I sank like a stone into the cold depths that I had been dropped in. As I plummeted downwards, the shroud that I had been carried in loosened from around me and disappeared into the inky water that surrounded me. Above me, the light from whatever room in the Duat I had been deposited from rapidly shrank until it was little more than a dot upon an imaginary horizon.
As I fell deeper and deeper, a momentary panic set in as I recalled the last time I had been dropped into a frigid ocean of darkness. I reminded myself, quite forcibly, that the Nun was many things but above all, he was a dark, watery abyss from whence creation began. This isn’t dying, I told myself; this is part of the process that you asked for. Just because my mind had an element to the rational to it didn’t necessarily mean that my heart and my adrenal glands were in the same boat. My heart was going in overtime and I had the intense desire to swim back up and into the light.
I began, even, to move in that direction before the wound in my side protested. Wincing, I relaxed back into the Stygian blackness and closed my eyes. If I was going to die, I figured, I could at least be a little relaxed about the whole process. Panic and fear hadn’t done a damn thing for me the last time anyway.
Days and weeks and months passed; seconds passed. As I floated into the darkness, I tried to figure out where in the Duat I had been deposited. I thought, maybe, I had come in from the entrance point where Re re-joined the Duat each evening. I figured that point was probably pretty thin and if things weren’t steered properly, maybe it was possible to join the Nun instead of just journeying through the Duat. But then again, the waters of the Duat were supposed to be the Nun, if I remembered my mythology right…
But perhaps, there were guarded entry points to the Nun at any given location within the Duat? Perhaps the green, verdant fields typically associated with the first four sections of the Duat as well as the desert areas (where I am usually) all had their own gateways that led to the Nun. Perhaps it wasn’t a simple place where entry was gained but any place within the Duat was close enough to that watery blackness and the place where the Nun bided his time until he could undo creation.
I didn’t know anything for a long time because, honestly, what is there when you are surrounded by nothing but pitch blackness? I assume, though I could be wrong, that I was in the astral version of a sensory deprivation chamber. There was literally nothing. I had nothing but my thoughts and the occasional twitches of pain coming from my abdomen for company. After a while, I gave up on thoughts and just slept my way through while my body just floated along in wherever-the-fuck-it-was land. It was actually kind of peaceful if it wasn’t so weird.
Slowly, though, things began to heat up. At first, the Nun’s waters were chilly. Perhaps that was partially why I didn’t care about anything – I had hypothermia or something. It had taken my body not very long to cool down enough to the point where even the flames of the ooze within my body were quieted. It was enough to make me feel like my idea about asking to go to the Nun was a good one. Of course, as the water around me began to warm up, so too did my body. And of course, in same vein, so too did the apathy feeding itself on my insides. And I began to hurt.
The pain slowly but surely intensified. I knew that it would; this was part of the process, I supposed. Perhaps the fact that the water around me was slowly but surely reaching a boiling point (possibly) was part of the regeneration process? Perhaps this was how the Nun was going to help me regenerate. It didn’t matter because, after a while, it grew to be too much for my poor senses to handle and I passed out (gratefully) for a while.
I couldn’t say why I woke up at all. I don’t even know if I was expecting to wake up. But something happened and with the jarring of my entire body, I woke up. Every limb twitched; every internal organ cried out in agony. The only thing that didn’t seem to hurt was the very tip-top of my head. There were tears in my eyes as I woke up, frightened and uncertain of what was going on. What made the pain worse was the fact that I couldn’t actually move to find a position that would alleviate anything. I was completely frozen.
My eyes flickered back and forth, trying to see something, but maybe they were failing me because there was nothing to be seen. There was nothing but darkness. All I could say about my surroundings was that they weren’t wet, so I knew I was out of that darkened abyss, and that I was lying on a very uncomfortable but very solid table. I was left alone as my body and my mind adjusted to the new surroundings.
I woke again and this time, I knew what had awoken me. Someone or something was gibbering in my ear. There was no other way to explain it and I had no frame of reference to make sense of what was being whispered in my ear. If it was a language, I didn’t know it. To me, it sounded like unrefined baby talk being jabbered at me by a voice underused and dusty. As time went by and the gibbering continued, I could feel movement around me but still, I could not move my head to look around and nothing or no one shifted into my field of vision.
I had nothing to latch onto, nothing to look at.
I had wanted to savor this experience and learn as much as I could. Thus far, I had learned that the Nun was cold and then it was hot; there was a platform that was fucking uncomfortable; and some old ass fucking idiot was blathering on in baby lingo. The learning was not going far with this one.
I have to admit that I was more than a little frustrated. I mean, I understood the point in why I had come on this journey. After all, I had asked to go to the Nun (and I assumed, without confirmation, that I had received what I wanted), but I had been expecting… well, more. I had been expecting something. And so far, I was getting a hell of a lot of nothing. I had slept more than I had been awake. I had learned exactly how quickly my bored-as-fuck mind could fall asleep the myriad of times it had fallen asleep. And now, I learned that, if the husky voice beside my ear was speaking a language, it was one that I didn’t know at all and I kind of wanted to know what in the fuck this dude was saying.
I reminded myself that, probably, I should be grateful.
A hand appeared in my field of vision and I focused on this visual cue, ingesting what I was seeing. The hand was a gnarly thing with long, fingernails. The nails were so long that they were probably about three inches long and they glimmered at me, as though given polished like silver. The knuckles were swollen, the metacarpals and phalanxes were longer than a human hand. The hand was thin and the skin that covered it was tight against the bone. The skin was a dark color, though not nearly as dark as the Stygian blackness that surrounded us.
That hand frightened me.
It was all a little too odd, a little strange, and whatever owned that hand was not human. It belonged to nothing that I could identify with. There was simply nothing humanoid about that hand and it reminded me, a little, like the hands/paws that adorned Sekhmet’s netjeri, her sacred arrows. These, I decided, had to belong to a demon of some sort.
As I tried to puzzle out the hand and tried my best to not freak out, I felt other hands alight upon my body. If I could have, I would have screamed. Instead, I screamed silently in the recess of my mind as terror really began to take over. In the background of my mind’s fear, I could still hear that dusty voice droning on its musical language of baby babble.
After having rested upon various parts of my body, the hands did not move. I could feel their solid weight against my shins, my thighs, my abdomen, and my shoulders. I felt a single pair at the very top of my head, resting atop the weight of my hair. The voice droned out and my emotions began to settle down a bit. Nothing happened except that the lilting cadence of the voice changed ever so slightly. If I had been anything but stationary, I may not have noticed.
As though they were a dance troupe performing a number, the hands began to move together. They attended me, I supposed. There is really no other word for the gentle caresses and massages they subjected my body to. I was pretty sure this was their [silent] way of letting me know that everything was going to be okay. And maybe that’s what the baby talk was about? This random, unknown personage whispering into my ear was trying to tell me that what they were doing was okay and that this was the process. Maybe it was whispering sweet nothings to me, for all I knew. But for a while, I was able to relax and not worry.
I grew drowsy from the massage and closed my eyes.
As the hands continued, though, they began plucking at the [sodden, filthy] linen sheath I had been wearing before all of this. The cloth in and of itself was decorated with any number of stains, many of them my blood and the ooze that infested my interior. I could tell that the hands were putout at having to touch this thing and I thought about telling them that they could just deal with it. Instead, they shred the thing in two and pulled it off my body.
I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned this but I’m not the kind of person, in either life, that really likes being naked in front of complete strangers? But, I’m really just not that kind of person. I was even less thrilled at the prospect of some old babbling bugger at my ear seeing my naked body, which was delivered down a further 100,000 points in things I didn’t like by the prospect of a bunch of random, unknown demons taking a gander at what my body had to offer. Not that my body was offering or that I was thinking about offering, which made this that much worse and confusing.
I tried to say something. Fuck, I tried to move my tongue so that I could talk around my closed lips, but found myself unable to do so. So, instead, I got to be bare-assed naked on a fucking cold-ass table/stone thing/what the fuck ever while a bunch of strangers possibly ogled my goods.
This was turning out really awesome, I decided.
The hands continued their massage, which only heightened my discomfort. As though to add to it, they began massaging a sort of perfumed oil into my lips, moving my legs and arms to get at all the places. I closed my eyes, feeling as though I was suffering through the apex of indignity. Of all the things I could have gotten from Mom, I thought, it couldn’t have been comfort in my own fucking skin and comfort with others seeing said skin, touching said skin… I gritted my teeth and kept my eyes closed at the discomfort of it all.
Finally, the unguent-painting thing was over and the hands removed themselves from my person. I was pretty sure I wanted to sit up and get the fuck out now. I knew, from the pain deep inside, that I was not healed in any form, but I figured that was okay. I had been pretty patient thus far and I had been dealing relatively well, in my opinion, with all of it. So, I figured that dying and regenerating as whatever the fuck the green-black ooze would turn me into was okay. Instead, one of the demon hands decided it would be a really good idea to slide into the wound I had cut into my abdomen.
I would have screamed if I had been able.
I would have come bolting off the table if I had been able.
I was able to feel the tears cascade down my temples to mingle in my hair.
I finally understood why I hadn’t been able to move.
The voice beside my ear continued to ramble on and on, assuring me in whatever language (pretty sure: baby speak) that everything would be okay. The cadence of their words, though, began to change as the hand putzed around inside my wound. Slowly, the hand pulled out and I was able to see (finally) around myself.
Candles were lit and placed in a haphazard tangle in the room we were in. It was like a cavern with stalactites dripping water down their long lengths. Sometimes the dripping water would gutter a candle, which would only re-light itself after the water had run down the sides of the candle. The rest of the candles were strewn about us higgledy-piggledy. Sometimes they were on surfaces, sometimes they were on the floor. Really, it was probably a fire hazard.
The owner of the voice beside me was a wizened old man. His face was mere inches from my ear. Slowly, he began rocking to the rhythm of his words. I felt as though whatever he was saying was very much a ritual to him. Maybe it calmed him; the rhythm and the rocking? As I looked over at him, his face became young, smooth and ageless with its perfection youth. I watched, fascinated as it aged before my eyes. I was pretty sure this was the Nun.
I looked to the being that had violated the wound in my abdomen but the room revolved back into darkness. Over the whispered words of the Nun, I could hear a slurping sound. This was followed by another round of pain as the demonic hands slid into my side. When it was removed, the slurping sound came again. I swallowed back bile that I couldn’t have thrown up even if I wanted to. I tried not to focus on the ick factor surrounding the fact that a demon was very obvious sucking the black-green ooze from my body, one handful at a time.
This was the price of healing.