By K.W. Taylor
The monuments were pathetic. Immutef glared across the star-dappled sand at the creations with a mixture of pity and disdain. This was not what Sachmet sent him amongst this backward race to accomplish. She demanded greatness, a place where she could be worshipped even here, so far from home.
Immutef bowed his head and placed his fingertips to his forehead. “O, Great One, I have not lived up to your glory,” he whispered softly, speaking in the ancient tongue of the Tesau Re-Hora people from his own world, so far away through the stars. “My fate is in your hands, Mother Goddess.”
The moonlight increased its power as he stood there before the pyramids, blooming from quarter to half to full at an impossible rate of speed. Immutef looked up at the sky, and he knew he was not long for existence.
Sachmet did not come in the flesh, of course. Her emissary sparked to life in a burst and crackle of light and sound, green beams the color of palm fronds zipping through the night sky. In an instant, the emissary stood in front of Immutef, but he was not fooled. It was a projection only, a holographic way of conveying a message. The emissary was thousands and thousands of light years away.
“There you are,” came her soft voice. She was beautiful, and Immutef recognized her immediately, though she was now older. “I have missed you, brother.”
“I have missed you as well, Hathor,” he said. He took in her raven hair, swept up neatly atop her head in gleaming tendrils, her long felt coat of pale grey. Along her coat were images of the sacred cat and star. “You are in the Goddess’ employ now, sister?”
She smiled, and he knew it must be true. “I have come to see the fruits of your long journey, brother.”
Immutef’s eyes stung. “Hathor, the monuments are wretched and small,” he said. He stretched out a long, thin arm and pointed to the structures. “I am so deeply sorry.”
The image of his sister turned away from him. For long moments, she did not move. Immutef’s heart began to beat faster and faster, his lack of will unable to stand against the suspense of not knowing what was to be his fate. “Sister? Please, I must know. What does Sachmet say?”
Still, she did not answer, and it was then that everything became clear to Immutef. “I am to die,” he said. “Do me the courtesy of mercy, please. I wish for a swift end if death is to be my course.”
The image shifted, blurring around the edges and wavering in the cool air. “That is not your course, Immutef. Sachmet is quite displeased.”
Immutef gaped at his sister. “If Sachmet is displeased, then she must have my life!” he cried. “I am but her humble servant, and I have failed her!” He strode forward, past the projected image, toward the pyramids. “These are trifles! They are not worthy!”
The projection hummed behind him. “Do you feel that is why you will be punished, Immutef?”
Immutef did not turn to face her. “Of course,” he said, “and rightly so.”
“How did you build them?”
“You know how I built them,” Immutef replied. “As the emissary, I am certain you observed me over these many years without my noticing.”
“I did, but tell me anyway.”
Immutef looked back over his shoulder at her, his brows knit in puzzlement. “Why must I state the obvious?”
She did not reply, but merely smiled benignly at him.
“There were laborers,” he began. “I engaged their service, and I had them brought here.”
“You did,” she said with a nod.
“And Sachmet is displeased with the result,” Immutef said. “So I do not understand why I am not being struck down.”
His sister gazed at the pyramids. “Oh, Immutef,” she said dreamily, “how I looked up to you when we were children.” The projection crackled, and her voice was briefly seized up in a buzz of static. “ . . . pains me . . . you must . . . she will come for you . . . ”
Abruptly, the image winked out in the same green light which brought it forth, and Immutef was alone in the dark.
“Sister!” he called. “Come back!” Immutef began to trudge through the sand, his eyes scanning the skies as the moon began to shrink back to its quarter phase.
Immutef swallowed, but it hurt, as if a large pebble were lodged there. “No, please, Goddess, what have you done?” he murmured. He fell on his knees and prostrated himself on the sand. Before long, he found his lithe body wracked with sobs. “Accept my supplication!” he screamed, the sound muffled by the ground. “Take me as you will!”
He remained on the ground, his face burrowing into the sand deeper and deeper as he wept. Immutef wept so loudly and so long that he did not notice the sound or the shift in the air as the creature padded toward him. Strong legs covered in glossy, golden fur cut through the wind deftly. When it was within striking distance of Immutef, it sprang from the sand and leapt directly on his naked back.
Immutef yelped and sputtered, his hands begging for purchase, anything to get away from whatever had attacked him. He felt claws raking sharply down his ribcage, across his taut, dark stomach, and something heavy began pushing his head down.
Immediately, the creature stopped the instant he shouted. Immutef was shocked, but he was able to drag himself out from under his attacker and crawl several meters away to safety.
As he gasped for breath, Immutef saw that his vision was cloudy with sweat and tears. He dragged a hand across his face and eyes, rubbing away salt and sand as best he could. Finally, the landscape slowly came into focus, and Immutef could see that the thing was still there.
Sitting calmly, the lioness sat where she had jumped on him, her sleek head tilted to one side in an almost thoughtful manner. Her deep green eyes seemed placid.
But Immutef would not be fooled. Blood pooled down from his torso to his clothing, bringing forth flowering red blossoms that spread through the thin linen. His sides hurt when he breathed deeply. This animal was not like the cats the humans worshipped. This being was sentient, and therefore it was deadly.
He stared back into her eyes, boring into them unwaveringly, and the lioness took on a more confident bearing. She straightened her back and tilted her head upright.
“I know who you are,” Immutef said. “Why will you not send me to my ancestors?”
The lioness’s mouth did not move, and Immutef did not hear a voice in any concrete, aural fashion, but words still came into his mind.
“You will cease to be one day,” the lioness thought at Immutef. “But that time is simply not today. You enslaved people to build your temples. Now thirst will enslave you for centuries.”
The lioness remained calm for a moment longer before leaping upon Immutef again. This time, she did not tear him with her claws, but instead began to work at his throat with her teeth. As Immutef screamed into the cold, unforgiving night, the panther sank long fangs into the side of Immutef’s neck.
All words he managed to absorb from the panther’s mind in those first few seconds before blackness overtook him were erased by the time he awoke.
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I am a writer and college writing instructor in Ohio. My non-fiction has been published regularly in the Dayton City Paper, where I have served as a genre media contributor since 2005. I have recently published in Golden Visions magazine and have work in upcoming issues of Aoife's Kiss and Beyond Centauri.
Labels: K.W. Taylor