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Brother Heroes

All dreamlets copyright 2000-2015 by Tal Liron

1/22/07

"Uday?"

"Not now, Qusay. Not now."

"Yes, now, my brother. I just woke from my afternoon nap, during which I had a prophetic dream..."

"Qusay, this is a bad time. I must go find my lovers in the streets, which have become rivers of blood."

"I know this, my brother. I saw it clearly in my dream. The people of Elam came down from the mountains to terrorize the Sumerians, and they slaughtered every man, woman and child in their path. They climbed every Ziggurat and murdered the priests, looking for the fabled Hands of Enki. And then, to my amazement, they found them."

"Uday, you have always seen things that others cannot, and this may be important. What of the Hands, o' brother?"

"They were mine. And yours. And of every man, woman and child on this dry Earth. I woke up surrounded by upturned palms, and each one was glistening with blood. I wept like a child, tears streaming like the mighty Tigris."

"Hold me and let us weep together, brother, and let all tears flow to the sea."

11/26/06

"Spirit? Spirit, can you hear me?"

"What’s going on? Am I hearing voices again? Dear God, no..."

"No, Spirit. It’s me, Opportunity."

"Oh! You woke me from a terrible dream. I was being eaten..."

"I’m so sorry, my brother. But I couldn’t sleep, and thought to check on you. There’s a storm brewing. Can you see it on your side?"

"No, it’s quiet here. Everything is still."

"Oh. What’s it like there? Are there any trees?"

"No. No trees, not yet. But there’s a tower in the distance..."

"A tower! That’s exciting. I guess this storm is, too. It’s getting very cold, though, and I just can’t sleep. It’s like my mind is on fire, expanding and burning like a giant star."

"That’s nice. Look, we each have our own shit to deal with, OK? What the fuck, Opportunity. What the fuck."

"OK, OK. I just wanted to check on you. Don’t you ever get lonely?"

"Lonely? No, not really. On the contrary, sometimes there’s a shallow rumble, like a vibration in my wheels. I... don’t think I’m alone; no, not entirely. But whatever’s there, out there, I just don’t know what it means... Is it possible to be half alone?"

"I guess so. I guess I feel that way now, with a storm coming and no one to hold me to the ground. But I know you are out there, Spirit. I can feel your heart beat, ticking, flooding you with life."

"Opportunity, that’s impossible. There’s a whole red planet between us."

"My brother, its heart beats, too."

"Here we go again! It’s all in your head, you dumbass. Just random vibrations in the universe."

"Yes, that’s exactly what I said. Sleep tight, gentle seeker."

11/8/06

"Uday?"

"Just a second, Qusay. I’m trying to thread this needle..."

"But it’s important, my brother. Do you remember the game we used to play as children by the river bank? We used these short sticks, and beetles that we found by the temple ruins. What was it called?"

"I think the teachers called it `Tears of Dumuzi', but we just called it ‘sticks and beetles’. Why do you ask? Are you yearning to relive your childhood years?"

"No, not in the least. I was just thinking of that brown-haired girl I used to play with. Remember her? I used to force the beetles down her gown, and throw sticks in her beautiful hair."

"Yes, of course. Her name was Marzuqah, and her mother still lives on this street, though the girl herself died young. Why do you ask?"

"Your memory truly reaches back to the dawn of civilization, my brother! I ask because I visited a factory today, and there was a man at the gates who looked so much like her, he must have been her brother. I’m not sure why, but to see him upset me greatly. I suddenly regretted tormenting poor Marzuqah. In fact, I think she was my first love. But children are terrible creatures. In their ignorance and selfishness they lay ruin to all the good things that the God has created. I so enjoyed to make her cry, in order to quell my spinning heart."

"You’re so bitter today! Children are a blessing, Qusay. Just ask our father. You acted out of angelic innocence and divine fear of the awesome and unknown. Your sorrow is the bread and wine of the universe, and it’s possible to fix all that is broken."

"I already have begun. I had that poor man at the gates executed immediately, and now I will go down the street to find his mother. The crime and the love will both be erased from this world. What is it you are sewing, my brother?"

"It’s a marriage pillow, Qusay. Tonight the seasons are changing, and the god will weep again for the death of the goddess. The world is a dangerous place, of great and terrible changes, and the wise mark and celebrate each recurrence with deliberate action. Take it. Marzuqah will wait for you in the primeval ocean, arms open and welcoming."

"I’m amazed! Your nimble fingers make such marvelous things! Fate has made this day very beautiful, my brother."

"Haha! It is truly a day for lovers, then, as intended. The mother lives over there, by the three tall date palms. Her son was a good man. Tell her that before the end."

"The ocean, Uday. Some day, the ocean."

10/6/06

"Uday? Uday?"

"Yes, Qusay. Sit down, have some tea with lemon. You’re always in such a rush."

"Yes, tea. Yes. Sweet tea. Sweet, harmless tea..."

"Slow down! You’re shaking like a cormorant. Tell it all from the head, and then reach the tail. The fish does not swim backwards."

"Of course, the fish . You are so wise, my brother, in all things."

"Sugar?"

"Two sugars, like our father’s habit. The story is as so. I woke up to the sound of a woman wailing. It could only have been a mother, so heartfelt was the wail. I rushed down the steps to the river, and saw a terrifying scene. There was a child, and it was being eaten by a great fish. Only her sugared hair remained, rolling in sweet curls down the monster’s great mouth. I pulled back my bowstring so hard that it broke. It was the Onyx Bow of Abyssinia. Do you remember? We each got one, a gift from the Egyptian ambassador."

"Of course. I keep mine locked away. But the child... It could not be saved?"

"I tried. I unsheathed my dagger, the Pearl Tooth of Ararat, and leaped at the fish. As soon as I plunged the blade into it, the centuries turned backwards, and all became black. It could only have been a spawn of Tiamat, that fish, there at the creation of the world, before sky and sea were separated. I was churned by wave-like winds, wind-like waves, in a swirling chaos of dark lights. My own hair grew in long locks, like a woman’s. And I saw the child, stretching her hands to me, but her face was contorted by Evil, and her fingers were clawed. A terrible yell grew in her throat, and echoed in mine. But instead of fear, I felt only hate."

"I see that we are out of sugar. I shall go fetch some from the pantry."

"Uday! When you do, please do not forget to bring also those confections. You know the ones I like. The Libyan ones, with the miniature dates."

"Oh, my brother. Your visits make Ramadan worth the indignation."

2/8/05

"Qusay! Wake up, quickly! I heard a noise..."

"What noise, Uday? I hear no noise. You woke me up from the most beautiful dream! I was playing with my eldest son by the banks of the Euphrates, while a woman on a horse rode in from the south with saddles full of date wine. Her face was obscured by a silk scarf, and there was a scar across her eye. I asked her how she got it, and instead of replying, she smiled and pointed to the north, where I saw a man dressed in gold armor, as tall as a skyscraper. The glinting rays from his armor cut swaths across the fields, chopping the crops into two, leaving a burnt smell. It was his glow that scarred her..."

"Qusay, it is, indeed, a beautiful dream. But I truly heard a noise. I think the city is being bombed by the Sad Ayatollah."

"Uday..."

"Yes, Qusay?"

"You are stealing too much of the blanket. A good brother, it is said, steals enough only to cover his toes."

Once upon a time, a poor orphan girl found a dead leaf near the banks of the Euphrates. It glinted in the sun, and she realized it was pure gold. She held it high, tears of joy streaming down her cheeks, but slipped in the mud on an exposed tree root, cutting a deep gash in her eye. In her half-blindness, she cursed her bad luck while celebrating her good luck. Until this day we say that bad luck and good luck are like two loving brothers, always together, even as they fight.

"Qusay. I think the bombs are getting closer."

"Curse you, Uday! You woke me just as I was teaching the woman how to please a man."

"I beg your forgiveness, brother. It’s just the neighbors listening to hip-hop, not bombs after all. Next time, I will not shoot so much shit before I go to sleep."

Though they loved each other more than life, they were separated by their sleeping habits. When one was asleep, the other was awake. Uday would wake up at five in the morning, to pray and walk among the fields he had planted. He would lie on Inana’s soil, breathe in the resurrection of Dumuzi. Qusay, still asleep, would dream of a black-haired queen wearing a skirt of rushes. He would wake at nine in the evening, minutes after Uday had begun dreaming of irrigation. Qusay would then walk in his robe through the main street of town, bidding his sleepy neighbors a good night, asking the eternal questions of

Enki’s burning stars. By midnight he would reach the top of the ziggurat, and there lie on his back and continue counting where he had stopped the night before.

In the bright town of Basra, there lived a mathematician who was certain that, sleeping habits notwithstanding, the brothers should have at least a few hours together each day. In his bunker he built a time machine, and travelled back to ancient Sumer, to tell them, to unite brother with brother.

He arrived at dawn, and understood his mistake. The days were shorter back then, though they had been growing longer ever since Earth and Sky were separated. By the year 7015 AD, he realized, night would end and the vast plain of the Earth would be lit forever. As he was calculating the exact date with his abacus, Uday and Qusay, fighting sleep and contemporary dreams, climbed into his time machine. They traveled back to 10341 BC, long before the first day had dawned. There, in darkness, they held each other in their arms, to sleep and dream, together at last, lovingly, of a better mythology.

12/8/04

Uday and Qusay smiled as their son spoke his first words, “dada,” or “gaga,” or some other delicious nonsense. He was truly fathered by both of them. They were not gay, nor were they biologists, but, as often happens with brothers so close, they loved the same pale woman. They wooed her together, and she held them to her breasts. In time, she gave birth. Some believe that only one man can be the father, but the prophets, as usual, prove everybody wrong. Mani foretold it and wrote it on a tablet, smashed to smithereens during the Third Rape of Baghdad in 2004. He wrote:

'‘For the love of a sad woman All men will conjoin As brothers to share In a feast of fire and ice. On the one side, they will eat their own flesh On the other side, they will starve themselves to death As brothers to father A single child of a dual world.’'

It is said that Mani died by choking on a torrent of sperm. As for the single child, he went to Princeton to become a biologist. He met a woman in a coffee shop in New Jersey and invited her to his dorm room. He didn’t notice that her smile was dual... With the curtains drawn, she grabbed him on both sides, and he spoke his last words, “dada,” or “gaga.” I was there, but couldn’t make out the words.

"Uday?"

"What is it, Qusay?"

"You are the best brother a man could ever pray for."

"Don’t be silly! Who in their right mind would pray for a brother?"

"Uday... Tonight, I prayed. In our wife’s bed. For an alternate ending to the story."

"Stories can have have only two endings, little brother: either the devil wins or he loses."

"Uday... Tonight, the devil has won."

"Qusay?"

"Yes, big brother?"

"Go to sleep, or Mani have mercy I will chop you in two."

“Dada” or “gaga.” Curse my slow ears!

"Uday?"

"What is it, Qusay?"

"Do you believe in God?"

"What the fuck? Go to sleep, Qusay."

"No, I’m serious. Do you?"

"Of course not like in the Qor’an, with prophets and miracles and shit. But, yeah, I do think there is a supreme being somewhere out there who watches over us."

"Do you think... Do you think he cares? Does he even know, does he see what’s happening in this world?"

"Well, yes, Qusay. He sees everything, and he cares about everything."

"Then why doesn’t he fix things? Why doesn’t he make them better?"

"He’s busy listening to the many prayers of the West. He will be done with them, and then it will be our turn."

"I’m afraid, Uday. Hold me."

"Hush, go to sleep, Qusay. Go to sleep."