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The Changing of the Gods

Where there's a whip, there's a way.

Imar was tired of whipping. These pyramids wouldn't build themselves, true, but there had to be a way to do it without causing harm to the workforce.

All in all, he was lucky to be the whipper, not the whippee. He'd been on the receiving end before and barely made it out alive each day and then had to go home, nursing his wounds deep into the night, leaving him tired and exhausted for the next day on the grind, leading to more whippings and so on and so forth the cycle went.

But his penchant for work was found to be good by the overseers so they made him whip-master of platoon 59 which was tasked with heaving heavy bits of stone from the ship on the Nile and slotting them into place in the pyramid. Repetitious, backbreaking, tiring and dangerous, he urged his platoon to labor under the scorching might of Ra.

It was customary among the workers to mutter curses and/or prayers to the sun god Ra, depending on the proclivities of each individual. Imar chose prayers; though he despised the constant heat, he was not about to take chances with a god.

The men heaved and sweat; a lull came in the pulling and Imar loosed a crack of his whip, drawing a thin red line along the bald head of one of the men.

Imar felt a pang of guilt at that. You were supposed to whip the back only, that was the rule. But Imar had bad aim and very often slipped a strike to the back of the head or lower backside. The men would give him cruel, exhausted, exasperated glances for that. It was bad form; he knew it, they knew it - and he knew they resented him for his clumsiness.

They were on a pyramid slope now, inclining higher into the sky with heaves, grunts and tugs on the rope binding the giant stone. Imar's men were doing well, taking the labor in stride. He did not whip them. The overseers told him that it was like a gift to them. From his days hauling stone, Imar was inclined to disagree, but he would never voice that to an overseer or he would be back to toiling with heavy stone and rope, replaced by a new tyrant.

Imar grimaced at that thought. He was a tyrant, and it did not sit well with him. Trading his conscience for comfort, that was what he'd done; he knew it and it did not please him.

A large, booming call came from below. It was time for a break; the men left the stone on the ramp and scattered down to the ground, eager for food. Imar stayed by the stone; he did not feel like eating. He took a seat on the edge of the ramp, feet dangling high above the sand so far below. His father had taken him here when he was a boy and had loved to dangle his feet over the edge just as he was doing now.

How many generations had it taken to build this much of the pyramid? Three? Almost four? Imar sighed. Perhaps another - not in his lifetime. It had been long forgotten exactly why this pyramid was being built, all anyone knew is that Pharaoh Otep had decreed it be done and his descendants had seen his orders be carried out ever since.

Imar started to lift himself from the edge, but his hands slipped and he found himself sliding down the side of the pyramid. He slid down at an alarmingly fast rate; he would have found it fun were the ground not coming up so quickly to meet him.

With a scream, Imar plummeted into the sand.

What Imar had expected was to strike into the sand, go unconscious and maybe wake up in great pain sometime later if he ever did wake up. Instead, he fell through the sand - it was more as though he had fallen into a sea of silty water than into tightly packed, coarse bits of stone.

The sand was rough as he continued to fall; he dare not open his eyes or mouth for fear of sand throwing itself into him.

Imar fell and fell. His lungs were hot, begging and wailing in his chest for air.

And just when he felt like he couldn't take it anymore, the roughness of the sand disappeared and he found himself in a free-fall once more. He opened his eyes just in time to find himself about to land in a pool of dark water. He collided into the water with a great splash.

Imar swam up and took a gasp of air. He was alive, and at that he felt giddy. Looking around as he tread the water, he could not place where he was.

It was an extraordinarily large chamber lined with burning torches. The torches formed a series of rings around the chamber, each one higher than the other, getting so high that the torches began to fade in their distance. Hieroglyphic patterns covered the walls, colorful and seeming to dance in the shadowy light cast by the torch flame.

Beyond the pool, at the far end of the chamber was a giant throne. It was etched with many ornate details; the pure gold gleamed a regal orange in the light. At the top of the throne was a luxurious, sculpted head of Ra, also made of gold, with eyes the deep red of rubies.

Imar swam to the edge of the pool and crawled out, dripping water on the pristine stone floor. He stood, mouth gaping in awe of this place. Not knowing where he was or what he was to do, he took a few hesitant steps to the chair.

A deep voice rumbled through the cavern, shaking the stone as it spoke; "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth."

Imar took a gasp as the light began to flicker. He dared not move.

The voice returned - "Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters."

The torches blew out, surrounding Imar in total darkness.

The voice came back, this time in hushed, urgent tones. "And God said, 'Let there be light,' and there was light."

Nothing happened. The darkness was all consuming. Imar stood rigid in stillness, fearful of what was happening. He stood in the darkness for a long time, and still nothing happened.

Then a thought occurred to Imar and he spoke. "Let there be light," the voice that came from his lips was not his own; it sounded older, it sounded powerful, fierce.

As the strings of his voice spun in the air, an effervescent bright light overtook everything. He was nowhere, in nothing but a simple plane of white.

The voice came back, speaking faster now. "God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness."

Almost as if compelled, Imar brought his hands together, then split them apart. The white light burst apart and became tiny dots patterned against pure black.

Imar felt himself falling again. He jerked his head around, trying to see what he was falling towards and he saw a great blue orb that was getting bigger and bigger. Strange patches of green and brown covered parts of the blue, and as he went hurtling down towards a ridge of brown speared by blue, he let loose a scream.

As he got closer, the formless blobs of color began to take on familiar shapes - he recognized the desert, the nile - the great pyramid he was helping to build. He fell faster and faster and all became darkness as he struck the hard sand.

Imar came to awash in pain from every part of his body. He cracked open a bloody eye to see he was at the base of the pyramid with men clustering around him; a priest of Ra, glorious in his white robes strode up and bent over him. The priest spoke in a soothing voice, "Do not fear my child; you will be in the capable hands of Osiris soon."

Imar raised a weak, almost broken arm and feebly gripped the priest's collar, bringing him closer.

In a fearful, rasping voice with wild eyes, Imar said, "I have a prophecy."

The priest's eyes went wide. Imar could feel the darkness beginning to grab at his consciousness and he urged himself onward. "The gods as we know them will be dead soon. There is a new God coming, and I am scared of him, I am scared..." he trailed off, the last of his breath leaving him as he went limp on the sand.

Imar was given a proper burial, befitting of his station. Nothing grand, but serviceable enough to see him through to the afterlife. Soon, the people had forgotten his prophecy and the pyramid was finished.

The sands were shifting beneath their feet, and nobody noticed until it was too late.

Burnt Out

An Ignorant American Talking About the Brits