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ENG1WFI Story: The Path of Totality

by Caroline Seawright
Year 1 Essay for Writing Fiction at LaTrobe University, May 2011.

 

The Path of Totality

Ra, Father of the Gods, the Lord of the Two Lands, the Lord of the Sky, the One Who Comes Forth in the Horizon, was in a foul mood. The sun god's skin glittered like gold, and his hair seemed to be precious lapis-lazuli. Right at that moment his shining face was clouded with anger.

Hathor, the divine goddess of love, was the most beautiful of the goddesses. The company of gods sat in a pavilion which was bright and airy, but held an undercurrent of frustration. She shook her head slightly and decided that this whole situation was Set's fault. He was always jealous of his brother. The beads in her glossy hair tinkled slightly as she moved and her diaphanous dress shifted as she crossed her legs. She twitched her cow-like ears in boredom. This could take some time.

Set, the aardvark-headed god of storms, had murdered his brother Osiris. That had indeed set the cat amongst the pigeons and ruffled more than a few feathers. Horus, falcon-headed son of the now-deceased god, was pissed off at his uncle. The particulars were long and convoluted; the sort of story that a bored housewife might enjoy. The crux of the matter was that both Horus and Set wanted the throne of Egypt.

This presented Ra with a problem: To whom should he give Osiris' royal titles? It was as clear as day to all concerned that Horus should rightfully get the title, but Set had curried great favour with Ra. The sun god had reached an impasse in his decision making process.

"Give it to Horus, it is he who is rightfully king of Egypt in his father's place!" called a god from the crowd.

"Yes! Yes! A million times, yes," came a chorus of responses from all corners of the heavens. Scintillating colours filled the air as more and more gods chimed in.

Ra's face, already dark, turned to thunder and the ethereal plain darkened a trifle. His voice was deceptively quiet when he asked, "Are you, my children, going to make this decision for me?"

"Horus should be king of the earthly realm!" The gods called, drowning out Ra's voice in the process. Storm-clouds began to gather on the horizon of heaven.

Hathor shifted in her seat and shivered. It was never a good idea to dismiss the king of the gods. Now he would balk and refuse to give Horus the title out of spite; she could see it on Ra's angry face. Set, knowing what was good for him, stood apart from the proceedings with his mouth shut. It's a pity that no-one else followed his example.

Heaven was different from earth below. It was much more luminous; the vegetation was greener, the River was bluer and the desert was redder. Pleasure was much more pleasurable. Yet as Hathor surveyed the gods, she noted that it was also very similar in many ways.

"Horus, sit on your father's throne!" a cry was raised from amidst the multitude of deities.

"Horus is still young and weak! The job of being pharaoh's too great for him. He's just a snivelling brat with sour milk-breath from sucking his mother's teat!" The petulant insult came from Ra's golden mouth.

The look on Horus' face was one of horrified shame. It was somewhat difficult for someone with a falcon's features to manage, yet he somehow pulled it off. Set had a smirk on his aardvark-like features.

Angry murmurs rippled through the divine company of gods. From the back of the pavilion came an anonymous shout, "Shut up, you old geezer. No-one cares about you now you're in the sunset of your life. Your shrine is empty!"

Hathor was not the only one to cringe at the blasphemy.

Ra looked around the pavilion, startled at the insult. Even the anger had been wiped away by the affront. The look on his face was heart-breaking, but soon everyone would suffer.

She watched as Ra made his displeasure felt.

The great god threw himself on the ground and sobbed.

Darkness descended on the heavens and the earth.

***

Hathor longed to be home amongst her sycamore grove, where she could gain some measure of comfort. The heavens had lost their sheen, now lit only but an eerie red glow, and cries of terror filled her ears, ringing up from the earth below. Yet she couldn't leave the celestial sphere whilst Ra was in this mood. No-one could. Eternal night may have its benefits as a time for lovers, but the earth below would suffer if darkness reigned for long. The sun was life. Without it, the earth would die. None of the gods wanted that to happen.

Horus appeared out of the gloom, gliding quietly into her small, dark pavilion. He quietly asked, "Hathor, can't you help? This can't go on. Ra is just being huffy after everyone decided that I should be king. You've got to talk to him."

The goddess looked at the younger god sideways. "Why me?"

"Of all of us, you're closest to him. You can talk to him."

"But it's you and Set who caused this problem!"

Horus had the nerve to look affronted. "Me? I did nothing! I just came to ask his blessing to take up my father's throne. Set's the one who killed my father."

"Look, I'm not going to speak to him while he's in this mood. You do it." Hathor spread her arms, her dress glittering as she shrugged. "Or get your uncle Set to do it. He's Ra's favourite deity of the moment."

"No, I will not talk to my father's murderer, thank you very much." Horus turned heel and practically flew off as if he had been insulted.

Sadly, Horus hadn't been the first, nor was he the last.

She was quite surprised when Set materialised in her small pavilion. The darkness seemed to cling to him ever so slightly as he walked towards her. He opened his animal-like mouth and spoke in a deep and gravelly voice, "Ra is ignoring everyone right now. We cannot let this go on, but he refuses to talk to me."

Hathor nodded slightly. "You know how he gets."

Set inclined his head. The deep crimson glow, which now passed for heavenly light, set off his red furred features rather fetchingly. "Yes, I know." Something like a sigh issued from his mouth and he said, "I know I am not blameless in all of this, so I tried to talk to him. But he will not acknowledge me. Perhaps you could talk to him?"

She threw up her golden hands, her cow-like ears twitching uncontrollably in annoyance. She had known this question was coming from the moment he appeared, but it still irritated her. Too tired to argue, she growled, "Fine. I'll go speak with Ra!"

As she flounced off, Set nodded sagely as though he'd known her response all along.

***

Ra lay there, on the ground, his face turned away. Whenever she walked around to his other side, he would turn his head to avoid looking at her.

"Come on, Ra. We've known each other forever." Hathor wasn't exaggerating. They had known each other since time began.

Ra did not respond. He still lay there, pouting in the darkness.

"Oh, for heaven's sake," she sighed in exasperation. Not knowing what else to do, she decided to dance. Ra and the rest of the gods had always enjoyed her dancing. She was beautiful, light on her feet and agile. The immortals always enjoyed her style and flair, and to the aged Ra it was a special pleasure. He had even named her 'The Sweet One' in honour of the joy she brought to the universe.

Heavenly music chimed from somewhere in the darkness, and she began to sway. Her body twisted gracefully, her skirts shimmering and hair-beads tinkling as she moved. Starting on one foot, her hands raised, she effortlessly started spinning. The gossamer fabric of her dress flared as she suddenly stopped. Without a thought, she sprang into the air, flipping her lithe body around as would an itinerant acrobat in the pharaonic court. Landing perfectly, knees bent, she sprang up and into the air again as the music tempo increased. Her golden limbs flashed as she somersaulted in mid-air, flashes of bare skin seen through the fluttering folds of her sheer clothing as she twirled. Landing on one delicate foot, the hem of her robes spilled down around her body once more. Then, throwing her arms out with abandon, her divine sweat starting to bead on her beautiful flesh, she rhythmically began to leap into the air as her body seemed to become the music itself, her heart becoming the beat. She was rapturously caught up in a divine dance, her body becoming one with all. Her dance brought a little lightness to Ra's pavilion.

Yet Ra did not move.

When she noticed, it bought her dance to a jarring stop and the mystical music shattered on a discordant note.

"Damnit, Ra, look at me!"

No response.

Then she lit upon an idea. It was crafty, risky, and definitely too sacrilegious to perform in such an august presence... but it just might work.

"Hey, Ra, take a look at my empty shrine!"

She then hoisted her skirts, bent over and waggled her sacred bits in his direction.

That caught his attention.

He started at that which she was presenting in shock. "You dare do such a thing in this sacred space?"

Then a tremor went through him. The great father of the gods lay on the floor and started laughing so hard he could barely breathe. He slapped his hands on his chest, kicking his feet into the air, and whooped. Eventually he managed to gasp, "Only you, Hathor!" Then another wave of mirth overcame him, and he dissolved into fits of laughter once again.

Hathor straightened up and dropped her skirts back in place and joined in with her own giggles as light returned to the universe.

When the other deities found them, they were both on the ground, howling with amusement.

***

When things had settled down, the gods sat back down to deal with the matter of Set and Horus. Hathor smiled to herself. The case would now run its course much more smoothly.

The 'empty shrine' insult did not bother the sun god again. Whenever the other gods brought up the topic, the only response they received from Ra, the Lord of All, the Creator of Eternity and the Mighty One in Myriad Forms, was an amused chuckle.

This short story is based on the ancient Egyptian story of Hathor and Ra.

Seawright, C , The Path of Totality, Fantasy, <http://www.thekeep.org/~kunoichi/ kunoichi/themestream/ pathoftotality.html>.


© Caroline 'Kunoichi' Seawright 2011 - present

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