Distantly Falling Stars (GRAND WINNER * ONC 2019)


When Seti finally reached the capital and made his way through the narrow streets to his own home, he had no idea what he would find. Would his house be empty? Seshat gone?

He was gaunt and unshaven, his kilt stained and tattered.  His skin had been burnt the colour of fired clay and he was without wig or sandals.

His street was as it always had been. His front door was unbolted. He pushed it open and walked in, expecting the worst.

Seshat stared at him for a long moment that seemed to stretch on for years. Then she crossed the room and wrapped her arms around him.

Their knees trembled so badly that neither one of them could stay standing for long and they sank to the floor where they lay, holding each other in a tight embrace as tears ran down their cheeks, moistening the other one’s face.

“I thought I’d never see you again,” Seshat whispered.

But only after a very, very long time.

Seti’s position in the civil service had been terminated. The guards at the entry pylon held him back when he went to speak to Ipy, although they knew him by sight.

His ghost portrait had been removed, they informed him. He was no longer in the records.

Just as they were about to ask Seshat’s brother’s family to take them in, a message arrived from the Temple of the Creator God. The priests were in need of a new scribe and had been given Seti’s name. Was he currently looking for a post?

Seti sensed Mehu’s cautious, far-reaching hand behind the message and journeyed that very afternoon across the river to the small, white temple surrounded by waving palm trees that skirted the edge of the desert.

Seti spent the rest of his life in the archives of the temple of the Creator God, transcribing learning texts and writing letters the priests dictated to him. It was quiet, peaceful work in a time that was growing increasingly uncertain and dangerous.

As he had predicted, war with the Hyskos broke out two years after he took up his brush in the temple.

Pharaoh expanded the borders of Egypt by thousands and thousands of leagues, barricading the East against the nations beyond. He claimed it was to hold back the barbaric, foreign hoards from overrunning their country and destroying their way of life.

Then Pharaoh died. No one knew exactly when or how.

He was succeeded — not by a son — but by one of the generals of the Army. This new Pharaoh made it his business to expand Egypt to the South and West, starting war after war with the sand peoples there, eventually earning himself the name “Hammer of the Desert Nomads”.

The Nile refused to rise and harvests failed, year after year.

Rumours of strange, flying creatures and immortal men roaming the deserts spread across the country.

Mysterious illnesses broke out that priests trained in medicine could find no references to in their texts. People flocked to the temples to beg the gods for relief from the many plagues that befell them and their children, their livestock and villages.

The old said the times were cursed.

Seti bent his head over his work and said nothing.

In secret, he wrote detailed accounts of the horrors he saw happening around him, mixing in some of the prophesies and warnings of the Sky Goddess, cautioning future generations against the stars and their deadly, corruptive power.

The scrolls he hid in his burial niche half-way up a cliff wall not far from the temple of the Creator God. Even years later, he was sure that someone was still keeping a vague eye on him, watching him from the shadows and reporting his movements to an even more shadowy figure.

Watch. Listen. Coordinate. That’s what the Sky Goddess had chosen him out of all people to do. That was his mission and hoped he had done it well.

But he wasn’t too optimistic.

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