I walk softly down the stone corridor. My sandals making delicate swishes with each step. I am walking forward in confidence, as I should. I am Queen here. You would not know from my dress however. I wore a shift of light and delicate linen. The cloth is pleated and moves with me. A simple woven belt, with embroidered gold threading at my waist. A menat made with blue beads, green beads, and gold covers my chest and shoulders. I wear simple bracelets of woven papyrus and beads. As I am not at a formal function, I have left most of my gold behind. I do wear a crown. A simple gold band circlet with various beaded tassels hanging from it. Each tassel represents a region or country under my rule.
Attendants are manning various entryways and doors along the hallway. They bow and gesture as I pass. I don’t even nod in acknowledgment. I am Queen here. The corridor is wide, so that four men could stand side by side and still have room around them. The floor is smooth but not polished. The walls are polished to the point of reflection. A few tapestries hang on free standing racks. Many candle pillars. The walls are covered in polished granite and marble. I adore the look of them.
My Chief Advisor walks with me. A step to the right of me, and a step behind me. He too is dressed in pleated linens, of a sort. His loincloth resembles a kilt, but it ends below the knee and is held in place with a leather belt. He has a second cloth, draped over one shoulder and around his chest. He has several gold necklaces and chains, from which hang large medallions. Some are symbols of his position and power, most are for his pride. There are those that mutter about this thin man. They are concerned with how much power he has accumulated in my kingdom. He has gathered this power, because I have allowed him. And I have allowed him because I know I am not competent to rule the kingdom completely on my own, yet. To those outside of my confidence, it would appear the Chief Adviser is manipulating me. That I am a figurehead, and he is the true ruler. To those within my confidence, he is teaching me how to rule. In preparation for the day when I will stand alone. The Chief Adviser knows that despite how much power he has accumulated in my kingdom, he can not overthrow me. In an eye’s blink, I can destroy him. For now, however, I do need him. For now.
I am amused, as today, he too is muttering. I am going to the Great Temples today, to seek advice and wisdom from the Gods. This bruises his ego severely. He remarks that in another world, in another kingdom, he is regarded as a god. See how he has humbled himself to take the form of a man! See how he has lowered himself to a station below me, to assist me in raising mine! I smile faintly at his protestations. I know he speaks incomplete truths. But THIS is MY kingdom. I am Queen here. And I have chosen to seek wisdom from many sources. His is not the only cup from which I drink.
His tone is whiny, like a spoiled child that has been denied. But I can feel the smile on his face. His words protest my actions. His face brightens at my choice. I am doing the right thing.
We leave the palace and enter a great courtyard. The guards at the entrance salute with their drawn swords and raised shields. To these, do I nod in acknowledgment. There are pools and fountains. Great trellis arches with vines woven throughout. Flowers and fruits. Places to repose in the open air, yet shielded from the bright sun. Attendants move silently, purposely, maintaining the grounds. Occasionally, they will pause from their work, to sit upon a bench and take a moment’s rest.
One is sitting at the bench nearest to me now. Face tight in terror. He did not hear me enter the courtyard, he only heard the guards’ salute of sword upon shield. I had already spotted him, and was watching him with featureless amusement. He is trying to decide his action. Does he quit the bench and kneel, begging forgiveness for being lazy? Does he remain sitting as it is too late? Does he quietly rise and resume his work? Time shortens for me while it stretches for him.
A few steps and I am before him. He looks up in horror, I have given him no time to move from the bench. The Chief Advisor starts to reach for the man’s neck, but a raise of my hand stops him. “Are you ill, Servant?” The man’s head shakes side to side. “Have you worked too hard today, Servant?” A pause, then the man’s head nods slightly. “Are you afraid I am going to have you severely punished, Servant?” His eyes close and tighten in fright. His head jerks as he roughly nods. I smile slightly. “Open your eyes. If you have a tongue, use it. Do you need to sit here a while longer before returning to your work, Servant?”
A tear escapes an eye as he opens them and flees down his cheek. He licks his dry lips several times. “My Gracious Queen, I did not pay attention to the time! If my Merciful Queen would allow…” His voice cracks in his fear. Normally, I would have forced him to his knees by now. But I have allowed him to remain sitting. I look him over, carefully. I see the initial signs of heat exhaustion. I am angered, but not at him. I will have words with the Overseer about this, however.
I point to another Attendant, several feet away. I point to the jug of water at the fountain. She lays down her rake and quickly retrieves the jug of water and a cup that was sitting beside it. She genuflects to me as she approaches, then pours water into the ceramic cup and offers it to me. I stare at her, a smirk on my face. She looks at me in askance, her brows furrowing in thought. She realizes who the water is for, and places the full cup in the sitting man’s hands.
He tries to push the cup away.
“Servant.” No gentility in my voice. The Queen, she speaks. Both attendants freeze. “Your task today, is to attend to him. Make him drink water, gently. When he has recovered enough to walk, see to it he returns to his quarters safely.” She nods in acknowledgment.
“Servant.” Turning my attention to the sitting man. “Your task today, is to enjoy the courtyard you have tended. Relax in the breeze, drink of the water. When you are ready, you will return to your quarters for the day, and she will assist you.” He nods, tears of relief saying more than his voice could.
I turn my head towards my Chief Advisor. “While I am in the Great Temples, see to it that there are no more abuses.” He wrinkles his face knowing I have effectively banished him from attending me for the day. I smile at him, ever so sweetly.
“Yes, Your Highness.” He bows deeply. “However, I would to see you arrive safely at the Great Temples.” His concern is unnecessary. My entrance to the Great Temples are within the boundaries of the Palace Grounds. Not all my attendants are mere servants. But I will grant him this. If only to see how the gossip groups react later.
Without preamble, I turn and walk away from the two seated servants. I hear them talking lowly to each other. Her voice is full of legitimate concern. His voice is full of relief.
We cross the courtyard, taking a low bridge to cross the pools. On the other side is my private entrance to the Great Temples complex. Two guards stand on either side of the door. Armed and armored, no gloss on any surface, these elite guards are under the command of the priests within. They salute me. And glare at the Chief Advisor with stony gazes. He returns their stare with a conspiratorial grin.
The doors open for me, and the two of us enter. The air in my palace was pleasantly warm and flowing. In the Great Temples, the air is chilled and near stagnant. The thin linen billowing around me does little to warm me. The corridor is not wide enough for two people to stand side by side. The Chief Advisor is forced to walk directly behind me, a position I know he dislikes greatly. I can hear him grinding his teeth as he sets his jaw.
We emerge from the short corridor, into a wide room. I can hear chanting in the distance, and various perfumes drift by. A priest is waiting for me. He sees the Chief Advisor and sharply catches his breath. “Beloved Queen,”, the priest begins with measured breath, “I was not informed that… he… would be beseeching the Gods as well.”
I turn to the Chief Advisor. “No, High Priest. He isn’t.” I raise an eyebrow in askance. The Chief Advisor wrinkles his face again. “I’ll see you to the Purification Pools, then I shall depart to attend to my task.” The priest says no more. Because of the leather belt the Chief Advisor wears, he will not be allowed to enter the pools, much less pass them. Not even my word can force this to happen.
The Priest leads me to another set of rooms, where a priestess and several of her attendants are waiting for me. The Chief Advisor, knowing he will not be allowed further, bows and turns to leave the temples. I hear him muttering about muddy advice as he leaves. The priest glares at him, the quickly follows to ensure the Chief Advisor truly does leave.
The Priestess ensures no men are present, then directs her attendants to undress me completely. All articles are removed and set aside in a guarded room. Even the crown is removed from my head. Fully naked, I am led into a series of pools. Ritually washed three times, in a different pool each time. Fully submerged and fully scoured. Each bath reinforces the idea that I may be Queen, but to the Gods, I am just another creature.
After the last wash, I am dressed in a plain cloth tunic. I note this cloth is of the type that laboring peasants would wear. The Priestess notices my attention and braces herself for an onslaught of entitlement rage. But I say nothing. Her curiosity soon betrays her. “Dedicated Queen, does the garment offend you?”
“Why should it?” My answer further confuses her.
“Radiant Queen, the garment is of a cloth beneath your regal status.”
“Priestess. I go to humble myself before the Gods. What status have I before them? Am I not a human just as the laborer that made this garment? In this temple, are not all equal before them? If I focus on the roughness of what I wear, then it would be better that I continue naked!”
The Priestess fails to hide her smile. “Knowledgeable Queen, it is good to see you understand this. For some have gone before the Gods, naked as you state, because of their failure to grasp this.”
She leads me on, further and deeper into the temple complex. The areas open to the public are far behind us. I had entered in an area reserved for me. But now, we continue on in an area where my crown has no authority. Only the Priest and Priestess may choose who enters here. We pass through a doorway, the attendants holding open the large, thick doors for the Priestess and me.
Another courtyard, open to the sky. What had been day when I entered is now dark of night. No clouds above us, all the stars are viewable with stunning clarity. The stars suddenly flare, bright beacons in the still of night.
I become lucid, and remember why I came here.
The rush of lucidity stops me in my tracks. The Priestess turns to study my face. The attendants stop behind me, facing the floor in respect. The Priestess smiles. “Transcendent Queen, do you wish to continue? Or have you achieved what you Willed?”
I look back at the Priestess. Her wording tickles my ear. I have yet to present myself before Amun-Ra. “Not yet, Priestess. It is now imperative that I carry on with my task.” I am amused that I am a Queen in this dream. I make a mental note to ask my friends if I have that great an ego.
She nods and resumes leading me. The small courtyard is soon behind us, as she leads me into the Great Temple of Amun-Ra. Within, I am stunned by the visual complexity. Gold. Gold everywhere. Every vertical space is carved with hieroglyphs. Most of them, I am unable to read. This doesn’t surprise me, as I can not read them in the Waking. When I try to will them to be legible to me, I feel the dream itself push back. I am not meant to know what is written on the walls and columns within the Great Temple of Amun-Ra. Offering bowls that are large enough for me to bathe in. Great altars with various burning goods upon them. Priests are busy with the work of attending to these offerings. Their chanting voices merge into a great drone that swirls around my ears, attempting to drown out my thoughts.
In the center of the temple, abides a colossal statue of a standing Amun-Ra. Falcon headed with the sun disk of Wadjet crowning him, an ankh in his left hand, a Was scepter in his right. The statue faces the main doors of the temple. I realize my sense of direction is completely lost, I am unable to determine if the statue faces East. The statue is easily three times my height. I note above the statue, there is a gap in the temple ceiling. The statue is exposed to the elements. The stars of the night sky look down upon us.
The Priestess touches my arm, bringing my attention to her. “The priests are ready.” She hands me off to an attending priest. The area directly before the statue is strangely bare of altars or any means of receiving offerings. A thin pad is laid upon the floor. I am brought to the pad, but not upon it. Three times, I kneel fully before the statue. Three times, the priests call on Amun-Ra to look upon me. Only then, am I led onto the pad to sit and kneel upon it. The attending priest has a large cloth in his hands. I know he will completely cover me with the cloth. Before he does so, he whispers in my ear, “When the God has finished with you, stand up, if you can. If not, merely reach outward, and we will assist you.”
The large, heavy cloth is gently draped over my head and face, obscuring my vision.
I am still lucid, however. When my dream-sight is obscured, by instinct, I will myself not needing eyes to see. My awareness extends outward from me. I see myself, kneeling on the thin pad. I see the great statue in front of me. I note the platform I am kneeling on, is the same platform the statue is standing on, and is the same size as the gap in the ceiling. But I am unable to see anything off the platform. It is complete darkness around us. No amount of lucid will enables me to see past the platform.
I struggle with this at first. I am lucid. I know I am dreaming. But I am not in control of the dream. I do remember why I came to this dream, however. And I surrender my will, and lucidity, to the image of Amun-Ra before me.
The statue moves, the great stone bulk of Amun-Ra towers above me, and impales me with the Was Scepter. “Pay attention” I hear as I am driven from the dream.
I jump up in bed. My left leg feels chafed, as if from a burn. I was… dreaming? Something Egyptian, I think. I try to settle back down, but my leg is burning too much. That’s what I get for shaving without cream, I chastise myself. Not turning on any lights, I make my way to my dresser, grab at where I had left the bottle of lotion and smooth lotion on the irritated part of my leg. My skin twitches at the irritation at first. I remind myself to read labels when next I purchase lotion, not to buy any lotion with alcohol in it. Echoes of the dream pull at me. I felt I had to pay attention, but the dream dodged my memory. Perhaps when I go back to sleep, I will be able to drop back into the dream where it left off…
The platform is so cold, I am shivering under the heavy cloth. I had fallen asleep before the statue of Amun-Ra? How embarrassing! How insulting! I struggle to sit up properly, forcing myself not to reach out for help. The statue speaks again, “Pay attention!” Again, I am driven from the dream.
OH BLOODY HELL! I reach down and rub my right leg which is burning with the heat of a thousand chafes. The stubble from the growing hair tickles my palm. I wonder if I had been bit, but my hands feel nothing under the covers or on my legs, to my great relief. As if my right leg wasn’t bad enough, now my left leg is twitching with a reignited burn. Enough, time to get the jar of cocoa butter. But I don’t know where it is. My daughter had borrowed the jar and placed it in a different spot. I’ll have to turn on the light. Greatly agitated, and muttering under my breath at the second interruption. I had been immersed in a deep dream and didn’t want to miss out on any lucid fun. My eyes not fully adjusted to the light, I step to the side to retrieve the jar. I felt something underfoot, something soft and small and easily dismissed as a pulled loop from the carpet. I open the jar, scoop out a gob, and step back towards the light to see how badly I had chafed my legs.
Wait. What the hell is that? A spider? A fuzzy spider, the size of a dime. I had stepped on it and partially crushed it in the carpet. A leg twitched slowly as the spider lay dieing in misery. My face twitched in horror and dismay. I picked up a shoe, and sent the spider away from this life. As I stood up from my grisly deed, the entire dream sequence flashed over me. I fell to my knees from the mental shock of it. A phrase jumps unbidden to my mind. Three plain words that I know mean much more than at first glance.
“Clean your House.”
On the one hand, the phrase could be a knee jerk response of waking up next to a spider. But, note the capitalization. That is how I heard it. The phrase meant more than vacuuming under the bed.
I did away with the spider’s body. Rubbed cocoa butter onto both chafed legs. A brief check of the floor revealed no other spiders. Laying back in bed, the darkness of the night restored, I wondered if I would be able to go back to sleep after that.
I was prone before the great statue of Amun-Ra. He had shown his power and I was unable to withstand it. The heavy cloth still covered me from head to foot. I struggled to return to a kneeling position. I heard movement behind me, the priests were waiting for a sign from me. I bowed before the statue. Not quite understanding what had happened, but understanding that my audience was done.
I pulled the cloth from my face. The statue was motionless. The stars had shifted. I nodded.
I tried to speak, but no sound came out. My mouth was dry. I wondered if this is how the dead feel.
Reaching blindly behind me, my hands trembling. I could move no more, and I collapsed forward from exhaustion. The priests had been watching, however. They sprang quickly to action and caught me, preventing me from crashing into the cold hard platform. As I was carried away from the statue, and out of the temple, I heard some stay behind to offer praise and thanks to Amun-Ra.
The Priestess was there, she led the way back to the rooms of Purification. I was gently lowered to a waiting bed and covered with a blanket as the Priestess ensured all the men had departed. Her and her attendants bathed me and dressed me in my clothes, restoring my crown upon my head. No words were said the entire time. A litter was waiting for me. I was carried to it, and gently placed within it.
“Your Chief Advisor is waiting at the temple doors. The guards will not allow him to pass.” I nod at the information. My brow furrows in a sudden realization.
“Priestess, you did not start your words by addressing me as Queen.” I was not upset, but curious.
She smiled, a crafty smile. “Why should I limit you, now you know what you are?” She pulls the hanging veils over the litter and gives the command for them to take me away. I did not remember what had happened at the statue. I relax into the pillows as the two men carry my litter through the narrow passageway back to my palace courtyard. Once there, they inform my Chief Advisor that I was exhausted, and I should remain in the courtyard for a while to rest.
The night had passed, it was now early morning in the courtyard. My Chief Advisor did not lay a hand on me, but commanded the attendants about to make me comfortable. “More pillows! More fruit! More water! Your Queen is about to die, do you not care?”
As I fell asleep in the airy courtyard, surrounded by the scent of flowers and fruit, I am reminded of a dying spider, and the words, “Clean your House.”