Chapter II: Robbed of Choice—part I (First Draft)
Satipy hated dark sticky nights where the sun departed hours before but left behind its power. The heat made insects pack the air with racket. Scents of brackish water, animal dung, and human waste hung in the air. She carried a bucket, and, under the cover of moon light, she brought it to the river. This type of dark she hated most: behind every stone, concealed in shadows, she envisioned, churning in her mind, scorpions, serpents, even phantoms watching her. All were poised and primed to strike. Then, Satipy remembered the alligators.
Fear forced Satipy to focus along the water’s edge. Ankle deep in the Nile’s quick water, swallowed by shadows from reeds twice her height, she experienced a respite from her worries. Here, danger wakes her instincts. She is hyper alert; her muscles bowstringed tense, yearning release. She slipped her bucket under the surface without rippling the water. A breeze brushed a reed against her elbow. Satipy swallowed her breath, and tenderly lifted the bucket out of the river. She condemned herself for coming alone. She thought I wish Ishaq was here.
The news of Ishaq’s flight from prince Imhotep wagged on every Alexandrian’s tongue. For half a moon, Ishaq’s exploits rippled across Egypt. His feats were magnified. Satipy’s brother returned from Thebes just this afternoon. There, he said it is told that Ishaq escaped from a thousand men. In Memphis, Horus himself swarmed down and grabbed the boy out of Imhotep’s clutches. That turned out to be the only news because no one had seen him since. Ishaq never returned home, and neither did his father. Satipy prayed Ishaq was in the shadows smiling at her. Having hidden himself in the reeds, he would soon leap howling and laughing, picking her up in his arms and smiling, soothing, calming her screaming. But no god answered her prayer. To the gods, mortal hearts are sands tossed by winds.
A Short Story “…I don’t consider your happiness when I call. You are needed, and you are able, therefore you must go.”
All the searching, the waiting, the not knowing, tortured her. The faintest connections would fuse together at the least of reminders: that man has Ishaq’s shoulders, or Ishaq and this man share the same stride; Ishaq first kissed me there, or I first caught him with that whore Nerbet by those docks. The very spot.
Her father settled early and easily on Ishaq being killed, or that he sold himself into slavery, or enlisted in the army to hide, or whatever fancy he could use to imply he’s never coming back.
Something moved on her right. The reeds parted. That night, that moment, time stopped and held its breath. Something heavy and hard bumped her leg.
She dropped her bucket and leapt from the water. On shore, breathing proved a challenge, and her heart pounded. She dropped to her elbows and knees when she heard another’s voice call out.
“Hello. My child, my Esa, my youngest daughter told me someone screamed.”
Satipy almost spoke. She even squealed a little but remained silent. Her adrenaline replenished.
“Are you hurt?”
She watched the man step into the moon’s light. His silhouette appeared slender and bald against the river. He focused on a shape floating in the water. The man squatted twenty feet from her. Suddenly, his head turned toward her. She froze. But his head continued to move and scan the area. She would have spoken up then, had she not discovered another man come into the scene forty feet from where she laid on her stomach, below her, walking in water half a man deep.
Her rescuer spotted him and yelled, “You! Yes, you. Did you scream?”
“No alarm,” The man called out from the river.
“Are you a ghost?” he replied.
“I didn’t scream,” the man said as he walked out of shallower and shallower water. “I come from a different place. And I’m no ghost. My name is Moses.”
“A different place entirely. And you are?”
“I’m Bes. Well, what are you doing in the water this time of night, get out. There’s alligators in—.”
The newcomer cut him short. He slipped out a covered knife and slashed it at Bes’s throat. He missed. The two men wrestled, while Satipy watched, frozen in both fear and intrigue.
To Be Continued