Howling winds, pelting rain. The flames of the fire are like the dancing demons of the Underworld. This night will never end. We are all gathered in the main room of our house: my family, and the one of my best friend, Tabanu. But I am worried. I cannot help thinking about the old stories...
They say an entire district of Uruk disappeared in one night. Streets changed into torrents, sweeping away animals and human beings. Houses collapsed. Even those who had sought refuge in the temple of Anu died. Thousands of demons wandered in the city all night long, threatening, killing, snatching children. Pazuzu himself, the king of the demons, was seen at the top of the ziqqurat.
A dreadful scream suddenly fills the room, followed by horrific hissings, as if a demon dwells inside the walls. “This is Pazuzu”. No other demons would cry like that. We are all taken aback. I look at Tabanu: he is white as a sheet. My mother starts to mutter all kinds of incantations. Anu-Iksur, my brother, crawls to the tablets’ chest:
- Do not worry: I will find the Sumerian incantation to fight Pazuzu. I already know the appropriate rituals.”
This does not reassure me at all: we don’t stand a chance to survive if our only hope is Anu-Iksur! I look at my Dad: he is talking in hushed tones with Rim-Addu, my sister’s husband, and Tabanu’s father, then says aloud:
- The three of us will go out. We cannot leave Pazuzu prowling around the house: we have to chase him away. I have stones that will protect us against him, and some cedar oil to sprinckle on him. It will not kill him, but it should be enough to make him flee.
- I will go and get my cypress arrows at home, adds Tabanu’s father. According to the exorcists of Anu Temple, all objects made of wood from the Amanus forest are threats for the demons.
- I am going with them, finally says Rim-Addu, I am not a bad archer: I could pierce the demon’s wings.”
They all are so brave! I am in awe of them, but not my mother:
- Are you all insane? You cannot face Pazuzu! And you, Rim-Addu, how do you think you can shoot arrows in a pitch-black night?!
- Well, everybody knows that Pazuzu is glowing...
- Glowing???” Tabanu sounds terrified.
I know Rim-Addu is right. They say that Pazuzu’s body is glowing bluish, that his eyes are flames, his mouth is full of smoking, glimmering, red charcoals. If my Dad and the others dare to face him, they will become the new heroes of Uruk! If I go with them, I will be a hero myself! I whisper to Tabanu:
- Tabanu, we cannot miss that!” Then turn to the others: “We want to come with you! We can help, we can hand you the arrows!”
Etirtu, my big sister, snaps:
- You all are possessed! Do you want to finish the night in the Underworld with Nergal! Iqisha, Tabanu, you are too young! Rim-Addu, you should stand by me to protect our children. Who will defend us here if all our men are hunting demons in a stormy night?!”
My father speaks up:
- Anu-Iksur will stay with you.” Anu-Iksur nods immediately: he has no wish at all to go out:
- Yes, yes, I will protect you all, women. I will find the incantations; I will accomplish the rituals to protect you against Pazuzu, and all other demons. None will be able to enter the house without being disintegrated.”
My father agrees with him:
- Very good. I trust Anu-Iksur to protect you: he knows the rituals. I think Iqisha and Tabanu can come with us. If they stay close to us, there is nothing to fear for them.”
Outside, the rain is so dense - it is like a screen. It is so gloomy that I can hardly see the courtyard’s fence. The wind is strong enough to knock us down. The sky is full with demons: the terrifying shadows of their gigantic claws circle round us. I draw my sword to give myself courage. I can see from Tabanu’s face that he is not convinced it can be of some help. I am not too sure either, but it is made of haluppu-wood, as if it was the sword of the Lady of the Sky herself.
Once more the shriek of the demon rings out in the night. Time to act. My Dad and Rim-Addu turn on the left to search for Pazuzu; Tabanu and I follow Tabanu’s father, alongside our house. He is walking fast: it is difficult to follow him. Tabanu slips and falls in the mud. I go to rescue him but when he stands up, his father is nowhere to be seen. We are all alone, surrounded by demons! And the horrible scream resounds again! We look up for the demon. There is Pazuzu! He is standing on the roof of my house. His eyes are indeed like flames, he is huge, he is staring at us, he spreads his huge wings and dives on us!
Tabanu yells and falls again. I am terrified but hardly have time to think! I must save Tabanu’s life! I grasp my sword, clench my father’s stone and rushes at Pazuzu, yelling at him the only Sumerian incantation I can remember. I throw myself at him to touch his wings with my sword: I can feel the chock when I hit him. I fall over, but he cries as in agony, and flees away! The rain and the wind start to slow down: I have chased away the king of the demons.
But is it over yet? We hear a weird noise, close to us, another demon inside the walls? Could this be an etemnu? A ghost? Suddenly, huge green eyes pierce the gloom, and a horrible beast jumps out of the wall drain. A cat! It only is a cat! It is so ugly, so skinny and so soaked that it looks like a dirty rag. But this means that we got rid of all the demons. I catch it: even if it is truly ugly, my little sister may want to adopt it.