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Monday, January 9, 2012

Goliath

For a moment he had no idea where he was, or who he was, let alone why he was face down in the mud of a riverbed, unable to move, not even a finger. The ringing sound in his ears was almost loud enough to drown out the sound of cheering he could hear echoing throughout the valley, but neither were loud enough to dull the excruciating pain reverberating throughout his head. Some Giant, he thought to himself as he felt himself succumbing to the fog creeping over his mind. One stone takes down the Great Goliath. His head was swimming with images despite the enormous amount of effort it seemed to take him. Spurratic, unable to grasp anything coherent, he could only watch his life play out like some sad play skipping over years at a time, both backwards and forwards. Had it really come to this? he thought to himself dimly. Everything seemed to be slipping so fast, and all his effort to even twitch a finger had failed completely. Goliath of Gath knew he was dead; the dim but steadily rising sound of footsteps was a constant reminder that even a crushed skull like his could not ignore. All he could do was listen to the sound of death approaching and painfully ponder the irony of such innocent sounding foosteps and what they brought with them. As the sound of the Israelite army's growing cheer reverberated through the valley, Goliath's last thought was how strange the sound of the footsteps of the boy with the sling, increased. For a brief second the sounds seemed in tune, becoming a sad symphony sarinating Goliath into the underworld that was his subconscious. The images never stopped flashing.

"Goliath!" the sound of his mother's yelling broke through the excitement of the five boys, like the sound of a wolf on a flock of sheep. The five were frozen as solid as any of the statues of Beelzebub at the temple they went to every sunday; every one of the boys felt as if Baal himself were suddenly watching them. The second time they heard their mother the sound was so sudden and close they forgot they were holding Goliath upside down over the wall of the fence, nearly dropping him. In fact, if not for the strange animal sound Goliath managed as he began his fall, the boys would have droppped him completely. The city of Gath was not near as big as its neighbor Ekron, but was sizable in its own right. At least sizable enough to boast a wall that could injure even the biggest of the giants. Of course, there being only five Giants left in the whole kingdom still young enough to engage in war, it made at least four of the brothers laugh that much more that it would be from the inside out that they threatened to injure their youngest brother, Goliath. Lahmi was the one who thought of the idea, but of course, he can never do anything without Sippai cheering him on. Even though Isbbi would usually contain their mischeviousness, Six (named for his unseemly additional appendage to each of his limbs) would almost always be the one to call an issue settled in favor of the mischeviousness.
"Where are you boys?!" echoed the sound of their quickly approaching mother. Since none of them knew how to explain the current scenario, the brothers quickly set Goliath back upright, and with quick whispers of vague threats in the near future should he say a word, they brushed him off. The timing of the scene presented by the boys as their mother rounded the corner suggested there had been much practice at hiding, leaving their mother no clues as to what may have been occuring previous to her intrusion. Having encountered similar situations many times before, she knew the road that these questions would go and that they were very rarely worth her time in pursuing, so she quickly skipped to the point. "Goliath", she said, "the Captain stopped by and asked if I knew why you would miss your assignment today". Tapping her foot impatiently, and folding her arms several seconds passed by without a sound. "Well?" Goliath had no idea what to say. How do you explain to your mother that your brothers thought it would be funny to make the only injury a Giant would ever face on those walls occur from the inside out, and still save himself from being thrown over the minute they were alone again? After another akward silence, Goliath's mother finally stamped her foot and with a sigh of frustration. "It's a good thing the Captain understands how hard it is to be the last of the Giants around here, or he'd be sending you to the infirmary for this. He says to report to him as soon as your Giant legs can carry you there and report for duty. You're to go on march against the Israelites, and be the 'man in the midst'" At this Lahmi and Sippai simultaneously broke out in laughter. "Ha ha ha Goliath's gonna go revenge our Great Anakim!". "The Great Goliath of Gath!" Sippai mimicked as if he were the announcer at the games. Lahmi almost choked out in between his guffaws and even Six was slapping his six fingered hand against his thigh he was laughing so hard. Laughing as drunk sailors, the four remaining brothers wove their way toward the marketplace, leaving Goliath alone with his irate mother. "Now let's go! Captain Benob seemed really impatient, and you're this close (Goliath thought it was ironic she would use such gigantic fingers to accentuate how small something was) to the infirmary and discharge". Her tone softened. "With only a handful of Giants left in the kingdom, we have the reputation of an entire people on our shoulders, so GO!" The last word accompanied with a shooing motion akin to the way she would scare off stray monkeys trying to steal fruit from the trees. Goliath ran.
"We spend a king's fortune on this brass, and you can't even do us the decency of showing up on time to wear it?!" The sound of his Captains voice yelling at him was a familiar one, and not as uncomfortable as having to act as if spittle was not quickly gathering on his face from such close proximity of yelling. Goliath had to wonder how the man could spit so far unintentionally. "Get it on and report! We've made it as far south as Socoh, and we can't take any more losses so we need you down there to be the 'man in the midst'". Goliath knew that no Giant could turn down the offer to be the "man in the midst" as that is what his people had done since Anakim's time, and would continue to do until the giants were wiped out of existence; which was only a few deaths away, Goliath thought sadly. As the Captain left, Goliath began his routine that always ended with him feeling like a slow motion version of himself. He never understood why everyone thought just because he was a giant he could wear armor that weighed as much as a donkey. He'd even picked up a donkey once just to test his theory, and though it was a well-fed donkey, the measurement was not far off.
The desert heat was going to be the death of him one day, Goliath thought to himself. Marching was one thing, but marching with the weight of what seemed all the brass in the Philistine empire was another thing completely, and why he had to march so many miles with the armor on was beyond him. With the Sun in the center of the sky, the only shade he could find shelter in was the meager shade provided by twisting his head to one side so the enormous brass helmet could blot out the sun. This quickly led to twitching in his neck and was far more uncomfortable than the sun, though he learned that if he took turns between the two tortures, he might be able to make it. As the Captain went riding by, in the opposite direction of the march, towards the rear (probably to spit on some other poor soul), Goliath looked at the horse the Captain was riding with a deep envy. A horse may have been able to carry him, though unlikely, due to his armor there was a good chance he outweighed the horse, and no camel in the world would let him come within a "Giant's length" without spitting and curling it's lip at him. So, footstep by overburdened footstep Goliath made the journey to the mountains of Socoh. Upon arrival, Goliath gave himself over to the exhaustion that had been his constant companion for the past week; sleeping soundly through the next two days.
"Goliath!" The beautiful woman that had been in his arms suddenly shapeshifted into his mother. Realising that he must be dreaming, he tried to turn over and go back to the dream he wanted. "Suit up, the Israelites are here!" She yelled. "Just lemme sleep till midday ma, I'll get up then, I promise", he murmured to the fading image of his mother. "Get up Giant! We have a war to fight!" As consciousness started seeping back into his mind, he realised he was in Socoh and what was happening; throwing the last bit of sleepiness out of him like a splash of cold water. Jumping out of his straw bed, he peeked his head out of the tent assigned to him (they still didn't understand a Giant needs a little more headroom), and looked for the source of the call. The smell of cooking sausage filled his nose, and if not for the insistent yelling of his name, he would've been willing to spend the day locating it's source, but the call was getting louder, and some of the soldiers were starting to take it up too, so there was no hiding. Pulling back into his tent, he went through the routine of dressing in his armor. Aside from the discomfort of having to bend almost in half to move around, he was able to dress himself in less time than usual, leaving the tent with the sound of grinding metal and a rumbling stomach. They're gonna send me down there without food, he thought to himself bitterly. I might join the Israelite side if they'll feed me sausage that smelled like that. But with a bitter sigh, he remembered the Israeli's didn't eat sausage. Sad, he thought to himself, sausage was his version of heaven, and he was glad Baal didn't mind if he ate it. Even if Baal didn't allow it, he was pretty sure he'd still eat sausage, damnation or not. The aroma was strong and almost enough for Goliath to forget his duty and follow, but fortunately, Captain Benob solved his dilemna for him and walking up, handed him a plate of the sausages that had to be the source of the wonderful aroma. "Eat quick, we need you down there." Captain Benob said in-between chewing his own, "They're all waiting for you. Time to make your ancestors proud son". With a clap on the shoulder he could barely reach, the Captain walked off in the direction of the closest campfire "Who's got the dice?", was the last thing Goliath heard as he made his way in the opposite direction towards the front line where he knew the Commander was waiting for him.
The walk was a short one, but allowed Goliath time to reflect on his ill-begotten luck of being a Giant. He wished he lived back in the old days of his ancestors when his kind were the power holders and the decision makers. When a Giant could walk down the streets of any city in Philistine holding his head high, knowing that his people were many and his life was long. He'd only been alive for one hundred and ninety winters, and though that was considered young among giants, he'd already made and lost too many friends to old age, enough so, that he stayed to himself amongst the soldiers, lest he make another friend to watch die before he even gets a wrinkle. Stupid flood, he thought to himself, he had no idea why the decision had been made to wipe it all clean. Though his family had a long and prestigious oral history, it had all been lost with his kind, so he had only the stories his mother told him, who had heard them from her mother, and so on. Goliath knew that his history had been lost, and power would never be his, but he couldn't help but wonder what his ancestors had thought about their grandchildren's place in this new world. Would they have championed the human's wars? Would they bleed for a God they never knew? Goliath's mother had told him stories of the Giants who came down from the sky, and that was where they were supposed to return. But, how do you go up to the sky? He tried as hard as he could to imagine a chariot flying through the sky, but no matter which way he thought it, it kept falling and crashing. Since he knew how it felt to be (almost) dropped from a ten cubit wall, he knew it would be worse if he fell from all the way up there. No, it has to be a myth, he thought to himself sadly, making his way through to the front line. They may stare at me, and let me fight their battles for them, but they would never follow me, he thought to himself sadly. The stories his mother told him had to be just a myth because he had no idea how a "wheel within a wheel" would be able to stay in the sky.
The soldiers on the front line had been expecting Goliath and parted as he made his way through to the front, where he knew the Commander would be. With a quick salute, he greeted the Commander. "Sir, Goliath of Gath reporting." "I know who you are Goliath, now get out there and put the fear in em." The Commander said dismissively, chewing and talking at the same time. "We've got leagues to travel, and we don't have the supplies to hold out for long, so we need you to put everything you've got into it. That's an order." With that, the Commander walked away signaling the horn bearer to make the call. The sound of the horn could be heard by both armies, Goliath knew, and he would be expected to walk down into the middle of the field (in this case a valley, and it was a pretty steep descent from what it looked like), and make a scene of himself. His brothers had told him stories of this "Man in the Midst" business and said it was not for the light hearted, that's why Baal made Giants whose hearts were heavier and bigger. Goliath could almost believe this as his heart was pounding so hard he thought it was going to dent his armor. But he was a Giant, and he had his ancestors to think about, so with one last bite of his (perfectly made, he thought) sausage, he started the clumsy trek down the mountainside and towards the valley where the Israelites could see him clearly.

As the sound of footsteps grew closer, and the cheer of the Israelite's army grew louder, Goliath knew he was breathing his last breaths, and sadly, all he could think about was how much he was going to miss those sausages he'd been eating every morning for these past forty days. He had thought for sure the Israelites would retreat after the first week with no champion. He'd even begun to feel some pride come through from his ancestors for how brave and loud he had been in cursing down those Israelite's and their Yayveh God (or something like that, he could never pronounce it right). He'd even begun to boast that his God Baal was stronger than this Yayveh (or whatever). Forty days he had carried this ridiculous amount of brass and iron up and down that hill, and forty days he'd gone back to his tent, exhausted, but proud he had done his ancestors honor. Every day he'd thought for sure would be the last, and he'd gone into today with all the pride of an undefeated warrior. But now, all he could do was listen as the sound of the child that had broken that illusion approached. A kid with a sling. He knew his brothers were going to laugh if they heard the story, he could only hope it wouldn't reach them. He was almost anxious for it to end, and with resignation, gave up trying to move his gigantic frame. All the good that donkey of brass did me, he thought to himself sarcastically, lying face down in the riverbed mud. He knew he should've waited for the kid to attack, his brothers would have, but how could he have forseen the blinding that would occur as soon as he attempted a charge on the boy. He remembered seeing the boy making his way across the valley, and was still unsure how to react as the boy picked what had to be stones out of the river. How was he supposed to know there was so much sweat sitting inside his helmet? He could still feel the sting in his eye from the salt of it, and no matter what he thought about it, there was no taking it back. Oh the sting of it! Then the frustration of blinking (try wiping your eyes with a brass gauntlet), with vision clearing up with just enough time to see a white blur racing straight towards his forehead! The Pain! The sound of his skull crushing inward was strange enough to be a curiosity to him in any other situation, but was quickly forgotten as reality came back when he felt a pulling motion on his waist. He knew the feel of his greatsword being drawn. Strange, he thought to himself as he was lying there paralyzed by the single white stone that had struck him in the forehead. That sword must weigh more than boy holding it, he thought dimly. How did the boy manage to pick it up? Goliath of Gath was still unsure as he felt the iron bite into his neck.

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