Sunday, September 26, 2010

In This Bosom Of Our Lord, We Slowly Smother

2580 BC, Giza Necropolis, Egypt

The stones were stacking up higher and higher all the time. Three men sat under the cover of a cloth hut, watching hundreds of slaves dragging massive blocks of limestone across the desert and up the shoddy wooden scaffolding.

"Isn't it glorious?" Pharaoh Khufu said to the two men he was seated with. "It's not nearly completed, but my pyramid is already a wonder to behold. A monument to my life, and a temple of my death."

Khufu was dark skinned, with narrow, dark eyes, and thin eyebrows. He wore an ornamental headdress of gold and jade that had the hawk-headed sun god, Ra, sculpted into the top.

"Indeed it is, pharaoh," said Iteru, sitting to Khufu's right. "It's stature is something to be admired and revered."

Iteru lounged in a chair lower and much less elaborate than Khufu's mobile throne. He wore an embroidered loincloth, and was completely bald, much the same as the other man sitting on the opposite side of Khufu.

"Well said, Iteru," Khufu said, pleased. "What have you to say about my creation, Serekh?"

"It's not really your creation, now is it?"

"What are you saying?" Khufu said, startled. "Of course it's mine."

"Have you laid a single stone?" asked Serekh.

"Watch your words," growled the pharaoh.

"I'm not critiquing, sire, so much as advising. And that is my job as advisor, is it not?"

Khufu glared at him silently then turned his gaze back to the growing pyramid.

"Very well. Continue."

"Well, this isn't really a very good story. You won't be remembered positively for this. The building itself may be admired, but the means by which it was made will not. And neither will you. History will be unkind to you, Pharaoh Khufu."

"How do you know this?" Khufu asked worriedly.

"He doesn't!" Iteru interjected, standing up. "This is the biggest creation that has ever been built. The universe is infinite! It doesn't notice the little things. The normal things. It only takes notice to things that colossal in scale."

"This is nothing, if not colossal," mumbled Khufu to himself.

"Exactly!" Iteru continued. "And it is created because you wished it to be! This is what the universe notices. This is what matters."

"If I may interrupt Iteru for a moment?" Serekh jumped in. "History won't remember you for bringing a wonder to the world. It will remember you for that."

Serekh pointed to a distant limestone block. It appeared to have slid off of a block below it, and was leaning on the ground at an angle. There was something moving at the base. Squinting, the pharaoh could make out a young slave, writhing in pain beneath the stone, both legs crushed and pinned under the block.

Khufu looked away.

"It's but one accident," he said quietly.

"And that." Serekh pointed up at the scaffolding.

One of the supervisors was whipping a slave fiercely. The slave cried out in agony, but he just continued to be beaten. The slave driver kicked the slave off the platform, and he fell to his death. Another slave immediately took his place.

Khufu was silent.

"Sacrifices must be made, pharaoh," Iteru said passionately. "You can't expect the grandest monument in the world to be easy?"

"And that," said Serekh, pointing again.

"Silence!" roared Khufu. "Guards! Take this man away and put him to work."

Three armed warriors ceased Serekh by the arms and yanked him from his chair.

"This is an exciting twist," said Story enthusiastically. He was dragged in front of Khufu, who smacked him, and then by Infinity, who simply watched. "Now I get to be the hero."

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