It is still a long time from daybreak, and the girl’s breast heaves as she mumbles something, some unclear word. She is so close at hand and yet, so far out of my reach.
Old David, alone in his chamber in Rise to Power
Young David coming to the court for the first time in Rise to Power
When I was first crowned king over my own tribe, I was such a vigorous young man that no illness could keep me away from my dear wives and concubines. If I would catch a cold, all of them would be sneezing. Not so this girl. Unlike all the women I have had since then, she is immune to my weaknesses. She is the one I will never know.
I am here with her, yet this chill is meant for me alone.
I hold my breath until she lulls herself back to sleep. Faint shadows start dancing on the wall. I read the shapes, trying to invent someone, a listener.
I whisper, Come in... Call me insane, who cares? Who the hell cares if you refuse to trust me, if you insist on clinging to your kind of reality, which is as dull as it is solid... Mine, I insist, is not a dream.
But even if it is... Even so, it is true! How can you deny it? Here is my story. I am opening it up to you.
I can see why at first glance what you see here—these letters which I jotted here, on these papyrus rolls—may seem scattered, even scary. I understand why you step back from my door, why you look over your shoulder to find the guard...
Come in! Will you? Will you read these scribblings? Can you see my sword, which I have drawn here, look! Can you see it the way I do, lifting out of the ink and into the air, turning magically over, around and around, right here in the center of the space?
If you can, then—by the flash of it—I shall take you along, to leap with me into the surface of the steely thing. Down into its depths. Into my reflection.
Old David, alone in his chamber in Rise to Power
Sitting nearly immobile, Saul seems as chalky as the walls around him. He sits crumpled—in an odd way—upon the throne. His nails keep digging into the little velvety cushions that are stretched over the carved armrests. Not once does he give a nod in my direction, nor does he acknowledge my presence in any other way.
Which agitates me. It awakens my doubt, doubt in my skill. Much the same as I feel in my father’s presence. Repressed. On the verge of acting out.
So, rising to my feet I blurt out, “Your majesty—”
“Don’t talk,” whispers one of the attendants. “Play.”
I am pushed a step or two backwards, so as to maintain proper distance from the presence of the king. My name is called out in a clunky manner of introduction, after which I am instructed to choose from an array of musical instruments. I figure they must be the loot of war. So when I play them, the music of enemy tribes shall resound here, around the hall.
I pluck the strings of a sitar, then put it back down and pick up a lyre, which I make quiver, quiver with notes of fire! Then I rap, clap, tap, snap my fingers, and just to be cute, play a tune on my flute, after which I do a skip, skip, skip and a back flip.
It is a long performance, and towards the end of it I find myself trying to catch my breath. Alas, my time is up. Even so I would not stop.
Entranced I go on to recite several of my poems, which I have never done before, for fear of exposing my most intimate, raw emotions, which is a risky thing for a man, and even riskier for a boy my age. Allowing your vulnerability to show takes one thing above all: a special kind of courage. Trust me, it takes balls.
So, having read the last verse I cast a look at the attendants, especially the ones closest to me. Their faces seem to have softened. I can sense them beginning to adore me. One of them comes over and taps my shoulder, which nearly knocks me off my feet. Another one laughs. Others wipe their eyes.
Then I glance at Saul, hoping for a tear, a smile, a word of encouragement. Instead I note an odd, vacant look on his face. Utter indifference. It stings me. Am I too short, too young, too curly for the role he has in mind for me?
The voice for the audiobook addition is simply regal. David George has a deep, resonant voice, the way I have imagined for the role of David, and he lets it change and mature as David grows up, starting as a young, carefree boy coming to the court from Bethlehem, through his adventures as a fugitive from the law, and ending as an young king. The story in Rise to power starts and ends in the voice of the old king, finding himself compelled to tell his story, which differs from the official version recounted by his historians. So you get a complete sense of him through the aging and deepening of the voice.
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