Bewildering Stories

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Baal Hammon Ponders the Third Punic War

by Byron Bailey

What kind of God do these Carthaginians think I am? They kill their children in my name and then place the corpses into the arms of my idol. I want to hug those children to my chest and bathe their pain in my tears but my idol is not me. Instead, my idol merely grins idiotically as their bodies slide from its arms into the sacrificial flames. When the children burn, the flames lick away at their muscles, limbs contracting and mouth opening like they are laughing. They are not laughing, though. They are crying. I can hear them.

I never asked for this sacrifice! It is my consort Tanit, the moon, who finds the aroma of cremated children pleasing.

It all started with Dido. If the Romans conquer, they will undoubtedly change the story, say that Dido was crucified or killed with a sword. The Romans are a violent people. And they will probably have poor Dido pining away for one of their blood-thirsty heroes. After all, isn’t it every lice-infested centurion’s fantasy to have a Carthaginian woman lusting after him? The truth, though, is that Dido didn’t want any mortal’s bed. When she threw herself on top of that burning pyre, she gave herself to me.

The moon is a very jealous lover, though. With every cremated child, Tanit makes certain that the women of Carthage remember with their anguished tears that I am hers and not theirs. But I am not Tanit’s and I will not be appeased by burnt children. If the Carthaginians want to be saved from the wrath of Rome, they are going to have to start pleasing me!

All I want is what every male wants — beautiful women. Just make sure that when they are thrown into the flames that the moon is not in the sky to see.

Copyright © 2004 by Byron Bailey

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