(An excerpt from The Boy Who Closed the Sky: A Novel of Elijah the Prophet. Elijah visits the future Biblical Tamar Park.)
A cut-in-crystal Milky Way rose against the ultra dark of the desert night.
“The sun goes down, and the sky is ours.”
In the morning, Elijah followed the path to a huge jujube tree. Shade. Not the deep velvet coolness of an Absalom oak, but thicker than the light gray pattern that fell from a broom tree. A generous spring gurgled. The first water he had seen coming out of the ground since Ein Gedi. He drank then refilled his water skins.
Beyond the jujube stood a fortress with soldiers marching three abreast on the walls.
Elijah climbed the slight rise and peeked inside.
Sandstone blocks as long as his arm and half as high formed a long entryway wide enough for fully loaded donkeys to pass each other without their baggage touching. In a deep, wide recess, spears leaned against the wall. A soldier glanced up then rolled a pair of dice.
Elijah shivered. He’d seen enough.
“The lentils inside are tasty, and they roast the chicken on acacia wood. But the mutton’s dry.” The voice came from a camel puller lounging next to the enormous blocks.
“Thank you, sir.” Elijah twitched his lips in a half smile. “I’ll be moving on.”
“First time down Scorpion’s Pass?” The camel puller stood.
Elijah nodded. “Wouldn’t want to make those turns at night.”
Jabbing a finger at Elijah’s chest, the man cocked his head with a swagger. “Gilead. King’s Highway. Can’t hide that high country accent. Been through there a dozen times.”
“My home.” With his wine-seller grin on full, Elijah jerked a thumb toward the fort. “What do they call this place?”
The puller stepped back and squinted at him. “Never thought I’d meet a child of Gilead who didn’t know Oboth.”
“No worries, son.” The puller tipped his head toward the jujube tree. “See, after your twelve tribes escaped from Egypt, Moses camped them here ’cause o’ the water.
“The fort came later. You saw those four chambers. When the commander packs troops in there, you’ve got spears aimed at your throat from four directions.” He gave a crisp nod. “Designed by King Solomon they say.”
from The Boy Who Closed the Sky, Chapter 41. Oboth