For the past week or so, I have been putting together an initial draft for the introduction and first couple chapters of FOUR WOMEN. The introduction is derived from my character sketches that I’ve done at the Met Museum in the presence of the original muses: The Libyan Sybil, Cleopatra, Nydia The Blind Flower Girl, and Mexican Girl Dying (named Atlanxochitl, “flower of the sea”).
The story itself still requires much work and flushing out of details: Who are the kings who come to the Snake Queen’s bedside? How far have they journeyed and for what true purpose? What is the exact political situation and what historical time frame is it taking place in? I have many ideas about all of these questions, I feel it’s just a matter of finding the right places for all the information in the story.
Introduction / Character Sketch
Etesian is recognized as both as a male priest of Ammon and a female Sybil of another world. Her skin color is ever-changing, depending on his time and place. A social chameleon of sorts. In the hot Lybian sun, his skin is dark as the fertile earth that rests beneath the Nile River. She inhabits a rock at the edge of the Temple of Ammon on the cusp of the Siwa Oasis. The temple’s outline juts out into the vast, empty desert sands. The shallow streams trickling on the opposite side of the temple provide the only water within eight days’ travel.
On his head, a black ammonite shell headdress with the tetragrammaton — four Hebrew consonants representing the Supreme Being — out of which flow thick black braids onto her broad back, stopping just short of her shoulders. On the front of the headdress, the tightly coiled ammonite shell rests, shadowing her visage in the noon sun. His chest is naked, breasts bared.
His brow furrows with concern and disgust as she surveys tortuous scenes unfolding behind her eyes. Contemplating fate and justice, she is ripe with the vision. Lids held wide. She cannot bear to drop them down, lest he miss a moment of crucial development. Her eyes appear as brilliant suns behind somber clouds. A prolonged intensity engages her cheeks, the corners of his mouth pull back tightly beneath flaring nostrils.
Her jaw line is less sharp the forty-five degree angle of her jutting nose, which gives him a regal sense of androgyny. Her lips are full and slightly curled into a tightly sneered grimace. Her right palm cups her chin. One forefinger taps the thick golden hoop, heavy in his fleshy earlobes.
Around his neck, the Seal of Solomon drapes from a necklace of iron and gold. Two equilateral triangles interlock to create a six-pointed star. Their balance echos that of the natural and spiritual worlds which the Sybil lives in simultaneously. His left hand is grounded on the rock, grasping a thick bundle of papyrus.
His feet rest in Siwa, but her mind is witnessing the trans-Atlantic slave trade’s beginning. Tyrants dragging entire tribes overseas to face hundreds of years of slavery, torture, and terror. The eternal and habitual migration of the human species filling various parts of the earth will shift here in a painful way, but is unforseeable to the consciousness of the Sybil’s physical time presence. This quake of human dignity disrupts natural patterns of his species’ migration which, until now, was an expanse that occurred organically, quietly circumventing the earth’s watery magnitude over hundreds of thousands of years.
This time, human flesh is ripped from the bones of the mother continent and dragged across a foreign ocean, which human beings had only recently begun to traverse. Etesian witnesses communities being dismantled, persons being mutilated, strewn across the bottom of an ocean their ancestors had yet to span. Etesian experiences chronological dysphoria — the common consciousness of her time has no knowledge of their sisters and brothers across the Atlantic Ocean. Long-forgotten but thriving magnificently after the migratory trickling which had taken place there almost ten thousand years earlier.
If a person could experience all points of space and time, as the Sybil does simultaneously, it would drastically alter one’s understanding of ongoing events. This person would occupy a reality, a perspective, difficult to grasp by those who did not possess that same knowledge. Sybil’s reality is that of injustice contradicting fairness and logic. She sees the anarchical objectiveness of natural forces, but knows that humans being are not capable of harming or helping one another with the same level of detachedness.
The declarations she holds in her hand contain such things that some others may find offensive or insane, yet many in her lifetimes respect her greatly. This is her legacy, after having endured milleniums of slander and silence.
Thus speaks Etesian in her final, first and infinite writing: