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August 6th, 2004, 07:28 PM
"On top of Mount Zion, hidden high above the walls of the palace, it is said that there is a garden of absolute perfection. It’s supposed to be a replica of Babylon or something like that. More beautiful than heaven," he said.

"Some think…it’s just a myth. It doesn’t exist." He looked over at the mute, hoping for any type of disclosure.

"Have you ever seen it?" Anazasi asked.

The mute shook his head.

No one had seen it.

No one had ever been there. Yet it was the center of gossip in every dark tavern. It was the envy of every thief, the prize of every lonely man. It was a place of magic magnificence, a veritable cornucopia of tropical flowers, lush fruits and healing herbs. It was said to grow plants that could not be found anywhere else in the world. Plants with paranormal powers.

The place was also what you might refer to as a male pornographic fantasy. It was supposedly guarded and kept, by a pack of dark-eyed beauties, who according to local legend, had long flowing hair and who presumably wore no clothes. To heighten the flight of the imagination, it was said that the women of the garden would coerce you into submission, forcing you to do their bidding. What this bidding was, no ever said, but many male chauvinists could fill in the blanks.

Choba had never actually seen the garden either. He had, however, put together in his mind through bits and pieces of information, a particular vision of what the garden might look like. Being the palace barber, he knew people, a lot of people. He had even cut the hair of some of the eunuchs, who cultivated the garden when extra help was needed. When they were in his chair, it was like a confessional. They all wanted to describe the forbidden exquisiteness. They wanted to chatter about its divine beauty, speak of its exotic flowers, converse about its mythical animals, and the fabulous alluring women inside eyeing up any man they saw. Unfortunately, any man who had been given clearance into the garden would have been castrated in advance. Something the male chauvinists did not know. It was law. No touching the Prince’s women. So it had been written, and so it would be carried out with vengeance.

"And no one can ever go there," Anazasi said out loud, finishing the thought, not even sure why he said it, feeling embarrassed. Both men realized they had wandered off in thought and came back to their situation of utter desperation inside the cave.

The wind howled outside, as the two worn-down travelers realized they had but one food ration left. A dried up piece of jerky that looked to be tougher than leather. Who would eat it? It was likely they would both die. Anazasi stared at the mute’s genuine unattractiveness. Even his gums were a sickly green. He decided since the mute was less healthy, he should die first, a rationale that seemed totally unbiased in Anazasi’s mind.

Choba grunted, as if he was going to talk, "Grrrrrrr." He got up walking away, obviously frustrated by the situation. Cannibalism entered both minds for a brief second, then was waved off.

Hours later, the mute was roving around inside the cave gathering guano up off the cave floor. Steam rose from a greenish-brown pile of bat droppings he had collected; bugs circled it, as the mute picked up a fresh piece and popped it into his mouth. He was past the point where taste mattered. Anazasi felt the vomit rise up in the back of his throat. The mute grunted swallowing the guano.

Anazasi imagined the mute was grunting, "It looks good on ya," but things hadn’t got that hopeless yet. Had they? Anazasi refused to lower himself to the savage level of eating ****. The mute got up and wandered off, looking for more steaming treasures, leaving him alone by the fire with a cold pile of ****.

"Eat ****," Anazasi thought, "Eat **** and die." The mute looked like a rogue, a really dirty, dysfunctional recluse that no one would even talk to because they couldn’t look at him without getting repulsed. Which was the main reason the Prince picked him; well, that and he could cut hair, and…well…the fact that he didn’t speak.

"Loose lips sink ships," Anazasi heard echoing through his mind.

Anazasi looked deep into the fire, getting lost in the combustion; the pictures rising into the night brought forth ancestors reintroducing old customs. He heard invisible music once again, and the death drum. He heard the repetitive chant, just like before.

"Za--Si." "Za--Si."

"Beware of the garden."

"Paradise is not what it seems."

"------ -- --- ------- --- --- grass."

"Don’t listen to dreams."

For some reason he could not remember the middle. It was blurred. What about the grass? What was he supposed do with the grass? He looked around. He was alone. At least, until that brute came back around from his exploration of the cave. He hoped he would find more than he was looking for.

When Choba finally came back he had a small cobra clutched between his grubby thumb and forefinger. He smiled showing his missing teeth stained brown and green with feces. He grabbed an empty vial from his bag. As he pinched the snake’s neck, its fangs stuck out as it hissed, spitting venom.

"You’re gonna kill yourself," Anazasi echoed off the cave walls, half hoping he would.

Choba held the snake fangs fastened against the lip of the vial that had held the Arctic water, mouthing the word, "Poi--son." As if that would come in handy? No telling when they would need a vial of poison? At least they could kill themselves quickly, if they needed to. When he was finished extracting as much toxin as he could from the snake, he flung it against the far wall of the cave, smiling his ****-eating grin.

Fed up, Anasazi stood up and walked to the mouth of the cave. The storm had almost passed. Soon, the aftermath would begin. He looked down at the mute eating his guano, wondering if anyone would wonder about him if… He thought he could find his way to a palace he had never been to, without him…He could easily take one of those big rocks and smash that ugly mute’s head in. He’d find his way alone to the palace…a place he had never been…There was a likely rock. He picked it up, lurking in closer. His palms were sweaty. He had never killed anyone before...

Then, a funny thing happened. Before he could raise the rock, Choba offered him the last ration of the food. Anazasi was shocked. He dropped the rock. His decision to bash in the mute’s brains was, for the time being, moot.

August 6th, 2004, 08:00 PM
Great story, but I don't see how it goes with your title unless the women are the assassins. Were you looking for a critique?

August 6th, 2004, 08:21 PM
Sorry expendable - you beat me to it. I was going to put a post in here about the fact that I'd moved 2 posts here to writing, one Fantasy the other SF, but you slipped in there before me.

It's not quite the right Forum for them (should be the short stories one!) but I felt out of all the options this was the best.

Anasazi will no doubt let us know soon whether criticism is wanted or not.