"The most decisive actions of our lives are most often
unconsidered actions." Andre Gide
In the fifteenth century A.D., during the reign
of Yuzmin, King of Mullah-Banin (a now forgotten territory situated near
the mountains of Attain in the Middle East) a famous decree was made. The
young king who made it had a well-established reputation for his lavish
parties and bacchanalian orgies. Incredibly wealthy, King Yuzmin took such
pride in exceeding the renowned festivities of his forebears that at the
height of one of his most outrageous annual spectacles, the week long Homage
to Attis, the Phrygian god of fertility, Yuzmin declared that the rest of
his reign would be a perpetual revelry.
Fabulous mirrored rooms, dazzling cathedral arches, glimmering silver and
gold brocaded draperies, billowing silks, bejeweled statuary, walls of ornate
mosaic -- on every hand the palace of Yuzmin was devoted to excess. For
entertainment, Yuzmin had imported musicians of the most excellent caliber.
He had also assembled an astonishing collection of exotic dancers, voluptuous
and able-bodied, whose sole function was to bring unending delight to the
members of his court. But of his many treasures, Yuzmin took the greatest
pleasure from his harem of concubines, who were among the most beautiful
women in the world.
At times the mood in Yuzmin's court was feverish, electrifying, sensational,
swelling to a near riotous frenzy. At other times the mood was subdued,
seductive, and subtle. Like an ocean's unremitting surging and subsiding,
the perpetual celebrations in the palace of King Yuzmin continued without
While many believed this everlasting feast of sensual extravagance had been
arranged simply for the entertainment of his court and to impress emissaries
of foreign lands, King Yuzmin's true intent had been, in fact, to re-create
and experience on earth what he believed to be the glory of Heaven.
Thus it was that one hot and humid day, while Yuzmin was
feasting, enjoying the luxuries of his wealth, basking in a rapturous delirium,
he murmured, half aloud, half to himself, "Truly, I must be in Heaven."
To his surprise, a voice answered him, "Indeed not. You are in Hell."
Yuzmin twisted on his cushion and, seeing no one, said, "How can this
be Hell?" Without wondering from whence the voice had come he continued.
"It is not at all unpleasant to me. I have always associated Hell with
squalor and debauchery, ugliness, cruelty and terrorism. But here I have
assembled the most exquisitely beautiful women in the world. Are we not
witnessing the sumptuous and awe-inspiring splendor of God's handiwork?
Nor have I kept these pageantries to myself. I have shared them generously
with all who come! I say once more, how can this be Hell?"
"It is evident that you do not understand the nature of Heaven and
Hell," the voice replied. "Heaven is not merely the accumulation
of pleasures and delights. Heaven is the Presence of God. What is it you
truly seek? You have embraced Beauty, but have you captured God? You will
find Heaven when you find His Presence."
"Are we not now in His Presence? If God is everywhere, then I am in
His midst, am I not?"
The voice answered, "Do you really wish to find Heaven?"
"Oh yes, I truly do," said the king casually.
"You will receive your next instruction when you declare an end to
your perpetual celebration," said the voice.
Whether Yuzmin heard these last words or not, no one can say, for they had
no sooner been spoken than he found himself captured, captivated and caressed
by two of his most beautiful (and favorite) mistresses, the music of flute
players transporting him to new levels of ecstasy. It seemed to him the
high point of his life, and this time, when he said again, "Truly,
I must be in Heaven," there was no voice in reply.
For forty years the spectacle in Yuzmin's courts continued
without ceasing. On the fifteenth day of the seventh month, the bells were
chimed announcing the anniversary of what later came to be known as his
Decree of Perpetual Revelry.
In many respects nothing had really changed. A new generation of musicians
continued to play. A new generation of lithe, young dancers unveiled themselves
with carnal abandon. A new harem of beautiful courtesans had been bred and
purchased, yielding themselves in perfect submission to his every nod and
However, Yuzmin was no longer the enthusiastic, impulsive Adonis who performed
legendary self-indulgent feats of endurance with boundless energy and imagination.
For he had now become an old man, his pale grey skin splotched and wrinkled,
his colorless eyes staring unfocused and unseeing. His once easy smile had
been replaced by the thin, tight line of bloodless lips, ever drawn to conceal
the ill-fitting dentures which no amount of money had been able to adequately
engineer. And while the music poured forth in an endless stream, the rhythms
and tones had long ago settled into a drone to which his ears had become
So it was that shortly after dusk on the night the bells chimed, Bernice
the Younger drew near to him and said, "How long must we worship you,
Oh Master? When will you let us rest from seeking to bring you delight?
It has been so very long since you showed any signs of the awakening of
desire. How is it possible that we must continue this pointlessness?"
Seeing Bernice's boldness, another of his concubines likewise drew near
and lay beside him, saying, "Your heart is far from us, Oh Master.
What is it you truly seek?"
Yuzmin tilted his head back and tried to remember.
copyright 1994 ed newman
PERMISSION TO REPRINT GRANTED if attribution is cited.
Could you send me a note telling where you shared it?
an original story by ed newman
Back to Ed's Home Page