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Stephen Berer
the Eternal Jew's biographer

The Eternal Jew’s Tale, #73, Land of Assassins, 2

Prisoner; image colorized and modified by the author,obtained from Wikimedia Commons, from the Wellcome Collection, V0041230, in the public domain.
Prisoner; image colorized and modified by the author,obtained from Wikimedia Commons, from the Wellcome Collection, V0041230, in the public domain.

In this episode our couple, armed to the teeth, sets off with their guide to Hama and north…

The Eternal Jew’s Tale
Fourteenth Era, Part 13 of 18, ~1170 C.E., to Khazaria
Sh’monah Esray, Support for the Righteous, part 2

Call to prayer. The faithful emerge, shuffle and yawn, with all their dreams. And as for them that follow Bilal… The door creaks and we go from the gloom into utter dark as the door creaks shut.

“Carry this!” and Bilal shoves a skin full of water into my arms. “And this!” A sack of white cheese and figs, raisins, olives, nuts and seeds, as he eyes Batkol like a horse to ride.

I have been in this place before. Bilal is here, Batkol, of course. No moon. No clouds. A star-flicker sky. A candle flickers in a hut nearby, and fades away with the deja vu.

I have a dagger strapped to my calf and my walkin’ stick will serve as a club. Batkol has a blade in her walkin’ stick and a well-stropped razor in her belt.

We never sleep at the same time. Eye on Bilal; hand on my knife.

Fearflash. A sack over my head. A rope tightens around my neck. I try to shout but only gag. Gags beside me. My hands are bound. Then a shootin’ pain flames through my head.

My skull throbbin’, hammerrin’pain. I can’t see. I can’t move.

Kicked in the back. A bucket of swill splashes on my chest.
“Wake up you dog.”
“I can’t see. I can’t breathe.”
“Shut up. Who’s that woman with you?”
“My wife, Batkol. Where is she? Is she okay? Where is she?”

“You wanna see her? You wanna see us cut her froat? You wanna see her bound and raped, red hot iron jammed in her eyes? You wanna see her safe and whole? You better talk.”

Searin’ gouge across my back. I twist and howl. Sizzlin’ smell, my back charred. I howl and cringe.
“Who’s that woman?”
“My wife, my wife.”
“Her name?”
“Batkol. Really, Batkol.”

Again the searin’ white-hot pain.
“Her name?”
“Batkol. Batkol. Batkol.”
“What kinda name is that — Batkol? That ain’t no name. Who is she?”
“Batsheva Koltov. A Hebrew name. Batsheva — the favorite wife of Da-ood, the prophet king. You know of him. Koltov, like ‘good in every way’. Batkol, that’s what I nicknamed her. It’s not a Christian or Zoroastrian name. Not Seljuk or Persian. It’s a Hebrew name.”

Noise. Maybe the irons being cooked.
“Batkol. Believe me. Just Batkol. It’s a Jewish name. We’re not from here…”
I babble on for awhile. No use. Silence.
“Where have they gone?” I moan.
In fear and pain; mindless moans; horrors thinkin’ of Batkol’s fate.

Rattle of chains dragged on the floor. Grunts and panting, ‘ooof’ and ‘ecch’.
“Who’s this man and who’s he serve? You lie to me, we’ll cut his froat.”
“He’s my husband, Saadia Mishan. He don’t serve no one ‘cept maybe the Lor. We’re not from here, nor been here before. Runnin’ from the Franks and their harsh oppressions, to the far north, to Polan lands where we hear they welcome even us Jews.”

“She says you’re a Jew. Prove it to me.”
And I get a kick in the burn of my back. In the depths of the pain all I can say is,
“*Sh’ma Yisroyel. Uddoniy Ellohanu, Uddoniy ekhud. Borukh shaem…*”
Silence. Whispers. Another kick.
“Whatsat mean in Arabic?”
*-* the most basic statement of Jewish identity/faith

Listen Israel. The Lor our God, the Lor is one. Bless the name, honored… er, also like ‘revealed’, like ‘present in our world’ or at least our soul…”
“Shut up! Sheikh, what to do?”
“Remove the sack from his head; untie his hands. Unbind her from lash and chain. Let him read from these books in his bag. Her, we’ll test her in other ways.”

As they drag her away I blurt out,
“Sheikh, she reads as good as me, and she bound those books, the ones I wrote. Test her right here. Show ‘em, Batkol.”

~~~~~~~~~~

In the next episode, from the frying pan into the foyer.

About the Author
I am a writer, educator, artist, and artisan. My poetry is devoted to composing long narrative poems that explore the clash between the real and the ideal, in the lives of historical figures and people I have known. Some of the titles of my books are: The Song uv Elmallahz Kumming A Pilgimmage tu Jerusalem The Pardaes Dokkumen The Atternen Juez Talen You can listen to podcasts of my Eternal Jew posts on my personal blog, Textures and Shadows, which can be found on my website, or directly, at: http://steveberer.com/work-in-progress. I live with my bashert just outside Washington, DC, and have two remarkable sons, the three of whom light my life.
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