Title: What He Eats
Characters: Tom Riddle
Warnings: some violence and art involving some insect-people.
Summary: After Hepzibah's death, Voldemort sets out to find the Noah-like Utnapishtimn, an unique case of a human who has escaped death.
Disclaimer: All the characters, except for Voldemort, belong to humankind. Eventually, so will Voldemort (and ironically, he may attain a sort of immortality, albeit not the kind he envisioned for himself). But for now, he's all JKRs and I'm just giving him a taste of what could be.
Author's/artist's notes: One of archon_mentha's requests was for "something unusual" and "something from the years after Hepzibah's death and before Voldemort's return, featuring any world culture/myth mixed in with HP canon (for example, a young barely-transformed Voldemort interacting with Quetzalcoatl). Should be based on a real world myth though, not from another series of books or regular fandom.", with a preference for Gen. I hope that the choice of myth source (The Epic of Gilgamesh and related Mesopotamian myths), and the writing style, are not too unusual for you, and that you enjoy it!
Much thanks to S., P., and K.! Any remaining errors in the story are mine.
What He Eats
This fan fiction story, written in MSWord, was composed in April of 2007 by the late cat-lady turned fan-fiction writer, Mrs Bough of South Hammersex. Despite the year, the story was saved to outdated 3.5-inch floppy disks, and intended to be posted to an internet community, in instalments. Unfortunately, Mrs Bough, who often took breaks from her writing to argue online about the believability of canonised pairings, was killed when an anvil crashed through her roof. Many of the disks that her story was saved to were also damaged in the catastrophe. Thanks to the latest technology though, a significant amount of her writing could be retrieved, although sometimes in very small pieces. As a result, parts of the story had to be painstakingly reconstructed literally byte by byte.
This story assumes a number of things about Voldemort's character and history that, which like most things fannish, are subject to question. There is a long history of Harry Potter fan fiction stories which feature Voldemort in many incarnations (with and without Prada suits, or Death Eater sex orgies). This story offers us just a glimpse of a moment into that history. The story can be summarised briefly, but as with many traditional stories, whose original audience already knew the life of the characters and their adventures inside and out, the excitement was not so much in the cohesiveness of the plot, but in the rich smaller segments that made up the whole (and indeed, some of the smaller segments can hardly be called drabbles). That whole is not only the individual story, but the fannish recreation of the character and associated events by the participating audience, who recreate and re-birth the character for absorption into a new mythology.
WHAT HE EATS
DISK ONE, CHAPTER ONE
The two scorpions suspiciously eyed the man who approached the mountain gates. He was dressed in robes, fit for royalty. They clacked their claws warningly, but the man didn't show a hint of fear as he stood before them.
Ha tsu, hasha sa ta tsu, the scorpions spoke in a tongue the man couldn't understand. The scorpion wife stretched; the two-dozen little scorplings swung from where they held onto her body. She snorted over their mewling, Ha sha tsu ta.
The man cleared his throat and smiled. "Hello," he said. "I require passage."
"Who are you?" The scorpions asked, "and why have you come?"
"I am Lord Voldemort." When the scorpions just blinked blandly at his name, he continued, "I've come to speak to Utnapishtim, to learn the secrets of life and death."
Again, the scorpions spoke between themselves, glancing occasionally at the man. Ha sha, ha tsu. It sounded like laughter. Impatient, Voldemort cleared his throat. A scorpling jumped at the sound and slid down its mother's back, coming to rest at the base of her tail.
"You won't find what you are looking for," she said as her husband pulled the gates open.
"We will see about that," Voldemort said with a smile as he stepped through the gates to take the path of Shamash, the sun.
DISK ONE, CHAPTER TWO
(If you can't read the text in the image, click on it to enlarge it.)
When he had walked twelve double hours, and the sun was bright in the sky, he came to a lush garden. The trees were heavy with ripe fruits and there were all kinds of rare and valuable herbs. Lions and Mushrushu Dragons prowled the grounds, but when they saw him approach, they growled and ran away. Knowing the ways of the one he sought, he took a phial of Moly Tincture from his robes and tipped a few drops of the onion-y substance on his tongue. Then he continued down a narrow, winding path, through the densest part of the garden.
DISK TWO, CHAPTER ONE
At last he came to a clearing where a radiant young woman was drawing water from a well. Seeing him, she dropped her jug and ran into a nearby house, bolting the door. He drew his wand, and approached. Beside the door was a window, and below that was a table with lunch set out, a bottle of wine, and an opened jewellery box. It looked as if someone was in the middle of going through the treasures therein.
He rapped on the door. "Come out, or I'll break this door down."
"Please, don't hurt me," she begged from inside. "There's food and fine wine and priceless jewels on the table. They are fit for a king. Take them all. Just please don't hurt me."
He smiled and ran a finger over the ornate jewellery box, "I have no need for these things, but a glass of wine after such a long journey would be most refreshing."
He poured himself a glass and sipped the wine. He could see her shadow in the window, watching, waiting for him to finish. As soon as he drained the glass, and set it down, the locks were undone and door swung open. From the doorway, the young woman aimed a wand at him.
"Emû alpu," she cast, but nothing happened; the Moly Tincture protected him from being changed into an animal. "Emû alpu!"
"Why don't you put that away," he said, gesturing with his own wand.
Reluctantly, she lowered it to her side. "Who are you? Why is your strength wasted, your face sunken, why has evil fortune entered your heart, done in your looks?"
He laughed and flicked his wand at her; she collapsed, screaming in pain from the Cruciatus Curse. When it stopped, she curled up on her side and... [text missing] ... over and over.
"Now, tell me how to reach Utnapishtim."
"You can't. The boatman has been cursed, his boat destroyed..."
He pushed her over with his foot, and pressed his boot warningly against her neck. "I know that. Tell me how to do it without him."
"There- there's a potion that can be made, to go by air instead of water..."
"Can you make it?"
He stepped back. "Then get up. You have work to do."
DISK TWO, CHAPTER TWO
[text missing] ...
... gave him a box of smashed stone amulets, destroyed by Gilgamesh, who came this way last. Voldemort repaired them with a charm; the woman strung them onto a cord, and fastened this around his neck for protection.
She sent him out to capture an Urnu Snake. He tied its legs together, pinned back its wings and cut its neck, to spill its blood into a cauldron. She added herbs, and salts, and feathers from the Sacred Ibis. It was then rendered down to a thick paste. One spoonful would give him wings long enough to fly over The Waters of Death. A second dose was bottled for his return.
He ate the paste and with ibis wings, he swooped over the glassy black water. It was so peaceful that he didn't fear cautiously venturing down to scoop some into a phial for future studies. With tongs, he tipped a phial into the water. Suddenly, a grey and waterlogged hand grabbed it. He let go, flying upwards. The stone amulets blazed with protective light. His heart beat furiously, but he refused to acknowledge any emotion associated with it. He glanced back, but all signs of the disturbance had vanished; there was not so much as a ripple on the surface of the dark water.
He continued flying, and soon, he could see the island, and Utnapishtim's house not far off the coast.
DISK TWO, CHAPTER THREE
[text missing] ...
... he asked, "Why is your strength wasted, your face sunken, why has evil fortune entered your heart, done in your looks?"
Voldemort laughed. "I crossed a desert, I walked through the Machu Mountains, I killed an Urnu Snake, and I flew over the Waters of Death, and you call my strength wasted? I could sink this island into the sea, or raise it up to the moon. Power is what runs through my veins."
"If you are so powerful, what do you seek here?"
"The secret of life and death. The gods made you immortal Utnapishtim, tell me how to gain this for myself."
Utnapishtim shook his head, "Do we build a house forever? Does hostility last forever between enemies? Does the bird forever soar higher? From the beginning, there is no permanence."
"I did not come here for truisms!" he shouted, whipping out his wand.
Utnapishtim appeared unconcerned at Voldemort's action. "You came here for secrets. Sit and I will tell you one."
Voldemort, who had no power to threaten Utnapishtim with death, reluctantly sat. Utnapishtim told the story of when man became too numerous on earth and their noise and disrespect angered the gods, he was cleverly warned by Ea of a great flood that was planned. Ea instructed him on how to build an ark so mankind and the many species that creep and crawl on the earth could be saved. When Enlil sent the flood, it was terrible. Entire cities were swept away without a single survivor. Even the gods were terrified. Without mortals, who would build their temples, and set out offerings of food? They curled up like rain-whipped dogs and wailed at the door to the highest heaven, Anu. The honey-tongued Ishtar cried out like a woman giving birth, "How could I speak evil in the Assembly of the Gods? How could I make a complaint against mankind, when I myself gave birth to them? This is not what I thought would happen!" Even the Annunaki wept with her in regret.
Voldemort rolled his eyes at the Mother Goddess' regret, but Utnapishtim did not falter in telling how the flood rose and the gods wept for six days, until the seventh, when the storm broke and the sun shone. Ea scolded Enlil for punishing the innocent with the guilty. The gods demanded he atone for his carelessness, so he took Utnapishtim and his wife, blessed them and sent them here, to the source of all rivers to live forever.
"In your case, who will assemble the gods for you, that you may have the life you seek? Test yourself. Do not sleep for six days and seven nights."
"Your story nearly put me to sleep, old man, but your challenge I accept."
DISK THREE, CHAPTER ONE
For six days and seven nights, the sun rose and set.
For six days and seven nights, Voldemort drank an alertness potion.
For six days and seven nights, Utnapishtim's wife marked the time by baking a loaf of bread.
For six days and seven nights, Voldemort ate fresh bread drizzled with honey and milk.
For six days and seven nights, time stood still.
DISK THREE, CHAPTER TWO
[text missing] ...
"...Now, keep your end of the bargain. Tell me the secrets..."
... parsel [tongue] ...
... slithered ...
... thigh ....
[text missing] ...
DISK THREE, CHAPTER THREE
[text missing] ...
"Gods, hear us....
... cursed Shamash's daughter....
... killed the ....
... my wife has baked bread to show the passage of time, but he eats it before it can turn grey....
... [as]ault[ed?] ...
... worst house guest ever!"
[text missing] ...
DISK FOUR, CHAPTER ONE
[This entire chapter is missing, but apparently, the goddess Ishtar has answered the prayers of Utnapishtim and his wife. Voldemort has been removed from the island. She may have attempted to seduce him. Whether this reached an NC-17 level of description, or not, is left up to the readers' imagination. Additionally, they seem to have come upon some kind of a bargain: she will give him a divine gift in exchange for his Wawu. No one, however, is sure what Voldemort's Wawu actually is. Some have conjectured that it is his wand, penis, semen, a pipe, a courgette, or possibly a typo. See Smythe for an even-handed discussion and overview on the evidence of these, and other interpretations.]
DISK FOUR, CHAPTER TWO
[text missing] ...
... [Sly]therin sex g[od]....
"... to flatter me .... [but] I will not be your husband."
"I would not ask you, nor would I accept [if you ask]ed. You are unloved and love not," the Goddess of Love laughed. "Now, as we agreed, in exchange for your Wawu, come, we must go to where all life begins and returns...."
She took him down the Euphrates, past reed-hut villages, past the flocks of water-birds. She took him past the grazing water-buffalo, past the leopard that was gnawing on the carcass of a wild goat, past the maggots that made the skin of a dead wolf crawl, past the eaters of life, past the eaters of death, past the eaters of the eaters. She took him to the silt islands where the sweet water met the salt water. On this island were two snake-people, slithering along the watery edges.
"Lakhmu! Lakhamu!" Ishtar addressed them in the language of snakes. "We wish to see Enki!"
"Who is he?" the snakes asked in their own language. "Why is he here?"
"I am Lord Voldemort," he hissed, surprising them that he knew their language. "And I seek the secrets of life and death."
The serpents, Lakhmu and Lakhamu, slithered the path of a circle. They tightened the circle. They created a portal. Ishtar and Voldemort stepped inside and sank through the blue-green waters to the Great Abyss.
DISK FOUR, CHAPTER THREE
Not far from where their feet touched the shifting floor of the Great Abyss, was a plant that gave a soft glow to the otherwise dark world. Long broad leaves like wings gently waved in the water. Spikes, like nails, covered its stems. If he grasped it, it would cut his hands, but this did not matter. He knew this plant from books; it was the Plant of Openings, the Plant of Youth, the plant Gilgamesh named "The Old Man Shall Be Young Again Plant". He would cultivate it, forever, and eat it, forever, and live forever... eating it....forever eating....
... He grabbed it.
Suddenly, silvery white creatures came up around him. All of his plans were stripped from him. He felt things he couldn't stand to feel. Weak, his body slumped to the ground.
When he awoke, he was on a bed, surrounded by darkness, except for a faint rippling of blue-green far above.
"His strength is wasted, his face sunken," said a man's voice. "Evil fortune has entered his heart, done in his looks."
"It's not," Voldemort said, struggling to sit up. "I'm not weak, I..."
Hands gently pushed him down.
"Voldemort, this is Enki. Enki, Voldemort," Ishtar introduced them.
"You're not supposed to say it," he said, horrified to hear his name spoken by another, horrified to hear the weakness in his protest.
"Mm hm," Enki patronisingly patted Voldemort's shoulder. After a moment, he said, "I hear that you've come looking for the secrets of life and death. You knew to grab the Plant of Openings. It is not much of a secret, is it now? You did not swim away with it though, and you cannot bring yourself to ask me why. I will tell you anyway. The Anunnaku who are the judges of the Great Abyss, purify all those who come here by sucking all the hate and greed and evil out of them. Most people have enough love within them to..."
"I don't need love," Voldemort spat. "It is a weakness."
Enki paused. "I think Ishtar brought you to the wrong place."
Enki formed a portal. He opened a passage from the Great Abyss to the Great Below. The smell of death came toward them. It was the smell of rotting meat and dust and sewage. Voldemort clutched the bed-sheets. Were they going to cast him into the depths of the Underworld? Would his body die, leaving only his incomplete set of Horcruxes? No! He wasn't ready yet! He trembled under the bed sheets. He couldn't stand to feel this way. He couldn't stand to feel like he did as an orphan, before those first signs of magic.
Ereshkigal could be seen through the opening, Ereshkigal, Queen of the Great Below. He eyes were empty tunnels. No garment covered her stone like body.
"Ereshkigal, this is... a human who does not like the sound of his own name," Enki said.
Voldemort covered his face with the sheets. He didn't know if he was... this feeling, or that feeling. It did not matter which, he refused to name them; he refused to believe this was happening. It was a dream. He would wake up. This would be over....
DISK FIVE, CHAPTER ONE
... [He says he wants to know the] secrets of life and death. Let us educate him on the ways of the Great Below."
"...body that gave you joy, will be eaten by vermin like old clothes. It will be filled with dirt. The mouth with which you ate.... it will be filled with dust, and the..."
Enki asked, "The man who has no son, can you tell us of him?"
Ereshkigal answered, "I can; he..."
Voldemort pulled the sheets tight over his head like a shroud...
pressed his hands against his ear...
... ["The man] who has two sons, can you tell us of him?"
"I can; he lives in a brick house and eats bread."
"The man who has three sons, can you tell us of him?"
"I can; he..."
Voldemort began to feel stronger. He realised that these "gods" sought only to mock him from the beginning. They had no intentions of revealing the secrets of life and death, no matter what challenges he met. He would show them. Plans for revenge were already swimming through his mind. Beside him, the "gods" were still talking.
"The man who has six sons, can you tell us of him?"
"I can; he is like the man who guides the plow... full of pride."
Voldemort tugged the bed sheets from his head. He recognised the dark creatures beside the Queen of the Great Below, even though heavy cowls hid their rotten faces. He smiled to himself. He smiled at his good fortune. He let the gods continue talking as he regained his strength.
DISK FIVE, CHAPTER TWO
"The one who died a sudden death, can you tell us of him?"
"I can; he sleeps on a couch and drinks pure water."
"The one who was slain in battle, can you tell us of him?"
"I can; his father raises his head and his wife tends the corpse."
Voldemort interrupted. The Queen of the Great Below turned her empty eyes on him.
"The creatures at your side, what are they?" he asked.
"They are also of the Anunnaku. These are the judges of the Great Below."
"I have changed my mind. I no longer seek the secrets of Life and Death. I seek to speak the language of the Anunnaku."
For seven seconds and seven seconds, there wass no response. Then Enki touched Voldemort's head, blessing him. There was a low murmur of [voices]...
An awareness that was just...
... to surface....
"...[I am] Lord Voldemort."
"...[I am] Pirittu, and this is Lamuttu," it said between rattling breaths.
"I know your descendants, across the world. Wizards call them Dementors. We will make great allies and rise up against the Wizards... against Muggles, against these 'gods', against all who stand in our way....
.... more powerful together .... and show them..."
DISK FIVE, CHAPTER ONE
[text missing] ...
... and then left.
... through the blue-green...
.... [text missing]...
..."The man who has never loved, and never been loved; The man who has no one left to remember good things of him, can you tell us of him?"
"I can; the left-overs of the pot, the scraps of bread thrown into the gutter, what no dead dog will eat, that is what he eats."