The First Purim
By Chris Sharp
Queen Esther’s father once said her beauty was given her as the first of two gifts. Her second gift was the holy power of light, which God had used to create all of the stars and everything that floated in the sky. Mordecai had reminded his daughter that her beauty was in partnership with this light.
But now both beauty and light were ebbing as she stepped further into the cave for condemned prisoners. On the orders of Esther’s husband, King Ahasuerus, the former high prince of the nation – Haman the Agatite –
would be hanged at dawn the next day.
Esther’s eunuch Hathach accompanied her step-by-step as he had always stayed with her since he was put into service by the king. Gradually the cavernous darkness was eating away at the torch light Hatach carried, so that the increasing dimness was making Esther and Hathach equal.
Hathach, stay here, and I will just step the rest of the way.
Yes, your majesty.
She was glad to get rid of the torch. She didn’t feel the Agatite was worthy of seeing her face. But she almost fell in the practically total darkness before she stepped to the Agatite’s prison.
This is Queen Esther, Agatite.
It was a terrible place. They had piled a lot of big rocks against the place where the Agatite awaited his morning hanging. All of the boulders had enclosed him like a tomb. There was yet still enough light from the torch behind Esther to see all this, and to notice a small pocket between the big rocks that Haman could speak through.
What do you want from me, Esther?
I want you to explain your hatred, Agatite. I mean your hatred of my father Mordecai and everyone else.
Explain to me your hatred of my whole family and community, Agatite, and your hatred of me. You set up a whole political structure under you with the single purpose of killing all the Jewish people in your reach. Men, women and little children you went after with the murderous minions under your command.
Where did you come from, Agatite? I am told when you were a young man you were just a tramp, sleeping all over the streets.
She stopped, but the only thing Haman came back with was his strong breathing.
Is it because of your envy of us Jewish people, Haman, that you wanted to kill us all through a government decree? Is it because of the gifts that my people bring to the world that makes you jealous? But these are good gifts from God. They were given to us Jews to help the world grow wise and good.
Again Esther only heard his breathing. His relentless loud breath made her change her mind. Now she would look at his face again, to see what answer his eyes were making to her words.
Hathach, some light here.
In the light of the torch, the face of Haman filled the pocket between the rocks. But something had changed. His full beard had been cut off. His only facial hair was now a mustache that looked like a small black smudge
under his nose.
Above the dark square mustache, Haman’s eyes burned at her.
Hathach, lead me out of here.
She walked away so quickly that she again stumbled in the darkness. When Hathach caught up with her, she was practically out of breath.
Are you all right, my queen?
Hathach, didn’t you see? Satan is in that prison.
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Chris Sharp has had fiction published in Revista Review InterAmericana from the University of Puerto Rico in St. Germain to on-line stories in Aphelion@webzine.com PopulistArt.com, Kalkion.com, DailyLove.net (Oct. 24, 2010) and WestRanchBeacon.com. He won the 2003 West 35th Street Award in “Best New Short PI Fiction” for his story. “A Smell on the Beach” from Crimestalkers.com. He is married to the poet Debbie Bongiovanni.
Labels: Chris Sharp