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Twenty Long Low Blasts

0 comments | 1:06 pm | top |
written several years ago

"More wine!" cried Belshazzar. Sluggishly, stumbling and tripping over the feet of the guests, a bloated, red-faced servant boy obeyed the order. Wine sloshed and splashed into the King's stolen goblet. However, most of the intoxicating liquid was spilled on the ruler's cloak, which was splattered with bits of food. "You clumsy fool!" Shouted Belshazzar, even though he was past caring. "Call in the torturer slurred the King. "Thirty lashes should teach this young dog to show more respect." The evil host was pleased to have some entertainment for his honoured guests. His guests weren't in a much better state than him, however, and they clapped and stomped their feet while raucously screaming. Prior to this, the King had ordered for the goblets of silver and gold that had been captured from the Jew's holy temple. He had thought it a good way to show of his utter superiority and magnificence. So here they were, gulping down mouthfuls of overly rich wine, from these precious vessels, as they watched with pleasure, the beating of the careless, foolish servant boy. This was an act of sacrilege in the extreme, directly and obviously being committed against the god of the Jews. The wild, out of hand party dragged on through the night. Most of the visitors had fallen into a drunken slumber. The tired, drunk king was about to begin another of his boring, stupid speeches, in which he endeavoured to explain to his totally inattentive audience of guest, just how much greater was his kingdom, than theirs. He went on to describe the looting and destruction of the Temple, and how his soldiers, under his guidance had stolen the goblets. Suddenly, there was a blinding flash of light. An armless, bodiless hand appeared. There were screams, groans, gasps and oaths, as it started to write on the wall, just above the king's head. The king began to rise fatly to his feet. But he soon sank back into his chair. The effort was one, too great for his knees. And then, the hand was gone. Belshazzar stood up slowly. Everyone was whispering to each other about the strange phenomena which had just taken place. The careless servant was lying senseless on the ground. The torturers were just leaving. "Silence". The king had come back to his senses. Everyone present looked expectantly at their host, apart from one obese, red nosed old man, who had obviously overeaten, and lay, snoring on the feast table. "Throw him out the window" commanded the king. Three swarthy fellows picked up the man, and did as their lord had ordered. After the screams of the fat man, now wallowing and struggling in the deep moat died away, the king asked for his Magicians, Wizards and Sorcerers. Half a dozen of these soon, were slowly shuffling towards where the king was seated, as they recited an eerie chant. "To the man who tells me what this means", said the king, motioning to the oddly shaped characters, engraved on the wall, "To him, I shall give a robe of purple and shall have a golden chain hung around his neck.". There came a series of gasps which were cut short by the king's continuation of his generous offer. "Furthermore he shall rule as the third most powerful leader in this, my kingdom". This was too much! Everyone present ran towards the wall which bore the strange words. It was a general stampede. There were stifled screams, yells and shouts from the ones, trapped at the bottom of the pile of struggling humans. "Get out everyone". The king shouted. The magicians and a few servants stood by the king. The scrambling mass ignored him. They were busy, trying to decipher the foreign language. Belshazzar told his servants to fetch long whips, with which to usher out the clamorous would be "third in leadership's" out. As the last protesting guest was led out, the large oak doors slammed shut. "Ahh", Said the king, "silence. Now, can any of you wise men decipher this?" he pointed , though unnecessarily at the strange words. "My lord" said one young man, with an extremely long, thin, blue moustache, which was curled at each end, "I can". "Good good", said Belshazzar, "tell me!". The young man started to chant. No one could understand a word. He started galloping around the king, servants and the other sorcerers, waving his hands, mumbling in a monotone. He slowed down to a stop, and, reaching under the heavy folds of his dull, brown garment, and pulled out a small corked bottle. He ceremoniously pulled out the cork, still mumbling. A pale green gas leaked out, and mushroomed up, in choking clouds. The king started to cough violently. The magician was staring intently at the inscription. At last, in the tense atmosphere, the magician gave in. "I am sorry, my lord, but I find that I am not able to read this for you". "Oh, get out", said the king. The man beat a hasty retreat. The other magicians, sorcerers and wizards had a shot at it. With each failure, the king got more and more annoyed. None of them could seem to do it. They had tried all kinds of spells, dances and chants. All had failed. King Belshazzar's wife, the queen could see that the king was getting very angry. "Why don't you call for Daniel?" she asked. "He was the chief of all the wise men, in the time of your father, Nebuchadnezzar, remember? If anyone can read it, he probably can." "Excellent suggestion". Bellowed the king. "Fetch him immediately". A dark, skinny servant scurried off to obey the order. Before long, Daniel was walking unhurriedly towards the king. "Ah, Daniel. I have heard of your great abilities. Pray, tell me what this means". He pointed. "I'll give you a purple robe and have a chain of gold hung around your neck. You can also be third in power, next to me, if you are able to tell me what it means". Forget the reward". Said Daniel. "I'll tell you what the writing means". Daniel proceeded, before his translation, to accuse the king of his theft of the holy vessels. He reminded Belshazzar of the folly of his father, who had been reduced to getting round on his hands and knees, eating grass. He reprimanded the king, for not learning from his father's mistakes, and told him that his very breath was in the god of the Jew's hands. The king sat through this patiently, with a remorseful grimace on his face. "Hmmm." The king rubbed his chin. "Okay". Said Daniel. "This is what it says: Mene Mene Tekel Upharsin. Mene means: God has numbered your kingdom and finished it. It is written twice, to emphasize it. Uh, Tekel means: you have been weighed in the balances and found wanting." Daniel paused. "Go on", said the king, nervously and impatiently. Daniel continued. "And Peres. Peres means: your kingdom has been divided and given to the Medes and Persians". Belshazzar's face was ashen. His wife, the queen didn't look much better, either. However, true to his word, the king provided the promised reward. "Slave!" said the king to an unhappy, tired looking dwarf, who looked Chinese. "Bring the purple robe and put it on this man's shoulders". The dwarf grunted, and turned to go. "Wait" shouted Belshazzar. "Also bring the golden chain and hang it around his neck." The slave headed towards the door, limping pathetically. He had a bit of a struggle, opening the massive oak door, but at last turned the large handle, and stumbled out. Daniel stood, looking at the ceiling, as he didn't know what to do. After a few moments, the dwarf awkwardly ran in to the feasting hall. He was staggering under the weight of the quality purple robe. He came up to Daniel and, standing on his toes, he managed to drape the robe over Daniel's shoulders. He managed to hang the chain on his neck, standing on a stool, after one or two efforts without one. He went to put the stool away. "Thank you Daniel" Belshazzar, even though he didn't believe in Daniel's God, was unable to hide his worry. Daniel shrugged, bowed, and walked out. Later that night, while Daniel was getting into bed, he heard trumpets. Twenty long, low blasts. He knew what this meant. The king was dead. "Hmm", thought Daniel, "He deserved it".


I've got to mention, that in the Asterix books, chief Vitalstatistix is always making long, boring speeches, to his inattentive subjects. Also, the Romans are often to be found, in the same series, having wild, uncontrollable parties.

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