by Jonathan Winn
Publication date: March 5, 2012
I am Martuk. Remember, it’s Martuk as in “too”. Or “two” with that hard “k” at the end. Martuk. The Holy. The audacity of it still makes me smile."In a crowded Left Bank cafe, an immortal man sits, the phantoms crawling near, the heat of their whispers stinging his cheek …and Martuk ... The Holy begins.One thousand years before the birth of Christ, a golden god damns Martuk with a kiss. In a land ruled by a wounded king, life everlasting steals his mortality from the bottom of a golden cup. Finally, generations later, a Messiah who has the power to heal breaks under the weight of Martuk's demons, stumbling to his death defeated by darkness.From his home in modern Paris, he writes, his memories lush, his words evocative. Revisiting his impossible life, he vents his rage and shares his loneliness. From bloody battles with a demon he cannot escape to the ghost of a beauty who haunts him still, this is his story.This is Martuk ... The Holy.(synopsis from Goodreads)
“Do you see me?” came the whisper.
The boy stopped, carefully backing away.
“Do you see me?” the King asked again, louder.
The boy nodded his head.
“What is it you see? Do you see me?"
The boy remained silent. Afraid to move. Afraid to breathe.
“Do you see my glory? My perfection? My power? Do your eyes see a god?”
Sitting up, he reached out and grabbed the boy by the throat, dragging him close.
“Do your eyes see a god?” he asked, pressing his lips to the boy’s face, smearing the soft brown skin with streaks of red.
“You, you are flesh and bone,” he whispered, his nose buried in the smooth cheek, inhaling deeply. “Yes, just flesh and bone. Nothing special. Nothing sacred or glorious. There is no god living here. You are expendable and soon forgotten.
"Do you know this? Understand this? Do you see how small, how insignificant you are?”
His hand tightened on the slender, delicate span of neck, the child’s face blushing red as he struggled to breathe.
“Who will miss you when you’re gone? When your dead flesh has been torn, devoured by dogs? Your eyeballs pecked and plucked out by birds? Who will miss these tender bones when they’re nothing but little piles of dust? Who?”
The boy’s flushed cheeks were now wet with tears. A thin stream of drool fell from his swelling lips, then, sliding off his chin and staining the hand of the monster choking the life from him.
“I am a God," he continued. "I can never die. I can never falter. Never stumble. Were I to fall, the sun would go out, the crops would wither. The world would end. Just end. And humanity, these subjects, these grateful, ignorant, stupid masses who bless my name, they would perish. They would die.
"But they do not see me, a God in agony, trapped in this prison of blood and bones. All they see is power. And were I to be set free from this, this place, this body, this pain, this mediocrity, I would be mourned. I would be missed.”
He pressed his bleeding flesh to the dying boy.
“No one will mourn you. You are human. Mortal. Useless. You don’t carry the burden of greatness. You do not sit in the Heavens. You can leave your skin and forget your bones. You can find eternal rest in the Fog.
"But me?” His voice rose. “I cannot!”
He struggled to stand, lifting the boy by the throat. The tiny feet kicking frantically as his eyes rolled back in his head, small brown hands clutching the King’s wrists in vain.
“You can die! You have freedom! You have peace! You are not trapped!” he shouted at the dying boy, his hands gripping the neck, blood rolling from the boy’s ears and mouth, rivers of red staining his cheeks.
“You are not trapped!”
I felt sick to my stomach watching this. But I couldn’t look away. And I couldn't help but wonder Why aren’t they doing anything? Helping him? Stopping this?!
“I am God,” the King then whispered, his lips inches from the boy. “I can steal your soul. Eat you. Swallow you.”
And then he kissed him, the bearded mouth overwhelming the innocent lips, his tongue rudely parting the swollen, pink flesh to lick the tiny, white teeth, a low groan rumbling in his throat as he inhaled the boy’s last breath.
Pulling away, he smiled, content, dropping the body to the floor, the skull smacking the stone with a sharp crack, this anonymous life now an afterthought.
The King gazed at it silently, his lips trembling before giving way to anguish. Pushing the heels of his palms into his eyes, he turned away from the tangled limbs at his bare, bloodied feet.
“Take away this skin!” he cried again, arms raised and fingers outstretched as he dug the heels of his palms deeper.
“I just want to go home.”
Pulling another fistful of hair, he stumbled away in tears.
“I just want to go home,” he mumbled again, his feet tripping as he swayed, listing dangerously to the side.
Attendants rushed to drag the dead boy away as the King wandered aimlessly, punching the air and scratching his raw and bleeding arms, his feet leaving bloody footprints in their wake.
Before him waited the large chunk of chiseled stone at the top of several stairs.
It looked much too large for him, this throne, as he was neither tall nor big. I suspected his feet would fail to hit the floor were he to sit.
But as with everything in this palace, it was luxurious. Polished smooth with brightly dyed fabric stuffed with straw or bits of fabric for its seat, a slash of red silk tossed over the back. Were the room not so vast, so overwhelming, this throne would surely dominate.
The King stopped, quiet, waiting.
We stood still, quietly waiting.
I glanced around.
There were drawings on the walls. Large drawings.
Oversized. And much like those carvings which sat atop the great doors, these felt alive. Gods and Goddesses, animals and bright green grass. And trees laden with fruit. Crudely drawn, yes, with a color too bright, the figures reaching out toward a man. Walking toward this figure who stood at the center in a blaze of glowing light. A dark-haired form, his brow holding a conical mass of metal, he waited as they approached in supplication.
It was the King.
To these other beings who sat in the Heavens, this King was their God.
“Bring him to me."
Stepping out of the puddle of red gathering at his feet, the King spoke.
"This young man. The one from the mountains who Calls the Rain. Who speaks with the Gods. Bring him to me.”
With that, I was pushed forward.
He turned and, his feet tripping, stumbled in my direction, listing suddenly, then steadying himself, rising to his full height.
He wandered near and, lifting his head, he blinked, scarlet tears kissing the torn flesh of his cheeks.
His eyes were unseeing, wounded white globes swimming in blood.
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