It is whispered, a faint but urgent murmur.
These fools surrounding me think I don’t see them turn away or suddenly stop speaking as I approach or paste their sickly courtier smiles on their sickly courtier faces.
It’s in the bazaars like a rumor of free pomegranates, or figs fresh from the orchards; in the caravans passing through to Egypt and Damascus. It slinks its poisonous venom among my own barracks troops. My sons speak haltingly, stuttering their nervousness in front of me, not concerned for their father, of course, never for their father. They hear the mutterings and their self-obsession trembles for their futures.
It’s in the very wind that dries and sears my palace walls, the burning that parches my throat with a thirst no wine or water can satisfy, the wind that taunts and dares me to respond.
The wind blows its foul breath and whispers Messiah. The Messiah comes.
I order my priests to search their precious scrolls, my scribes to examine the court archives, my astrologers to study the stars and the heavens and tell me what they find in the alignments and movements. They come before me, my priests, my scribes, my astrologers, they come before me with the necks bent, waiting for the sword to slice their impunity.
My wife tells me she dreams of Messiah.
All of them fools. A pack of fools. Superstitious idiots.
They do not know what kings do to messiahs.
We destroy them.
Even if the wind whispers the name.
Illustration: Bust of Herod the Great, 1st Century B.C.; Florence.