Agony

"Here come the woman, with the look in her eye.
Raised on leather, with flesh on her mind.
Words as weapons sharper than knives,
Makes you wonder how the other half die."

--INXS, "The Devil Inside"

The light from the bonfire blazed between her and I. The fire added heat that was hardly noticeable compared to the air in the small cave which was already warm from the blistering sun that had just set. The cave did provide shelter and shade but it did little to cool us during my nightly visits.

I could see her perfectly beyond the flames, sparks, and wisps of smoke that rose and curled over the lip of the cave. As the light and shadows danced, I found it difficult to tell if her hair was scarlet or black. It seemed to change with the whim of a passing breeze. Her eyes, however, were honey brown and never gazed away from me. She was naked before me and I did not shy from her nudity.

"I am the Agonist," she said softly, her fear breaking free for a moment from her previous bliss. I did not know the word and she sensed this. She continued, "I do not like the word antagonist because that immediately conjoins with adversary or enemy. An agonist is merely involved in a struggle; struggles lead to pain and agony, and that word, though still bitter, is more toothsome. I don't expect you to understand, empathize, or believe me."

I frowned as I immediately felt I should defend her, or at least how I felt about her. I asked, "So then what do you want, Lilith?"

She stood up and began to swish her arms with a grace that I should have known she could possess, yet it still took my breath away. She stepped back and forth, and slowly she started to twirl. A gentle spin at first, as if she was trying to remember long practiced moves that were more than rote.

Her motions became fluid before my eyes as she whirled faster. In my mind I thought I could hear a drum beating for her to dance to. Then I realized it was my heartbeat thrumming in my ears. Inside the cave a small wind picked up speed around us. The heat of it stung my eyes for a moment, but I dared not look away from her. The wind whistled around inside the cave and fed the flames before me. The breeze rushed outside and I could hear it rustling trees and bushes nearby. It picked up speed as she danced faster, her body spinning so fast now that I could not understand what I saw before me.

Was the heat causing waves of mirage distortion, or was she changing shape? She was not morphing into anything, but perhaps I was able to see her true self: the wind.

Clouds were gathering outside, and though I could not see them behind me, I saw flashes of lightning that brightened the cave for an instant. My shadow was painted on the walls of the cave then, but her shadow was not there. The clap of thunder followed, and it echoed so loud within the cave that I screamed and my heart stopped. When my heart beat stopped, in that moment, I saw her frozen in a trance brought on by the dance. My heart thumped back to life and her whirling continued at a breakneck pace.

Did she bring about the storm, or was she the storm? Wind and rain, thunder and lightning. It was all connected, and it was all her. It never clicked until then, but I understood. Of all the gods and goddesses, the others were the sun, moon, and stars. But Lilith, she was the breath of life. She wasn't the night -- that was Nyx. No, Lilith was the night air. That which peasants feared once upon a time. I never understood why they feared it.

Sure, the night air could be colder, harsher, but is that reason to fear it? The wind that whipped around me thrilled my skin. It did not chill me here in the warm cave. Yet I still had chills down my spine, and goose pimples all over me as I felt the energy of the wind. Another realization dawned on me then. I felt this before when I was young as a dust devil approached and surrounded me. I didn't try to avoid its path, and as it rushed around me then I felt the sensation I felt now. That was when I smiled at the thought of Lilith being the dust devil then just as she was now.

As I was at such peace by the memory and the feeling surrounding me that my heart beat slowed, and to my surprise, so did her dance. Was I really the drummer of her whirling dervish?

When she slowed and the wind died down, I could see her graceful form again. As she finished her dance, her eyes once again met mine and I shuddered. There was contentment in her eyes, like a hunger fulfilled.

She said nothing and with the wind calmed along with my heartbeat, all I could hear was the crackling of the fire between us.

To break the silence, I asked her, "What was that?"

She smiled an ineffable smile and replied, "The answer to your question. Everything has power; some things more than others. Words have more than most."

I was confused again. I know she didn't mean to speak to me in riddles, but just the same, I did not understand.

"Words are real; as real as the air they are carried on," she said as she walked through the flames and sat down next to me. She reached out her hand and caressed my face, and I could feel her presence. I felt neither warm flesh nor cold, yet I felt her touch and more than that I cannot express. "When you tell a story of me, it is as though life were breathed into me. Many stories have been told of me."

I nodded recognition of many stories told and written about Lilith, most of them quite nasty. Though as I sat there with her, I did not believe any of them. Temptress she may be, but a demoness, succubus or vampire? Would I recognize such a creature if I saw one, though? I asked, "Are the stories true?"

"One cannot say that they are true or false," she answered again without logic. She smiled and said, "I am not a person who can be judged, Daniel."

That was when I realized that she knew my name. I mean, I knew who she was and as surely as she summoned me, I knew she had to know me. Yet, to hear my name was a surprise. It was almost if I'd forgotten my own name and her saying it sparked memories I didn't know I'd lost. It was then that I wondered if it wasn't necessarily me that she was addressing, but my name.

Daniel is a Hebrew name, as is Lilith, but I did not understand the significance, so I said, "I am not judging you; I'm merely curious."

"Curiosity is a dangerous thing," she said with a wry grin. "Stories are like masks that we all wear. Some are made by our own hands and others are crafted by strangers. They may be beautiful or grotesque, but in the end we must decide if they really reflect who we are."

Just then, she went to push some hair from her face and removed her mask, and it was then that I woke up.

© Copyright 2007 by Dan Shaurette

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