Snake Possession: Dream-Breakers

24 Oct

The only physician who lived and practiced in the harbor area of the great port of Tyre was a young man named Kether.

Since most of the inhabitants of that section of the city were members of a group that called themselves Grigors, circumstances compelled him to become familiar with them. Yet after ten years of working among these people, Kether wondered whether he had any genuine understanding of this migrant group who had come to Phoenicia from a distant homeland.

His patients were from families whose males were employed as sailors, shipbuilders, and dock workers. Only a fortunate few evolved into sea merchants or innkeepers with money wealth.

The tall, boney doctor found that Grigors were reluctant to discuss their personal, inner thought. Where did you come to Tyre from? was a question never fully answered, but met with equivocation and circumlocution. They were a totally tacit group. Questions to them remained unanswered.

Kether could see no reason for this maintenance of mystery over geographic origins.

Not until he experienced certain unforeseen events did he understand who these people really were.

Loud knocking on the door of his cottage awakened the sleeping healer. He rose and went in his night slip to see who it could be at such an hour.

A short, heavy woman with a shawl on her head addressed him in an excited tone.

“Come with me at once, sir. My husband is suffering a feverish spell of delirium and there is nothing that anyone in our family can do for him.”

Kether excused himself for a moment, then appeared in daytime tunic.

“Take me to the ailing one,” he told the distressed housewife.

The pair made their way in the red glow of a brilliant, glorious dawn, through streets and lanes just coming to life in the Grigor quarter of the Phoenician metropolis. Their pace was as swift as they could make it with the early pedestrian traffic in all directions.

Soon the woman stopped in front of a three-storey high clay structure.

“This is where we live,” she announced to the physician. “Follow me to our part of the building.”

Kether did as instructed, soon finding himself in a back room where a man was rolling about on a floor pallet. His face was spectrally white, his dark eyes dilated and bulging forth. He was obviously suffering serious illness.

“Here is the healer I fetched for you,” said the woman to her husband. “Please try to be calm enough so that he can examine and talk to you, Binah.”

The latter, a tall, thin figure, suddenly stopped his nervous motions and stared with curiosity at the doctor who had come to treat him. All at once, the one on the pallet raised his head up in the air and began to speak directly to the stranger.

“No one knows what it is I suffer, not even my wife.” His eyes focused upon her. “Please leave us men alone, my dear. There are things that not even you should hear said.”

He rested his head on a woolen cushion as his spouse left the sleeping chamber.

Kether decided to knell down on his haunches so he could see the patient better and speak to him quietly. “Do you know what it is that afflicts you, Binah?” he murmured.

A considerable time passed before any answer was given by the evidently terrified man.

“I did not think it wise to relate the nature of the trouble to my wife,” he managed to say with some difficulty. “The true story might lead her to believe she is married to a madman.”

The physician made no comment, waiting for Binah to go on.

“Horrible dreams are what plague me, sir. The visions I behold begin as beautiful, pleasant scenes, calm and happy in every way. But then they are instantly converted into their opposite. From the height, I descend swiftly down to the depths. In less than a single moment of time, the dream is turned inside-out. The joy and happiness of the start is changed into the exact opposite, as if I have become another person completely different from myself.

“It is as if I have been invaded and taken over by an outside force. As if something unseen and invisible has entered and is haunting me for the length of the revised dream. Even after I awake, the memory of the torture and pain remains in all my thoughts. All day long, traces of what occurred remain to vex and trouble me.”

Binah halted, his eyes searching the face of the healer for he knew not what. Did he believe that this stranger possessed some arcane knowledge that was able to cure him?

“Does this happen to you often?” Kether succeeded in asking him.

“I cannot count the numerous occasions it befell me, so that I fear going to sleep every single night. Will the nightmare come to me again? It usually does. I see great fires, monstrous beings dancing about them. Horrid faces with shameless expressions on them follow me.

“I do not even know what to call these terrible creatures that torture my sleep. What are they? Where do they come from? Can you force them to leave me alone in peace?”

After several seconds of careful thought, Kether related what he had decided to do.

“I shall bring you an ataraxic anodyne that alleviates pain of the body and the mind. It will be of help to you, I promise. But rest will also be necessary, even during the day when you are not asleep. Quiet peace and my potent anodyne medicine should result in noticeable improvement of your condition, my good man.”

“I certainly hope so,” mumbled Binah as the therapist rose and left the room.

Visit after visit brought no cure or relief.

If anything, Binah grew accustomed to the pain of his nightly dream.

In their sessions together, Kether picked up the gross, sordid details of these visions. His mind developed a morbid curiosity about the phantom, ghoulish beings that appeared. What were they supposed to represent in the tormented thoughts of the patient?

Obviously. these had to be spirits of some sort. Cruel, merciless demonics not of the world of men. Even if unreal, they had to stand for something. The mystery grew urgent for the perplexed healer.

How was he to carry out his responsibility unless he learned what he was dealing with? What were the beings that this man dreamed of at night?

But within a month’s time from his introduction to Binah, a second patient with a similar malady was presented to him.

One late afternoon, the physician was summoned to the house of an elderly shipbuilder. The name of the large, fleshy man with chronic bad dreams was Jesod.

Again, dreams that began with pleasure turned before their climax into ugly horrors, with diabolic fiends disturbing the equilibrium of the sleeping oldster.

As before, Kether provided a calmative herbal compound. The result, once more, was only temporary. The troubling dream returned immediately. They did not leave him at all.

The frustration of the healer mounted. He was unable to provide any solution for either Binah or Jesod. His inner turmoil grew the day that the old shipbuilder told him something important about the illness he suffered.

“It is not an illness that begins with me, or in our time. Not at all. When I was a small lad, I heard tales of the dreaming sickness from people who were old and acquainted with the first Grigors who came to Tyre.

“These pioneers of our people were old then, but they were able to recall what life was like in the old home of their ancestors. Yes, they had a name for what I am today undergoing. Our forefathers in the old places were familiar with what they termed Anakic attacks. That is how they saw their sickness, as night invasions by spirits called Anakim.”

All of a sudden, the mind of the physician boiled and churned with entranced interest.

“What, specifically, are these aggressive spirits, Jesod?” he begged to find out.

The shipbuilder averted his gaze to one side.

“My understanding of them is not too clear, although they may be the cause of all my nightmares. But if you wish to talk with someone with greater knowledge than mine, I would advise you to see the Grigor who is a priest of Baal at the temple of Tyre. He is the only person there with our background. All the other priests are native Phoenicians by birth. He is the only person in the temple who knows the Grigor traditions and history.”

“What is the man’s name?” eagerly asked Kether.

“Meggid. No one among us knows as much as this priest about the Anakim that steal our dreams.”

How does one go about arranging an intimate conversation with such a sacerdotal official?

Kether pondered over the problem for several days before finding an indirect means.

Jesod had casually remarked to him that his sons were about to complete the building of a large merchant vessel, and that the day of its ceremonial blessing had almost arrived.

“When will the ritual take place?” excitedly inquired the healer.

“Day after tomorrow, in the early hours of the morning,” answered the patient. “My two sons are organizing the affair. There will be three priests present to perform the blessing. It is a most important ceremony to assure the success and safety of this ship.”

“Do you suppose that one of them may be the man named Meggid?”

“I am sure he will be there for the launching of a ship built by Grigors. Yes, I am certain he will be a celebrant.”

Kether had already made a decision to take advantage of the opportunity offered.

Next day, he was a member of the small crowd of sailors and constructors at the building dock.

The sun radiated strong, bright yellow rays, filling the harbor with colorful splendor. It was a clear and pleasant day with good weather foreseeable.

Three priests in Baalish blue regalia and vestments arrived at last with formality and dignity.

Which of the three is the Grigor called Meggid? wondered the doctor.

Kether studied all three of them as they began to chant the rite of blessing. His attention fell upon the tallest one, who sang in a low, sonorous baritone voice. His black eyes flashed with inner energy and power. Something unspoken told the healer that this was the person he was after. There was a special aura of some sort about the man.

The slow drone of prayer appeals to Baal continued on and on. Stiff paralysis seized hold of the attending crowd that was audience to the three in blue.

There will be a festive banquet when the ceremony is over, Kether said to himself. That will give me a chance to approach and talk with the one called Meggid.

The physician mentally rehearsed the questions that he planned to present.

All at once, the ritual singing came to an abrupt finish.

One of the priests, not the Grigor one, announced that everyone was invited to partake in a repast at a nearby harbor inn.

The small throng started to move in the indicated direction, anticipating a generous table at the expense of the owner of the ship just blessed and dedicated to Baal.

Kether followed near the rear of the group making its way to the eatery facing the water. This was a large clay building of one storey. The dining hall reserved for them was filled with long tables that could seat all the celebraters.

The doctor positioned himself at the table where the three priests sat, a few chairs away from the one that occupied his attention. From there, he could hear the conversation among them.

“I must return to the temple as soon as I have eaten,” said one priest to his colleagues.

“There are many important matters awaiting me there,” said a second, his eyes on Meggid. “Shall you be walking back with us?” he inquired of the Grigor cleric.

“You two can go ahead,” replied Meggid in a lowered tone.”I have the time to remain here longer.”

Kether ate very little of the food served him, keeping his eyes on the priest he hoped could help him.

When the two Phoenician priests rose and departed, opportunity opened for approaching Meggid.

The healer decided to speak to him directly, without formal introduction.

“Holy servant of Baal, may I have words with you in private?”

The priest looked up in surprise, staring at the stranger addressing him.

“The questions that I have refer to suffering patients of mine with excruciating pain. You see, sir, I am a practicing doctor to the sick. My clients happen to be Grigors, and one of them referred me to you.”

Meggid gazed with motionless eyes at the man accosting him in such a manner. His mind took time to consider, weigh, and judge what he should say in reply. Finally, he spoke out in a clear, decisive voice.

“I myself have questions that I need to ask you my good man. If you are free to do so, I can talk with you on the walk I am about to take around the docks. We can discuss what is troubling your patients as we circle the harbor.”

Kether grinned with satisfaction. “Thank you, holy servitor of Baal,” he said.

As the hall emptied, Meggid finished eating, rose to his feet, and exited the place.

The excited physician did the same, a little after the priest.

Once outside in the bright sunlight, he caught sight of the blue figure ahead of him.

Kether rushed forward toward the man who had potential answers for him.

As the pair slowly moved toward the outskirts of Tyre, the doctor poured forth a detailed description of the alarming attacks into the dreams of his patients.

The feet of both men became slower and slower, as if burdened by heavy loads.

At last, Kether came to an end, finishing with the main question on his mind.

“I was told that only you could explain for me the nature of the spirits called Anakim. They are said to be able to spoil innocent dreams with monstrous shapes and forms.”

Both men stopped and looked out at the milky, placid sea facing Phoenicia.

The priest hesitated before turning to Kether and speaking.

“You are not one of our people,” he said with a moan. “That was evident to me as soon as I heard your voice. That was clear once I viewed your face. Your ancestry was not of Grigor character.”

“Yes,” admitted Kether. “I cannot claim a heredity not mine by birth and blood.”

“Your ancestors were native to this country, then?”

“Yes.”

“My people call themselves the Grigors, yet only a few of us have ever heard from where that name comes. We brought it with us from another land when our forefathers traveled to Phoenicia. Knowledge of the meaning of Grigor has been all but lost and forgotten. But the term has a deep spiritual significance known to only a few in our own time.”

“What did it point to back in the past?” asked the healer with burning curiosity.

Meggid lowered his voice till it could barely be heard.

“As everyone knows, Baal resides high above the ground, in the sky. His home is the blazing sun and he has shepherds to keep watch over his flocks of sheep upon the land below. These workers of his are the Malaks, the guardians of animals and human beings. They have always served Baal as messengers and subordinate agents.

“At one time long ago a number of the Malaks revolted against divine authority and thought to become gods in their own right. The symbol of this rebellion was their taking human women for mating. That was clearly contrary to the will of Baal. The evil Malaks with compulsion came to have children through interbreeding with human females. The result of their sin was the Anakim, creatures neither fully the one nor the other, but a mixed combination of both divine and human elements. As a consequence of what these Malaks did, horrible monsters came to exist with the title of Anakim. Some became giants, some were of normal size. The Anakim themselves came to breed with humans, so that over many generations the characteristics of the Anakim were weakened and diluted.

“Yet even today there are Anakim among the people who are called the Grigors.”

Meggid looked deeply into the eyes of the physician, then went on.

“An important power that the Anakim have always enjoyed is the ability to interrupt and enter the dreams of human beings. They know how to create horrible visions and nightmares. They can use this to take vengeance on people and even on Baal. As a final step, they can bring about death of the human dreamer.”

“How can such invasion be stopped?” nervously asked Kether. “Is there any way for human beings to combat these fiendish beings?”

The priest stretched out his right arm, placing his hand on the doctor’s forearm.

“We will have to build a trap to contain and destroy the agents of the Anakim who appear as hidden serpents,” he muttered quietly. “And you must help me to win the battle against the evil snakes that the Anakim employ to cause the spoiling and ruination of dreams.”

The two agreed to meet near the harbor after sundown that evening and discuss the grave problem of troubled dreamers.

It was late in the afternoon that Kether heard someone knock on the door of his flat. It turned out to be a temple slave delivering a rolled up narrative scroll. As soon as the man was gone, the doctor sat down at his table and started to read it.

The material sent him by Meggid was intriguing and astonishing.

The leader of the dissident Malaks who revolted against Baal was Shemhazel. The fallen spirits who followed him were Asel, Armares, Arakeb, Batarel, Ananel, Arazyal, Ramel, Tamel, Baraqiyal, Kestarel, Turel, Yamayel, Zaqeel, Ezeqel, and the most infamous one, Azazel.

The early Grigors learned the secrets of the stars from Tamel and the art of foretelling the weather from Ezeqel.

Shemhazal, chief of the fallen rebels, stole the most beautiful human young woman whose name was Ishtarah. She gave birth to two Anaki brothers, Hiwa and Hiya. This pair was the founders of the nation of Grigors. Both of them were mighty warriors of gigantic size. They ruled over the Grigors in a distant land. Later, the nation sought shelter from the Anaki and their serpents by migrating into Phoenicia to find refuge. But terrors and plagues continued to afflict them. Only by restoring their absolute sway over the Grigors can the fallen Anaki satisfy their twisted hunger for vengeance against Baal.

Kether now understood how the nightmares projected by Anaki snakes could serve as a potent weapon in their ancient war. Some descendant of Hiwa or Hiya was exacting revenge on the disobedient Grigors.

The healer read the scroll over and over. The words there sank into his mind.

What was he to do? How was the horrendous enemy to be defeated?

Kether visited the patient Binah. He had suffered another terrifying nightmare. Then he went to see Jesod. Exactly the same story here. Both situations were growing worse.

Could either man stand much more? wondered the doctor as he prepared himself to meet with the priest of Baal.

Shadowy darkness filled the empty, silent corners around the harbor that evening.

Kether was first to arrive at the agreed upon location. He had time to think and ponder further.

Was it safe for him to place trust in the priest called Meggid? Fear of some invisible betrayal lurked in his consciousness. He grappled with cloudy suspicions beyond definition or description. His mind was burdened with vague worries. He sensed the presence of dangers he was unable to see or describe.

What possible reason existed to be apprehensive about the Grigor priest who might find a way of saving those whose dreams had been broken into?

Kether failed to notice the noiseless approach of the one who had promised to help him.

“Good evening, friend,” whispered the newcomer, dressed in a plain, simple tunic of dark brown linen. He moved close, till he stood directly in front of the surprised physician.

For several moments, the pair regarded each other through the omnipresent murk. “I did not see you coming because of the solid darkness along the shore,” said Kether in a muffled voice. “The darkness is like a solid wall.”

“Did you read the scroll I sent to you?”

“Indeed, many times,” answered the healer. “I never knew most of what was written there. The information was like a sudden revelation from above. My mind was astonished and astounded by it. Are you the one who composed the history?”

Meggid did not give an immediate answer, but made his own inquiry in an unexpected direction.

“Tell me this please: are you familiar with the history and traditions of your own Phoenician nation?”

Surprised by this question, the other groped for a satisfactory reply.

“I am not certain what you mean, sir. My knowledge is that of the average member of my nation, no more and no less. I in no way possess complete or profound learning comparable to that of the scholars in the temples of Baal, both here in Tyre and throughout our land.”

The Grigor leaned forward at an angle.

“Yes, we who serve in the house of Baal have scrolls and manuscripts that must remain secret from outside persons. I myself have delved deeply into the records of the Phoenician past. That permits me to perceive what to others is unseen and invisible.

“For instance, my reading has exposed to me the existence of Rephim in this land.”

“Rephim?” said the doctor of the sick. “What are Rephim?”

Meggid drew a long breath. “I see that you are totally ignorant about that. So, let me describe them to you as best I can.

“When the Malaks rebelled and took human women to be their mates, they carried out attacks at many places in different lands. When hybrid children were born among the Grigors, they came to be called Anakim. I have already explained that to you. There were similar forced takings of women in this coastal land.

“A Repha was the name for the “terrible ones” who abused and oppressed the human beings of Phoenicia. The blood of the attackers came to run in the veins of specific persons born here. For instance, in the city of Tyre.”

The eyes of the priest expanded, until fiery sparks seemed to flame up in them.

“I believe that my years of study permit me to identify the presence of both an Anak or a Repha. They are very similar. Both have Malak spirits as ancestors. But there was always a subtle difference between the two.

“A Repha may often be completely unaware of what he is. His traits can come forth unexpectedly, without conscious thought. I believe a Phoenician Repha can be without knowledge of its ability to break into the dreams of the innocent and helpless. Do you understand what I am telling you? A Repha may not know what it is or what its unconscious effects are. It is ignorant of the truth that there is an evil serpent that exercises total control over its thought and actions. That snake lives within the body of the subordinate Repha.”

Kether, stunned and speechless, gaped with open mouth.

“You mean…” he said at last.

But it was too late to finish his statement or the thought behind it.

The doctor seemed to enter into an enchanted spell, opening his mouth wide as a greenish yellow snake head emerged from it into the open. The reptile went directly toward the doctor himself, instantly assaulting him on the throat.

Not a groan, moan, or cry of any sort came out of the one under attack.

Was Kether, then, a Repha who never had a hint of his true ancestry and character? Was he fully unconscious of the evil serpent that he carried inside himself?

Had he secretly been the breaker of patients’ dreams without knowing it?

Was his unmasking by Meggid a truthful exposure or a deadly error of some kind?

The serpent quickly returned to its human home. Kether awoke from the spell he had suffered.

He hurried away, for there were medical duties he had to perform that evening.

His resident serpent rested asleep deep within the mind and body of the man who saw himself as healer of Grigor pains and illnesses.

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