When the Gods Fell (Part 4/5)
The flies are gone, but devastating news is tearing the palace to shreds. All of the livestock of Egypt have mysteriously died of disease in the night. Although Sekhet feels herself falling out of Lady Nefertari’s favor, her mistress trusts her, personally, with this information in secret. Sekhet advises her lady on the subject, but she rejects the counsel. As Sekhet is leaving Lady Nefertari’s chambers, she bumps into Anitza who she suspects of eavesdropping. The girls delve into a heated argument, and are interrupted as a hoard of locusts descend on Egypt, but not before Anitza says something that proves she is undoubtedly a traitor to Egypt. The two girls and Amunet take shelter under a bed just before the hoard descends.
I lay underneath the bed, barely breathing. Amunet squirmed on one side of me, Anitza lay cold as death on the other. The hoards of locusts had passed, but we dared not move from where we lay.
“Sekhet?” Anitza sighed softly. “Do you still live?”
I drew a long breath.
“I’m still alive,” I assured.
“I am sorry for what I said,” she whispered. “I didn’t mean it… in the heat of the moment I said things I didn’t mean.”
I pressed my face to the cold stone floor, hoping to find warmth there, but there was none.
“Do you mean to kill us all with your blasphemy, Anitza?” I asked.
“No,” her voice was high-pitched in the silence. “I…I am a Hebrew. An Israelite. I’m one of the people of Moses.”
“I should have guessed as much,” I said with a shiver. I felt as if my whole body was slowly growing cold, starting from my fingertips, and ending in my heart. “You are not like any Egyptian. And you talked much of Moses’ demon of a God. I should have seen.”
Amunet’s gentle hand on my right arm stopped me from continuing.
“I am sorry, Sekhet,” Anitza said. She rolled out from under the bed and stood. “I am returning to Goshen, the land of the Israelites. I should never have come here.”
“It is better this way,” I said, icily. “It is dangerous to be an Israelite these days.”
“Forgive my words, Sekhet, but as I see it, it is much more dangerous to be an Egyptian.”
I turned my face from her, but I could hear the padding of her bare feet on stone as she disappeared. Her threat was blown away in the wind that carried the hoards far from Egypt.
The next morning, a layer of ash fell from the skies in Egypt.
Where it came from was a mystery, but it fell and landed in our skin and hair, and as it touched us, it covered us in huge, open sores.
What fate had befallen Anitza, I didn’t know. I hid in Lady Nefertari’s chambers with the rest of the maidservants for nearly a day and a night. We didn’t dare to leave, or even look outside. We covered our sores in ointments and herbs, but there was no relief.
“Sekhet,” Amunet moaned, sliding down the cool stone wall to sit beside me. “What is happening to Egypt?”
I turned away from her so I would not have to look at the hideous sores on her arms and legs. Miserable tears filled my stomach.
“I wish I knew, Amunet,” I replied, pressing myself closer to the cool stone for relief.
“Was Anitza right?” she asked.
I didn’t answer her question. I didn’t want to think about Anitza, or any Hebrew for that matter. I wanted to be left alone in my pain.
“Surely we’ll die,” she said. “Moses and his people have taken everything from us. What’s left but our lives?”
I shuddered and drew my knees up to my chest.
“I wish for death,” I breathed quietly.
Amunet nodded and huddled close against me. We didn’t sleep. I felt tired and yet restless, and sweated with fever. I felt disgustingly dirty.
It was too uncomfortable to move, so we sat miserably cold and yet hot.
When the night was starting to end, and Ra began to take his place in the sky, someone tapped my shoulder, arousing me from a tormented half-sleep. Amunet was no longer at my side.
“Sekhet,” my name was whispered. “Sekhet, wake up.”
A hand clutched painfully at my shoulder and pushed me out of my twilight dreams.
Anitza hovered over me, her fingers digging into me.
“I thought…you were gone,” I wheezed through a dry throat.
“I heard of the plague and came to see if anyone still lived,” she said.
I forced myself to lift my head.
“Unfortunately,” I replied, then remembered something. “Lady Nefertari?” I asked.
“She is fine, Sekhet,” Anitza released her grip on me and put a hand to my forehead. “You burn,” she whispered. Her tongue tsked away as she tended to my open wounds.
“You have no sores,” I noted.
“No,” she said. “The people of Goshen have not been affected by this sickness.”
I felt sleep coming on me again, my head lulled back. I gripped Anitza’s hand.
“Don’t let me fall asleep,” I said.
“Rest will fight the infection, Sekhet,” she assured.
I closed my eyes, but didn’t fall asleep until she left.
When I woke the next morning, my sores were gone. It felt nearly impossible that the torture, still feeling so near, could suddenly have left in the night. My hands were still shaky and my throat still dry, but my skin was covered in only small scars where the sores used to be.
Scars…how could this be possible?
It was silent in Lady Nefertari’s chambers. Not a living soul could be seen.
I lifted myself from the floor and stretched my cramped limbs.
Walking around on tentative feet, I searched for someone- anyone.
Opening the curtain to Lady Nefertari’s bedchambers, I found it empty.
“Hello?” I called. “Is there anyone?”
“Sekhet?” someone called from the other room.
I entered and found Anitza and Amunet seated on a table. An open pack was in front of them full of food and blankets.
“Where is everyone?” I asked.
“They have fled,” Anitza said. “They are afraid that the sickness will come back.”
I spare a glance at the scars on my arms.
“Lady Nefertari?” I asked.
“She has gone, Sekhet,” Amunet whispered. “Pharaoh is still here, but he has sent her to Thebes until…” she looks to Anitza.
“Until the Israelites are annihilated,” Anitza said without skipping a beat.
I shuddered at the thought. Hadn’t there been enough destruction already?
“And she left us here?” I asked.
“She asked for you,” said Anitza. “But no one could find you and everyone was in such a hurry. Nefertari was disoriented enough to allow them to lead her away… without you.”
My stomach dropped a little.
“We are going to Goshen,” she continued. “Come with us, Sekhet,” she said, crossing the room to place a hand on my shoulder. “There’s nothing left for us here.”
I silently wondered where my family was. Had they escaped the plague?
“Sekhet, there is another plague coming swiftly. We must make it to Goshen before nightfall or something terrible will be upon us. Please come,” Amunet pleads.
I looked around me at the pillars of stone, this palace that had been my home all my life. Suddenly, my throat choked with tears.
“I…I can’t,” I said.
“Sekhet, please,” Amunet reached for my hands. “We will die here.”
I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t leave.
Turning on a heel, I ran from Lady Nefertari’s chambers. Down the hallways, up a set of stairs, past the kitchens, and burst through the door to my family’s chambers.
It was empty. Not a single bed roll or empty chest remained.
“Sekhet?” Amunet’s voice from behind me called. “Come with us.”
Hurry, hurry, hurry
I’d never been down this road before. The dust from the road rubbed in my sandals and left ugly blisters. A stabbing pain below my rib cage begged for a rest, but Anitza wouldn’t let us stop.
We had been walking for hours. Now we were running. A huge, black cloud was coming from the North, promising rain, or much worse.
“I can’t do it, Anitza,” I slowed my pace a little.
“No, Sekhet,” she said, pushing at me to go faster. “We’re almost there. Don’t stop.”
“We’ve been walking all day,” I whimpered.
“If we stop now, we will surely die,” Anitza said, looking nervously up at the black cloud, seemingly closer to us than last I looked.
“See, Sekhet?” Amunet called from ahead. “There is the city! I see rooftops.”
A city indeed.
It was not a city, not as I would see it anyways. Houses of mud bricks and straw roof were strewn over rocky, uneven streets as far as the eye could see.
“This is the land of the Hebrews,” Anitza said. “Hurry.”
Hurry, hurry, hurry
We hastened down streets, my sandals catching on uneven stones.
“My father’s house isn’t far from here,” Anitza declared.
I looked back at the looming black cloud. If it caught us, what would be left?
Nut, please protect us, I prayed in my head.
I kept running, but Anitza called my name sharply and grabbed my collar, hauling me into through a small door and into the safety of a dimly lit house.
Posted on November 23, 2013, in Spiritual Life, Top Stories and tagged africa, Amunet, Egypt, God, Goshen, Hebrew language, Israelite, Locust, Lord, Mose, Moses, Pharaoh. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.