I See You
“Come out, stop hiding.” She stood there waiting impatiently, tapping her toe, arms crossed. It was dark where she was, but her eyes were already able to see in near total blackness. She looked closer. Whoever was following her had a lantern. Obviously that person still needed a light source to travel into the darkest of tunnels.
The lantern’s small light cast a shadow of someone that was creeping back and forth behind a tunnel corner she had just passed. She did not fear who had cast the shadow; since the altar incident, she feared very few. If anything, they feared her. She then used her mind-speaking powers to talk with her pursuer. I see you. I know who you are, stop being silly.
Bishtar, is that you? came the soft reply, also in her mind.
Bishtar, with a mock irritation, decided to speak aloud her next comments. “Of course it is. Now are you going to come closer? Are you lost? Or are you looking for lost sheep?”
The last question was something both youngsters could relate to and was directly relevant to their growing relationship. The lantern holder did not regret what he had done for her. The wounds he had received from protecting her lamb were all healed, even though the brutality of Gasheer’s whip was indelibly etched into his mind. Nevertheless, he knew she did not intend harm in the ‘sheep’ question. He brought himself to stand before her, and shyly mind-spoke an answer. Oh, okay, I’m glad it is y-you then. I-I wasn’t sure.
“Mosher,” Bishtar chastised in a motherly way, “You are the only one I know that can still manage to stutter even when speaking in our minds.”
She rolled her eyes at his easy, gentle acquiescence. Then Bishtar got coy, something she was an expert at doing. “So tell me, why are you following me this time?”
“Oh n-nothing, it’s just...”
“Out with it, Mosher. Out with it.”
“Well, I, ah… I might have s-something for you.”
At that comment, Bishtar’s eyes lit up. And even though her eyes had grown to be large black orbs, her expression was clearly one of excitement.
“Ah, I don’t know if y-you will like it. I ah...”
“Now, Mosher,” she scolded while wagging a clawed finger at him. “Don’t make me mad.”
At first Mosher thought she was joking, but he also knew that making Bishtar mad was not to be taken lightly. Mosher, along with most everyone in their tribe, was witness to her growing powers. Her newfound abilities were, well, scary to say the least. So Bishtar’s mild rebuke did, in fact, have a very serious side. “No, no, I s-sure wouldn’t want to do that.”
“Well then, let’s see it,” she prompted.
He looked at her, peering into those huge black orbs, thinking, feeling too. Although Bishtar was far from what he remembered her looking like in Egypt, he only saw what was in his heart. She was still Bishtar. Underworld on not, somewhere behind that unrecognizably pale, bulging black-eyed, hairless mask was the girl he loved... forever. She was still beautiful, no matter where they lived. And he intended on making her his.
“Very well then,” he stated, his stutter momentarily forgotten. Mosher put down the lantern and reached into his pouch. He slowly brought out the prize that was hidden there. As the piece came out, the item gradually illuminated the stifling darkness that surrounded them. Bishtar’s expression likewise became just as brilliant. He open-handedly held out the jewel before her. Its multi-faceted surfaces sparkled with glowing greens and vibrant purples.
“It’s beautiful, Mosher. Where did you get it?”
“The Pon boy that helped rescue me from... from those creatures?”
“Yes.” Mosher let her take the piece.
She scrutinized it better, twirling the jewel between her claws, smiling broadly while doing so.
Suddenly the stone changed shape, shrinking slightly and becoming more unified in its form. Its original green colors turned into bright ruby-reds. Mosher was slightly startled by it. But the magical transformation did not startle, or even frighten, Bishtar. In fact, she seemed intrigued by it, almost as if she had grown accustomed to seeing magic. The gem’s light danced its colors across her face, and its ruby-red sparkles shimmered in her black eyes, making Bishtar look even more mysterious, and enthralling.
Then Mosher remembered what Stenrak had told him about the gem. Stenrak had said, If the jewel changes shape and color, then the magical item has found its true master. The thought of Bishtar wielding one of the twelve stones of power made him proud, and in other ways greatly frightened him.
“But,” Bishtar voiced quizzically, “it has a beautiful necklace attached, made of gold. That wasn’t Stenrak’s doing, was it?”
“The necklace is so well crafted, and clasped to this glowing gem. It can only be the work of Darsheesh.”
“But how? He is a master builder and always busy. How did you get him to craft such a thing?”
Mosher puffed up his chest a little, sucked in his slightly bulging gut, and bragged, “Well, y-you have to know people, don’t you know?”
“So I see, so I see. You are indeed a young man that demands respect. It is clear that one day you will become a great man, and a great leader. Of that I am sure, Mosher.”
If possible, Mosher’s chest became even bigger, and his gut smaller.
Meanwhile, Bishtar held the gem delicately, admiring it and wondering about the boy she thought she knew. Mosher had changed recently. Yes, he still stuttered, and yes he was still very shy and humble, but there was something different about him. It was something she couldn’t quite figure out – something she couldn’t put her finger, or rather claw, on. Mosher’s brutal scars had disappeared. That, in and of itself was surprising, but there was something much deeper to his change. Mosher was now more... confident… and forthright. He was taller in stature; from the inside mostly, not from the outside. The boy had somehow become a man, instantly. How is it possible? she wondered. Will I ever know? But does it really matter after all?
She looked deeply into Mosher’s eyes, as if she was waiting for him to say something.
And for the first time in his life, Mosher didn’t stutter and didn’t hesitate. “Will you have it, Bishtar?”
She stared at him for a long second, then another second, and Mosher was not sure if he had made a mistake. Both of them knew what was at stake. They well understood what the acceptance of the gem really meant. Even though they now lived in the foreign and dark place of the underworld, they still believed in their culture, their heritage, and how such things spoke to the promise of having a future together.
When she still did not answer, Mosher started to feel deflated. Why should she want s-someone like me? I have m-made a fool of myself. She doesn’t w-want me and d-does not know how to tell me. He thought about turning and running away. I’ll find a dark c-cave to hide in. They’ll n-never find me. They’ll forget I ever existed, the n-name of Moshe . . .
Then suddenly Bishtar wrapped her arms around him, squeezing him tightly. Mosher was shocked at first and then reciprocated shyly. While they embraced, Bishtar generously mind-spoke, Yes I will.
Mosher smiled like he had never done before. He then whispered in her ear, “El be praised.”
Excerpted from "Moshe" by Andrew Montante. Copyright © 2016 by Andrew Montante. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.