Who wakes me?
Nenkhsekhmet’s muscles snapped as he pushed himself up. Billows of dust broke from his joints, his wrappings falling to pieces. His mind was dry as the red land, feeding him thoughts one grain of sand at a time. Has my heart not yet been weighed? The voice of Sahure called for his faithful service, as the covenant of Nenkhsekhmet’s stele commanded.
He growled angrily and crawled out of his sarcophagus in jolted motions as his joints broke free from flesh dried through unfathomable time. He felt horrible, not like the spry avenger when he last awoke and destroyed the Libyans that killed his master’s great, great grandson. His throat rasped, dry as the land of Swenett. How he felt, hundreds of years must have past.
Where were the priests to greet him and instruct him regarding his master’s desire? He arose in darkness, groping for the hatch, opening it to the breath of Ra.
Mau, Ra in cat form, sat outside and greeted Nenkhsekhmet—for who is like unto him?—and led him through the red land. Strange sounds crumbled his ears, ringing upon the wind. His blurred eyes discerned unfathomable things running along the ground and flying through the air. Anguish clutched his desiccated heart at the sight of Djoser falling into ruin. It fed his ire. How they forget.
Nenkhsekhmet’s eyes cleared as they crested the hill to Abusir, and toward the lower H’pi sprawled the most magnificent city, self-propelled coaches traveling every direction between high, blocky buildings, massive ships flying through the air along trails of smoke. So much shone and glittered like flowing water. Men aspired to the gods.
Then he espied them. Khafre and Khufu, so dim and misshapen. Nenkhsekhmet’s arid heart collapsed into hollowness, for these monuments had passed through generations of generations, and the empire, his pharaoh, were lost in time. How can I sleep so long and not find myself at the end of the world? What duties can remain for the dead of an ancient kingdom? What could possibly be left to avenge?
He averted his gristly eyes in despair, and rested them upon Mau, sitting next to him and looking at him as if inquiring his readiness. “What am I to do?” he croaked. He thought for a second that the cat smiled at him, and a cool breeze lightened Nenkhsekhmet’s hollow chest. He laughed, looking up at Ra. For Ra it was, never changing, never ending, granting him this final toil that would release his heavy heart and allow him into the Fields of Offerings. But he looked at Ra with new eyes, a veil lifting, a mystery unfolding, awaiting his purification to reveal the greatest of all images.
With new vigor, he rattled his corpse down the other side of the hill after Mau, people screaming, climbing into their homes and their coaches, fleeing his fearsome stride. They came upon several agitated women near a pile of palettes, a small boy perched on top with a box, a pack of wild dogs surrounding him. Nenkhsekhmet could not understand their words. The women beat at the curs and retreated when they snapped back. The boy yelled at the beasts, blazing eyes, fierce snarl, clutching his box tightly. One of the women saw Nenkhsekhmet and screamed.
Nenkhsekhmet looked at Mau. What am I to do here? Who merits Sahure’s retribution? Mau blinked placidly and looked at the crowd.
Nenkhsekhmet studied the women, screaming and gesticulating, the boy, shock upon his face, the box, coming apart on one side. A gray and white kitten popped its head above the edge of the box. It looked straight at Nenkhsekhmet and called in a thin, pathetic voice. Three more appeared, and Nenkhsekhmet rejoiced, for he knew these creatures. In his brittle sinews he knew them.
These were the last of Tai Miuwette’s bloodline, the most precious of Sahure’s cats. The last living remnant of his master’s legacy.
He approached the crates and roared at the curs. For the first time they noticed him, some yelping in fear and bolting, others holding their ground and growling back. As he neared, three sprang at him and latched onto his arms and legs, splintering his flesh and cracking his bones. He smashed the ones on his arms to the ground, stunning them, then pulled the other by its torso off of his leg, chips and pieces coming loose in its mouth, and swung it into two others that charged him. They yelped and gave up, skulking away. He dropped the one in his hands, and it whined, creeping away on its belly.
A boom sounded, louder than anything Nenkhsekhmet had ever heard in life or death. He turned to see a man waving a staff, and it boomed again. If Nenkhsekhmet were alive it would frighten him to submission. He turned back to the boy and reached toward the box with open hand. A kitten hopped onto his palm, and Nenkhsekhmet drew him to his chest and stroked it’s head, eliciting a purr.
The kitten became his heart, soft and warm, calming a spirit that had harbored so much anger. He looked up, and the boy stared at him with fearful wonder. Nenkhsekhmet scratched the forehead of each of the other kittens and touched the boy’s chin. “I will take this one to my master, Sahure,” he said. The boy tilted his head, uncomprehending.
With both fear and joy, things not felt for so long, Nenkhsekhmet turned toward Ra and started walking. “Rejoice, little one. We go to meet the true Ra, and this day you will romp through the Fields of Offerings.”