiculous.
The hike that day was really long and difficult, mostly because it was all mountains. It didn’t help that no one had tried to cross these mountains before, at least not in a really, really long time. There were no trails. We were battling fallen logs, overgrown thickets, and lots and lots of bugs. More than once, Gilgamesh had to pick each of us up and set us down on the other side of boulders or brush. I was even surer that we were slowing him down today, but he seemed to be enjoying telling us stories. He told us about his father, King Lugalbanda, and how before he was the king of Uruk he rescued a baby anzud bird. He explained that this creature had a head of a lion and the body of an eagle, which I had a really hard time trying to picture. For his efforts, the momma anzud gave his father lightning speed. Tommy wanted to know if he inherited that. He explained that unfortunately he did not. He told us that his father went on to use that speed to help King Enmerkar conquer the city of Aratta. When I asked him how it was that he was a demigod, he happily explained that his dad was a demigod in addition to being king of Uruk for 1200 years. He also told us his mother was a full goddess. She is the daughter of Anu, the god of the sky, and Uras, the goddess of the earth. Sounded a lot like Titans to me, but I didn’t tell King Gilgamesh that. He seemed to be really proud of his parents. It seemed to me like he had every right to be. The king asked about our parents. Of course, we didn’t have any gods to boast about, but that didn’t bother him any. He seemed to think we were worthy companions for this quest.
We camped that night without any unwanted visitors like the night before. Gilgamesh said it was because the smell of the lion skins scared everything away.
When I said, “At least we’re getting some benefit from having to endure the smell,” he laughed heartily.
He had an amazing smile and it seemed to me that the closer we got to the end of the world, the more we were getting to see it. After dinner that night, Tommy and Gilgamesh put their bedding close to each other, away from Nicky and me, so we wouldn’t have to smell them all night. I could still hear them talking softly.
“King,” Tommy asked, “how old where you when your dad died?”
“I was close to your age I would guess,” Gilgamesh told him. “I was not yet old enough to rule. That is why King Dumuzi ruled for 100 years between the time of my father’s rule and mine.”
“How old are you?” Tommy asked shocked.
“I do not know for certain,” the king said. “It is hard to explain things such as time.”
“I hope you do get to be immortal,” I heard Tommy tell him.
“Why is that?” Gilgamesh asked.
“So you’ll still be around when we get back home. Do you think you’ll remember me?” Tommy asked.
“I will make certain I do,” Gilgamesh told him.
I couldn’t help but get tears in my eyes listening to the two of them. I wondered if my mom realized how much Tommy missed not knowing his dad. Suddenly I hoped Gilgamesh would be around to remember me too.
Shortly after we broke camp the next morning, we approached the tallest mountain yet.
“Oh no!” Nicky said. I could tell he was getting tired, and this would now be the hardest climb yet.
“Mount Mashu,” Gilgamesh told us, as if the thing were legend. As it turned out, I guess it was. He explained that this mountain was at the edge of the water where the two great rivers met, the Tigris and the Euphrates. It is where the sun rises and sets every day. He told us that his mother had spoken of a tunnel that man was forbidden to enter that went through the mountain. He insisted that we would be the first to make it through, but that the guards could not know we were with him or they would never allow even him to try.
“You’re sure,” I asked. “That they will let you try?”
“They must for it is the only way,” the king said. “I will make them see.”
“How are we supposed to get past them once they let you in?” Nicky asked totally confident that King Gilgamesh would talk them into letting him try it.
“The lion skins,” he said, as if a brilliant idea had just come to him. “We shall fashion them into a bag, and I will carry you past the guards.” And here I thought for sure I was going to escape the horror of having to touch those things.
It was really kind of skillful the way he made the skins into a sack. He made small holes around the edges of the skins and used vines like thread to string them together. We were able to get some air, but it still stank to high heaven. We waited until we saw the guards before we had to get inside. The hardest part was going to be keeping still so the guards would not become suspicious.
“Oh my god, they’re giant scorpions,” I shrieked when we saw them.
“Not so loud, do you want them to hear us,” Nicky whispered poking me in the side.
The king then quietly got us to climb into the lion skin bag. Nicky was at the bottom, I was sort of sitting on his legs, and Tommy was on top of me.
“Don’t fart,” I whispered to Tommy. He giggled.
“You either,” Nicky told me.
Gilgamesh gently slung the bag over his shoulder then strode casually down to the scorpions.
“You there,” the bigger of the two scorpions called out to the king.
“He’s part god,” the smaller female sounding one of the two said, but it was clear she was talking to her partner and not Gilgamesh.
“I wish to enter. Open the gate,” the king said sounding like it was no big deal, and they would just step aside for him.
“This is not a place for mortal man,” the male scorpion announced.
“As your friend just said, I am no mere mortal. I am Gilgamesh son of King Lugalbanda of Uruk and Lady Ninsun. I am more god than man,” he told them proudly.
“But part man you still are,” the female insisted.
“Not so much for you to worry,” he continued.
“Why do you wish to travel here?” the male asked.
“I seek Utnapishtim,” the king explained.
“There is not light for twelve leagues you will go mad traveling through,” the female scorpion told him.
“Madness has driven me this far after the death of my friend Enkidu. Only talking to Utnapishtim can restore my well being,” Gilgamesh insisted.
The scorpions looked at each other then parted. The male then opened the gate to the tunnel. “Enter Gilgamesh, travel through Mount Mashu, and may the gods be with you.”
Gilgamesh shifted us on his back then walked into the darkness of the tunnel. He continued to carry us without sound until I guess he figured we were far enough inside to no longer be heard by the guards. When he sat the bag down, he helped each of us out and onto our feet.
“Wow they weren’t kidding about it being dark in here,” Nicky said.
“The tunnel is not wide,” the king said. “There is no way to stray from the path, but still we must remain together. Hold to the person in front of you. Tommy will be behind me.”
“Ow,” I head Tommy say, as something made a loud thump.
“Sorry,” Gilgamesh replied and then chuckled. “Do not let go,” he continued, and I figured Tommy must now have a hold of the king. “Now Dani take hold of your brother.”
“Is that you?” I asked reaching out and feeling something.
“No that’s me,” Nicky said.
“What about now?” I asked again.
“Don’t pull on my collar. Here,” Tommy said moving my hand. “Now that’s me.”
“Nicky, now you take hold of Dani,” the king said.
“Not my butt,” I said since that’s what he grabbed.
“My bad,” Nicky, said but he didn’t sound too sorry. “Better?”
“Yeah, just watch it,” I warned him since he had hold of the waistband of my shorts.
“I can’t watch it. It’s too dark,” he insisted.
“You know what I mean,” I told him.
“We must be off,” Gilgamesh said then started slowly walking forward.
We walked along is silence for some time before Nicky said, “So how long is twelve leagues anyway?”
“It is difficult to explain. It would not take me so long to travel being a giant, but it will be quite long for us,” the king told him.
“Sorry,” I said feeling bad about slowing him down again.
“I would have this journey no other way,” he replied.
More time passed then Tommy whispered, “King, I have to go pee.”
“We heard that,” Nicky said with a laugh.
“Why didn’t you go before we got in here?” I asked, and it sounded way too much like mom.
“I didn’t have to go then,” he insisted.
“We will have to stop for such things,” Gilgamesh said gently. Letting Tommy know it was okay that he asked.
“I might as well go too,” Nicky said and took his hand from my shorts. After a few seconds I could feel spray on my ankle.
“Hey!” I yelled, “You’re getting me.”
“I’m not trying to,” Nicky said, and I could hear the embarrassment in his voice. I heard his zipper a second later.
“How am I supposed to go,” I asked since the sound of everybody going was making me have to. Nicky suggested that I take my shorts off and squat, but not right next to him, so that’s what I did. It’s not like anybody could see me. Nicky was nice enough to hold my shorts and my hand while I did it though.
Once the ordeal of going to the bathroom was done and we were again holding on to each other in some manner, we took off walking. I guess to make small talk, King Gilgamesh said, “So Nicky and Dani, you are both close to the age of marriage.”
“What?” Nicky said, and I thought he was going to choke.
“In our time, we have a long way to go, sir,” I told Gilgamesh.
“Really,” he said surprised.
“At least five years,” I assured him.
“If you get married so young here,” Tommy now interrupted, “Where is your wife?”
“I have yet to marry,” Gilgamesh said.
“But you’re over a hundred, what are you waiting for?” Nicky asked.
“I wanted to establish myself, as a good king, first. Too much of my time is required for my people. I have little left for a wife,” he told us.
“Bull,” Nicky said. “I think you’re just scared.”
At first I couldn’t believe Nicky had just said that to the king. I was afraid Tommy would come sailing over my head and into by best friend, but Gilgamesh just laughed. “That may well be true my young friend. My mother certainly believes it. She has been nagging me for 50 years to find a queen.”
“I’m sure a lot of women in Uruk would love to be your wife,” I said. “I’ve seen how some of them look at you.”
“Not many have the stamina,” the king said.
“Proud of yourself there aren’t you,” Nicky said with a full out laugh.
“Well,” Gilgamesh said and laughed with him. The king’s laugh was so loud it bounced off the walls.
“I thought you used to… you know with all the women,” I asked not wanting to get too specific with Tommy right there.
“She means have sex,” Tommy said like the king couldn’t have figured that out for himself.
“I did, but this would be every night. The same woman,” Gilgamesh explained.
“Well you need to get busy. You want to have kids right?” Nicky asked, “Someone to eventually become king. I mean, just in case this quest…”
“I wish to have children regardless,” the king said letting Nicky know he wasn’t worried about this quest failing.
Again we walked along in silence for what seemed like forever, and it seemed to be getting even darker if that’s possible.
“It’s too quiet,” Tommy eventually said.
“We could always sing,” Nicky suggested.
“Or not,” I replied. I’ve heard Nicky’s singing.
“What shall we sing that we would all know?” Gilgamesh asked.
No one answered for several more steps then Nicky said, “I’ve got it.”
Unfortunately he decided to start singing instead of saying the song, so I could protest first. As soon as he started Tommy was right there with him, and it only took a couple of lines before the king was fully on board.
“A hundred bottles of beer on the wall, a hundred bottles of beer. Take one down, pass it around, ninety-nine bottles of bear on the wall.”
“Good god,” I said, and here I couldn’t even put my hands over my ears.
By seventy-two bottles of beer on the wall, I wanted to scream, but they only sang louder. By fifty-one bottles I was crying. Finally we decided to stop for something to eat. I prayed the last twenty-four bottles would get to stay on the damn wall.
We couldn’t fix anything in complete darkness. We basically ate anything we pulled from our food bags, and yes, I drank water. I was thirsty give me a break. We thought about napping before moving on, but we all pretty much decided that we would just as soon get out of the darkness first, even if it was going to be many more hours. Personally I was afraid that without light to wake me, I never would.
We walked and talked for several more hours before King Gilgamesh stopped. Since he forgot to warn us in advance that he was stopping, I slammed into Tommy and Nicky slammed into me. I didn’t fare too badly since I’m taller than Tommy, but Nicky busted his nose on the back of my head.
“Damn,” he said but never let go of my waistband.
“My bad,” the king said remembering Nicky’s line from earlier.
“Are you bleeding?” I asked concerned because he hit hard.
“Little,” he mumbled. “I’m fine.”
“I feel the North Wind,” Gilgamesh then told us.
“Does that mean we’re getting close,” Tommy asked anxiously.
“Closer,” the king said. “We must keep going. Are we ready? Does everyone have hold of their partner?”
“Ready,” Tommy told him.
“Us too,” I said since I could feel Nicky’s hand still on my shorts. The king started walking again and promised to tell us before stopping.
I think we were all ready to drop, except for Gilgamesh, of course, by the time the slightest amount of light started to filter into the tunnel. We had made it, but honestly I don’t think any of us would have if we had been alone. It took knowing we were in this together to get us all through.
We exited the cave and had to readjust ourselves to light, which wasn’t easy. Somehow we gained daylight coming through the tunnel, which Gilgamesh said was because this place was where Utu the sun god started and ended the day. We decided to make camp and get some sleep after finding something to eat even though the sun was still several hours from setting.
Tommy and Gilgamesh put their lion skins back on then went out to hunt for food while Nicky and I started a campfire on the shore. Once we had it going pretty good, we sat down on a blanket to wait.
“Your brother is like a different kid around the king,” Nicky said to me.
“Yeah, I noticed,” I agreed.
“Does that bother you?” he asked surprised.
“It’s been great for him being with King Gilgamesh, but what’s gonna happen when we get home. You and I both know the king isn’t going to get immortality, at least not the kind he’s hoping for. Not the kind that has him still alive after thousands of years,” I said sadly.
“Maybe your mom…” he started to say when I stopped him.
“She’ll never bring his dad into the picture and beside, he’s a stupid model. There’s no way in hell he’d ever compare to King Gilgamesh of Uruk. I mean who would.”
“Hey, you okay?” he asked. I guess he was sensing the anger in my voice.
“Fine,” I said wanting to leave it at that, but Nicky knows me better than anybody and knew I wasn’t fine.
“You’re mad at your dad,” he says putting his arm around my shoulders.
“Am I so bad,” I said trying not to cry.
“Dan you know it’s not you,” he said. “Your dad is just a selfish jerk. He has no excuse for dropping out of your life.”
“I thought I had gotten over him, but being here with King Gilgamesh… I realize my dad was never as great as he is, but he was at least something,” I said.
“My dad loves you,” he says softly.
“I’m being selfish now. I’m babbling on about my dad when your mom…”
“It’s not the same,” he says. “Your dad left you by choice because he’s stupid. My mom would have never wanted to go and leave me and dad. She’d be there for me if she could.”
“I’m sorry Nicky,” I said. “I never meant to bring all this up.”
“I’m your best friend. If we can’t talk to each other about this stuff, who can we talk too?” he said.
“Here they come,” I said noticing Tommy and Gilgamesh on their way toward us.
“Great, I wonder what weird things we’ll be eating tonight,” he said with a chuckle.
As it turned out, we were eating fish. They had gone spear fishing. Tommy insisted that he caught the biggest one, and of course the king backed him up on that. At any rate, it was pretty good. After eating, it didn’t take Tommy long to fall asleep. Just like the night before, he was right next to Gilgamesh. Nicky was the next to fall asleep. I guess I was still a little upset about what Nicky and I had talked about, so I sat watching the fire.
“You are worried,” the king said softly.
“Not about the quest,” I told him truthfully.
“No,” he agreed, “You are worried about your brother.”
“He loves you,” I said.
“And I him,” he replied.
“I know. It’s just that when we get home…” I stopped myself because I didn’t want to tell him that he wasn’t going to be around.
“Maybe his father,” the king suggested.
“It won’t happen,” I told him. “Mom doesn’t want his dad around.”
“It should be about what is best for him,” Gilgamesh said.
“I agree,” I said. “I’ve never met him. I guess she thinks it is best.”
“You could all stay here with me,” he told me softly.
“You would be an awesome dad, but it’s not our time,” I said trying not to hurt his feelings.
“You are right,” he said. “It would just be nice.”
I decided to lie down and close my eyes. It still took a little time, but I eventually fell asleep.
I don’t know how long I slept. It’s gotten really hard to keep track of time. When I woke, it was still dark outside. Not dark like it had been in the tunnel, I mean you could see. It’s just that the sun was not up yet. I guess Utu had not started his day. It was really peaceful there by the water. You could hear the sound of the water going by, not waves crashing like on the Gulf of Mexico, but lapping along the edge of the shore. When I first saw the woman, I thought it was my mind playing tricks on me. Except for lions and giant scorpion creatures, we hadn’t seen anyone since we left Uruk. I wasn’t sure what she was doing at first then I decided she was bathing. I didn’t mean to interrupt her or embarrass her, so I didn’t wake any of the guys. I quietly started walking toward the river, but I guess King Gilgamesh is a light sleeper. He called after me, which got her attention. When he saw her, he got up and started toward her. I can only imagine what she thought when she saw us. Here I was this dirty and smelly little white girl, being followed by a giant in lion skins. I would have run too.
She took off running inland. I called after her, telling her it was okay we wouldn’t hurt her, but she didn’t stop. She ran until she came to a cabin just a little way in from the shore line. Since he’s a giant and has much longer legs than I do, the king got to her first. She had already gotten inside and locked the door. Now he was pounding on the door for her to let us in, and she was screaming at the door for us to go away. I knew that the more Gilgamesh pounded on the door, the less likely she was to open it, so I finally got him to stop threatening to break it down and just talk.
“Why did you run from us?” he asked her.
“You look insane. You have hate, anger and blood in your face,” she called out to us.
“We’ve been traveling through the forests and over mountains,” he told her. “What do you expect us to look like. If this child is not afraid, why are you?”
“How do I know that you have not killed her family and taken her hostage,” the woman replied.
“He hasn’t. I swear,” I told her. “King Gilgamesh of Uruk…”
“You are Gilgamesh of Uruk?” she asked interrupting.
“Yes, son of King Lugalbanda and Lady Ninsun,” he answered. There was silence for many seconds then I heard the sound of the latch being thrown on the inside. She cracked the door just a little and peaked out.
“Please,” I told her. “He’s telling you the truth. We won’t hurt you.” She opened the door.
“What do you want?” she asked.
“What is your name?” he asked her.
“Siduri,” she answered.
“That’s a pretty name,” I said. “I’m Dani and of course we already told you he’s Gilgamesh.”
“We seek Utnapishtim,” Gilgamesh told her.
“It is foolish to seek such a thing for no one can cross the water,” she told us.
“Surely there must be a way. All will be lost if I do not find a way to speak with the one who is immortal,” he told her.
“Why can’t anyone cross the waters?” I asked innocently. “It’s just a river isn’t it?”
Siduri looked at me like I was a simple idiot. “The Waters of Death, child, stand between you and what you seek.”
“Oh,” I said thinking great, Waters of Death. The first thing that popped into my head was the River Styx from Greek mythology. “Is there a ferryman?” I asked.
“Only Urshanabi can travel those waters safely, but mighty king please you must not seek this. Especially not with a child,” she insisted.
“Where is this Urshanabi?” he asked ignoring her plea.
“He is in the wood,” she said looking at me like it was up to me to talk him out of this.
“Thank you,” he told her then we started back to where Tommy and Nicky were still sleeping. “After breakfast we shall find this Urshanabi,” he told me.
“Do you really believe the water kills people?” I asked him.
“If you are frightened…”
“No, it’s not that. I was just wondering what was wrong with it,” I said not wanting him to think I was backing out after we’d come this far.
“I suppose we will see,” he told me with a smile.
We woke Tommy and Nicky when we got back to our campsite. It was pretty much daylight now and we needed to eat and get going. Who knew how long it would take us to find this Urshanabi guy we needed. As we ate, the king and I told the boys about the woman. Tommy wanted to know why we didn’t invite her to breakfast, and Nicky wanted to know if she was hot. I told them her husband woke up and that ended both questions.
We headed into the woods and it didn’t really take us long to run into more trouble. I’m really surprised that, as large as these things were, we didn’t see or hear them before one got Nicky. I’m not really sure how to describe them. There were two of them and if they had stood still you would think they were just statues because they were made out of stone. They reminded me of that huge statue of Jesus in Brazil. Their arms were stretched out and now Nicky was dangling from one of them.
“Help me!” he screamed.
“Put the boy down!” the king demanded. Even though he was a giant, King Gilgamesh didn’t really compare to these two things, but that didn’t stop him from doing whatever it took to get Nicky back. I don’t know if these things had brains, but I was sure they didn’t have vocal chords because neither of them made a sound. When the king slammed his knife into the foot of one statue, it started hobbling around on one foot holding the other in its hand. It would have been funny, if I hadn’t been so worried about Nicky getting hurt. Tommy and I were both screaming for Nicky. He was screaming for us, when Gilgamesh took a running leap at the other statue. He was half way up the thing’s knee before we knew it. Nicky was still dangling from its hand.
Tommy picked up a rock and threw it at the thing yelling, “Give him back!”
The statue swatted at the rock and missed, but managed to hit its buddy in the head. The statue with the bad foot was knocked off balance and fell to the ground where it broke into about ten pieces. Gilgamesh shoved the knife into the second statue’s midsection. I guess it knew when it was beat, because it bent forward and put Nicky back on the ground. Gilgamesh jumped down onto the ground as well. The stone statue then sat down hard taking three trees out with it. It split in two from the force of the blow. It was about that time a man came running towards us.
“What have you done?” he screamed looking at the two broken stone statues.
“They started it,” Tommy said still worked up.
“Who are you? What do you want?” the man asked looking at Gilgamesh. Gilgamesh then explained.
“It is impossible,” the man told him when he finished his story about Enkidu and wanting to see Utnapishtim.
“We’ve been hearing that a lot lately,” Nicky said starting to recover from his ordeal with the statue.
“We were told Urshanabi could take us over the Waters of Death,” I told the man.
“Waters of Death?” Tommy repeated like is that really what they’re called.
“I am Urshanabi and you have just destroyed the only creatures that could safely cross those waters. I’m sure you can see how it is impossible now,” the man told us looking really sad, like he’s just lost his two best friends in the whole world. I guess maybe he had.
“Is there no boat?” the king asked.
“No, the creatures would carry…” the man stopped and looked back at the broken creatures on the ground.
“Then I shall build a raft,” Gilgamesh stated boldly like it was no big deal.
“It must be very thick and very wide. Water must not reach you. Not even a drop,” Urshanabi warned.
“I must get busy then,” the king said and started taking down trees.
It took us two days to make a raft big enough to get across the Waters of Death. At least we hoped it was big enough. Gilgamesh ended up cutting down like 300 trees to build the thing. I know that seems excessive, but he wanted to be safe. I don’t even know how much vine we used to hold the trunks together. Gilgamesh was especially careful with the base of the raft. He said that if it fell apart, we would all die, but if it held together we should be safe. The base ended up being 50 trees wide and two trees deep, so that was the first hundred trees. After they were all carefully attached with the vine, we started a second row of trees and then a third row. We made it so that the middle row of tree trunks rested over the openings between the trunks in the first row and so on. The king said that would keep water from splashing up between the trunks. I knew he was great with engineering from seeing the wall he built around his city, but this raft business was brilliant. I probably would have gotten us killed.
Urshanabi refused to go with us. He said that just because we were crazy enough to get ourselves killed didn’t mean he had to be crazy enough to join us. He did tell us how to get where we were going although he said we’d never make it. King Gilgamesh thanked the ferryman for his help then we all climbed on board the raft. In the center of the raft, was one tree standing upright that we were using as a mast. The king had woven the lion skins together again for a sail. They did a pretty good job catching the wind. Gilgamesh had to move around to keep us going in the right direction while Tommy kept a lookout for the island home of Utnapishtim even though I was sure Gilgamesh would actually spot it way before Tommy did. Nicky and I sat close to the sail, using it to block some of the sun. Out in the middle of the river, the sun was extremely hot.
“How long have we been in Sumer?” Nicky asked me quietly.
“I don’t even know anymore,” I said honestly. “A couple of weeks maybe.”
“You know,” he laughed. “Our report is past due.”
“Maybe when it’s so awesome, Mr. Reed will still give us full credit,” I said with a smile.
“Nobody is going to believe us when we tell them were we’ve been. I’m not sure how we ever explain this,” he continued.
“Do you think we’ll be in trouble with the police?” I asked.
“Hope not,” he said, but I could tell he wasn’t really sure. “You’ve got a really good tan going,” he told me.
“Thanks, you’ve got an excellent sunburn,” I laughed in return.
I looked up at Gilgamesh and asked, “Do you think Utnapishtim will help you?”
“I do not know,” he said honestly.
“If for some reason he can’t,” I told him, “I just want you to know that we’ll make sure everyone remembers you.”
We sailed for I’m guessing, about four hours when Tommy shouted, “Land ho!”
Nicky and I stood up and watched, as we got closer to the island. When the raft came on shore, an old man was there waiting for us.
“Where is Urshanabi?” he asked confused. “Who are you?”
“Urshanabi wouldn’t come with us,” Tommy said extending his to the man. “You must be Utnapishtim. I’m Tommy, that’s my sister Dani, our friend Nicky and King Gilgamesh of Uruk, son of King Lugalbanda and Lady Ninsun, slayer of Humbaba and the Bull of Heaven, friend of Enkidu.”
The king smiled.
“Slayer of Humbaba and the Bull of Heaven,” Utnapishtim said, and I wasn’t sure if he was impressed, in doubt, or frightened that he might be next on the list.
“We have come to discuss the gift of immortality you have been given,” Gilgamesh told him.
“What is there to discuss? I have been alive since before the great flood,” Utnapishtim said coldly. “You may think of this as a gift. I may think of it as a curse.”
“Would you tell us about the great flood?” Nicky asked curiously.
Utnapishtim looked at him for a couple of seconds then said, “What you have heard as a child, is that not enough?”
I knew Nicky went to church a lot more than we did, and he would know the story of Noah and the Ark, but not knowing Utnapishtim’s version, I had no idea how different they might be. I didn’t know how Nicky would respond to that question. When he started telling the story he knew, I was a little surprised. “God came to you,” he said.
“Enki, the god of the seas,” Utnapishtim corrected.
“Yes, he came to you and warned you that there would be a great flood and all mankind would perish. You were instructed to build a boat,” Nicky continued.
“A huge boat,” Tommy interjected with his arms outstretched for emphasis on just how big.
“Yes it was quite large,” Utnapishtim agreed with a smile.
“You collected two, male and female, of all the animals and brought them onboard with your family,” Nicky says.
“We didn’t get all of the animals,” Utnapishtim explained.
“Were the unicorns hiding?” Tommy asked genuinely concerned.
“Unicorns?” Utnapishtim said not recognizing the name.
“You know the horse with one pointed horn coming out of his forehead,” Tommy explained.
“I’ve never seen this unicorn you speak of, or I surely would have gotten some,” the old man told him.
“It rained for 40 days and 40 nights,” Nicky said which prompted both men to raise their heads.
“Forty?” the old man said. “Never would we have lasted so long. It was six days and nights of rain.”
“I must have misunderstood,” Nicky said then shot me a quick glance. “You sent birds out to see if there was land.”
“Yes, doves, then swallows, then ravens were sent forth. The raven did not return,” Utnapishtim told us.
“So it wasn’t the dove that returned with a twig?” Tommy asked.
“No, it was the raven,” the old man said.
“Once you left the boat, you made a sacrificed to god… I mean the gods,” Nicky finally said.
“You understand what happened,” Utnapishtim now said looking at Nicky. “I believed that you have listened to the stories.
“How did you become immortal,” Gilgamesh now asked the old man.
“Well,” Utnapishtim says standing and walking around the yard, “Enlil was the one who brought forth the flood. He was the one who said mankind was too loud. He was outraged when he found out that Enki had made it such that we, man, would survive. I feared that he would strike down those of us who remained. The other gods were mad at him, which wasn’t the first time. He had previously been banned from the heaven of the gods and forced to Kigal. I do not believe he wished to go back to the underworld. He took my wife and I back into the boat. There he placed a blessing on us. Once this was done, we were brought here, never again to be among people.”
His wife now joined us, and I could tell from the look on her face that she would agree with her husband that immortality had not been a blessing.
“We have come this far for nothing,” Gilgamesh said lowering his head. “There is no way for me to ensure that Enkidu’s story will go on, and that people will never forget what we accomplished, together.”
“Return to your city, great King,” Utnapishtim said softly to the king. “I will send with you the last surviving spring of a plant. It will not give you immortality, but it will help you restore your youth, the youth you have lost since your friend’s death. It will then be up to you to carry on the memory of Enkidu.”
With that Gilgamesh raised his head, “Mighty Utnapishtim, I will ensure that it is done.”
Gilgamesh then went off with the old man and started walking through the woods.
“Come children,” his wife said to us now. It was the first time she had spoken since we arrived. “You shall eat and bathe. It will be a long journey back home.”
The way she said back home, made me wonder if she knew more than she let on.
It felt great to be clean again, to have clean clothes, and a full tummy. By the time King Gilgamesh returned with the plant, the three of us pretty much looked like we did when we arrived in Sumer. King Gilgamesh bathed as well and was given clean clothes to put on since his were pretty much shreds by that time. He ate while we loaded food onto the raft for our return trip. When he gently carried the plant to the raft, we knew it was time for us to leave.
Utnapishtim and his wife, came out to see us off safely. “I have asked the gods to grant you a safe return home. Stay to the Euphrates River, the winds will send you up river,” the old man told us.
“You mean we don’t have to go back through Mount Mashu?” Tommy asked with a big grin on his face.
“You have been brave young ones. Your trip is almost over,” his wife said, and now I was convinced she knew we were from farther away than Uruk.
“Thank you ma’am,” Nicky said, and we each gave her a hug. I started to feel bad for her. How many thousands of years would she have to live here, never seeing her kids, or grandkids, or great, great, great, great, well you know what I mean.
As we set out for Uruk, I noticed that the king kept looking at the plant. “You know, living forever isn’t really the same thing as never being forgotten,” I told him.
“How can they not be,” he asked me.
“Well, since we will be leaving soon, I guess it won’t matter if I tell you something. Most people, at least the ones who go to school, are taught about Gilgamesh, you. That’s why we’re even here. Nicky and I had to do a report on you for school. We told you we are from the future. We’re from thousands of years in the future.”
“Thousands of years?” he asked, and I could tell he was finding that hard to believe.
“I’m not sure exactly what year this is. No one really knows for sure. We’re told sometime between 2700 and 2500BC,” I explained.
“BC?” he asked
“I can’t get into the details of that. What I can tell you is that thousands of years from now, something huge is going to happen, something so big that people will base all time around it. This time, your time and all time before this event, will be counted down and called BC. All the time after this event will be counted up and call AD. We’re from 2018AD. We’re from more than 4500 years in the future, and while I’ve heard of you, I’ve never heard of Utnapishtim.”
Gilgamesh didn’t say anything for several minutes. “Am I remembered favorably?”
“Well,” Tommy says now joining into the conversation. “Your reputation from before you met Enkidu isn’t so great.”
“Enkidu, he is remembered?” the king asked excitedly.
“Yeah,” Nicky tells him. “I mean you were the demigod and the king, so the story is told of you, but yeah. The story tells about what the two of you did together and how he made you a better person.”
The smile on the king’s face was now that same brilliant smile we saw earlier in our journey.
“You’ll still be a good king right, find a nice girl, settle down and have babies?” I asked with a grin.
“You sound like my mother now,” he said with a laugh. “Yes I promise.”
“Your walls,” Nicky said, “around Uruk. Those are part of your legacy. People appreciate the lasting things. They won’t always believe in the Bull of Heaven or Humbaba, but how you built a mighty city, that they will always believe.”
“You said you had to complete a report, on me. Will it be favorable?” Gilgamesh asked us.
“I have to admit,” I started. “When Nicky got us stuck with you as our topic, I was mad at him.”
“I got us stuck,” Nicky said giving me a dirty look.
“Anyway,” I continued with a smile. “I am so glad we get to report on you. I’m glad we got to come here and meet you. I wish you had been given immortality, but I’ll never forget you. I love you.”
“Me too,” Tommy said giving the king a hug.
“Yeah, me too,” Nicky said with a smile.
“I shall never forget you, any of you. I have been blessed by the gods to have been saved twice. The first time was by Enkidu. He saved me from a miserable life, a life of being hated by my people, for valid reason. Then I was saved again by the three of you, for I would surely have died at the loss of my friend. You gave me this quest and helped me survive it,” he said smiling at each of us.
“You would have done this anyway,” I said. “We’re just glad we got to come along.”
“You should all get some rest,” Gilgamesh told us as the sun was beginning to set.
I heard some sounds that woke me before dawn the next morning. I was surprised when I raised my head and saw the walls of Uruk ahead of us in the distance. I shoved Tommy and Nicky to wake them as well.
“What is it?” Tommy asked rubbing his eyes.
“We’re back at Uruk,” I said, as the king was tossing some vine to a man on the shore.
“How’d we get back so fast,” Nicky asked.
“Traveling on water is faster than climbing mountains,” I told him.
“Oh yeah,” he said with that duh look on his face.
“Watch your step,” the king told us, as we reached the shore.
I climbed off the raft first, followed by Tommy, then Nicky and finally the king.
“The people will be happy you have returned my king,” the man told him.
“I am happy to have returned,” Gilgamesh told him.
“Have you returned for good, my Lord,” the man continued.
“Yes,” King Gilgamesh said but looking at us. “I have learned all that I needed to know. I am now prepared to stay and lead my people.”
“I think we should be getting back home now,” I said even though I wanted to stay there and be his daughter just as much.
“You, brave Dani, you have been a wise counselor to me,” Gilgamesh said giving me a hug.
“I’ll miss you,” I told him with tears running down my cheek.
“Nicky,” the king now said taking Nicky into his arms. “You are strong and wise. You will protect Dani and Tommy when you return to your time.”
“Yes my Lord,” Nicky said. “Promise.” I could tell he was trying really hard to hold back the tears.
“I don’t want to go,” Tommy now said breaking down in the king’s arms.
“My most precious Tommy, what I would not give to have you be of my own flesh and keep you with me, but you have a mother. It is not my place to take you from her,” Gilgamesh told him. He was now crying himself, and that was all it took to get Nicky started. All four of us were sobbing on the edge of the Euphrates River outside of the walls of Uruk.
“I love you,” Tommy said. “I’ll always remember you.”
“And I you, all of you,” Gilgamesh said pulling us into his hug with Tommy. None of us made any attempt to stop the hug for what seemed like forever.
“My Lord,” the man that greeted us finally interrupted. “Your mother waits.”
“As does yours,” the king told us.
The incantation to get us back home was much shorter than the one that got us to Sumer. We didn’t even have to look at it again to remember the words. I guess we had all memorized it just in case something happened to the book. We stood in front of King Gilgamesh and recited it.
The history we sought to live
Has reach its full conclusion
Return us to our time and place
Without so much confusion
I kept my eyes on the king wanting to see him for as long as possible. I was expecting to go through the same falling, sliding, screaming routine that got us here, but all that happened is that my eyes got really heavy and I felt like I needed to sleep. As soon as my head touched the table, I jolted it back up. My first thought was that I had fallen asleep in class and was going to get in trouble with the teacher. It took a few seconds to realize that I was in the library with Tommy and Nicky.
“What just…” Nicky started to ask when Tommy pulled the book from his pocket. He looked at the last page and we all saw where I had torn a section out for our place marker.
“It was real,” Tommy said turning the book over in his hands.
I looked from Tommy to Nicky then back. I wanted to say something, but I wasn’t sure what.
“There you are,” Nicky’s dad said walking up to the table. “Did you guys find everything you need for your report?”
“What?” Nicky said looking at his dad with a stunned look on his face.
“Gilgamesh, your report, did you find everything you need?” he repeated.
“Yes,” I said softly. “I think we got everything.”
“Do you need to check out any of these books?” his dad continued.
“I think we’ve got it Dad,” Nicky told him then stood. “We should put these books back.”
“I’ll take care of that,” the librarian that showed Nicky the special book said as he reached for the books. “Did you want to copy anything from that book, Sir?”
“What?” Nicky asked still a little confused.
“The book in your hand, did you want to copy anything?”
Nicky looked at me then at Tommy. It was Tommy that nodded his head and grinned.
“Yes please,” Nicky then told the librarian who led him over to the copier.
Tommy and I stood in complete silence, which was totally unlike us.
“You two are being awfully quiet. Have you guys been up to no good?” Nicky’s dad asked us.
“We’ve been good,” Tommy assured him, as Nicky returned to the table sticking the folded copies he made into his pocket.
“We should get home and start writing before we forget what happened,” Nicky suggested.
“Yeah, we have a lot of writing to do,” I agreed.
“Let’s go,” Nicky’s dad said then led us out to the car.
We stayed quiet the whole way home. Mostly because we didn’t want to say anything in front of Nicky’s father. As we climbed from the car at home, Nicky told his dad he’d be with me writing the paper now.
“Don’t make her do all the work,” his dad called after us.
“Won’t promise,” he called back then we were running up the stairs. Once we got to my bedroom, Nicky said, “So we all agree we were really there?”
“I’ve got sand,” Tommy said pulling his pocket out and letting it dust off onto my desk.
“We need to keep that,” I told them getting a sheet of paper to catch it all in.
We started helping each other, so we would get as much as possible. Afterward, we sat down and started talking. I typed as we went. Normally I wouldn’t have let Tommy pester me while I was doing homework, but this was a special case. Tommy was so involved in the research that I thought he deserved to help write the paper. It all came rushing out of us so fast, that I had to get them to slow down a couple of times to give me a chance to catch up on the typing. By the time Mom got home from shopping a couple of hours later, we had over six pages of detail.
“Hi guys,” Mom said when she came to my door. “How’d the research go?”
I couldn’t get past the fact that somehow we came back to the exact time we left even though we were in Sumer for days. It dawned on me that without so much confusion eliminated our having to explain where we had been all that time, because unless we told them, no one would even know we were gone.
“It was good,” Tommy told her.
“Really you helped?” she asked with a chuckle.
“Like you wouldn’t believe,” I told her with a smile.
“Well dinner will be in an hour,” she said then left us to continue our work.
“Are you going to put my name on the paper when you turn it in?” Tommy asked after she was gone.
“Yes,” Nicky answered for us. I was glad he did. I wanted to give Tommy the credit he deserved even if he wouldn’t get a grade for it.
By the time dinner was ready, we thought we had everything down on paper. We agreed to look it over after dinner to see if we forgot anything then tomorrow we would work it into our report. Nicky’s dad came upstairs and we all had dinner together. We were trying to act casual like it was a normal day, but I noticed that Nicky’s dad kept looking at him like he was trying to figure something out. When he finally said something I thought I was going to die.
“Son, how did you get sun burnt in the library?”
“What?” Nicky asked, and I could tell he was thinking; How do I get out of this?
“We sat outside on the patio and read,” Tommy said quickly covering for him.
“That must explain why you look more tan than normal,” my mom told me.
“Must,” I agreed and shot Tommy a thank you look.
After dinner, we excused ourselves to return to our writing. As soon as we got to my room, Nicky said, “Oh man, I didn’t know how answer that. Thanks Tommy.”
“No prob,” Tommy said.
“We all agree that we can’t tell them the truth right? I mean they wouldn’t believe us for one, and if on some off chance that they did, they would never let us do it again,” I said.
“I agree,” Tommy said. He’s never agreed with me on anything that quickly.
“Me too,” Nicky said. “Dad would freak if he thought we really did that.”
We decided to read through what we wrote earlier. Nicky volunteered to read it out loud while we made little tweaks. Once we finished, I printed a copy for each of us, then we called it a day. I for one really wanted a hot shower and clean underwear.
I found it hard to sleep that night. I tried watching television, but all I thought about was the king. I decided to start working on the draft of our paper. I finally fell asleep around 12:30 that night. I think it was sheer exhaustion. When I woke up the next morning, Tommy was sitting on my bed with my laptop on his legs reading our report.
“I know we can’t, but I wish we could tell some of the actual things that happened to us,” he said when I rolled onto my side to face him.
“Did I do him justice?”
“Yeah,” he says softly. “Enkidu too.”
“I thought he was mostly responsible for making the king a good man,” I told him.
“Thanks for putting my name on it,” he says looking at me now. “I know you don’t have to do that.”
“We couldn’t have done any of what we did without you. You saved us from the very start. You got King Gilgamesh to trust us and like us,” I said honestly.
Tommy finished his reading then put the computer back on my desk. “Did I forget anything important?” I asked.
“I don’t think so, but I didn’t read the real story. What was it called?”
“The Epic of Gilgamesh,” I said. “I read a few versions of it on the Internet last night. I made sure everything I added was from the story of history. I had to get details about what happened after we left too.”
“So he found a wife and had a son?” he asked as a smile came to his face.
“That’s what history says. His son and grandson both ruled Uruk after he died, and the people all mourned him,” I told him.
“Do you think we helped him obtain some of that?” he now asked.
“I think so. I hope,” I said just as mom called us for breakfast.
Later that day, Nicky read the paper and made a couple of minor suggestions and found a typo that we fixed. We decided to print it and have both of our parents read it as well. Mom was shocked that we put Tommy’s name on our paper, but I told her he really helped with the research as much as we did so it was only fair. Nicky’s dad was impressed with what we had done.
“You guys did a really good job on this paper,” he said. “Regardless of your grade, I’m proud of all three of you.”
“Me too,” my mom added. “I think we should go for ice cream to celebrate.”
“Let’s go,” Tommy said running for the door.
We turned our paper in the next day, even though it wasn’t due for a whole week. We told Mr. Reed why we put Tommy’s name on the paper as well, and he was okay with it. We hoped he would grade it that day, but he didn’t say anything for two whole days. When he was ready to hand it back, he asked us to read the report to the class first. I was mortified. The last place I would be comfortable would be standing in front of the class. Nicky on the other hand was totally ready to stand there and show off, so I stood there while he shared our report with everyone else. Of course we got laughs when he read about the king’s womanizing and a couple of kids loudly expressed doubt about his godliness and all that went with it. Over all, the class thought King Gilgamesh sounded interesting and would have been fun to hang around with. They had no idea, but we couldn’t tell them that.
When we got home that after noon, Tommy was waiting for us excitedly. “Guess what,” he said, as soon as we hit the porch.
“You got a pub hair,” Nicky said giving him a hard time.
“Shut up. You don’t have any either,” Tommy said which embarrassed Nicky, but I figured that since Nicky started it, it was his own fault.
“What?” I asked trying to get back to why my brother was so excited.
“Your teacher sent my teacher a copy of our report. I got to read it out loud for the whole class. My friends couldn’t believe you let me help and gave me credit on a seventh grade report,” he said.
“That’s awesome,” I said giving him a hug as we went inside to do homework.
“So are we going to do this again sometime? I mean go back in time and experience history,” Nicky asked.
“That’s why you copied the pages, isn’t it?” I asked with a smile.
Man, Myth, Legend
Stephen Nicholas Richards
Danielle Elisabeth Samuelson
Thomas Nathan Samuelson
thorough and thoughtful
Gilgamesh may or may not have been born a demigod as his people believed him to be. He was destined to become a king, but it took a very special friend and a series of strange events to turn him into the hero he became. He was a man that sought immortality but became an immortal legend instead.
Gilgamesh is believed to have been a real person living sometime between 2700BC and 2500BC in Uruk, which at the time was the largest city in the earliest of all civilizations, Sumer. He is included on the Sumerian Kings List (Black, 1998), as the fifth king during the First Dynasty of Uruk. His father, King Lugalbanda was the third king of Uruk. The first five kings were believed to be born of gods which resulted in reigns lasting 100 years or more. Gilgamesh’s reign was said to have lasted 126 years while his father was king for 1200 years. Gilgamesh’s mother, Ninsun was said to be a Sumerian goddess. Her father was Anu, the god of the sky while her mother was Uras, goddess of earth. As his mother was a full goddess and his father a demigod, or half-god, Gilgamesh was considered three parts god one part mortal. He was also believed to have been born a giant with superhuman strength. Gilgamesh is credited with building the strong walls that protected his city and its residents from enemies of the day. These walls allowed the city to become one of the greatest.
The story of Gilgamesh and his rise to fame comes from the oldest written story known to man, The Epic of Gilgamesh. One of the most important aspects to consider when reviewing the story is that it was written by the Babylonians and Akkadians, both of whom were enemies of the Sumerians in Gilgamesh’s time. Gilgamesh’s father was not born into the line of kings but is believed to have been bestowed the honor after assisting King Enmerkar in his conquest of Aratta. Lugalbanda’s own glory was told through a series of stories written at some point after the Epic of Gilgamesh.
According to the Epic, a young King Gilgamesh was feared by his people. He was known to have bedded, through force, many young women of Uruk. This included brides on their wedding nights. It is not known why the men were in such distress, as these sections of the Babylonian tablets are missing. It may have been over the treatment of their wives and daughters or some mistreatment to the men themselves. As a result of these hardships, the people of Uruk prayed to their gods for relief from the king. These prayers were said to have been answered in the form of a wild, untamed man, Enkidu.
The City of Uruk worshiped its patron goddess Inanna, also known as Ishtar. She was the goddess of love, war and sex. Her temple was known to be a place of prostitution, and it was one of her prostitutes, a woman known as Shamhat, who was assigned the task of transforming Enkidu into a civilized man. Once this was done, Enkidu was so outraged with the king’s treatment of women that he confronted the king in what resulted in a brutal fight between the two men. Because Enkidu was the first man that Gilgamesh could not easily defeat, he became fast friends with Enkidu.
Enkidu assisted King Gilgamesh and his army in stopping an attack by King Aga of Kish during his time in Uruk. King Aga was taken captive in the middle of his own army, but was spared by King Gilgamesh (Black, 1998). Following this great victory, the two were sent on a quest by the god Enlil to Cedar Forest, the earthly home of the Sumerian gods. The friends defeated the feared Humbaba, the monstrous, immortal guardian of Cedar Forest who protected the woods from mankind. Once Humbaba was dead, the friends defied the gods by cutting down many trees in the ancient forest to create a raft and returned to Uruk with Humbaba’s head.
Once the heroes returned, Inanna (Ishtar) offered herself to King Gilgamesh to become his bride. When he refused her advances, she became enraged and forced her father, the god Anu, to give her access to the Bull of Heaven. She unleashed the great bull on the City of Uruk as revenge. It created much destruction to both the city and the crops needed to feed the people. Gilgamesh and Enkidu had no choice but to kill the Bull of Heaven to save Uruk.
The gods then decided that because Gilgamesh and Enkidu killed Humbaba, killed the Bull of Heaven, and ravaged the virgin timber of Cedar Forest that one of them must die. As Gilgamesh was three-quarter god, Enkidu was shown a dream that he would die. He was so distraught at his own death and leaving his friend that he became sick and died. A distraught Gilgamesh went into the forest to mourn the loss of his friend. He eventually decided to seek Utnapishtim, the only man to have been granted immortality by the gods for his deeds in surviving the great flood.
Gilgamesh faced many trials in his search for Utnapishtim. He singlehandedly killed a pride of lions then took their skins for clothing. He persuaded the guardian man-scorpions to allow him to travel through Mount Mashu, a tunnel that man was prohibited from entering because it was complete darkness for twelve leagues. He persuaded a frightened tavern woman to direct to him to Utnapishtim, however, when she finally directed him to the ferryman Urshanabi Gilgamesh attacked and destroyed two stone beings that according to Urshanabi were the only possible way to cross the waters to reach Utnapishtim. Once Urshanabi explained the dilemma, Gilgamesh cut down many trees and eventually gained passage on the waters.
Upon arriving at the island of Utnapishtim, Gilgamesh explained his reason for seeking the immortal man and therefore the secret to immortality. Utnapishtim described to Gilgamesh how he was instructed to create a large boat, collect animals, and ride out the flood with his family. He explained that the god Enlil had sent the flood because humans were too noisy, and when the other gods learned of this, they forced Enlil to grant Utnapishtim and his wife immortality for saving the animals and mankind. As there was no secret to be shared for obtaining immortality, Utnapishtim told Gilgamesh of a unique plant that would restore youth. Gilgamesh obtained this rare plant but had it stolen away by a serpent.
Gilgamesh returned to Uruk empty handed but realized that the great walls of his city were as much his legacy as the killing of Humbaba and the Bull of Heaven. He provided his people with the greatest of all civilizations, be brought them the story of the great flood, and he befriended Enkidu. All of these things would be the legacy of the great King Gilgamesh of Uruk, son of King Lugalbanda and Lady Ninsun.
Gilgamesh went on to become a great leader for his people. He fathered a son, Ur-Nungal, and a grandson, Udul-kalama, who became the sixth and seventh kings of the First Dynasty of Uruk (Black, 1998). Upon Gilgamesh’s death, the god Enlil proclaimed that, “of mankind, all that are known, none will leave a monument for generations to come to compare with his,” (The Epic of Gilgamesh). Those “generations to come” have now lasted more than four thousand years as a result of the oldest surviving writings of two of the kings greatest rivals.
The Epic of Gilgamesh, Assyrian International News Agency, Books Online, (www.aina.org)
Black, J.A., Cunningham, G., Fluckiger-Hawker, E, Robson, E., and Zólyomi, G., The Electronic Text Corpus of Sumerian Literature (http://www-etcsl.orient.ox.ac.uk/section2/tr211.htm), Oxford 1998- .
Black, J.A., Cunningham, G., Fluckiger-Hawker, E, Robson, E., and Zólyomi, G., The Electronic Text Corpus of Sumerian Literature (http://www-etcsl.orient.ox.ac.uk/section1/tr1811.htm), Oxford 1998-.