I like the name-calling the most.
The sounds here are different, always have been. It is different in the slave-world. Sounds are not as rich here. They do not resonate as much. And the colours are not as deep, either.
I find myself envying them.
The colours in the slave-world are exquisite. Especially red. Anubis loves it the singular colour more than most. We often joke (though behind his back, he has a temper) that Anubis is to the emerald red of blood as flies are to honey … or as the Slaves are to honey: I can honestly see no difference between the two analogies. Of course, in the slave-world, no jokes are made of Anubis. Or of any of us, for that matter; there is only worship: sustained and agelong.
On my last visit to the slave-world, I noticed something, and I have wondered at it ever since the paltry, undemanding trek: I had only just arrived, and unlike the rest of my varied and sizably-numbered pantheon of a family, I do not prefer to descend upon the slave-world in animal form. No, when I pay visit to the Slaves and their world I simply appear as one of them. It allows for greater access: animals are not welcome everywhere, naturally: man and beast are often at odds, warring incessantly, despite their starkly obvious similarities, and their long shared lineage. However accepting of the strange and peculiar you are, the site of a crocodile at your doorstep is bound to trouble you. The slave-world is a funny place.
No, I do not transform into their animals, although I do transform into many a different-looking Slave; the variety excites me, and men, unlike animals, allow for greater inspection of the slave-world and its people: men speak to their own, they unravel like ropes in the presence of their kind, and bear all secrets as if the secrets they hold in their chests pain them, and they ache to palliate the agony of holding it within them.
Many of my kind, however, undertake the practice of appearing as animals. Many do, but I do not. Do not misunderstand my intentions, though, I do not resent the practice (in fact, I think the head of a scarab beetle compliments Khephri’s form and gives him an aura of likable dread), it is just a difference of opinion. Nothing more.
Speaking of thinking things more than they are, I feel the following must be asserted: when We descend to the slave-world, we do not transform into animals. That is a misconception. One of the Slaves’ many flaws is a tendency to exaggerate, to embellish, and, often to amusingly catastrophic results, distort truth in favour of a myriad of motives: be it deliberate dishonesty, scheming to attain power, scheming to absolve their own sins, or, simply, distorting it because they do not know any better. They lie, because they have something to lie about. We don’t, for precisely the absence of the same.
The truth is: no transformation is involved in slipping into the skin and hide of animals. We simply appear to be who, or what, we wish to appear to be. We simply are, and so, we simply become.
I am noticing that I have come to think like the Slaves. The others would not make this mistake – they understand the presence of an unassailable line between godliness and servitude, and do not dare cross it. Perhaps the Slaves have had more of an effect on me than I want, or care to admit. I am becoming more like them.
But I must hasten to return to my story, and I regret my severe digressions. Perhaps those are something else that I take after them now – these sudden changes in line of thought. Certainly, Isis would not flounder with her words, and lose track of her original objective in speaking, neither would Hathor or Nun dream of doing the same.
Back to the story, then. I had landed upon the slave-world, and, for no reason other than pure whim, I had decided to appear as an old man: exhausted, commanding a wooded cane and white-bearded. I decided against visiting the Valley of Kings (again, something my brethren would not do) and opted instead for a walk along the RIver.
I admire the River. The mere sight of it excites and enthralls me. It bisects the Country in its entirety, coast to sandy coast. There is an almost humbling joy in seeing the blue beast. Almost, but not quite.
Unthreatening and in human form, I walked along the Great Blue. Commanding the feet of men is a refreshing change – they are delightfully slow. Men travel at snail-crawl speed, and that I enjoy. One often enjoys the different and unusual, after having been bored by the tediousness of the everyday. Yes, change is thrilling sometimes.
It had been nighttime. I found him, eyes thrust above, looking at the stars. The boy, lying flat on the banks of the River, lay unmoving, eyeing the heavens. His brown skin was illuminated, but only just, by the moonlight; I saw him only in the way that things are visible at night: bathed in darkness, with edges and ends indiscernible. It was after a moment of observing the enthralling sight (you must allow my enthusiasm, the imperfection of the ordinary is wholly absent in my world) that the boy was disturbed.
He tried to swat the disturbance away, but it would again return moments later. It was the utter contempt with which the boy hit at the fly that intrigued me most. Such hatred. Such utter disdain. Such scornful unconcern. Even for my majestic sensibilities, the act seemed unwarranted.
No action is without reason, and nothing is just anything: one cannot exist as an unaffected entity in this universe any more than you can force a mountain through a keyhole. (I realize, yes, that I certainly can, but the analogy seems fitting, considering the Slaves’ abilities – or lack thereof.)
The Slaves think themselves above flies, I certainly can see no difference, of course, but this isn’t strictly an examination of me. Perhaps it is a primal need to feel superior; at least superior to something, if not to many things. Perhaps the Slaves take that after us, or it is the other way round – it is difficult to tell. Perhaps they want to be just as powerful. Perhaps they envy us for our power. I am not sure.
Yes, gods have their doubts, too. Though far less often, owing to a greatly clearer view of things, and, also, our uncertainty bears higher consequences for anyone involved. Their uncertainty culminates with confusion, anger, and many a useless debate, while our uncertainty manifests in year-long floods and great wars that last even longer. Although, over the years, men have also manifested their confusion and debilitating uncertainty in waging war, to great, long, bloody effect (Anubis was thrilled at a short Frenchman’s endeavours, and a spindly German with the most peculiar choice of facial hair put Anubis over the moon with his dedicated, passionate attempts). And in that respect, we are not much different.
I have shared their world with them for long, listened to their conversation, become the object of their admiration and worship, and it has made me closer to them. They are being assimilated into me. It does not escape me, too, that we are more like the Slaves than is coincidental. We, the gods, are simply … more endowed.
Having observed enough of the boy and the roaring River at his feet, I drifted towards one of the temples. I could hardly help it, you must understand. After all, in the grand, towering temples, it was my name that was sang, chanted, called.
In the temple they were singing.
I stood between them, as one of them, and my anonymity amazed me. I am not used to my presence being so blatantly disregarded, still less am I used to being touched by them, having them jeer and speak and innocuously brush past me with their frail skin and weak limbs and unassuming faces. I stayed long enough to pay witness to one more round of the jubilant prayer-song (and on one occasion, I even participated). Their voices filled the air, reached high to the clouds, as if spreading to all of Kemet.
Then, just as unnoticed as when I arrived, I left the slave-world.
I was on my way back to my home, and that of the Gods of Kemet. My home, where the colours are but one: that of the near-absence of all colour, and where the sounds are but one: that of maddening vacancy and emptiness, of the near-absence of all sound. My home. Where the gods tread.
Nehes, nehes, nehes,
Nehes em hotep,
Nehes em neferu
Tu a atu. Tu a atu. Nebet Aset …