You are the only thing standing between your people and the mob, that braying mass swarming the ghetto’s gates crying for blood, haemorrhaging bloody lies through bared teeth and frozen testicles.
Clustered in the little cobbled square behind you, are hundreds of your people, disobeying instructions to gather in the temple. Some of the men have collected loose stones and makeshift weapons of trade: baker’s peels, brass quadrants, heavy canes, tiny piles, parchment knifes and a few shovels.
Máša, the woman who ordered you to get some wood and ended up with much more then she bargained for, is brandishing a fish-knife. She keeps her blades sharp, that one, but what’s a little serrated domestic tool against flails, clubs, meat cleavers, hooks, even three bladed corseques?
And the hate. Peaceful arms are no match for those gashing crimson torrents.
The children, at least, are nowhere to be seen. They must have been successfully herded and confined to the schooling rooms and the attics.
This is prudent. They won’t be safer there, if the hordes breach the gate, but the sight of healthy toddlers and striplings would boil the swine-fat sheathing the attackers’ bristling whiskers.
Here and there, swords glint. Some members of the city guard arrived. You have no illusion they are here to protect the women, children and men of the ghetto from the mob.
Nobody mentions those who are neither, or all. They are, however, much insinuated, on both sides of the low wall.
You are their only chance of survival.
Planted by the gates, massive legs spread, you turn your sculptured head away from the muddling crowd, to the thawing river.
The ice, master told you, gripped the water longer then it ought to, so digging clay from the banks was not an easy task. It was the bitter winter harangued by spells of smoggy sun as spring battled to be born, and the plague that followed, which necessitated your coming into being.
The particulars of that desperate midnight rite are known only to those who crept out of the ghetto after the Arvit prayer, the hoods of their cloaks in the gaslight turning their faces into shadow mirrors, and followed the diamonds-dusted schlange of the Vltava to a secluded spot on the outskirts of town where they won’t be spied upon.
You too were there. But then, you weren’t yourself, not yet.
Like the first man, you were modelled from mud, in the image of your maker, but you don’t remember what being that primeval mire was like.
No man alive remembers the time preceding his earthly incarnation. But everyone asks themselves: (what) was I before? (what and if) will I be after? You are not alive, and yet, you still ask the same questions.
You know this: one instant you were nothing but great clay slabs, laboriously cut form the frozen banks, the next, your first glimpse of consciousness, was hot poignant fluid anointing the hunks of primal matter.
There were words chanted, you were told, and later, interrogated about: what were they? But this is not a secret you can keep nor tell. You had no language to invest sounds with meanings, or ears to hear them with.
Formless matter you were, until drenched in what you now know was human waste, acids of the kidneys laced with the searing impurities. Urine, tenderising that gritty river-meat like tanners do to make the skin of a slaughtered animal more malleable to the figures of men.
You suppose at that moment, on being circled thirteen times and thirteen times sprayed with piss, dirt was awakened to the curios notion of becoming flesh.
In this, the slime which was to be you had started to perceive that which was being done to it. Thus, sensation was born.
They had not yet given you seeing organs. But knowing nothing of sight, you were not frustrated by blindness during the long hours by the night river.
Later, you did wonder: was there a reason the clay coils shaping your eyes were added only after the moon had set?
Would it have been better or worst to look on, utterly helpless, as hands numbered like the days of creation penetrated the softening slabs, kneading the urine into the mud before it cooled, then tore off chunks, rolling them into strange shapes?
Once mud had become flesh in the making, being ripped apart and manipulated was excruciating. An infinite terror; was agonised evisceration, a disjointing of the whole, the permanent state of fleshy existence?
Mute and inanimate, the mud-you panicked. You know not what fibres or spirit you panicked with, but you did. Dread escalating into a cacophony of horrors and yearnings as each lump of clay was moulded into something it was not before.
And each hunk of sludge knew its intended shape, long before the act of shaping was completed. That knowledge hurt. Even once finished, your parts mourned their imperfections. The ale-barrel chest craved nipples, a heart. The muscle-bound stomach was missing miles of tangled entrails. The giant blacksmith’s arms keenly felt the lack of bones and tendons.
But there was no time. You know that now. Your makers weren’t cruel. Simply weary of the patrolling guards, or worst, being caught in the act, dirt-handed, and thus furnishing the mob with further fuel for their murderous libels.
And besides, nothing in the master’s studies had hinted that mud, however animated, could experience pain, fear, or other, more piercing sensations.
Their teeth must have chattered as they sculpted in determined silence, sleeves and hems hoisted up. But mud is colder then blood, however chilled, so to the forming you, the host of wedging hands felt like kiln-clawed Sarafim, firing your body inch by inch.
They were mortals, not angels, but their touch gave you flesh. And as your form gradually emerged from under their white-hot fingers, had made sense of itself, pain was overridden by a longing to become one.
Your feet longed to be coupled with the legs, your legs, arms, and neck yearned to be attached to your torso. The oval globe which was to be your head needed features, and to be placed upon the thick neck.
One by one, your limbs were scored, then glued in place by runny mud made gummy by means of richly salty human secretion. And from the slushy ashes of miseries untold, something new arose.
Mud is forever downtrodden, passively embracing even the drowned. But the body constructed that night was created for acts against the nature of mud: it was made to strike.
This knowledge possessed you while still headless. Or rather, your head was still nesting in the master’s lap. He had finished sculpting your wise brow, noble cheekbones, firmly ripe lips, flared nostrils and left eye, and was delicately incising the lucent iris of the right one while the others were hard at work on your body.
So, as vision flooded your world, constricted to master’s fingers and cloaked groin, you felt, rather then observed, one of his helpers spitting all over your prone form and smoothing the wet clay into a glistening skin, covering the joints. Another was fixing the last appendages to your crotch: a lovingly crafted cock, circumcised, of course, and cabbage-sized testicles.
The jolting sense of potency, aided by the hot hands stroking the cylindrical clay shape between your legs, sculpting a bulbous head, tracing a suggestion of veins, then retreating, and returning covered in more intoxicating gummy secretion, had caused the mud to expand.
One pair of hands, joined by another, tried to subdued it, press the swelling organ down, curled back into modester position and dimensions, but no no avail.
The mudman’s cock would set in this shape: gargantuan, ever-erect.
Alerted, the master approached, holding your head, which was treated to a topsy-turvy view of the icy river path, then the offending clay pillar, inspected at close range.
Your new ears recorded every syllable of the hushed argument. Unnamed, you had no means to interpret the words, but later, mind awakened, you gathered the disputed matter was the essence of your manhood.
Master and his helpers were making a fearsome warrior to protect the ghetto folk from the blood libel pogroms. Naturally, this awe inspiring creature had to be a man.
However, no tailor or seamstress could be prevailed upon to fashion garments for such a giant construct, or even be privy to the intentions to build one, before the dangerous magical endeavour proved successful. Hence, the mudman was to be smuggled into the ghetto as naked as a new born babe.
All three agreed that presenting this hulking humanoid, which some deemed verging on idol-worship, sporting an exposed and hugely protruding cock, would be a grave error. But if the obscene organ was to be hacked off, what would make the clay construct a manly warrior?
Urgency and danger forgotten, the trio pondered the finer points of scriptures and lore, until master’s voice pronounced a verdict which was, in keeping the ghetto folk’s tradition, an ingenious sleight of mind.
Once it was done, they placed your head upon the neck, and glazed your face with the merged saliva of your makers.
Then, they gave you a name. Not one to call your own, this being a prerogative of the living.
No. The word master had inscribed in clotted warm blood and inserted in your unresisting mouth was a secret name of the divine maker.
The sacred word glowed on your tongue, and you were seized by a shock as profound as oceans being separated from the heavens: the unfathomable bewilderment of inanimate matter being granted motion.
A pellet of hail bounced off your shoulder as you struggled to your knees and opened your mouth to rejoice at this miracle.
But the secret name was the first word on your lips, and the uttering of such a name is forbidden, so gagging on the letters you learned this: the mud was mobilised mute.
Master patted your flailing head, and used the same dripping finger to write another word on your forehead, pressing hard into the wet clay. A word in the ancient tongue which could be read as both TRUTH and UNDEAD.
Thunderbolts lit the church spires as you followed master to the ghetto through narrowing streets, masking the cannon’s blast of your mighty feet pounding the cobblestones.
And with every step, you felt the hidden cock within, ramming your succulent inwards, unseen.
That concealed obscene prick had stiffened considerably in the eight days since, and the mob had come with the April sun, just like master predicted.
You know it is not only your humongous body, now decently attired, that make them balk at storming the gates, but the burning eyes and rabid grimace which strike true terror in their hearts.
Not a soul amongst the throng suspects that the cause of your berserk expression is unbearable internal friction.
But fear of your madness and strength won’t stall them forever. Goaded by the guards, the pack already starts pressing towards the ghetto, preparing to attack.
You raise hardened clay fists. Each the size on an anvil powered by crushing turmoil, and love.
They are legion and you are only one, dumb and unarmed, but you will stop the rubble or get smashed trying.
You’ll do this for master. Man, or not.
To be continued…