Authors: M.M. Abougabal
By M. M. Abougabal
© 2014 Mahmoud Abougabal
All rights reserved.
The idea of this novel first came to me about three years ago. It was more of a lingering question of mine, rather than an actual intention to pen, or in this case type, it in this format. I remember the first words I had put together, then, were:
I have always been a great fan of thrillers and unsolved mysteries. In literature, movies, television and dare I say interactive media such as video games? Yet those, which appealed to me the most, have always been the ones able to mix facts with fiction, those that coiled and twisted their storylines around a believable realistic core. Needless to say that I had no other goal in mind… that this was humbly everything that I have tried to achieve with Promethea.
My journey was unintentional.
I found myself in the possession of bits and pieces of related research, which came to me in the most random of forms: breaking news, interesting articles, old documentaries or even friendly chatters. I had seen patterns starting to emerge, and finally felt compelled to share my intrigue with the rest of the world.
My first footsteps into this medium
are completely unassisted; I have neither studied literature nor is English my mother tongue. I would like to think that the end product, that is Promethea, is a blend of fact, faith, fiction and personal struggles. A story that I hope readers would relate to on at least one level.
also like to think that behind each name mentioned here and every story told is a bit of factual truth, one that would spark the interest of the average reader and inspire them to conduct further research of their own.
Is a cunning Greek Mythology Titan, best known for his intelligence and craftiness. He is credited for the creation of man from clay as well as bestowing upon man’s offspring the gift of the flame of fire, which he stole from the Gods, enabling knowledge, progress and civilization.
Table of Contents
The following is a work of fiction
“May the rich never perish, may the strong never suffer and may the leaders never sustain the injuries of those who act without a stutter. For as these, the blindsided masses, have, yet again, marched to their maim, carrying the false banners of beliefs and ideologies that have been proven to be vain, yet puzzlingly remained. I…”
tilted my head up for the very first time since I started my speech and with it, my weary gaze crawled sluggishly, dragging heavily behind. My field of vision expanded slowly, covering the confinements of this desolate wretched room, as my burdened eyes rolled back in their sockets, sweeping across the frantic notes I had just scribbled, moments ago, on some tiny sodden scraps of paper that I now hold feverishly in my quaking hands. I witnessed my hopes for a less dramatic psychological struggle plummet and diminish, just as sharply as the black writing ink that seeped down my wrists and dripped on the old carpet floor beneath me. My weak attempts to conceal the obvious nervousness proved feeble and futile so I had to dig deep, mustering the remnants of a once fully-fledged but now a weakening faltering courage. It was finally time for me to confront the many familiar faces of those of the appalled and those who deeply sorrowed.
realigned my line of sight warily, cutting through the thick shroud of discomfort that rendered me unable. I adjusted it to those who still chose to remain present, gazing back at me with their scorn-filled eyes that almost shook the ground unstable. None of the existing crowd had ever entertained my beliefs and at the time being, the circumstances could have never been any less adequate. I easily identified the overabundance of negative reactions, spanning from blatant shock to outright dissatisfaction, so I pulled my notes off the desk irritably, crammed them in my blazer’s pocket and stormed out amid mild chatters and sighs of relief. Even on this day I dared not speak my mind.
had also shared my sentiments. I was greeted by howling winds and gushing rains with the very first step I took outside. My ears deafened instantly, unable to attune to the violent rhythm of the falling drops that pounded the grey clay ceiling slates above me. As for my eyes, they wandered and scrolled the clouds, dazzled by the show on display and hypnotized by the fearsome bolts of thunder. I watched, in awe, as the electrical blades tore the skies and struck the earth down from the celestial heavens.
Yet the real spectacle lied
far beyond the bedlam, as distant as the skyline and as remote as the horizon. It was there where gleaming strands of lightning descended charmingly from the sky, flickering and unrolling like reels of glistening silk threads that bonded the earth and heavens in one bleak miserable ensemble. To me, it appeared as if the whole world grieved that day and it had every single right to.
arched my back, kneeling to sit down on the typical American wooden porch with its metal black balustrades and cliché-hanged star-studded flag, I felt derailed by a sudden rattle and a heavy thud. My attention shifted immediately, focusing on a handmade blue glass beads rosary that had slipped down my trousers’ pocket and rested peacefully by my stretched right hand. The beautifully crafted, Jerusalem manufactured, piece had a silver-plated crucifix featuring two of the three members of the revered Holy Family: Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary. They dangled with such pleasant tranquillity that, for a rare moment, I felt spiritually moved. I was almost stirred by a divine entity, one that I had seldom been in touch with for as long as I could remember.
I was quick to
try and soothe myself, passing the rosary ritually around and between my knuckles, like an old heathen necromancer summoning memories that have for long been forgotten. And as so, I felt a numb ecstasy by the flurry of flashbacks that forced themselves into the back of my head. They projected still and moving images of some avid happiness but much sinister dread. I could clearly see it now; how much I detested her blind devout attachment to this tiny replica of such an inhumane execution device. I had always looked down upon that piece as yet just another item she had simply ordered online. Even if to her it meant so much more. It served as a constant reminder of why she was here and where it was exactly she was headed. Her faith was sound, strong and resilient, so much that she had waivered off my every persistent attempt to instil a bit of well-founded doubt into her firm unyielding system of beliefs. And this was exactly why the brutal tale behind the first ever crucifixion was never one of her favourite discussions, neither it should have ever been.
Perhaps it was my
insatiable craving for validation and severe hunger for factual knowledge that had me constantly driven. It mandated me to flip through thousands of books and pages to hunt the truth to its weakest filament. It was this dangerous coupling that put me on a perilous colliding path with the wicked tale of Zopyrus, a shrewd Persian general and the first of mankind to choose and end life in such deranged fashion. His fable may have now been almost completely forgotten, and stripped down from its core and most of its meanings. Yet… there was a time when his story garnered such an unsurpassed notoriety, spreading like wildfire among those who dwelled the ancient world... for as every whisper that carried his name was drenched in torture, misery and bane.
It was a time when people
, stretching the boundaries of reason, credited none other than Lucifer himself to have overtaken the Persian’s senses… slithering that wretched course of events and nurturing this seed of madness to fruition. I, on the other hand, have always preferred the version where human nature takes the full blame. In fact, I truly believe that denying irony the merit, for the role it played in this very tragic tale, would only grant me a front seat within the ranks of the cynics.
disappointingly have always failed to see how the human brain is wired… for as we have curiously marvelled, at all our incentives, with equal plight. In the end… pure evil is never really that different from virtue. They are both two necessary endpoints on one stressed line. This truth alone was one of the simplest of facts eluding the Babylonian guards of the then two-year long besieged city. The same one that stood valiant, when surrounded by the tens of thousands of Persian soldiers, their famished snarling hounds and wary riding beasts.
was a city of vast wealth and alluring dominance. It had always prided itself with its towering walls and impenetrable fortifications, which added a sizeable asset to their cause. Yet, even if confined in a tiny hourglass, time was slipping by. And Persians… they had grown ill of being on the wrong side of the city walls. As every man that fell put a dent on their already shattered will, and every bucket of blood that spilled lead their warriors well into despair. It was a time when Zopyrus had finally acknowledged that conventional means of battle were no longer fair. He had to take matters into his own hands now, no matter how irreversible were the consequences, and steep the price it was to be paid.
The devil lies in the details,
Zopyrus knew this by heart, and in such fashion everything had to be schemed. In the general’s tent, a curved ornamental dagger screeched its way out of its sleeve and into his battle-hardened palm. The weapon may have had never developed a taste for Persian flesh, but this did not hinder its perseverance. There was little hesitation, merely the slightest uncertainty when it laboured its way across his face. It cut well and deep, carving a nose after an ear, as unearthly cackles echoed from within his confinement. The Persian needed no persuasion; he had already thought this in intricate detail. Soon enough, the characteristics of the man he once was had commenced to wane. He had begun his journey to efface all rooms of doubt, error or suspicion. He had fully comprehended that comes the morning; he would have quite a challenging story to sell. Yet for a man with nothing too precious left to spare, the most difficult part of his struggle was already behind him.
un did not postpone its celestial rise, curious and eager to push Zopyrus’ plan into motion. He staged a narrow escape and weaved a farfetched story of his fictitious defection, reaching the gates of Babylon panting and delirious. He counted fabricated reports of king Darius’ tyranny, and the manner in which he was tortured by his own compatriots for his repeated failures to overtake their city.
He had no other option but to escape
. His severely bloodied appearance played a powerful silent role in his story, his ineffaceable scars had more traumatizing impact than whatever reason or suspicion could ever counter in a thousand lifetimes. The Babylonian guards had let him in.
mutilated general wasted little time in pursuing his grand design, scaling the Babylonian hierarchal ladder from within. He gave away the positions of a thousand Persian soldiers as a token of acceptance, as he spearheaded a Babylonian force himself tasked with their slaughter. The scapegoats had no chance. They suffered the ruthless ingenuity of their leader who did not flinch or entertained any second thoughts as his sword cut well and deep into their flesh. He had already written them off them as petty pawns, a stumpy price he had to part with. Their loss was instrumental for what he had considered a glorious cause. They were obliged to submit their ultimate sacrifice, alongside thousands of other soldiers he eventually forfeited at the altar of his master scheme.
The weight of Zopyrus’ victories
tipped the scale in his favour. He was finally granted a formidable status among the city’s residents, resurrected a Babylonian idol and baptized in the crimson streams of blood he shed. He was named guardian of the walls and entrusted with the keys of the city gates as the Babylonians increasingly held him in high regard. They had hoped he would grant them prevalence over their old foes. That he would chain up yet another string of successful raids against his former countrymen, just about enough to push them back. They saw their city as a gallant rock, powerful enough to divert the great Persian Empire tide. Yet instead, the keeper of the gates used his newly assigned powers to let the Persians forces in, desecrating the Mesopotamian city and flooding it with tens of thousands of his men. And in mere hours, Zopyrus was finally bringing his real enemies to their knees. He was, single-handedly, bringing the siege to its quintessential gruesome conclusion.
a late November day, a whole five centuries before Christ was born, nature pledged itself to set the stage for Zopyrus’ grotesque finale. Like members of a prodigious deranged orchestra, Mesopotamian winds carried out their freshly assigned errands, transferring mist-laden air gushes across the fabled Babylonian city with the hope of concealing the wrongdoings of mankind. A single authoritative thunderbolt was sent crashing with the potency of a thousand ocean waves rupturing the silence cast by the dawning skies, and as if literally punctured, the heavens commenced its violent discharge pulling away the thick fog curtains that accumulated overnight. What the citizens had to witness shortly thereafter was the appalling scene of three thousand Babylonians, nailed and hung to wooden crosses grunting in anguish in what is widely believed to be the first act of crucifixion in written human history.
Perhaps Zopyrus was the one
with the steepest price to pay, willingly maiming and mutilating himself beyond all means of recovery, hell-bent on convincing the enemies of the empire with his improbable tale of defection. It was said that his injuries had sunk so deep and had been carved so severely that the Persian King Darius stood at a moral impasse. He was quoted longing to give up twenty Babylons in exchange for Zopyrus’ wounds to be effaced. He considered him the greatest Persian to have ever lived, a man of unparalleled mettle and granted him a lifelong dominion over the city. Yet what I found truly fascinating was that some five hundred and fifty years later, the same act was to be forever commemorated and correlated with deliberate martyrdom by some of the most prevalent and devout theists, uniting both an executioner and a reprimanded under the same veil of premeditated selfless voluntary sacrifice.
At this point, all of this mattered very little now. Albeit not by choice, she made it to a dark closed wooden casket hacked into a million puzzle pieces. She was about to embark on a lone cryptic journey, one that I could no longer accompany her on. Me, on the other hand, I had just abandoned what was left of her beloved decaying body behind, carrying around a heart packed with irreconcilable sorrow. I returned to the place we once called home to collect my things, and headed straight for the airport, having to catch my plane back to Lyon fairly late this evening.