When the Gods Fell (Part 1/5)
The spiritual life staff at the Pioneer will be posting a five-part series on the ten plagues of Egypt. This is a fictional account of true events and has been recorded as accurately as possible. Please remember that the underlying message of this story is the ultimate glory of God and the opinions expressed in this narrative do not necessarily represent the opinions of the author.
“Sekhet,” my mother hissed. “Get away from there!”
I heard her voice demanding me, but somehow I could not stop my fingers from reaching out to pull the curtain aside.
“He’s coming down this hallway,” I whispered. “His brother is behind him.”
She quickly smacked my hand away and the curtain fell back over the door.
“I told you to get away,” she whispered harshly, her fingers tightening around my wrist. “He and his demon magic have no power here.”
Silently, I backed away from the door.
My mother’s face softened and she rubbed her forehead.
“Go get dressed,” she sighed and pointed to the door, now bidding me to go to it. “Your mistress will be waiting for you.”
My lady. In my excitement, I had nearly forgotten her.
Not pausing to even grab my sandals, I rushed from my mother’s chambers, down the long hall that the tall, mysterious man that half of Lower Egypt was infatuated with, had disappeared from just moments before.
Pharoah had sent for him, no doubt. What else would the most hated, yet most fascinating man in all of Egypt be doing in the Memphis palace?
Quickly, I made my way down the hallways to the Pharaoh’s harem, stopping by the kitchens to see if they had yet discovered the magic secret to baking bread without water.
We had been chewing rolls as hard as rocks for nearly a week now.
As I neared the harem, the smell got stronger and I had to cover my nose and mouth with a hand. Seven days, and yet still my lungs refused to breathe in the stench of blood and death.
“Sekhet,” came a whisper, muffled by its owner’s own hand. “There you are. Lady Nefertari has been asking for you. She is going down to the Nile to pray and wishes you to come along.”
“Amunet,” I greeted my fellow servant girl. “Why does she do such a thing?”
Though my lady was a faithful woman, I could not see why even she would wish to go down to the Nile now.
“She’s distraught,” Amunet said in low tones. “She wants to know why Hapi would allow such an abomination against him.”
I swallowed back my bile. I must keep my duty to my lady and to the gods, no matter how disgusted I was.
Gathering up my gall, I wiped any stray kohl from my eyes and straightened my tunic over my shoulders.
I entered with my eyes to the floor, head bowed. My left hand clenched tightly around my right wrist to prevent the temptation to cover my nose.
“Sekhet,” Lady Nefertari called to me, never raising her voice.
“My lady,” I gave a slight head bow out of respect.
“Quickly,” she handed me a headdress to cover my bare, black locks. “We must go down to the Nile and beg Hapi to remove this curse from us.”
Nearly every morning since I had been alive, I had followed Lady Nefertari out through the harem gardens and down the steps to stand in the Nile and pray, and thought nothing of it. But this day it took everything inside of me to not gag.
Instead of our beautiful, life-giving Nile, there was only blood.
Many of the maidservants turned their faces away, hoping Nefertari wouldn’t bid us to step into the water, as red as death.
“Hail to thee, oh Nile!” Lady Nefertari began. “Who manifests thyself over this land-”
The servants joined in her chant.
“And comes to give life to Egypt! Come and prosper! Come and prosper! Oh, Nile, come and prosper! Oh you who make men to live through his…”
My lady’s voice faded away and all the servants’ praying dissolved into whispers.
Across the water, five figures emerged from the palace and stepped down to the water.
The first I recognized as clear as day, our Pharaoh. Ra’s son incarnated in flesh, and my lady’s husband.
The next two were his guards, flanked on either side of him.
Following behind was a bony man with a skinny, brown beard hanging from his chin, and a tall exotic woman with bronzed shoulders and foreign clothes of primitive, but beautiful material. And after that-
Lady Nefertari straightened her long neck and hissed like a cobra.
“Moses,” she spat his name like a curse.
My mother had once told me that when she was young, Moses had been a prince of Egypt. Pharaoh was going to make him the next king, the next god, but Moses had murdered an Egyptian in cold blood and escaped into the desert, thought to be dead for forty years.
He hardly looked like prince now. He was tall, much taller than his wife, though she towered even over one of Pharaoh’s guards by a few inches. His chestnut colored hair was still dark, though sprinkled with gray. His shoulders were still broad and his cheekbones were still high. And he had an air of authority about him, though it was not cold and brutal authority. Instead it was a quiet and gentle power that covered him more real than the cloak on his back.
He had a hurried conversation with Pharaoh, then he held his staff to his brother who took it and stretched it over the water.
“He and his demon magic have no power here!” My mother’s words repeated themselves in my head as a dead fish floated past the steps.
“But he does, ” I whispered aloud.
Aaron’s hand stretched over the water with easy confidence, then he handed the staff back to Moses and they disappeared.
“Ammon, what are you doing?!” I cried as I entered my mother’s chambers.
My little brother looked up from his task and giggled.
“Look, Sekhet!” he said with a smile. “It’s a frog.”
It indeed was a frog, jumping around on the floor.
“Frogs belong in the Nile,” I said matter-of-factly, then realized my mistake.
“There is no Nile,” Ammon whispered, his black eyes getting round. “Hapi has abandoned us.”
My heart caught in my throat.
“Don’t speak of such heresy,” I hissed, reaching to the slimy frog and cupping it in my hands. “Hapi has not abandoned us. Moses has no power over the might of Egypt.”
Immediately I remembered the look on Moses’ face as his brother stretched his hand over the bloody waters and I swallowed back a sudden wave of fear.
Pulling the curtain back, I nudged the frog out of mother’s chambers and shut the curtain.
I’m not quite sure what woke me up. Perhaps it was a sticky sensation next to my cheek. Maybe it was the roaring sound – quite like thunder, yet closer and louder- in my ears. But sometime before the Ra had even begun his journey through the sky, I bolted awake with a scream.
I was not alone in my terror. If I’d had the sense to look, I would have noticed my mother pressed against the wall in the corner, two white-knuckled hands clutching a broom.
Without thinking I swatted at a small, croaking shadow that lay on my stomach.
The room was filled with frogs. Hundreds perhaps, though it was impossible to keep count. They were jumping on every bare surface and even on top of each other, deafeningly loud.
“Mother?” I cried, looking over to her.
She pressed herself even closer to the wall, her uncoiled eyes wide and ghoulish in the half-light.
“Heka’s curse is upon us!” she shouted over the roar of the frogs.
My mind went again to the image of Aaron, his hand stretched over the blood-red Nile, his eyes lifted heavenward.
“It is Moses’ doing!” I shouted back. “His God has sent the frogs!”
My mother did not answer, but shook her head vigorously.
Slowly I gathered the courage to rise from my mat.
I brushed a frog away, but as I went to stand, another frog put itself in the other one’s place. Cringing, I shoved my foot underneath it and stood on wobbly legs.
“I must go to Lady Nefertari,” I raised my voice to drown out the frogs.
She nodded and slowly began to work her way to my side of the room, using her broom to gently brush the frogs out of her way.
“Get dressed quickly,” she said. “She will already be awake.”
I tiptoed precariously through the maze of frogs to the small box in the corner that held all of our possessions and pulled out my linen and added kohl to my eyes.
“Here,” my mother held out the broom. “Take this with you.”
I knew she didn’t like the idea of going without it, but she was offering it to me, so I took it.
Though it was far before morning, tired-eyed servants were already bustling about the hallways, each attempting to make their way through the mass of frogs quickly.
I used the broom to gently nudge the frogs out of the way, but as soon as one was gone, another one would appear.
Halfway to Lady Nefertari’s chambers, a maid with dark circles under her eyes met me.
“Sekhet,” she sighed when she saw me, “Thank goodness I’ve found you. Lady Nefertari has been asking for you.”
Her headdress was crooked and the kohl around her eyes was smudged and she reached up to wipe a bit from her face.
“Quickly,” she said. “She will not rest until you are there.”
I had thought as much. I was one of Lady Nefertari’s favorites. Ever since my family had sold themselves to the Pharaoh’s household when I was no more than a toddler. Though she rarely ever bothered herself in servant affairs, she had found me working beside my mother in the kitchens.
“What is your name?” she had asked me, leaning over to look me in the eye.
“Sekhet,” I had said, shyly. “After the warrior goddess.”
Lady Nefertari had taken me into her service that very day, and though I still stayed in my mother’s chambers, I knew she would soon ask me to move to chambers closer to hers.
I still used the broom to work my way down the halls, following behind the impatient maid.
“Sekhet!” Lady Nefertari shouted over the frogs.
I had hardly thought it possible, but there were more frogs here than before. They were piled onto each other, covering the couches, the bed, clinging to the curtains.
She had not yet prepared for the day. Her eyes were unkohled, her hair was undressed.
“My lady,” I bowed quickly. “Let me help you prepare for your day.”
She nodded and I quickly rushed to grab her linens, made of a fine fabric, and a simple wig.
“Not that one,” she shook her head. “I am to accompany our Pharaoh to meet Moses.”
“Of course,” I said and reached for another one, heavy with beads and a golden cobra protruding from the forehead.
“You will come with me, of course,” she said. “And I will bring Amunet, and that doe-eyed girl. What is her name?”
I caught Amunet’s gaze and shook my head, signaling that I didn’t know the girl’s name. In fact, I couldn’t think of any doe-eyed girl. Not one that stood out to me at least.
One of the servant girls pulled a curtain back.
“Ra has risen,” she said, allowing the curtain to fall back into place.
Lady Nefertari caught another servant by the arm.
“You,” she said, looking the girl in the eyes, “What is your name?”
“Anitza,” said the girl.
“Yes, you,” Lady Nefertari said, letting go of the girls arm. “You are to accompany me with Amunet and Sekhet.”
“Of course, my lady,” the girl said, her eyes roaming the frog covered ground.
I spared a glance at Anitza. I had not seen this girl before. She indeed did have wide eyes, not Egyptian. The lines of her face were gentler. Her eyebrows were thick and arched gracefully down to meet wide brown eyes in a round face. Her skin was tan -not Egyptian bronze, and her hair was not straight and black, but brown and full of curls.
My eyes roamed over her in scrutiny. She dressed like an Egyptian, she talked like an Egyptian. She was not an Egyptian.
She caught my gaze and blushed.
“Come,” I gestured to her. “We must prepare. We will be in the presence of our Pharaoh.”
It was nearly impossible to get through the frogs in a timely manner. I walked ahead of Lady Nefertari with my broom, brushing the frogs out of the way temporarily.
When we reached the throne room, Nefertari gestured for me to leave the broom outside.
We had to swat the frogs away in order for her to take her seat next to Pharaoh.
Silently, we stood behind her, our heads bent and hands clasped, though it was hard to stay unmoving with slimy frogs crawling over my feet. One of the bigger frogs ate one of the littler frogs, and I tried hard to erase the image of it’s skinny legs dangling out of pink jaws.
The door opened wide and Moses and Aaron swept through, stepping over frogs and tile.
Pharaoh stood up out of his seat to speak, but Moses began before Pharaoh had even opened his mouth.
“Pharaoh,” he spoke in a loud and dominating voice. “Will you now let my people go?”
I shook at his words.
Pharaoh’s face betrayed his annoyance.
“If you take away this plague,” he spoke through clenched teeth. “I will let your people go to worship in the wilderness.”
I dared glance towards Lady Nefertari. Her eyes flickered towards the Pharaoh nervously. I understood her worry. Why would Pharaoh be so quick to let the Israelites go?
“Women and children as well?” Moses countered.
“Down to the very last one,” Pharaoh agreed. His jaw was working back and forth.
“Which day will you have the curse lifted?” Moses asked.
“Tomorrow,” Pharaoh said immediately. “The curse must be lifted by tomorrow, and then you will have your three days in the wilderness.”
“Then I will go and pray to my God,” he said. “If it pleases Him, He will lift this curse from you.”
“Who is this God?” Amunet whispered. “How can he have any power over the gods?”
I wished terribly to know the answer, but as Moses and his brother disappeared from the room, I had never felt so in the dark.
Posted on October 28, 2013, in Spiritual Life, Top Stories and tagged africa, Amunet, ancient egypt, biblical fiction, Book of Exodus, Egypt, egyptian fiction, fiction, God, Hapi, historical fiction, Lower Egypt, Moses, Nile, Pharaoh, Plagues of Egypt, short story. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.