Enkidu: The First Vampire
The Legend of the First Vampire
In an age long past, there lived a great king whose exploits were so renowned as to be inscribed upon stone. His name was Gilgamesh, king of Uruk. There is one such legend in which Gilgamesh is approached by the great goddess of love and war, Ishtar herself. Overcome with lust, she offers Gilgamesh riches greater than could be conceived by man as a dowry to become her husband. But, wise Gilgamesh had heard tales of Ishtar's exploits with mortal men, such as her tendency to make beasts of them when she tired of their company, and did not wish to share a similar fate.
So he spurned her advances and, in his hubris, recanted her evil deeds with a harshness that no mortal should ever use when speaking to a god or goddess. In her fury, Ishtar returned to the Heavens and demanded of her father to release to her the Bull of Heaven so that she might avenge her honor. The great Anu, begrudgingly granted her request after she threatened to tear down the gates of the underworld and unleash its damned contents upon the world.
As the Bull of Heaven arrived at Uruk, the earth shook and swallowed a hundred men. It snorted and the earth swallowed another hundred men. As it bellowed for a third time, a comrade of Gilgamesh's rose up and took the bull by its horns. That man was Enkidu. He called for his sworn brother, the great king Gilgamesh, and he was answered. Gilgamesh and Enkidu furiously battled against the might of the Bull of Heaven, but it was no match against their combined strength. As Humbaba, the protector of the Cedar Forest, did fall before them, so too did the Bull of Heaven. It's blood and gore blanketed the ground around them and Ishtar's honor was not restored.
Enraged, Ishtar took to the tops of the walls of Uruk and cursed their names. In defense of his comrade, Enkidu then ripped one of the bulls haunches from its corpse and hurled it at the goddess.
"Come closer, oh great Ishtar, and it would bring me great joy to do the same to you" Enkidu shouted at the goddess.
The malice in the great goddess's eyes went unnoticed as Gilgamesh and Enkidu celebrated her retreat. Consumed with pride, they celebrated in the streets how they had bested divinity. They felt invincible. The pair would soon learn that this was far from way of things. They had forgotten their place as mortals and the gods do not forgive such slights. A meeting of the gods was called.
“Someone must be punished!” decreed Anu, god of the firmament. “For the death of Humbaba and the Bull of Heaven. And for felling the tallest cedar tree, someone must die.”
It was Enlil, Humbaba's master and god of the earth, wind, and air, that first suggested Enkidu should be the one to die. Shamash, god of the sun, defended Enkidu, for it was under his instruction that Enkidu and Gilgamesh entered the Cedar Forest that day. Furious that Shamash would take their side, he accused him of putting his patron-ship ahead of his god-ship. Before further arguments could rise, Ishtar came forward to stake her claim.
“It is true that Gilgamesh has insulted my honor. For that, I will never forgive him. But, it is Enkidu who has committed the ultimate blasphemy and threatened my life.” No god, even great Shamash, could argue her claim. Enkidu would die.
It was not long before Enkidu was stricken with a terrible sickness. Gilgamesh tried to plead with the gods, but none would listen. Their judgment was final. To be unable to die in battle, Enkidu could not imagine a worse fate. So, in his self pity, Enkidu cursed the cedar gate that he and Gilgamesh had brought to Uruk. He cursed the events that lead him away from his life in the wild. It was then, that Shamash called out to Enkidu and reminded him that if he had never left the wild, he would never have met Gilgamesh. He told Enkidu of how Gilgamesh would wander the earth after his death, undone by grief.
Finding some small solace in these words, Enkidu retracts his curses before suffering another twelve days and dying with Gilgamesh by his side. True to Shamash's words, Gilgamesh's grief was legendary. He would not leave his comrade's side after his death until the corpse started to decay and become rancid. With a heavy heart, Gilgamesh buried his oldest friend and prayed he would find peace.
What Gilgamesh would never know is that his dear friend was cursed for just the opposite. For a days time after his burial, in the dead of night, the goddess Ishtar came to his grave. She reached down into the earth and pulled his corpse from it. Placing her lips upon his, his true punishment began. His rancid flesh began to heal and mend. He awoke rejuvenated, as if from a long slumber, and life returned to his eyes. Ishtar then cast him from her as she spoke the curse that bound him.
“You, who have committed blasphemy against the gods, are sentenced to life eternal.”
Enkidu's pupils grew wide as she spoke, allowing him to see her clearly in the dim light. Fangs grew in his mouth until they pierced his lips.
“You will live your days as the beast that you are. Mortal food will no longer sustain you. You will be the greatest monster, a cannibal compelled to drink the life of his fellow man.”
As Enkidu's senses continued to heightened, a surge of great horror rose up within him as he tried to fathom her words.
“Never again will you be permitted to walk within the realm of Shamash, your former patron. His gaze will cause you to wither and die once more. Without Queen Ereshkigal's blessing, you will then return to me and your punishment will begin again.” A wicked smile spread across the goddess's lips.
“In this, may you never know love or companionship again. This burden you will carry for the rest of time.”
Then the goddess left Enkidu to ponder his fate. He could scarcely believe her words. It was too much, too sudden for him to grasp. Then it hit him. The Thirst. The sensation was overpowering to the point of madness. His gullet burned with the dry need for sustenance. A soft sound in the distance drew his attention. With his new vision he could see a young girl in the distance. She carried a water jug to fill at the river just ahead of her. With a preternatural speed, he covered the distance in a moment that should have taken him almost an hour's time. His approach was soundless. Not even the wind stirred with his movements. His gaze bore into her throat has he could see her vein pulsate with her sweet life's blood.
Unable to think, Enkidu grabbed the girl and sunk his new fangs deep into her throat, narrowly missing her jugular. Her life's blood gushed without restraint into his mouth and the taste of it was like milk and honey. As he sated himself, slowly, his wits began to return to him. He looked down upon the barely conscious victim in his arms, upon the horror of what he had done. Trembling from the realization of what he had become, Enkidu wept for his former humanity. With the same speed that brought him there, he carried the girl back into Uruk and left her with a healer. The healer could scarcely tell what had brought the poor girl to him, for Enkidu's speed was beyond the mortal eye. Enkidu did not stay to learn whether the girl would survive, for he knew what he must do. In a way, his wish had been granted. Now the wild was, and forever would be, his only true home.