Categories > Original > Drama


by DIScoPOgo 0 reviews

Category: Drama - Rating: PG-13 - Genres: Fantasy - Warnings: [V] - Published: 2014-06-17 - 35100 words

Gideon: The Man Whom God Disliked


January 2011

It was a blistery cold night, so cold in contrast to the warm celebration of New Year’s. My old acquaintance, Mr. T, had called me to Shinjuku. Of course, that’s not his real name, but I can’t reveal his identity.
Mr. T was a gaming director, and I'd been working with him on the production of a new game for two years now. His strange ideas and thoughts when it came to making new games had baffled me to no end, but it turns out, they were inspired by someone else. Tonight, Mr. T wanted me to interview this man whose strange and unusual ideas he depended on.
Just as with Mr. T, I can’t reveal the identity of this man or the place of our meeting, but I recorded the interview and here I'm going to recreate it in writing.
But, I have to tell you that I've been very confused since the meeting, even though it lasted only a few hours.

I started recording from the moment I got off the elevator to the moment I got on again to leave, and I didn’t stop the recorder even once. It was harder than I thought it would be, trying to document everything. I started having trouble distinguishing the time and events of things that happened in the meeting and in the story this man had to tell.
When Mr. T first told me about the story this man was going to tell us, I was confused. This story is supposed to be from 14,000 years ago and it’s hard to really grasp something from so long ago. It made the story itself just as confusing as the time I spent with the man in the meeting.

I arrived at the meeting place before Mr. T and the interviewee. To my surprise, I found a strange man sitting comfortably on a sofa in the meeting room. This was not the man I was supposed to meet and I didn’t have a clue as to who he was. He wore a long black winter coat over a shirt, and a pair of jeans, even though the room was too warm for such heavy clothing. I noticed that he had very long legs. I was a little wary, because he didn’t look to be a decent sort.
“Aren’t you at least going to say hello?” he said, sounding annoyed and exasperated.

I didn’t quite know what to say to this stranger. “I-I’m sorry…”
I told myself again that this couldn’t be the man I was supposed to interview. He didn’t look like the man Mr. T had described to me at all.
As if reading my thoughts, the stranger said, “I’ve heard about the meeting. Why don’t you sit down?”
“Okay.” It felt awkward just standing there anyway. I sat down on a sofa across from him, on the other side of a small table. The situation was so strange; I needed to know who he was, so I started to ask, “Excuse me, but who-...”
“You have no idea who I am?” the stranger asked before I could finish.
No matter how long I looked at him, I still couldn’t recall ever seeing him.
“ ...No,” I finally replied.

“Really?” He seemed disappointed. “You’ve never heard of Mr. Force, from Greece?”
“No, I’ve never heard your name before, sir,” I had to say.
“That’s odd. I’m supposed be famous.”
He looked at me with such intensity that it was hard to keep eye contact. I noticed that one of his eyes was blue and the other was green. Such odd eyes, I thought.
I stared back at him with, I hoped, the same intensity and said, “I’m sorry, but I still don’t recognize your name and face.”
“I see.” Just like that, the intensity was gone, and he stared out at the night sky through the window.
I watched him quietly and thought yet again: this is not the man I’m supposed to interview.
“Mr. Force, I came here to interview this gentleman-...”
He interrupted me again. “I’ll be talking to you tonight.”
“What!?” I said, perhaps a little too loud.

“Is that a problem?” Mr. Force asked.
“No, it’s just-...”
“I came all the way from Greece after all.”
His intimidating gaze had returned. I didn’t know what to say. Thankfully, he started speaking again.
“Don’t worry, I will be able to tell you everything you want to know.” He said it with so much confidence it made me uneasy.
“All right sir, please start talking,” I said.
“Do you have the voice recorder ready?” he asked.
I thought the way he said “voice recorder” sounded a little old fashioned. But I didn’t mention it, wordlessly placing the recording device on the table between us.
He began by saying, “This is the year 2011…am I correct?”
I was too confused to immediately respond.
“That is a voice recorder on the table?” he asked.
So he knew what it was used for, at least.
“I know it is, of course,” he added. “I just like to ask anyway.” He sounded like he was making fun of himself. It seemed almost childlike. “In this day and age it’s hard to keep up with the rest of the world, especially with all this technology. I have to keep exercising my mind.”

To this day I don’t know what Mr. Force meant. But I was definitely starting to see how Mr. T got some of his strange ideas from him.
I felt like Mr. Force thought of himself almost like a god, high above everything.

Unlike me, Mr. T had a vast knowledge of ancient times and stories. It had always been a challenge to understand them. I thought talking to this stranger from Greece might actually help me understand more. I still felt intimidated by Mr. Force, even more so now that I’ve realized he knew a great deal about what I wanted to know.

At this instant, I recorded myself letting out a shrill shriek. I don’t even think I sounded human. I still remember the hideous scene vividly.
I felt something wet and slimy on the floor. I looked down.
My feet rested in a big puddle of blood.
Instinctively, I jumped up and looked behind me. Mr. T lay crumpled beneath a heavy storage shelf that had apparently collapsed on him.
“Don’t worry about that,” Mr. Force said. “That will be okay. Sit down.”
I was in shock. I didn’t think I’d heard him correctly.

Later on when I listened to the recording, I learned he’d said exactly what I thought. I didn’t understand why.

I found myself sitting back down just like I was told.

“Okay, let’s begin,” Mr. Force said suddenly. Despite the circumstances, he was going to proceed with his story.
Oddly enough, I was ready to listen. Mr. T had already been pushed to the back of my mind somehow.
I tried to decide whether or not to properly introduce myself to Mr. Force, but he’d already started. It would be too awkward now.

“To me it seems like only yesterday,” Mr. Force began. “This story means a lot to me, very sentimental.”
His eyes seemed to look far away into the past. That odd coloration drew me in.

“It began with a girl who looked far, far into the sky…”

Chapter 1: The Boy Who Came Down from Heaven

A girl with long black hair stood alone on the edge of a desert, staring into the deep blue sky above it. Her big blue eyes spoke of determination and stubbornness.

The vastness of her surroundings made her uneasy. I could get swallowed up by the desert or the sky, she thought. Maybe someday I will vanish into the unknown.
Despite the feelings of nervousness it gave her, she loved spending hours looking into the vast sky above the desert. Her parents had told her never to set foot into that desert. She had never done so; never really wanted to.

Behind the desert lay a small city called Uruk. She was born there and loved the safety and comfort of her home. She had always felt lucky growing up there, especially when confronted with the vast, unknown desert.

Suddenly she heard a strange noise. It was a shrill peeping sound unlike anything she’d ever heard before.
Then, she thought she heard a man’s voice. It was hard to make out what he was saying, but it sounded as if he was talking to somebody. She looked around and saw no one, and could only hear the one speaker.

“Who’s there?” she called.
The moment she spoke, she saw a black shadowy shape move in front of her and heard the man’s voice say, “So it’s true...”

“You can hear me, can you?”
There was nobody there, not even the shadow she had seen. But even though she couldn’t see the man, she could feel his presence.
The girl said, “You must be an angel of death!”
“I’m nothing of the sort,” said the voice mockingly.
Abruptly she sensed the presence depart for an instant and return, and with it, his voice.
“Your name is Ishtar, isn’t it?”
“H-how do you know my name?”
The voice didn’t answer.

The girl wondered, how did he know my name? Just who or what is he?

She looked around, trying to find out where the voice came from. Even as far as she could see into the desert and its great sky, she saw no one.
She couldn’t even feel his presence anymore.

The girl just had to know who the owner of the voice was. If he wasn’t an angel of death, then who was he?
Again, she searched and searched for any sign of life around her. But still, all she saw was the vast ocean of white sand ahead of her and the blue sky above.

Just when she was about ready to give up, she saw a bright star shining in the sky.

In a mere instant the star became almost as big as the desert sun and started hurtling towards her. It was the biggest shooting star she’d ever seen. The girl watched, mesmerized.

There was a loud roaring sound as it crashed into the middle of the desert. The earth shook violently as it caused an explosion that kicked up a massive sandstorm.

It happened so fast the girl had no time to run. She was buried under a giant wave of sand.

“A shooting star has fallen to earth!” Whispered, shouted, it was the undercurrent of the chaos in Uruk.

Inside the palace, high officials scurried around in a frantic bustle, creating an atmosphere of panic.
“No, Master Gil, you can’t go out now. Not until we make sure it’s safe!” one of the officials said to a young man.
The boy was about fifteen and almost as big and strong as the three bodyguards who surrounded him. He wore a determined expression.

“Let me go! I want to see what happened!”
More guards came rushing in, preventing the boy from leaving the palace, but Gil would not stop resisting.

The guards had no choice but to tie his hands behind him and escort him to his private quarters. From his bed, he cursed loudly.

“Where have you been, Lulu?”
Her father rushed over to the girl and hugged her tightly. It had been dark already by the time Ishtar got home. Her father, the city elder, had been having a discussion with some of the officials about what had just happened in the desert. They looked glad to see her too.

“I’ve been so worried about you, Lulu,” her mother said as she brushed the sand off of her daughter. In her mother’s presence, the girl finally started to relax. Everyone called her Lulu instead of her real name. It was why it felt so distinctly strange, so unsettling, when the voice had called her Ishtar.

“Did you go to the desert?” her father asked her. “You know you’re not allowed to go there.”
Now that Lulu was home and safe, her parents were a little angry that she had disobeyed them.
“I’m sorry…” she said weakly, even though she never actually went into the desert.
Her parents traded surprised looks. She was normally very stubborn and strong-willed. It wasn’t like her to be so contrite.

They suspected she had been through a horrifying experience, for how subdued she suddenly was. It was hard to stay angry at her, with a thought like that in their heads. They didn’t ask any more questions, letting her go to wash.

After Lulu cleaned herself off, she left the house quietly and watched for anything unusual in the night sky above.
The stars were shining bright as usual, as if the incident this afternoon had never happened.
But there was something different over there tonight, she thought. Normally, she could only tell where the desert ended and the sky began by the stars. However, this time she saw a red line separating the two, as if the sand was burning bright red where the shooting star had crashed into the desert.
I want to go out there and see that light, Lulu thought as she stared into the desert in the dark night.

Ten days passed. The shooting star had caved a huge hole in the desert where it had fallen. The hole was the only evidence of the impact during the day. But at night, the bright red light still burned continuously.

Everyone in Uruk was too afraid to go near that crater, but Lulu could no longer contain her curiosity, even if she was afraid too. One night, she sneaked out of the house.

It was the very first time she had set foot into the desert. It was more dangerous at night, with the temperatures dropping quickly and the scorpions roaming around while heat still lingered. At first, she felt daring to be out in the desert, and so late at that. But the feeling was mitigated; it didn’t seem so dangerous tonight. For one thing, the light radiated a lot of heat. As for the scorpions, the people said they all died in the explosion and the sand storm.

Lulu walked for a long time toward the line of red light but never seemed to get any closer at all. It must be further away than she had imagined. She wondered how long the line was. It had to be at least 50 kilometers long.

She walked and walked, and eventually she realized she was sweating from the heat of the light – she must be considerably closer now. But as close as she was, she had to wonder if it wasn’t better to turn around and go back. She hadn’t brought any water, and the sky was lightening with the approaching dawn.

She was loath to go back though, taking one last look at the glowing red horizon. But when she looked, she saw a vague human figure. Without thinking, Lulu rushed toward it. Had this person come here like she had, to see the light?

A boy lay there lifelessly. Lulu thought he was dead.

The boy was badly burned, skin an angry red. Steam rose from his body – Lulu was afraid it would burn her if she touched him. Shreds of burned clothing clung to his scorched raw flesh. She couldn’t actually see from where she stood if this was a boy, curled as he was with his back to her, but somehow knew he was.

She was too afraid to move closer, lingering some distance away.
All of a sudden, the boy moved, slowly rolling onto his back.
Even though his face was badly burned like the rest of his body, his hair was not. And the expression on his face was not of pain. He appeared to be smiling, his eyes closed as if peacefully sleeping.

It was as if he had been waiting there until somebody came and found him.

“Are you all right?” Lulu said, not expecting an answer.
The boy slowly opened his eyes and smiled. She couldn’t believe her eyes. It was astounding that he was still alive.

“What are you doing here?” Lulu asked.
“I came down here to see you,” the boy said, and he closed his eyes again, once more going still.
The strangeness of this reason was all but lost on her, concerned as she was about his burns.

“You’re badly burned. Aren’t you in pain?”
The boy didn’t answer.
Lulu backed away from him, again afraid that he was dead.
Then, she noticed a long black rope attached to a piece of burned clothing that clung to his waist, dangerously close to catching on fire. Lulu hurried over to stomp out the smoke that was rising from it.

“Ow!” the boy cried.

She jumped back. Now that she was closer, it didn’t look all that much like a rope. In fact, it looked like a long tail.
“What is this?” Lulu wondered aloud.
“I don’t need it anymore...” the boy said. He looked like he was in pain.
That just couldn’t be a tail, Lulu thought. But getting help was more important than trying to figure out why this boy seemed to have a tail.
“I’m going back to get help, okay?”
As she turned around and began to run towards Uruk, she ran into something solid.
The impact knocked her down. When she looked up, there was a huge young man standing there.
Without answering, Gil said to the boy, “I’m going to take you back to the city,” and he helped the boy up and hoisted him up on his back.
Lulu was glad that Gil had come. There was no telling if the boy would have survived.

Gil smiled reassuringly at the boy. “I’m Gil. Don’t worry about anything right now. We’re going to get you somewhere safe.”
The boy smiled back at Gil.
Suddenly, a dark shadow appeared where Gil was walking, moving and shifting as if alive.
The boy caught his breath and held it, staring at it in fear. But Gil drew his knife and stabbed it into the middle of the shadow. It went still and vanished without a trace.
“Don’t worry about it, this happens all the time,” Gil said calmly.
The threat gone, the boy passed out on Gil’s back.

“Is this a friend of yours?” Gil asked Lulu after they had been walking for a while.
“No, I just found him lying there,” Lulu replied.
“So what were you doing out here anyway?”
“I could ask you the same question.”

“Everyone in the palace is scared about this,” Gil said nonchalantly. “I came to see what happened, that’s all.”
“I know you, Gil. You sneaked out!” Lulu teased.
“Whatever you want to think...”

Gil and Lulu had known each other since they were small children.
It was a custom for the elder and his family to pay a formal visit to the royals at the palace once a year. There were other children in both Lulu’s family and Gil’s, but these two remained especially close over the years. To Gil, Lulu had not changed even as she grew older and her body began to change, and he liked that about her.
Growing up, they’d played and practiced swordfighting together. Gil was an excellent swordsman. When he practiced with his bodyguards, they had always let him win, though they didn’t have to, but Lulu showed him no mercy. She was almost as good as he was.
He used to talk to his parents about the times he spent with Lulu, but they didn’t like Gil spending so much time with her.

Sensing their displeasure, he stopped talking about her with them, but he certainly didn’t let it stop him from spending time with her.
Just a few days ago they had watched the palace guards practice their drills. Sometimes they’d just spend time together like that, not really saying much. They could understand each other without words.

“So who is this?” Gil said. “Where did he come from?”
“I don’t know…” Lulu said.
Lulu told Gil what she thought might have happened to the boy; he was just walking in the desert when the shooting star had fallen.
Gil said, “But it’s been ten days since then. He couldn’t have survived.”
“That’s true…”
Lulu came up with another theory: he came to see what had happened after the explosion before anyone else and was unfortunate enough to be burned by the hot red light.
“That must be what happened to this guy,” Gil agreed. “I’ve never seen him around here before, though, have you?”
“No, I haven’t seen him either. I wonder where he came from.”

As Lulu spoke, she tried to remember something the boy had said before he passed out.
“Look at him,” Gil said. She must have been thinking aloud. “I’m sure whatever he said had nothing to do with where he’s from.”
They left it at that.

It was noon by the time Gil, Lulu, and the boy finally reached Uruk. The sun was shining brightly.
Lulu was so glad Gil had come with some water. She had been so thirsty walking all night. But Gil showed no sign of fatigue even with the boy on his back.
The boy had been unconscious the whole way. Gil tried talking to him.
“Hey, we made it...”
The boy didn’t stir.
“What are we going to do with him?” Gil looked helplessly at Lulu. He’d been the one with the plan to bring him back, but he hadn’t planned for what to do next.
“You can’t take him to the palace.”
“I know, I can’t even sneak a cat in there!”

“So you were going to dump him on me from the beginning!” Lulu said in exasperation.

Lulu’s parents had a fairly large home. It wasn’t as big or luxurious as the palace, of course, but it was spacious and comfortable. There were several barns and storage sheds; plenty of room for her to keep the boy there.
Lulu found a barn away from the house. Once inside, she fashioned a bed with hay, and Gil gently put the boy down on it. He agreed to help her take care of the boy whenever he could sneak away from the palace.

Her parents knew Lulu had gone out during the night, but thought she’d gone out hunting again like she had a while ago. She’d gotten in big trouble for it, so they were upset that she’d try it again.

If they found out Lulu had been out in the desert all night, they would be very angry.

“Gil and I found a badly injured boy on the road,” Lulu told her parents. “We’ve brought him here, he’s resting in the barn. I hope you don’t mind.”
Lulu was relieved that they didn’t ask any questions and offered to help take care of him.

Her parents had never been too strict with her. Unlike most parents of girls, they would let Lulu play with boys and allow her to explore and go on her little adventures. They watched her closely of course, yet always kept some distance. Her parents always trusted her and knew that their daughter was a good girl. On the other hand, Gil’s parents were the complete opposite.

Lulu’s parents had one concern for their daughter. They liked Gil and they wouldn’t be happier if their Lulu married the prince one day. But they knew Gil’s parents didn’t feel the same way about their daughter. Her parents worried that Lulu would somehow get in trouble if she kept seeing Gil. Since Gil was with her when they found this injured boy, her parents decided to keep silent for now.

The boy lay in the barn for a long time, but didn’t open his eyes.

Lulu was afraid he was going to die this time for sure. Twice now, she’d found a puddle of blood on the floor where he lay when she went to him before daybreak. She tried talking to him, hoping he would hear her, but he remained unconscious. She still brought food for him every day, and every day she put her hand on his chest to feel his heartbeat. She breathed a sigh of relief when she found he was alive.

Five days passed, and the boy’s condition remained the same.
His flesh wasn’t as red and raw as when Lulu had found him in the desert, but it still looked very painful and far from healing. She had been afraid to touch him, afraid she would hurt him even more.
But now she decided she would wrap him in clean cloth. She went back to the house and came back with clean wrapping cloth and bandages. Being very careful not to hurt him, she clothed his body and wrapped his face with clean bandages. All she could see on his face now was his eyes and mouth.

“He hasn’t eaten in days. He’s not waking up…”
Just when Lulu was beginning to lose hope, Gil came to visit.

After Lulu had told Gil how the boy had been, he went over to the wrapped figure and started shaking him roughly.
“Hey, it’s about time you woke up!”
The boy opened his eyes at last. He looked very frail and tired.
“You’re alive!” Lulu and Gil exclaimed.
The boy just nodded in answer. He seemed too weak to speak.
Lulu hurried over to the house and brought back some food for him. She gently placed a spoonful of food in front of his mouth. He shook his head and smiled at her with his eyes.

After a while Gil noticed something about him.
“I don’t think he was nodding at us.”
“He looked like he was,” Lulu said.
“He’s in no condition to think clearly. I think he was just trying to move a little.”
“…Maybe.” Lulu wasn’t so sure.
She looked closely at the boy’s face. He smiled weakly at her.
Lulu said, “You’re probably right, Gil.”

Then, to the boy she said, “Gil and I are going to go now, so you can rest.”

Five more days passed and the boy’s condition hadn’t improved much. He wasn’t eating at all.

“You can live without food for at least ten days,” Gil said.
“Not everyone is made like you,” Lulu retorted.
“I could go without food for twenty days,” Gil bluffed.
“You should try, then.”
Lulu and Gil decided to go without eating until the boy showed signs of improvement.

Fasting lasted only a day for Gil. His excuse was, “I’m a soldier, and I can’t be a good one if I don’t eat and keep up my strength.”
Lulu thought that he should be the complete opposite, and be strong even without food. She wasn’t about to give up on fasting, and told herself that she was mentally stronger than Gil. Part of her even thought if she went without food the boy would get better.

By the third day, she thought she would faint from hunger. But somehow, she made it to the next. Lulu was surprised at herself.
She never had a big appetite and ate very little. She was very thin and didn’t look as if she should lose any weight.
When Gil visited again, he said, “You’ve lost a lot of weight.” It appeared he’d forgotten she hadn’t been eating.
“I’ve always been thin, you know,” Lulu replied, irritated by Gil’s forgetfulness on top of her hunger.
She was tired, weak from fasting. She was even a little angry with the boy for not waking up and eating. She decided take action.
She had brought him a bowl of soup this morning. She took a spoonful of it and shoved it into the boy’s mouth.
Without opening his mouth, he swallowed it.

“He’s too lazy to get up and eat?” Gil raised his eyebrows.
Ignoring him, Lulu kept shoving spoonfuls of soup into his mouth.
Then, he slowly opened his eyes.
“He’s awake!“ Lulu cried.
“You can start eating again,” Gil said - so he did remember. Gil seemed happy that the boy woke up, but he acted as if he’d just gotten up from his nap. Lulu, on the other hand, was so relieved that she almost forgot about how hungry and agitated she had been.

The boy’s condition improved. He was awake more during the day and ate whenever Lulu fed him. A few days later, he started to eat on his own.
Yet, he hadn’t said a word.
Lulu had almost forgotten the sound of his voice. He just ate staring into space. It was hard to tell if he liked the food she made for him.
Then, Gil came to see them, and teased, “He doesn’t like your cooking.”

Lulu exploded at him in anger. “Then you should bring food from the palace for a change!”
Gil was a little taken aback by her tone. “All right. I’ll bring him something good to eat.”
The boy ate the rich food Gil brought the same way he ate Lulu’s. He didn’t seem to be appreciating the food from the palace any more than he did the food here.
“He must be hard to please,” Gil joked.

On the twentieth day since the boy had been there, he finally spoke.
“I am glad…”

It happened before Gil came to visit them. Lulu didn’t know what he meant, but she was happy to hear him speak. She guessed he was trying to thank her for taking care of him.
He was still wrapped in the cloth and bandages, but even with his face wrapped up, she could see a big smile on his face.
Lulu smiled back at him. She was so happy he had spoken at last.
“I’m so glad you’re talking to me. What’s your name?”

Suddenly the smile disappeared from his face.
“You can’t tell me your name?”
He looked down and put his head in his hands.
“You can’t remember?” Lulu became concerned.
She wanted to tell Gil about what had just happened, but he never came to see them that day.

“The demons appeared at the palace again today,” her father said to her that night.
“Did Gil get rid of them?” Lulu asked.
“Yes, that’s what I’ve heard.”
It wasn’t unusual for the demons to attack Uruk. That explained why Gil didn’t come today. Lulu felt better about that.

The palace was guarded by a group of strong and capable soldiers. Still, the demons managed to attack and kill some of them.

Because he was still so young, his bodyguards didn’t think Gil should join in the fight. But the stories of the brave young prince fighting and killing the demons had already reached the people. So Gil faced the demons, unafraid. He even enjoyed fighting them.

Whispers and gossip coursed through Uruk when it came to the demons: “We never had the demons coming here until Prince Gil killed one of them a few years ago.”
It was a fact, and Gil felt responsible. So he was always on guard and ready to fight them off.

Lulu had once asked, “How come you seem to attract the demons?”
“I don’t know...” Gil had answered gruffly.
Because Lulu understood Gil very well, she didn’t say anything more. She knew that Gil didn’t waste his time asking why and faced his problems in the moment.

So Lulu stopped asking why, too.

The next morning Gil came and brought food. He hardly paid any attention to Lulu and headed straight to the boy. He couldn’t believe what he saw.
“Is that really you?”
The boy had changed into a light blue garment and he no longer looked like a fire victim. Gil could see his white skin peeking from under the garment. The skin on his face showed no sign of burns anymore. He lay there and smiled.
The boy then looked at Gil as if he was an old friend.
“So what’s your name, fellow?” Gil asked.
“Sem,” the boy replied.
Lulu came in just in time to hear that. “You remember your name!”
The boy smiled and nodded.
“He had forgotten it?” Gil asked in disbelief.

“Yes,” Lulu said, irritated. “You obviously didn’t notice.”
Then, something caught her attention aside from the boy’s unusually white skin: The light blue garment he was wearing. She asked Gil, “Those clothes he’s wearing, did you bring them from the palace?”
“I thought they were yours,” Gil said, surprised.
Lulu said that he had brought those clothes a few days ago with other things and forgotten about them. Gil insisted otherwise.
Neither of them had ever seen them before, but they went on arguing about them anyway. They forgot Sem was even there.
Sem just watched them, smiling.
Then Gil abruptly changed the subject and addressed Sem.
“I couldn’t come yesterday so I brought you this.” He put down a big sack of food. “How do you like it?”
“I’m glad…” Sem said, just like he had the day before.

“So you can talk now. That’s good!” Gil patted Sem’s shoulder in a friendly gesture. The boy smiled. “You and I need to get reacquainted.”
All of a sudden Lulu felt left out at how well they seemed to be getting along. She couldn’t seem to join in their conversation and missed the opportunity to properly introduce herself to Sem.

Mr. Force went on with his story. I had wanted ask a few questions here and there, but kept listening.

If my memory is correct, Uruk was a city that existed in ancient Mesopotamia sometime between 5000 B.C. and 2000 B.C.
Obviously Lulu, Gil, and Sem are the main characters in this story that happened about 14,000 years ago.

Then Mr. Force interrupted my thoughts.
“They would grow into lovely young adults.”
I thought that was a long lapse in the story. As if reading my mind Mr. Force said, “I’m telling the story just the way I saw it happen 4600 years ago.”
I didn’t quite understand what he meant. Mr. Force went on.
“Boys grow up to be men in the blink of an eye.”
I was starting to doubt his words. Was he delusional?
According to him, the story took place 4600 years ago.

“Are you already bored with my story?”
That twin-colored gaze fixed on me. I quickly shook my head in denial. It was hard not to stare at those eyes of his.
Mr. Force said nonchalantly, “I’m a busy man so I don’t have time to go into every detail here. Let’s get on with the story. Hmm, where was I?”

Lulu, Gil, and Sem would grow into young adults.

Because Sem took a long time to recover from his injuries, they had all agreed that he stay in Lulu’s household. He was well enough to go out on his own, but preferred to stay in his room. Gil and Lulu were his only friends.
Even though he lived on Lulu’s parents’ property, he didn’t see them very often. When he did, he didn’t say much, but was polite to them. Lulu’s parents thought Sem was shy, maybe a little too quiet. They liked him nevertheless.

Gil’s reputation as a fearless warrior had grown and it was always the talk of the city.
Even though his father was still alive and well, Gil was the future king and there were certain expectations. So far, everyone thought well of him. He had a real presence about him. Gil was pleased with his reputation; it meant a lot to him.

Naturally Gil was the one who decided what to do whenever the three of them were together.
If he had an idea of going on a hike they did so. Gil was never pushy and never insisted on anything Lulu or Sem didn’t. But somehow they all seemed to agree on what to do most of the time. Lulu and Sem always trusted Gil.

Gil always had Sem’s health in mind when they were together. He planned their activities to improve Sem’s condition, hoping that Sem would get healthier and stronger.
Sem kept up with all the physical activities. They went swimming in the river and diving in the sea. On other days they walked for hours hiking away from Uruk.

All of that ended abruptly.

It was when they were at the palace helping with the repair of the stone wall. Sem watched Gil and Lulu dragging and lifting heavy stones.

“I can’t do that,” he said.
Before, he did his best not to complain and kept up with Gil and Lulu in all their activities, but now he felt inferior physically, realizing that he couldn’t do everything they did.

After that day, Sem had refused to do anything with Gil and Lulu, and locked himself up in the barn on Lulu’s parents’ property. Gil especially felt really bad about it.
“He kept up with us for a long time,” Lulu said to him. “We need to give him a break.”
They both didn’t know what to say after that.

But Gil wouldn’t give up on Sem and visited him often. Gil would stand outside and call out to Sem, “Why don’t we go out and do something today?”
Sem would answer weakly, “I’m sorry but I’m not feeling well,” or “I’ve aches and pains,” or “I don’t feel like going out today.”
Those were his excuses. Even Lulu didn’t know what to do after several tries.
Eventually Gil would have to go back to the palace. It was very frustrating for him.

But Gil would return the next day and try again.

It was rare for a prince to be left alone, so Gil was always surrounded by people, and never felt lonely. Even in this new situation with his friend’s refusal to see him, he wasn’t too discouraged.
Lulu didn’t have many friends. Except for when she helped with her parents and spent time with Gil, she was alone, even if she didn’t mind being alone so much. Even though Sem refused to see her, she still talked to him through the door, and it made her feel less lonely.
One day Lulu decided to use a different tactic with Sem.
When Sem said, “I have terrible pains.” Lulu barged in and asked, “Where does it hurt? Show me.”
On another day Sem said, “I’m feeling so tired.”
Lulu brought him food and medicine, saying they would make him feel energized.
She tried everything to make Sem feel better about himself.

Lulu felt that her proactive approach was better for Sem than Gil’s.
She would intentionally sound pushy and say, “If it weren’t for me nobody would care or know if you died.”
Eventually Sem smiled at her and said, “You can’t get rid of me so easily.”
“That’s good to know. Gil is worried about you too, in case you didn’t know.”
This seemed to make Sem happy. Lulu wished that she knew what was really wrong with him.

Lulu and Sem started spending more and more time together.
She started to suspect that Sem was well enough physically but he was tormented by something, that was why he didn’t want to come out and see anybody.
Most of the time Sem would just listen to Lulu talk endlessly and smile at her. She would continue talking to him even when he had gone to sleep. Sometimes they would just sit without saying much. Like always, Sem was very quiet.

Gil didn’t know that Lulu and Sem were spending more and more time together.

Little by little, Sem developed a habit of thinking aloud. At first, Lulu didn’t like hearing his thoughts; it made her feel strange for some reason. But now she actually enjoyed listening to him.

Sem would say, as if talking to himself:
“We are being watched and protected by the ones above…”
“We shall be free to do whatever we desire.”
“We shall live in our own world…”
“Why can’t we make everything better than here?”
“We don’t desire for such huge space on this earth.”
“We shall never thirst in the desert from the heat, for example…”
“We shall have eternity…”
“Villages and cities shall burn with lights forever…”
“Are we going to be able to live under the sea someday...?”
“There has to be a way for us to run faster than horses do...”
Most of what he said didn’t make sense to Lulu. Nevertheless, he sounded poetic and she was fascinated.

“It sounds like you have a lot of ideas,” Lulu told him.
Entranced, she kept listening to his predictions. She felt like they could come true someday.

But Lulu could also sense the darker side of Sem.
“I’m all alone in this world…” he said.
Lulu had wanted to ask about his past but, when he said that, decided not to. Something terrible had happened to him, she knew.
But then he would say, “But you and I will always be together.”
Lulu imagined the three of them years later, when Gil would be king. She imagined all of them would still be good friends.
Lulu had urged Sem to have Gil listen to some of his ideas, but when Gil was there with them, Sem never said much.

When Gil visited Sem he would say, “Let me hear some of those ideas you’ve told Lulu.”
But Sem acted as if he didn’t know what Gil was talking about.
Lulu began to think that Sem had forgotten he’d said any of that. But then he would start mumbling again and she found herself listening to him.
Sem certainly was mysterious.

Chapter 2: The Boy Whom God Disliked

Time passed peacefully.

There were two rooms in the barn where Sem had been living, and he had been using the one closest to the entrance. One day, Lulu’s father asked her to get the other room ready for harvest. She discovered that Sem had been using the other room without permission.

Sem was out when Lulu went to the barn, wanting to know why he was using the other room.
The door to that room was locked. Lulu didn’t think he’d gone out, since he didn’t do so often. “Sem!” she called out. “It’s me, Lulu. Open the door!”
She beat on the door for a while and called out again but there was no answer.

Lulu tried to listen for noise inside. It didn’t seem like there was anybody there.
She was beginning to think that Sem had locked himself inside and pretended absence. That was more than just a little annoying.

“Hello,” said Sem from behind her. Lulu jumped and spun around.
“You weren’t inside?”
“Then who’s in this room?”
“Nobody’s there.”
“Then why is the door locked?”
Frustrated with their poor communication, Lulu instead started explaining that her father had told her to get the room ready for harvest. She asked Sem why he was using the other room.
“I was just working on something,” he replied.
“You should’ve let me know that you wanted to use it.”
“I’m sorry.” Sem said that he would clean up and have the room ready for her by tomorrow.

“I’ll help you clean up.” Lulu thought she might have been too harsh with him, so it was the least she could do.
“No, no, I’ll do it on my own,” Sem said hurriedly.
Lulu wanted to see inside. She insisted she could help.
To that, he said, “I’m sorry, but I’m too tired for that right now,” and closed the door on her. Not only did she never get inside the other room, Sem didn’t even invite her into his own room.

The next day she got a shock.
There was a section of a room that had been added to the barn. It was fairly large and well made for something that was built in such a short time.
“I just used stones and pieces of wood. It’s not much to look at but it’ll do for now.”
Sem said that he had moved all his things to this new section of the barn. It was clear that he didn’t want anybody to know what he had been doing in the other room.

It seemed to Lulu that Sem spent more time in this new room than he did in his own room from that point on. He called this room his “workroom”. Lulu asked him what he was working on in there, but his answer was always vague.

Even when Gil visited, Sem seemed to avoid him.
“I’m sorry, but I’m very busy right now,” he’d always tell him. His workroom was off limits to Gil as well.

Sem had his workroom locked at all times. This made Lulu want to know even more about what he was doing inside. She had asked Sem to let her in the room many times before but he would always smile and say, “Not today. You can come inside sometime when it’s ready.”

Then one day, Lulu happened to walk by Sem’s workroom. The door was slightly open.
She looked inside and found no one. Nevertheless, she called out, “Sem, can I come in?”
There was no answer. She decided to go inside.
The room seemed very strange to her.

There were all kinds of things scattered around the room. Lulu had never seen them before and couldn’t begin to guess what they were, but she’d expected something more exciting. She left the room after a few minutes feeling flabbergasted and bitterly disappointed.
She never said a word about it to Sem of course.

I hated to interrupt Mr. Force, but I just had to know.
“What were those things Lulu had seen in Sem’s workroom?”
“You wouldn’t think those things are unusual in today’s world.”
“You’d find them pretty much anywhere construction was being done.”
“Like a saw and hammer, stuff like that? They didn’t have those things 4600 years ago.” I felt silly for having to say this.
“If Lulu didn’t know what they were it must be so,” Mr. Force said as if it didn’t even matter. “There were other things there as well. More interesting things like a big furnace to melt metals and a washing machine and laser cutter. Stuff like that.”
This didn’t make sense at all. How could there have been a laser cutter 4600 years ago? But I decided not to ask any more questions for now.
“Can I continue with my story?” Mr. Force sounded rather impatient. “I still have a lot to tell.”
“Of course,” I said quickly.
Mr. Force continued talking.

It was around that time the visits from Gil stopped.
Lulu’s parents’ property was located on the edge of the city. It had been peaceful and quiet there as usual. The palace was in another section entirely and there had been trouble there lately. It had kept Gil busy and he had no time to visit Lulu and Sem.

It was shortly before Sem had built his workroom when Gil had a strange dream.
Gil had just closed his eyes and was nodding off to sleep. He thought somebody was talking to him.
“You are a disgrace…” It was a woman’s voice that sounded a little older than his mother. He had heard the voice before but couldn’t remember who it belonged to.
“What are you talking about?” Gil heard himself ask in his sleep.
“You are going to be punished…”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about!” Gil repeated.
Gil was a hard worker and a strong warrior. He knew that he was well liked and thought highly of.
The woman’s voice said, “You shall choose your own punishment.”

It seemed to Gil that the woman didn’t hear him at all. He had no choice but to keep listening.
“I shall send somebody from above who is stronger than you are. Or…”
The voice was threatening. Gil was silent for a moment.
“What other things are you planning for me?” he asked when she didn’t go on.
“I shall send a ferocious beast to Uruk. It will devour every living creature.”
“So I need to choose one of them?” Gil said calmly. “I’ll go for the beast.” He didn’t sound afraid at all. “I’ve never met anyone who could outfight me. I’d rather have a challenge!”
“Such an ego!” the voice said angrily. “You shall see…” In Gil’s dream, he felt as if the woman was coming toward him with all her might. He avoided the collision by jerking abruptly to the left.
“Oof!” He woke up to find that he had fallen off the bed. He realized that he had, in fact, been afraid because he was drenched in sweat.

“You shall regret your decision,” Gil heard the voice say clearly. It seemed to echo in his dark room.
So it wasn’t a dream. He shivered.

“A flying lion appeared last night!” was the buzz around the palace the next morning.
Was that the “beast” the woman was talking about?
Gil took off, ignoring the pleas from his bodyguards. They obviously didn’t want him to go out, but he wanted to find that beast.

Outside of the palace it was dark though it was still daytime. Gil looked up for any signs of the flying lion, and saw dark rain clouds in the sky. Where could that beast be?
Everyone in the city had heard about the flying lion and gone inside. The streets and stores were deserted, so Gil couldn’t find anyone to ask about the flying beast.
Then all of a sudden, a gust of wind howled and whistled through the empty streets with hurricane force.

Gil wasn’t prepared for it. The wind picked him up and slammed him against one of the houses on the street.
He lost consciousness.

The crash of thunder and flash of lightning roused him, and he stood, staggering from the impact of the crash against the house.
“This is no ordinary thunderstorm...”
The demons must have sent such awful weather, Gil thought.
“Where are you, you bastard?” He looked for the flying lion again.
When he looked at the edge of the cliff he saw something up there. It was the size of his thumb at this distance, but he could see it had wings.

As soon as Gil thought he had seen the flying beast, another gust of wind came with its ominous howl. It came right at him as if attacking and he was carried up in the air to be slammed hard into the ground. Then there was the deafening sound of thunder. It roared and lightning immediately crashed a short distance away from him. The lightning burned through him, robbing him of control of his body. As he was starting to lose consciousness, he heard the woman’s voice from last night.

“You shall come to regret your decision…”

When Gil awoke, he found himself lying on his own bed.
For an instant, he thought it had been a dream. But when he tried to move, a terrible pain wracked his body. It felt as if he’d been badly beaten. He tried to get up and found it impossible; he couldn’t even raise his head.

“I’m bedridden like Sem was before,” Gil said, and he laughed to himself. “At least I’m alive.”

Gil’s bodyguards told him that he’d been out for the last two days since he was brought back to the palace.
The appearance of the flying lion had frightened everyone in Uruk. It was on the cliff, and every time it flapped its wings the horrible wind blew. When it tried to fly, it brought a terrible thunderstorm. The sky above the city had been covered with dark thunderclouds. Gil grew frustrated at not being able to move.
While he was ordered strict bed rest his comrades visited.
“All the people are counting on you to kill the flying lion,” they told him.

As he lay there day after day, he grew more frustrated and worried.
“Am I going to be able to go after that bastard?” He thought of his strategies; how to get to the flying lion without getting blown away by the wind and electrocuted? The only solution seemed to get up there on the cliff without the beast knowing that Gil was there. He would have to move fast and kill him immediately. It was going to be very difficult.
In fact, it seemed impossible, even to Gil.

It was frustrating that he couldn’t even get out of bed. Gil told himself that he had to get well as soon as possible and go after the flying lion. But as he lay there, he started doubting if he was ever going to be strong enough to fight it.
He had never felt insecure in his life.

Fortunately, his recovery didn’t take so long. His father the king had sent many of his capable soldiers to kill the flying lion. They never returned and there was a shortage of soldiers now. So everyone was undoubtedly glad of Gil’s fast recovery. If anyone could, Gil would be the one who was going to get rid of the beast once and for all.

Gil told himself that he was the only one who could, as well.

But now the expectations from everybody became overwhelming. He realized the woman’s voice had belonged to a demon from The Darkness. He regretted the way he dealt with her. He had no idea what trials he would be facing when he confronted the flying lion.
He had never been afraid in his life.
For some reason, then, he thought of Sem. He must be feeling insecure, to be longing for their friendship... He could just imagine Lulu’s reaction if he went to see Sem now. He was afraid that she would think less of him.

But Gil couldn’t think of anyone else to talk to. He knew that talking to Sem would calm his nerves before he went up to the cliff to confront the flying lion. He had been wondering about him lately, after all. Gil decided that he would visit him as soon as he was well enough to move around.

There were dark clouds in the sky when Gil arrived at Lulu’s house. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary.

“What are you doing here?” Lulu said in surprise upon seeing Gil.
“I came to see how Sem’s doing.”
“I heard what happened. You were hurt?”
“It wasn’t as bad as everyone made it sound. I’m as good as ever,” Gil bluffed. In truth he was far from the physical condition he was in before the incident, but he didn’t want to show any weakness in front of Lulu. “How’s Sem?”
“The same. He hardly comes out of his workroom.”
Gil went on to say, “That might be for the best. You never know when the terrible wind and lightning might come.”
He was trying to get on Lulu’s nerves by taking Sem’s side but she didn’t seem to notice. Lulu just said, “If he knows you’re here he might actually come out.”

Gil stood in front of Sem’s workroom and called, “Hey, Sem! It’s me. I’ve come to see you.”
Just as Lulu said, Sem came out of the building. He looked as pale and vulnerable as ever, but otherwise he looked well enough to Gil.
“I haven’t been able to visit you for a while. Are you doing okay?”
Instead of answering Gil, Sem looked up at the sky with its dark clouds. Gil was tired of looking at the sky all this trouble had come from.
“When will those clouds go away?” Lulu said.
“Everybody is asking me the same question.” Gil had come here to forget about his problems for a while, but he was constantly reminded of them even here away from the palace. Abruptly, Sem started to talk.
“The reason for the dark clouds is…” he seemed to contemplate for a moment. “…Did a demon cast a spell for the darkness in the sky? “
Gil and Lulu looked at each other.

“You knew?” Lulu raised her voice.
“You didn’t know?” Gil said in surprise.
Lulu didn’t think Sem knew what was happening outside of his workroom. He hardly went out; Lulu still brought food for him every day. But Gil thought it was impossible for anyone not to know about them. Everybody in Uruk was talking about the flying lion and the demon’s spell.
“I see that you haven’t been able to get Sem to come out and talk to you,” Gil said.
“I hear that the flying lion is still up there and everyone’s wondering when you are going to get rid of it,” Lulu fired back. All the while Sem stood there staring at the dark clouds. Gil and Lulu continued arguing.
“I’ve tried to get Sem to come out many times,” Lulu said.
“And I’ve been trying to find a good way to fight the flying lion but-…” As
Gil started defending himself, the awful wind came. He pushed Sem and Lulu into Sem’s workroom, throwing himself inside after them and closing the door.

The three were barely inside when the wind came with ferocious force. It howled and screamed against the building, rattling its walls.
“So this was the sound I heard,” Sem mumbled. He got up. “I have to kill the flying lion.”
“That’s my job,” Gil said, unconvincingly, “and…it’s going to be difficult.” He sat down on the floor. Lulu just stared at the two young men in front of her.

“What’s the beast like?” Sem asked.
“Everyone calls it a flying lion.” This was all Gil said. Lulu took over.
“I haven’t seen it yet, but they say it’s a huge bird with the face of a lion. They say it’s made a nest up there on the cliff. Haven’t you seen it, Gil?”

Gil didn’t want to say that he’d only seen it once from a distance, so he was slow to answer.
“I saw it from the streets of the palace district.”
“It’s so big you could see it from that far away?”
“I don’t think it’s all that big. It was the size of a pea from where I saw.”
“How could you tell it was the flying lion?”
Gil started to explain to Lulu that even from that far away, when the flying lion fluttered its wings, the terrible wind blew. Lulu seemed skeptical. The more Gil talked about the flying lion, the more anxious he became as he was reminded about the times he was knocked out by the winds. Sem stood there in silence and listened to Gil’s every word.

“So how are you going to get it?” Lulu asked him.
“I wouldn’t be here if I knew.”
“You thought Sem or I could help you.”
“Not exactly…”
The two started arguing again, not noticing that Sem had left until they heard the workroom door slam. Sem returned with an unfamiliar object in his hands.

It was a fairly compact object made of four round glass plates attached to two black tubes connected in the middle. Gil and Lulu had never seen anything like it before.
“What is that?” Lulu asked.
Sem said, “You can see far away things really close when you look into these glasses.”
Neither of them understood what Sem meant by this.

Illustration of the binoculars

“They were binoculars, weren’t they?” I asked Mr. Force. I didn’t even stop to think of how strange it was that they should exist 4600 years ago until I’d already said it.
“Oh? You use those to see far away?” Mr. Force asked sarcastically.
I couldn’t think of anything else except for binoculars at first. It took me a moment to come up with another suggestion.
“Opera glasses?”
“Very similar to them.”
I was satisfied with that and forgot my doubts about there being such things 4600 years ago.
Mr. Force continued.

Gideon-----The Man Whom God Disliked

Lulu led Gil and Sem to a place where they could see the cliff without any obstruction, based on what Sem had said about his “opera glasses”. There was a sturdy house on one of the streets. They decided to hide behind it and to keep watch on the flying lion.
“And we’re going to be able to see the beast from here?” Gil mumbled half-jokingly.
Sem was already looking towards the cliff through his opera glasses.
“There he is. I think he’s asleep.”
“You really can see?” Gil said, astonished. He asked Sem if he could borrow the opera glasses, but Sem hesitated.
“You just concentrate on how you are going to eliminate him. I’ll keep watching him.”
“I suppose…”
Gil was about to ask Sem how he was going to launch an attack on the flying lion from there when Sem said, “Oh, I think he’s awake now…”
“He’s going to move his wings!” Sem said urgently.

Illustration of Sem and Gil

The three immediately took cover on the ground behind the house as the terrible wind blew through. Gil was astonished that Sem was able to detect what the flying lion was up to so accurately.
“I’m going to try to take a look up there again,” Sem said to Gil. “Hold my legs so I don’t get blown away.”
The horrible winds continued and seemed to gain strength.
“I think he’s getting closer to us!” Lulu said. Gil feared she was right.
“You can’t do anything unless he’s close to us anyway,” Sem said.
“Okay, Sem. Lulu and I are going to hold you down while you take a look at the beast again.”

They found it impossible for Sem to stand on his feet with the winds blowing. Sem lay down on his stomach with Gil on his back, while Lulu held his legs. All he could do was try to lift up his head high enough to see the flying lion up there. Neither Gil nor Lulu could see the beast.
The winds raged, whirling and lifting dirt and debris into the air. The particles hit the glass plates on Sem’s opera glasses and his face. It didn’t seem to bother Sem at all and he kept watch.

Illustration of the flying lion

“He’s coming this way!” Sem shouted, partly out of excitement, but more to be heard over the wind. Then he started counting, and at five, darted behind the house.
“What’s wrong?” Gil asked. Sem mumbled something, but Gil and Lulu didn’t hear it.

Lightning pounded the ground nearby. Gil and Lulu fell to the ground from the impact of the crash, but it didn’t affect Sem at all; it was as if he had been anticipating it.
Sem pointed against the wind.
“Now, Gil!” he called. “Throw your spear! Full force!”

Gil hesitated. The spear he had with him was the one his father had given him; he treasured it. Besides, he was not accustomed to throwing a spear at an enemy. In all his years of training, he had only been taught to use it when in close combat. But there was no time to think about such things. He threw it, just as he was told.

At that moment, the flying lion flew past just over their heads.

The spear struck the flying beast and went through it from its rear to mouth.
It let out a horrifying shriek. For a moment, it seemed suspended in midair, even its wings still. But then it crashed to the ground, kicking up a large cloud of dust.

Gil rushed to where the flying lion lay and pulled his spear from the beast’s body.

Lulu came over, too, and looked at Gil in disbelief. “You did it, Gil!”
Gil hesitated. “...It was because of Sem. It wasn’t me.”
True enough, Sem had predicted the precise moment for the beast to fly over their heads. Gil would never have thought of throwing the spear at it. The outcome somehow made Gil uneasy, and he shivered.

The three still couldn’t believe that the flying lion was dead.
“Maybe we’ve eliminated the demon’s spell as well,” Lulu said hopefully. Its wings were beginning to vanish, slowly.
Gil and Lulu watched the lion closely and found that he was still alive and unconscious. Even though the lion could still wake up and attack them again, Lulu thought he was suffering. She said to Gil, “It’s better that you kill him now.”
Gil thought that Sem should be the one to do it and turned to him to say so.
But Sem wasn’t there.

Illustration of Gil with the spear

The news of the flying lion supposedly being dead had reached the citizens. The dark clouds parted to show clear skies and sunlight for the first time in what seemed like an eternity. People opened windows and came out on the street. They crowded around the flying lion’s unconscious body.
Gil and Lulu hurried to Lulu’s house to find Sem.

Gil stood in front of Sem’s workroom and called, “Come out Sem, it’s time to celebrate!”
Lulu had already gone to the main house to prepare a feast.
But Sem just said, “I’m sorry, but I’m exhausted.”
Gil really wanted Sem to come out and celebrate their special victory over the flying lion. He almost felt like breaking into his workroom and bringing him out by force. But in the end, he decided to respect Sem’s wishes.
“If it weren’t for you, we couldn’t have accomplished it.”
With that, Gil left quietly.

Chapter 3: The Girl Who Shone in the Darkness

There was a huge celebration at Lulu’s house that night. Her parents had prepared a feast. Gil and Lulu both joined in the celebration, and many of the people came to rejoice. Hours later, Gil had grown quite exhausted and fallen asleep right there in the middle of the festivities. Lulu had retired to her room earlier after greeting everyone.

People kept coming and going until late into the night. Gil had hoped that, hearing all the commotion and people celebrating, Sem would come out and join. He would berate himself for falling asleep because he’d intended to go ask Sem to at least come and eat with them.

Gil fell into a very comfortable sleep and dreamed that he was thanking Sem for his good judgment today.
Out of nowhere someone screamed, and it brought Gil out of the dream.

“The lion’s awake! It’s coming this way!” It had lost its wings, so it didn’t make much sense to call it a “flying” lion anymore.

Gil rushed out of the house and saw that the beast was not there yet. He continued on to the streets but there was no sign of the lion.
It was early morning by then, and the sky was blue and clear. In contrast to the previous day, there was no one on the streets.

Gil stood for a moment, feeling uneasy. Then he felt something come up behind him. Instinctively, he dropped to the ground.
The lion jumped over Gil’s body and landed a short distance away from him. The beast turned to face him and growled. Gil scrambled quickly to his feet, ready to fight, but he realized he didn’t have any weapons.
There was blood dripping from the lion’s mouth and Gil suspected that the beast had been eating men. In a mere instant, the lion attacked Gil. He caught the lion’s body when he jumped. Gil pinned the beast to him, leaning and twisting away from his sharp-fanged mouth. As they wrestled, he managed to work his way onto the lion’s back, keeping him down. Gil wrapped his strong arms around the lion’s neck to strangle him.

The lion struggled in Gil’s arms for a moment before it went limp. It was still alive, but unconscious and foaming at the mouth.

“Kill him! Kill him!” There were people all around Gil now. Gil regretted the fact that he didn’t kill the lion once and for all yesterday. He even regretted that he had thought of letting Sem do it. He didn’t even have his spear with him. He thought about strangling the lion to death but figured it would take tremendous strength. Since the lion had passed out and there were plenty of people to watch and warn him, Gil decided to go back to Lulu’s house for his spear.

Lulu was waiting for him with it already.
“You forgot this.”
“I know. Thanks.”
Gil waited for her to say something. When she didn’t, he gestured for her to give him the spear. But she stood there, frozen, her eyes wide in fear and fixed just behind him. Gil turned around.

The lion was right behind him.

Gil couldn’t believe that he didn’t feel the lion’s presence so close. Maybe it was because the lion didn’t have the intention to attack him right now?
Nevertheless, Gil grabbed the spear from Lulu’s hands and prepared for the lion to launch an attack.

The lion just laid down on the ground without making any sound.

Gil smiled cautiously and got closer to the lion, still holding the spear.
Lulu didn’t understand the situation.
“Gil, what’s going on?”
Gil didn’t answer. Instead, he slowly extended his right hand over to reach the lion’s head. The lion started to rub his head against his hand.
“Looks like you’ve got him all figured out,” Lulu said, relief evident in her voice.
Reassured as well, Gil wiped the blood from the lion’s mouth.

“The lion was still dangerous, wasn’t he? After all, he ate men.”
It wasn’t convincing to me just because the beast was tame once. Mr. Force’s answer was a question.
“What did Gil do to the lion?”
“...He tried to strangle the animal to death.”
“No, no. Before that!” He sounded impatient.
“The lion ate men and…” I fumbled for an answer.
“I never said the lion had eaten men. Do I need to refresh your memory?”
I thought back to the time in the story when the lion still had his wings. Then I remembered that the beast had been struck through his mouth with Gil’s spear.
“That’s why there was blood coming out of the lion’s mouth!”
“About time you got it.” Mr. Force seemed exasperated with me again.
I muttered an apology for my lack of ability to memorize the details of his story.
“Never mind,” he said. “By the way, the book you wrote seems to be doing well.”
“But I’ve never written a book before.” I was puzzled but Mr. Force didn’t clarify.
“Never mind. Let’s continue with the story.”

Wherever Gil went, so did the lion. At first people didn’t know what to make of it. Most feared that the lion still was a danger to them. But as time went on, everyone seemed to accept the fact that Gil was always with the lion and the animal posed no danger.
A young man with a spear, walking with a lion by his side; the two of them made quite a striking image.

The lion was very docile. Even when Gil was around people who were unruly and wanted a squabble, the animal stayed calm and watched. If Gil commanded the lion to wait, the animal obeyed faithfully. Some people started to see the lion as a weakling and provoked him. Only then would Gil allow the lion to show his true nature and teach them a lesson. On one occasion, a man was nearly killed by thinking he had nothing to fear by provoking the animal. Everybody feared and respected Gil and the lion even more after that.

Gil hadn’t seen Sem since the day he struck down the flying lion. He’d thought about how Sem was doing from time to time but didn’t know if it was a good idea to visit him with the lion.
Even if Gil ran, it was a good half an hour to Lulu’s place from the palace.

Illustration of Gil and the Lion

Gil didn’t feel good about leaving the lion at the palace in case the animal started causing trouble.

The very first night when Gil had brought the lion back to the palace, he told the animal to stay right outside the palace gate. Later on, Gil had watched the lion from one of the watchtowers that the palace guards used. There were guards outside the gate as well and the lion had kept a watchful eye all night with them.
The next day, Gil had a training session with the guards. All the while the lion watched them quietly from a distance.
Gil kept a close watch on the lion too in case the animal showed any aggressive behavior. That night the lion stayed with the guards outside the gate again. Even though Gil and the guards thought the animal must be hungry, he hadn’t eaten a thing. Gil hadn’t given him any food as a test. One of the guards tried to feed the lion but he wouldn’t eat. Gil had told the guards if anything happened, they were to let him know.

Gil asked the most learned men at the palace about the lion. They all looked for any signs of illness or injury, but the animal seemed well enough. He just wasn’t eating. Gil wondered how long he could go on like this.

In the middle of the night on the seventh day, one of the guards woke Gil.
“The lion has left. He’s headed towered the forest,” he said urgently.
Gil took off after the animal. The moon was full that night so it was easy for Gil to track the lion deeper and deeper into the forest. The forest got darker and denser as he followed on and on. He wondered if the lion was going home. After following the lion for a while, Gil had a feeling that he would never see him again. He went back to the palace.

The next morning, Gil was awoken by the guard again.
“The lion is back.”
Sure enough, when Gil went to see him, he was at the gate with the guards.
Gil thought then that the lion was in the forest last night for food. As the days went by, Gil started to trust that the lion was not dangerous and became comfortable with leaving him at the palace. The animal had been obedient and watchful, so Gil decided to visit Sem now.

Unfortunately, it was the rainy season in Uruk by then.

There had been unusually heavy rain in the region that year. Gil waited for the rain to slow down to go out to see Sem, but it continued just as heavily.
The river overflowed and flooded Uruk. There was nothing anyone could do to stop it.

The people evacuated to the palace because it was high up on a hill. Inside, there was unrest and chaos. Gil knew, at least, that Lulu and Sem were safe because Lulu’s parents lived well above sea level as well. But it was so frustrating that the weather had kept him away from them.
It had never rained so much even as far as the oldest citizens could remember.
Someone started a rumor that the heavy rain was a sign that God was cursing them. People began to fear that Uruk, palace and all, was going to be submerged.

Gil’s father was alarmed by this weather. The king consulted the palace scientists at first but as the days went by and the rain showed no sign of stopping, he called for a shaman.

In the chaos, the lion had disappeared. The forest was flooded just as most of Uruk was now, but that wasn’t unusual for a rainy season.

Animals would sense the approaching rain and leave the forest before it flooded; they would return again after water subsided.
But it didn’t appear that the lion had predicted the rain and the flooding. He had disappeared after the people started to evacuate to the palace. Some people thought the lion had drowned. Gil worried about him, but in such severe weather there was nothing that he could do to find the lion now.

Then snails started to invade the palace grounds. Normally there were slugs during the rainy season, so snails were unusual.
It was just a few in the beginning.
Then, one day someone found the food storage shed filled with snails, and the next day there were snails everywhere in the palace grounds. An entire wall in Gil’s room was filled with them. The sheer multitude was unsettling.
That night, he had the dream again.

“I shall punish you now…”

It was a different voice this time, the voice of a young woman.
“This time you have no choice, I’m sure you know it.” Her taunting tone was making Gil angry, but he tried to sound as calm as he could.
“I don’t know what you‘re talking about.”
“You shall see when you wake...” With that, the voice left him in the darkness.
The first thing Gil saw when he woke was his wall, covered in snails.
“This is the punishment?” He was flabbergasted. But by noon that day, he would know the true meaning of what the woman’s voice had said.

“A tornado is coming!!” There was panic at the palace.
Tornadoes normally happened during the dry season. This was completely unheard of.
Gil knew.
“This is the punishment, then.”
He just knew something bad was about to happen. He went out to the courtyard in the middle of the palace. It was half submerged in water.

Illustration of the Snails

The rain was coming in practically sideways now. Gil could see the black shape of the tornado still quite a distance away from the palace. The raging tornado moved towards him, twisting and swallowing everything in its path.

“Close the gates!! There’s a tornado! Close the gates!!” Gil ordered. The gates had been left open for the fear that they wouldn’t open once flooded inside the palace grounds. Strangely enough, Gil’s warning about the tornado didn’t cause panic among the people gathered there. Everyone thought that the palace was built strong enough to protect them from the tornado.

“What are you doing?” Gil said to the guards who hadn’t obeyed him, too afraid of being trapped inside. Gil could see that he wouldn’t get any help from them and started closing one of the gates himself. The flood water was coming up to Gil’s ankles, but it didn’t seem to slow him down very much at all. But just then, there was a loud rumbling, winds roaring as the tornado came through.

As Gil held onto the gate for dear life, the tornado passed right by and went inside the palace through the gate. Gil heard screams from inside.
After the tornado had gone through the back gate, it went up into the sky.

Gil looked up and couldn’t believe what he saw. The tornado was shaped like a snail!

Gil had no doubt now that the tornado was sent by the demon just like when it sent the flying lion.
Inside the palace, Gil found people huddled in fear. The tornado had swallowed all the snails and taken them up into the air.

Gil knew he had to do something about the tornado, but his body seemed frozen in place.

Gil had thought it seemed difficult to kill the flying lion. Getting rid of the tornado seemed almost impossible.
He went inside the palace and looked up at the sky from the courtyard, but he couldn’t see the snail-shaped tornado anymore. It started to rain again and it seemed to come from all directions at once. Even though Gil couldn’t see the tornado, he could tell it was still nearby.
Just as when he was back at the gate to close it, something slammed into him, hard, and knocked him to the ground. When he caught a glimpse, he saw it was the tornado – its shell was hard! It hit him again and again with great force. Each time he was slammed down hard onto the wet ground and against the walls of the palace.
Gil couldn’t believe that something shaped like a snail had such power. He somehow managed to crawl back inside the palace. Before the guards could close the gate, the snail-tornado chased him inside and he felt himself being sucked up into it.

“Sh-shit!” The tornado drew Gil high up into the air. He couldn’t help but scream.
Then it was gone. He hurtled down towards the overflowing river.

Illustration of the snail-tornado

Gil plunged into the water. He swam furiously and was finally able to come up to get some air. He tried to get an idea of where he was, but all he could see was the rain and the horizon through it, vaguely. He didn’t know how far through the air the tornado had carried him.
The river’s current was strong. It was hard to keep his head above the water. Gil started to lose consciousness, and his last thought was that he was going to die.

“You tried to come see us in this weather?”
Gil heard Sem and Lulu’s voices when he awoke. He felt groggy and confused.
“You shouldn’t have come out in this weather,” Lulu said. “Were you worried about us?”
She and Sem smiled at Gil. That was more than just a little annoying after what he’d been through.
“You don’t know what’s just happened to me!”

Illustration of Gil in water

Normally, Gil was good at controlling his emotions, but he knew he sounded quite emotional.

The river had carried Gil toward Lulu’s house and obviously someone else had seen him in the water.
“You tried to swim out here to see us?” Knowing Gil, Lulu thought it was something he would do.
“You think I’d do something stupid like that?” Gil felt himself losing his temper. But then he saw Sem’s face, and began to calm down. He’d wanted to come see him for some time, after all.

He told Sem and Lulu about everything that had happened since their last meeting, and he was finally able to tell Sem what he’d been meaning to say since that day.
“I wanted to thank you for helping me take down the flying lion. I wish I could’ve told you sooner.”
To this, Sem only said, “I wish I could see the lion now…”

It was typical of Sem to say stuff like that, Gil thought.
“What are you going to do now?” said Lulu. Her words brought Gil back to the dilemma at hand. He didn’t look at her when he replied, his tone serious.
“I wish I could figure it out. I can’t predict when the snail-tornado will come again. It always comes without warning.”
Sem and Lulu didn’t have a reply to offer.

Gil sat and thought for a long time with the two in silence. The only noise was the rain beating hard against the building from the outside.
“I’m going after it now,” Gil said at last.

He borrowed a spear and a boat and headed towards the cliff where the flying lion’s nest had been. Sem went along with him, even though he’d told Sem that the opera glasses would be no use to them this time. The tornado was too fast and too unpredictable. But Sem had insisted on coming along, saying he had something even better than the opera glasses.

Gil didn’t want to put Sem in danger; he looked so frail. But no matter how many times and how many ways he refused, Sem continued to insist. Even Lulu grew impatient with Gil.
“He wants to help you. You should accept his offer gracefully like a man.” Gil felt he had no choice but to take Sem along, hearing something like that.

Some of the people, including the soldiers from the palace, had evacuated to the top of the cliff. There was food and water for everyone and they all seemed to be in good spirits despite the situation. Only Gil seemed to be deep in thought.
Everyone at the cliff was surprised to see Gil, and were even more surprised to hear that he was there to eliminate the snail-tornado. All he had with him was his spear. Gil was told that the snail-tornado had been close to the cliff several times.

Gil lined up the soldiers with their spears on one side of the cliff.

“Throw your spears at the snail-tornado as soon as you see it.” That was all Gil told them.
He himself stood in the middle of the line. He looked down at the river overflowing with muddy water and debris, then out and around at the rain pouring down on them. He couldn’t see it, but he could sense that the snail-tornado was still nearby.
Sem sat close by. “Why don’t you take a break? I’ll let you know as soon as I see it.”
“I can’t take a break right now…” Gil didn’t want to leave Sem to the task of watching out for the tornado.

But as the day went on, Gil started feeling more fatigued than ever. His nerves were wearing him down.
“We’ll take turns, so we can get a bite to eat.”

Gil planned to keep watch all night. Sem told him, “We should rest now. It’s dark and hard to see anyway.”

Gil didn’t answer, and Sem retired to the cave everyone had been using as shelter. Eventually, Gil came to realize Sem was right. Even if the tornado came now, they would be throwing their spears in total darkness. It was better they all got rest while they could. He ordered the soldiers to get some sleep. They seemed relieved.

Gil went to the cave after them, and found Sem lying there. It looked like he was asleep already.
“How can you sleep at a time like this?” he said to himself.
“You have to sleep at a time like this,” Sem said with a smile, not opening his eyes. In contrast to Gil’s dark, worn out face, Sem’s pale face seemed radiant. “We’ll get rid of the snail-tornado tomorrow.”
Gil didn’t reply.

Gil never slept that night. Everybody else seemed well rested when morning came.

Sem rose at daylight and started to leave the cave. Gil followed him, but Sem knew that Gil hadn’t gotten any rest at all.
“I’m going to keep watch for a while. You need to rest.” Sem gently pushed Gil down.
“You’re right...” Fatigue overcame him. Gil slipped into sleep.

Sem stood at the entrance of the cave with a long tube-like object in his hand. It looked as if it was carved out of wood. There were several soldiers there with him in case they had to move quickly.

Before noon, the rain had changed direction. It was blowing sideways again.

“It’s coming!!” Sem shouted. Everyone held their breath.

“Somebody wake Master Gil!!” one of the soldiers shouted.
Sem looked into the wooden tube and searched for the snail-tornado everywhere he could see.

Illustration of Sem looking into the “wooden tube”


“How did Sem know that the tornado was coming?” I asked.
I could tell that Mr. Force was getting tired of my dumb questions. “Haven’t you ever seen a tornado before?”
“I’m sorry…but, no.”
“You don’t know anything about tornadoes at all?”
I didn’t answer. It would be humiliating for me to say that I didn’t, in fact. I promised myself that I’d study about them.
Mr. Force continued, “A tornado is strong wind, shaped like a funnel. It blows upwards, very powerful, very fast.”
“Ah…” I knew I sounded as if I didn’t understand Mr. Force’s explanation.
“It swallows up everything in its path. You understand?” Mr. Force said impatiently. I started to understand what he’d meant.
“So if the tornado is coming in front of you, it’s sucking up the rain behind you.” I felt so much better that I’d finally figured it out.
Mr. Force smiled at me, satisfied.
“I’m not a teacher. Now, let’s continue with the story.”

I had to interrupt Mr. Force one more time.
“What is the wooden tube that Sem had?” I asked.
“You don’t know what it is yet? “
I decided not to ask anymore and guessed that it was a telescope. I was eager to hear the rest of the story.

“The tornado is coming!” one of the soldiers told Gil. He got to his feet as quickly as he could and hurried for the cave’s entrance.
Then he heard Sem’s voice some distance away.
“You’re too late!”

Gil paused for a moment and listened.
There was an ominous rumbling. A deafening sound like an explosion.
All of a sudden, the rain ceased.

Gil reached the entrance of the cave, but Sem and the soldiers were gone. There were no puddles on the ground; the rainwater had been sucked up.
“Sem!” Gil called.

The rain started again. Even on the cliff, a river of floodwater quickly grew.
Then, Gil heard screams from above. He looked up, to see the soldiers falling from the sky. They landed in the newly formed river flowing down the cliff.

Gil easily spotted Sem’s frail form amongst the soldiers and jumped into the water to save him. Somehow, he found one of his arms and drew the boy close. He was unconscious. Gil caught a glimpse of a rock and reached out to hold onto it, clinging for dear life with Sem in his other arm. He heard the soldiers cry for help in the distance, but it was all he could do to hold onto the rock with Sem.

The other opened his eyes. “You came too late…”

“I’m sorry...” It was all Gil could say to the way the words stung. He felt terrible about falling asleep, and not reacting quickly enough when Sem called. “I’m sorry.”
“There was nothing you could have done,” Sem said. It made Gil feel even worse. He didn’t know what else to say.
“Next time, I’ll take out the bastard once and for all, I promise.”
“I don’t think you can do anything about it right now…” Sem didn’t have any faith in him anymore, he thought.

Sem kept watching for the tornado and Gil stayed right by him. Night came, and there was still no sign of it.

Later that night, Sem went to sleep, and Gil decided he should get some rest, too. They hadn’t said a word to each other since that afternoon.

Gil rested, and the next day, he and Sem watched for the tornado to come. It went on like that for three or four days, but nothing happened. Gil’s nerves were beginning to fray.
He began to think that they were helpless against the tornado. All they could do was wait for it. Everything was on its terms.

Gil thought about the soldiers who died in the river after falling from the sky. He wanted to avenge them, and that made it all the more frustrating that the tornado seemed to be hiding from them. He felt as if he was going mad without any action.

Sem sensed Gil’s mounting frustration.
“Don’t worry so much. We are going to get him next time.”
It was meant to be comforting of course, but Sem had told him that so many times it started to feel patronizing.

Gil exploded. “We can’t just sit here and wait for it to come!”

In spite of Gil’s intimidating glare, Sem sounded calm.
“We have to be patient if we are going to succeed in eliminating the tornado.”
“Oh, we’ll succeed?” Gil fired back, sarcastically.
“Why, Gil… You know, Lulu’s going to be here soon.”

“Lulu?” Gil said. He couldn’t keep arguing once she’d been brought up. The thought of her was enough to calm Gil down, and he felt somewhat peaceful knowing that she’d be there with them. He didn’t even care about the reason she’d be there, even if he was curious.

All of a sudden the rain stopped. They both knew what that meant. Sem looked into his “telescope”, and Gil ordered the soldiers to be ready for the tornado.

Illustration of Gil and Sem

The soldiers gathered at the entrance of the cave with their spears. Gil waited for Sem to tell them what to do.
“Over there!!” Sem called, pointing. “To the right!” They all strained to see where Sem pointed but saw nothing in the darkness. Nevertheless, Gil ordered the soldiers to aim their spears that way.
“Throw your spears!”

The spears zoomed through the air with a swishing sound, and vanished into what looked like a black streak against the night sky.
They heard the spears clank against something hard, and the black streak moved towards the back side of the cliff.

When they all looked up, there were snails raining down on them; the black streak was a tornado and the snails were inside of it. The spears had hit their shells.
“What in the world…” Gil wondered aloud.

“Just as I thought,” Sem said, as if none of this was extraordinary. “Spears are no good.”

Gil didn’t care. He gathered all the extra spears he could, and started throwing them one after another as if he’d gone mad. They flew far, every single one falling into the muddy river.
“You shouldn’t waste spears like this,” Sem said calmly.
But this seemed to infuriate Gil even more. He started stomping on the snails that fell from the sky. The smell from the crushed snails was horrible.
When there were no more snails to step on, he sat down and pounded a rock with his fist.
The soldiers silently watched this tirade with concerned faces.

“You feel better now?”

Lulu stood there, looking down at Gil. Even though they were very close physically, it felt like there was an invisible wall between them. Suddenly, Gil noticed Sem wasn’t there anymore.

“Master Gil! Master Gil!” The soldiers and citizens started chanting in encouragement. Hearing his own name reverberating around him in so many voices energized him, bringing him to his feet.

All of a sudden Lulu cheerfully blurted, “Let’s get married!”
It echoed in the sudden silence.

Gil was confused.

Everyone in Uruk knew this was coming, including Gil himself. He’d just never expected it to happen at a time like this.

Then Gil remembered Sem saying that Lulu was coming here soon. He wondered why Sem knew that Lulu was going to be here. He had a feeling that maybe there was something going on between them. He was overcome with the urge to know the truth.
“Have you been fooling around behind my back?”
Now it was Lulu’s turn to be confused.
“What are you talking about?” she asked in disbelief. She had to think for a moment. “You don’t mean that I’m with Sem, do you?”

Sem had asked Lulu to do something “secret” for him before he and Gil had left for the cliff on the boat. It had felt secret to Lulu at the time, but thinking about it now, she knew that it wasn’t anything “secret” or special to Sem.

“When you are ready, please come at once,” he’d told Lulu then. She’d done so, and prepared this thing he wanted kept secret. Maybe this was why Gil was suspicious about her and Sem? As far as Lulu was concerned, she didn’t owe him any explanations. It was infuriating, hurtful, that he didn’t trust her.
“I don’t want to be with you, then, if you’re so insecure.”

Gil grimaced. There wasn’t anything he could say to defend himself. Everyone around him stared in frozen silence.
Meanwhile, Lulu set her backpack down and started unpacking. Then, she whistled and the lion padded into the cave, holding a spear in its mouth. Gil was even more confused, seeing the lion again. But he didn’t say anything, and Lulu continued unpacking until Sem returned.
“Thank you Lulu, I’ll take care of the rest.” Sem took a bag of black powder from the backpack and stuffed it into a leather pouch that had a string attached. Next he wrapped the leather pouch around the spear.

“Can someone prepare fire?” One of the soldiers went further back into the cave to do so. While everyone watched Sem, he was watching for the tornado through his telescope.

The rain started blowing sideways again.
The soldier came back with a makeshift torch. Sem commanded the tip of the string be lit. Lulu grabbed the torch from the soldier without a word and did so.
“Hey! What are you doing with my spear?” Gil protested. He tried to take it back from Lulu. She glared at him.
“We’re all in this together, aren’t we?”
Gil looked away from her for a moment, and then grabbed his spear from her. “Which way?” he asked Sem.
“To the right, in the same direction as before,” Sem replied.
“All right.” Gil backed up a little ways to prepare to throw. Everyone around him gave way, and began to chant his name.
“Gil, Gil, Gil…”

Lulu backed away and chanted his name in excitement with everyone else. Gil didn’t hear them anymore. He even forgot Lulu was there. His attention was focused on throwing the spear and getting rid of the tornado once and for all.

Sem gave a sign, and mouthed to Gil, “now”.
Gil ran through the crowd and threw the spear with all his might at the very edge of the cliff, letting out a roar like an animal.

There was the sound of the tornado again. It came in an instant and swallowed the spear.

The spear split the tornado in half with a mighty explosion that rivaled the sound of the shooting star falling to Earth. The impact was so great that it knocked everyone on the ground, even the lion, unconscious.

Illustration of Gil throwing the spear.

When they woke, everything had changed. The rain had stopped and the sun was peeking through the clouds. They could see the palace and Lulu’s house in the distance. The river flowed calmly; there was no more flooding.

“Gil! Gil! Gil!” Everyone was shouting his name, celebrating his victory.
Gil looked at Lulu triumphantly. Their eyes locked and Gil offered his hand.
But Lulu didn’t take it.
“Don’t come near me,” she said coldly. “You bring with you nothing but darkness…”
“What can I say…God hates me.” There was nothing else he could say, really.
Meanwhile, Sem had disappeared again.

Sometime after that, snails started to fall from the sky, finally coming down after being swallowed by the tornado.
Some must have been so high up they were frozen. But most were charred or brown from the explosion. The snails fell from the sky not just in Uruk, but as far as Rome.

“You want to try these?” Mr. Force pointed to the steaming plate of escargot on the table in front of me. They seemed to have appeared like magic. “Go ahead, they’re really good.“ But he didn’t make a move to eat any, himself.. And all of a sudden it dawned on me.
“Oh, so this is how they started eating escargot in that area?”
“That’s a very good assumption, I’d say,” Mr. Force said and smiled at me. I smiled back. But then he continued.
“Unfortunately, you didn’t consider the time period. The Roman Empire wouldn’t exist until many years later.”
“Oh…” I said, suddenly embarrassed.
“Of course,” he continued, and it felt like he was teasing me. “There was already some sort of civilization in what would become the Roman Empire…I’ll look into it one of these days.”

Chapter 4: The Two Who Penetrated into the Light

The people of Uruk welcomed Gil as a hero. Just like when he’d gotten rid of the flying lion, Sem was nowhere to be seen. Even worse now, there was no Lulu. It didn’t seem right that he was getting all the credit for the victory. Gil didn’t feel like celebrating.

The happy people all talked about the bravery of their prince, and of course, the marriage proposal from Lulu.
It made Gil’s heart beat a little faster every time he replayed Lulu’s proposal in his head. The fact that almost everyone knew about it made him feel uncomfortable.
As time went on, her rejection bothered him more and more. He became preoccupied with worry, afraid everyone knew that he was rejected.

Gil didn’t know if it was a good or bad thing to be so preoccupied with these thoughts.
He left the celebration and went back to the palace to report on his successful mission to his parents. Then he retired to his room. Now that it was over and he could relax, fatigue took over. There was a lot on his mind but his body gave out. Gil fell asleep.

It took a lot of deliberation, but Gil went to Lulu’s house the next morning. He had something he wanted to ask Sem.
The lion was there when Gil went through the gate, and he started following him. He looked well enough considering he was knocked unconscious by the tornado too.

As Gil walked the streets, people stopped to bow in appreciation and respect. An elderly couple even got down on the ground when they bowed. He was better able to deal with it today, partly because of this other mission of seeing Sem.

But when Gil was near Lulu’s house, he was overcome with anxiety. What if Sem wasn’t there and he had to talk to Lulu? He decided that if that was the case, he would just leave without talking to her. Gil headed toward Sem’s workroom with determination.

When Gil entered Sem’s room, he found Sem on the bed and Lulu sitting beside him.
“Is he ill?” Gil asked without any greeting. Lulu glared at him for coming in without asking.
“He’s not feeling well. I think he got the chills from being in the rain.”
“That wasn’t good for him, I’m sure,” Gil said, glaring back at Lulu. He decided to be mean to her. “Are you really capable of taking good care of him? If I were you, I’d give him something warm to drink.”
“Of course I’ve given him warm things,” Lulu said angrily. “I’ve been taking care of him since last night!”
Gil continued to be difficult with Lulu.
“This room is too cold for him.”
“Sem said it was fine.” Meanwhile, Sem watched Gil and Lulu arguing with an amused expression on his face.

“Are you going to be all right?” Gil asked Sem.
“I’m sure I’ll be better in a few days,” Sem replied politely.
“Let me know if I can do anything for you.”

“Thank you Gil. I’m happy you came to visit.” Sem’s kind words made Gil feel better, but it only annoyed Lulu even more.
“The best thing you can do for him is leave! Let him rest.” Lulu expected Gil to get nasty with her but his response was calm.
“…You’re right. I should go.”
“Thanks, Gil,” Sem said as he started to leave. Lulu became frantic.
“Wait! I didn’t mean you should leave right now. You just got here…”

Gil was already outside, heading back to the palace with the lion following him. Lulu went out and chased him down.
“Hey!” she called out to him, but he didn’t even turn around, pretending not to hear her. He didn’t want to talk about the proposal of marriage again.

Even if something was off about that. He felt that Lulu had been acting as if the proposal never happened.

Gil was confused by the way Lulu had acted since she said they should marry. He thought Lulu had acted out of confusion because of the situation they were in. He wanted to believe that.
He started to avoid being alone with her.

Gil visited Sem the next day, but when he saw that Lulu was there, he decided to leave right away.
“I just happened to pass by and wanted to see how you are,” Gil said casually. “You still look ill, but I’m not worried. Lulu’s always here to take care of you.”
Sem was happy to see him, and Lulu didn’t seem to notice that he was trying to avoid her.
Gil wished that he could be alone with Sem so they could really talk.

Illustration of Gil and the lion

Even after the flooding ceased and its waters receded, it continued to rain for some time in Uruk. But the rain was not so much to be of any threat. Then the weather started to change for the better and the soil was rich and ready for crops to be planted.

One day, Gil visited Sem and found Lulu wasn’t there. He was excited that they could talk without her for the first time.

“Does it bother you that Lulu’s here all the time? I know she can’t keep her mouth shut.” Gil wanted Sem to loosen up a little with him. But Sem replied as usual.
“I enjoy her company, and she’s normally quiet with me.”
“She’s quiet...?” Gil was shocked to hear that. So Lulu acted differently with Sem. He wanted to ask more about her behavior, but didn’t want to seem pushy.

Gil asked anyway, “So what do you two talk about?”
“Oh, nothing in particular.” Gil sensed that Sem didn’t want to talk about it so he didn’t press it any further.

Gil had been wondering if Sem knew about Lulu’s marriage proposal in the cave. Maybe she’d told him about it? Gil thought for a while, and decided that it was unlikely that she did. After hearing this especially, he was convinced that he knew nothing about it.

But there were two more things he’d been wanting to ask.
“When we were up there on the cliff, you asked Lulu to come?”
“Yes, I did,” Sem admitted.
“Why didn’t you tell me you told her?” Gil knew he didn’t sound like himself when he said it; he knew he sounded unhappy.

“I don’t know why I didn’t tell you.” Sem seemed far away in his own thoughts when he said it. “I’m sorry, I just don’t know.”
Gil felt Sem was being honest. He’d been in a hurry in all that chaos, after all. In fact, Gil wasn’t even sure Sem had actually told him she was coming at all anymore. It was an honest misunderstanding. And he had rushed to conclusions and doubted Lulu for something like that...
He didn’t want to talk about it anymore.

He might as well move on to the second thing he wanted to ask Sem about: the black powder that he’d used to destroy the tornado. “Can you explain how it works?” he asked Sem.
“When you light the special powder, it expands in the heat.”
Gil had expected a longer explanation. He wasn’t sure what to make of this.
“So… You mean it explodes when it’s lit?”
“Yes, that’s it,” Sem said plainly.

“Is it made from bamboo?” he asked.
Gil tried to think of what else this powder could be.
“Do you want to see it?” Sem asked, seeing Gil deep in thought.
“Really, can I?” This was so exciting. He wanted to know more about this new weapon, how it could be used for future battles. He was a soldier, after all. “Can I see it here? Would it be safe enough to handle here?”
Gil couldn’t wait. But Sem showed no sign of moving from his bed.
“I’ll show it to you when I feel better.”
He heard Sem cough a little and realized that he was wearing him out. It was disappointing that he couldn’t see it today, but he was cheerful when he replied, “I’m looking forward to seeing it.”
He left without seeing Lulu that day.

Shortly after Gil left, Lulu went to see Sem in his workroom. She’d seen the lion, so she knew Gil was visiting, but she’d taken longer than usual helping her mother with the chores. By the time she got to Sem’s, the lion was gone. She went inside and found Sem on the bed, seemingly asleep.
“Gil’s gone back to the palace?” she asked anyway.
“Yes. Just a few minutes ago,” Sem replied without opening his eyes.
“He was here a long time, wasn’t he?” Lulu pressed.
“Not that long…”
“What were you guys talking about?”
“Nothing special…”
“…Nothing special,” Lulu repeated with a sigh. Sem didn’t seem to want to talk, so she left.

Lulu wanted to talk to Gil alone. She regretted the proposal that day on the cliff; not the proposal itself, but the timing. She wasn’t herself that day. She knew as much as Gil did that they would marry someday, but she wished she hadn’t said it then. She still couldn’t believe she’d just blurted it out like that.

That day, Sem had asked her to collect some stones and come on the boat to meet him on the cliff. She’d felt so alone and afraid on the way there that getting there and seeing Gil was a relief. She sensed that he was as afraid as she was, and it made her feel closer to him than ever. And when everyone began chanting his name in excitement, it was elating. It made that closeness feel more like oneness and before she could stop herself, she’d cried out, “Let’s get married!”
She’d wanted to say right away that she didn’t mean it. But in those circumstances, with everyone there, it just wouldn’t come out. Then Gil said that she’d been unfaithful. She wondered what had made him think of her like that.

Lulu thought that there must be a misunderstanding. She tried to think back to whatever she did that had made Gil think she was “unfaithful”, but came up with nothing. She’d always been optimistic, so she decided that Gil had returned her “joke” with his “joke”. After all, she was certain that if Gil had something on his mind, he’d tell her.
She didn’t want to admit it but she felt that he was holding something back, even if she didn’t realize he was avoiding her.

One day Gil went to see Sem again. To his surprise, he found him lying on the grass outside, looking up into the sky. He looked much better than when he’d last seen him. At the sound of his and the lion’s footsteps, Sem raised his head and greeted them.
“You look well.”
“I feel pretty good today.”
Gil looked around and saw that Lulu wasn’t there. He lay down on the grass next to Sem and said, “It’s so quiet and peaceful here…”

Gil closed his eyes, enjoying the comfortable silence. Even the lion got down on the grass beside him.
“He’s always with you,” Sem commented.
“Yeah, everyone’s used to seeing us together now.”
“Do you think he’ll bite if I get closer?” Sem asked.
“I think it’ll be okay.” The lion hadn’t caused any trouble so far, after all.
Sem rose and got closer to the lion, staring into his eyes. The lion’s eyes were narrowed drowsily as he stared back. Eventually, they closed. Gil had fallen asleep and started to snore...
Sem watched the lion for a while and decided to touch the lion’s whiskers. They twitched at his touch. Then he grabbed them and yanked hard. The lion growled and turned away. Sem slapped the big cat’s face.
“Graouw!!” the lion snarled. Gil woke at the sound.

“What’s going on?” Gil jumped to his feet. Not knowing what had just happened, Gil blamed the animal, and smacked him.
“He’s just an animal, after all. Be careful around him,” he told Sem.
“Okay…” That was all Sem said, and he moved away from the lion. Then Gil saw Lulu walking towards them, and he forgot about everything else.

Lulu had been watching the whole thing. She approached Sem, standing less than arm’s length from him.
“I saw you hit the lion.”
There was no expression on Sem’s face.
“What?” Gil said, shocked. Lulu ignored him and pressed on with Sem.
“You hit the lion, admit it!”

“I didn’t hit him to be mean,” said Sem.
“What did you hit him for, then?” Lulu asked.
“I was testing to see if he’d bite me.” Sem said it with so little emotion that Lulu didn’t know what to say.
“Why, Sem?” Gil asked.
“This is the first time I’ve gotten to see him.”
Gil didn’t know what to make of what Sem was saying, and looked helplessly at Lulu.
They had to smile at each other.
“You sure are different,” Gil said, while Lulu scolded him.
“If it was any other lion you wouldn’t have gotten away with it.”
To that, Sem just smiled. “I’m sorry. I won’t do it again.”
The lion yawned as if in exasperation and watched the three.

“You seem to have a lot of energy today. Why don’t we go do something?” Lulu suggested. Gil wasn’t sure if he wanted to.

“Sure.” Sem liked the idea; Gil couldn’t bring himself to say no.
“Are you sure you’re going to be okay?” Gil asked Sem.
“I told you. I feel really good today.”
“I’ve wanted to pick the mushrooms in the forest.” Lulu was already starting to head that way as she spoke.

This was the first time that the three of them were together since they destroyed the tornado. Gil couldn’t help but think of Lulu’s marriage proposal.
Much to Gil’s relief, Lulu acted exactly like she always had. She led the way into the forest, looking cheerful.
“There is a place by the brook where there are lots of mushrooms,” she said. She saw the lion was following them too, and she added to him, “You don’t have to stay with us. Go get something to eat and come back.” The lion obeyed and left them as if Lulu was his master.

“I thought that the lion only listened to me…I’m impressed,” Gil said.
“There are others who can do things just like you,” Lulu teased him and smiled. Her smile was the same as before. Gil decided to forget about this whole marriage thing since she was still acting like it had never happened.

It was dark in the forest where the mushrooms were. The entire area was filled with mushrooms radiating a white glow. The trio was entranced.
“What’s going on here?” Lulu said, puzzled by the light. Gil picked one of the mushrooms.
“So are these the same mushrooms you were talking about? Do they taste good?” Gil narrowed his eyes and studied the one in his hand.
“They obviously don’t look good.” The mushroom would have looked normal if it wasn’t for the light making them unusually white.

The mushrooms didn’t exactly look poisonous, even if they didn’t look appetizing either. It was hard to tell what their original color was; they shone so brightly they were almost translucent. Sem threw one at Lulu for her to catch but she avoided it.
“I don’t think they are poisonous,” he said. “Are we going to pick them?”
But Lulu was hesitant. “These don’t look like the ones I was looking for.”
“Are you sure this is the right place?’ Gil asked her.
“I’m sure.” Lulu was sure of it, but she was puzzled by the strange mushrooms. Gil was already kneeling down on the ground to pick them. Sem was on the ground just a little ways away from them, his back turned. They heard him spit out something.
Sem turned around and said, “They taste pretty awful.” He was holding a mushroom in his hand.
“You took a bite!?” Gil asked in alarm.
“What are you doing, Sem?” Lulu rushed over to him and knocked the mushroom out of his hand. In doing so she broke off its cap, and it lost its light, soon turning into formless jelly. Lulu was beside herself. “What if they’re poisonous?”

Illustration of the mushrooms

Lulu shoved her hand into Sem’s mouth, trying to get the piece of mushroom out, but he backed away from her.
“You don’t know if it’s poisonous unless you eat it,” he said.
“You don’t try to find out that way!” Gil yelled.
“I didn’t think it was poisonous!” Sem said defiantly. Gil and Lulu didn’t know what to say, but they had to get through to Sem about this.
“We’re trying to tell you those mushrooms can kill you if they’re poisonous.” Gil tried to be stern, and glared at Sem. Lulu chimed in.
“What’s wrong with you today? First you hit the lion and now this…” She raised her voice. “Do you want to die?”
Sem was silent. Lulu stepped closer to him and asked again, “Do you?” She grabbed Sem by the shoulders and shook him hard.

“…Of course not.” Sem looked down, and continued in a barely audible voice. “I don’t want to die…I want to stay here on this Earth forever.” Sem looked as if he was going to start crying.
Lulu let go of his shoulders and said, “Then why are you acting this way?” She sat down on the ground. “After all, I’ve been taking care of you, you know…” Gil could hear the tears in her voice. Anger and jealousy reared their heads.
“I think you need to apologize to her!” he said, and he shoved Sem. Gil knew he was out of control, but it was too late. Sem went tumbling backwards into the field of bright mushrooms.
“No, Gil!” Lulu yelled.

“I’m sorry…” Gil said to no one.
“Let’s go…” Lulu said. They left the forest.

Gil couldn’t remember how he’d gotten back to the palace after that. He’d found himself standing in a corner right outside its district. He’d been so out of touch with reality that he couldn’t remember how long he’d been there, after parting with the other two. He was only jolted back to it in the first place when the lion found him and rubbed his nose against him.

He kept thinking about the moment when he pushed Sem.

He remembered when he was a small child and he’d bullied a boy. No one had reprimanded him.
He just remembered that Lulu had told him to stop. He could still hear her voice, “You shouldn’t, Gil.” He had never been scolded by anyone before.

No one had ever scolded Gil except Lulu. He’d never done anything particularly wrong. But Lulu would find a few things here and there and said things like, “Aren’t you ashamed to act like that?” She always had a way of making him feel really bad afterwards. Gil had behaved himself in recent years so Lulu had no need to scold him. Needless to say, this episode with Sem was disturbing him.
Gil wondered if Sem was going to forgive him. He was filled with regret over the whole thing, and couldn’t forget Lulu yelling at him with such a fierce expression on her face. He spent that night sleepless.

The morning came. Gil didn’t feel up to it, but he knew he needed to go apologize to Sem.

When Gil got to Sem’s workroom, Lulu was there to let him in. Sem was lying in bed on his side with his back turned to Gil.
“My stomach hurts…” Sem said, but he didn’t turn to face Gil.
“At least you didn’t die from eating the mushrooms…” Lulu said jokingly as she brought in food for him. Gil didn’t know what to say.

After searching his mind for something, anything, and getting nothing at all, he sat there quietly instead.
Gil stayed there in the same position, even when Lulu had left to go back to the main house.

He didn’t know how long he’d been there. Time slipped by until Sem spoke.
“You are still here?”
“Y-yes,” Gil replied with a start.
“You should go…” Sem said emotionlessly.
“I guess… Why don’t you come to the palace sometime?”
Gil had asked Sem before but he’d always refused. Lulu hadn’t been to the palace since she had found Sem.
“I’ll carry you. What do you say?” Gil offered cheerfully.

“I like it here,” Sem said. “I don’t want to leave.”
“Okay, then…” Gil was about ready to give up. But he asked Sem anyway, “Are you going to be up and around tomorrow?”
“…I don’t want to get up for a while,” Sem said petulantly. This wasn’t going anywhere, Gil thought, and left.

Gil left the palace to visit Sem again with a heavy heart the next morning. The sunlight felt harsher on his skin than usual as he walked. He knew that everything seemed too bright in comparison to his dark thoughts.
Gil found Sem lying on his bed in the same position as he was yesterday. He appeared to be asleep. Lulu was there.
“He’s eating,” she said. “I’m sure he’ll be better soon” She didn’t seem worried at all, in fact, trying to tease him. “You sure are more serious about the mushrooms than you were with the tornado.”
So Lulu thought he was just concerned about his health…

Gil had been worried that Lulu was still angry with him for that incident, too, but she didn’t seem to be holding it against him at all. That was a relief. He just wished that Sem would forgive him. Gil stayed for a while and left without seeing Sem’s face.

The sun was still out, shining strongly. The lion was waiting for Gil under a tree but he still looked as if he was trying to shield his face from the bright sunlight.
Something wasn’t right here. It was time for the sun to go down; it should have been getting darker. Apparently, everyone he passed on the streets thought the same and looked up into the sky.
Then it got stranger; even after the sun had gone down, it was daylight and the sky was blue. The night never came.
But the horizon over the desert and the mountains far in the distance was dark. It was only daylight in Uruk. The sky got brighter as the hours went by and eventually it became white.

Gil couldn’t sleep that night because it was just too bright, even in his room.

He finally started to doze off early the next morning. His last thought before going to sleep was that the sky was now the same color as the glowing mushrooms.

“I shall send the brightness to punish those on Earth.” A man’s strong voice woke Gil.

Was that the demon again? he wondered.

He knew that the mushrooms were somehow planted in the forest by the demon. Gil got dressed to go to Sem’s. It was still very early, but it was so bright it didn’t matter. If the demon had planted the mushrooms and Sem had eaten it, Gil couldn’t just sit around and do nothing. He had a plan; he would get the black powder that Sem had used to destroy the tornado, and use it to destroy the mushrooms in the forest.

It was about the same time when Sem sat up with a start from his own rest. It was unusually bright in his room, too. He looked out the window. “Another punishment...” he said to himself.
He went to his work area and brought back pieces of scrap wood to fill the cracks between the walls in his room. He left a tiny hole for some light.
When this was done, he looked around and let out a satisfied sigh.

As soon as Gil set foot outside the palace, he had to stop. The brightness was blinding…
He could barely make out the shapes of the buildings around him. He shielded his eyes with both arms and continued with his head down.

It got brighter and brighter as he walked. At some point, Gil noticed he hadn’t seen the lion yet. But soon, it became too hard to think of anything but reaching his destination He couldn’t see the buildings anymore and it was even hard to see his own feet moving. Then he couldn’t see at all and thought he was hallucinating.

Gil was sure he was near Lulu’s house. He’d walked that way long enough, but he had no sense of direction in this blinding light.
“Sem!” he yelled as loud as he could. “Lulu! Can you hear me?”
Then he heard a door open and Sem’s tiny voice say, “Over here.”
Gil couldn’t see Sem at all. “Sem, where are you?” he said as he stumbled around blindly.
“I’m here,” Sem said and grabbed Gil’s hand.

“I can’t see you at all,” said Gil.
“I can see you just fine. I’ve been waiting for you. Come inside.” Sem led him into his room. He sounded as normal as ever. Gil wondered if he was losing his mind.

“Shit!” Gil tripped on the ledge at the door and tumbled into Sem’s room. The door closed and Gil was in total darkness, welcome to his eyes after the scorching light.

“Sem…” he said nervously.
“I’m here.” Gil tried to find Sem in the darkness but couldn’t. “Your eyes will get used to it eventually.” He sounded reassuring, but Gil wanted to be able to see right away.
After what seemed like a long time, he was finally able to make out the outline of Sem’s face in a ray of sunlight shining into the room.

“I see you now!” Gil said, and he got closer to Sem.
“You’ve been through a lot…”
“I’ve been worried about you.”
“No need. I feel good today.” He could see Sem was smiling. Gil knew that his eyesight was almost back to normal. He even noticed the small crack letting the sunlight in.
“Why did you come in this weather?” Sem asked.
“This isn’t what you’d call ‘weather’,” Gil corrected. “It’s been like this since last night.”
“...Of course. You are right.”
“I believe this is the demon’s doing,” Gil said.
“Then you need to do something!”
“That’s why I’m here!” The fear had left him quickly now that he was safe. He continued explaining his suspicion, confident. “I think this has something to do with the mushrooms by the brook in the forest.”
“No. You are wrong.” Sem sounded even more confident than he was.

“How do you know for sure?” Gil said, doubtful.
“I’ve seen it with my own eyes”
“You went back to the brook?”
“Not in the forest. In the sky.”
“How did you look at the sky when it was so bright?”
Sem let out a sigh. It was obvious to him that Gil wasn’t listening.
“I’ve something special,” he said. Gil didn’t understand what he could possibly have that would let him see in such brightness. But he continued, more confident than ever.
“I’ll be your eyes…” He took out and put on what looked to be a pair of sunglasses.
“You can’t see anything at all like that, I’m sure,” Gil said.
“They only make things darker.”
Gil still didn’t understand how the sunglasses worked, but asked, “We’ll be able to see the demon through them?”

Illustration of Gil and Sem with the sun glasses.

“It’s just a pair of sunglasses?” I asked. “I thought it would be special like those lenses used to observe the sun.”
“You would use those in science classes?” he asked.
“I didn’t think sunglasses would have worked in brightness like that…”
“I’m sure the sunglasses worked just as well as the special lenses,” Mr. Force said, as if my question was silly and unimportant. I had another question, though.
“I don’t understand why…”
“What now?”
“Why didn’t Gil put on the sunglasses?”
“That’s a good question.” Mr. Force said with a slight smile. “He was afraid of them because he didn’t know what they were.”
“He was afraid of the sunglasses?” I repeated incredulously.
“You can’t understand because they’re familiar to you.”
“Well…” I felt uncomfortable.
“We aren’t going to talk about it anymore. It’s a waste of time.”
“I suppose...”
“Let’s continue with the story.”

“Sem, can you prepare the black powder that expands with heat?” Gil said.
“Oh, the gunpowder?”
“That’s what it’s called? Never mind. We can blow up anything with it.” Gil was pleading with Sem to let him use it, but a smile appeared beneath the sunglasses.
“You don’t need it, Gil. All you need is your spear this time.”

Gil couldn’t see the enemy. He would have to depend entirely on Sem.

“Okay. I’m going to have to trust you on this,” Gil said, and closed his eyes. “Let’s go.”
“Hold on to my shoulders,” Sem told him, and he opened the door.
Even with his eyes closed, Gil could still see the brightness through his eyelids. He was more than a little afraid.
“You are trembling?” Sem said. “It’s not like you to be afraid.”

“Don’t be stupid! Let’s just go.” Gil tried his best to sound brave. Sem stepped out of his room like he was simply going for a stroll. It was a stark contrast to the awkward way Gil had to walk, blindly, with only the movement of Sem’s shoulders as his guide.

“Oh...” Sem stopped all of a sudden.
“What’s wrong?”
“It’s here…”
Right in front of them, but visible only to Sem, stood a mushroom with legs. It didn’t move at all.
“Where?” Gil readied his spear while Sem stared at the mushroom. In an instant, the mushroom started to float, rising high into the sky. Sem watched it go until he couldn’t see it anymore.
“It went away…” he said as if it was unimportant.
“Hey,” Gil said. He wondered if he could trust Sem.
“Oh!” Sem exclaimed suddenly, his mouth dropping open in surprise.

“Hey, you startled me! So it’s not what we’re after?”
“It’s up there now, it’s almost as big as the sky!” Sem said
“What? You found it up there?”
“Throw the spear, Gil!” Sem commanded.
“Which way?”
“Just throw it above you as far as you can.”
“All right.” Gil didn’t really know which direction, exactly, he was supposed throw the spear. He readied a throw, but it was hard for him to keep balance in a good position with his eyes closed.
“Right up there?” Gil asked just to make sure.
“Yes. Please hurry.”
Gil looked up and felt the strong sunlight on his face. He drew his arm back and threw the spear with all his might.

They waited for any indication the spear had hit the target. But they didn’t hear a sound. They didn’t think that Gil had missed it, because the spear didn’t come down.
“I think the spear is stuck inside the mushroom demon.”
“What?” Gil was getting frustrated because he had to keep his eyes shut and couldn’t see what was going on up there. “What are we going to do now?” he asked Sem irritably.
“We need to get the spear back,” Sem said calmly.
“…We can reach up there?” Gil was doubtful.
“It’s not that high. If we get up on the roof, I’m sure we can.”
Gil had another idea.
“Let’s use the gunpowder.”
“It’s dangerous. It’s too close.” Gil still liked his idea better but he didn’t want to argue with Sem.
“Okay. Let’s get up on the roof.”

“Lulu, we need a ladder and some spears!” Gil called out loudly when they reached the main house.
Sem watched Lulu come out of the house with her eyes closed. Like Gil, all Lulu saw was the extreme white brightness all around her.
“Why do you need them?”
“I don’t have time to explain. Will you please just go get them for us?” Gil yelled impatiently.
“It’s too bright for me to see,” Lulu complained. “I wouldn’t know where I’m going.”
“Sem will guide you.”
“Just tell me where the ladder and spears are,” Sem cut in. “I’ll go get them.”
“The brightness isn’t bothering you?” Lulu asked, puzzled.
Sem was about to say something, but Gil cut him off.
“We really need to speed things up.”
“They’re in the storage shed over there,” Lulu said, pointing. “You know where it is?”
“Yeah, I’ll go now.”
“Wait, I need to go get the key.”

Lulu went back inside, and soon came back with the key.
“Here it is...” She handed it to Sem.
“Thanks.” Sem immediately took off towards the shed.

Left alone, the other two awaited Sem’s return with their eyes closed.
“So what are you going to do with the ladder and spears?” Lulu asked.
“We ‘re going to take out the demon. To do that, we have to get up on the roof.”
“Which roof?”
“Sem says it’s right above this house.”
“I’m just taking Sem’s word for it. I can’t see it or anything.” Gil’s tone was sarcastic. They both knew it would lead to an argument if they continued this way, so he switched to a safer subject. “Is the shed far from here?”
“Not really.”
Gil thought for a moment. “Maybe he’s having trouble carrying everything.”
“Well, neither of you said anything so I didn’t think it would be a problem...”

They didn’t want to blame anyone on this matter, so they fell silent.
After quite some time, they heard Sem dragging the ladder and spears back.
“Are you okay, Sem?” Gil said. He stumbled towards the noise.
“I’m sorry it took so long. I didn’t think they would be so heavy.”
Gil felt for the ladder and took it from Sem. “I’m going to do the rest,” he said, and he put the ladder against the wall of the house. “Can you give me the spears?”
“Here they are.” Sem handed them to Gil. He tried to get the feel of one of them. It seemed flimsy, not well made at all, but he had no choice but to use it. He started practicing throwing positions with his eyes closed.
“..I think these will do,” Gil said with satisfaction after a while. He put his foot on the ladder and asked Sem, “So the demon’s really up here?”
“...Yes.” Sem looked up. Lulu stood a short distance away from the other two, listening to their conversation.

“I’m going up there. Just tell me when,” Gil said, starting up the ladder with the spears.
“You can count on me!” Sem’s confidence reassured Gil.
“Keep going up, Gil.” His voice seemed far away after a while.
“Stop there! You can get on the roof now,” Sem instructed. Gil tested the roof with one foot first and found it was safe for him to stand on. He felt with his feet and found a good spot to throw a spear from.
He pointed the position out to Sem with the tip of the spear and asked, “Is this a good spot?’
Gil readied the spear and threw it as hard as he could. The momentum was so great that he lost balance and almost fell off the roof. Worse yet, the spear didn’t quite reach the target.
“Oh, it didn’t make it...” Sem said.
“I’ve figured that…” Gil was irritated again.

“I think you’ll be able to reach it,” Sem said with confidence.
“Just a little further?”
“Yes just a little.”
“So the demon’s not down there?” Gil asked.
Gil decided that he would throw another spear at a different angle this time.
“I’m going to throw it over there, Sem,” he said, pointing. “You stay out of the way, just in case.”
Gil backed up a few steps on the roof. He tried to measure the length of the roof in steps; one step, two, three, four… He calculated and saw in his mind that he was just at the edge of the roof. He took a spear in both hands and started running to the other edge. Just before he reached it, he leapt into the air, brandishing the spear.

It sank audibly into something squishy.

Gil found himself dangling in the air by the spear.
“Sem…I can’t pull out the spear!”
“Try moving it side to side!” Sem called from the ground.
Gil swung his body from side to side, trying to get the spear out.
Then all of a sudden, it came loose. The spear fell from his hand as he landed flat on his back in the grass.
“Ugh...” The impact was so great that his consciousness wavered, and began to fade.

There was a hissing sound as the world was plunged into darkness. It was jarring after how bright it had been, he thought as he lost consciousness.
Then a translucent jelly-like substance started to fall from the sky. After it rained down, there were stars in the sky like any other normal night. It became very quiet.

Illustration of Gil hanging from the spear.

“So the bright mushroom Sem had seen on the ground expanded in the sky?” I asked Mr. Force.
“Yes. Exactly.”
The mushroom was so big that it was over the entire city, and it almost covered up the roof underneath it...
“It’s hard for me to imagine such a thing.”
“It’s not as unusual as you think.”
“Really?” I was shocked by this new information.
“It happens about once every 10,000 years all over the world.”
I imagined a monster mushroom hovering over Tokyo and shuddered. Then I thought that in today’s world, it couldn’t grow to be so big. There wasn’t much room even in the sky. Mr. Force went on.
“It was just a mushroom after all. It would have only lasted a few days.”
“So they could have just let it be? All that work was for nothing?”
“It wasn’t for nothing.” Mr. Force looked far away again and said, “Sem and Gil became closer because of this…”

Gil slept in Sem’s room that night. Miraculously, he was unharmed. He woke the next morning feeling almost like his old self.
Sem was there by his side when he awoke. This time, their roles had switched.
“You slept well.” Sem smiled. “I thought you were dead when I found you on the ground.”
“Gil’s too strong to die from a fall like that!” It was Lulu’s voice.
“So we took care of it for good?” Gil wanted to know.
“I hear that the forest is still unusually bright,” Lulu said.

Gil left Sem and Lulu there and headed for the forest on his own. He planned to burn and destroy every one of the mushrooms there.

On the way, the lion found him. He noticed that he had grown a little in a few days. He got down on his stomach in front of Gil.

“You’re giving me a ride?”
The lion made a sound in his throat as if to say yes. Gil got on the lion’s back and the animal started walking slowly in the direction of the brook in the forest.

The area around the brook was still filled with the bright mushrooms. They seemed to have grown, and some of them were as big as umbrellas. Worse yet, legs were growing out of them, and it looked as if they would start moving around any minute.

“Don’t feel too bad, guys,” Gil said to them and lit the fire. The flame burned and melted the mushrooms, turning the brook red in its dancing light.

The forest was dark and eerily quiet once again, as if nothing had happened.

Chapter 5: The Outcast

This latest victory over the mushrooms was such an accomplishment for Gil, because Sem had played such a big role in it. Whatever differences or misunderstandings there had been between them were cleared up now. Gil couldn’t be prouder for him and felt that he could be a great warrior one day. In fact, he wanted to help him become one, often seeking to take Sem out with him.

One day, Gil brought a gift for Sem.
“A man should know how to use a spear.” He put a spear he’d brought from the palace in Sem’s hand. It was a small spear, easy to use for beginners.
“No thanks…I…” Sem started to refuse in a tiny voice.
“I’ll teach you how to use it” Gil pushed it into Sem’s hand again, but he let go of it. “What’s wrong?” he said, raising his voice more than he wanted to. He just couldn’t help it.

“It’s not for me. It takes people with special talent to use a primitive weapon like this,” Sem said.
Gil tried to figure out if that was a compliment or not. But when he looked up, Sem had disappeared.
“Hey…Sem!” he called.
But he was gone.

Lulu came to Gil as he let out a deep sigh.
“What’s wrong with you, Gil? Did Sem leave you?” she teased.
“It’s none of your business,” he said angrily. She’d hit a sore spot. “It’s between me and Sem.”
“...Sorry.” Lulu smiled to herself and turned to leave. But she stopped, and said, “I have a piece of advice for you. Don’t push weapons on Sem. He’s not interested.”
“You’ve tried before?”
“I just know Sem, that’s all. I’ve known him longer than you have.”

Lulu turned around and smiled at him. Somehow, it made him uncomfortable, like there was a hidden meaning to her words. He thought that she was trying to say that she spent more time with Sem than with him recently. Of course, Gil knew that she had known him longer than she had known Sem. And he didn’t like that she was trying to say he hardly knew Sem. He tried his best to contain those feelings.
“If that’s what you think, fine,” he said brusquely. “But I know that Sem could be a better warrior than most.” He sounded a lot calmer than he’d expected; he was glad for that.

Gil just couldn’t give up on Sem. He became almost obsessed with the idea of making him into a warrior. It was all one-sided, of course, since Sem showed no interest. But Gil was going to take his father’s place eventually, and he had always imagined having the best warriors at his side when that day came. But so far, he hadn’t found anyone suitable at all.
If I could put him in life or death situations... he wondered. The encounters with the flying lion, the tornado, and the mushrooms were like that.
But what Gil imagined for Sem was an actual battle with weapons.

Gil kept dreaming of the day when Sem would be a warrior.

He visited regularly. Sem was feeling much better nowadays, and he was always outside when Gil visited. But he wasn’t being very active; he just sat there on the grass staring into the sky. There was a lot to be done around the property but Lulu and her parents feared that hard work would be too much for him.
“We don’t want him to get sick again,” Lulu said. “I don’t think this type of work is for him.”
Gil thought that were too overprotective of Sem. “But it’s not good for him to sit around all the time and do nothing.”
“But he does do something! He always has good ideas on repairing buildings, and how to make better use of crops after harvest. He doesn’t do physical work, but he proves himself very useful.” Lulu sounded very proud of him. “And he can make things with copper!”
Gil was surprised by this information.

“Who taught him how to make them?” he asked.
“No one. He knew how already. There are many treasures made of copper in the palace, didn’t you know?” Then she went on to say that because of Sem, the coppersmiths around the palace are thriving in their business. Gil didn’t know about those treasures at the palace, and he certainly didn’t know what to say to her. It was just as well, since Lulu continued.
“You might use a spear well, but there are other things and talents that are important out there… By the way, do you know about this metal called iron?”
“No. What is it?”
“This metal is supposed to be lot harder than copper.”
“I don’t think anything’s harder than copper.”
“But it is!”
“Then show me!”
“Well… I’ve never seen it. Sem just told me about it…”
“Is this something Sem’s made?”
“He said he’ll show it to me when it’s finished.”
It sounded like they were close, Lulu and Sem. It was starting to make Gil feel insecure.

Nevertheless, he said, “I’d like to see it as soon as he gets done with it, too. If there is such a thing.”
“Then you need to leave him alone and let him work on it.”
Gil was fascinated by all the new things Sem came up with: gunpowder and now this “iron”. It made him realize more than ever that there was a lot he didn’t know about Sem.

“Sem has the ability to see things we don’t,” Gil pointed out. He remembered when his eyes were closed against the brightness, and Sem became his eyes. And there was that time with the tornado; he was the only one who could see it. “He can see the things that we can’t… It’s like he has God’s vision…” He wasn’t sure he was expressing himself correctly.
“God’s vision?” Lulu wasn’t sure if those were the right words either. “More like the ‘eyes of an angel’, I’d say.” She smiled to herself.
An angel...

Gil imagined Sem floating, so pale and translucent. He knew that was the right word to describe Sem: an angel.
Whether or not Lulu was satisfied with that, she didn’t say any more, and neither did Gil.

“So…where did Sem really come from?” I asked. “Was he an ‘angel’?”
But Mr. Force didn’t seem to want to talk about Sem.
“Iron was introduced much later...” he said instead.
“Yes…I know.” At least I knew this.
“Well, if it had been up to Sem, both copper and iron would have been introduced at about the same time…”
“So, what is Sem...” I started to ask about Sem again, but Mr. Force cut me off.
“Let’s continue with the story, all right?”

Ever since Lulu had told Gil about the special metal called iron, he couldn’t stop thinking about it.
One day when he was visiting Sem again, he said, “Lulu says that you are working on something special?”
“What are you talking about?”
“I’m talking about the metal called iron.”
“Can I see it?”
“I can’t…It’s not finished yet.”
Gil wasn’t ready to stop talking about it. “I want to know more about this ‘iron’.”
“What do you want to know?
“Is it true that this ‘iron’ is harder than copper?”
“Yes. It’s lighter in weight, but harder.”
“If you could make swords with it, I’d have nothing to fear!”
“You have spears, Gil. You don’t need anything else.”
“And if you could make spearheads with iron, it’d be even better!”
“Oh…I see.”
“I’m looking forward to seeing this ‘iron’. Is there any way you can speed things up?”
Gil’s eyes shone with excitement, but Sem looked very serious.

“Well, I guess I can show you a little…” he said reluctantly.
“Really?!” Now that he was going to see it, Gil felt nervous all of a sudden.
“Just for a second, okay…?”

“You can come in.” Sem led Gil into his workroom.
The walls were lined with cabinets and shelves full of objects that Gil had never seen before.
“Wow!” Gil exclaimed, looking at each object as if taking a mental snapshot.
“This is iron.” Gil turned around. Sem was holding a long silver-colored stick in his hand. It was very shiny.
“This is a very nice color…” Gil said and stretched out his hand to touch it. “It’s different from silver?”
“It’s not expensive and precious like silver. There’s plenty of iron in the ground.”

“Really?” This excited Gil even more.
“Not right now, but one of these days…” Sem said thoughtfully, and he let Gil hold the silver stick.
“...Yes. It’s a lot lighter than it looks.”
Gil had never been interested in the treasures at the palace, but this was different. He was completely taken by this shiny metal in his hand.
“Can I have it?”
“I’ll give you anything you want…”
“…No. It’s no use to anyone as it is.”
“All right…” Gil could definitely use his position to take it by force, but he knew that he had to be patient. Sem saw how disappointed he looked.
“Okay…maybe you can have it.”
“I’m going to fix it so that you can use it on your spear.”
“Thank you, Sem!”

Gil was so happy that he didn’t realize he’d grabbed Sem’s arms as hard as he did.
“Ouch… Gil, that hurts.”
“…Sorry.” Gil smiled and gave the metal stick back to Sem.
“Can you do me a favor though?” Sem asked.
“Whatever you want.”
“Can you invite me to the palace?”
“Of course! You can come anytime.”
“Thank you.” Sem looked very happy.

What about Lulu? Gil thought about her for a minute. It wouldn’t seem natural not to invite Lulu when he invited Sem. Since this would be the first time at the palace for Sem...
“How about letting Lulu show you around the palace?” he suggested.
“Sure. If she’s okay with it.”
“I’ll ask her when would be a good time for her.”

“I want to go there tomorrow,” Sem said out of the blue. “Yes. It has to be tomorrow.”
“...You don’t need to be in such a rush.”
“Please,” he said, more defiant than actually pleading. Gil could tell that he was not going to change his mind.
“Well… We need to ask Lulu if that’s okay with her,” he said.

“I can’t go tomorrow…” Lulu said regretfully.
“When do you have time?” Gil asked.
“I have to help my parents. There’s a lot to be done around here so I don’t think I can get away for a while.”
“I see…” Gil was disappointed by this, too. It meant that he’d have to postpone Sem’s visit.
“Well, tomorrow’s good then,” Sem said, as if their conversation hadn’t just happened. “So Lulu can’t come for a while. What’s wrong with tomorrow?” He clearly didn’t want anyone saying otherwise.

Before Gil could come up with a suggestion, Lulu said, “Don’t mind me. Why don’t you go tomorrow?”
“Can you come to the palace by yourself?” Gil was worried.
“I’m not a child, Gil,” Sem said with a smile.
All Gil could say was, “All right. I’ll be waiting for you tomorrow.”

“I want to bring you a gift tomorrow,” Sem offered as he was leaving Gil.
“You don’t have to.”
“But I must. What would you like me to bring?”
“Well…” The only thing Gil could think of that he wanted... “I would like to have that material, iron.”
“Oh…Of course.” Sem seemed almost sorry he’d offered to bring something. Gil didn’t want him to feel so bad about it.
“You don’t have to bring it tomorrow. I know you said it wouldn’t be ready for a while.”

“I’ll do my best to bring it for you tomorrow.” Sem was determined, but Gil didn’t want him to work too hard and exhaust himself. He had a better idea - there were many other interesting things in Sem’s workroom.
“Maybe you could bring something else from your workroom? I’d like that too.”
“Really? I’ll get something interesting for you, Gil.”
Gil appreciated the effort Sem was making to bring him a gift. He just wished he could have taken a closer look at the things in that workroom. Then a thought came to his mind.
“Has Lulu ever been in that room before?”
“No. You are the only one who’s seen it.”
“Really…” This new information made Gil feel somewhat superior over Lulu when it came to Sem.

That growl was the only warning they had before the lion leapt at Sem, snarling.

The lion pinned Sem to the ground.
“Hey! Stop it! Get off of him!” Gil immediately threw himself on the lion’s back. He threw punch after punch at the lion’s head, left, right, left, right. It almost sounded like he was hitting metal instead of an animal’s face.
The lion didn’t seem to care that Gil was hitting him. He bared his teeth, ready to bite. Gil quickly hooked his arm around the animal’s neck and tightened his hold.
The lion’s snarling weakened and stopped. He rolled off of Sem with Gil still hanging on to him. The beast foamed at the mouth, and soon lost consciousness. Gil got off and punched his face again.
“Stupid animal!”
The lion didn’t move.

“Are you all right, Sem?” Gil pulled Sem up and brushed the dirt off of him.

“I’m okay,” Sem said with a smile. Gil felt terrible for what had just happened. It filled him with rage at the lion.
“You…!” Gil started kicking the lion in the face over and over, out of control. The lion’s face was a mess, bruised and bleeding. Finally, Gil raised his spear, ready to strike the animal.

All the while, Sem just watched with no emotion on his face.

“Hey, what’s going on here?” If Lulu hadn’t happened to show up, Gil would have killed the lion.

“The lion had never attacked anyone before?” I asked Mr. Force.
“No, he never had. As far as I know.”
“Did the lion get jealous of Sem?” It just came to my mind, and I said it aloud without thinking.
“You say the funniest thing.” Mr. Force looked at me with a cold gaze.
I didn’t mean it to be funny, of course. Maybe I was missing something important here. I would try to figure it out later.
“So the lion was okay?”
“We’ll see about that.” Mr. Force looked far away again as he said it. “He was okay...but as I recall, this is where the tragedy begins.”

Gil had been restless all morning.
Sem was coming to the palace for a visit. His parents were not too happy about the visitor on such short notice but they agreed to visit with Sem after Gil pleaded with them. It had taken a lot of effort on Gil’s part to prepare everything. He’d instructed the chefs to prepare delicacies that would suit Sem’s tastes.

Sem set out to the palace on his own for the first time. The citizens who lived outside of its district rarely went there, and when they did, the noise and the bustle there were overwhelming for them. But it wasn’t so for Sem. He headed straight to the palace as if he knew exactly where he was going, not paying any attention to his surroundings. Sem wasn’t astonished by the difference between here, where most buildings were made of stone, and where Lulu’s parents’ house was. Rather, he seemed to think that all this seemed foolish and wasn’t for him at all. It was apparent on his face.

When Sem reached the palace, he found the lion tied to a pole with a rope. The lion’s face looked terrible from the beating he’d taken yesterday. As soon as the lion saw Sem, he got up and started growling, baring his teeth.

Sem passed right by the lion as if he didn’t care.
Just like yesterday, the lion lunged at him. The rope was just long enough for the lion to just barely miss him. Sem gave the animal a quick glance and kept going to meet Gil.
The guards rushed over to see what had caused the lion to be so upset, but couldn’t figure it out since there was no one nearby.

“Thank you for inviting me.”
“Glad you could make it, Sem.”
Gil wondered where Sem’s gift was as he welcomed him. He had been looking forward to seeing what Sem would bring for him since last night. But obviously, he had come empty-handed. Even though Gil was disappointed, it didn’t seem right to ask him why he hadn’t brought anything. He wished Sem had never mentioned gifts at all. He couldn’t help but feel bitter.

Gil led Sem into the formal viewing room where his parents were waiting. The king sat on his throne and stared at Sem. He didn’t say a word but thought, he looks so frail...
His displeasure at seeing Sem was apparent on his face. Even the queen didn’t seem to care for her son’s new friend. The boy didn’t look suitable at all to be a friend of the future king.
As if Sem sensed their disapproval, he knelt down and bowed halfheartedly, without saying anything. It was very disrespectful behavior toward the king and the queen, and Gil’s heart raced. Gil still wanted to be on Sem’s side.
Everyone regarded the king as the sovereign leader and the queen as the goddess.
Gil respected his parents, of course. But he wanted to remain friends with Sem. He’d been of immeasurable help in the trials they’d faced. He wished that his parents would show some kindness toward his friend.

“I’m not welcome here,” Sem whispered to Gil loud enough so that the king and queen would hear it. He knew that, but it wouldn’t do any good for his parents to hear Sem say such a thing.

Gil pretended that he didn’t hear what Sem had just said.
“I hope you’re hungry. I’ve had them prepare a feast for you.”
As he started to lead Sem out of the room, he heard his mother say, “There’s some kind of disturbance in the forest. Would you two be kind enough to go see what it is?”
Gil wished that she hadn’t asked to do such a thing when he had his friend over for a visit. She’d always asked him to do things like this and he’d obeyed her. He didn’t want to refuse the goddess’s wish, but this was not a good time to go check on a minor problem. It was almost like a bad habit of hers.
Gil remembered that she had done the same thing to him when Lulu came to visit a long time ago. She’d told him that there was a giant iguana in the desert and he had to go kill it. Other things like this had happened whenever Lulu visited.
Gil knew that he couldn’t refuse orders from his mother; she was regarded as the goddess. But it was no wonder that Lulu’s visits became less frequent. He had to do something about this.
So what does the goddess want me to do now…?
Gil was deep in thought when he heard Sem say, not too excitedly, “Well…I guess we have to go, then.”
They headed to the forest.

“Wait a minute, please.” I had to interrupt Mr. Force again. “If Gil’s mother was a goddess, does that mean Gil was a Nephilim?”
“Nephilim are born between an angel, a child of God, and a human on Earth.”
“I’d expect someone in your position to be more educated about these things.”
“I’m very sorry…” I’d embarrassed myself again... But I just had to ask, “But then, I’m curious. What is a child born between a goddess and a human?”
“That’s a very good question.” Mr. Force looked at me with his odd eyes that didn’t reflect the smile his mouth gave me at all. He didn’t elaborate.
“So what is the child, then?” I prodded him for an answer.
“I’d say…he could be a god, or just a human.”
“It’s not important. Forget about it.”
I was sure that it wasn’t a very good question at all.

“So, according to you, Gil could have been a god or just a human?” I pressed anyway.
Mr. Force completely ignored me.
“Let’s get on with the story, shall we?”

“I’m sorry you have to go on a stupid errand with me when you’re a palace guest,” Gil said to Sem on the way to the forest.
“Your parents don’t like me at all.” Sem sounded angry beneath his otherwise calm tone.
Gil stopped short. “It’s not you they don’t like,” he said, trying to make Sem feel better. Sem stopped walking, too, and turned around.
“You are not favored by God, are you?” His voice was solemn, as if conveying a sad truth.
Sem resumed walking slowly.

Gil was rattled by Sem’s comment. They were talking about his mother and now…
He remembered the voices he’d heard in the darkness. The voices wanted to punish him. They were filled with hatred.

“You shall be punished…”
“This time I shall punish you…”
“I shall send brightness so great it shall blind every living creature on Earth…”

Gil knew that God hated him.
But he didn’t know why.
He had always handled the ‘trials’ thrown upon him by his mother, the goddess. Now he understood that they weren’t really trials but were punishments from God himself.

Gil and Sem heard loud splashing. Was it coming from the lake?
Gil started running as quickly as he could in the direction of the lake without another word.
There was a monstrous creature with a draconic face in the lake. It had many legs with suction cups on them. The creature seemed to be on a rampage, twisting its body and splashing wildly.
Is this a trial or a punishment? Gil wondered as he approached the devilish creature.
I can get him from here, he thought confidently as he reached a suitable distance. He threw his spear. It struck the creature’s eye, but it wasn’t crippled, somehow. Instead, it pulled the spear from its eye and threw it back towards Gil. It landed on the ground nearby, but when he went to retrieve it, the creature spewed ink from its mouth.
The ink dyed the ground black and Gil could smell sulfur and burned grass in the air. Then smoke rose from the ground.
“Watch out, Gil!” he heard Lulu’s voice say and he turned around.
One of the creature’s legs was reaching out to grab Gil. He drew his knife to cut it off, but the threat was enough to deter it; its leg withdrew just before it touched him.

Illustration of the creature in the lake

Sem had been watching Gil’s movement the whole time and was impressed by how quickly he reacted to the creature. He thought surely Gil would be able to kill this monster…

All Gil saw now was Lulu in front of him, forgetting about Sem’s presence entirely.
“What are you doing here?” Gil said.
“I heard about the creature in the lake so I came to see it!” Lulu held a strange-looking spear in her hand that he had never seen before. It was quite large for a spear, and it had shining silver metal on each side of the head.
“Are you going to use that on the creature?” Gil asked.
“No. I brought it for you.”
The shiny silver metal looked jaggy and lethal. Gil knew what it was made of.
It was iron.
He didn’t have time to ask to confirm this. He quickly grabbed the spear from her hand.
Gil felt the spear. It was a lot lighter than it looked, but the most extraordinary thing happened when he held it. A laser shot out from both sides of the jaggy iron pieces.
It had a switch for the ends of the metal pieces to dig and expand deeper into its targets.
“When you hold it there, the laser comes out, and once you strike a target with it, it shouldn’t come out,” Lulu explained. “It’ll just go deeper into the target with the switch.”
Gil was in awe of this weapon. Not only did he have a spear of this new metal called iron, it had this ‘laser’ power, too.
Without hesitation, Gil stabbed the creature with the special spear.

Illustration of Gil holding the special spear

The creature in the lake thrashed around in pain and swung its legs violently, with Gil still hanging onto the spear. He was flung into the air but still held on.
The creature went underwater.
Gil held on even in the water. He bent the part of the spear where he held in the middle. Holding the other part of the spear, he slowly started toward the creature’s head, crawling up on one of its legs.

On dry land, Lulu waited anxiously. The creature was writhing in pain so much that it was splashing water all around the lake. Sem went over to Lulu and watched beside her.

The creature tried to pull out the spear with one of its other legs. The spear wouldn’t come out, and the creature continued to writhe violently in pain.
Maybe God has a plan to kill me during one of his trials, Gil thought as he held on to the creature. He was making slow progress towards the creature’s head, constantly dipped beneath the water as the creature flailed.

He finally reached the creature’s head and stabbed its eye with the other part of the spear with all his might, pushing it as far in as it would go. The creature started twisting and turning even more violently.

Another thought came to Gil: God must really hate me.

Gil tried desperately to swim to the shore. It was difficult to get ahead because of the huge waves caused by the creature splashing madly. When he finally got out, the creature pulled out the part of the spear that had pierced its eye. Dark red blood gushed from it.
Gil didn’t care if this was a trial or punishment anymore. He’d come to realize they were pretty much the same thing.

Lulu rushed over to him, overjoyed. “Great job, Gil!”
But Gil didn’t look very pleased at all.
“Are you all right?” Lulu looked at him closely, sensing that something was wrong.
“…Yes.” That was all he said. He avoided eye contact with her.
Sem stood nearby, looking happy with the way things had gone.
Gil glared at Sem, and said to Lulu, “…I couldn’t have done it without your special weapon.”
“It’s not mine. Sem made it.”
“Oh really?!” Gil practically yelled so Sem would hear, feigning surprise.

Gil was sure this was what Sem had made for him as the gift he’d promised. He wanted to know why Lulu had the gift that was meant for him, but he couldn’t confront Sem about it with her standing right there.
Lulu had told him that she had never been inside of Sem’s workroom. The more he thought, the more he was certain they were keeping a secret from him. This realization was too much for him, especially after what he’d just been through.

“This weapon is quite amazing!” Gil exclaimed, exaggerating his excitement to antagonize Sem. “A spear with a deadly laser!”
“I knew you would like it,” Sem said with a smile. He obviously didn’t understand the meaning behind Gil’s words, but Gil thought he just pretended not to know what he was talking about.
Gil sat down, and started to think.
Lulu and Sem thought he was exhausted from the fight. They both tried to help him to his feet but he brushed them off and got up on his own.

“I’ll be taking on a long journey,” Gil said as he wrung the water out of his garment, his back still turned to the other two. Lulu and Sem looked at each other, astonished.

Sem was especially shaken by this sudden announcement. “...But why?”
Gil started to explain without turning around.
“At this rate, all of Uruk, even the entire country will be swallowed by darkness.” Gil saw a patch of dark shadow moving around his feet and quickly drew his knife and stabbed it. The shadow disappeared in an instant.
“...And I will be, too.” Gil started to leave Sem and Lulu standing there.
“Wait, Gil!” Sem called, but Gil didn’t turn around. “You can overcome the evil from the demon! You are the only one who can save us!”
Sem kept yelling these words over and over until he collapsed, exhausted.
“I don’t think I can do it…” he whispered. Lulu didn’t even hear it. She stood there in total shock and disbelief.

When Gil emerged from the forest, he found the lion waiting for him. There was a bloodstained rope around the animal’s neck.
“You want to come along?” he asked and the lion rubbed against his leg. Gil cut the rope from his neck and the two headed towards the desert.

“For the next two years, Gil roamed nearby countries,” Mr. Force said.
“Two years!”
“It’s not a big deal. Why are you so shocked by this?” Mr. Force looked at me, exasperated. “We all have to get away sometimes to find ourselves. Don’t you do that as well?”
“...So Gil went away to find himself?”
“Yes. Don’t we all go away to find ourselves sometimes?”
“I don’t know…” I wasn’t convinced at all by his explanation, even if he sounded absolutely certain of it. I felt that there was a different purpose for Gil taking on a journey.
“I think he went to find this ‘God’.”
“Ha!” Mr. Force’s laugh sounded bitter. He rubbed the corners of his eyes tiredly and said, “I don’t think anybody can find this ‘God’ in two years. It’s not that easy.”
“…Oh, it must have been the opposite then! Gil went away before the darkness swallowed up everything, the city, the palace, the country…” This time I was sure I was on the right track and waited for Mr. Force’s nod of approval.
But he just said, “You only want to see things in black or white. Or rather, right or wrong.”

“…So my answers are wrong?”
“I’m not saying that you are wrong at all. But for Gil, taking off for just two years didn’t solve anything. He couldn’t run away from this ‘God’, for sure.” At that moment, I thought I saw a peculiar red right that flashed in Mr. Force’s eyes.
“As I said, Gil didn’t solve anything by running away for two years,” he repeated.
“I got it! Gil went off to find out why this ‘God’ hated him.”
“If you’d just keep your mouth shut and let me tell you the rest of the story…”

Chapter 6: The Wanderer

Two years passed since Gil left Uruk. Everywhere he went, the voices of the demon followed, tormenting him. He cried out for an answer every time; was it a trial or a punishment?
There was never a reply.

At first, Gil climbed high up into the mountains, trying to get closer to God.
When he’d climbed higher than the clouds in the sky, he came upon a giant dragonfly with wings that gathered snow and wind into blizzards where it flew. It was as vicious as the snail-tornado. The only weapon he had was a spear but somehow he was able to kill the dragonfly with it.

Gil couldn’t see or sense God’s presence at all, not even when he’d reached the tops of the highest mountains. So he went out into the ocean on a boat. He tried to row himself out to the end of the ocean, if there was an end at all. One day, he was out in the middle of the water when a sea dragon attacked. It was as monstrous as the creature in the lake. He managed to dispose of it as well.

He started rowing the boat again and soon found himself back at the shore where he had gotten on the boat in the first place.

Gil decided then, if Heaven wouldn’t give him answers he’d seek them in The Darkness instead. He searched caves, looking for its entrance. He was in a cave one time, crawling further and further into its dark depths, testing how far he could go. He disturbed a giant mole living there, and had to wrestle with it. He thought about continuing on, but he realized that he just didn’t know enough about The Darkness and beyond to find any answers there.

He had grown into a young man since he left Uruk two years ago. He had fought with whatever came his way through the entire journey. Did he gain or learn anything from this?
One thing was clear to Gil now.
His existence. That was it, very simple. Because he existed, there were trials. It wasn’t the other way around.
He was certain now that he wouldn’t find the answers that he was looking for roaming around like this. He just didn’t know what to do next.

“What should I do?”
“What do I want to do?”
“What do you want from me?!” Gil shouted into the silent heavens.

“...You’re going to answer, you hear me?!”

Gil had only one thing left to do.
He needed to go back home, back to Uruk. In order to take on such a long journey, he’d have to abandon all his possessions. The problem was that, geographically, he had no idea where he was at all.
He thought that if he could at least get to the desert where he started, he’d eventually make it back.
So he and the lion stepped back into the desert.

Even before the first day in the desert ended, Gil became dehydrated and had to stop for rest.
The second day didn’t go so well either. He and the lion rested all day in the shade of a tree and at night, they started walking again. His legs became too fatigued soon after and he had to let the lion carry him.
The lion had aged since he’d taken on this journey with Gil. All the traveling was hard on the animal. He’d lost the ferociousness he once had, and he had lost a lot of weight. He had just barely enough strength left to carry Gil on his back.
Gil felt delirious as he rode on the lion’s back. He almost wished that God would strike him dead now so he didn’t have to be tormented by the demons anymore. He didn’t really care about the trials or the punishments anymore.
But he couldn’t take his own life; to do so was to admit that he had lost.
He’d come this far; he’d fight to the very end.
“I won’t run and hide anymore. If God wants me dead, so be it.”

Gil waited for death to come and take him away.

But nothing happened. He and the lion kept going into the desert. It had already been a few days since they’d started on the journey back. Both Gil and the lion became weary and emaciated.

Gil became no more than a burden on the lion’s back. He was thirsty and hungry.
Even the lion was on the verge of collapsing. His legs were unsteady; he could hardly walk. He stumbled and fell on the sand with Gil on his back. They were buried in sand every time the lion collapsed.

Then Gil felt the ‘presence’.

As delirious as he was, he somehow managed to get up and look around. Even the lion sensed something, and raised his head in alarm.
No matter how hard he looked, all he saw was the desert sands around him.
He wanted to know what this ‘presence’ was. Gil looked down at his feet all of a sudden, thinking it was one of those dark shadows. But there was nothing there.

“You feel a presence?” a voice said. “ That’d be me.”

Gil turned around to find a man standing there. Thick black clothing covered most of his body. There was a sly smile on his face.
“God is quite displeased with you,” the man said teasingly.
Gil thought at first that this man was sent from above to take him up. But he carried no weapons and seemed unafraid. Gil didn’t know what to say, realizing that he wasn’t here to take him.
If he’s not here to kill me, then… Is this a trial of some sort?
Gil readied his spear on wobbly feet. He didn’t look intimidating.
“...Ah, you want to take me down?” The man seemed more amused than surprised, looking relaxed despite the spear pointed at him. “I’m closer to you than God is right now.” The man looked straight at Gil, and he noticed that he had very unusual eyes.

Illustration of the man and Gil

The man’s left eye was green and the other was blue.
They were quite beautiful, almost translucent. Gil couldn’t help but stare into them for a few seconds.
“Are you here to give me a punishment or a trial?” he finally asked the man.
“Neither,” the man laughed.
“What’s so funny?” Gil drew closer, his spear still aimed at the man.
“It’d be no use to attack me with that.” The man didn’t seem afraid of the spear or Gil. He went on to ask Gil a question. “I need to ask you… Do you remember this face?”
Gil stared at the man’s face closely. He was sure he’d never seen him before.
“No,” Gil replied.
“Well… You look so strong I wouldn’t doubt that He would just let you be.” The man turned around, as if to leave.
“Wait! Are you talking about God?” Gil yelled after him.

The man turned around.
“Is there anything you want to say to God?”
He appeared as calm as ever. Even though he wore such heavy clothing, he wasn’t sweating so much as a drop.
He must be a messenger of God, Gil thought.
Gil felt himself sweating from being so nervous even though he thought he had sweated himself dry here in the desert.
“If you could remember my face, perhaps I could convey your message to God…”
Gil sensed the man was setting a trap for him and tried to think of something to say to get out of it. The man continued in his silence.
“I want you to tell her that I’ve been looking for her, if you see her.”
“…Who’s this girl you’re talking about?”
“My eyes hold the answers.” His callous attitude and his strange words made Gil even more anxious. The man glared at him with his odd-colored eyes.
Gil tightened his grip on the spear.
“Ah, you really don’t know, do you?” The man seemed satisfied for once and his expression relaxed. “Never mind. I was sent to check on you. That’s all.”

The man turned away again.
Gil made a decision; if he was a messenger of God, then he should kill him.
He struck out with the spear. He felt the tip sink into flesh, but...

“I told you it wouldn’t be any use.” Even though the spear was stuck in him, the man didn’t appear to be in any pain. Gil couldn’t believe his eyes.
Gil stepped away from the man on unsteady feet and readied another spear to throw at him. But before he threw it, the man disappeared into thin air.

Had this been a hallucination? Nothing more than a dying man’s final dream?

Gil collapsed. His body was wasting and his mind was fragile. He couldn’t stand any more of this. How long would he have to go on searching for answers, looking into faces of ghosts?

Illustration of the man

I was astonished. “Mr. Force, that man was…that was you.”
“Yes indeed. That’s why I’m telling you the story myself.”
“But you are…”
“Why do you seem so shocked by this? It’s not important...” Mr. Force narrowed his odd eyes and smiled.
I didn’t think the fact he was there with Gil was unimportant at all.

When Gil came to, he found himself half-buried in sand. His entire body was covered in it, even his eyelashes. Even though he didn’t think he could move anymore, he slowly lifted himself up on an arm, just enough to see the morning fog parting to show buildings in the distance.
It was Uruk, his home. He could see the palace and the houses that surrounded it. Further in the distance, he could see the cliff where he first saw the flying lion and later fought off the snail-tornado.

Somehow, he managed to pull himself to his feet. He brushed the sand from his face and eyes and looked again in the direction of what he was sure was just a mirage. All of a sudden, he realized that he wasn’t imagining the city in front of him. It was real. It was really Uruk.

Then he found the lion lying in the sand not far from him. One of Gil’s spears protruded from the lion’s body and there was a pool of blood around him.
Gil dropped to his knees beside the lion’s body and pulled the animal into his arms. He felt the animal’s neck and put his cheek against his face. The lion felt cold in Gil’s arms.
The last time he was this close to the lion was when he had attacked Sem. He remembered how thick the lion’s neck was then compared to now.

Gil quietly picked up the lion. He couldn’t believe how the animal felt considering how strong he had been, so light and lifeless like a rag doll in his arms.

For Gil, there was no happiness in returning home at last.

Dawn was breaking in Uruk. On Lulu’s parents’ property, a new building stood next to Sem’s workroom. Inside, Sem and Lulu slept side by side.
Lulu had grown into a young woman from a girl since Gil left two years ago. Sem, on the other hand, still looked like a boy, unchanged.

Far away, the earth faintly rumbled. It was so quiet it would have been hard to detect from where Sem and Lulu slept, but Sem heard it and opened his eyes immediately.

He rose, and looked around to see where the noise was coming from.

Sem saw that nothing was amiss and let out a sigh of relief. There was a twisted smile on his face that he never showed before. It was a smile that would have made anybody uncomfortable.
He watched Lulu still asleep, oblivious to the rumbling noise and his gaze.
Then, he noticed a slight movement around the hem of Lulu’s garment. He reached over and pulled the hem back. A creature about the size of his little finger crawled out from under it.
“Ah, I remember you…” Sem whispered.
The little creature had eyes and lips like a person. He stared at Sem with his mouth wide open.
“You came to see me, right…?” Sem said to the little creature.
The little creature was a newborn Nephilim.
Sem put his hand out in front of him and the Nephilim climbed on and crawled up his arm to reach his face.
He smiled affectionately at his Nephilim, as it finally reached his face and snuggled against it like it had missed him.
Lulu was still fast asleep.
Sem got up and quietly left the room with the Nephilim.

Outside, the early morning sky was still slightly dark, and Uruk was quiet.
Sem heard a voice right beside him speak.
“I shall grant you the power…”
It was as if Sem had been expecting this. He closed his eyes and waited.

The earth rumbled faintly again, from deep down. It wasn’t such a loud noise, but it was unsettling.
Sem stood there, his eyes still closed. He stretched his arms out to the side, and the Nephilim jumped from his shoulder, startled by the sudden movement.
The noise of the earth’s rumbling reached Sem. The earth’s surface made waves as if it was an ocean, and when the waves ceased, a black hole opened in front of him.
The Nephilim was afraid, shaking.
“There’s nothing to be afraid of,” Sem said to him. “I have just been awakened.” He smiled at the little creature, and put his hand out for him again.
The Nephilim climbed into his hand, no longer afraid.

As the sun rose, they vanished into the darkness.

Lulu opened her eyes suddenly.
What was that strange noise?
She was sure she had heard it, but now there was no sign of it at all.

The noise came from when the black hole had closed after Sem and the Nephilim went into it, but of course she had no way of knowing that. She just felt really strange, like that time when she was in the desert so long ago.

She remembered the shadow of the man dressed in black...

She didn’t see the shadow there, even though she had sensed its presence.

“Sem!” she called. But there was no answer. “...Sem?” She began to feel that something was wrong.

And then she heard a noise: Peep, peep, peep, peep...

The noise was electronically generated. It was the same noise that Lulu had heard in the desert so long ago.
She strained to listen for more.

“Too bad they got away. Forget it… No use telling me about it. Not going to solve anything.”
The voice came from Sem’s workroom; it was the same voice she had heard in the desert. She didn’t understand what he was saying.
At first she thought that Sem was meeting someone there. But she’d never seen Sem let anybody in his workroom and she doubted that he would see anyone at this hour anyway.

She went over to Sem’s workroom and peered inside quietly.
There was no one there.
It had been quite some time since she’d seen the inside of his workroom.

Lulu forgot about the strange noise and the voices, and surveyed the objects in Sem’s workroom thoughtfully. The very first time she had been inside was when Sem had accidentally left the door open and she sneaked in.
The second time was the day she would never forget. It was the day Gil left two years ago.

“I’ve made this amazing weapon for Gil,” Sem had told her. “It’s called ‘Baaz’ and there’s a switch to activate a laser when he holds it. Please give it to him when he really needs something like this.” Then he left to go visit Gil at the palace. Later on, Lulu heard there was trouble at the lake in the forest. The new weapon came to mind immediately and she went into Sem’s workroom where it was kept. He had kept his room locked normally, but that day it was unlocked. She grabbed Baaz and headed to the lake, knowing that Gil would be there.

And now she was in this room again for the third time. For the first time in two years.
She was taken by an object large enough to occupy the entire back wall of the workroom. It had two wheels attached to its front, and they turned in the same direction, winding a long, thin strip of tape between them.

She was startled by Sem’s voice.

Lulu looked around the room but she was alone.

“I can’t see or touch you anymore but…” Sem’s voice seemed to come from the wall where the strange object was.
“What are you saying, Sem?” Lulu opened the window near the wall and stuck her head out to find Sem, but he wasn’t outside.

“We’ll meet again someday.”
She realized that his voice came from the object on the wall.
How was this possible? Lulu couldn’t believe that she was hearing Sem’s voice from the wall. She waited for him to speak.

“You are my dearest a sister...well, never mind that…”

Sem’s voice was gone

Illustration of Lulu and the recorder

There was a click and the wheels on the object stopped turning. Smoke rose from the device and it destroyed itself completely before Lulu’s eyes.
Lulu stood there in confusion, until she heard someone trying to open the door to the workroom.

“Sem?” She ran to the door.
In the doorway stood a man in a filthy, ragged garment. A dead lion was draped around his neck.
“Sem’s not here anymore?” Gil asked Lulu without a reply.
“…No. I think he’s left for good.”
Gil’s spirits sank at the news.

Chapter 7: The Boy’s Dream

The sunrise illuminated the peak of Mt. Hermon, where Sem stood looking like his old self.
The Nephilim sat at his shoulder, already grown as tall as Sem.

There were stars still shining faintly in the early morning sky.
“Our people should be coming down soon,” Sem said to the Nephilim. “We are going to build our dream home here... I too, will prevail.”
Sem went on, as if talking to himself, and stretched out his hand to the vast sky, taking it all in. He smiled peacefully and repeated, “We are going to build our dream home here.”

“You are such a puppet. But you are very observant for being one, I’d say.”
Mr. T spoke from right next to me on the sofa. Mr. Force didn’t appear surprised or excited by Mr. T being there with us at all.
“It’s my job to be observant,” Mr. Force said lightly, with a twinkle in his two-colored eyes.
“What about you?” I was startled by the question, distracted by Mr. T’s sudden reappearance, healthy as ever.
“You just can’t seem to focus, can you?”
“I, ah...” I was so confused by the current situation that I couldn’t say anything. I had been in this room with Mr. Force and no one else…and I had forgotten about Mr. T lying under the shelf in a pool of blood.
“I told you that was going to be okay,” Mr. Force said.
“But I was sure, then…” I started to say and Mr. Force cut me off.
“I’ve friends up there close to God. They take care of stuff like what happened to Mr. T earlier.”
I could tell there was more to it than that. I just didn’t know what it was. I just couldn’t stop staring at Mr. T’s face, it was like seeing a ghost. But there was no use thinking too hard about it now.

I decided to save all my questions about that for later.

“So what happened to Gil next?” I asked.
The room’s atmosphere began to change. Both Mr. Force and Mr. T looked at me as if I had asked the most ridiculous question.
“You’ve never read ‘The Epic of Gilgamesh’ before?” Mr. Force asked.
“Oh... Then, Gil was…” I felt like I’d just committed the worst crime of the century.
“Mr. T, is he fit to handle his job as a writer?” Mr. Force asked worriedly.
“It’s all right. I’ll look over his work and make sure that everything is satisfactory,” Mr. T said, quickly dismissing that for something that obviously concerned him more. He raised his voice. “But why are you here?”
“You called for me,” Mr. Force answered calmly, despite Mr. T’s tone.
“I didn’t call for you!” Mr. T shouted, slamming his fist on the table. I was appalled by his rude behavior.

Mr. Force sensed my distress. “…Never mind. I don’t want to end this on an unpleasant note.” He smiled at me and continued. “But you need not be so ignorant about things.”
“I’m sorry.”
Mr. Force decided to take pity on me.
“I don’t mean to be so hard on you. I suppose it wouldn’t hurt to tell you a little about Gilgamesh.”
I’d only heard the title of the book and knew nothing about it.

Beep. Beep. Beep…
Someone’s cell phone rang. It was Mr. Force’s.
As soon as he looked at his phone, his face clouded and he let out a sigh.
“Aren’t you going to answer?” I asked.
“We are in the middle of an interview.” It was obvious that it was just an excuse to avoid talking to whomever was calling him. Then he said abruptly, “I didn’t realize how late it is already!”
I’d been wondering what time it was, too, honestly.
“Well, then you need to go!” Mr. T yelled at Mr. Force.

Mr. T was being rude and antagonistic towards Mr. Force. I thought we’d at least celebrate the end of the interview with a drink or two. Apparently, Mr. Force felt the same.
“I’m not asking for payment, but a little appreciation from you wouldn’t hurt.”
“Then you should’ve gotten Mr. Force here!”
Mr. Force looked at Mr. T with utter exasperation.
“He isn’t capable of telling stories…”
I didn’t understand. A while ago, Mr. T had called Mr. Force a ‘puppet’. And now Mr. Force himself referred to Mr. Force as ‘he’.
Was this not Mr. Force in front of me? If not, then who was he?
“I’m sorry, but you’re going to have to look up Gilgamesh on your own,” Mr. Force said.
“Okay,” I mumbled. In truth, I’d already forgotten about it. I was more concerned with who this man who claimed to be Mr. Force was.
“You could find out on the internet…Wikipedia.”
“…I’ll do that.”
“So what about the rough draft on the interview? You’ve recorded our meeting?”
I glanced down at the voice recorder to make sure that the red light on the record button was still on.
When I saw the red light, I felt that some sort of spell had been cast on me...

As I stared at the light, all of a sudden I couldn’t remember what Mr. Force looked like anymore. I couldn’t remember his face, his eyes... It was as if the red light had erased my memory of him.
“…Mr. Force?” I looked up and saw that he was no longer there.
“It’s a wrap!” Mr. T said, and he left.
I was left in utter confusion.

When I got home I put the voice recorder on ‘replay’. It recorded that I found Mr. T lying dead under a shelf in a pool of blood. It didn’t make sense at all.
Even the story about Gil, Lulu, and Sem had left a lot of questions to be answered. It was going to take a great deal of time to sort it all out.
I stopped the voice recorder for now, though, and started my research on Gilgamesh online.
“Wait a minute…” I said aloud, realizing it would be better for me to find out who Mr. Force was first.

Beep. Beep. Beep…
My phone rang. It was Mr. T.
I had a lot of work cut out for me and I didn’t know where to start.


A man walked through one of the deserted back streets of downtown Tokyo. He was dressed all in black. Supposedly, he was Mr. Force, but he seemed a completely different person now compared to the jovial one at the interview. There was desperation written on his face.
A gust of cold wind blew from the north and flung open his coat to reveal a big hole in his chest.
The hole wasn’t bleeding, and it was questionable if his face showed any sign of pain. Any ordinary person would have been dead already with a hole like that in his chest, but he kept walking with his odd-colored eyes fixed steadily ahead of him.
Eventually, he disappeared into the darkness.
He wasn’t the same Mr. Force from the meeting...

“Lord Devil, I’ve come to escort you.”

A small, four legged human with wings on his back came down from the sky and crawled up to a man who walked on the street.
The man opened up the front of his black coat. There was no hole in his chest.
“You’ve got the wrong guy.” He smirked. “You must be Astaroth.”
The little human with wings didn’t know what to say.
“I’m supposed to be Force, but I’m not,” the man said.
“You mean you’re just a dummy sent down by God?” the little human asked the man.
“I hate to be called that, but yes. I’m looking for a man who looks exactly like me.”
“I see…” Astaroth said, and he extended his hand to the man who called himself Force.
Immediately, the man was engulfed in flames.
“Hahaha...” “Force” felt no pain from the flames. “Game over for me. I’ve worked for 4600 years. This fellow I knew, Enk was his name, he only had to work for four and a half!”
The man continued to laugh, as if mad. Frustrated, Astaroth extended his hand again and the flames started to dance ferociously.

The flames burned higher and higher.
“I’ve known that the end was near. I was able to tell the story at last…”
The man who had called himself Force burned to ashes.

Astaroth heard a regretful voice say to him, “You are going to find her like this?”
“You don’t need to worry. I will.”
He stomped on the man’s ashes and disappeared.


I’m Takeyasu, the author of the novel. It has been quite a challenge to write the novel. I want to thank you for reading it to the end.
Many thanks and apologies to Mr. Ohtake. I’ve called for his assistance and support almost every night until the novel was finished. And I kindly ask for your continued support in the future. (The producer of El Shaddai, Mr. Kimura always says, “Please, Please.”)
The ideas for this novel came from when I was talking to one of my colleagues at El Shaddai. I was introduced to the editor there by Ignition. The editor, Mr. Inagaki, would never have imagined that the story would turn out the way it did, I’m sure. (Laughs)

Mr. Inagaki wanted to create a biographical story about El Shaddai but due to complications between Ignition and El Shaddai, El Shaddai came to my company (my current employer) CRIM with the offer to work with the publisher Fujimishobo. (By the way, CRIM is a good company, Mr. Inagaki.)
So this is how I got this job, writing a novel.
Even when I had a job as a production assistant, the ideas of mythology started to take root in my head. So I told Mr. Inagaki that it wasn’t about El Shaddai, but a story based on mythology in which that I’ll write about and he okayed me almost instantly.

I was surprised by his reply.
Back in my days at El Shaddai, I have worked with several publishers that were the subsidiaries of the company. But soon after I got an okay from Mr. Inagaki, I jumped right to it without any hesitation.
There was another reason for my decision to write this mythology-based story. The idea of the story began to take its shape in my head about a year ago… I was still working on the production of websites for CRIM and I’d created a website based on the mythology-based story. But I always had the feeling that it would be better for my story to take place in a novel or comic book or even a game. In the end, I never published the website.
When I started working on the novel it was difficult to decide which concept I should go with. I had so many ideas about the story in my head. At first, I thought about writing a story related to the Old Testament in the Holy Bible, for example, about Noah, Samuel, Ezekiel or Solomon. Then I had another idea of writing a made-up story about devils and demons. It took me a long time to figure out what I wanted to write in the novel.
And finally, I decided to write a story based on “The Epic of Gilgamesh”, an epic poem of Mesopotamia which was amongst the first surviving works of literature. I wanted the readers to expand their imagination as they read my story. I’m sure you’ll understand what I mean by this later on.
And this is how the concept of the story came to be and Gideon is the very first part of it.

The Old Testament is very well known outside of Japan. I’m hoping that my story would be as well known to people in Japan as the Old Testament is to the rest of the world.
Gideon means “destroyer” or “mighty warrior” in Hebrew. In this novel, the main characters were Gil, Lulu, Sem, and Mr. Force. The story revolves around Gil’s existence in the novel. As with the Old Testament of the Bible, the characters come and go and some of the stories seem or don’t seem to make sense. The same goes with my story and more you read it, more questions and imaginations you are left with. I write in a way so that you are left with your own answers and imaginations.
As long as I have fans and readers, my mythology-based stories, “Takeyasu-Sawaki” will continue.
I’d like to take this opportunity to show my gratitude to Mr. Ohtake and Mr. Inagaki again and to Ms. Akemi Maeda, Mr. Tetsuya Abe, Mr. Taro Horisou, and Mr. Kajo Oda.
I welcome your feedback and opinions about my novel at
“Takeyasu-Sawaki” Saga has just begun…and there will be more to come.

Illustration of Baaz

From top to bottom; in folded state, open, to open with blades on sides, to arrows on sides indicate where the laser comes out.

The First Trial: The Flying Lion

When it flies with the wings on its back it’s like a bird, and swoops down on its prey. On the ground, it turns into a ferocious beast.

The Second Trial: The Snail

It has a hard shell with thorn-like spikes that it uses for breathing. It also produces and emits the tornado-like storm from the spikes.
The air that it breathes out is very hot in temperature, considering the fact that its shell kept near freezing temperature.
The difference in these temperatures is why it’s able to produce tornado-like storms.

The Third Trial: The Mushroom From the bottom left; Seedling stage 0.05mm, unable to move.
Growth stage #1, 15cm, size of a palm, able to walk a little.
Growth stage #2, 170cm, size of a man and walks like one.
Growth stage #3, 250cm, clustered together, huge in size and able to run.
Final stage, 1900cm, size of buildings, monster-like.

The Fourth Trial: The Dragon in the Lake

It has long, veil-like fins on its sides and they reflect the universe as they move. On the dragon’s stomach, there are hundreds of worms that protect the dragon’s body by devouring enemies on contact. The worms sing as they open their mouths for their prey. When the monster dragon is pregnant, the worms work especially hard to protect the dragon’s body from attack.
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