Eliyahu and Shiffy – twins – simultaneously gasped. They’d been fiddling with a dilapidated machine in a dusty alcove in the basement, and it was a time machine!

They were swept up in a hazy film of excitement that engulfed them. Adrenaline coursed through their veins.

Eliyahu felt bizarrely apprehensive. “Hush,” he hissed to Shiffy as she clambered out. “I feel like there’s a sense of foreboding in the air.”

Shiffy dutifully quieted. Following Eliyahu, she crept down the eerily silent street.

“Where is everyone?” she wondered. They surveyed the vacant street peculiarly. Eliyahu hit upon a clue. He beckoned to Shiffy.

Gesturing to a sign, he explained rapidly, “Look! This sign invites everyone to a party that King Belshatzar’s hosting! Maybe that’s where everyone is?”

“Maybe,” answered Shiffy. “Let’s check.”

They moseyed over to a vast storefront. “Entrance to Party,” it declared in embossed golden letters.

Creeping inside discreetly, Eliyahu’s guess was confounded. Shiffy didn’t feel secure.

“Uh, Eliyahu, let’s hide and observe what happens from a non-hazardous distance.”

They surreptitiously slipped over to a stand where they could watch the events unfolding.

Belshatzar rose. “Gentlemen, the reason for the feast on Yud Daled Nisan is those despicable Paras U’Madai soldiers, whom we loathe and abhor with a passion, have abandoned the siege. Therefore, there’s a feast! We’ve outmaneuvered those lousy soldiers and Koresh Melech Paras and Daryavesh Melech Madai!” He cheered exuberantly.

Suddenly, a hand came down from the sky. Literally. A collective gasp rose. The hand carved on the wall, “M’nei m’nei t’keil u’farsin.” The room went berserk.

Everyone erupted in a babble, struggling to perceive these eccentric symbols that nobody could decipher. Even Jews couldn’t comprehend it, because the ancient Hebrew script, K’sav Ashuri, had been forgotten over the years.

“Let’s ask that Jew, Daniel. You know, he used to be Nevuchadnetzar’s top advisor,” suggested someone.

They hastened to summon Daniel, now an old, wisened man. He hobbled feebly. Instantly, he read the words.

“What does that mean?!” barked Belshatzer roughly, but he was quaking.

“Hashem safar malchuso, v’ein lo maasim tovim, v’Hashem nasan eschem miydei Paras u’Madai,” responded Daniel, unflustered. “That means that Hashem judged your kingdom and you don’t have merits. Hashem handed you to Paras and Madai.”

The men exploded in conversation, as the party was hurriedly canceled. Shiffy and Eliyahu were left perplexed. “How could that be? I thought they backed off.”

“Dunno.” Eliyahu struggled to derive an adequate answer for his inquisitive twin. “We’ll know in due time.”

That evening, they were ambling aimlessly, and came across a disheveled Belshatzar. He was warning the guards sternly.

“Tonight, nobody may enter the building. And when I say nobody, I mean NOBODY, even if he claims to be the king!” stressed Belshatzar.

The guards nodded, adjusted their swords, and Belshatzar was pacified. However, Eliyahu could gauge that he was panicky.

Later, Shiffy witnessed Belshatzar pace. Again. And again.

Finally he thrust his hands up in exasperation. The twins heard him mutter, “Oh, I give up! I need to take a walk. But all the pesky people will pester me endlessly. Let me dress up so that they will not recognize me.” He had conveniently forgotten the explicit instructions he had given.

He donned a raggedy robe, and went to stroll through the garden, enjoying the breeze that was ruffling the leaves. The grass swayed peacefully. Fireflies buzzed, and crickets warbled a symphony.

Eventually, Belshatzar evidently relaxed and was equipped to tackle any hurdles that would be thrust at him. He straightened his shoulders and brushed a speck of lint off his robe.

He strode up the path to the mahogany door, when guards ambushed him all around. He yelped. “Wh-whaddaya think you’re doing?!”

“Halt. Who are you? What malicious intentions do you have up your sleeve?!” the chief guard rumbled in a booming voice.

“I-it’s me. B-B-Belshatzar!” stammered Belshatzar nervously. Shiffy and Eliyahu watched, silent spectators to the drama unfolding.

The guard nodded curtly to the others. “Do you remember the instructions that Belshatzar gave us. We must kill anyone who tries to enter the palace. They may be imposters.” With those last ominous, morbid words, Belshatzar was brutally killed by his own men.

Shiffy gave a shudder of revulsion and darted from the alcove that they were in, Eliyahu hot on her heels.

They slept in the time machine, oblivious to the chaos, as the Persians and Medes took over effortlessly, in one swoop.

The next morning, they approached a nondescript man meandering down the street. Eliyahu sashayed over to him nonchalantly and struck up a friendly conversation.

“Excuse me, but we were wondering how the Persians could take over if they backed off.”

“Do you know?” Shiffy chimed in with her own two cents.

“Well, there will be a public speech in which politicians will address citizens and explain how they took over. Why don’t you listen?”

The children sauntered over to where a burly officer adorned in gleaming medals strutted around. “Welcome to the Median government, led by King Daryavesh!

“The agreement that the Persians and Medes came to was as follows: They’d work together to vanquish Bavel, and then the king of Madai would reign, and the king of Paras would follow suit.

“I’m sure you are pondering how we were able to overtake the enemy so swiftly if we seemingly ‘backed off.’”

“Well, that was the clever ingenuity of our military leaders. We pretended to back off, so that the Bavlim would not be prepared, and then boom! They were dead!” he cackled wickedly.

Disgusted, Eliyahu and Shiffy shrunk back and scurried away, towards the sprawling hill where the time machine was nestled and twisted the brass dial about two thousand years forward...

Poof! The adventurous twins were home!

Ambling downstairs, their father turned to them apprehensively. “Where were you? I was looking! We’re about to play a Purim game about who knows the most about Belshatzar, because that’s the prelude to the Purim tale.”

Eliyahu and Shiffy erupted into paroxysms of laughter as they trailed behind their father.

 By Shoshana Glatt,
Sixth Grader at the Bais Yaakov of Queens