Day and night Gilgamesh harassed the young men and women of Uruk. He would not sleep, his heart was restless, even when he dreamt he dreamt with eyes open. When at last he arrived at the end of the world or the night, he was cured of his insomnia by Utnapishtim (our Noah), who challenged him to stay awake for six days and seven nights. Immediately he fell into a sleep so deep and dreamless that when six days and seven nights later Utnapishtim's light touch (and not a kiss) woke him up, it seemed to him that he had only just been standing and talking in his usual boastful fashion. Only when he was shown the now stale and mouldy breads that the wife of Utnapishtim has baked to measure the passing of time, one for each day, did he understand that he had been sleeping, and that death, like dreamless sleep, is not infinitely long but infinitely short, and that people spend their lives sleeping while their beautiful bodies go on decaying, and from that moment on he happily and unashamedly fell back into his old habits.

© 2009–2024, Martijn Wallage