Forsaking the River

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I - Death & Destiny

Today, a brand new day, sun shining as brightly and as intensely as ever, is another life taken from them, inviting the dead to the gods’ side. Or so the others believe. Atta was never a firm believer in what they taught them. Yes, it might be a heresy, but believing that there are gods, is like believing that the rock can walk. Unless you see it for yourself, with your own eyes, you will never believe. However, Atta still compromises. What would happen to her if the Pharaoh heard about her beliefs—or the lack of it. She might be executed or worse, to clean and help in the temples.

“Atta!”

The bald young man with sun-kissed skin called her. It was Ini, Atta’s brother.

“What’s wrong, brother?”

“Another person was brought to the booth. Mauled by the beast of the Nile, they said.”

Her brother explained to her, hurrying to the booth. The booth is where they tend to the death. As the family of an embalmer, she was expected to help as well. That is, calling for the passing one’s family. She was not keen to help in the embalming process, but is content enough with breaking the news to the concerned families. If the passing one, does not have a family, then she will help with carrying the funerary rituals.

“That’s the third time this week. In a row.”

It was strange that these men were lured to the Niles only to be mauled by its beasts. Thrice! In a row! If the gods exist, then they must be mocking humans. Such fragile creature they are.

“Does the passing one have a present family member?”

“No, he’s an outsider. A farmer’s young son found him, while playing near the Niles.”

“Playing near the Niles? That’s dangerous.” Atta mentioned, readying a pouch of coins, used to carry the payment for the embalming service.

“It is, but the Pharaoh believed that it is their destiny if they die. We, mortals, should not interfere with life and death.”

Ini told Atta to go to the farm and search for the child’s father, Ras, regarding the payment. Atta went to the farm, and found the farmers hard at working. Soon, the grains shall be ready for harvest. She went around to search for a farmer named Ras, and one of them directed her to him.

Atta found Ras in a cabin, grinding on the dried plants, trying to get its grains.

“Ras, you are? I am here regarding the recent passing.”

Ras stopped doing what he was doing then walked towards Atta to pull a single coin.

“Here, for whatever tis worth of the coin. The Passing One must journey into the deep.” He said giving the coin to Atta, then returning back to work.

It is a tradition that the Passing One, no matter who they are, are given a proper burial. And if the Passing One has no family members, then the funeral service will be paid by whoever found the body. This time it was Tis. But Tis, is but a young boy, so his father shall pay in his stead. The cost of 1 coin is considered very insignificant at the time, but it’s the law.

Atta put the coin into the coin pouch and tied the pouch to the linen sash around her waist. After confirming everything was done, Atta went back to her house. To find her mother in the living space, weaving.

“Atta, you’re back. Your father was looking for you. He said he has something to tell you.”

Her mother told her, not taking her focus off from the weave. Atta assumes that her father is still in the booth, tending to the Passing One.

The heavy scent of rotting body, and salt pricked her nose. Atta didn’t like the smell, but who does? Atta found her father, the embalmer chief, along with her brother, and 2 other men, washing off the corpse.

Atta’s father, Betshai, beckoned her to come closer. So, she did, cringing at the smell and gore. She noticed that the corpse lost half of his body. Probably eaten by the beasts of the Nile.

When she was close enough, her father handed her a small piece of parchment, crumpled. She opened the parchment, and the content truly surprised her. There it says her name.

A T T A

“Did you know the boy?”

Her father asked, clearly knowing the shocking content of the parchment. Atta shook her head. Her brother has told her that the man was an outsider. She has no friends from outside. And by the looks of it, he appears to be in his 30s, while Atta still in her early 20s.

“We… found the same note with the other two corpses. They all clenched the note to their death.”

Atta stood there, unable to say anything. How does all these people, outsider and not, know her name, and write her name in a seemingly, expensive parchment. The other embalmer suggests that this is a direct sign from the gods. Or most importantly the god of the underworld, and the dead.

“Pray, Atta. Pray to god Osiris! Perhaps, he shall reveal his plans to you.”

They encouraged Atta to go to the temple and pray. Indeed, this is too weird to be manmade. And a trip to the temple would not hurt her.

***

Atta despised praying to gods that cannot be seen. However, this is Atta’s chance to believe in them. A direct sign from gods! Her name, written in the most delicate and well-made papyrus she has ever seen. In the blackest, boldest ink she has ever seen. If this is not the most expensive prank, then it must be a sign from one of the gods.

There she stands in the middle of Osiris’ temple. A family consisted of an old lady and her daughter mourned. It must be the family of the other recently deceased. They cry to the statue loudly. Atta doesn’t understand why they were crying. Dying is a better choice than living. To be able to live in the afterlife, free of pain and worldly needs. That’s what they were taught, is it not? Then why were they mourning.

Atta kneeled in front of Osiris’ imposing statue. She pressed her knees together, her forehead touching the ground. She closed her eyes and focused on her internal prayer.

Suddenly, a harsh breeze blew before her. She can feel the presence of someone standing in front of her.

“Stand, Atta, child of Bethsai and Ara.”

A voice bellowed at her. She stood up shakily, it’s heavy. The air felt heavy, she was forced to stand, but can’t help but kept her head down, staring at her toes. Call it an instinct, but she felt as if she shouldn’t look straight at the presence before her. Atta then realized who was in front of her.

God Osiris.

“Indeed, Atta. I am Osiris. I am here with a cause and we shall discuss your destiny.”

Osiris’ voice bellowed at the shaky girl. Curse Atta’s thoughts for thinking that gods didn’t exist, and now they’re trying to prove otherwise at her.

“M-My destiny?”

Atta applauded at her courage to speak even as Osiris’ sheer pressure pressed on her.

“I have a news for you.”

“Shai, the god of fate. Has placed yours to entwine with one of us.”

Confused. Atta was very confused. Osiris was talking in riddles, and it irks Atta. What does he mean by ‘one of us’, and what does he mean by ‘entwine’. Who? And How?

“I cannot keep you here for long. He is coming for you. He who leads the dead. He who weighs the heart. And do not be afraid…” Osiris paused for a moment, “You will die soon. And I will resurrect you.”

And with that Osiris was gone. She was back in the temple, the pressure she felt was like never there.


“I will… die soon?”

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