December 19th, 2009
Author : Glenn Blakeslee
Forty-five feet over Ninevah, Phillip is enclosed in a spherically symmetric potential. He’s feeling somewhat philosophical.
Below, on the steps leading to the courtyard of the Library, Ashurbanipal, the last of the great Assyrian kings, faces his death. He’s surrounded, literally, by advisors, priests and acolytes, and a platoon of soldiers clad in full battle dress of conical iron helmets and rounded wickerwork shields, with short swords at their waists and pikes in hand. They’re waiting for Ashurbanipal’s traitorous sons.
Overhead Phillip is thinking, have I been the best man that I can be?
Outside the potential’s bubble, where crazy math occludes normal time and the obviated spin-state of subatomic particles creates a slight, sparkling shield, Ashurbanipal’s Library rises high above Phillip’s vantage. In two decades time the great Library will be gone, torn down and sacked by the invading Babylonians and Medes. The thirty thousand tablets and texts stored there will be discovered millennia later by the hapless Sir A. H. Layard and his sloppy successors. Inside the bubble the virtual recording gear is rolling, the minimal life support sighing. All systems are nominal.
Ashurbanipal is very old. He stands supported by his Queen, Ashur-sharrat, and two palace women from the bit-reduti, where he was born from the flanks of his father’s consort. A scribe is reading, from a papyrus scroll, a list of complaints against him, a diatribe of supposed crimes against his own empire. His sons, too jaded, too fresh with the power they will pull from his death, await the end of this reading in the comfort of the palace. Ashurbanipal, as the only Assyrian king capable of reading script, knows well what the scroll holds.
Phillip scratches his nose, bites into an apple. He thinks, have I been a good father?
The scribes conclude reading the scroll. The sons stroll in with their retinue, and the youngest son approaches Ashurbanipal. He has a foot-long, embellished ceremonial knife in his hand. Ashurbanipal slumps into his wife, and raises his head. His eyes seem to lock onto Phillip’s eyes, and he smiles slightly as his youngest son penetrates his abdomen with the knife
Phillip takes another bite of the apple and thinks, while watching Ashurbanipal slump further into his wife and consorts, I need to fix things.
Until they close for good, the dying king’s eyes never waver.