I cooled my heels for a while, which made me antsy. After finding the mace in my knapsack, and like an idiot, forgetting to ask her about it, I had a sneaking suspicion I knew what she wanted from me. I wasn’t really sure why, but that was nothing new. I wasn’t sure why she wanted me to go through any of this. I had suspicions, thoughts, and entire internal dialogues in which I discussed with myself why all of this was happening. But until I could get a clear cut answer from the inimitable Sekhmet, everything was merely a hypothesis that hadn’t been tested yet. So, I ended up cooling my heels, so to speak, in a circular chamber above a pool of lava and began to get really, really antsy.
You see, last year, I made a promise to a bunch of lwa, but specifically to Papa Legba. I let him know that I would honor his request to pay more attention to my Catholic roots. Within that promise was imbedded various nuanced specifics about how I would honor Lent. And during that time, Kemeticism outside of monthly responsibilities, I would pay closer attention to the lwa in general. So, I only had so much time to get whatever the hell Sekhmet wanted out of me. I could feel the tick of the clock in my chamber, echoing off the red walls and pounding in my head.
I spent a lot of my free time trying to come up with a name for the netjeri. It didn’t react to each new name I tried, which is how I knew it wasn’t interested in the names I was going for. Riddle You This? Aching Bones? Aging Uncontrollably? Feather Feet? Fearsome Funny Face? I was getting more and more ridiculous with the names, which was probably why it didn’t seem particularly interested. Then again, I didn’t really know why it was around to begin with, which was part of the problem. Was it here for my protection? Was it here as a gift? Was it mine forever? All I knew was that we were sharing my bottles of water and it would turn its nose up whenever I ate any of the snack foods I kept on standby in my pack.
It seemed more interested when I began going with really old school human names. I was thinking about my maternal grandfather, whose name is very, uh, old school. You don’t hear too many people with a name like that. And my paternal grandmother’s name was also very old school. So, I started thinking of all of the names from my ancestry that I could think up on a whim and saying them out loud. Sometimes, I got a reaction, like when I chose Leo, and sometimes I wouldn’t, like when I used Theodore.
It seemed like an eternity before Sekhmet came back in to clue me in to what was going on.
The thing is that I was pretty sure I knew. Like I said, I hadn’t packed that ancient Egyptian mace in my backpack. I had never had need to use a weapon like that before. So, the fact that it had showed up, unbidden, in my backpack was practically a clue by four to the face. So, when she stepped in front of me and waited patiently for me to get to my feet, I wasn’t overly surprised by what came out of her mouth. That doesn’t mean I liked hearing it, though. “It’s time to kill,” she said.
I bowed my head and folded my arms across my middle. Like I said, I knew it was coming. I knew what she needed me to do and in that crystalline moment, I had perfect clarity.
There were many things that I had been putting off for various reasons. There were some aspects to the white room that I was able to leave behind and those aspects were coming back to haunt me. There were some souls who had done me a serious wrong and I had never confronted them against it. Even when that UPG was confirmed by an outside source and I cried myself to sleep for a few nights straight, I still ignored what I could have done with all of it.
I could have killed the guilty parties, completely.
Some souls, probably, don’t deserve the punishment of becoming a muuet. As the lovely Sard indicated in this post,
muuet are beings who are a “type of formerly-human, malevolent ‘hollow demon.’ Also referred to as “unjustified dead.” A shadow of its former self, it is the result of an unsuccessful attempt at transfiguration in the Hereafter, and/or improper burial. While it was human in mortal life, unlike an Akh, it cannot be considered an ancestor.” (Check out the rest of that post because it is a beautiful resource that everyone should reference all the damn time. Save it to your favorites. Post links on your resource pages. Spread that shit around like wild fire.)
Some souls have behaved so heinously that even the gods find their status as a muuet to be too good for them. I’m uncertain if that is really what Sekhmet was thinking. All I do know is that she wanted me to destroy, irrevocably and never return destroy, another soul. And she expected me to disperse or destroy it with the mace she had very kindly packed in my backpack.
I had to consider what she was asking of me.
I hadn’t been capable of doing that type of work in the white room. It wasn’t merely that the room was a safe house, a place away from all of the horrors I had to work diligently on integrating into who I am today, but also because I couldn’t face the idea of it. The very idea of destroying, dispersing, whatever to another soul was anathema to me back then. And I have to admit that it was less anathema to me as I stood in front of Sekhmet in the Duat, considering the next course of action.
Vengeance has long been something I’ve given up on ever going for in this particular case. The atrocities committed against me were very old, indeed. That part of my soul facet – the innocent, angry child-like soul facet that had been so wronged – had quieted down after we had worked together in the white room. And she/me/we/it/whatever didn’t really need vengeance anymore. Besides, that part of myself that Sekhmet regards most often as the weak part of me – the part that didn’t seek to destroy everything by fire the second I could – had overruled any other parts of me. A joint decision or a single decision, whichever. The decision had been made to leave well enough alone and to leave the muuet to its own devices.
“I don’t ask this of you lightly,” she assured me.
I could sense the lie.
This was child’s play to her. How many souls had she destroyed in their totality for merely daring to glance upon her? How many creatures, from humans to muuet to netjeri to other unknown gods, had she dispersed completely so that she could be where she is today? As far as I was concerned, no matter what she said to me, this was absolutely a light endeavor to her. This could have been her usual Saturday evening fun times. This could have been something she did during her lunch break every day. I honestly didn’t know how easy it had come to her, but it was definitely easy for her.
To me, she was asking me to destroy an integral part of who I am.
To her, she was asking me to do something as simple as stepping on a cockroach.
On the other side of the coin, because there is always another side of course, I could have been misreading what it was she was saying. I knew she was lying, but perhaps the source of her lie was what I was misreading. Perhaps she knew that this was something that would disturb me greatly and that she needed to at least make some noise in an effort to keep me from freaking out. Or perhaps, her lies had nothing to do with the event before us and more to do with that shadowscape where she held the overall goals of what we were achieving together with these adventures.
I sighed heavily. “How many are you truly asking? I know this isn’t just as simple as ending the ongoing saga that is a few of my lives’ shitty endings. There’s more to it than all of that. What else are you asking of me? Or more specifically, how much more are you willing to take from me?”
I had learned a good amount in the last few weeks, months, years, eternity. I had to ask enough questions. Sometimes, she would answer. Sometimes, she wouldn’t. But if I didn’t ask the correct questions in the correct way…
Instead of answering me, she smiled. She turned and made a gesture at the blackened doorway. Behind me, the netjeri stood up and shook itself. It was preparing for… something. I looked down and saw it panting up at me, its big puppy eyes being big and puppy-like. It reminded me, very much, of my IRL dog. That animal knew when I was going to or in the middle of an emotional turmoil, sensing whatever pieces within myself that were either breaking up or falling into place. And that IRL dog would lick the hell out of my hand, my face, whatever it could gain access to in an effort to make me feel better. I knew that the netjeri – Sid? George? Philip? Abraham? – would be there for me even when Sekhmet wasn’t. That was slightly calming, at least.
I sighed again waiting for her response. “There are many,” she agreed. Well, that was something. I knew that I was going to get dirty. I was going to get my hands and elbows and my face and my clothes dirty, dirty, and dirtier yet. I also knew that I had to steal myself for this work. No matter what they said to me. No matter what happened to me in the future, I had to steal myself for this right here and right now. Otherwise, I would let it eat at me in a way that nothing else had ever eaten at me and many things had taken their time gnawing at my insides before.
How does one gird their loins for bloody work? How can people go into something knowing that one person will leave that moment alive and breathing while the other person will not? How can anyone possibly do this? And honestly, this isn’t just about having to destroy things, covered in blood and gore, but anything? How can people crush a bug? How can people kill a bird? Or, a deer? Or anything? In that moment, I understood on a whole new level why people fought against killing other things and had for so long. But I also knew that muuet were dangerous and that destroying them was probably doing the whole world a favor.
But what if they weren’t what I thought them to be, muuet? I was assuming that whatever was paraded in front of me would be a half-creature of nothing but violence, angst, and horror. For all I knew, maybe Ammit was taking a break in the judgment chamber and it would be up to me to do something pretty damn drastic to the people who had failed. Hell, did Ammit even do that stuff anymore? Did anyone get their hearts weighed anymore? Of course, I recognized that my mind was going off down a tangent in an effort to protect itself from the task at hand.
No matter how many musings I had, Sekhmet was ready for me to begin.
She went over to my bag and pulled the mace out. It was thin with a thick bulb along the top. It didn’t have any etchings on it, not like the finely wrought things I had seen in her war room in her palace. No, this was of simple make. Its express purpose, of course, was to smash the skulls of the enemy. And that was what she wanted me to do now. She wanted me to smash in the skulls of whatever creatures she dragged before me, either for joy or purpose, either for teaching or excitement. It didn’t matter the reason; I just had to do it.
As she handed it to me, I felt an instant connection with it. The wooden handle felt right in my hands, which disturbed me. I wasn’t supposed to be this kind of person.
Don’t get me wrong – I know plenty of people who are comfortable enough with violence in their astral lives. I am not one of them, though. I am an adventurer, a wanderer. I go from place to place, living off my wits and learning interesting things. Sometimes, I think that one day, I’ll write a book about all the places I’ve been to and other times, I am just happy with the knowledge that I saw something new or interesting. Whatever the case may be, I am quite content with myself as the wanderer just as I am content with the knowledge that there are people who are quite content with violence.
To each their own, but that was never my way.
The connection that I felt with this thing also intrigued me. It was one of those very weird and strange shenanigans that I had seen a time or three in my adventures. I turned it over in my hand, inspecting the handle and inspecting the head. The connection I felt with it was something that I could only feel with that other sense that people say they have. It’s that sense that knows energy signatures the moment they are nearby. And the energy signature of this mace was intense, but it was also like it was already a part of me. It had become attached to my soul, maybe, or one of its fragments and now, we were finally back together.
I wanted to throw the thing away from me and into one of the holes that led to the lava pool beneath us.
I also wanted to hug it to my chest, like a stuffed animal, and never let it go.
The first creature was brought in, wearing chains. The chains scraped along the stone floor, leaving me shuddering uncontrollably at the sound. It was walked in by two bipedal netjeri on either side of it. One of them was holding the leash to the chains the thing was wearing. I stared at that thing, my heart screaming out in rage and terror as I recognized the thing that it used to be.
Now, the being was little more than a mirage of what it had once been. Its head was bald, but its eyes were wide and watery. It never blinked in all the time it stared at me. Its eyes were sunk back into its skull, the rims of which were red and irritated with the lack of moisture its unblinking eyes made. The pupils had all but filled the irises in and black was all that stared back at me. What had once been a nose were now slits in its face. The mouth was wide and gaping, a perpetual scream. Its mouth never closed and drool fell in moist strings down its chin.
Its hands were clawed. The fingers had elongated and thickened, being about an inch wide and four or five inches in length. At the edge of the fingers were thick needlelike nails. They were yellowed and curled around themselves. Its back was hunched over. There was a hump between its shoulder blades, which was probably why it was hunched over. Its legs were stunted and only about a foot. What had once been long shanks were all but gone.
That quote from The Last Unicorn came to mind: If I were blind I would know what you are.
As I had assumed, this was the very creature that had been that soul facets demise all those years ago. Her death had been unmerciful and not swift. It had been pain-filled and horrifying. What had made it all the worse was the lax way in which the priests had taken her corpse to the next life. They had done such terrible things that she had been lost and wandering for many, many years unable to be judged as was her fate. This was the priest who had orchestrated that blasphemy – on purpose, in some misguided attempt to please the future – and had never paid for the horror he had inflicted on a soul that had just wanted to move on to the next life after years of political bullshit.
I licked my lips and felt the weight of the mace in my hands. I wrapped my hands more tightly around it, holding it close. I licked my lips again and turned my glance to Sekhmet. She was eying me pensively. She knew that in this moment, I could renege on everything. She knew that I could, very much, just walk the hell away and say nothing about it ever again. But she also knew that a part of me, still, wanted to very much put this creature out of my misery.
It came down to a choice between a rock and a hard place. I could walk away, with many regrets and what ifs, or I could do what I was being asked to do and continue down the roller coaster of insanity that had become my life.
I gripped the mace in my hands, even tighter.
The netjeri brought the creature before me and forced it to the floor. It knelt in front of me and looked up. Its yawning mouth dripped drool on the floor. Its wide eyes stared up at me.
I gripped the mace in my hands.
Its eyes met mine for a single moment, I saw the face that it had once worn. That face was one that I had dreamed of, that I had horrifying and terrible dreams of. The face as it leaned over me/us/we/her/whatever with its intent so plain and she/we/I/whatever were unable to do a damn thing about it all… That spark of recognition in both of us ignited something within us both. The muuet began to make noises that sounded suspiciously like it was laughing. I made a high keening wail of pain mixed with unleashed fury.
I gripped the mace in one hand.
I brought it up above my head.
That noise echoed across my brain, dancing provocatively and evocatively within even the most hidden corners.
I felt my arm swing down with all its might.
I watched in slow motion as it connected with a sickening smack directly across the face of that creature. Blood and brain matter squirted out at me, across the netjeri hold it, spattered across the skirt of Sekhmet’s dress. Its face caved in underneath the force of my hit. The mace head punctured through the brain casing and mixed what was left of its brain matter. It sunk in deep until it connected with the top of the spinal column and then, the mace stopped.
I stared at my handwork.
I could feel blood drips on my clothes, in my hair, on my face, and down my arms. They were small, but those drippings would grow. This wasn’t the only one, of course. Sekhmet had a laundry list of people that I needed to tend to. But first, I had something more to do. The destruction wasn’t complete. I could still sense a hint of the muuet in the air. I dropped the mace at my feet and turned in the direction of that thing. It was looking to escape, but I reacted before it could move much further.
I grabbed the leftovers of the muuet. I was touching its energy signature, a smidge of a soul that had been left over. And twisting it tightly between both my hands, I focused my will on the dispersion of this creature. It would never live again. It must be destroyed completely and never do unto others as it had once done to me. I tore it apart with my bare hands, my lips pulled back from my teeth in a manic grin as I truly destroyed this being in its entirety.
And just like that, the creature was gone.
I looked back at Sekhmet expectantly.