I shiver in my hotel bed, wracked with fever. Phethala stands over me, regularly replacing the cold compresses on my forehead. Qualamo and Binere have come to visit as well, but I am too sick to converse much. They stand silently off to the side with grave expressions. I am not sure if they are really there, or if I am imagining it. I do not know how many days have passed since Phethala and I made love in the storm. My mind is a burning haze.
Phethala’s luscious mouth is forming words, and I can hear them but I cannot understand them. I concentrate, and the words become visible to me, sets of letters that drift by my eyes. They bristle and leap into action, growing legs and fur. The animals contain within themselves the meanings of the words from which they transformed, yet still I cannot perceive them. Their organic movements enrapture me, and I am carried away on bestial pursuits.
Predator pursues prey. A question of validity is raised in the existential conflict of entities, as one is tempted by the weakness of the other. The fear of death incites the appetite to consume. As the predator seizes the opportunity to live, it robs that opportunity from another. In a competition of interests, life devours life. The life which survives becomes ever more powerful, vicious, and hungry.
Male pursues female. The raging, physical dominance of the one ensorcelled by the nubile fertility of the other. The female bleats and submits at last, and the beastly male penetrates her triumphantly, forcing a parasite within her, the disease of new life. The parasite grows, not into an infant beast, but into a creature that continues to live inside the female, speaking to her, spreading its tendrils of influence through her body, until every part of her is in communion with it.
The wisened female again flees the pursuit of the male, feigning helplessness. The male again roars triumphantly as he thrusts his dominance inside her. His seed is delivered, but it is he who is impregnated. The parasite travels into his flesh during this forceful union. The entity spreads through his body, as it spread through the female. The two are now of one flesh, one mind.
I perceive that this pursuit is nested within a larger scheme, innumerable whispers forming the strands of a vast web. Craning my neck, I am able to perceive a monstrous creature with many legs and eyes sitting at the apex of this web. I recognize the being as Khorku, the god of chaos and deceit described in the writings of Gillam Chawmi. The entire scene is now a painting on the stone arch above an altar, where robed disciples chant as they insert intravenous tubes into the naked body of a young woman. Two fluids enter her body simultaneously, fiery orange and inky black — the predator and the prey. She screams in agony, and the disciples chant louder and louder in chorus with her sacrificial voice.
I am chanting with them. My skin itches with the coarse fabric of the robes as I monitor the intravenous drip, my heart beating rapidly with the excitement of the ritual. The Master’s words will be fulfilled this time, I know. The sacrificial lamb will carry God to the new generation. I gaze into the woman’s eyes, my mouth round with chanting, and she gazes back. I see fear and devotion fighting for supremacy in her eyes, but as I lock my gaze with hers and howl my chant into her screaming face, she frowns with determination and overcomes her fear. Her devotion has won, and as it does, it inspires me. My love for her is too great for words. She has overcome the Beast within us all.
Moisture drips from our faces as the screaming and chanting both die down to a muted ululation. We close our eyes in prayer, and in that moment I can feel the presence of Khorku. We have robbed him of his power, as always he had intended, wise and evil and superior his actions. We thank Khorku, the predator become prey, even as we drain the power from his body. We place our hands on the young woman who has been chosen to carry the power of Khorku. Her body trembles. It is too alive! So vibrant her fear, her devotion, her love. We can all feel it, and it causes our voices to rise and shudder momentarily in unison. She moans and shudders with us.
The chanting has stopped. A dead silence has descended upon us, empty of form yet filled with anticipation. We open our eyes.
I gasp. I recognize the woman on the altar, and she looks up at me. There is no fear in her eyes, but an inviting smile of desire and dominance. The woman on the altar is Phethala.