Wordsmith Scene 5
A big one this time folks, because it’s the end of Act One!
Obie took her hand and pulled gently. Kate allowed him to guide her.
They avoided the streets for a while but finally emerged at a crossroads. Kate had no idea where she was, except that it was far from the IT offices she worked in. She saw a lot of tightly clustered flats and run-down shops, some of which had signs in a language she didn’t recognise.
Obie became more confident as he seemed to reach familiar ground. The streets were quiet, only the occasional car passing. If anyone thought that the sight of a topless black boy and a small white girl was strange, they did nothing about it.
Kate realised slowly that this area was populated by immigrants. She knew that there were little communities of Chinese, or Middle Eastern, or Polish people dotted around London. Families lived near to each other, attracting people with similar customs and faiths. When they rounded a corner and stopped in front of a building with a great Star of David above the door. This building was cleaner and better maintained than the rest, though it appeared to be little more than a renovated office building.
Obie led her to the door, where he knocked quietly. She waited nervously, wondering why he’d come to a synagogue.
The door opened, revealing a short man with dark skin. He was hatched-faced, bearded and wore glasses. He also wore a white turban, wound thickly with a flat top. The rest of his clothes were simply neat, unadorned linens.
“What is the matter? It is almost eleven at night,” said the priest. His mode of speech was clearly African, but a London accent had dulled his own.
Kate’s breath began to catch; she hated talking to people. The situation was absurd and embarrassing.
“I… I’m sorry,” she began. “My friend needs help. He seemed to think that he should come here.”
The priest peered at Kate and Obie through his glasses, frowning.
“I see. Does not the big fellow have a tongue in his mouth?”
Obie shook his head sadly, which gave both Kate and the priest pause. He opened his mouth wide and showed, behind a row of big white teeth, what he had instead of a tongue. Kate gasped at the sight; a lump of metal, a flat bar of iron that disappeared down into Obie’s throat. No wonder he couldn’t talk.
“Bless me… come inside, quickly now,” commanded the priest. Kate reluctantly followed behind Obie.
The synagogue was clean and perfumed with some kind of incense that she didn’t recognise. There were the usual Jewish items that she expected to see, like the nine-branched candle holders. There were also more unusual artefacts of an African nature.
“My name is Liqa Kahenat Tegegne Tesfa,” said the priest. When he saw Kate’s blank expression, he added: “This means, ‘High Priest Tegegne Tesfa,’ so you may call me simply ‘Tegegne’.”
“Right, well, I’m Kate,” she replied awkwardly. “He’s called Obie. I think.”
Tegegne raised an eyebrow and looked closely at Obie, who shrugged and shook his head again.
“My friend, I think you are wrong… oh my, but this is a terrible thing…” he replied. “I must tell you many secrets now, Kate, for you have seen something you should not have. This must go no further.”
The man began to inspect Obie; his cuts, his great vertical scar and finally his metal tongue. All the while he muttered supplications to God, as if warding off some evil spirit. He took Obie’s jaw and stretched his tongue out. Kate leaned in for a closer look at saw some kind of inscription or stamp on the metal, like a hallmark on a gold bar.
“This word is in Ge’ez. It is the holy language of my community, the Beta Israeli, who you might call ‘Ethiopian Jews’.”
“I didn’t even know there were Ethiopian Jews,” admitted Kate. “You don’t normally…”
“See us on television or in your movies? No. All Ethiopians are Haile Selassie. All Jews are Woody Allen. Oy vey,” he replied with a sardonic smile that warmed her to him immediately.
“What does the word mean?”
“Well, Kate… the word means ‘Obey’.”
Kate raised her hand to her mouth reflexively. She started into the eyes of the young man who she’d been called ‘Obie’, realising that the only word he could say was the one stamped onto his tongue.
“Oh… I’m so sorry.”
Obie shrugged and smiled at her.
“Young man, do you remember your real name?” asked Tegegne. Obie shook his head again, so Tegegne addressed Kate: “The word of power rules his mind. In many ways, it is his name now. It is the word that brings his flesh to life. He still has his faculties- clearly he understands what the word means in English and he can understand what we’re saying, but the Shem is his soul. It compels him to obey any commands he is given.”
“Word of power, or name of God. A magic word that, combined with others that are no doubt stamped on the metal inside his chest, command this dead man to walk as if alive.”
“Dead man?! Are you crazy?!” protested Kate. She pointed a finger and the priest and began to loser her temper. “Obie isn’t dead. He’s fine! You’re some kind of religious nutjob and you aren’t helping him, so I’m taking him to a hospital!”
Tegegge raised his hands defensively as Kate pushed past him, towards Obie, who stood slumped with tears rolling down his cheeks.
“Obie… if that is the name that you wish to use,” interrupted Tegegne. “I’m sorry to do this, but… show her that I’m right.”
Obie reached for his chest in a jerky fashion, as if trying to stop himself. His face contorted with effort as he began picking at the stitches and pulling the flesh apart.
“What the hell-?” began Kate, horrified. The insane events of the night were overwhelming her and she didn’t want to see any more.
Obie, with a pained grunt, pulled his topmost stitches out and opened a flap of skin on his chest. Kate caught a glimpse of meat and blood… and metal. There were two iron rods where he should have had ribs. Below them was murky darkness and the hint of a thick metal core.
“Obie, stop! Stop it!” she shouted.
He stopped, making her think of the other times that night when she had told him to do something and he had immediately obeyed. The thought made her as sick as the sight of his chest, which he now tried to close. There was blood, but less than a living man would have produced.
“Someone dug this poor boy out of his grave. It is a very, very old magic. They hollowed him out to make room for metal. Certain bones and organs were replaced with iron tokens, forged with words of power. They put in a structure to hang them from. A chassis…” murmured Tegegne. “I do not mean to distress you, girl, only to explain. This is magic that the world thinks is dead, made modern and evil. They built a man like they would a car and furnished him with the skin of a corpse, like… like leather seats. It is blasphemy. It is wrong.”
“What is he?” murmured Kate, shaking with shock and rising anger.
“He is a golem.”
No choices this time folks; except one for me personally. Would you like me to continue this in the way I’ve been doing it, with little episodes that you vote on, or would you rather I just finished the remainder in one block to read as a complete story?
- Keep doing choose-you-own-adventure segments
- Let’s have the rest in one big go!