Well, all my fantasy-prone blog followers and friends, I’m sure you all must love Halloween as much as I do. The night you can pretend to be whoever you want and roam the streets under the guise of darkness, the crisp leaves crunching under your costumed-feet, collecting CANDY from strangers! The night where fear is confronted and spooky is embraced. The night where the veil between us and the afterlife thins and the dead can mingle with the living.
Oh I LOVE Halloween.
This year we actually have a white Halloween.
Yes, snow in the fall everyone.
They say it hasn’t snowed this early in these parts since the Civil War. I actually love the snow (as long as I keep my power that is), but it’s pretty strange to be trick or treating in half-a-foot of snow. Our area has actually sent out a public message strongly discouraging going out due to power outages. In lieu of house-to-house, they are offering candy at the town hall from 2-4. Well, that sounds terribly depressing. I’m going to look up which neighborhoods still have power and drive my son around to all the Halloween friendly houses. I’m sure my son will be telling his grandchildren about this one day. One of those — “When I was a boy we had to trudge through four feet of snow to get our candy!”
I’m even more bummed this Halloween since I usually host a huge Halloween party where I do things like this:
(Harry Potter music blasting)
Oh seeing all these pics makes me miss having my party this year, but since I have an infant to take care of into the wee hours of the night, I decided to forgo it. Boy am I glad I didn’t try though, the snow would have wrecked everything. I would have been rushing around trying to save all of my decorations and animatronics. I hope it still feels like Halloween a little bit tonight. It feels like Halloween Grinch has stolen it from us.
So in honor of trick or treating, I’ve posted a little more of my book below:
Years later, my palm-wood-sandaled feet trot along the stone path through tall desert trees that provide much-needed relief from the dry heat of the land. I come to the end of my purification walk from my family dwelling outside the sacred city of Memphis. My thirty days of service is about to begin, and I’m eager to reclaim the position of my late father and his father before that. I already feel strength from my fast. I walk steadfast under the towering statues of Ra lining the walkway to the temple entrance. I’m beginning to feel alive again, every muscle tingling.
Above the door bears the sacred inscription: “The House of Life—The Learned Ones of Library Magic.” Every time I pass under that engraving, pride consumes me. I’m the high priest of such a temple. The six guards at the entrance step aside and bow to me, allowing me access. I point for my lagging slave, Nun, to go to my sleeping chamber and prepare it for the evening. The interior of the temple drops twenty degrees, and my sweat cools instantly, causing a slight chill. Torches illuminate a path down the corridor as the smell of incense engulfs me.
Another guard opens the massive cypress door and bows on one knee while holding the heavy door open. Inside the high- ceilinged room stands an imposing statue of Serapis, God of Dreams, to which our temple is dedicated. All around the statue, offerings of fruit, nuts, beer, wine and fresh-killed lamb are piled up. Expensive oils and incense are burned in wide pots at the perimeter of the vast room, casting light on the papyrus plants, lotus, and palm trees painted to the top of the walls. I look to the flying birds and stars painted to the greatest height across the vaulted ceiling. A harpist plays soft music while beautiful virgins dance slowly. I walk to the altar and bow as a priestess wafts a cloud of incense and natron around me.
I head through the pyres to my right which lead me to the cleansing pool. I stand at the pool’s steps, waiting with my arms out, as a stolist priest unties my cotton loincloth. Naked, I kneel down as another stolist lathers my head with scented lotion and shaves my hair to my scalp. I stand again as he shaves all of my body, hand-plucks my eyebrows and each eyelash.
As a viper feels after shedding its skin, I breathe deep and glide into the cool, pure water, then sink beneath. Breaching the surface and rubbing the water from my eyes, I catch my reflection in the golden mirrors lining the edge of the pool. Water runs down my brown skin, causing a glistening effect in the glowing dimness of the room. With all my hair gone, my features look chiseled, emphasizing my prominent nose and thick lips.
As I exit, the priests anoint my body in balanos oil and tie a clean white linen loincloth around my waist. I bow my head as one places the moonstone eye of Serapis around my neck and a gold arm cuff around my biceps. I turn to another who paints my eyes, brows, and lips black with kohl out of a lotus-shaped glass container. To finalize the cleansing, I rinse my mouth with salty natron water and spit into an alabaster flask. The priests bow to me as I walk back into the central room of the temple, again bow to Serapis, and continue to the dream-incubation chamber. I am to prepare the evening’s special ceremony to find Nebu’s—God Wife of Serapis—adopted Royal Daughter.
I walk into the large central chamber, where two lower priests are tending the giant fire pits on either side of my podium that holds my sacred books. I take my place at the altar, enclosed by the thick, stone columns, to review the last priest’s journal entries. The tended fires blaze, illuminating the carvings of the dream gods carved on all four walls. Gods who are waiting for pharaohs, priests, scribes, wealthy merchants, and commoners to come to scry for cures, magical spells, hex removal, fertility, and prophesy. I hold their most vital hopes and dreams in my hands.
The two priests finish with the fires, refill incense oils, and then bow as they back out of the chamber; I wave them away.
Hearing sandals clicking down the corridor outside, I can tell it is Nebu’s quick light feet as she comes to greet me. She is beautiful, as all of the wives of gods are expected to be. She wears her gold-and-lapis lazuli collar, gold headdress, and gold-painted long skirt wrapped around her hips. I bow before her, appreciating every inch of wasted splendor, since no earthly man can ever have her.
“Sokaris,” she says with her hands out for me to grasp in greeting, “I hope your leave was restful?”
“I grew fat and bored as always, and I’m eager to dedicate myself again.” I hold her hands and bow with her.
She begins to walk, silently commanding me to follow her down the corridor.
“It is time for me to pass down my position, but I do not want to choose poorly. I need to adopt an apprentice who will not merely fulfill my wifely duties but also please Serapis.”
As we are approaching the main chamber, Edjo—Nebu’s favored apprentice—comes limping down the corridor in tears. As Edjo is normally a graceful and tranquil beauty, this is an abnormal event. Her tears cause her kohl to make black rivers down her fine-featured face, and her amber eyes look beseechingly to Nebu.
“Most High, I awoke this morning with a large and painful lesion above my knee.” She points to a festering wound seeping clear fluid down her right leg. “It is a curse, I tell you! I dreamed of a jealous enemy last week!”
Nebu turns to me, and I nod in validation.
“I also have a rash that has spread all over my face and down the back of my neck.”
We lean closer with a torch and see her skin is indeed raised and red.
Nebu shakes her head with disappointment. “I am sorry, Edjo, but these are all signs the gods do not find you fit for this position.”
Edjo crumples to Nebu’s feet.
“Once you are healed and purified, you are welcome to be one of my esteemed dancers,” Nebu says as she pats her heaving back.
Edjo begins kissing her feet. “Please, Nebu, please see this for the treachery it is! I have been groomed for Serapis, raised to be his wife! I am Edjo, the daughter of Amun! This is my birthright! My family will be shamed!”
Nebu shakes her off her feet and starts moving down the hall to the other dancers.
Edjo shrieks from behind us, “I cannot bear this shame! I am going to drown myself in the Nile, and the one that has cursed me will be damned!”
Neither Nebu nor I give her a second look. Nebu whispers under her breath, “Clearly not ordained.” The rhythmic drums and cymbals are heard from the corridor,and the chamber is filled with movement. Twenty royal dancers twist and turn to the beats, striving to stand out and impress Nebu. They can all turn the head of any man, but they dull like the dust stars next to the brightest and shining star. I stop hearing the music when I see her.
She watches her hands and the intricate movements they’re making as her hips click with the beat. I don’t know which part of her to watch first. She is the waves rolling from the center of the sea with no end and no beginning, an unrelenting ripple of her whole body. She starts with a large movement of her middle and lets it flow to an undulation out the tips of her hands and then back down to her toes. Her body reflects all of the flickers of the fire, making her cast a marbled glow. Her motions hypnotize me, and when I find the music has stopped—I want more.
I shake my head to break the spell and look to see if Nebu notices the trance she put me under, but she too is watching the girl. She claps her hands. “Satisfactory.” Then, motioning to the harpist to begin playing, she commands, “Sing for Serapis.”
When it’s my dancing girl’s turn to sing, she doesn’t have perfect pitch, as did other girls, but she sings quietly and so sweetly. Her eyes! Her eyes are large, honey pools you can fall into and never climb out! She is the most intriguing and captivating woman I’ve ever seen. Something is different about her—something powerful—something mystifying. She moves, and my eyes follow; she speaks, and my ears tune out all other sound. I feel far away from her and want to be closer. I wish no one else were in the room.
Nebu interrupts my pain. “I see you agree with my choice.”
I pretend to be only slightly interested. “There are many talented girls for you to pick from, but one does seem to have a magic air to her.”
“Ah, you have noticed. Yes, that is a good way to put it.” She smiles while gazing upon her. “I wonder, though, if she seems devout and disciplined enough?”
“That is hard to see in the arts. We will need to probe deeper and let our ancient knowledge guide us.”
My heart races at the thought that I’ll get to spend some time alone with her.
“Yes, we will have to trust the ancients—and you, Sokaris.”
I leave to take my place in the dream-incubation chamber before Nebu sends her. I have to regain composure and steady myself for the important task ahead. I look up at my reflection in the brass incense burner, and I see her float in behind me. I turn, avoiding her eyes, and stare at my papyrus.
“Name?” I ask. “Bastet, daughter of Ketuh.” Her voice is melodious. “Age?” “Fifteen and a half years.” She’s older than most royal daughters, but it is not unheard of for someone her age to be considered. Her blue glass ear studs catch my eye.
“Let me see your palm.”
She outstretches a fragile, long-fingered hand and slowly turns it within my palm as she looks directly in my eyes. I feel a charge at her touch but continue my task. She has many great talents on her hand but carries three of the most ominous signs: a weak and broken lifeline that foretells a short life; she lacks the gift of willpower whorl on her thumb; and most intriguing to me, her mount of Venus is well padded, showing immense passion. Normally I wouldn’t even let a candidate stay after this miserable reading, but I can’t stand the thought of her leaving.
“Please follow me to your chamber for the night.”
I lead her to the smaller chambers where dream incubation takes place. I motion her to enter the room first, pushing aside the urge to pull her to the bed with me.
She sits down on the side of the linen-draped bed and asks, “Who is looking upon me as I sleep?”
I freeze at her unabashed forwardness but thaw when she points to the carving on the headboard.
“That is the midget god, Bes: the Dream Protector.” I motion her to come to the table beside me. When she nears, I can smell the remnants of scented wax in her braided wig releasing its sweet perfume. “Tonight you must pray to the god Serapis to send you a fortuitous dream, one that can tell us of your destiny with him. Please write his name on the papyrus.”
She obeys with some skill, and I roll it up and place it in a lamp beside her bed.
I pray, “Will it be granted that Bastet, daughter of Ketuh, be Royal Daughter to Serapis? Reveal it to me; answer this little written prayer.”
I light the papyrus to burn while she sleeps. She bows, and I leave her chamber to attempt to retire in the chamber next to hers. It must have been hours before my body relaxed enough to sleep, knowing she is so close.
I’m getting back into bed and am fixing the scroll with my god’s name when I feel something move by my leg under the sheet. I throw back the sheet to expose a writhing mass of snakes crawling and hissing on top of me. I scream as they all bite into me at once, igniting me in flames.
I wake, thrashing and breathing hard.
The same dream again and again!
I write on my papyrus: GET SEHKET!