Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Love in the time of war

“You are so capable of loving.  Yet why do you fight and kill men?”  Briseis asked.

“Fighting is not my choice,” said Achilles having planted a passionate kiss on the ruby lips below Brisei’s lilac eyes.  Her eyes resembled those of a gazelle, serene and pure.  “I inherited it from my father and his father and all the ancestors.  One cannot wish away one’s ancestral inheritance.”

“I wish you could,” said Briseis wistfully.  She had lost her husband, father, mother and three brothers in the war led by Achilles’ people.  She was delivered to Achilles for the nocturnal pleasures of the day’s warrior.

Achilles looked at her as the soldier dragged her along and threw her on Achilles’ bed in the tent.  The gaze and the grace of the gazelle charmed Achilles instantly.  He sat beside her on the bed and wiped away the blood from her ruby lips.  But the lips still shone like ruby.  He smelled her hair.

“You a royal?” he asked.

She refused to reply.  He took his towel, squeezed it in the water basin and wiped away the signs of masculine assault from her silky cheeks.  “You are as beautiful as Helen,” he murmured.

Helen was the cause of the war.  Her beauty was the cause.  Or was it?  Her husband, Menelaus, was a man incapable of love.  He knew only to fight and kill.  To conquer.  He too had inherited war in his veins.  Helen wanted love.  She wanted to grow old with her man and not live in the palace like a priestess in Apollo’s temple.

Women, mused Achilles.  Strange creatures.  They make us mad.  They make us love and they make us fight.  I killed this woman’s husband, her parents and brothers.  My men did.  What’s the difference?  And here I am now falling in love with her. 

Achilles killed the men of her kingdom during the days and made love to her in the nights.  He longed to stop the killing and return to his own kingdom with his love.

“This is what women do to men,” spat out Patroclus, Achilles’ cousin and his bosom friend.  Patroclus walked out with Achilles’ armour and helmet when the latter was in bed with his love.  The army followed him.  Achilles’ armour could not save Patroclus. 

“Please don’t kill Hector,” pleaded Briseis as the news of Patroclus’ killing by Hector transmuted the passion in Achilles’ veins.  “He is my cousin.”

“He killed my cousin,” Achilles gnashed his teeth.

“How many cousins, how many husbands, fathers and brothers have you killed?”

Achilles did not wait to answer.  He had answered that already.  Days ago.  “Kings fight for land, fame or the booty,” he had told her. 

“What do you fight for?”

“A thousand years from now,” he said, “people will speak about Achilles.”

“A thousand years from now even the dust of your bones won’t remain,” she reasoned.

“That’s why,” he said.  “That’s why.”

How much should the women sacrifice for satisfying the egos of men?  The question grew in her heart and became an unbearable burden.  It suffocated her.  We are the toys in the hands of men; they play with us to soothe their tired bodies and minds.

Achilles, her new husband, was fighting with Hector, her old cousin. 

The sun had set long ago.  Achilles had not returned.  Briseis went to the fortress.  She could already see flames engulfing it. 

Achilles lay dying waiting for the flames to approach him and become his funeral pyre.  Briseis took his head in her lap and held him close to her bosom. 

“We will meet again,” he murmured.  “In Elysium.”

Why couldn’t we create the Elysium on the earth?  The answer lay dead in her lap.

PS. I am resurrecting this story for Indispire's latest theme. This and 32 other stories of mine are available in book form: The Nomad Learns Morality.

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