Egypt: 63 B.C. part 1
A home in Saqqara several hours after the crime...
A damp odor of smoky ash haunts the room however, the children did not catch fire. Two twin girls yield to separate injuries, one has a blue-black nose and her sister a black-blue eye. Once conscious they stand silent looking at each other with interlocked hands. Their mother lies dead on the floor. Together they step over her half-naked, face down, bloody, and fly-covered body.
“We must not mourn mother,” says Cleopatra. “Her heart out-weighs the feather of Ma’at.”
“Teacher needs our help, what about friends at school?” asks Arsinoe rummaging around the other side of the room.
“Father can’t return now,” replies Cleopatra searching for valuables. “Looking like beggars will make slaves of us, what’s left?”
“I’ve found bread and cheese to take, cloth, a few coppers? Oh and... this!” says Arsinoe walking over to Cleopatra looking at her injured nose. “The two men didn’t steal it,” she says and displays mother’s necklace made from tarnished silver barrels, rupees, and gem-cut rows of lapis-lazuli. “Hathor wishes you to wear it,” says Arsinoe who lays it on her sister’s collar bones.
Cleopatra sees Arsinoe’s swollen eye and looks away to the floor. A droplet of blood falls from her nose on a blue gemstone, then lands below on burnt papyrus. It was a school lesson. She looks back up at Arsinoe and tears begin to swell.
“We’re not safe here,” says Arsinoe fastening the necklace. “School can’t help. We must go!”
“We can’t stay, but... I... we must be leaving something behind?” suggests Cleopatra with a gentle tug on her sister’s fingers.
Less than an hour later...
Bypassing busy streets, the twins arrive at a local storehouse and sneak inside. Rolled carpets lay in rows and stacks on wooden scaffolding. The skylights are covered with bamboo grids to keep out birds.
“No hide and seek, not tonight,” says Cleopatra. While unpacking small rations of dark bread and crumbled cheese she asks, “Will a temple accept us?”
Arsinoe sighs, “Saqqara is not our future. We go to Memphis, they’ll send for our lessons. Father should flee to Alexandria. May stars of Osiris guide us.”
“I am scared too,” Cleopatra says handing her sister food. “May goddess protect us now. So help finds us tomorrow.”
Before eating, the twins in eye contact equally nod with acknowledgment. As if a pledge or a prayer, each sister’s voice echoes to the other, “Infinite Love!”
They unroll and re-roll carpets looking for the softest ones to hide in overnight. As natural daylight evades the storehouse they roll themselves up, hop, and hide with the other carpets in a cart. Long after dusk crickets chirp, singing to illustrious stars under a half-moon. The two children struggle to rest from stress, and peaceful dreams evade them.
Just after the twins fall asleep...
Cleopatra’s nightmares shift and strobe about. Two assassins torture her childhood imagination. Thoughts that no child should have to witness repeat in her mind’s eye. While sleeping her heart races. Terror leaves her unable to speak in dreams. She could not even scream. The men brutally took additional payment, since mother had failed to fully provide. Then they killed her. That weeping voice reverberates in her mind. Still in pain, the child tosses and turns. Asleep she can taste the blood-clot in her nose. In and out consciousness, a dominating male dream-voice echoes, “...Put the fire out. Today is your fault! Leave these children! Let’s go!...”
As a twin, Arsinoe mirrors her sister’s fearful stress-dream. Remembering her father escape, the two men begin to argue with mother about money. Arsinoe runs into their parent’s room with Cleopatra, who shuts the thin wood-plank door. The girls endeavor to hide inside over-sized painted baskets before anyone enters. A forceful male dream-voice echoes, “...If the children are here... find them! Find them now...” From inside a tall woven basket, Arsinoe peeks at her sister’s hiding spot. The two armed men spin, looking around the room. An unseen thrust of metal suddenly rips into the basket inches from Arsinoe’s face. She bites hard into clothes that entangle her, holding her breath thinking “...If I scream I die, or be his slave…”
She opens her eyes breathing only after hearing the sword withdraw. Her face is wet with sweat and silent tears. With a swift kick, the other man batters the basket her sister is in. Arsinoe hears a helpless whimper accelerate into screams. Speechless from terror, she fights her fright. The small girl follows her anger, rage, and primal instinct. She rocks the basket back and forth knocking it over. It crashes it into a burning lamp and fire drips igniting debris on the floor. Fighting to her feet, in a thoughtless ambush, she hurls half-flaming linen toward him. He reacts tossing it aside and laughs at her. She could not get past him to escape. The back of his hand lunges toward her face in retaliation. In slow motion, she sees the details of his cracked skin, sharp black hair, and gruesome bloody fingernails, then a sudden impact. His hand hits like a stone.
A few hours before sunrise...
Two riders with torches approach the storehouse on horseback. Quiet clattering hooves are slow and echo down the dim dead-end street. Each person dismounts and secures their animal. One walks briskly toward the storehouse entrance. The other takes a few steps and stops before gulping a drink.
“Load up the cart... before you hook to the horses!” says a female voice. “Do you always have to drink beer before sunrise?” she says and opens both doors to the storehouse.
“You have been my sister how many years?” replies the male voice. He wheels over an old iron chariot frame reinforced to transport heavy loads. He slides it into channels of a white-washed wooden crate full of rolled up carpets. Then he locks it in place with mashed wooden pegs and strolls back to the horses.
She softly complains, “Well if my brother works for beer, our horses work for apples.” Then she gives several slices of the fruit to each horse. “When will Egyptians stop giving Romans all our grain? We have to sell three carpets today just to cover costs, feeding ourselves and these animals.”
“Romans also work for beer, it’s the only thing that can unite Rome and Egypt,” he says in with confidence.
“Egyptians will end starvation when the Pharaohs stop acting like Romans,” she insists. “Alexander the Great was probably a Roman,” she continues to taunt him. “The Pharaohs just never told us, has there ever been a Pharaoh since?” Rolling her eyes she looks hard at her brother, catching his stare and mocking him.
“Say such things in Memphis sister,” he says shaking his head. “Seriously we’ll never sell anything in that city again. Are you trying to force us into exile, Syria like all the others?” He glares at her with sharp eyes.
She looks back at her brother with a half grin saying, “Finish that skin of beer and we’ll stop just ahead to watch the sunrise. How many times have we done this? I know your morning traditions. Load up!”
With a jolt, the cart cackles toward the edge of town. It did not awaken Cleopatra. However, Arsinoe listens with intent the entire time.
“Wait! Don’t put out the last torch,” he grabs it from his sister and infuses the flame to a long cigar.
“As if the beer is not enough, your opium cravings leave me lonely on the journey,” she says. “If Ra was not so busy slaying Apep daily at dawn, maybe he could slay your addictions.” She sighs, “Go roll yourself up in one of the carpets and sleep. I’ll get us to Memphis after I water the horses like I always do.”
The cart is heavy and slow as it moves along to Memphis.” Both merchants yield to silence after the journey regains momentum.
A few hours after dawn...
No more was the cool morning air. Both twins begin to sweat and grow uncomfortable. Cleopatra’s ability to breathe is restricted. The oven-air made sharp blood clots in her nose burn with pain like a scorpion sting. Noticing her sister, Arsinoe wiggles out of hiding and peeking out sees each merchant. The man sleeps and the woman drives the cart. In all directions, there is nothing but waves of light tan sand. Arsinoe is silent as she climbs out and bounces about on the back of the cart.
In a confident whimper, she begins speaking, “We have no weapon. We are at your service. Please, have mercy upon us? Em’ Hoept!”
“We!?” The woman swiftly looks over her shoulder with surprise and in awe. She rips the reins up pulling the horses to a quick stop. Looking over to her brother, he is still passed out. She exhales and thinks “...he never locks the door. How do I sustain a family business?...” Her silent frustrated thoughts continue into words.
“You poor child,” she perpetuates with an intensifying voice, “How can you expect to pay for a bloodied rug? More than one of you too! From the wells of Godpiss!”
Cleopatra is on her knees next to her sister and remains mute, squinting as sunlight graces her wounded face.
“Em Hotep!” Arsinoe sobs and submits into tears. “Please, please help my sister. Our father is Ganymedes. He will reward you. I swear upon our lives.”
“What kind of reward?” her softer tone now inflects upward. Then a firm command rings from the woman's voice, “Brother! Wake up!”
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