‘Do you believe that…like really?’ Jaques shot a look of disbelief at Raziya, momentarily taking his eyes off the road. The question was whether their belief mattered at all at the place they were heading to. Raziya, of course, held a more pragmatic view on most things odd. Odd, she believed was just as important, even more so, in confirming a viewpoint. The one in question presently, the legend of Grethroka, had its base in an ancient script dating back to 3000 BC. It was a story spoken out by wandering men of the east when they hadn’t even learned to give a script to it. In time to come, the village of Zutrokin became the womb in which the legend took many versions, and seeped out of its territories, sometimes in the form of an ode, or a thesis, but mostly in form of incessant prayers.
‘Look, Jar, I just have to get there, record the birth, and come out. Nothing more than that really’, She replied mixing up just the right amounts of casual with assertiveness. Jar, had to know that she called the shots here. She was the content director after all. He was a writer and, for all intents, some pretty good company. She’d take him, any day, beyond any of those pretentious and predictable assholes back at the HO. Jaques was blunt in his ways, and that worked really well for her. She didn’t have to pseudo-analyze him for what he felt or meant. Her mind and focus could, therefore, be used for things that actually mattered. Jaques eyed her with as much disdain as his narrowed eyes could muster. The SUV braved the foggy weather, maintaining its poise over the misty hill pavements, moving past one milestone after the other. Zurtokin was still 22 kilometers away.
The ritual was always the same. From the first Terhom thousands of centuries back to his latest successor, Terhomenas Ikel, who dipped his fingers into the basin filled to the brim with lambs blood. The fingers had to drench properly, the palms, the lines, the fingernails, and each little detail. Terhomenas Ikel then had to pour burning oil into the blood. The taskmasters for this were always orphans, who were castrasized as soon as they got selected by the preceding Holy Ikel. Many theories about this specification, attributed a philosophical take to it. All other means of life were closed up, to allow for the clean and direct passage of divine thought. The burning oil initially pricked his fingernails, then grabbed his skin into inexplicable numbness. For a moment or so, he felt nothing. But when he eventually did, the searing pain ripping off his skin, he felt a strange happiness in him. This was the moment he was preparing for all of his life. Every second, every minute, every breath he took, revolved around his destiny to become the facilitator. The Ikel in the truest form of the word, by performing the ritual. Like all men of his calling had, every 77 years. It was his turn now to prove his legacy, by bringing out the Uraghishnil, the all supreme God, from the selected womb of the wailing Friedaen, the mother, and the lover.
The torches all over the temple blazed up in fervor, as the Zertokinee women, gently massaged Friedaen’s thighs, as she lay screaming in pain, on a makeshift straw cot. She clutched onto anything her hands reached out to. The elderly women cried and screamed along with her. It was believed that they’d feel the pains of labor too. All of them aged in their late sixties or the early seventies. Many an observer, failed to reason why the grief struck just the dying, and not all of the women congregated for the ritual. Of course, it was just one of thousand other things which just failed to affirm to any sense of logic or comprehension. They were there, as they had to. The sanctum of temple, smelled as a mingling of blooming jasmines, and dense incense sticks which could nauseate anyone who walked in unaware of the ritual. Ofcourse, as the moon shone at the brightest, and reflected off the water in an old well built at a corner, the Holy Ikel, walked into the sanctum. His fingers had gone numb, but he was trained enough to bear the pain. He just had to cutoff his mind from his thoughts. A seemingly impossible task at the outset, but then his lineage specialized in such dissociation. He walked up to the straw cot and knelt before the Friedan, the mother to be, of all humanity, and of all the universes in them.
The children of God, called Gresik, formed a disciplined line across the length and the breadth of Zutrokin Mir. Each one of the five hundred devotees held in their hand a torch and a scroll in which a handwritten calling from the Ikel was written. Each one of them stood firmly at the door of each hut. They were the protectors. An excerpt from Douglas Manning’s book by name ‘Veracity of An Immortal Zutrokin’ terms this as a societal threat defense mechanism. He quotes ‘When these Gresik, move in tandem, protecting the huts from evil entering, they are perhaps exhibiting the very foundation on which our civilization is built- Trust in each other’. Additionally, The belief that goes in hand with the ritual is that the womb of the mother bears not only the God. As God comes out of it, so do the faint lingering spirits that have bred along with him. As soon as the Uraghishnil, the all supreme God, is brought out, his children Gresik, are trained to burn the scrolls at the doorstep, chanting what was written in it, seven hundred times. None are supposed to step out, break the chant flow, or seek to do any other things until they’ve reached the number.
With everything in order, and tuned to work in a clockwork, amongst the deafening wailing, The Holy Ikel cautiously picked up the sharpened dagger. He took a deep breath and started piercing the abdomen of the Friedan. Blood gushed out from the incision, which was quickly growing into a prolonged carve out of the skin. The blood splattered all across, as unable to bear the pain, Friedan fell unconscious. The dagger, ripped through layers of skin, one by one, in a spiraling motion, till the Ikel saw a mass of blue hair. He could see his Uraghishnil, the all supreme God, just there to be lifted. Shame the Friedan couldn’t see her blessing. In an unexplainable series of moments, he remembered her name before she was chosen. Raziya. Perhaps, she wasn’t blessed enough to witness the coming. He carefully placed the dagger away and nodded at one of the wailing woman, who then picked up the conch shell, and blew it for the Gresik. For the next few moments, The Ikel would try and pluck out the abnormally heavy holiness out of the womb. One which was growing weary and cold now. The whole village blazed up with the children of God, playing their part. The whole village consisting of about five hundred huts bore the same look.
At the crack of dawn, Raziya and Jacques entered the village, slowing down their SUV, at the village temple. As they parked it near, what appeared to be some sort of a shack, they walked out to meet their host, who had promised them an exclusive coverage of the legend of Grethroka. Some inside stories, a few interviews with the holy men, and of course a meeting with the ever elusive the Holy Ikel. They found the man they were looking for, on the banks of the river. He sat bare-chested and cross legged upon a crudely built stone platform, and eating a slice of watermelon. But the most striking feature of him, which perhaps made him extremely easy to be found in the village was his hair. The natural hair color was unlike any other. Deep Blue. He turned to smile at Raziya, as the journalists stepped down the bank, to meet him at its edge, passing a couple of huts on the way.
Unbeknownst to them, a scroll containing a chant by the Holy Ikel, twirled at one of the doorsteps, just a few feet away from them, half unburnt…….