Lady of Rage.

Zep Tepi is the moment we all know as the First Time, or the First Occasion. It is that single perfect moment in which creation has been created. It signifies when the world is new and whole and perfect. It is that split second in time where the primeval mound has risen from the lifeless waters of the Nun to announce that the world has been made. It is perfection personified in a single yet brief period of time.

It is also an endless moment. It moves across time and space. It is always happening; it has already happened. Mythic time makes this part of the myth difficult for us to fully understand. We can connect to this concept of mythic time when we discuss the number of creation myths found in ancient Egypt (after thousand of years and varying degrees of import associated with specific cult centers, it’s bound to happen). But when we take a look at it without associating it with the cosmogonies, we can sometimes forget that Zep Tepi has already happened, is currently happening, and is going to happen.

In effect, Zep Tepi is more than just a single second in time from eons back; from before humans walked the earth and before gods ruled. It happens every day. And it will happen again and again every second of every day. And it will happen many years in the future after I am buried and have turned to dust.

But Zep Tepi goes beyond the cosmogony of ancient Egyptian creation myth. It goes beyond simply a focal point for us to dither and reinterpret as we speak with our community members. Zep Tepi happens every day, and it happens to all of us every day.

It is the moment the sun peers above the horizon. The second before you step into an important meeting about a raise with your boss. The decision before you start eating right and exercising. The time you roll away from your desk to take a break from work. The moment after you’ve taken your anti-anxiety medication and they begin to take effect. The moment you put your car into drive. The deep breath you take before you make an important phone call.

Zep Tepi happens every day in a thousand little ways.

This is not a new concept for us. We have had this discussion numerous times. In fact, I think we’ve hashed it out to the point where many Kemetics in the group spaces I haunt can all agree that Zep Tepi is an ongoing renewal on a personal and fundamental level in all of our lives. It encapsulates any number of moments in our day-to-day lives and can be as large as a sunrise or as small as taking one’s medication.

But the portion of the conversation that does tend to get glossed over is what leads up to that moment of Zep Tepi. In the examples I’ve listed above, we do not usually discuss what precedes each split second of Zep Tepi in our lives. In many instances the time before that moment of rebirth hits us is a battle unto itself. And the next second it is just like when the primordial mound raises from the watery chaos of the Nun.

There are any number of things that we may have to go through before we can achieve our personal Zep Tepi, no matter what we may consider a personal Zep Tepi. Any single person who has had to have these types of uncomfortable conversations either with themselves or other people can attest that it is not an easy process. Anyone who has had to work on themselves in some form or another can assert that the way forward was fraught with pain and suffering. There are any number of setbacks that may have or probably did occur before that moment of renewal is upon us.

The path leading us to Zep Tepi is not an easy one.

Here it comes !

O you who consume your arm, prepare a path for me, for I am Re, I have come forth from the horizon against my foe. – excerpt from Spell 11, The Book of Going Forth by Day translated by R.O. Faulkner

In high school, there were two distinguishing features that people used to tell the difference between my best friend and I. (We did resemble one another.) The first was that I was the shortest one in our friend group, which was true. I was tiny in comparison and there were a good 2 – 3″ between me and the next shortest person. The second was that I was an angry kind of person, which was also true. Being a short, angry ball of energy followed me out of high school and into other adventures in my life.

Both were a constant and, or so I thought, I could do nothing about either. I wore them like badges of honor. I was a little ball of rage that could make grown men cry; and wasn’t it just hilarious that I was so tiny to boot?

I’ve written about it all before, but suffice to say I was perfectly fine with it for a very long time before Sekhmet took me by the face, squeezed my cheeks together, and said, “cut the shit, and fix it.” I argued about it since this seemed like something I really didn’t want to do and I was given a caveat to the first message. “Or else.” I was never sure what the “or else” could entail, but I figured if she was telling me to fix it, and tacking on something as menacing as “or else”, then there was probably a serious problem.

The irony of the situation was not lost on me, of course.

I railed against her.

I told her that she was a hypocrite.

I whined at her.

I cried a lot.

I didn’t want to get rid of it. I wanted it to remain because it was a part of who I was, it was a part of my very identity. If I were to get rid of it, then who would I be? She should have been able to understand my point of view easily since, I felt, she was in similar circumstances. But no matter how many times I tried to get out of it, I came back to Sekhmet’s message to me: “cut the shit, and fix it. Or else.”

It took me a very long time to work on it. I knew that there was no quick fix here, but I had hoped for one.

As the years had past, the primary moment that the rage began had grown. Instead of it having been created at a single fixed moment in my life and remaining the same size it had been at that moment of its own creation, I found that it had been built up over the years by a variety of traumas until it was very large. It was exceedingly painful to work on. I couldn’t go from 0 to 100 on this. I had to take my sweet time as I slowly peeled back the layers to find the very start, the very beginning.

I had always been under the impression that rage was, well, healthy. I thought that having it was a good thing. But something that I had learned as I worked on this was that anger could be healthy; rage was not. I had to work down the ball of rage until I could manage what was left before I could finally turn to Sekhmet and say, “See what I have done? I did it.”

But I had caused another problem in the fixing. Out of fear, I wouldn’t let myself feel angry. I had spent so much time working on this part of myself that I was worried what would happen if I got angry. I kept my emotions locked up tight until I thought I would break from it all. I finally fell apart and realized that I had gone from one extreme to the other; I had gone from razor teeth and claws to a featureless void of no emotion with periodic explosions.

I had to learn hard how to express myself. I had to educate myself on what was and was not healthy. I had to let myself feel my emotions, but instead of bottling them up into a nice little pocket of rage in my chest, I had to express them in a way that would benefit myself and others. I had broken myself down to fix the problem, but I had only done part of the work to build myself back up.

After working down the traumas, working them all down until I had a functional level of anger that was healthy. Then I had to teach myself how to express these emotions in a healthy way, in a way that would benefit myself, the work that I had done, and the people around me. I’m finally at a point where I can say that while I do experience anger at a variety of things, I can finally express it in a healthy way that doesn’t involve broken things or people.

My first true moment of Zep Tepi was after all the rage had been pulled from its pocket and I could breathe again without feeling like I would melt down. My second moment was being able to express my frustrations and anger in a way that benefited myself, my life, and my goddess.

Rage

I have flown up like the primeval ones, I have become Khepri, I have grown as a plant, I have clad myself as a tortoise, I am the essence of every god… – excerpt from Spell 83, The Book of Going Forth by Day translated by R.O. Faulkner

After I had realized that I needed to build my house back up, I sent myself on a mission to find something that would benefit me in the long run. I had to find a part of myself that had been missing for a very long time. Another piece of me had hidden that part of myself away in a safe place for later because that piece of me had grown tired of the world, tired of the gods, tired of living.

When I finally found that part of me again, I was reminded a bit of the Book of the Celestial Cow where Ra is mentioned to have become old. As quoted from this piece by Edward Butler:

Re learns that there are humans plotting against him because the furthest limits of his realm are far removed from his living divinity. The myth offers two immediate symbols of this distance or gap between Re and his subjects. The first is Re’s elderliness and, the second, the mineral metaphors used to describe him: his bones like silver, his flesh like gold, his hair like lapis lazuli. Re is elderly, not as an absolute quality, but relative to those of his subjects who are much younger in the scale of being.

I could feel the difference between myself and this part of myself. She was elderly in the context of Ra above: she was older than myself and had seen untold things in the time when she had been active. I referred to her as ancient-me, which seems to amuse as well as irritate. I was doing my job at any rate if I could get amusement out of the seriousness of the situation.

What I found when I discovered this piece was that the hard work I had done to myself at Sekhmet’s push had not been done to this older facet. In fact, I would say that, if I had to associate her with my own path, she looked more like 2012 era me than anything else: always angry, ready to pop at the hint of even the slightest provocation.

I also saw in her the same Sekhmet I have seen over and over again throughout my dealings with her: a volcano that has been dormant for years, but that could explode at any moment. The plume of gases that was constantly being released to make room for yet more rage was a miasma. I had to work on that for her so that we could continue on to the next steps in our journey.

The rage that had fostered in her had similar earmarks to my own and similar earmarks to Sekhmet’s, but at the heart of it all, it was entirely her own. She had made of it, just as I had made of it, a core part of herself. And that core part was necrotic from the years of adding to it.

I had to condense years’ worth of shadow work in a limited amount of time so that we could clear out the heart that had gone stale, first after years of disuse and second after years of fortifying it with white-hot anger. In the working, I discovered that, much as I had found for myself, she had never figured out a healthy and proper way to convey her feelings of anger. She had bottled them up until she was ready to break from it all.

As I worked on this other piece of myself, I began to wonder if this, too, was a core issue for Sekhmet. We know her as the Lady of Rage, of fire and fury, but we often don’t ask her to tell us how she’s feeling. Based on the myth I linked to above, at no point did Ra give her the tools she would need to fix herself, much less to express herself in a healthy and constructive way.

Maybe Ra never wanted to give her those tools or maybe he never knew what they looked like because he, too, suffers from the same thing. The whys and what-fors really don’t matter.

All that I kept coming back to as I worked on that other piece of myself was that this was something that Sekhmet could benefit from, if for no other reason than because then, the dormant volcano wouldn’t constantly be spewing ash and miasma into the air. And maybe the eventual eruption would be healthier than the eventual destroy-’em-all eruption that we all fear.

Perhaps in her directives to us, to me and to other me, to the other devotees out there who have anger issues, Sekhmet is looking for the quick-fix or any fix, really, to work on her own issues. Perhaps in the push to “cut the shit, and fix it; or else” she is asking us to teach her how to turn herself into a better god, to work on her root troubles, and come out of it a little less angry, a little less fear-inducing, a little more than just a lioness ready to slaughter at the request of the god who fathered her.

I think, at the very root of it all, Sekhmet is looking for her own version of Zep Tepi. She is hoping for that single moment of cosmological perfection where the world is new, or perhaps merely the renewal that predisposes the many versions of Zep Tepi that we see and feel every day.

Just as this other part of myself both deserves and needs that Zep Tepi, so too does Sekhmet. And as much as I may be jaded by everything that I’ve seen or done, I’m going to continue to work towards that goal.

Further Reading

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Causing a Soul to Live.

O Nut, Nut, I have cast my father to the earth, with Horus behind me. My wings have grown into those of a falcon, my plumes are those of a sacred falcon, my soul has brought me and its words have equipped me.

– excerpt from Spell 177 from the Book of the Dead.

It began months ago when I drove by a Catholic church that I have always driven by. The church is a memory staple of my youth. I can remember riding up that long main drag with my family and watching it flee into the distance. I had always wondered who Saint Catherine was and why she was important enough to have a church named after her.

The church looks the same from my childhood. All tans and grays with thick bands of the deepest green grass. The soccer fields are filled with players in spring and autumn, the lone cop obviously sitting idly in his speed trap all year round, and the people happily bonding in their religious community.  The place seems, well, friendly. Cheerful and happy; welcoming, I guess. Not all churches feel that way in my experience. This is one of the few in my area. For the church, time hasn’t passed, not really. Another day, another month, another year is immaterial to the friendly building that takes up an entire city block.

This wasn’t the church of my ancestors. Their places of worship were either miles or cities away.

But as I drove by that day, a whisper told me to go inside and check it out. The whisper reminded me that I had always been curious about what Catholic churches were like. That I wanted to know what it would be like to confess to a priest and get told to pay penance with whatever prayer sets an alleged sinner like me needed to get right. The whisper was forceful yet seductive. Don’t you want to know? it seemed to ask.

Not that badly, I decided, and left it alone.

It was a hum after that, no longer a whisper. It was a quiet, near-constant hum in the darkest recesses of my mind. There were no words, just sound. It had a sort of harmony in it, but it was little better than white noise. It would get louder when I drove back by St. Cathy’s church but faded out as I kept on going.

One day as the noise got loud, louder, loudest, I muttered, “man, I got to get right with my akhu.

I couldn’t say what made that come to mind. I frankly couldn’t even understand what the hell the idea meant. I knew things were a bit tenuous with my grave-tending just about nonexistent and my lack of offerings or care to my ancestors, but what had I done wrong that made it seem like I needed to “get right” with them? Fuck if I knew and they weren’t really saying.

I muzzled the whole thought, the whole damn thing and the white noises faded out when the church popped up on my drives to wherever. I breathed a sigh of relief: no more obsessive desire to step foot in a friendly building that simultaneously repulsed and beguiled me. It was like that wayward thought about the church and the ancestors was dead and gone.

I kept congratulating myself on a job well done. I figured my discernment was fucked ten ways and I needed to figure all that out later. Whenever the fuck later actually was.

I never did pull out my Tarot cards to figure it out. I didn’t need to. The painful bit was over and I was doing fine.

Pyrenean Starry Skies

You have opened up your place among the stars of the sky, for you are the Lone Star of the sky… – excerpt from Spell 177 from the Book of the Dead.

Weeks back now, I woke up from one of those calming dreams that you’re loathe to wake from. The vibe of the dream was the utmost tranquility, soothing, and sweet. It was like finding yourself in a moment so perfectly encapsulated by the word “serenity” that you can only marvel at the perfection of it. I’ve had rare moments like that, typically in the some area outside, surrounded by plant and animal life. It was nice having it in the dream world.

In the dream, I held two things between my hands. The first were a pair of cool beads. When I looked down at them, I realized that I was looking at a mother-of-pearl rosary. At the cross section was a medal of some kind and the crucifix was a sort of tarnished color along with the saint’s medal. The beads had a glint of rose within the confines and handling them added to the overall calm. I could feel my maternal grandmother in them.

In the other hand, I held a scrap of cloth. It was made of flannel and was black-and-white plaid. The fabric was raspy between my fingers. As I clenched my fist around it, I felt a sort of stabilizing influence. I could almost see my father’s face in the whorl of the fabric, though I knew that I couldn’t see anything in reality.

Behind all of this in a sort of blurry after image. I could see what looked like a table lacquered in a dark color like mahogany with curtains on either side. Across the entire surface of the table were golds and ambers, pinpricks that caught the light. It was like I was seeing it all from under water. The picture was kind of clear if I focused on it for a few moments but then the blurriness overshadowed everything else.

Again the peace of the dream kind of caught up with me. Maybe it was the knowledge that I was filled with so much peace that finally woke me up.

When I finally climbed out of the soothing vision of the dream, I sort of pondered the meaning behind it. I could kind of see what it was that was going on here. The symbolism was pretty clear. The rosary was for my grandmother; the plaid flannel for my father. Of all of my ancestors, these are the two that I am the most connected to and the most willing to reach out to when I need them. Though they have been quiet in recent years, it seems like perhaps they have finally come to terms with the fact that I will honor them, but I’ll do it in my own damn way.

On the way to work, I kind of tried to figure out if this had to do with that whole “getting right with the ancestors” thing from before. I wasn’t sure, but I thought maybe all the puzzle pieces would fit eventually together and I’d finally get a glimpse of the overall picture. I started working on getting the akhu cabinet up to snuff, to sort of fill it in like the watery images from the dream.

Not long later, I dreamed about my akhu again. I was a little astounded to be honest. I’ve gone for years without hearing much more than a whisper here and there and then, within a month’s time, I had dreamed of them twice. This time the dream was a little soothing and a lot more obvious.

I was working in the closet that I’ve cleared out to make space for my akhu area. The closet is pretty large and the cabinet doesn’t fill it in completely. In the dream, I was moving the cabinet towards the book shelf that I call the Place of Truth and in the cabinet’s place was a sort of console table. It was pretty wide, maybe almost 20″ and fit neatly back against the closet wall. It took up most of the closet to be honest.

After rearranging all of the current imagery that adorns my akhu cabinet, I carefully placed an icon of Anpu across it. It’s the typical icon one sees of him in his couchant jackal pose. I have one, in fact, that sits on my cabinet now. The icon in my dream was far larger and sat crosswise instead of facing outward as my current icon does today. I placed the icon so that he was looking towards the east.

Well, it seemed pretty obvious that if I was to “get right” with my akhu, they wanted a fitting place to reside themselves. I had already compiled a decent sized list of things that I’ve been purchasing piecemeal. It will be a while before everything is situated appropriately – though I am still up in the air about whether the couchant Anpu is a requirement or merely a dream affectation – but I’m getting there.

Starry Night at the Camp

O, fair are the orders which you give to the spirits, for you are a Power; you will not go hungry… – excerpt from Spell 177 from the Book of the Dead.

The talk of one’s ancestors within our community is often a mixed bag. There are people who pay homage to them and those who don’t. All reasoning for why one person does something and another one doesn’t are completely valid. In my world, I have always wanted to connect to them in some way and found it difficult to do so.

The main reason why I found it so hard is because I always felt like my ancestors were an amalgamation of every piece of genetic heritage, or familial heritage (should no genetics play a part), that had come before. As a young Kemetic, I found the amorphous mass of my ancestors confusing. Wasn’t ancestor worship or veneration supposed to be a one-by-one deal? But every time I moved in that direction, I found a hive mind so to speak. I figured I was doing it wrong.

This is partially why grave-tending worked for me. The deceased in my neck of the woods were, like my personal ancestors, a mass of those who had come before. I was comfortable with it when the group mind had no personal bearing on me. It was too strange when it was people who, for all intents and purposes, were supposed to be my people.

Some time ago, I was reading a book by Kemp, which seemed to indicate that the laity only paid homage to the most recently deceased generation. It wasn’t because the other generations weren’t as important but specifically seemed to relate to the fact that, due to a smaller lifespan, it would have only have been the most recently deceased generation that would have had a connection with the living. This, of course, made sense to me: I found it easier to connect with the people whom I had known in life who had gone into the West as opposed to the names and faces from sepia-toned and black-and-white photos.

It wasn’t until I was reading through Society, Morality, and Religious Practice earlier this year that it kind of finally began to take shape. After running across this quote, it made my experiences with my akhu seem far more real than I had previously given credit. I had, as usual, had preconceived notions that impeded my ability to truly connect and by finding a canon source that aligned more fully with my experiences, I was better able to feel comfortable with my experiences.

Sometimes you just need someone else, even a faceless author, to help lend credence to your personal gnosis.

Since reading that quote, I have felt more connected with my ancestors than I have in a long time. The disconnect I was having wasn’t just on my end – I have personally found that your closest relations can and are opinionated even in death especially when it relates to how you honor them in death – but these books and quotes helped exponentially.

It’s possible that this is what was meant all those many moons ago when I found myself saying, “man, I got to get right with my akhu.” Or, perhaps not the totality of it. I can definitely say that by fixing up the space I’ve designated for my ancestors, I’ve also found it easier to turn to them and speak with them and rely on them. But there are other pieces to this puzzle, too: their pieces, their desires.

It’s a balancing act, really, to cause a soul to live.

And sometimes the soul isn’t just those who have predeceased you, left you roaming around on this planet without them there. Sometimes that soul is yours and the burning white-hot need to connect to people who loved you, took care of you, and were there when the shit hit the fan even if they made mistakes along the way. They forget to mention that part, about how you need your soul to live too and sometimes that living part means getting right with the dead.

I guess that’s just a part of the learning curve.

Someone stands behind you, and you have power; you shall neither perish nor be destroyed, but you shall act among men and gods.

– excerpt from Spell 177 from the Book of the Dead.

Kemetic Round Table: Here Be Dragons

Subtitle: The Dragons are Really Crack

I think part of the reason I chose the “spiritual turnpike” for the name of this blog, and my path to be honest, is because I was hoping that there was a map. The only thing was that I had to find the map. No problem, though – I would search everywhere and eventually, the map would appear when I was ready. I think I expected this map to have very clear instructions on where my relationship with my gods and, more specifically, my relationship with Sekhmet was going to eventually end up. It would be a nice clean environment; it would be full of unicorn farts and glitter; and there would definitely be peanut butter cups and heart eyes. What I learned instead is that there is no map; there is absolutely no fucking anything to help guide you into unexplored territories. If I did have a map, I would probably be mired in the sections labeled “here be dragons.”

I’ve been mired so long in this place with the dragons that I’m beginning to suspect that this is normal [for me]. Since I was obviously going to be hanging around with these dragons for a fair length of time, I had to go looking for ways to overcome them. To borrow from fairy tales a bit here, the knight always goes out to kill the dragon so that he can rescue the princess. It occurred to me, though, that this was probably not the best mindset to have if I was going to (A) continue to encounter dragons and (B) it seemed to me to be a rather a dick move [against the dragons]. Instead of looking for ways to successfully beat them, I began looking for ways so that we could coexist. For the most part, I think I’ve been successful – I have my moments, of course; I think everyone does when things come out of nowhere. I think my dragons and I, while maybe not the best of friends, we at least don’t try to eat each other.

The gods began throwing me for a loop when they introduced me to dragon the first. We’ll call her Astral Dragon. She was glittery and frilly and had blue whiskers. I ignored her for a long time. It was easy enough, at first, because she was a baby dragon. She had cute little wings and didn’t breathe anything like flames or ice at me. She just sat on top of my head and periodically picked a little hole until I had a nice, steady fissure for her to stream woo in my direction. I was able to write that off, too, because I couldn’t recreate it, ergo it did not exist. My first response (as you’ll see) is to ignore something. I ignored Astral Dragon, as adorable as she must have been as a baby dragon, until she grew so large that I couldn’t breathe under the weight of her. I began paying a bit better attention then.

I started off by researching what was happening and networking with people who had advised that they experienced similar happenings. This helped me get over the idea that I was all alone in a cruel world, surrounded by weirdness that only I went through. I will admit here that I was lucky: there were resources for people like me. I can’t even begin to imagine what it was like for the first person who began having Astral Shenanigans pop up and into their brains. So, I looked around and found that I wasn’t alone. I didn’t actively encourage Astral Dragon; she just kind of threw some more at me whenever she felt the need arose. And thus, I was introduced to woo.

I don’t think I have a very positive relationship with the woo and I have to say that may be par for the course. I get bitter. I get angry. I get irritated. I get frustrated. There is a lot of unexplored territory especially within the Kemetic community. And since most of the woo tends to happen within a Kemetic context (not all of it has, but much of it has), there are still limited resources available. It can be very irritating to have to map out areas of the Duat on your own because you just want to confirm something that you dreamed about… only to have it confirmed in a book and getting thrown for a loop all over again. I have a lot of moments where I doubt entirely what’s happened to me either because I haven’t found a correlation within a dry resource book written for Egyptologists or because it’s just too much to take in all at once and there’s no fucking way this is really fucking happening. Give me proof or give me doubt; so I doubt instead.

The thing is that Astral Dragon brought a friend. This friend was red and flame-ridden and he had gray whiskers, puffs of smoke streaming from both nostrils, and a ferocious bite. We’ll call him Initiation Dragon. He showed up after a while and began leading me in a direction that can only be described as initiation. On this, I fought very hard against it because no fucking way. He and I got into a lot of fights and I spent a lot of my time in a dull funk about the whole experience. It was almost like because I had found a decent groove where I had been able to work closely with Astral Dragon, she had to up the ante by bringing a friend along. That seemed like some bullshit right there. But after enough kicking and screaming, I began going through what I had to go through.

About a year ago, I died. It was while I was in the middle of this painful death (just because you aren’t dying in this realm doesn’t make it any less painful, bee tee dubs) that I began looking into what the fuck I was experiencing. I needed some form of frame of reference. This is when I came upon the word “initiation,” which had been cropping up in circles a little too frequently for the six months or so prior to my astral death. The really big problem was that in the grand scheme of Kemeticism, there isn’t much initiation talk outside of Kemetic Orthodoxy. I have found a little bit of information, which seems to work with what I went through, but it doesn’t fully explain it. I had to start looking elsewhere for more information.

Outside of that, I have found next to nothing regarding initiation. So, it didn’t really make a lot of sense to me. I had to look elsewhere for my answers. And while I found them, I have to admit that the subject matter is pretty problematic because it relates to shamanism… yeah, that’s right, the culturally appropriative word that anthropologists use to designate people with other. So, I went looking and found a lot of parallels with my path and what I had just gone through. It got worse because death was actually a beginning –this was all building to “bigger and better things” (the quotes are fucking air quotes and yes, they are sarcastic). I will admit that it was kind of nice to find something like what I was experiencing even if anthropologists are pieces of shit that steal words and then use it to encompass a way of life that is probably better described as KEY SMASHING.

I know for a fact that I don’t have a very positive relationship with this particular brand of the woo. Again, I think it’s probably normal to go through an experience of this magnitude, which fundamentally changes you on a level that you can’t even fathom, and be a little frustrated and embittered by the entire experience. What makes this worse is that there is no way to map anything out here. It’s one thing to find confirmation of your UPG in a book, but quite another when you’re flying solo and blind on a mad dragon, doing barrel rolls in the air to see if you fall off.

As if Astral Dragon and Initiation Dragon weren’t hard enough to handle, I ended up accidentally bringing home yet another dragon. And this was completely accidental – I didn’t go seeking this on purpose, looking for this particular dragon. We’ll call this particular one Hmmphmm Dragon. This dragon has aqua and lavender swirls up and down its side with a white beard, pink google eyes, and a lopsided grin. I think most people can infer what the hmmphmm is a metaphor for. For those who haven’t caught on, it means sex. That’s right, folks; I have a relationship with a deity – consensual – that would best fall under the category of “god sex.” It is not a romantic relationship. It is not a marriage. There is no oath involved. It is a relationship between a devotee and their god that has sexual overtones periodically. Talk about totally off the fucking map, right?

I’ll tell you what – there is absolutely nothing I can do as far as looking for information on how to handle this. The deity relationships that include sexy times tend to fall within the godspouse dynamic (not saying all by any stretch just that many do) and most of those relationships are not within a Kemetic background. I think I can count on one hand how many people who have admitted, in private, that their relationships fall within this particular paradigm in the Kemetic community. And I think I have only spoken with two Kemetics who have stated that they have god sex. And that’s great – I have a tiny niche that I can reach out to if I need advice. But that doesn’t help in the long run or the fact that I don’t really know what the fuck I’m doing or how this happened to me. What happened to having a nice normal practice?

I don’t have a good way to handle any of this. There are a lot of reasons for it, but at the core of this is that I’m ace, remember? It can be really difficult to handle the fact that one facet of my person is not ace while the rest of me, right now, really fucking is. How do I handle waking up from sexy times with a god? I get crotchety and bitchy; I get frustrated enough to the point where I want to fucking break everything around me. I get snotty and depressed. I deny everything going on as some kind of sick fucking subconscious fantasy. Sometimes, it’s easier to deny it all than to figure out a way to handle the fact that super ace me has a part of her who isn’t so super ace.

Another problem is that, at least with Astral Dragon and Initiation Dragon, I have some resources. I don’t have that for Hmmphmm Dragon. I want books that I can read. I want an Egyptologist to write about how the ancients had sex with their gods, either under the influence of mind altering substances or not. I want them to explain to me what the hell is happening, why it is happening, and to give me sources from antiquity. The thing is that I can’t get this information. It’s either not available or this is a new metamorphosis from the gods or the ancients just never bothered to mention it (always possible) or the resources that do discuss it are completely lost to us. Whatever the case may be, I’m wandering around with Hmmphmm Dragon completely at a loss of what I’m doing or how I wound up here.

This is me at any given moment of the day.

This is me at any given moment of the day.

Looking back at all of that, I think I could have probably handled any of these experiences with a lot more grace and aplomb. The thing is that I am so completely out of my depth that I don’t know how to handle any of this with either of those things. All I have done and continue to do is cry (and I have… a lot) and whine about it, hoping that I haven’t completely made shit up. I have spent a lot of time, hoping that someone would tell me that they had seen it in a dream or that they had tangible evidence that what I have been going through is legitimate. The problem with craving legitimacy here is that none of these dragons can really provide that to me. I don’t think anyone really can provide me with that and even if they could, I don’t know if I would believe them. It’s a vicious circle when things go off the map – your lines in the sand are constantly getting moved back and no matter what it comes down to, you will always have those moments where you just deny everything.

My religious life has long since wandered off the carefully mapped out section of what I thought it was going to be. Honestly, if I sit down with Five Years Younger Me, I would have said that my religious life would have been fulfilling, happy, exciting, making and/or had made me into a better person, and all about the laity: what that means, how that works, and being an “unexceptional, not speshul snowflake.” That is what the person I was five years ago would have said.

What I can say now is that my path is definitely making me into a better person. It definitely falls under the broad definition of “exciting.” But more often than not, it can be frightening and worrisome, with strategic stops at “bitter,” “irritated,” “confused,” and “angry.” I was knocked for a loop a few years back and I’ve been kind of reeling from it all ever since. That is why, in my opinion, a map would be fucking useful right about now.

Place of Truth.

You ever have one of those moments where you just have this fucking thing stuck in your head? It can be a song lyric, a picture, a turn of phrase – but it’s just sitting there in your brain pan and periodically, it shoots back out at you and reminds you that it exists in there and that you should think about it. That’s what this post is about.

For weeks on end, whenever I would walk over to my altar for Sekhmet, I would hear this phrase just echoing through my meat space. Hell, let’s be honest here, this has been going on for longer than all of that – months, more like. Whenever I would go over there or pass by, which is done on a daily basis, I would just hear this fucking phrase echoing in my head and I was so very puzzled by it. It was like a little zing at first, you know? It was just there. “Boop! Hey, I’m here.” And then with each passing day that the phrase would hit me, it became more and more like an electrical shock to the system: place of truth.

I puzzled about it, you know? I thought I was making up things out of the reactionary word vomit that can occasionally inhabit one’s mind space. How often had I had moments where something would come through like this and it ended up being nothing? (Or quite possibly, it actually was something that was never solved because, let’s be real here, that’s always a possibility.) But it began to happen on such a regular basis and the zings were becoming more painful. It was like eating too much sugar after a filling falls out – a zap of pain to the teeth. Or more like a momentary brain freeze that would shoot not just into my brain, making me want to cut off the entire apparatus housing it, but throughout my whole body.

I started looking things up because, you know, I may as well give in to the reactionary odd shit my mind makes up.

I was really just expecting like a book title to pop up or have an image come up on the screen: a single pointed finger surrounded by bubbled text spelling out “ha ha ha.” That’s not what happened. The not-oracle that is Google came up with something interesting: set maat was what the ancient Egyptians referred to the Theban necropolis as. Oh, well, that was very helpful… so helpful that I looked up the bits about how the workers at Deir el-Medina were referred to as “servant of the place of truth.” And all of that was just so very helpful but not in any way, shape, or form that could possibly explain to me why the fuck I was having this damn fucking phrase puncture my brain pan every fucking morning.

I mean, honestly? What in the world did my relationship with Sekhmet and/or my altar space have to do with the Theban necropolis? I couldn’t make a connection. Sure, I had dealings with Sekhmet in the Duat, but that didn’t really relate as far as I could see to the necropolis. And I don’t really consider my altar space as sacred as, maybe someone somewhere thought the necropolis was. So, how the fuck and why the fuck and what the fuck?

I left it alone. That’s a thing, right? When things really start to aggravate you, sometimes if you just leave them alone, they percolate in the background and something might come of it.

I left it alone for so long that I told Sekhmet’s altar that it could shut the fuck up. I got more zings. I started avoiding going near her altar except for the most necessary things – offerings, dropping off jewelry, picking up jewelry, etc. I got more zings. I refused to make fucking eye contact with my fucking altar whenever I would do these in the hopes that it would help. I got more zings. I left it alone for so fucking long that I began to actually tune it out. Evidently, this was just too much to handle because things came to a head the second week of January.

The second week of the month is when I do the rites and services Sekhmet and I agreed upon (over a fucking year ago now – time flies). I usually make up the altar pretty much the same, maybe with minor changes. I clean the place up and out and spritz it down and make it damn fine. I have ritual plates that I use for the heka feast offering and ones specific for the actual food offerings I give as well. No big deal, I pulled everything down and placed the heka in the proper plate-bowl-thing and looked at it and had the volume turned up: PLACE OF TRUTH.

I stared at the space I had lovingly tended with revulsion and irritation. We were back to this stupid fucking thing again. I had finally managed to get out of that fucking gutter and I was getting sucked back in when I had things to do. So, I looked around for something while I began to get a massive fucking headache as PLACE OF TRUTH pounded through my brain pan. I found a candle and laid it over the heka meal. I stared at the plate some more and then pulled down the feather of ma’at amulet, wrapping it gently around the candle holder.

The volume dial was turned down and I was able to walk away, pleased with it.

Well.

Shit.

What the fuck.

A while later, I began moving things away and looked down at the altar space. I was pretty angry and irritated. I went to move the heka feast bowl-plate-thing with its candle and ma’at, but my hand stayed right where it was at my side. I looked at my hand. I looked at the bowl thing. I looked at Sekhmet. I looked at the feather of ma’at amulet.

PLACE OF TRUTH.

I decided to just remove the heka feast and clean the plate thing, but placed the candle and the amulet back where it had been previously. The volume dial was turned down again. I was beginning to get a very serious feeling that the bowl-plate-thing and the amulet needed to stay put. I wasn’t really sure if the candle needed to stay put, but since it’s a good focal point, I figured it could stay. Besides, if nothing else, doesn’t the place of truth deserve a little way to make some flame especially since it seems, somehow, to be related to the Lady of the Flame?

I’ve been growing more and more desperate. I can’t tune it out as clearly as I had been. I can continue to walk by; I can continue to ignore the space; I can even just go “lalalala, I can’t hear you,” with my fingers in my ears. None of it really works. I don’t know what the hell this means. Why the hell this is even supposed to be a thing?

In desperation, I went to the not-oracle that is Google and found a whole lot of the same shit I found the first time around. In desperation, I reached out to two groups for help, but have received no responses from anyone about the phrase “place of truth.” I’m clearly at the end of my tether because I can’t fucking sit around and listen to the stupid bullshit anymore. I don’t know what this means or why this means. I don’t understand the zings I’m getting or the constant feeling that there is something missing, perhaps that I, myself, am missing (clearly) or that is missing from the fucking space in general. I just don’t know.

So, because I was finally at the end of my fucking rope and demanding answers, I pulled out the Book of Doors deck.

WHAT DOES THIS FUCKING THING MEAN.

And I got a hodge-podge mess that actually made me even angrier. I was already pretty pissed to begin with – the fact that I had to turn to cards in the first place really made me snottier than usual – so the responses I got to the question, phrased differently each time, made me very unhappy. It was made worse when I realized that how I typically interpret the deck wasn’t going to work. The answers I was looking for were “woo” related, or in that realm. So, historically, I have bubkes. And technically, woo-wise, I also have bubkes but at least I know it’s related to that in some way.

This was not helping.

I sat in front of the altar and stared at the white plate. It was just a plate. I had purchased it for $1 at the dollar store. There is absolutely nothing special about the plate. It’s flat in the middle and rounds up. It’s probably more like a serving bowl or a salad bowl. There is no design to it – I wanted something nice and plain for the rites and services when I picked it out. It’s a nice enough looking bowl-plate, but it’s usefulness starts and ends at holding offerings once a month.

And yet… adding it to the altar had definitely been a good thing.

Maybe it wasn’t the bowl so much that was a good thing, but the amulet? I thought about that. And it wasn’t until the two were placed together, with the amulet wrapped daintily around the pillar candle holder, when I felt I had done a good thing. But the good thing, that feeling anyway, is still beset on all sides. There’s more here, I can fucking feel it.

I keep looking at the damn space and I keep thinking about how the fuck this can finally shut up in my head. I keep looking at the whole damn space and I keep knowing that I need to add to it. I need more than just the candle and the amulet and the bowl. There’s something here and the answers just aren’t anything more than bleariness at the corner of my eye. I keep rubbing at the bleariness but there’s nothing there but more bleariness.

What the fuck am I even doing.

I wandered back and forth to the altar. I stared at it. I looked down at the floor in frustration and then looked back up, hoping that I had taken enough time to figure out what the hell I was supposed to be doing. I walked away in a huff. I walked back with my hands linked at the back of my head, afraid that if I didn’t hold them together tightly that I may just slash my arm across the whole edifice and destroy it all. I lay down and watched Supernatural for a while. I got back up and stared at what I had begun and then moved back to the TV. I paced back and forth while I messaged with a friend, freaking out through my cell phone. It was a good thing really; I was finally able to say something to someone who, though perhaps they wouldn’t understand the entirety of the problem, they could at least be a sounding board since clearly there will be woo and there is already woo.

This is my truth.

This is my truth.

We talked and they made sense. The panic-streaked thoughts from the last few months faded out. They became less shaky and more solid. I could see what I needed to do in my head, but I just had to figure out how to get it there. As carefully as my son has done when building a precarious tower of blocks, I held my breath and placed pieces in the plate-bowl. I held my breath so as not to disturb the precarious balance. I looked down at my handiwork and knew that I needed more. This was insufficient and I looked up at mawat’s face and I thought to myself, what the fuck do you want from me? And then I saw it… the little necklace of the four arrows I had made a few weeks back. I looked down at my not-a-masterpiece and looked back up at her and then knew what I had to do.

They were the final piece to the finished product.

You see, the point was that I had to build myself a place of truth. It makes sense that the bowl was a good thing – a repository for the heka that I have taken on for the last year. It is a part of my truth. Each little piece placed carefully in that bowl-plate is a part of my truth: my path and where it has led me. I knew this year was going to be a bit of a doozy in the way of my religious experiences. I knew that last year when I looked to the future and saw more hardship, many more ordeals, and new adventures coming my way. I was told a little while ago that I would be judged, but you know? I judge myself, too and quite often, very harshly. I built myself a place of truth. These pieces are a part of my truth – my inner truth, the truth of my ib – and while I may, indeed, be judged by outsiders, the foundations remain the same.

Je suis prêt, I remind myself.

Visitation.

The pain of having something that has infested the entirety of your insides removed one finger-licking moment at a time is intense. It is so intense that, after a while, you really just want to pass out. In fact, it can get to the point where you truly ask your mind to shut the fuck off and let you sleep it off. Perhaps because of the nature of the ritual or perhaps because my body is a traitor, I did not in fact pass out. As much as I prayed to any deity I could possibly think of and as much as I cursed at myself, cajoled myself, and generally begged myself to let me pass out, I did not. I felt each tug as the demon creature purified my body.

I had, after a lot of thought, decided that was what was going on. I couldn’t be sure, of course, but it made a certain kind of sense. This was clearly a ritual of some form and the purpose, at least partially, was remove the green-black gunk that the shard had dripped into my body. Periodically, I would catch glimpses of the creature’s face – some mix between the Gnarl and some monstrosity from an episode of The X Files – that was doing the job as my vision resolved its issues. When I saw it, for the first time, licking every last drop of ooze from its fingers… that was the first, real, time that I begged my mind to shut off for a while.

I couldn’t be sure, of course, but I thought that being awake for the entirety of this was probably part of the ritual, too. I had already requested to go to the Nun in order to regenerate myself from the wound I had inflicted upon myself in an effort to sever the blue ball’s bonds with my body. There was my consent, I supposed, to the matter at hand. What I hadn’t taken into consideration was what the purge would look like and what part, if any, I would have to play within it. It seemed that the only part, besides being there, that I was to play was to be awake for it.

Sometimes, I would feel tears falling down my face. They were warm and dried out the tender skin of my temples.

Sometimes, I would just close my eyes and wonder what the hell the matter with me was.

Most of the time, though, I just hoped fervently that I would pass out.

I knew when we were nearing the end, though. It felt like an eternity had passed and I was pretty sure I was more than ready for this to be over with. But the creature sucking at my interior was slowing down. And as my vision cleared again, I watched it press its face into my abdomen. When it pulled back, it had the blue ball in its mouth. I watched, fascinated, as it swished the ball around in its mouth very much like a small child attempting to keep a marble away from a parent’s questing fingers. It seemed thoughtful as it sucked the thing clean and then, with a little audible noise, it popped the ball into its hand.

We both inspected its job – it probably was looking on with pride and I was definitely looking on with a mix of disgust and interest – before it popped the damn shard right the fuck back inside.

I was almost positive that this was antithetical to the process. Like, I was very sure I had come on through the cold blackness and the hot blackness to land on a really uncomfortable table and to be babbled at and to have weird things caressing my naked body and then doing icky, nasty sucking things to my insides NOT to have the shard/ball/thing put back inside of me. I was pretty sure that it was the cause in the apathetic goo that had infested my insides so, you know, it didn’t seem like a good idea to put it back in fucking side of me.

I stared at the demon and it, seeming to realize this, turned to face me. It gave me a grin, showing me needle like teeth, and then my vision went out again. The babbling at my ear seemed to fade as my hearing started to go, too. Oh, of course, I thought snottily. This is when I fucking pass out. And that is precisely what I did.

When I came to, I had a lot of things I had to process. It took me a long time to process it all.

My first thought was a very ungracious, fuck, I’m still here. This, to me, signified that I wasn’t at all done and there was still some things left to do. That didn’t really seem like a good idea because, you know, I had just had a demon spend hours upon hours abusing my internal organs while it ate out the pestilence that had infested my body. I probably should have been grateful but after having had to suffer through that, awake for the entire time damn thing, I had very few nice thoughts left in my head.

My next realization was that I was dressed. I was wearing a sort of halter-like dress. It had a slit along the abdomen, leaving my wound open to breathe. At least, I assumed that was the case. I honestly didn’t know what the point in keeping the thing open for anymore was. The poison had been cleaned from my body – I could tell that easily enough – so why was access to it still there?

The next thought was that the stupid little fucking ball was still, very much, in my body. However, instead of it being rooted into my internal organs as had been the case before, it was free floating. I could feel moving around in there, bouncing against what felt like my intestines. That seemed like a really not good idea, either. It had liked it so much down there before that it had sent out little roots that had poisoned my body. It very much seemed, to me, as though we were playing with fire here and just asking for trouble.

Probably, I had to remove the ball on my own, but of course, my body was still very much not moving.

After coming to terms with all of this, I realized that the babbling baby guy was either being quiet or I couldn’t hear him. On the heels of that recognition, I became aware that there was someone sitting by my right shoulder. Whoever it was had placed their hand on my shoulder very gently and was humming into the room around us. I swallowed thickly and opened my mouth for the first time in a long time. I thought about screaming, but decided that probably was counterproductive.

“You know, little one, things wouldn’t have been so terrible if you had merely asked for help sooner than you did,” Sekhmet assured me.

I pondered this statement. I had a few things I could remark here, not many of them very nice. I thought about just shrugging and maybe going back to sleep since I was still very tired. Instead, I said, “You make me seem like I can do anything on my own. I had to try.”

She hummed a little bit more and I could feel my body coming alive underneath that sound. It was like she was speaking to me on a level beyond bodies and beyond people. She was speaking to me, I felt, soul to soul. “If I tell you that you can’t do everything all on your own, and teach you that you should ask for help all the time, then you will never learn anything. Instead, you have finally learned your own limitations.”

I found my tongue thickened, cotton mouth becoming a serious issue to continuing this conversation. “I never thought I was capable of doing all of the things I’ve done on my own until you told me that I had to do all these things on my own. And now, you tell me, that I have limitations.” I coughed. I felt her left hand curl around my neck and lift my head, her other hand pressing a glass to my lips. Water cascaded into my mouth, across my tongue, and down my cheeks. It was the most delightful thing I had ever tasted. When I signaled that I had enough, I said, “I’m a little confused. Can I do everything you’ve asked of me on my own or not?”

“Most things,” she said enigmatically. This conversation was maddening. Either I was all of category A or I was all of category B. And of course, as I thought that is when I realized how ridiculous I sounded.

Wasn’t reality shades of gray? Wasn’t that what ma’at was about? And weren’t bodies and their functions just as much shades of gray? And weren’t people and their personalities and what they were good at and what they were bad at and what they were so-so at all a giant swirling pattern that, when looked at properly, was a shade of gray? I sighed. “I’m dumb.”

“No,” she corrected me, “you are just very young.”

I giggled. I had lived so many lives and here she was, calling me young. But of course, in relation to her years, I supposed I was young. “So, you knew I couldn’t do it all on my own?”

“Not necessarily,” she admitted. “I had hopes that you would be able to clear yourself of this all on your own. I knew that when the collar was put in place, this would flare up. I also knew that you would either clear yourself of the poison on your own or you would require help. You ended up requiring help and, I will admit, your request to come here had some ingenuity. I wasn’t really expecting it.”

“But, you told me that I didn’t need to come here.”

“How many times have you told someone what they think they want to hear from you even though that’s not what you are thinking or feeling at all?”

I was kind of startled by this question. I had, of course, told a lot of people any number of things because it was expected of me. They would look at me and see me as X, when I was really just a little bit of X and maybe mostly all of Y, and knowing what they saw when they looked at me, I would tell them what they were expecting to here. I had done this to Sekhmet; I had done this to other gods. I had done this in my waking life; I did it much more there.

“Are you telling me that you said those things about fallibility and infallibility because you knew I would expect to hear it?”

“Yes.”

“Are you telling me that you are proud that I asked for help?”

“Yes.”

I figured I may as well strike while the iron was hot. “Are you telling me that –.”

“I am telling you that I love you and I will do whatever you need me to do in order for you to be what you and I both need you to be.”

I was getting a little choked up here. I couldn’t really figure out what in the world I was going to say. All I kept thinking was about how I had always thought she had loved some of her other kids a little more than me. They were way more important than me in the grand scheme. I was just a fill in for other things. Or, if it wasn’t that particularly, then it was the idea that I, in a life I could no longer remember (nor wanted to), had agreed to this little shindig without knowing what I was agreeing to and I had denied her so much in the intervening years that she had grown wary of me and disappointed. She was telling me that whatever I had always thought wasn’t true at all.

“I don’t know what to say.”

“I know,” she said. “This is a lot to take in all at once.”

I mulled that over and then decided I would think about all of this later. “When I agreed to this, all those years ago, did I agree to things I didn’t understand?”

“Yes.”

“But I did consent to it.”

“Yes,” she said, seemingly startled. “You consented clearly and fully. I even had witnesses at the time, at your request.” Well, I thought, I was pretty smart about it. “But you didn’t realize that what I needed was more than just a simple lifetime’s worth of work. I don’t think you clearly realized all that would go into what I wanted from you.”

“I probably didn’t know what to ask.”

“No,” she agreed, “but you were a new soul. I needed a new soul.”

“I know.” I thought about all of these revelations, trying not to wonder why in the world she was telling this to me now. Usually if she was telling me important things, it meant that more important and confusing things were coming down the pike. I had a feeling I knew what those important and confusing things were, but decided not to discuss it. “So it’s… not because of you that the shard started, then?”

She seemed surprised by my question and she needed a few moments before she responded. “No,” she said slowly. “You’ve always had this issue, of course. But it was built into who you were when you were first created. This is one of your… lessons.”

“Are you telling me I always fail this one?”

“You can’t be perfect in every life,” she hedged.

“So, I can expect to fail this time, too?”

“No, you may just beat this finally. But it’s been in your abdomen for a long time. You let it grow when you got confused by what you needed to explore. You went forward, when you should have gone back. If you had gone backward, you would have realized that this has been a lifetimes issue, not a lifetime issue. It was built into your nature this life, too. Sometimes, it seems less at the surface than in other lives, but it is always there.

“This is why you were tied to it for so long.”

I was startled that she would even refer to that one. We had both done our utmost best not to mention it at all. But of course, it made sense; what she was saying. This issue had been happening for lifetimes instead of merely just this one. And it explained, as she said, why I had been tied to a dark soul for so long. That soul had looked for someone like me, unwilling to ask the right questions or not knowing what questions to ask. That soul had looked for someone like me, whose soul had been built with a few cracks within it. Maybe my soul had been handcrafted on a whim or maybe I had been born defective. Whatever the case may be, that particular soul had found me, had lured me, and had bound the two of us together above all others.

This, also, explained why I had denied her in so many lives. Maybe, in some of them, it hadn’t necessarily been me doing the denying but having been manipulated into it. And maybe, in some of them, I had known what I know in this life but being unable to sever that bond, I had denied her in some weird belief that I was protecting her.

Knowing what I was thinking, Sekhmet nodded. “So you see?”

“You didn’t offer me any help when I needed it.”

“You created the mess,” she reminded me.

“But I could have used your help.”

“Yes, you could have and you would have relied on me for everything. Just because I can do a thing doesn’t mean I will do a thing. Besides, it wouldn’t have done you any good if I had done all of that.”

“What if I had decided to rip the bonds out?”

“I may have stepped in,” she admitted.

“Well,” I said around a huge yawn. “That’s a relief.” We both sat in silence for a while. “This isn’t over yet, is it?”

“No, the shard is much bigger now and I think you could remove it if you wanted to.”

“Why wouldn’t I want to?”

“Are you ready to hurt again?”

I thought that over again, thinking about the pain that I had caused myself and the pain that I had relived. “Maybe I will wait on that. It’s been in there for this long and it doesn’t seem to be sending any poison through my body anymore.”

“Just don’t leave it too long, little one.”

“Yes, mom.”

The Nun.

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 slept.

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.

Or something.

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.

Pestilence.

If I had realized I would have been kneeling for long periods of time, I probably would have asked for a bit of water and a cushion for my knees before being directed to kneel beside Sekhmet’s throne. I didn’t mind the imagery – pet human – but I certainly minded the sandstone blocks beneath my knees. It also didn’t help that, no matter how clean they kept it, I was constantly being peppered in the face and torso with little stray bits of sand that came in whenever the two front doors were opened. It was almost like the grains of sand had a homing beacon straight for my fucking face. I found myself spitting out sand particles more often than not [when I was alone].

Time passed because that’s what it does and the floor beneath my knees was no less forgiving, but soon I forgot that pain. It’s easy to forget a localized pain when something more dangerous is happening to you.

While I knelt there, I had nothing better to do with my time except to explore my body in one form or another. I watched as the bonds in my flesh would materialize and then disappear. The gold one – the newest one, of course – was the one I paid particular attention to. It was a marvelous design and it morphed into something just a tiny bit different each time I saw it. The other bonds had been a part of my flesh for so long that I never paid them much heed, though as I watched the golden one overshadow them, I wondered at the point in these other bonds. It didn’t really matter because the only bond at that moment, at any moment, that did matter was the one to Sekhmet.

But when I grew bored with marveling at whatever the fuck newness the collar and bonds were about, I began to explore the rest of my body. You know how sometimes you can focus your attention into a sort of laser beam to sift and sort through your body? In those quiet moments, of which there were many, I would do that. I would narrow my concentration to certain parts of my body, studying and sifting, always making sure that everything was okay. I stopped by at the space just beneath my right shoulder blade the most, always making sure that the purple-gold ball of rage that had lived there for years was still gone. It always was.

I found the shard for the first time by accident. I wasn’t really looking for anything; I was half-asleep when my mind began wandering through my body, picking at things. My mind wasn’t drawn to the shard at all. I hadn’t known it had even existed before that moment, but when my mind encountered it, alarm bells went off. It had taken up residence in my lower right quadrant, embedded in one of my intestines.

The shard was blue and shiny and deadly as hell.

Even as I paid closer attention to it, I watched as it sent out another root into my body’s system. It was intent on staying and I was intent on making sure that didn’t happen. The roots of this shard were black-green, oozing disease and apathy as it went. Even as I watched, more of the poison in its root system slipped down the green-black string of its root and began infesting my body. There was absolutely nothing more to see; I needed to have it gone.

I began poking and prodding at myself in an attempt to figure out where this shard had come from. What was its cause? Why hadn’t I noticed this thing before now? Had it always lived inside of me but it was only in this moment that I could see it? What had transpired that had caused this? I hemmed over the issue, my eyes closed as I tried very hard not to pay too much attention to the shard or its poisonous root system. Of course, the only thing that had happened was the collar and of course, I knew from that other place that the process hadn’t been as smooth of a transition as I had wanted it to be. I knew, instantly, what the fuck the problem was – now, I just had to dismantle it.

I worked from the outside in. I had things that I knew to look at it, things to focus on while my immune system did the attacking. While I worked on those things, I began to feel empowered. I knew what I was doing. I had done this before for myself and for others. I knew what the process would entail. The thing about feeling as though you are an expert on something is that, usually, that is when a curve ball gets thrown your way. Feeling so very confident after having hacked away at quite a few roots, I performed minor surgery on myself.

I literally cut myself open to pull out the shard and its root system. I was thinking, “It’s the only way to be sure.” I had visions of nuclear blasts going on inside of me, based on my intent to completely destroy the thing growing inside of me. “It’s the only way to be sure,” I muttered to myself as I reached inside. I was way too fucking confident in myself.

I had overestimated my own abilities and underestimated the death and decay going on inside of my body. As I slid a hand inside, I immediately touched one of the root systems and felt pain seeping into my fingertips. Growling, I ripped my hand out and looked. The tips of my fingers were covered in the green-black goo and it was burning my fingertips. As I watched in horror, my fingers were seared before it stopped. I was stunned.

Hadn’t I just done a bunch of work to kill off the root system? Hadn’t I just managed to kill off three of the roots that had implanted in my internal organs? Hadn’t I fucking dealt with this for weeks on end, living it and breathing it, as I killed off those fucking blackened shoots? I realized then that I had gone down the wrong road. Instead of moving backward, I had moved forward in the root system and managed to pull a few loose. I hadn’t felt any of the other roots in my internal organs, the black-green stuff having numbed me enough to not see or feel them.

I looked inside of myself and could see that this problem was a good deal bigger than I had originally thought.

The organs around my intestine all had at least one root entrenched. Even as I watched, I could see more of the ooze begin to infest other areas of my body – areas that hadn’t been touched to this point – and I was beginning to feel it traveling through my blood stream. I was slowly but surely becoming infected with this thing and I hadn’t even fucking noticed it. I had been so sure that what I was doing and the abilities I had honed earlier this year that I hadn’t even fucking noticed that I was quite possibly dying.

I looked down at the wound in my side – the wound that I had inflicted upon myself – and I could see the shard. It was much bigger now. As I watched, another root shot out and slid out of the wound. It scorched the flesh of my stomach even as I looked. I was so amazed by what was happening that I couldn’t do anything but stare, open mouthed.

I realized that I needed help.

I started to feel the roots as they began to overtake everything in the lower half of my torso. And I could feel the shard beginning to grown from a tiny little piece of bluish glass into a fully formed ball. I watched as it grew and felt the apathy that the green-black ooze was infesting in my body begin to swirl around both my heart and my mind. I wanted to cry; I wanted to scream; I wanted my mother. I wanted a lot of things, but nothing happened.

Years, days, seconds, hours passed because that is what time does. I kept trying to saw away at the roots, trying to remove any of them. The apathy in my bloodstream began to affect my fingers and they stopped doing what I wanted them to. They stopped curling around the roots and ripping them out, damn the fucking burns. Instead, my hand would lay as though asleep within the wound, unable or unwilling to do as I bid it.

Was this one of those things that was going to kill me, I asked myself at one point. I remembered dying – the drowning – and the fear of that. But there was no fear here. I was encompassed by this festering wound and everything going on around me was a part of it. I could feel the tendrils seeping into my liver, my gall bladder, my stomach. Everything was interconnected by the root system of disease and decay in my body and I knew that I needed help, I needed assistance, but I couldn’t do anything about it. I just knelt there, coughing up blackened bits of my lungs periodically.

When my eyes began to bleed, I knew I was going to die.

I honestly couldn’t say if Sekhmet had been purposely missing during all of this time or if she had been busy with other things. I know that I’m not her only pain in the ass. I know that there are quite a few of us out there and I also know that she has been paying particular attention to another daughter of hers. That other daughter needed her more than I did, I supposed. I wanted to cry for my mother and I wanted to die. I didn’t really give a flying shit what happened first so long as something happened that was more than apathy and depression.

She came into the throne room on a perfumed cloud of incense. There were attendants around her and she stopped when she saw me. I couldn’t read the look in her eyes. I didn’t know if she was angry with me. Maybe she was? I honestly couldn’t fucking tell a damned thing from her face and as I thought about it in my [newly not-awesome] sluggish way, I figured she was probably angry with me. Why not? I had been sent to kneel peaceably beside her throne and here I was, oozing filth and pestilence all over her pristine dais. That would probably piss me off, too.

I grinned at her with my red-and-black stained teeth. “I think I need a little help here,” I told her. My voice was harsh and painful. I hadn’t used it at all lately.

“This is certainly a surprise,” she remarked. She waltzed over to me, looking as though I wasn’t some disgusting caricature from a zombie apocalypse movie. I swayed as I looked up at her.

“I’m always a surprise.” I coughed and spit out some more of the black gunk. I looked down at the wound in my side, drawing her attention to it. It was also oozing. The black and red from the wound was festered with green-white pus. I was just a big old mess. “This didn’t really work out how I thought it was going to work out.”

“I have to agree with you there,” she agreed. Primly, she sat down beside me and looked me over. “Why didn’t you call out for help?”

I grinned at her again. My eyesight was limned in red. She looked like a reddish goddess, which would have amused me enough to laugh if I had the energy to do so. “I thought I could do this on my own. Isn’t that what you’re always teaching us? We can do anything we want to on our own. I did the thing on my own and I got distracted.” I couldn’t feel my knees anymore. I couldn’t feel my bonds anymore. What had once been a frightening and comforting weight around my arms was gone. “Did you know that I went in the wrong direction? I moved forward instead of backward. I also got sidetracked. This is a many-splendored thing,” I explained sweetly. “I got distracted.”

She sighed at me and then looked at the gunk I had oozed out of my body. She was clearly trying to decide how best to proceed here. If she helped me, would that mean I had to give up my shiny collar? I wondered. I thought I would be okay with it if only I didn’t look like an extra from The Walking Dead. In a detached tone of voice, I whispered to her, “Mommy, I think I need help.”

“What would you have me do?” she asked me.

I thought about it. “Can we go to the Nun? I think soaking there would be good. I hear he can regenerate things.” I gestured down at my body. “I clearly can’t regenerate this way. I was thinking about it and I think, if I die like this, things are going to be a lot harder. I’ve done a lot of work lately. I don’t want it to mean nothing and I would rather not have to drown again.” I closed my eyes and remembered drowning –the anxiety and the mind-numbing terror.

“You don’t need him,” she said coldly. She stood up and looked down at me. “You can regenerate just fine right here without him. Just destroy it and be done with this. You can’t keep putting these things off. I assign you tasks; you learn what they are in time; and then you just sit around and don’t do them. This is what happens when you don’t fucking do as I tell you to do. I may be a harsh task master and a bitch, but I have your fucking well-being at heart.”

I looked up at her. “Do you?” I asked her conversationally. “Gods have a very funny way of showing their devotees how much they care about our well-being.”

I had wounded her with my blasé tone or maybe just with what I had said. I knew a lot of devotees, though, and many of them ended up crying in front of their sacred spaces, demanding to know why the fuck their gods were demanding this shit from them. It was always for the greater good or the bigger picture or for the devotees’ well-being. I looked back at my own experiences with bigger picture and well-being. No, I had to admit, I wasn’t sure things would be where they would be now if I hadn’t gone that way, but I had to admit, things might be a little simpler and probably less painful.

I coughed and spat up a large piece of black phlegm. It landed on the hem of her linen skirt. She looked down at it for a moment, looking incredibly revolted. That was okay, I was pretty revolved too. “You always overestimate me,” I told her with feeling.

“You always underestimate yourself,” she retorted.

I stared at her and she stared at me. We had reached an impasse. She wasn’t going to help me. I didn’t have the strength to get through the Duat to find the gateway to the Nun. I knew, hypothetically, where I was and I knew, hypothetically, how to get to the Nun. But the way things were going, I would end up regenerating in the desert and who knew what form that would take? There was no telling if I would be able to still make it to the Nun as the next stage in my evolution – probably more like a de-evolution – took place.

She stormed away from me and I was pretty sure I was going to die. I was going to die, consumed by the poison inside of my veins. It was only a matter of time before it had completely taken over. I could feel it working its poison, its apathy. I was a giant ball of disease and I was going to die fucking die because I had been distracted and gone in the wrong direction.

Lesson fucking learning.

I was going to die because I had made a mistake. It seemed like a really fucked up way to learn a really fucking important lesson, a lesson that I had no idea if I would remember when I finally got back to all of this fucking bullshit. I would have been angry that she was signing my death sentence, but I couldn’t bring myself to care anymore. I was finally soaked in apathy.

As I coughed up another large piece of black-and-green phlegm, I began wondering what I would come back as. I wasn’t looking forward to death, per se, but the apathy was really started to fucking get to me. It was soaking through every facet of my being in all of my lives and I was beginning to think that maybe, just maybe, dying would be okay. The pain would stop. The apathy would go away.

Yeah, I thought, it would be okay if I died.

But Sekhmet had other things in mind, of course. That night, I was kidnapped.

The Healer.

When I was covered in blood, soot, tears, gore, and sweat; when I was so emotionally dead inside that I could do nothing but as directed; when I thought that the end would never be in sight that is when Sekhmet said that we were done. After hearing it the first time, I blinked up at her stupidly. I could feel parts of myself in that weird way where it’s like they exist, but you can’t quite bring yourself to recognize that you are still a functional being. From far away, I could feel the sore muscles of my right arm and shoulder. And from an even longer way off, I could feel the shakiness in my fingers and hands from all the dispersing I had done.

If ever there was a moment where “I am spent” is the best descriptor, it was that moment.

Sekhmet had to repeat herself quite a few times before it dawned on me that I had completed this task. I blinked up at her, feeling dumb and unable to fully comprehend what she was saying. So much death in such a short period of time – I couldn’t really think beyond the gibbering, the begging, the screams, and the curses. I blinked dumbly at her a few more times. “Are you hearing me, little one?” Sekhmet asked, a tinge of concern somewhere in her voice. I started nodding at her, numb and stupid. I couldn’t formulate words even if I had wanted to.

It is one thing to watch death and destruction on television. It’s a television show or it’s a movie in a theater – it will never be real. Nothing will ever be real because it stems from someone’s imagination and while some of it may hit on fears that humans may have, it is merely a minor possibility and never is it reality.

But what I had just taken part in, what I had just done, was beyond television show and movies. It was beyond anything I had ever witnessed in my life, in any of them. I had been a party to many things, but there was something intense and frightening at being the final rod of judgment against souls that were no longer “part of the bigger picture.” They had served whatever purpose they may have still had – if they had one to begin with – and now this god, whom I had devoted myself to in a way that was beyond description, had told me to remove the stain that they had become from existence. And I had done it, knowing that if it wasn’t me then someone else would be forced to do it.

In a sick and perverse way, and this is stupid to admit, I agreed to the deal because I didn’t want anyone else to suffer. There would always be suffering, I think, at the hands of Sekhmet and what she can and will do to her devotees. I think there will always be pushes in directions, nudges in the arms, and pain-filed moments that the devotees will hate or fear or leave that moment crying. But in a weird way, I had moved forward with this proposition, hoping beyond hope, that no one else would ever end up as bitter and angry as I am and have been.

In some weird way, I thought I was saving someone else from heartache and from horror, from turmoil and from terror.

I suppose one may even go so far as to say that I have a complex here and that’s something I should probably think about.

I stared up at Sekhmet and said, “I am fine.”

She was standing beside me still, looking at me as though I were something curious underneath a microscope. Maybe she was dissecting me in the depths of her mind. I had no idea what it was she was thinking and frankly, I didn’t care. It didn’t matter. I was kind of used to that, “oh, my; this human does very intriguing things,” looks that she gave me time and time again.

“Are you ready for the next phase?” She asked me pleasantly.

I wasn’t ready for anything. I looked down at my right hand and saw that I was still holding the mace she had given me. If you looked at it long enough, you could see that it was a mace. However, if your eyes glanced over it briefly, then you’d miss out on what it was. It was too covered in– I blinked and looked away from the thing.

“For your next trick, I have some beings I need you to heal,” she added.

I stared at her like her head had just flown right the fuck off her shoulders and was caroming around the room. I stared at her like she had just recited the Declaration of Independence in Swahili while tap dancing just like Gregory Hines. If she had told me that the next phase was for me to sit down and take a nap, I wouldn’t have been more surprised. It seemed to me like we were doing this a little backwards. I decided I had nothing to lose.

“That’s a little fucked up,” I said finally.

“Oh?”

“You’ve just had me spend however long I’ve spent killing things and now you want me to heal? I think you may have done this a little backwards,” I replied.

She turned to face me, her eyes narrowed at me. “You are my child,” she retorted. “My children do what I do if I want them to do it. I want you to do it. If I can kill, so can you. If I can heal, so can you. This is the lesson and you will learn it.” She licked her lips. “Are you ready?”

I looked down at myself. I didn’t look much like a healer. I looked like someone who had gone into a frenzy and destroyed everyone within easy range. “Fine,” I said. It wasn’t quite an answer to her question. I was merely acquiescing to her newest demands. I had more to do than just to be an object that can destroy things. I also had to be an object that could please my mother and that could heal things, as well. What was more important, I wondered: pleasing her or healing things or killing things? I supposed time would tell. “Let me just get some water.”

I went over to my bag and pulled out a bottle of water. I drank down half the bottle in a matter of seconds and then dumped the rest over my head and face. I let it drip down, keeping my eyes closed as the coolness soaked into my skin and removed some of the sweat/soot/blood from me. I tried to fortify myself mentally to take on whatever new stressors I was sure to face. Instead, I felt the body of the netjeri – Lloyd? Nestor? Henry? Robert? Bastian? Alexander? Rufus? – pressed up against the back of my legs. One of my knees buckled at his slight pressure and I stumbled a bit, but caught myself immediately.

I wasn’t sure what he was doing, but his being near me was more than mildly comforting.

I wondered, honestly, if that was the reason why he was here. Sekhmet never did anything, in my experience, that wasn’t pre-planned. She didn’t seem at all surprised to see this beast in the room with me when she had first entered with Bast. Whatever the case may be here, I have to say that if she had decided to send him to me, in an effort to keep me calm and comforted while I did things that weren’t really in my nature or anything I would do without her push, then she had planned well. I liked having him nearby.

I wondered if he would be with me forever and ever, again, or if this was just a Duat thing.

I opened my eyes. The water had dried and I felt, honestly, dirtier than I had a moment ago. It didn’t really matter, I supposed. This wasn’t about looks but about ability. I turned around and faced Sekhmet. “I’m ready,” I said. The phrase I had chosen for all of this, all those months again, echoed throughout my mind: je suis prêt. I could feel building and building in my mind, like a hurricane or like a tornado, until it was all that I could focus on.

Sekhmet flicked her fingers at the doorway and someone was brought inside by the two netjeri who had been bringing in everyone I needed to “work on.” I knew this person, or a close approximation of them. They had been hurting and they had been in need of healing for a while. I knew who they were and what they needed, of course, because I knew them in another place. I stared at this person. She had elegant cheeks and a poise that belied the strength of spirit she held within her. She never thought she was a strong one, which was what I was trying to get her to see in that other place. This was another child of Sekhmet’s and she was in so much pain now.

“I need you to heal a part of her, but not all of her,” Sekhmet said. “There will be healing that she completes on her own. She’ll be ready for that healing if you work on the smaller pieces I need you to work on.” She pointed out two places that looked like they had scarred over. These places where bits of her soul had either been ripped out or cut open. The healed wounds were garish and weeping now. They were rotting her from the inside out, I realized, and they had to go.

I licked my lips and stepped to the person. In this realm, they didn’t recognize me. I understood that. That made a lot of sense since I know that I look nothing and behave nothing like that other person. I could feel the changes that had overtaken me in recent months coursing through my veins. These changes were apparent in that other place, of course, but they wouldn’t be noticed by people who hadn’t known me for years. In either case, it didn’t matter. She didn’t recognize me because she hadn’t been taught to recognize other children of Sekhmet’s yet.

It would be a while, I felt, before that happened, if it happened. Maybe she would deny the course she was on as I did not.

I whispered, “Je suis prêt,” to myself.

I stepped in front of this soul and I could see its ragged pain in shimmering waves of various color schemes. They were bright green in some places and bright red in others. She was a Technicolor schematic of wounds and scars and healings. She had been stitching herself together on her own, just as I had once done, and in that stitching, she had done an admirable job. Hell, I thought it was better than the job I had completed on my own with my own wounds, scars, and healings. Just as I was, she too was now a sewn together blanket of various hurts, various pride, and various in-betweens. Her soul glowed in the frame of my hands.

I reached to the major part that needed healing. The scar was jagged and, as I said, weeping. It was a very old wound and it was destroying her just as clearly as some of my very old wounds had been destroying me. I realized that the weeping wound would tear her asunder if we didn’t do something right here and right now. Whatever the case may be, I reached out and placed my hand to the wound and she yowled in pain. I took her pain, a little bit, and absorbed it into myself in an effort to better aid her in the healing process.

Her pain was so much. I was drowning in it. It wasn’t just the fact that I was touching this wound. The wound was something that she kept protected against everything. She had babied this weeping, seeping wound from the world around her and fostered the anger and hate that it caused deep within her. She had been protecting it and nurturing it just as a mother to a newborn babe. I had to do something else, I realized, because my initial gut reaction wasn’t going to work her.

Of course, Sekhmet had to bring me someone who was in dire need to start on.

I pulled my hands back and studied the wound more carefully. Slowly, I walked around her, attempting to gage how deep it really was. And as I walked around her, I realized that it was a through-and-through wound. It was no clean exit wound, though. It had ravaged her insides so deeply as to eat away a hole in the interior. At her back, the hole was just beginning to show and it was seeping, as well. The hole in the back was the size of a quarter. It would only get bigger as time passed by, of course, and I had to close it up, purify the wound, and remove whatever gunk may be infesting her.

This would be so much easier if someone had written a manual for this shit.

I thought back to the white room. I thought back to the moment when I had felt whole enough and clear enough to investigate the wounds from various lives. And I remembered what sort of fucked up shit I had done. I had been thinking not very clearly at that point and ripped out parts of myself so that I could study the gunk that was destroying me and remove it.

I didn’t need to do that here. I had torn myself wide open to get at every bit of pus and gunk that had been destroying me, bit by bit. At the end, I had been forced to sew myself back together and that had been a bitch of a job, too because I had removed more than I needed to just so I could verify that I got all of the gunk out. Sewing myself back up had been shitty, but I didn’t think I really needed to sew up this girl, as I had been forced to do to myself. I looked to my left where a hole in the floor was and saw the lava pool beneath us.

I remembered something I had read from a friend of mine and had a few ideas.

“I’m sorry,” I told the girl standing in front of me and plunged my hands into the leaking wound.

Her scream echoed off the chambers and I felt terrible for doing this without finesse. I reached deep inside and I found the heart of the gunk inside of her. As my hands touched it, it manifested into a black-and-purple shimmering mass. It reminded me of the Hexxus from Fern Gully before it took on the humanoid form it wore at the end of the movie. This was just a small part of that thing and I snagged it with both hands, gripping it tightly.

I ripped it out.

The girl screamed again.

She began to faint then but the two netjeri on either side of her held her upright.

I tossed the gunk into the lava pool and heard it screech in pain before it was gone. The wound now was a clear hole from the front to the back of her. I could see through it now. I saw a few little slug-like pieces left inside of her and easily pulled them out. They didn’t even scream like the bulk of the thing had. They went, also, into the lava pit in the hole.

I placed hands on either side of the wound and stitched the wounds closed.

I followed the same procedure with the other wound I had to heal. This one went more smoothly and the gunk was less here. It didn’t scream on its way out – it hadn’t been able to form a consciousness yet – and that also went into the lava pit. The girl was woozy with everything I had put her through by the time I was done. She was a malleable lump between the two netjeri.

Without asking, I pulled the girl from their grip and brought her to the lava pit. I remembered purification. I remembered what it was like to be purified. I dipped her into the lava, climbing in with her. It was hot. It was boiling. I wanted to scream myself with the pain that I felt throughout my body. I wanted to pass out, just like the young soul I held in my arms. Instead, I ducked the two of us beneath the surface of the lava.

I held the girl on my left arm and with my right, I waved my hand above the two open wounds. I swirled lava into the two wound to cauterize what had been done to her soul. The lava fed itself hungrily on whatever it could find. When I sensed that the damage had been fully cauterized, I shifted the girl so that she was laying out in front of me.

I zigzagged my finger across the open wound to close it. With my right hand, I held the flesh closed and sewed it shut with the other. I followed the same procedure on the second wound. This one was much easier to close. The damage had been minor in comparison.

When I was done, I pushed her up and into the stone chamber again.

Slightly burnt myself, I jumped out and landed on my feet beside the unconscious girl.

As I shook myself, making sure my clothes weren’t singed any worse than I thought they were, I looked up and caught Sekhmet’s eye.

She was smiling.

The Mace.

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.

[tw gore]

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 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.

“Next, please.”

The Duat.

Being dead is very weird. I don’t really know how to describe it at all. I just remember landing at the bottom of the carbonated ocean amid a plume of sand. I don’t know how long I lay there, but it was a mindless moment. I felt moderately aware of the body that I was still quite attached to, but I also felt like I was in an oceanic void of the blackest proportions. I honestly don’t know where I ended up or what ended up happening. One moment, I had landed at the very bottom of the carbonated ocean and the next moment, I was dragged into the Duat.

I knew I would end up in the Duat. It was the only possible place that made the most sense. Every reset my lives have taken, which usually ends up happening not in the middle of said life but at the end of said life, leads me back to the Duat. My soul is connected to that place or maybe it’s more like addicted to that place. “I need a fix – Duat time,” or something. All I know is that I’ve been to the Duat in between lives numerous times and this time was no different.

A trapdoor, or something, opened up, and something with two human-like hands dragged me inside. The door slammed shut and I kind of became more aware of the body my soul had just vacated. I never saw what dragged me inside because I blanked out from what was happening to my body. I ended up back in that oceanic void for a while. Days could have passed or weeks could have passed and I would have been none the wiser. I suspect it was only hours in between the moment when I was dragged inside and the moment I ended up fully back in my body.

For anyone who ever wants to know, I don’t recommend dying especially if you don’t want to die. When I came back to myself, in my body, I had the shakes and I was sweating. It felt very much like I was recovering from an illness or something. I curled in on myself, closing my eyes against whatever was around me while I attempted to get back in touch with my body. I worked on flexing my hands and my toes, trying to send the proper signals to the proper body parts. Sometimes I failed, sometimes I succeeded. It was such a slow process.

When I finally felt like I probably wouldn’t throw up, I sat up and got a good look at my surroundings. I was in a round chamber. The walls and the floors were made of rock, though the types of rock were different for each. The walls were a reddish hued and they looked like cliffs. The floor was more of a gold and gray color, the circular stones fitted tightly together. The chamber was circular with little oval and circle cut outs in the floor. There was a podium in the center of the room. Within one wall was a blackened doorway, open and ready for me to walk through it. I had a suspicion that if I tried, I wouldn’t like the consequences.

I crawled over to one of the circular holes in the floor and looked down. Beneath the chamber was a huge pool of lava, which provided the only illumination for this chamber. I could see things wriggling around in the lava beneath me, but I didn’t pay them much attention. Some of their looks made me think that they may just be the stuff of nightmares…

I rolled over and lay flat on my back, staring at the ceiling. There were stalactites and they were the same reddish color as the walls. I lay there for a while, staring until my eyes blurred. When I closed my eyes, I resolved to get up and walk out that door. I had to do something or else I would be bored and terrified and I was kind of tired of that dynamic. Instead, I fell asleep.

When I woke back up, I wasn’t alone.

I was still on my back on the floor beside the hole in the floor. I could sense that someone or something else was in the room with me. I opened my eyes fully and sat up quickly, preparing to defend myself if the need arose. The room hadn’t changed at all except that my traveling knapsack was leaning up against the podium and the creature that shared the room with me.

It was definitely a netjeri. It reminded me very much of the Seven Arrows I had met in Sekhmet’s palace, but I didn’t think it was one of them. I couldn’t be sure, however, since it had been their reactions to my being in their room that differentiated themselves to me. This one wasn’t doing anything particularly like the ones that I had met in her palace, though, which is why I couldn’t be sure. Its form didn’t seem to shift as much as the creatures in the palace, which led me to believe that this was a different netjeri.

It had a long, orangutan like face with brown and gray fur all down its back. It had rounded, bear-like ears on top of its head. Its eyes were wide and sorrowful. I didn’t think it was sad, per se, but was giving me puppy eyes like, well, a puppy. Its front paws were more bear-like or similar to a mountain lions or something. There were wicked-looking black claws about an inch in length at the end of each finger-like appendage. I could tell those paws could do some serious damage. Its back paws were more like canid paws. Its ears flicked at me, as though waiting for me to react. Honestly, I didn’t know how to react, though.

What the hell was I supposed to do with this thing? Was it mine forever? Was it just something that was going to hang with me while I was stuck here? Was this some sort of test, like how parents will test their kids’ responsibility levels by getting them a pet? What was all of this? Why was all of this? And honestly, what the fuck was I supposed to do with this thing?

“So, fancy meeting you here,” I said to it. Its ears flickered at me and then it began slowly walking closer to me. I stood very still while it sniffed at me. When it had completed its introductory sniff, it heaved a sigh at me and then fell to the floor in a heap. “Are you mine forever?”

It heaved a sigh in response. I licked my lips and slowly knelt down beside it. I didn’t want to scare it away from me. And I didn’t want to instigate it to do anything really silly like attack me, either. When I felt like I was pretty safe, I asked, “So, have you been here long?” There was absolutely no response from any quarter. “What do I do with you?” I asked it, really at a loss here.

It was one thing to get thrown into a desert, screaming while I went half-insane in my attempt to figure out what the point in all that was. It was quite another thing to get thrown into the Duat with a netjeri and have absolutely no idea how to interact with it. Shrugging, I walked over to my backpack and began pawing through it. I had a change of clothes, some water bottles, a couple of snack like foods (my favorite – grapes – were in a box!), and a few other odds and ends. The strangest thing was the full on ancient Egyptian mace at the back.

I was pretty sure I hadn’t packed that in there.

I was all about being prepared, but I had never needed a mace before.

I placed it back in the pack, grabbed a bottle of water, and snuggled up against the netjeri. I thought about naming it. It seemed weird that it didn’t have a name, or if it did have a name then I didn’t know what it was. I thought about a bunch of names – Bob; Sin-eater; Funny Face; Tinsel; Needle; Lover of Books – but nothing seemed to work out right. While I was busy thinking up a name, I ended up falling asleep.

Boredom did that to me.

So, as a quick aside, I have to admit that I always thought things like these would be more exciting. Like, I thought that if I started doing the whole thing with the gods and did astral travel, I wouldn’t be nearly as bored as I have been. But every experience lately has ended up with me bored to tears. I was so damn bored in the Duat, in the Lake of Fire, that I ended up falling asleep. I was noticing a serious pattern here. In my mind, I was beginning to see the Duat as the equivalent to the sleep-inducing machine. Hell, I was beginning to see all of these experiences as boring as hell and really, that’s not what I had been expecting.

I’ll admit that, in the grand scheme of things, boredom is way better than terror. So, I guess it can’t be really seen as all bad.

When I woke up, Sekhmet came in the room. She wasn’t alone. She had a guest with her and I was pretty surprised to see Bast walking in.

Someone that I didn’t pay any attention to during all of my previous excursions with Sekhmet was Bast. She doesn’t mean much to me, at all. I’ve read about her of course because, well, she is kind of associated with Sekhmet. Frankly, though, she never has meant much to me. Even in the heady days of my fairly Wiccan like adventures, I didn’t pay her any attention. Many of the new Wiccans that have a Kemetic flair seem to be most interested in either Aset/Isis or Bast, but not me. (This is, of course, based on my own observations of blog entries, Tumblr posts, and the like. The two of them just seem to be the most well-known [female] NTRW that people want to pay homage to.)

She would show up, periodically, and eyeball me in the Duat and during the parties. I didn’t like her looks. It’s not that there’s something disconcerting about being eyeballed by another deity, but there is something pretty fucking disconcerting about being eyeballed beyond belief by another deity. What really made me uncomfortable was that, quite possibly, she could have been my fate but she wasn’t. Maybe if I had a bigger thing for cats or maybe if I had read more about her earlier on, maybe just maybe, things would have been different and she would have adopted me into her household.

I didn’t read up on her. She never adopted me. And honestly, she means very little to me and my practice.

I know that kind of sounds like an asshole thing to say, right? There’s an entire deity that means nothing to me. But there are actually a lot of deities that mean nothing to me, personally, though they may mean the world to other devotees. All I can say is that when it came to the Cat Lady, I was just kind of like, “Yeah, okay, she’s a god. Whatevs.” And I went on my merry little fucked up way.

Usually if Bast showed up, the only one showing tension was me. I got the impression that neither she nor Sekhmet really cared for each other but were okay with each other. Maybe Bast wanted to be what Sekhmet was, but got relegated to other roles. Maybe Sekhmet was jealous of the fact that Bast gets more attention because she can be kind and nice while Sekhmet so often is not seen as such. Or maybe I’m just making shit up because I wanted to have a good reason for feeling the tension that stiffened my shoulders, that caused my stomach to bundle into knots, and that made me want to run the fuck away. Whatever the reason, whenever Bast came over to pay respect or to talk with Sekhmet, I found myself uncomfortable.

And then there were the looks.

You know how sometimes when people just stare at you, you get instantly uncomfortable because you know they’re thinking things about you and you don’t know what those things are? It’s kind of like that. When I tried to mention it to Sekhmet, she merely pursed her lips. Once she said to me, “It is what it is. This is part of the bargain you made.” I had no idea what the fuck that meant when she said it to me. Would I ever understand anything weird and secretive that she told me? Yeah, at some point in future. It just took a couple of weeks before I was able to make the whole series of experiences click.

Sekhmet was looking fine-tuned and beautiful, as usual. Not a strand of hair out of place, not a single piece of jewelry not centered, and looking as though she had been having a rollicking good time. She wasn’t alone, though. She had brought Bast with her. The two of them looked like they had been enjoying a series of adventures that had the two of them bonding. Their friendship is weird, I thought as I watched them come inside. They’re like friend-enemies.

I stood up slowly. I was honestly very weary. The two of them together couldn’t possible mean anything good for me. I had an insane second where I thought they were going to demand I do a sort of lesbian orgy with the two of them – like their cream filling to the Oreo cookie outside, ya dig? – but I squashed that back down. I stood beside the netjeri – Alec; Bronson; Orangutan; Fuzzy Face; Butt Kisser; Butt Sniffer; Killer Breath; Adam; Rick; Dune; Maud’dib – with my arms akimbo, waiting for some weird and random thing to get sprung on me.

Instead of the weird and random thing getting sprung on me, it got sprung on Bast.

She was, of course, staring hard at me. She was practically eye-fucking me or something. If I had ever been uncomfortable in her presence, it was a far fucking cry to how I was feeling right this second, right now. I swallowed loudly. It practically echoed around the chamber with how loud it was, but it really wasn’t. I was imagining things because I was kind of worried that some weird shit was going down. And with good reason.

Sekhmet turned and faced Bast, her eyes narrowed into slits. “Many would have what I have created,” Sekhmet said conversationally. Bast broke her eye contact from me and studied Sekhmet quietly. “I have worked very hard on this project. As you no doubt are aware, I have been fine-tuning this one for many years. She is finally ready for what I want and I will not have you messing about.”

“I hardly know what you mean,” Bast said carelessly. She shrugged.

I didn’t know if she was the bravest creature I had ever met or if she was just really fucking stupid. I figured she had a right to be, you know, ballsy. But if Sekhmet had been looking at me like that… I probably would have only said one smartass remark… maybe…

“You have been coming to her,” Sekhmet said. There was no drama here. Nope, not in the slightest. And how the fuck did she know that? I had been complaining to everyone IRL about the Bast dreams because, you know, weird and creepy. I hadn’t said anything to Sekhmet about it at all because my concerns regarding Bast’s looks had been pretty much brushed off. So, since my thoughts on how she was staring at me had been me being “over emotional,” I hadn’t bothered to say anything about the dreams I had had about her.

“So,” Bast said.

Fear? Was she scared yet? I kind of hoped she was. I was disgustingly excited about all of this. And I understood the reason behind it, of course. This is going to sound fucked up, especially considering I was stuck in a room with two war deities who could, maybe, fuck some major shit up if they got into a fight. But, I felt, like, okay for once. I was wanted. Sure, she talked about me like a fine-tuned and well-oiled machine, but you know, wanted!

Sekhmet stuck a very well-manicured finger in Bast’s face. Bast narrowed her eyes but didn’t say anything. There was a sort of courtesy here, or maybe like an unknown [to me] set of carefully choreographed behaviors. “You are poaching on my territory. I don’t do such things with whatever items you’ve been working on. I expect the same courtesy.” She walked majestically around Bast. Bast didn’t flinch. She didn’t follow Sekhmet with her eyes. She just stood absolutely still, waiting for whatever it was Sekhmet had to say. “Are we clear here?”

“I suppose,” Bast said flippantly.

Sekhmet stopped pacing and stood directly behind Bast. I could see her breath, twitching Bast’s hair in the wind her breath created. “There are no suppositions,” Sekhmet breathed. “This one is my child. Do not approach her. Do not go to her in any way. Otherwise…” Sekhmet trailed off. I didn’t know what the “otherwise” was supposed to constitute. Bast evidently did because she blinked and swallowed whatever flippant response she had been preparing.

“Fine,” Bast agreed.

“You may go,” Sekhmet said.

We watched Bast twitch out the door. When she had gone, I turned to my mother, waiting for her to say something about this. Obviously, this was important and I was supposed to see all of this. So, we were going to discuss it, right? “Prepare yourself,” Sekhmet said. And of course we weren’t actually going to discuss what I wanted to talk about because, you know, that made way too much sense. “There are many things coming your way and I need you ready.”

“So, you mean, keep the sass to a minimum?”

Sekhmet smirked and walked away.