I walked into Maxus’ room and sat on the floor. There were tufts of fur on the floor and I grabbed one, running it through my fingers. Maxus sat on his bed, in wolf form, and wagged his tail, his tongue hanging out. He whimpered, then lowered his head onto his paws and looked at me.
“You’re shedding. Maybe I should brush you. That would probably help. You’ll have to come onto the floor though; I don’t think it will look good having all this fur on your bed. Come here.” I patted my leg.
Maxus jumped off the bed and walked over to me. He lay down in front of me; placing his head on his paws and snorted. I got up and walked to his dresser, grabbed the brush, then sat back down on the floor. I ran my fingers along his fur while I brushed, sighing to myself. He perked up his ears, and rolled his eyes towards me.
“I’m tired of being here Maxus. I need to go to the surface and do something. I think I’ve outgrown this world.”
Maxus whimpered and raised his head, his eyes speaking volumes.
“You can come with me, Maxus. We can live together just the two of us. We can go someplace far away from Egypt and away from the Pharaoh and the Queen. Let’s just go.” I kissed his muzzle and hugged him. He sighed and moved closer to me. Just like a big dog.
I carried a small bag towards the exit of the Underworld, with the goal of entering the upper world. I knew the sun had just set up there, and I had the intention of leaving the safety of the Underworld in order to begin my own life, and have my own family.
Argus grabbed my arm. “Where do you think you’re going, young lady?”
“I want to go to the surface. I need to expand, Argus, and I can’t do that down here.”
“You weren’t going to say good-bye?”
“I just wanted to go without a lot of drama. I couldn’t even say good-bye to my own brother, he cried when I told him I wanted to leave. I just can’t deal with all the tears, so I thought it would be best to just go.”
Argus looked at me. He sighed, lowered his head and looked at his feet. He pulled a necklace out of his pocket and placed it around my neck. “This is for your protection. If at any time you need help, just rub it, alright?”
“Yes, thank you.” I kissed Argus on the cheek then headed up the stairs. I didn’t look back.
I entered the world in the moonlight. I smelled the cool air and looked around. Egypt had changed while I was in the underworld with Malcolm. There were pyramids and sphinxes and images of the Pharaoh. I went to the area that was familiar to me, the homes of the slaves.
As I walked through the streets, a strange odor approached my nostrils. I looked around and saw streaks of blood on the doors. I wasn’t sure what it meant, I didn’t remember the slaves doing this on other occasions and thought maybe it was a new religious ritual.
I approached one of the homes and knocked at the door. I heard rustling inside but no one came to the door. I knocked again, and then whispered through the cracks.
“It’s Nontle’s daughter. I have returned and was hoping for someplace to stay just for one day. Be not afraid, please.”
“Nontle’s daughter? Asherah, you’ve returned?” The door opened a crack, and I saw a pair of black eyes staring at me. “Asherah, come in, hurry. We must lock our doors tonight for the Angel of Death is coming.” A hand reached out and pulled me into the small shack.
I found myself staring at Hagar, but she was much older than I remembered her. She cared for my mother the first time the Queen had her whipped. I remembered her kind eyes and soft hands. I also remembered the way she smelled, like lavender. She smiled at me, and took my hands in hers.
“We all thought you and your brother were dead. You never came back from the river and those guards were dead. It’s been so quiet without the two of you around, your laughter always made us feel warm inside. Where have you been?”
“I have been away. I’m back. I’m different. Jelani is also different. He remained behind. He didn’t want to come back with me. I just need someplace to stay until tomorrow night. May I stay here, with you?”
“Of course, my dear. You may stay.” She hugged and kissed me, pulling me to her, and then she gasped. Everyone in the house gasped. There was a strange wind outside the door and an eerie light. We heard the whisper of voices, and then the light disappeared. I went to the window and peeked through a small crack, seeing no one.
“What was that?”
“The Angel of Death, Moses said the angel would come to take the life of all of the first born sons of Egypt. All of the Jews were to paint their doors with lamb’s blood and the Angel would pass over us. God is punishing Ramses.”
“Ramses is the Pharaoh? Then there is a new Queen?” I looked at Hagar.
“There is a new Queen. Ramses’ mother is still alive as well. Ramses is worse than his father; he is brutal to the slaves. He does not care if we live or die or starve. Moses has come to save us from slavery and take us to the Promised Land.”
“What else has Moses done? Wait, I thought Moses and Ramses were brothers.”
“Well, that’s a long story, but I’ll give you the condensed version. The Pharaoh started killing Jewish boys because of a prophecy he heard. Well, a baby floated into the Queen’s room and she adopted him, calling him Moses and raising him as Ramses’ younger brother. The boys grew up together and were very competitive. Well, one day Moses accidentally killed a guard who was punishing one of the slaves. Moses left out of guilt. Years later, he returned, stating that God had spoken to him and he was ordered to get God’s people out of slavery. When Ramses refused to comply with Moses’ requests, Moses told him God would punish him. There have been plagues.”
“Plagues?” I looked at her, wondering how long Maxus and I had been gone.
A little girl crawled over to me, and touched my hair. “Yes, plagues. Locusts, frogs, boils, dead livestock, fire raining from the sky and now the killing of the first born sons. Moses is going to free us. You should come too.” I looked into her innocent eyes.
“Hagar, I can’t come with you. I need to tell you something about me. I just don’t want to scare the child.”
“Adah, go to sleep, I think the worst is over.” Hagar ushered the little girl to her corner, where she laid down on a mat and wrapped her arms around her brother. “What do you need to tell me, girl?”
“We changed our names. I’m Alyra and my brother now goes by Maxus. We were taken away by a man named Malcolm. He took us to a world beneath this one. There were all kinds of creatures down there, creatures I didn’t know existed. Malcolm is a vampire. We lived with other vampires and werewolves, witches, and other creatures that I don’t even know the names of. Maxus is a werewolf. I’m a vampire.”
Hagar looked at me, her eyes meeting mine. She ran her hand along my cheek and curled my hair around her fingers.
“You feel cold, like death. You’ll need someplace dark to sleep. Before sunrise, we will bury you in the ground. It will be better there for you, dark and damp. As soon as we are sure the Angel has completely passed over all of our homes, I will get some of the men together and we will dig a deep hole for you. I’ll give you this wrap; you keep it until you rise. You’ll be safe, I promise.” Hagar kissed me on the forehead and held me tight.
It was amazing to me the way the slaves accepted me. I couldn’t believe how calm they were. It was either because they were used to the evil in the world or their faith was so strong, they knew their god would protect them from me. I had no reason to harm them. I remembered how good they were to my mother, brother and I and for that I held no ill will towards them. Hagar called upon four men and told them she needed a deep grave dug. They looked upon me, felt the coolness of my skin, and then went to work. The grave was dug and I was placed inside just as the sun began to rise. I felt the dirt fall onto my body, and pulled Hagar’s wrap over my face. The sun, even in its weakened state, was burning me. The men had me completely covered just as the full strength of the rising sun touched the ground.
Although I was asleep, I heard the voices of the slaves above me. I heard the voices of the soldiers as they ran through the streets, looking for Moses. The Pharaoh’s only son was dead. I heard the tremor in the voices of the slaves and I was eager to be with them. Moses sounded like a great man, I wanted to meet him, wanted to introduce him to Malcolm and Maxus and Argus. Great men should meet and share their ideas. I was beginning to like the God of the Jews; he wanted to punish those who did wrong against his people. I also wanted to hurt those who had hurt my mother and the other slaves when I was a child in the Pharaoh’s palace. I promised God I would do good on Earth if He protected me. I waited for the sun to set.
When I pushed my way through the soil, I had to shake the dirt from my hair. I climbed out of the grave, and pulled Hagar’s wrap around me. I walked into Hagar’s home and looked around. Adah sat in a corner, holding a doll in her hands.
“Hi, Adah, where’s Hagar?”
“She’s with the others. Moses is asking everyone to leave.”
“Show me, please.” I held my hand out to Hagar. She rose from her mat and took my hand, leading me down the road to where everyone was. I let go of Adah’s hand as we approached the group and pushed her gently towards Hagar. I listened as the crowd argued back and forth about following Moses. It was decided they would pack their belongings and go, leaving the Pharaoh and slavery for freedom. I caught Hagar’s eye, and smiled. I was not going to go with them. I turned and walked away.
It was lonely without the slaves. I roamed their empty homes, picking up items left behind in the rush of packing. I decided I needed to leave Egypt. It would be better for me someplace farther away, where the heat was not so intense and the sun was not so strong. I went north and ended up in England. I found a simple farmer who promised to bury me deep in the Earth. His family was then bound to protect my grave until I awoke. They have managed to keep my secret all these centuries.