“The Zar Tales”, Chapter 9

Full Moon, March 2011

 

tuareg2[1]

(thanks to ritabay.com  Tariq the Tuareg)

(Note:   Berbers are known to wear indigo dyed cloth as headgear.  The indigo bleeds into the skin of men from the desert.  Below their eyes, where the cloth hugs their face, the faint color of the indigo is permanently seen.  They are called “The Blue Men of the Sahara”).

 

 CHAPTER 9

The Mullahs left in the afternoon before dark settled for the region was full of cliffs and sudden drops off narrow roads. They had to get through the roughest terrain before dark.

The sedan was a large car, roomy enough for the three Mullahs to sit in the back seat and talk about the proceedings of the day. They were pleased with themselves, and felt they had rendered justice, as Allah would in the case of Shakira Sheikha and her illegal zars. This would be enough to quash any more such ideas in this village for a while, but they were still troubled. The zar ritual was springing up all over these regions, and they went back to the pagan gods these ignorant people still secretly worshiped. They agreed that the old Mullah Kaleel would have to be replaced soon. He didn’t have the strength or forcefulness to keep these villages in line. He was so ancient he had one foot in the grave already.

The Mullahs did not know the region, so they did not concern themselves with where the driver was going. They barely noticed him, with his thin face, hawk-nosed and wearing a strange blue turban. It was impossible to tell how old he was, and except for nodding and bowing, he did not utter a sound. They dismissed him as an ignorant peasant, perhaps a villager who made a living driving from the mountains to the bigger towns and then to cities. He was too insignificant to engage in conversation beyond being civil, so the Mullahs did not bother themselves with him.

However, after a while, one became concerned. They seemed to leave the village and head downward, past forests and over a valley, but then the road rose again into the mountains. When one of the Mullahs asked the driver where they were, all he got was a garble of words in a strange dialect. The only words they could understand were, ‘rock slide’, ‘other road’ and of course, ‘Allah’. This last sounded a bit like “Ammon” but the loose rocks from the road bouncing up under the chassis of the car made his speech even more garbled.

There was little they could do, except trust Allah and the driver. So darkness fell, and it was a very dark night. The moon in its cycle would rise that night, but until then, the only light came from the head beams of the car. Suddenly it stopped, dead in the road. The driver turned from his seat and addressed the Mullahs in his strange dialect.

‘Out! Out! This is the end of the road for you!”

These words the Mullahs understood. Perhaps something had happened to the car. So, being intelligent men, they opened the door and got out into the black night. Only the head beams illuminated the road before them. Suddenly the lamps cut off and it took a few minutes for the Mullahs eyes to adjust to the dark. They could see the surrounding mountain ranges off in the distance, for the moon finally rose above a mountain. Ah! All was made clear, and they could see where the road continued, now down the mountain, and off to the right of the road, a forest. In fact, the forest was thick, totally black, and the moon did nothing to illuminate the trees.

Suddenly, there were men…..or what looked like men in the middle of the road! But there was something strange, for these men seemed to float in an errie way upon the surface. They were dressed in long robes, and some wore dark, blue turbans. They all seemed to be tall men, but that could be an illusion from their wavering movement. Their sudden appearance was enough to raise the hair on the necks of the Mullahs. Though the night air was warm enough, each Mullah shivered and muttered Allah’s name under his breath.

One, two, a dozen men came forward down the road towards them. They must be robbers, highwaymen in the middle of the mountains, setting upon travelers from the cities and towns passing through these isolated villages. The driver must have been one of them! He led them right into this trap! Well, they had little money about them, so the pickings would be small.

The chief Mullah, the man that pronounced the sentence upon Shakira Sheikha, stepped up firmly and addressed the bobbing line of ‘men’.

“We are the appointed Mullahs of the Religious Authorities of Ankara, Praise Allah the One God! We are here on official business and demand that you let us pass.”

There was silence from the men who seemed more like vaporous ghosts to the human eye. Then the line parted in the middle, and a man stepped forth. He was tall, dressed in a white robe, and had an indigo blue turban on his head. His eyes, even in the dim light of the moon, sparkled with a particular flame. He had a short curved sword pushed through his girdle at his waist. He was obviously the leader.

“We know who you are. We know you are the Mullahs from Ankara who came to sit in judgment of the Sheikha. We also know the sentence you pronounced upon her head today.”

“Who are you to know all of this?” The voice of the chief Mullah rang out into the night. His eyes flashed, but there was fear along with challenge in them.

A low laugh came from the ranks of the men standing in the road behind the indigo turbaned speaker. It passed over the Mullahs like the wind from the mountains, soft and haunting to their ears. It did not sound like human laughter. The Mullahs shivered.

“We are Zars, you should have figured that out by now. And we are here to pronounce our own judgement upon you.”

“Zars! In the name of Allah! You do not exist!”

A low laughter again kicked up from the line of men standing there. This time it sounded like the rumbling of distant thunder.

“In the name of your Allah, and our Ammon, we do exist. We stand before you in judgement and will provide our own sentences upon your heads.”

The Mullahs were herded to a clearing, deep in the woods. They stood together, fearful, angry and disbelieving their eyes. The Zars seemed to command the moon, for it rose and illuminated the clearing like torches set in the surrounding trees. The Zars floated up in those trees, settling in for the night’s entertainment.  Ali, the speaker and the leader of these Zars, and because of his connection to the condemned Shakira, was the judge of the Mullahs. He would make short work of the matter before him, for he was a merciful man, or was a thousand years before becoming a Zar. But first he signaled to Emir now perched like a Zar-fruit in a branch of a tree.

Emir had been writing the rest of his poem in his head. This was the poem he never could seem to finish over the long centuries. The situation before him gave a nudge and a push he had not opportunity to use before. So, he jumped down, or actually floated down with a poem in his mouth, and addressing the Mullahs, recited that which had eluded him for centuries.

Clearing his throat, Emir, who in his past, mortal life had been truly a second rate Persian poet, addressed the Mullahs now in the center of the clearing in a melodious voice.

“Take to delight the presence
that from this two-way abode
we would not meet each other
once we pass through.

For our chance meeting is but
A reflection of life’s mysteries
Not to be counted upon,
but to acknowledge the wonder.

You have barred our spirits from Paradise!
You, and your God, have condemned us
To wander the earth inconsolable to human kindness.

Now is the time for our answer!
Now is the time for the quick slash
Of a sword!

Now we delight that we will not
Meet again
Once you pass through this
Vale of tears you have created.

Heaven or Hell-
You have made it the same.”

Emir’s voice rang through the nighttime air and seemed to reach up to the moon. Even Ali, a far better poet, was impressed with Emir’s words. The Mullahs eyes shone like satellite moons, for their fear made the full moon catch the whites of their eyes.

Ali, the judge, gazed at each Zar-fruit hanging in the trees.
He looked at each pointedly, and received a nod from each one. Then, in a strong voice, he spoke to the Mullahs standing before him.

“In the name of Ammon and Isis, our ancient God and Goddess, who you attempt to crush out of the memories of our tribes, I condemn you to your own Paradise with your One God Allah to comfort you. This is done not only for the offense to Shakira Sheikha and to the women of our villages, but also for the more terrible offense that you have done to other’s Gods over the past thirteen centuries. May your Allah have mercy upon your souls.”

There was a rustle of wind, sounding like leaves whipping up from the bottom of the trees, but it was night time and there was no wind. It was the sound of three curved, Berber swords whipping through the clearing and taking the heads of three Mullahs. They stood for a long few seconds, headless, their blood spilling down over their robes, and then they crumbled together and fell in a heap, much like Shakira had fallen at her trial, but with their blood staining the forest floor.

The Zars had their revenge, and so did Ammon, but there was a problem. What to do with the bodies of the Mullahs?

The Zars were Demons and there is a very old custom amongst these type of spirits. They would roast the Mullahs in a grand barbecue, push the car over the cliff and go home that dawn.

And the Spirits were made Flesh, thanks to the Mullahs.

So they did, and thought the Mullahs were old men, they were tasty enough, and in this partaking of sacred flesh, the Zars were transformed into men, or enough to look like men, but still with the particular humor and talents and skills of Zars. Even Emir’s poetry improved, for now he could taste and touch and smell and make love to the woman he possessed and this transformed his poetry.

Jane Kohut-Bartels
Copyrighted, 2010-2014

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