The Adventures of Cletus II

Cletus lay trapped in the earth beneath Five Elements Mountain. Fungus and moss grew from the filth in his hair. Mud caked his sunken face. His beard itched immensely. Struggling with all his might, Cletus tried to reach for his face, but his arms would not budge from beneath the stone. Looking up at his two heavenly guards, Cletus said, “Could one of you bastards scratch my chin?”

“Are you hungry?” one guard asked.

“Are you thirsty?” followed the other.

“No,” Cletus said.

“Then, be quiet!” the guards snapped in unison.

Cletus’s days continued. Buddha had trapped him beneath the mountain range for his misdeeds in Heaven. The heavenly guards fed Cletus cold iron pellets to stop his hunger and molten iron to quench his thirst. Cletus rarely slept. Though he could not move his body, his tongue remained nimble with banter directed at his guards. Cletus watched the world move on around him to pass his time.

One day, a brilliant golden light washed over Cletus. He stared into the light until a young woman in a pale blue dress appeared. “I know you,” Cletus said.

“So you do, mischievous, little monkey,” the goddess said.

“Why are you here, Guanyin?”

“Be more respectful and maybe you shall learn.”

“Fine,” Cletus said. “Bodhisattva Guanyin, what do you want from me? Come to release me from my prison, I hope. Immortality is no fun while stuck under a giant rock.”

“Actually, I did come here for something along those lines,” the Bodhisattva said. “How do you feel about deals, Great Sage?”

“What kind of deal?”

“You would be released from here to perform two tasks. If the tasks are completed to satisfaction, you will be freed.”

“I’m listening. What tasks?”

“A monk will come by here,” the goddess said. “He will be travelling west to India. His goal is to reach Buddha’s temple. You will accompany him on his journey west. On that journey, you will protect the monk from all harm that may come his way. You will also repent for your crimes against the gods. Do this and you shall be freed from your stone cell permanently.”

“Done,” Cletus said. “Let me out, and I’ll wait for him here.”

“No, Monkey King,” Bodhisattva Guanyin said. “I will not fall for your trickery. Unfortunately, the monk may easily be fooled by you, but that’s why you’ll be wearing this.”

The goddess slipped a small golden band onto Cletus’s head.

“What is this?” Cletus asked.

“Insurance,” the Bodhisattva said as she disappeared.

Time slowly dragged for five more years before a young boy in yellow robes arrived at Cletus’s cell.

“You there, boy!” Cletus shouted. “Come here.”

The young boy crouched in front of Cletus. The boy pulled away the moss and grass surrounding Cletus’s head. “What have you to say to me?” the boy asked.

“Nothing to say,” said Cletus. “Only a question to ask.”

“What question?”

“Are you the monk sent to the West to gather the Buddha’s scriptures?” Cletus asked.

“Yes, I am,” said the boy. “Why do you ask?”

“Well, young monk, I am the Great Sage Equaling Heaven. Buddha trapped me beneath this mountain range five hundred years ago for my criminal insubordination in Heaven. Then, some time ago, Bodhisattva Guanyin came by here heading east to search for the one destined to bring the scriptures back. That would be you.”

“Yes,” the young monk said. “What can I do for you?”

“Not what you can do for me,” Cletus said. “It’s what I must do for you. I will protect you on your journey to the West. The issue you is that I’m trapped here, but you can fix that easily.”

“So, you are one of the guardians Bodhisattva Guanyin promised me. I have no tools or weapons with me. How can I help release you?”

“You’ve got to climb this mountain and find the spell tag at the top. Remove it. If you do that, I’ll be able to free myself.”

The monk left Cletus there for a few hours.

“I removed the spell tag,” the monk told the caveman upon returning.

“I’m aware,” Cletus said. “I could feel the mountain’s fingers loosen their grip as soon as you did. I’ve just been waiting for you to get off the mountain.”

Cletus snarled as he labored beneath the mountain. Stone ground and cried as Cletus slid his hands under his chest. Rock shattered when Cletus pushed himself to his hands and knees. With a jump, Cletus burst from his prison, scattering stone in a massive explosion. When the dust cleared from the air, Cletus stood in front of the monk. His shame swayed between his hairy, naked thighs.

“I’m the Great Sage Equaling Heaven, Cletus the Caveman.”

“Tang Sanzang,” the monk said. “If you’re going to travel with me, we’ll have to think of a proper Buddhist name for you.”

“Already have one. They used to call me Sun Wukong.”

“That’s perfect. Do you mind if I call you Brother Monkey?”

Cletus shrugged. He pulled a tiny rod out of his ear. With a shake, the rod became a massive iron pole. “If you’ll excuse me,” Cletus said as he stalked into the mountains.

Cletus returned shortly with a tiger hanging limply across his shoulders. He threw down the body and scavenged through the rocks, examining each intently until finding one that he deemed acceptable. Cletus used a suitable stone to dress his kill. The young Buddhist monk watched in disgust.

“You’re lucky you found me,” Cletus said through a mouthful of raw meat. “Travelling out here alone, this tiger could have killed you. Lots of demons in these hills too.”

“Yes, Buddha be praised.”

Cletus stood up and wrapped a large chunk of the tiger’s hide around his waist like a skirt. He used another thin strip of skin to tie his makeshift kilt in place. Jamming the bloody rock beneath Sanzang’s chin, Cletus said with a twisted grin, “Now, what’s stopping me from just killing you and walking away from this whole mess?”
Shaking, Sanzang muttered under his breath. With every word he said, the gold band on Cletus’s head grew unbearably tight. The metal dug into his flesh. Cletus dropped to his knees, clawing at the band and screaming, “Make it stop.”

Sanzang stopped chanting, and the band slowly loosened. Cletus tried to remove the band to no avail. “Only Bodhisattva Guanyin can remove the control band,” Sanzang said.

“What happened to Buddhists being pacifists?” Cletus asked. “I thought you were going to crush my skull.”

Sanzang shrugged. “Maybe. Not sure what would have happened if I had not stopped.”

“So, we’re going to the West,” Cletus said.

Sanzang nodded.

Cletus scanned the mostly barren horizon. Pointing slightly northwest, Cletus said, “That clump of trees there is probably our only chance of finding water before tomorrow morning. It’s late, so we should head out now before it’s too dark to see the forest.”

Cletus took most of Sanzang’s possessions and slung them onto his shoulders. Without waiting for the young monk, Cletus set off for the forest. Hours later, monk and monkey entered the forest. Just beyond the treeline, a whistle sounded from the side of the darkened path.

Six men rushed from the trees with spears, bows, and swords. The blocked the path and shouted, “Where are you going monk? If you give us your horse and your luggage, we’ll spare your lives.”

Sanzang fell from his horse onto his ass and slowly crawled away from the men. Cletus pulled the boy up to his feet. “Don’t worry, Sanzang,” Cletus said. “These men are simply here to provide us with spare clothes and a little extra money.”

“Are you deaf? They threatened to kill us if we don’t give everything to them,” Sanzang said.

“Just stay here with our things while I bash them around a little,” Cletus said.

“There are six of them. You can’t really plan to fight them.”

Cletus ignored Sanzang. Apparently the bandits frightened the monk so much that Sanzang forgot that Cletus had shattered an entire mountain. Cletus walked up to the bandits and crossed his arms over his chest. “Why are you boys blocking our way?” Cletus asked.

“We are robber kings,” one of the bandits said. “This is our forest. We’re famous around these parts. Why come into our forest unless you planned to give your things away to us? We rule these mountains. Leave your belongings with us or we’ll leave you cut to pieces. Your choice.”

“I’m a sort of criminal king myself,” Cletus said. “I’ve also ruled over mountains. I’ve never heard of you boys.”

“Stop calling us boys or we’ll crush your bones into powder.”

“You gentlemen fail to realize that you’re standing before your better. Bring out all your booty. We’ll divide it equally between the eight of us, and then I’ll leave you be.”

“You want us to share with you? You talk big for a monk.”

The six men attacked Cletus at once. Cletus fought the armed men with his bare hands for several minutes before easily disarming the bandits.

“You boys must be tired for me to beat you so easily,” Cletus said.

“You’re one tough monk,” a bandit said.

Cletus pulled the iron pin from his ear. The pin morphed into a rod slightly longer than Cletus’s arm and as big around as a rice bowl. “Now,” Cletus said, “let me practice my clubbing with you boys.”

The bandits fled at the sight of the massive cudgel. Cletus ran them down and beat them to death. Not one bandit managed to escape.

Cletus returned to Sanzang with all the bandits’ belongings. He dropped all the clothes, money, and jewels at Sanzang’s feet. “Well, we should be set for our whole trip,” Cletus said. “Let’s keep going.”

“Even though they were highwaymen, you’re asking for trouble,” Sanzang said. “Even killing by accident is such a disgusting act. You just slaughtered them all without a second thought. There’s nothing in you that’s even remotely good.”

“If I hadn’t killed them, they’d’ve killed you.”

“I’m a man of religion. I’d rather have died than commit murder.”

“Than it’s a good thing I’m the one that killed them.”

“You are in my service. You killing them is just the same as them dying by my own hand.”

“If I weren’t willing to kill when necessary, Bodhisattva wouldn’t have chosen me to protect you.”

“If you weren’t such a tyrant you would have never been imprisoned so that she could bribe you with your freedom. With such a disgusting monster as a companion, we’ll never reach the Western Heaven to retrieve the scriptures.”

Rage flared within Cletus as the young monk chastised him. “If you believe that you’ll never reach the West with me, then so be it,” Cletus said as he summoned a cloud. “I’m off.”

With a loud whistle, Cletus launched across the sky on his cloud. The cloud carried Cletus farther east than the sunrise and plunged into the sea. Cletus emerged from the water in the sunken palace of the Dragon King of the Eastern Sea. The castle guards escorted Cletus to the Dragon King’s court. Cletus bowed low before the great dragon. “Hello, old companion,” Cletus said. “How are you?”

“Sun Wukong,” the Dragon King said. “What a pleasant surprise. I haven’t seen you since that mess with you in Heaven. I see you’ve been freed.”

“Yes,” Cletus said. “I’m supposed to be accompanying a young monk to the West. We had a fight. So, I went as far east as I possibly could to get away from him.”

“Why ever would you do that?”

“Because that priest doesn’t understand human nature. He doesn’t comprehend that people are cruel and will not hold his same beliefs. He started nagging about me killing a few simple bandits.”

“Great Sage, if you do not protect the priest and follow his orders, you may as well go crawl back beneath Five Elements Mountain. It’s where they’ll put you once you’re captured. Prove the boy wrong.”

“I’m not sure I care enough,” Cletus said.”

“Don’t ruin your future for an easy life right now,” the Dragon King said.

“I suppose you’re right,” Cletus said.

Cletus returned to Sanzang, and they continued the journey to the West. Over the course of the journey they gained new companions.  Prince Jade Dragon joined the group first. The son of the Dragon King of the Southern Sea earned his exile by burning his father’s jewels. With the ability to transform into a horse, Jade Dragon served as Sanzang’s mount. Then came Zhu Bajie, former Field Marshal of the Milky Way. Heaven disfigured Zhu Bajie with the head of a pig, beat him with an iron rod, and casted him to Earth to atone for his drunken advances upon a maiden. Last came Sha Wujing, ogre of the sands. Sha abandoned his post as a general in Heaven to repent for destroying a vase in a fit of rage.

The four outcasts and the holy monk journeyed together. They faced countless challenges. The five fought bandits, battled demons and spirits, and slayed monsters. The companions scaled mountains, crossed deserts, and braved blizzards. Years they suffered to reach India to meet Buddha and bring the scriptures to the people of China.

After delivering the scriptures, the group returned to the temple of Buddha. Buddha distributed great boons to each of them. Buddha turned the White Dragon Horse’s scales gold and ordained him as the Great Strength Bodhisattva of the Eight Heavenly Sections. Brother Pig lived for eternity and cleaned all the altars in all Buddhist temples until the end of time. Brother Sand became an arhat, the pinnacle of human perfection. Buddha appointed Sanzang as a protector god in Heaven.

After the others received their gifts, Buddha turned to Cletus. “My lovely, ancient friend, this will be your second grand gift from me,” Buddha said. “It was fortunate for you that you gave in to your good side and won glory along your journey. You will be rewarded with high office as the Victorious Fighting God.”

Cletus hissed sharply. “As great as spending all of eternity with the clowns in Heaven would be,” Cletus said, “slowly diminishing in power as people stop believing in me does not appeal in the least. I have to decline the offer, big guy. I just want this thing taken off my head so I can do my own thing. I just want to keep travelling the world.”

“If that is your wish.”

Cletus continued west. He opened passages through mountain ranges and dug wells along his path through the wilderness. He settled in a land filled with orchards and ponds. Cletus irrigated the land and built a massive city called Uruk. Cletus made himself King of Uruk. Once comfortable in his palace, Cletus wrote down all of his previous adventures.

Years went by. Cletus’s time with the Buddhists had failed to curb his rage and blood lust. All males of Uruk regardless of age participated in Uruk’s only sport. Men wrestled naked in the sand of the stadium, often to the death, for their king’s amusement. Cletus required all women to sleep with him before he allowed them to marry. Cletus beat and killed his people at any minor inclination to do so. Cletus terrified and tormented the subjects of Uruk.

In a dream, Cletus watched a meteor crash outside of his city. He sprinted through Uruk’s intricate inner and outer walls until he reached the massive crater. A brilliant white stone rested in the crater. Every imaginable color rippled across the stone’s surface in light. Cletus grabbed the stone and went back to the city. He wanted to show everyone his amazing treasure, but no one in the city cared. A magnificent battle-ax entranced the entire city. The people of Uruk ignored Cletus and began to worship the battle-ax.

Cletus fell in love with the battle-ax. He stole the ax. He ran back to his palace. Cletus’s long-dead mother stood in his bedchamber. Cletus placed the stone and ax at her feet. “These objects represent your salvation,” she said. “These are the symbols of the man who will become your greatest friend.”

Weeks later, Cletus had forgotten the dream. A wedding occurred that day, an important day for Cletus. As with all weddings since the start of Cletus’s kingdom, the bride would spend the night of her wedding in Cletus’s bed before her marriage would be considered binding. On the way to his room, a hairy, gangly man wearing only a fur loincloth blocked Cletus’s path. “You are Gilgamesh, yes?” the man asked Cletus.

“That’s my title,” Cletus said. “I made the word up. It’s like king, but better. Now, if you’ll excuse me.”

Cletus tried to push past the man, but the man grabbed Cletus by the arm. “You must not do this,” he said.

The two men fought in a blur of hair and fists. Their struggle constantly moved, carrying them throughout the city. The men fought violently, to the point the city walls shook. The men brawled for days without tiring. The hairy man managed to trap Cletus in a headlock. Cletus choked and grunted until he threw his opponent to the ground. Cletus climbed on top of the man’s stomach. He shove his hands under the man’s collar bones and tugged as hard as possible while headbutting the man’s brow. Every few blows, Cletus screamed, “Submit!”

Finally, the man gave in. Cletus collapsed in the dust beside the man and began laughing hysterically.

“I am Enkidu,” the dirty, bloody man said with a smile.

Enkidu’s blood smeared Cletus’s filthy face. “You are the greatest opponent I’ve ever faced, and I’ve fought with some crazy shit in my day,” Cletus said.

“It was a very enjoyable match.”

Cletus stood up and dusted himself off before helping Enkidu off the ground. “You and I will be the greatest of everlasting friends.”

For several months, the two friends spent time competing in the city’s games, but quickly grew bored.

“There is a monster,” Enkidu said, “appointed by the gods to guard their Cedar Forest. It is called Humbaba. It is a giant with the head of a lion. Its roar is fire, and its mouth is death. An endless line cuts its flesh, making it appears as if the monster is made from the entrails of a man.”

“We can kill that monster,” Cletus said.

Cletus and Enkidu obtained weapons, armor, and other provisions for the trip to the Cedar Forest. Every night as they travelled, Cletus dreamed. Walking barefoot through a valley, Cletus watched as the mountains on the horizon crumbled and fell beneath the ground. The entire sky pitched into a violent thunderstorm. Hundreds of wild bulls stampeded past him. With a horrible shriek, a massive bird dived out of the sky and bellowed fire across the land.

Cletus awoke covered in sweat and screaming. He explained his dream to Enkidu.

“You fear too much,” Enkidu said. “This is not a bad omen, but a good one. You weren’t harmed despite all the chaos. Only good things will come from this trip.”

When the duo reached the forest, Cletus marveled at the enormous trees that extended higher than he could see. As he and Enkidu proceeded through the Cedar Forest toward the Mountain of the Gods, Cletus continued having the same nightmare. Each morning, Enkidu reassured him of their good fortune to come.

Days of wandering the forest stretched by until Cletus became annoyed with trying to find Humbaba. With shouts of joy, Cletus and Enkidu chopped down several trees. Wood split and logs crashed to the ground until a petrifying roar cut through the Cedar Forest. The ground shook violently. Animals of all kinds rushed by Cletus and Enkidu. An ogre charged through the trees toward the two. It slid to a halt with its massive gut bouncing in Cletus’s face. Humbaba lowered its head until its lion’s mane of red hair almost touched Cletus. “Who’re you, little man?” Humbaba spat swampy breath into the caveman’s face.

“I am Cletus, Gilgamesh of Uruk. I’ve come to slay you for fun.”

“You cut down the Gods’ trees,” Humbaba growled. “You must die.”

Humbaba backhanded Cletus into a tree. Cletus picked himself off the ground and fell into immense confusion. Cletus stood in a barren field of white grass. All around him echoed the sounds of battle raging with swords, axes, shields and maces clashing and men screaming war cries. Cletus pulled a pin from his ear and shook it out into his black iron pole. He called out for Enkidu. Faintly and far away, Cletus heard a reply, but questioned if it was real. Ash and blood rained from the sky. The ground groaned and quaked before crumbling beneath his feet. Cletus fell into complete darkness. The darkness engulfed him, filling him and tearing at his skin. Cletus screamed in pain when on of his shoulders dislocated itself. The darkness flooded into his mouth and down his throat.

“Gilgamesh,” Enkidu cried out.

“I’m here,” Cletus said. “Where’re you? I can’t see anything.”

“It’s the same for me,” Enkidu replied. “It’s some sort of illusion.”

Flames lit the darkness around Cletus. The massive bird from his nightmares soared toward him. It grew larger as it neared. The bird opened its hooked beak, and Cletus could see the flames spark to life deep within the beast’s throat.

A harsh wind tore at Cletus. The wind blew away the bird and the darkness. Cletus kneeled on the ground with Enkidu nearby. Humbaba writhed on the ground beside them. Without hesitation, Enkidu rushed to Humbaba and tied the giant up.

“Some God cares for you,” Humbaba grunted.

“Fuck your gods,” Cletus said as he slammed his arm back into its socket.

“I was using the aura of my garments to fill you with fear,” Humbaba laughed, “but then a great wind blew over me. It had no effect on you two though. A God sent it just for me.”

“Your clothes can cast illusion?” Cletus asked.

“Of course,” said Humbaba. “If you spare me, I’ll give them to you as a gift. I’ll even become your servant if you let me live.”

“Gilgamesh, don’t consider this trick,” Enkidu said. “Don’t even think on it. We have to kill the beast now or be forever shamed.”

“Maybe you’re just jealous, you violent animal,” Humbaba said. “You left your home in the trees and fell at the feet of this great man because no one else cared about you. You’re worried that he’ll be happier with a great fighter like me at his side instead of you. I’ll be his closest companion instead of you.”

“Shut up, you stupid ogre,” Cletus said as he jammed his heel against the side of Humbaba’s head.

“Curse you both!” the ogre snarled. “I’m a servant of the God of the earth and the sea. The two of you will be punished endlessly.”

Cletus smashed his iron pole into Humbaba’s meaty neck, snapping it instantly. “I said to shut the fuck up.” Shrinking his pole down, Cletus collapsed against a tree. “Fuck this place,” he said. “Enkidu, we’re cutting down this whole forest. We’re gonna chop down every last one of these cedars and float ‘em back down the Euphrates to Uruk.”

“The city will prosper greatly from such fine timber,” Enkidu said as he held up an ax.

Upon returning to the city, Cletus left Enkidu on the river and returned to his chambers to write his newest adventure with the rest. Then, Cletus took his first warm bath he had taken in months. After scrubbing away all the filth from his skin, he put on brand new royal garments and tied his thick mane up in a curly bun at the back of his head so that he could wear his crown. Once dressed, Cletus turned to leave his chamber, but a tall, raven-haired woman blocked his path. “Gilgamesh,” she whispered in her silky voice. The woman wore only a scarlet skirt with no top. “You look so handsome. You’re so powerful and victorious. I saw you kill Humbaba. I want you to be mine.” She bit Cletus’s ear. “I want you inside me. Become my husband, Gilgamesh. I will give you infinite life and health.”

“I’m already immortal, Ishtar,” Cletus dismissed the goddess. “I refuse your request. Your lust is momentary. Besides, all your past lovers have either been killed, tortured, or turned into animals. Why would I fare any better?”

A sword materialized in Ishtar’s hand. The goddess pressed the blade against Cletus’s neck. “If you do not accept my offer, I’ll kill you where you stand,” she said.

Cletus grabbed the blade and centered it on his heart. “Do it, bitch,” he said with a smirk. “I’ve lived for so long. Much longer than you, fairytale whore. I’ve lived a good life, a long life. And none of it relied on a bunch of assholes believing in me. So, do it, whore. I’ll be one less person that believes in you.”

Ishtar disappeared in a burst of light and smoke.

Several days later, the earth quaked while Cletus and Enkidu walked through the streets of Uruk. “What the hell is going on?” Cletus asked.

“In the sky, Gilgamesh. Look!”

Cletus stared into the clouds. The sky swirled violently. A pathway opened in the sky, and a giant white bull came charging down from the heavens. The bull bellowed and the ground split open, engulfing countless people. Cletus stood calmly while frightened citizens ran about the streets in a panic. The bull landed, opening more fissures. The bull stomped about the city, tearing open more cracks that swallowed Uruk’s people.

Enkidu growled and jumped onto the bull’s back. Within seconds the bull threw Enkidu to the ground. The bull spit on Enkidu before turning and spewing a massive pile of steaming manure on the hairy man. Enkidu wiped the filth off his face and screamed at the top of his lungs, “Fucking Heaven Bull! I’ll destroy you!”

Enkidu rushed forward and grabbed the bull by the horns. Cletus jumped on the animal’s back, and the three of them grappled about the city. The bull threw Enkidu over its shoulder into a wall. The wild man rebounded and seized the bull’s tail. “Kill it, Gilgamesh!”

Cletus whipped out his iron pole and speared the bull through the back of the head, killing it almost instantly. Enkidu stepped forward and ripped the bull’s heart out. “For the sun god!” he screamed.

Enkidu and Cletus skinned and hacked apart the giant bull. A piercing screech tore through the city. Ishtar stood on Uruk’s outer walls. Her raven hair thrashed in the wind. Anger boiled the air around her. “Curse you,” she said. “Curse you both.”

“Fuck off, you hag!” Enkidu screamed as he threw one of the bull’s legs at Ishtar. “Get out of Uruk before I throw you out.”

Ishtar disappeared into a burst of red smoke. Cletus clapped Enkidu on the back. “You’ve started to talk like me now,” Cletus laughed. “I bet you’re going to confuse people just as much as I do.”

The two friends finished butchering the bull and handed meat out to the entire city. They went to the Euphrates and washed off the blood and gore. Cleaned, they strode through Uruk, absorbing the admiration of the people.

That night, Cletus awoke to Enkidu screaming. Cletus rolled out of bed and lit a lamp. A low, orange glow stretched across the room, illuminating Enkidu. Cletus walked over and sat on his friend’s bed. “What’s wrong, my trembling friend?”

“I had a dream,” Enkidu said through tears. “I dreamed of the gods. They were holding a meeting to discuss what to do about the two of us.”

“What did we do to them?” Cletus asked. “What’re they going to do to us?”

“The gods are enraged at the things we’ve done. They’re angry that we killed the Bull of Heaven and Humbaba. They’re especially upset that we cut down the Cedar Forest. They want to kill us; however, they’re only going to kill one of us. That way, the other one suffers until they die.”

“Which of us is going to die?”

“They didn’t say.”

Cletus sighed heavily. “I can only hope that it will be me,” he said. “I’ve been alive a long time. You still have a life to live. I deserve to die, not you. I could not bear to watch you go.”

Within days, Enkidu fell ill. The wild man lay in his bed and cursed everything.

“Fuck you, Cletus the Immortal,” Enkidu feebly said. “Fuck that whore that convinced me to leave the wild. To hell with these human clothes. I hate all of this. I hate all of you.”

Enkidu clenched Cletus’s arm and cried. His feverish skin burned Cletus.

“Don’t worry,” Cletus wept. “When you’re gone, I’m going to have a statue of you built in the center of the city, and everyone that sets foot in Uruk will know how glorious Enkidu was.”

Enkidu fell fast asleep. The next time Enkidu woke, he smiled.

“Gilgamesh, I no longer curse you or anyone. I too have had an amazing life, even if it was short.”

“I love you, my friend,” Cletus whispered.

“I had another dream, Gilgamesh. I was alone on a dark plain where I was attacked by a man with a lion’s head and an eagle’s talons. We fought furiously, but eventually he beat me. He transformed me into a bird and dragged me to the underworld. I wish Humbaba had killed me. I would have been blessed to die in battle. Those who die in battle are glorious.”

Enkidu never spoke again. He suffered for twelve more days before he died. Cletus cried for several days after. He ripped off his royal clothing and put on the furs Enkidu once wore. Cletus never left ‘s side. the caveman paced restlessly in a circle around Enkidu’s body. The city elders came to convince Cletus to continue governing the city. Uruk’s society crumbled without the strength of the city’s leader.

“Shut up,” Cletus said. “He is my only friend. He was a child of the forests, the son of animals. Enkidu was the greatest companion any warrior could want. Someday, may he be reborn. He will return as a stronger fighter than any other, and we shall be reunited.”

The whole city mourned Enkidu’s death. Cletus led a funeral procession to a massive tower of cedar logs. Cletus summoned all the craftsmen of his kingdom. The craftsmen erected a statue of Enkidu made from gold and jewels to honor his deeds and celebrate his life.

Cletus stayed beside Enkidu’s rotting corpse for days. He never slept or ate. He never left the unlit funeral pyre. When maggots crawled about Enkidu’s body, disgust overwhelmed Cletus. He stripped off Enkidu’s furs and covered his friend. Cletus lit the mountain of cedar logs to send his friend gloriously into the afterlife.

The lonesome caveman turned away from the flames and wandered into the wilderness.