Then the king continued, “You do not think Bel is a living god? Do you not see how much he eats and drinks every day?”
Daniel 14:6, The New American Bible, Revised Edition
Bel didn’t talk to me, he spoke through me.
Let me show you a trick.
Bel stood in front of me, the white fire all gone out. An ash-gray cloak, hood covering his blue crystal curls. He had a Grandfather Gandalf grizzle to him. Cerulean pools for eyes, sharp beak of a nose. Missing a few teeth. Constantly chewed on the end of a stogie. But it was the beard that got me, a greasy lapis lazuli beard grown long. Made from actual clusters of this lustrous blue stone.
It was magnificent. The blues were more than basic. Layers of hued blues creating oceans and streams where your eyes swam. Flecks of black granite and veins of crystal quartz wove through. Magnanimous facial hair if ever there was such.
He pulled out what made me squirm at first, thinking it was an alien shrink-ray. Oh, it was just a portable light. I had a blacklight in my bedroom left over from the teenage foster boy before me. It glowed like that.
The light moved with his hand. He flicked the UV light up over the had-to-be-heavy facial hair and suddenly the magma truly flowed.
Watch. Fluorescence from the sulphur makes it turn from white to this.
Streaks of glowing lava red and orange slashed across the beard. Where the watery blue lapis flowed, in its place streaks, cuts, lines. A beard on fire, yet cool to the touch.
Next to Bel stood what I thought was a wolfy dog with tall ears, long nose. Closer inspection. Not a German Shepherd or any dog, in fact. Unless a dog existed that was covered in scales and had a wingspan. Of an albatross.
Have you ever read the story called Bel and the Dragon?
“What kind of story is this?”
Well it would be biblical if I didn’t get edited out. In the condensed version, they expected me to eat all of this food. It was a test from the king, the new king. I was a glutton, sure, I loved my stiff drink and ate to fill my personal bottomless pit. But this test was akin to tossing a tied up witch into a river. The witch is not going to float if she wants to live, and sinking is a surefire trip down another river, Styx.
If I ate all the food that night, I would have died, too. It was a lose-lose situation, if you get my drift. A god, sure, but I still have a stomach with a capacity. I don’t use my magic in battles with mortals, it’s not fair. So I did a foolish deed, decided to let my main followers come in and feast in my honor. Problem was we weren’t sneaky enough, and our footsteps got us busted. They had put out some ashes all over the floor and, being black it blended right in with the rest of the night. Next morning, sure the food was gone, but we kicked that dust in a pretty telling way.
The real story is King Cyrus had just succeeded the dead King Astyages and he needed to pull a power play to showcase his staunchness. So he decided to take me out. Like way out. Like he took me out in the battle with the public. Then took me out of our history by having Daniel become the hero of the story.
The original story didn’t even have Daniel. Daniel was there, but that was all. It was me in the pit, with my dragon, just one. And of course my dragon would never eat me. But the people swore it was the devil’s deed, that a dragon should eat a human when in the bottom of a pit, and so one of us must be the devil itself.
Then by the time this chapter of the Bible was written down, the story was official. Daniel was now the hero and his lions, plural, were there instead of my dragon. It was all a big political scandal back in the day. In the end, after I was not eaten, the king had managed to poison the people against me regardless. Everyone was determined I was a demon and I was cast out, me and my dragon, Nabu. Where is my Tutu anyway?
I waved over at the dragon-dog pacing on tall legs sniffing the flowers. We were back in the trees, in the part of the woods next to the dead pet pit where all the household pets’ bones were buried. It was where I went to meet Bel. When I first saw him, I was cutting grass and trying to avoid the humps from the boxes of bones buried of past German Shepherds and Doberman Pinchers.
He stood in the trees, but not on white-fire and not looking at all like the demon I saw the night of the cross burning with the clowns-men. He looked like any old man wearing a long cloak, carrying a tall staff, and with beard glowing of semi-precious blue. He looked mischievously curious, with a calm and clearing countenance.
In the Bible you read there is no Tale of Bel. No telling of my dragon and how we were the reason why this so-called Daniel went into the theoretical lion’s den. We have been banished from the book altogether.
I knew all about Daniel. He was thrown like a poor rag doll in the bottom of that dry well where they kept a pride of lions. He didn’t get eaten because God sent an angel to protect him. But dragons were definitely not part of that story. I would have definitely remembered dragons.
“Why are you called Bel?”
I wasn’t always.
“What did they call you before Bel?”
Nothing. They called me No Name. I was Anonymous. I was the Anonymous God.
“Really? They really didn’t give you a name, and you were a god?”
It was more like I was such a god that even a name could not give me the glory it deserved. They called me titles. No names. Lord of Heaven, mainly. I got Lord of the Worlds a lot, the Ancestral God. Some people wanted to call me the Holy Brothers, even though there is, was, and has always been only one Bel. And my good old sidekick Nabu or as I like to call ‘Tutu’ here.
“Why are you a sin-eater?”
It’s my punishment. I was a chowhound back then, infamous for my gluttonous ways. Now I am forced to walk the earth, eating the sins of those who call me. I didn’t eat everything I should have back on that day and now I’m scorned to eat the worst possible meal on the planet. The evil deeds and sins of you people.
“I didn’t call you.”
Someone called for you.
“What if I don’t want you to come around?”
Don’t sin. If you don’t do it, you don’t have to get rid of it.
“But what if I don’t even know I’m sinning?”
That’s what I’m here for.
Chapter 5 in the works aka the book stops here!
What genre is “No Name,” supposed to be? Well, I mean, horror-fantasy fiction-memoir?
Little girl grows up hooked on opioids and ends up haunted by the demon of her childhood—Lit.Er.A.Lly. Southern Gothic + Growing Up in the Nineties. This is not your mommy’s “Friends” or “Full House,” Not unless you inject those with racists and thieves, religious fanatics and the biggest horror of them all, the US foster care system.
Closest I can tell you I think of this book as something coming from the likes of David Sedaris’s mind inside the soul and body of Karl Ove Knausgård with Flannery O’Connor’s Southern feminist writing spirit guiding the whole muster.
If you like those writers maybe? Maybe you’ll enjoy this. I think so? But it’s also got some serious Stephen King infused in there. The horror, oh! The horror!
Thank you for reading…all the way to THE END!