Rights of Passage

by Dietmar Trommeshauser

The poor fools couldn't have known what they'd sentenced me to deep in the bowels of the sacred bull's catacombs, known today as the Serapeum. I know this because I listen to the whispers and stare blindly at the multitude who visit and gawk at me daily in this great hall of the dead. The fools couldn't have known the curse they sentenced me to so many years ago. 2650 BC, somebody had whispered. Nobody could. I surely didn't, and I was their Pharaoh, their living God. I was supposed to know all. They were only doing what they'd been told, what they'd done to my ancestors for hundreds of years. There is one across the room from me and I stare blankly into his ancient eyes as he stares forever into mine.

I knew mere moments after my death that I was in trouble. Saw it all through dead, helpless eyes. Watched as Omar, my chief physician, bent over me his hands holding the thin metal hooks which he jammed deep into my nostrils.. Watched in silent agony as he grunted and scraped out my brain in long grey strips like the taffy I watched a young boy eat just days ago. It seemed to take forever, his sweat dripping into my open eyes, the sound of scraped bone screeching in my ears, until finally my skull lay hollow, gleamed clean like an oyster shell.

Then, taking the sacred dagger, he removed my lungs and the abdominal organs (but not my heart) through an incision cut in my left flank. My heart. Maybe that was the answer--maybe our spirit or soul does reside therein and that is the reason I remain trapped here on this hellish plane instead of my rightful place, on a golden throne seated beside Ra.

Next, Abdul, my head slave, took the bloody pieces to another room. He lifted them tenderly, as though they were made of brittle clay, the blood dripping like tiny rubies onto the desert sand which permeated the catacombs. Once embalmed, he lovingly placed them into four enameled vessels. Canopied jars, someone else had whispered. They now rest on the carpeted floor beside my gold gilded feet. Oman then placed my hollow body in natron, a naturally occurring compound of sodium carbonate and sodium bicarbonate, (this from the man who retrieved me from my dark tomb) and finally wrapped in it many layers of bandages with my favorite jeweled amulets sandwiched between the layers. These snatched long ago by thieving hands.

I see myself sometimes, reflected in someone's mirrored sunglasses or some woman's compact as she turns her back to me and powders her nose. Mine hidden behind a painted light green plaster mask, the colour of the reeds growing along the banks of my lost and beloved Nile. All these years I repeatedly have to remind myself the poor fools didn't know what they were doing, especially lately when I see more and more of my countrymen come to visit. I hear their numbers in this alien country have increased. I have also learned that for many others, they are not welcome here. I feel for them. And though they themselves may not know or even realize it, I can see the loss deep in their desert brown eyes. At times a loss of hope, of respect, of pride. In others a hidden longing for a return to the time when they ruled the world, when their civilization was the envy of others.

And I long too. Long to talk to my distant brothers and sisters, to speak to them softly under our blazing desert sky, to teach them the truth of life and living. To remind them of the important things in life. I do. I long.