Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Lightening Glass

Reader submitted story elements: Egypt, Thunderstorm, On the run.

The sand burns my feet, grinds itself between my toes, and sucks the energy out of every step, but still I struggle on. I turn away from the orange disc hanging low on the horizon and squint back at the trail of footprints that might lead them to me as soon as I am missed. My legs ache and my mouth is full of the taste of the desert, but I have to keep going.
I reach the ridge at last, the few spare rocks sticking out of the loose and slippery mountain. I scramble around behind the closest rock and take a hard look back at the land that had held me captive since I opened my mother's womb.
It held neither of us captive any longer. She had gone on to the world of the dead. Without concern for her welfare to hold me back I sought my freedom at the very first opportunity. I glare at the glimmering Nile and the lush fields spreading out from its course. I curse this land, curse the fields, curse the Egyptians. May the east wind bear down on them with my fury and tear them all to bits.
There is no movement on the edge of town, so I rest, and watch, ready to leave the moment someone nears the trail of my footprints. I take a measured sip from the jug around my neck and then stopper it again firmly. I will not be near water again for a day, and need to carefully ration my supplies. It will be a long hard journey, but once I find the village where my mother was born it will all be worth it.
I strike out along the ridge, jabbing my feet deep in the sand to keep from sliding down into the hollow below. I need to keep my eye on the river. If I venture into the desert I could be lost forever among the dust and dunes.
A little longer and it will be night. They won't come looking for me after it is dark. If I keep going through the night my lifelong dream could become a reality.
I poke my head over the ridge and look back along its length for the hundredth time, but this time what I see worries me. A storm is brewing over the delta. The dark cloud looks angry, glaring like my Master had the time I tripped and dropped his diner tray.
I glare back at the storm, "Do your worst, Reshep," I tell the god of my cruel master. "I have survived much worse than your storm."
I turn my back on the clouds and return to my southerly march. The storm growls at me, and I grind my teeth against the ominous sound. I don't care if Reshep does strike me down with his lightening bolt. It would be better to die in the desert than to live under those grasping and cruel hands any longer. "What god rewards such a man as that?" I mutter to myself.
I stop to take another swig out of my water jug and glance back along the ridge as I do. The last rays of the sun highlight my greatest fear. He stands on the ridge, his white tunic and golden camel stark against the black of the storm. Master is coming after me himself.
I jam the stopper in the neck of the jug and run as fast as my feet can take me along the ridge. The sand clings to my feet with every step, fighting me, tripping me, sliding down the slope to make my trail all that much more apparent.
Every moment brings my Master closer. Every moment brings the storm closer. Every moment they win a little more, the Egyptians and their gods.
I come to a rise where the ridge runs up a massive dune. I must climb it, the pits to either side are deep and rimmed by steep sides I could never climb. I tear up the ridge, straddling it and kicking sand down either side as I claw my way up. I focus on the climb, trying to block out the shouting carried to me on the winds of the storm. They beat against me. Fool, they say, you cannot escape. The sand stings my face and arms, a million reminders of the reed across my back.
The slope before me drops away and I pull myself up from my scrambling crawl and onto my feet. My feet slip on the high ridge and I struggle to remain upright. My attempts are brought to an end as I feel the cane slam into my back.
The sand is soft as I land, but slides away beneath me as I struggle for purchase. I look back to see that furious face, the swirling clouds, the cane raised to deliver a second blow. The camel behind him has knelt and watches, watches as he raises the cane high. The camel knows what is coming, I know what is coming, and I shrink away from the beating we both have learned to expect.
The air splits with a crack. For a moment I wonder where he has hit me. The worst blows are the ones you cannot feel right off. Surely something is broken.
I take a breath and wait for the pain, but cannot find it. Perhaps I am dead. I do not think being dead hurts, but there is a stench and the rolling of thunder. If I am dead, how can I smell, how can I hear?
I open my eyes and search the blackness above me, but I don't see my Master's face. There is a great noise as the camel backs away from something on the ground and starts slipping down the mountainous dune. I look at the thing on the ground. It is black, disfigured, unmoving.
Reshep has struck his own follower.
I am panting from my flight, my heart is pounding in my chest. I am unable to move, unable to speak, unable to flee. I stare at his form in shock as rain starts to fall. Rain falls on my hair, it falls on my shoulders, it falls on my master, it falls from my eyes.
Master is dead. I am free.

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