The Book of Voices

Biblical Microfictions by Joseph Zitt


(Context: 2 Kings 9:3)

I act. I don’t think. I don’t feel. I act. I move forward by God’s command, true as my arrows, powerful as my chariot, clear as a reflection from my shining sword.

I never asked to be king. But when the Lord gives you a command, you follow it or you die.

So there I was, sitting in my tent in Ramoth-Gilead with the other commanders, telling stories of our war against Hazael and the Arameans, talking about the battles that we have won and the battles that we should have won.

Suddenly, there’s someone standing in the doorway. He’s gotten past the guards somehow. He says he has a message for the commander. Of course, we’re all commanders there.

“Which commander do you want?” I ask.

He stares directly at me and points. “You,” he says. “Alone.”

I look carefully at him and past him. It looks like he isn’t with anybody. He’s unarmed, carrying only a flask. “What’s in there?” I ask.

He says, “Oil.”

“Pour some out on your hand,” I say.

He does. It doesn’t burn him.

I tell the others that I’ll be right back. We go off into the next room together.

“What?” I ask flatly when we’re alone.

He lifts the flask of oil and pours some onto my head. It’s warmer than I expected, and the warmth seems to seep into my skull and travel down my body. I’m more awake, more alert than I’ve been ever before.

“Listen to me,” the man says. His voice sounds like it’s both echoing off the mountains and coming from inside my head. “By command of the Lord God of Israel, you are now king. You will strike down the ruling house, the house of Ahab, his wife and everyone that follows him. This is the word of the Lord.”

Then he is gone, and I am alone, shaking, sweating, excited. I’ve never been one to listen to gods or think much about them. But right then I know in my gut that this all is true, that this god is to be followed, that I am now king, that the destruction of this house is my holy duty.

I step back into the main room. “What did he want?” the others ask.

“Nothing important,” I say. “He’s a madman.”

They can tell I’m lying. “What did he say?” they ask again.

I shrug, try to play it lightly. I chuckle and say “Oh, he just made me king of Israel.”

And then I look at them, and somehow they know it’s true. They all run outside and start yelling, “Jehu is king!”

I run after them. “Be quiet!” I say. “We need to handle this carefully. There are some things I need to do before everyone finds out.”

They stop shouting and kneel before me. “Get up,” I say. “We need to get started. First we need to quarantine the camp, so no one who has heard you gets out.”

“We will do that,” they say. And I head off alone, riding in my chariot to Jezreel.

I know that the kings of both Israel and Judah are there. Joram of Israel has been wounded in the last battle against Hazael, and Ahaziah of Judah is visiting him. I come riding up toward the tower.

Of course, the lookout sees me. I get close and a horseman heads out to meet me. “Is all well?” he yells.

“It’s not going to be well for you unless you get behind me,” I yell back.

He looks confused, tries to figure out what I mean. Then he gets close enough to see me. Something in my face, I guess, tells him that I’m serious. So he gets behind me, and doesn’t head back.

When that horseman doesn’t return, another comes riding out. Again, this one yells, “Is all well?” and again I yell back “It’s not going to be well for you unless you get behind me.” And this one, too, gets a good look at me and gets out of the way.

At this point, I guess, they know it’s me. (After all, nobody in the world can drive a chariot like I do.) So King Joram himself, who I guess hadn’t been wounded all that badly after all, comes out riding towards me. And he sees me and calls, “Is all well, Jehu?”

And I hear myself yelling back, “How can all be well as long as your mother Jezebel is carrying on with her harlotries and sorceries?” I’m as surprised as he is, since I’ve never talked like that before.

He gets a good look at me, then spins his chariot around and heads back to the castle. Just as I hear him yelling, “Treason, Ahaziah!” a single arrow flies out of my bow—which I don’t even remember preparing—and hits him right in the middle of the back, going through his heart and out the other side. He falls over dead, his hand still raised from signaling to the tower. I tell my servant to take Joram’s chariot and dump the body out in the field of Naboth, and head off.

By this time, Ahaziah knows there’s trouble, and he tries to get away from the tower. I see him fleeing, and, again with one arrow, shoot him down.

So now I head off to Jezreel to deal with the queen. Jezebel’s still there, and, I guess, doesn’t know that anything’s happened to her son. They see my chariot coming, and she dresses up to greet me, figuring, I think, that I’m heading in to report a victory. She comes out along the parapet and waves at me. I hear myself yell “Throw her down!”, and sure enough, a couple of eunuchs, without hesitating, grab her and throw her over the edge. She’s probably dead the moment she hits the ground.

Some people are riding horses past the tower right then, and she gets trampled. There’s blood everywhere. I’ve seen some gory battles, but this is really bad. She deserved it, for all the things she’s done, but it’s still awful.

I try not to think about it. I go in, take over, and have the servants bring me some dinner. I’m sitting there eating (and it’s some very good roasted lamb—Jezebel brought harlotry and evil into the palace, but she also hired some really good cooks), and I keep picturing her body, with her royal robes trampled in the mud and the blood. I’m getting a bit remorseful, and find myself thinking that even if she was evil, she was also the daughter of a king, and deserves some sort of proper burial.

So I send my men out to retrieve the body, and all they come back with is a small box. The dogs on the grounds have run to the body and completely devoured it. All that’s left are her skull, her feet, and what we think was the skin of her hands. I look at it, and the remorse goes away. If this is the way that the Lord wants it, that’s the way it is. He wants the evil completely destroyed.

I tell the men to just dump the remains out by the dungheap. Then I sit back and finish my dinner.

So here I am. Last night, I slept in a tent. Tonight, I sleep in the castle. Last night, I was just another commander. Tonight I am king.

All this is as it should be. From the moment that the oil hit my head, I’ve felt a sudden rightness in the world. God wants me to be king. I am king. God wants me to lead. I lead. God wants me to kill. I kill. Dozens, perhaps hundreds more must die to clean up the land. So be it. I will clean up the land. Maybe people will say that I am a monster. If so, I am a monster of God.

I feel the good dinner digesting in my stomach as I lie here on the royal linens, preparing to sleep. I open my mouth to laugh and instead belch loudly. The belch blends with the laughter that follows it and echoes about the royal bedchamber.

I don’t know what my next step is, but something will strike me in the morning. I don’t have to think about it, don’t have to feel. I just have to act. And I will have a lot to do.

(Next: Jeroboam)


January 19, 2008 - Posted by | Uncategorized

1 Comment »

  1. Joe, so sorry I haven’t visited in eons. I am in a major Big D push and kind of underground. May be coming to CA soon. Will phone you. And will read some of these over the weekend… B’Shalom, Jane

    Comment by Jane R | January 25, 2008 | Reply

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