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I was awake at dawn.

A half-circle sun bleeding rose, tangerine & honey; painting a vast, overgrown valley pocked with thousands of stepped stone pyramids in all directions. I stood atop the tallest one, with no memory of who I was or how I arrived at such a place. A shaman approached me, wearing a blue and red feathered headdress and a string of dog teeth around his neck. His face obscured behind a mask with enormous eyes.

He pressed a bowl -- roughly hewn from quartz -- to my lips. Some kind of divinorum stew. I drank. Warm and bitter. Bits of sand stuck to my tongue. The shaman nodded and dropped the bowl into a bag at his waist, and then withdrew a pair of ornate, braided epaulettes made of mane and hoof. He placed them on my shoulders, then genuflected at my feet.

I felt the warm stew turn cold inside of me, and my senses became sharp. I perceived a hum deep within my mind. It felt like a sensory premonition. The light took on a paleness as the sun climbed and sounds from all around me rose up, swallowing me in a wash. The strange industry of this alien city possessed me and I looked back across the valley.

Atop the nearest building, a half-human mantis lay prostrate before a large, free-standing abacus made with possum skulls threaded on gleaming rods. He stood, and his blue-black robes flowed in the wind like ink in water, casting a rorschach shadow behind him. Flexing and folding three-jointed limbs to work the abacus, the actuary-priest continued this arcane ritual without distraction, making a mark on a clay tablet and then returning to his former posture. Then subsequently rising again to repeat his task.

My vision began to blur and I was disoriented. The sounds grew louder and the building beneath me shifted, a grinding and gritty vibration in my feet. As my eyes refocused, my vision fragmented into innumerable octagonal facets and I realized I could see the entire horizon around me, the mountains behind, and the sea beyond them. There was an army hidden in the forest to the east, seven miles away, rehearsing formations and tactics. The shaman would betray me. An assassin lay in wait in my temple. I would have a daughter. There would be a fire, and then wolves and a month of darkness. There were preparations to be made. As the city breathed through me in crescendo, I realized I was home. This astounding civilization was mine. The amnesiac emperor in the City Of Ziggurats.




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Akbar's Black Eyes Nashville, Tennessee

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