The Future in the Fire

from The Il-khan’s Wife

(In my novel The Il-khan’s Wife, Gobras is a priest, patriarch of the followers of Zoroaster. Although old and blind, he often has dreams of future events . . . . )

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‘The fire in the hearth was low and Gobras was dreaming. So often now, in the solitary silence of early evening, he withdrew into his own world of dreams and visions, where spectres of the past and realities of the present mingled indistinguishably with phantoms of the future.

‘Sometimes he was in the grand temple of Istakhr, or in the palace at Ctesiphon. where the ghosts of priests and kings, pale shades, still offered their prayers and sacrifices. On other days, he was at the altar in Kerman, suffering again with the unavenged souls of the innocents condemned by a lie and slaughtered there.

‘Tonight, the images were clear. He was in a room lit by candles. Their flickering light illuminated paintings of animals and birds that decorated the walls. The air was filled with the scent of burning herbs and resins. In the shadows, two figures moved. Their robes were the colour of congealed blood, their faces hidden by dark hoods.

‘Near the centre of the room was a bed, on it the body of a man. His linen and the pillows on which he lay were stained red. His eyes were wide and staring, From behind his clenched teeth came the sound of gurgling. One of the shadowy figures approached, in his hand an object that glistened in the candlelight. The man on the bed reached towards it, seized it. Then, overcome by violent spasms of his chest and arms, he released it and fell back on the pillows. His teeth parted, the gurgling grew louder and from his open mouth erupted a torrent of blood.

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‘In his dream, Gobras froze in horror. The bright object had fallen on the floor, a gold cross with the span of a man’s hand whose hooked arms were turned to the left and at whose centre was the engraving of a crescent moon.

‘And as the Patriarch watched, the arms blackened and shrivelled until nothing remained but a bundle of smouldering ash.’

***

(The Il-khan’s Wife is currently available as a Kindle book from Amazon UK for only £0.99. It is also available from Amazon.com and other sites.)

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