by: Dennis R. Humphreys
The field was a devastating pile of corpses, large ones. I had never seen anything like it before or since. I had seen the aftermath of battles before, ever since I was little. I was used to it. My people were used to it. Ever since leaving Egypt with an attempted battle initiated by the Pharo's army, trying to recapture us, there was one battle after another on our exodus. My people had wandered forty years to get to this point.
Joshua led this battle. He was our new leader after Moses died on the mountain overlooking this valley, a few weeks ago. I was there when the old man died, and many thought it was the end of the journey and all was lost. The leadership passed on then to Joshua, ordained by Yahweh. Word was given this was our land, as it was before the days in Egypt, but now there were abominations residing here, descendants of the fallen ones. They needed to be slaughtered, we could not live here with them.
The race of giants here, migrated from the area of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. They were the ill begotten of those arrogant two hundred fallen, that took the women of men as wives. Six-fingered and six-toed, they ranged in size from eight to ten feet. Their hair was coarse and red. Their bodies were hairy with a single eye in the middle of their forehead. They had an incessant taste for human flesh. Many of them had dispersed in every direction over time, but a large settlement made this valley their home, growing in numbers and appetite throughout the area. It would be impossible to live near these people. They had already decimated many other people in the area with their taste for human flesh.
I was searching about the bodies before the stench became unbearable. Our army had begun moving many bodies away from the area, placing them in piles to burn but there were still many left. Venturing among them to see what I could find, I thought nothing of relieving the corpses of go
ld and silver or other valuables. They were dead and I was not. Such items were better for me, not them now.
As I stopped, removing a gold necklace from a giant woman's neck, I heard something in the distance. It sounded like a child but I saw nothing. I stood, dismissing flies all around and strained my eyes towards the mountain range to the east where the sound seemed to come. Still I saw nothing. It wasn't the wind... that was still. Sometimes the wind blew strong here, and as it wandered around the rocks and hills it made sounds. Sometimes the sounds were like someone screaming or crying. It was even more deceiving at night, when it awakened you, because sounds are always more deceiving in the dark, especially upon awakening.
I stared, but still there was nothing... no movement, so I walked slowly towards the sound careful, not to stumble over a body. I didn't want to stain myself with the enemy's blood or it would give me away, where I had been, to my mother, who would thrash me for my endeavors.
As I moved closer to the sound, a slight breeze blew in front of me, moving sand over the bodies strewn there. A black bird lighted upon a body directly in front of me, unaware at first of my presence. Then, no sooner had he landed then he took off again, squawking as he did do, realizing I was there.
I noticed then why I hadn't seen anything. There was a shallow gully in the land and whatever was in that gully, was unseen standing on the plain. There were bodies lying in the gully, like everywhere else, but there was that sound coming from near one of them and a slight movement on the ground. I thought at first it was a wounded soul but realized as I kept moving closer, it was a child... a child of a giant.
Standing at the top of that gully for a moment I watched the child stand, to look at me, crying. It was ugly like the others but still the sound of a child's cry softens the heart, and I felt sorry for it. Tears were falling from its single eye. It was filthy and probably had been before the battle. It already had a coat of red hair on it. It brushed away its tears with a six-fingered hand and with the other wiped its nose as it came towards me. I looked around to see if there were others of my people present, for if there were, they would dispatch this Nephilim. I wasn't sure how old it was but probably around three since it was walking but it was about my height, a little over five feet, but then I was fourteen.
“Give me your hand. Let me take you away from here or you'll be killed,” I told him, and he did, and as he did, he stopped crying. Northward, towards a rocky hill, which was not far away, I guided him.
I hoped to hide the child among the rocks there, but after that I wasn't sure what I was planning. I would try to bring it food and water to keep it alive. It was like taking a lost dog home and wanting to keep it. Along the way, I gathered some tunics from the fallen bodies to give the child and keep it warm when the sun faded. I found a goatskin of water and took that as we went along. We made it to the rocks and walked through a small opening between the wall of them. Inside it was similar to a large courtyard, with desert brush growing heavily in the protected area. I felt this was a good spot for him, at least being protected from the night winds. I looked around to see if there was anything better and saw an opening in the hill, so I pulled the child towards it. There was a small, shallow cave... even better. It went into the hill only about eight feet, but it provided further protection from the sun and the rain should it be needed.
I pushed him into the opening and threw the tunics inside with him, indicating for him to stay and he seemed to understand. I spoke some Aramaic which he seemed to know but it was the most prevalent language in the area. My Aramaic was incomplete, but I think I managed to get him to understand what I wanted him to do, and that I would be back with food. I gave him some water before I left in case he didn't know how to handle the sack but he seemed fine, so I left. I heard him begin to whimper as I left, going between the rocks to go home.
“Jeremiah! Where have you been? I needed you to work the goat's milk for dinner. Your little brother makes a mess of things,” my mother Esther, told me.
It was true, Jacob was only seven and clumsy. He had trouble working the goat's milk to butter. He spilled more of it on the ground than he converted into the butter they spread on their bread.
“I was on the plain looking at the men clean up,” he told her.
“I hope you didn't touch any of those bodies! They are unclean,” she warned me. I wasn't about to tell her I did and I even had a young one I wished to raise. I would have met not only with condemnation but something much worse, although I didn't know what that might be.
About that time his sister walked up to the campfire to look at the bread baking. Sarah was getting hungry.
My father and mother had left Egypt when they were young with their parents. My mother was only thirty-two while my father was forty-five, but they moth looked older than they were. All the married women with children looked older than they were in the group. It was a nomadic life since leaving Egypt. It had to be, moving as many people as there were. You'd settle for a time and then when the food ran out you moved on. Thus, it was a hard life. There was constant work to do in an environment that was hot and you were exposed to the sun constantly. Even with larger families to share the workload it was difficult. You didn't settle long enough in one place to farm and the trip to the land promised was a long one. My ancestor, Joseph was sold as a slave by his brothers to an Egyptian and taken there and later because of a famine, his family moved there only to be enslaved. They left their lands behind and were kept there then against their will. This return was a long time coming. We were going home but the trip was a trial, I suppose and one that was extracting on every man, woman and child making the journey.
Now that we were here, there would be different hardships. One we developed the land and built homes there would always be those to take it away where fighting and taking was easier than doing the work yourself. You might be at the hands of the takers rather than those that put themselves into the land and didn't just take but gave an equal amount to what they took. These were the wild men to be wary of, like Esau in the past, who having lost his birthright, took Hittite wives and sired not only descendants of the fallen ones but a kingdom of hatred, in order to get back at his own people. There were several groups of Edomites around, like the Hittites bent on my people's destruction. These were the people we had to guard against now, and probably always.
I watched my father standing not far away, speaking with Joshua and several other men, amid a torrent of gestures rhythmically imposed for definition, each following suit as they gained the floor. All the others would stop and become intensely attentive, as if afraid one of the hands might come down forcibly on them. The whole event, if you watched it, had a pattern to it that became almost comical.
My mother was laying the food out, as she prepared it, on a a few rugs that were spread on the ground. This is how we ate. This is how nomads ate. Carrying furniture about as you traveled was useless. Rugs were our furniture.
“Children... wash your hands and your faces please. We'll be eating shortly,” she told us and so we filled a basin of water and gathered around it, purposely splashing each other like we normally did, turning the event into a frivolous circumstance.
Father saw us washing. so he took it as a sign my mother would be calling him to eat at any moment. He ceased his conversation and walked towards us. He always greeted us by squeezing our shoulders together and kissing us on the heads. Then he would do the same thing with my mother but less lighthearted.
Soon we were sitting cross legged and giving thanks for our food in front of our typical meal of yogurt, dates, bread, honey, milk and pomegranate. We ate out meals silently while our parents carried the conversation. I usually listened to them and if there were questions to ask, I would ask them later, after the meal was finished. It was the time for adult conversation about topics in which we were rarely interested.
“Father?” I began after we finished eating and each of us washed,” are the Nephilim really that evil?”
“You know who and what they are. Satin and the others were thrown out of heaven for their infidelities. They couldn't get along with anyone there. They were sent to Earth to watch man and make up for the trouble they made. They were told to not interfere with man, and above all not to sire children by women, but they did. There was something wrong up here,” he said, pointing to his head, "but there was also something else wrong with them and they sired these beasts... abominations. They ate human flesh in defiance of everything holy.”
“What if they wouldn't eat human flesh, would they be... acceptable?” I asked.
“I think they would still be abominations, children of unholy unions but that would be up to Yahweh to decide,” he told me.
I, in my own mind, decided if the one I found was taught not to eat human flesh he would be forgiven his nature and if others like him were taught as well, they would be forgiven. I decided this would be my mission, though it would remain unannounced, more from fear of repercussion, than adulation for my efforts.
During the meal I had placed a few things away in my tunic. I'd put them into a bag later to take with me early in the morning, to feed the creature. I had to discover its name, or give him one, rather than constantly refer to him as a 'beast' or 'creature' in my own mind. It seemed a more respectful thing, though it was nothing more than a child.
“Jeremiah, what have you been doing? I didn't see you all day,” my friend Joseph asked.
“I was on the plain where the battle occurred,” I told him. “What have you been doing?”
“What else? Watching goats and my brothers. Sometimes it's hard to tell the difference,” he complained to me.
“Can you get away in the morning at sun-up” I asked him.
“For a little while I can,” Joseph told me.
“I'm going to tell you something and I'll show you tomorrow, but you have to swear secrecy.” I warned him.
“Sure, I won't say anything. What is it?” he asked.
I told him what I had done and what I was planning to do. He looked at me in wide eyed exclamation before speaking.
“Jeremiah, what are you thinking, keeping one of those things around here? If the others find out you'll be disowned,” my friend warned me, and he was probably right, but somehow in a very short time, I became convinced I was doing the right thing.
“I believe I can change his ways now there are no others of his kind around. He will learn from me and become like us,” I told Joseph steadfastly.
“I don't know about that, but I'll go with you. I want to see one of these things up close,” he told me. With that our pact was sealed and Joseph went with me in the morning. I told him to see if he could get a little food as well to bring along in case mine wasn't enough for the large toddler. “I don't think one of those things will ever be like us.”
I arose early but mother was always earlier, stoking the fire to make breakfast which was often carried into the field with the hunters with enough extra taken for food during the day.
“You're up early. The sun hasn't peeked over the mountains yet,” father asked, as he prepared to leave to go on a hunt with other men from the group. “I'll see everyone later.”
“What are doing up this early?” my mother asked.
“Joseph and I are taking our slings to see if we can get rabbits,” I told my mother which wasn't a lie since we figured we would hunt on the way there and the way back. We were most likely to see rabbits in the morning and perhaps get a few. I was good with a sling but Joseph was better.
Joseph came running up then and wished us a good morning.
“Take a yogurt cake , Joseph,” mother suggested as he came up,”I've made plenty .”
One never to turn down a yogurt cake, Joseph stuffed a cake into his tunic. I took a few since this was my breakfast and intended snack midday.
“We'll see you later mother,” I told her.
“Good hunting, both of you!” mother cried after I us as we headed out to the rocks and from there to the plain, which was about fifty feet lower.
“I hope you know what you're doing,” Joseph told me as we headed across the plain. “This thing could grow up to eat you.”
“He won't eat the one who feeds him,” I reported to Joseph
Along the way there were plenty of rabbits. You would have to have been a terrible shot with the sling to not get one. It seemed every bush we passed had one hiding under it. Before we got halfway to where I had hidden the Nephilum, we killed three. The secret was to wait for the rabbit to straighten its path. When you first scare them up they zigzag to confuse their enemy and give them a little distance from them. Then they straighten out. If you time it right, and fire your stone as they straighten, you can kill one.
We crossed the shallow gully and I told Joseph this was where I found the child. We headed towards the rocks. Another rabbit ran out which I missed but Joseph dropped it. Even if he killed the majority of rabbits we always split what we got, equally. One time I killed more, and I haven't let him forget it since.
We passed through the small inlet between the rocks to it's courtyard interior. I looked on the far side and saw nothing. I hoped the child didn't wander off in loneliness or in hunger. I left him plenty of water. As we walked a movement caught both our eyes from the shadows of the shallow cave. There was the child giant slowly coming out with a smile on his face towards us. He made some strange sounds that seemed joyous but perhaps I just didn't understand his language, or he was too limited because of his age, I don't know. He seemed happy to see me and he appeared happy to see Joseph, though he didn't know him. I believe he was happy not to be alone, after losing his parents, and being alone in this place.
I thought of the hunters from our camp and attempted to make him understand he should stay hidden as best he could, or risk being discovered. I was sure, sooner or later, our hunters would come to this place. I was certain they had already been here before, at least once. It was a good spot to run larger animals into, where they couldn't escape. Hunters could then block the only entrance, exit, while others climbed to the top of the rocks to kill their trapped quarry at leisure. Other hunters in the past may have used it for such, and the structure may not have been coincidental but created purposely for such a thing.
I walked to the front of the shallow cave and the three of us sat there. I gave the child the food we brought, and it ate ravenously. I noticed he already had all his teeth, and in fact there were two rows of them compared to my one.
“This creature has two rows of teeth,” I mentioned to my friend.
“More efficient when he decides to eat you,” Joseph answered cynically.
“I'm telling you; he won't be doing any more of that,” I told him.
“What are you going to do if we all move from here?” Joseph asked.
“Have you heard something? I'm so tired of moving. Every couple of years we move,” I complained.
“I heard some talk. Now that we're here in the promised land there are way too many of us to stay in one spot. We'll run out of food otherwise. My father was talking with Joshua last night about it. They were contemplating, splitting the tribe into fourths to create four towns, twenty or thirty miles from each other. That way there's plenty to hunt and begin farming. In a couple of years, we can start trading with each other for what we need and any other groups that come through the area, he told me, while the child listened attentively, not understanding Hebrew.
“That would be about five hundred per town. I hope they don't split our families up. Twenty or thirty miles to see your ugly face is too far!” I kidded my friend.
When I looked again at the little giant, all the food was gone.
“I guess he was hungry. I hope he doesn't eat like this all the time or I'll be discovered,” I told Joseph.
“We can give him a rabbit or two,” he suggested.
“No. I don't want him eating uncooked meat. Besides these are our excuse,” I told him.
We sat for some time with the creature to keep him company but we needed to start back and do some hunting along the way to not arouse suspicion. I'd like to get a couple more rabbits. However, before we left I wanted to accomplish one other thing.
“What is your name,” I tried asking the child in Hebrew and Aramaic. I pointed at Joseph and told the creature his name and then at myself, doing the same, but the child didn't seem to understand. He looked blankly at me and just stared with his one eye. “Well, I can't be just calling him 'you' or speak of him impersonally like someone I don't know. I need to call him something. What do you think Joseph?
Joseph thought for a few minutes and then suddenly smiled.
“I know, let's call him Blink, since he only has one eye,” said Joseph, laughing at his ingenuity and humor.
I laughed but I actually liked the sounds of it. What's more, it suited him and was easy to say. The creature would remember it easily.
“What do you think about the name Blink, I asked the child not expecting much of a reaction but he grinned and jumped a little on the ground, as he sat with his legs folded. “Alright then, Blink it is. Blink... Blink... Blink. Can you say Blink?”
I did get something which surprised me, but it sounded more like Blank. I think it was more of his inability to pronounce the word at this stage than not understanding it, so Blink became his name that day.
“We have to go Blink, but we'll try to come tomorrow,” I told him but he seemed to want to follow us and I had to make a few attempts to, make him stay. Finally, he understood, but like a punished little child, he went into the front of his cave, turned around and plopped on the ground, sending a dust cloud into the air as he did so.
While we walked away, Joseph turned around and looked back.
“That is one ugly kid! Were they all that way, or did he get all the looks?” Joseph asked me jokingly.
“Look around on the battlefield. There are still plenty of their bodies. You can see what they look like,” I told him.
“They've been dead for several days now, they don't quite look the same as when they were alive,” Joseph commented, "and I'm not going over to them close, or touching any of them. Look at the flies,” he commented.
The bodies on the field had drawn all sort of flesh eating bugs, especially flies. Many of the bodies appeared alive under the undulating masses of maggots now, as they moved, falling off to the ground. Small birds were descending on them continuously partaking in a food chain well under way.
“Let's see if we can get some more rabbits before we go back. I need to take another goatskin of water when we go tomorrow. He has just enough there for another day,” I informed my friend.
We needed to bring one for ourselves the next time we left. I was getting thirsty in the dry air. We could fill a skin at the small river near our camp, so we could leave home with just one full skin, otherwise my mother or anyone else watching would wonder why two boys needed two goatskins of water to take with them.
Heading back across the plains, there weren't many bodies left. Much had been piled into pyres and cremated. Wild animals had begun to feed on some of the bodies and the smell was beginning to invade the area heavily. It was a good thing there was a constant breeze that funneled west between the two closer ranges as it took the stench with it.
By the time we got back to the camp that afternoon, we had gotten a total of eight rabbits. It was an excellent day's hunt so there was no suspicion as to what we were doing all day. Mother was pleased to get four rabbits for our family, as Joseph went home swinging his future dinner from a stick he hung over his shoulder.
“You had a good day's hunt,” my mother exclaimed.
“Yes we did,” I acknowledged as she stared at me.
“Go put on some fat,” she warned me, something we would rub into our skin after being exposed to the sun for long periods of time. It was actually a mix of the little bit of fat rendered in cooking a goat, mixed with coconut oil. It worked well, circumventing a burn from the sun or wind, but it smelled, and the grease lasted forever on your skin unless you rubbed it off later. Dirt clung to it like glue and made you look filthy, as the wind blew it on you.
I watched her as she baked her bread. She added herbs that she found hunting, to the dough. She hunted for additional things to add to the meal to give it variety. It was too late to cook the rabbit, that would be for tomorrow, but she went about cleaning them and preparing them to make a stew. She rubbed them in sage, which kept the meat fresh in the heat, but it also made it tougher.
“Jeremiah. Go fetch me some chokes. I saw plenty of them growing over the hill yonder,” she motioned. “I'll clean and soak them to cook with your rabbits tomorrow. Down by the creek dig up some scrode, where you found that baby rabbit last week. That will make a really good stew for tomorrow, but the scrode needs to be soaked in salt water over night to get rid of the bitterness.”
I did what she asked, and dug extra for my ward. I'd soak the share I dug for Blink in salt water to take with me in the morning. At least the two thousand people that camped in the area, few went north, where it was rockier. Most went south or east where the land was greener with more vegetation, but the competition for what was there was greater. Where we went, there was relatively more available since few went that way. We rarely saw anyone, so there was less of a chance of anyone coming across Blink. The hunters were the only possible problem. They traveled near and far. I considered our tracks too, that they might stumble across them, and follow them. Luckily the winds over the plains were constant and they usually obliterated any signs within a short while. The winds were like that here, funneled between the mountain chains on either side of the valley. The temperatures varied a lot from night today, so it created the winds. When they were stronger, they created dust storms, stinging you sun sensitized skin and getting into your eyes. The best you could do is blindly move ahead or sit behind a rock and wait for the wind to subside. You could easily lose your way out here in a dust storm, if you didn't make note of landmarks and pay close attention to where you were when you stopped.
It was a couple of weeks later after we began taking care of the giant, when Joseph and I left to feed him, and who seemed to have already grown two inches, that we discovered tracks. We had already killed three rabbits when we saw them... horse tracks. There were three, traveling together in such a way, we knew they were ridden. There was no one else in the area now with horses, and their path seemed to take a wide curve from where we found them to the south east, near where our encampment was. Since no riders had come into camp, someone was watching us. I debated running back to tell my father who could tell Joshua, but I didn't want to have to stay in camp then. I decided we would do what we planned, make the day short, and then go back and alert them. It was possible hunters from our group would either stumble across the riders, or their tracks anyway. I just hoped I wasn't making a mistake by not going back.
We hurried along, feeding Blink everything we had, and made efforts to go back quickly.
“You two are back early,” my mother commented. “I didn't expect you back for hours yet.”
“We found tracks... horse tracks that seemed to be watching our camp. I wanted to warn father,” I told her.
“Come with me. Your father isn't back yet from hunting with the others, but Joshua is here. You need to tell him,” mother told me and Joseph, who left all three rabbits on the table where my mother prepared the meals.
We walked some ways through the crowd of people encamped, led by my mother and saw Joshua ahead, speaking with two men. I was scared. Joshua was a powerful man and our leader. I never spoke to him before. I had seen him plenty of times, but no one just spoke to him. The only person more formidable was Eleazar, Moses' nephew. He saw us approaching and could probably see by my mother's demeanor, it was a matter of importance. She could not address him directly in public, so she ushered me to the front.
“You tell Joshua what you told me, "she insisted, shoving me ahead as if the four or five inches would make a difference in hearing me.
“Joseph and I were out hunting and came across three horse tracks with riders, perhaps four miles out... north of here. They made a wide curve going southeast towards our encampment. Since we have no horses and if no riders visited us today, I assume they are watching us,” I informed our leader.
“Boy, point in the direction you saw them,” so I did and he looked after my hand.
He turned to one of the men that he had been speaking to and spoke to him.
“Ezikiel, go gather six of the men, arm them and bring them here as soon as you can. Bring Benjamin, he's the best tracker. We'll see what this is about,” he told the man who immediately set out.
“What is your name boy?” he asked me and I told him. “Good work Jeremiah. Thank you.”
I felt really important then. He told me 'good work' and thanked me. When I turned to go back with my mother Joseph looked jealous.
“You left all three rabbits at our tent. Come back for two of them I told him.
“No... take all three. We'll make it even next time,” he suggested.
“Why don't you come eat with us tomorrow when I make them,” mother suggested, and he readily said yes and ran back to his family. “Several of us were going into the giant's wheat fields tomorrow to collect wheat. We are all getting low on it but I suppose we need to put that off until we know who these riders are. You aren't to go out until we know it's safe.
Mother and I watched as Joshua and his group passed our camp running north. They could keep their pace up all day and sometimes had to, since our people had no horses. The few we had leaving Egypt long since perished. The land was hard on horses and more suited for camels, but there were none of those as well. It was mid-day and I wondered when the men would be back and if they found anything.
Father came back his normal time before dinner. I told him what I told Joshua. He looked concerned. The hunters had not seen any riders or evidence of any.
“Joshua and several of his men left four hours ago and haven't returned, so they must be following the tracks. What do you think it means?” she asked father.
“We're the only ones in this valley now and we haven't horses so it's obviously outsiders... friendly or not is the question,” he commented.
“It's not good if they're being secretive,” she said.
“Not necessarily. If they're a small group coming through, they might be scared to make themselves known to a large group like ours. They don't know if we're friendly,” he told my mother.
“What happens if they're not friendly, “I asked him.
“Let's no worry about it for now. Joshua will determine that and decide what to do. That's what leaders do,” he told me.
There was a commotion in the settlement midway through the night as Joshua and his men ran by our tent. Dogs barked and several people yelled as others took up the shouting along their path. Further into the settlement, near Joshua's tent, from where he commanded, they blew a ram's horn gathering a dozen of his leading soldiers. This meant they found something about which he was concerned. The camp came to life when the horn sounded. The men he called for, collected at his tent. Many others, wondering what was happening, gathered outside the tent to hear the news.
Everyone waited almost an hour. The men emerged from the tent with Joshua last, to inform the crowd what was happening.
“Thanks to Jeremiah ben Eli, we were alerted to the presence of enemy forces nearby,” he told everyone. I couldn't believe he assigned me credit. “There are assembled, fifteen miles northwest of here, fifteen hundred men, mostly soldiers, that appear to be preparing to attack. I left one of our men behind to watch them and warn us when it looks like the attack is immanent.
There are two thousand of us here but only about five hundred of us are able to fight. We have had formidable numbers like this before but with the help of Yahweh we can rid our land of another enemy again,” he told everyone. Then someone in the crowd shouted.
“Who are these men?” a man yelled.
“The Hittites,” he told everyone. I think he failed to reveal who they were on purpose hoping no one would ask.
The Hittites were a fearsome group. They were descendants of the fallen angels. They most likely heard of the slaughter of the giants in this region and came to seek vengeance on behalf of their relatives. These people appeared normal, not displaying the deformities like the others. However, some of their deformities could skip a generation or two before reappearing later. They often brought giants with them to fight.
“Pray to Yahweh for deliverance from our enemies,” he finished and went back into his tent.
Our encampment was in a good position overlooking the valley from a military position. Plus, when ascending on the northwest, were it narrowed to a couple of hundred feet, there was a wall of boulders on either side of the two hundred foot opening, that provided an excellent defense. A army could pick them off easily without being rushed. A more difficult place to defend, was the open area to the east but you had a distance to get to it and there was about a hundred foot rocky slope, impeding you, which slowed your progress considerably.
Almost immediately Joshua and his men prepared for war. He had his men digging trenches on the east side, just north of our encampment, figuring the riders saw that side of the camp as a weak area. He placed the trenches far enough away from the camp where a contingent of men could hide and get the enemy in a crossfire from those he placed on the east side of camp, within it.
On the west side, Joshua thought, would be the secondary attack point, putting us under the assumption it would be the primary point of attack, in an attempt to mislead us. The Hittites most likely, would place their primary force to the east at night clandestinely, to repel an attack they began, first thing at daybreak in a day or two. This would draw all our able-bodied fighters to defend that side of camp, leaving the west side completely open. Attacking then from there, without adequate defense, they could easily enter our camp and draw us into a crossfire position. It would be advantageous to know when they would attack.
The women went out the next day to collect wheat to make flour with a number of the men armed. It was impossible to guess how long a siege might actually transpire and being low in flour, it was important to gather enough food to feed everyone. I wanted to hunt for rabbit and feed Blink but my mother forbade me leaving camp. I was told to help the others prepare for an attack and do what I could for weapons. Sling shots were the one thing everyone had and most knew how to use them, so we collected round river stones from the nearby river, which was literally a couple of hundred feet from camp. The rounded stones traveled faster with more precision. Everyone would join in the fight before it was done and with as many people among our group able to use a sling shot, the stones we collected, would dissipate rapidly.
“How do you think Blink will do? We might not be able to get there for several days,” Joseph asked me.
“I don't know. He might get hungry but he'll survive. It's the water I'm concerned about,” I told him. Out here you dehydrate rapidly and a person normally can get along for a greater period of time without food than water.
The day came and went. The hunters went out and brought food back with them, still with this many people food would be depleted rapidly. The women decided to go collect more wheat the next day. They had piled what they collected, in the middle of camp in one spot on the ground, and covered the pile. They'd add to it today and then begin extracting the seed, then grinding it into flour, as they needed it, and maybe a little ahead. Everyone would join to to separate the chaff and then divvy up the seed to make flour. It was better storing it as seed.
The women came in the second day carrying large baskets of the seeds, but still no word from the man left behind to watch the army. Later towards sunset, a runner was seen. He seemed he was approaching slowly but it was the distance that gave him that appearance, for as he got closer, he seemed faster. He looked like a bug making his way across the land in a consistent path to get home. It was the man Joshua left behind to watch over the Hittites. He had run the entire way to give word... to report the army was on the move. Given the distance, it was assumed the invaders would place their men in position on the east side sometime during the night, for a surprise attack at sunrise. Our men would have to be in place before then, in the trenches they dug, and camouflaged. The surprise would be on them. We were given strict orders to extinguish all campfires and light nothing for the night, while Joshua set up some men to build decoy fires, further away from camp to the south east. They would find themselves in the wrong spot at sunrise in a spot more advantageous for us. The camp dogs were moved there as well to aid in the deception and to keep them from alerting the enemy with their barking. The attacking army had to move without light as well all night. There was a partial moon to provide light but a full moon might have changed our defense strategy.
I couldn't sleep and Joseph had joined us for diner. He stayed the night and he wasn't able to sleep. We sat outside our tent watching for any movement across the plain. It was perhaps midnight when our first glimpse of the army was seen slowly and quietly moving from the west. There were a few riders ahead of the main group that moved. Then they stopped for awhile and split into two factions. One group stayed where they were while the other half moved forward in a southeastern fashion... towards the east side of camp. We watched them as they disappeared in the distance with the moon as it sunk towards the horizon. The group that stayed behind became invisible in the night.
“When do you think they'll attack,” Joseph asked.
“When we hear the horn. Our horn will sound too. It might be right before sunup or right after. It will happen when it happens,” I told him.
“Maybe Joshua will strike first,” Joseph surmised.
“No... he wants to surprise them and that would be less of a surprise than if they attacked the wrong spot and suddenly found themselves between two armed groups. We're outnumbered heavily, so surprise is a good weapon.
As the sun broke over the mountains to the east where the attack was expected, a horn sounded, as the sun made its appearance. Shouting began with the sounds of men attacking men, no more than the sound of prayer wishing the other's demise. Fifteen minutes after the attack began, the second hoard of Hittites advanced towards our northwestern opening. Again, our people were ready for them on this front. Most of us were on the rise but there were others hidden among the rocks. Still others were at the crest, to the right of where they were advancing. We had a hundred or so men on this side, some armed with swords, some with bows and spears, and still others with slings and still a variety of other things to be used as weaponry.
A volley of arrows met the Hittites coming up the hill and as a number of men fell from their horses dead, the others sped their attack. They found though when they got to the opening it limited the number of men on horseback and foot that could get through. It slowed them considerably and made their advance confusing. The archers then were more effective as were those hurling rock projectiles from their slings. Many of the Hittites wore armor, consisting of overlapping pieces of leather, effective at protecting against sword blows, but less so with arrows. Stones needed to be aimed at the heads and those employing them were very accurate and effective. A blow from one of those projectiles, killed as efficiently as any other weapon.
As more and more men tried to push through the opening, over running themselves, a few got through the space. Those with spears, plunged their points through the leather armor, while the enemy was on their horses, unable to effectively use their swords. There might eventually be to hand to hand combat using swords The Hittites were lobbing arrows randomly over the crest without aiming. A few met their marks as the fighting continued. I wondered how the other end of the encampment was doing, as we stood to the back of camp with our slings ready to protect ourselves, if needed. We were not allowed to fight with the others because of our age but we were still ready.
Then as quickly as the battle began, horns sounded and they withdrew.
“The fight is over,” Joseph announced.
“I doubt it. They know now our strengths, the position of the camp and that Joshua trucked them. They'll be back more aggressively,” I told him.
The wounded were tended to, and Joseph and I took water through the camp to see what were the effects of the first attack. There seemed to be many Hittite bodies lying on the field that had been littered a short while ago with their giant relatives. On the far side of camp there were few injuries and fewer deaths. The field instead, was littered with the bodies of Hittites. They were effectively caught in the crossfire Joshua had planned, instead of the one they planned. This would not happen again and they knew where the ditches were dug.
Later, when the sun was higher and out of their eyes, they renewed their attack... on both the northwest and east sides simultaneously. They took a long berth on the east to avoid the crossfire. As they began their attack from across the plain, the wind increased. It became more powerful by the minute, so much so Joseph and I had difficulty standing in one spot, being thrown off balance every so often. Then from the east a plume of sand began, and it grew and grew. It was a great yellow cloud of dust that formed the beginning of a gigantic dust storm, the largest I had ever seen. It came ferociously across the plain and was mighty to see. It was a judgment. The army ceased their advance, unable to decide whether to continue or go back. You couldn't fight in something like this, no matter the strength of your intent, so they retreated after a few moments and tried racing ahead of the gigantic cloud of dust, back where the others were just beginning the western attack. To the west, they were already getting off their horses, to lay down with them and wait until the great cloud passed.
People from our camp walked to the ledge to watch. Some exclaimed that it was the hand of Yahweh coming to smother the army and I admit, it seemed supernatural and beyond my comprehension. Others said, avenging angels would come out of the cloud and cut the Hittites throats as they waited.
As hard and fast as the men raced ahead of the cloud, it bore down on them with a relentless fury none could remember. It was like the water of the sea that enveloped Pharo's army when my people left Egypt, from what I was told. We watched as the cloud swept over the retreating men and then those who laid down with the horses, waiting for it, swallowing them as efficiently. The storm did not affect our encampment, strangely, but it blew a wall of sand, directed down the valley as if engineered. Everyone in camp watched for an hour before the wind subsided. It took a while longer for the cloud to disperse. During that time, there wasn't movement on the plain. When the dust settled and the air cleared, the plain was void of any movement..
Joshua and some of his men appeared to out vantage point and stood watching for some time and still nothing stirred, and nothing appeared, no man or horse, above ground for they were all buried. No one could stay that long buried without air. They were all dead. Bereft of air, they died under the cloud of dust deposited on them by whatever hand dealt it.
Joshua and the others went down to the field to see. A few horses were standing that had gotten up when their masters ceased. These Joshua gathered to bring back to camp. Every Hittite there had been, was either killed in battle or the storm. None dug below the surface to see if any of their throats had been cut. It was enough to accept the fact we were delivered again, from our enemies. That night our encampment gave thanks for deliverance from our enemies.
“In the morning do you want to go with me to feed Blink?” I asked Joseph.
“Yes. He's going to be hungry and thirsty after three days,” Joseph reminded me, but he didn't have to. The dust storm may have impacted him as well. He would have already run out of water and the dust would have just exasperated things. Hopefully he survived.
In the morning we grabbed yogurt biscuits from my mother and left. I wasn't about to try and reclaim anything from the Hittite bodies since they were already buried. Perhaps in time when they decomposed under the soil I would dig around. Since they were buried and away from predators and insects, even Joshua and the men, wouldn't exhume the bodies to cremate elsewhere. This efficient burial would eliminate most of the smell and potential disease with the decay.
On the way to Blink, we killed a few rabbits. The battle or the storm didn't seem to keep them away for any amount of time. Along the way we did find a few bodies dispersed from soldiers, severely wounded, that wandered away from the fight. Perhaps the horse carried them off without intent, and unable hold on any longer, released their grip, and dropped. I went through their clothes, but the horses were gone. I retrieved some jewelry and money, mostly silver. Joseph wouldn't touch it. He went off looking for rabbits, as I searched a couple of the fallen warriors.
“Come on,” I cried to Joseph, "let's get going. I'm finished,” and we proceeded.
We passed through the rock corridor and into the opening where we left Blink. Again, we didn't see him at first, until we got closer to the cave. There was something white lying outside of the opening, we noticed, as he stepped out, happy to see us. As we got closer it was apparent what the object was.
“What is that?” Joseph asked.
“It's a human skull and a couple of leg bones,” I uttered. By pieces of the clothes lying about I realized it was a warrior that had wandered into the area, Like the others, he probably had been wounded and died here, or close enough, that the child carried it here. But he had eaten it. He couldn't have been that hungry, but he succumbed to the nature I wanted to change.
I yelled at him waving my hands over what was left of the Hittite, indicting what he had done was bad. He understood at some level because he cried great tears from his single eye, and his chest heaved, gasping for air as he cried. I suppose, since I had been feeding him, he had impressed upon himself that I was his parent. The air was foul from the smell of his defecation and the odor of digested raw human flesh, somewhere close by. I wasn't about to search. I gave him the food we brought, indicating it was fine to eat that. I passed him the goat skin of water, which he drank profusely, until I thought he would be sick.
Joseph and I looked at each other with questions. I wondered about breaking him of the habit of eating human flesh, but he was a child that didn't know any better. He hadn't eaten for a few days. I told myself he had merely fallen into an old habit because of the conditions. If I had been able to bring food and water, the poor creature would not have resorted to eating human flesh.
That afternoon, upon returning to the encampment, a meeting was called that night about splitting the group of two thousand, into four parts. Where we were, would be the first city. A leader was to be chosen, not right away, but before the other three groups left, within the week. Joshua was going to go with each group as they decided, and would settle with the very last group, wherever that was.
The male heads of all families were to attend. They assembled in their preferable groups. There would be somewhere around 300 there and Joshua hoped that there would be a fairly equal number in the four groups, or around 75 men in each. If not, Joshua would decide how to reconcile the numbers. Once the numbers were even, a leader had to be picked within three days. Names would be presented to Joshua, and he would officially announce the leader of each group. The leader would maintain their leadership with the beginning of each city, wherever the group settled.
Surprisingly, the self-inflicted groups were fairly even, and there was little for Joshua to decide. Of course, the leader staying where we were presently, would be of great interest. My mother and father wished to stay. They were tired of leading the nomadic life they had known since they were small, when they left Egypt with their parents. It was hard moving every couple of years or so especially with such a large group. The area would be depleted of food and they had to move to the next area hoping the land would provide them for at least a few years but they would constantly run out before they could establish any kind of self-sufficiency.
“At least both of our families are staying here,” I told Joseph.
“Yes, I was keeping hope they would. I heard my father say he'd rather stay here knowing what we have, then moving somewhere else, not knowing what there would be. So I knew he wanted to stay, but Joshua had final say, if the groups were too unequal. In the end it worked out. We can keep rabbit hunting together and taking care of Blink,” he assured me.
In three days, the encampment gave Joshua the list of elected leaders from among us, and it was decided. Our leader was Elijah ben Zachariah, someone I didn't know, never talked to, and only saw a number of times, as he left with the other hunting parties. My father didn't know him very well either, and neither did Joseph's father.
We were part of five hundred twelve, staying. Once the others left, the rest of us would begin spreading out, and establish households. Farming on a larger level would begin and the herds of goats and sheep would be combined to make it easier for a few herders to watch over them and protect their numbers.
The day came quickly when those leaving, had to collect all they owned, and prepare to move to the next place. I had been through this three times in my life and I was happy not to have to do it again, so was Joseph. It would be odd, not having as many people around... fewer campfires, fewer younger children, running about the area. In a few years the sight of fewer hunting parties leaving all the time might even be commonplace as the herds grew and the abundance of the gardens increased efficiently. It would be easier to make that happen with fewer people straining the resources of the area.
We watched as three-quarters of the encampment left, leaving dust clouds behind them for miles. Before long, they were only a speck in the distance, down the valley. The new leader of our group, Elijah, called a meeting to begin plans for our settlement. All the men were there to listen, all 79. Some of the older boys, like Joseph and myself stayed to listen, but were warned to silence.
He had two major goal to begin. Build irrigation ditches extending from the river to various areas down the valley to our designated places, so when the land was portioned out to various families, they could build further ditches to irrigate their farmland. The other thing he wanted to get done immediately, was to begin creating more arms to defend ourselves, since there were fewer of us. There was a need for more bows and arrows, spears and with two blacksmiths among us, swords. Everyone could then spread out on assigned lands. He wanted to be in a position in six months to have all the land divided.
I was as excited as Joseph at what was happening. Eventually, there would be no more living out of tents. Permanent structures would be built, probably starting next year when everyone was established, and the other priorities sufficiently taken care by then. It would be a communal thing, to build rock and mud structures, so each home would go up quickly. I had no idea what it would be like without strong winds blowing around me all the time, or cleaning the dust and sand out of my ears when I awoke mornings.
“There is a lot less of a chance for someone to find out what we're doing now,” Joseph surmised the next morning as we both took food to Blink. We were hunting for rabbits again along the way but even that excuse might be difficult to use, since we were to be employed digging irrigation ditches with the women while most of the men would be out in various hunting parties during the days. A few would stay behind to handle heavier workloads, as required. Men and women were mostly segregated though, not working together. Certain rules had been instituted to keep peace among such a large group after leaving Egypt, that Moses obtained from Yahweh. Now, that we were forming a city and leaving the nomadic life behind us, we were told more laws would have to be created to assure living peaceably together. Even dietary laws would be created to guarantee everyone's health and aid in the decision of what needed to be raised.
“It seems there are already more rabbits than there were,” Joseph commented.
“It does seem like it. It's only been a couple of days but maybe since there are fewer hunters out and about, fewer are running off scared,” I told him. I had noticed it as well but thought it was my imagination, until my friend mentioned it.
By the time we got to where Blink was, we had eight rabbits. I decided to cook two of them for Blink and leave them, since we had to work tomorrow on the ditches, and would be unable to bring food. I hope I could make him understand to stretch out the larger amounts of food we left, but he was prone to eating all of whatever we left.
He was again, happy to see us and was very interested watching when we built a fire. He had never seen fire I believe, and was fascinated by it, like most children and like most before I could stop him, he reached into the fire and burned himself. His screeching and hollering were so loud I was afraid they would hear him across the valley. Pouring coll water from a goatskin over his right hand was all I could do to give him some relief. I had no fat or anything else to relieve the burn. After he calmed down, he began consuming the rabbits. He had eaten everything else we brought him by then. I tried to get him to understand saving some for tomorrow, but once he tasted it, he was determined to devour all of it. Being cooked, the meat would last longer in the heat, and would be more filling but he wouldn't stop. He might have to live two or three days on only water and since the Sabbath was coming up, it would most likely be three days before we could get back. Since the Sabbath was instituted under Moses, none of us were allowed to work. Walking and hunting were one of the many things not allowed, so we would be unable to be back. He might even run out of water.
We left then, and managed to get three more rabbits on the way back. I planned on giving Joseph five of them to partially pay back the extra he left me. We both had gotten plenty that day. Joseph was like a brother to me. We grew up together our entire lives and spent most of our waking moments around each other, except when he had to watch the goats, which wasn't very often. There were enough boys in the families, which were three herds he took turn tending among six boys so normally his responsibility was only about one day and/or night a week. We had goats but three other families took turns watching them, so I rarely did. When I did, it was normally nights. Even before Blink, we spent a lot of time hunting rabbits. We enjoyed it and even more so together. It gave us something to do for our families, something our parents were more than willing to let us do because it brought in a regular supply of meat. When we used it as an excuse to go out more, having to feed Blink on a regular basis, it wasn't that much of a lie.
“I'm going to get home. I'll probably go to bed early since we're working on the ditches tomorrow,” Joseph said.
“Here take five rabbits. I owe you. I'll see you tomorrow,” I told him.
It would be a long day. Plus, we were going starting at the far side and working back towards the river before starting the flow of water. There was a small crew of men there that were digging a receiving pond to collect overflow that wasn't diverted into the fields. The animals manure was going to be collected and spread around the pond to spur plant growth. That would eventually entice wild animals to come there, drink and spend time bringing more animals into the area and their droppings would enrich the soil. Our leader told us not to hunt the animals that came to the pond but hunt away from the settlement to not disturb them. It would help us build the land. If they became a nuisance eating our crops then we should kill them in the fields.
I met Joseph down the valley some, where the pond would be constructed to begin the main ditch to bring water to all the fields. From there, each family would run a ditch and smaller run offs into their fields to irrigate them.
“Hi Jeremiah,” my friend greeted me.
“Hi Joseph. Tomorrow's Sabbath and I was planning to feed Blink the following day, but I just found out a little while ago we have to work again on the ditch. I'm not sure how Blink is going to get by,” I informed him.
“It's kind of a long time for him not to have food and especially water, “he added. “ what are you going to do?”
“What can I do?” I answered. No excuse would be tolerated unless you were sick, but I couldn't claim that and then run off into the desert for the day even with the justification of hunting.
The work was tiring in the sun, digging all day. None of us ate much, drinking so much water. At the end of the day, our hands and our backs were sore. The fat salve was in short supply, as goats don't have much fat, but it was a nice commodity to use for both your blistered hands and your sunburned backs. Mother smeared me with it as I'm sure Joseph's mother did as well. Tomorrow was a day of rest though, and it gave everyone time to recuperate.
It was a good day to rest. A storm had come in overnight. The wind turned cooler as the sun went down. You could feel the rain in the air inside the tent. It came down in a steady downpour after midnight and continued all day. Families spent their time in their tents. It was a refreshing coolness that rejuvenated the body as you laid there and listened to the water falling on the tent. I hoped Blink knew enough to collect some of the water or drink from the puddles formed by the rain, whether he had water left in the bladder or not.
The rain stopped late in the day and gave way to a clarity I never saw before, leading into the end of the day and a beautiful sunset. We all spent time talking and playing games that we had brought from Egypt. They were good things to play as a family at night before going to bed. It relaxed the mind from a busy day so you could get to sleep faster when you laid down.
I had already stashed away food for Blink but now we had to work on the ditch tomorrow and I was becoming increasingly concerned. I laid there trying to go to sleep thinking about my self-inflicted responsibility and wondering if I had really done the right thing. There wasn't anything I could do that wouldn't probably meet with the demise of the young cyclops. The morning after tomorrow would have to suffice, I supposed and I finally fell into a deep sleep.
I went to work on the ditch in the morning without Joseph. He was needed to watch the goats. If he could get away long enough to take something to Blink, he said he would, but that would be next to impossible. We were planning on going hunting the following day. The one responsible for organizing the digging was going to have all those under the age of sixteen only work every other day starting today, with only an older crew working daily until the irrigation ditches were finished.
Later that morning arose a disturbance and people began running near where my family was camped. Everyone digging stopped to go as well, so I did too, not having any idea what was happening. Somewhere up the line someone knew but didn't pass along the word. Enough people were already migrating to the area, that deemed it important enough to see personally, what was happening, without knowing.
As everyone got to the part of the plain below our house, I saw what the commotion was about... it was Blink, and the crowd gathered, had him encircled, as he ran in an attempt to get away. He must have followed our scent the last time we had fed him, and being hungry and thirsty, was trying to find us. The crowd was taunting him, keeping him entrapped, as they threw stones at him. He was frightened and wanted to get away. I felt sorry for him but then I saw he had resorted to eating human flesh again from his hunger. It wasn't until I moved closer among the crowd that I saw the familiar tunic that I saw every day, lying on the ground, soaked in blood. It was Joseph's. He had eaten Joseph.
I am not sure how long I stood there looking, in shock. My best friend, and actually my only friend, was gone. He was in the bowels of an abomination, digesting. It was a horrible ending to someone so good. I imagine everyone had the creature trapped until Joshua came to see what was to be done but I knew what his declaration would be. I looked about for nothing in particular and my eyes rested on a pick one of the diggers carried. I ran for it and grabbed it. I entered that circle of fellow nomads.
As I approached Blink, he stopped his random attempt of escape and looked at me. The look was one of recognition, as a slight smile formed on his face. I don't know what he expected... food... water... reassurance, or something else. But what I gave him was a fitting and sympathetic end as I raised that pick over my head. He didn't even look at it, so maybe he knew what was about to happen, and didn't wish to see it. I brought the sharp end of the pick down in one swing, strongly and precisely in the middle of his eye and sunk it to the handle, in his forehead. As he fell to the ground a cheer arose from the crowd, and then there was silence.