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Desert Flower

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Across the great green, there is an island with a bleeding mountain that bulges like a tumor from the land. The wound is at the roots of the mountain. The kites flying over the mountain's peak cannot see across the sea to the center of the world. They cannot not see the mighty Nile flowing into the great green whether it is swollen with the tears of Isis or quiet with the wealth of growing things. The mountain's bleeding peak is wreathed in clouds such that the steam and smoke it belches is hidden.

The people of the island believe a god is likewise hidden under the mountain. They are not exactly wrong. They are not exactly right.

It's a beautiful island and people live and love and die there. Aware of the god in their way. Pouring wine onto the earth to keep let the restless god sleep when the earth shakes.

On waking, a gaping mouth beneath the mountain cries for their mother, the sky, who does not come.

Astarte has gone into Egypt and set foot on the black earth. She has left her husband, the sea, and forsaken the sky. Anat has gone to marry the desert and no longer goes to the sea. Hathor is seeing to the women at their labors.

The sacrificial stone is empty. A god cannot be born.

A struggling form that is without form reaches beneath the mountain for their father, the growing earth, who does not come.

Osiris is dead. Isis, his sister-wife has not yet raised him from the dead with her tears. He can no longer leave Egypt. He cannot leave the black earth. Ba'al is dead. He had gone into the house of dust. His sister, Anat-wife, has not yet killed death. Horus is seeing to the men at their labors.

The sacrificial stone is empty. A twice born god cannot be.

The wind blows into the land from the sea. The mountain whistles as the wind always blows away.

Awake, unappeased by drops of wine, the raging mouth opens and screams. Its scream blackens the sky, shatters the mountain and the chains of stone.

All that live and love on the island will pour wine on the earth no more.

The sea, the great green, jerks away from the wound in the world. Would drain away into the wound if not careful, and in that mighty thrash sends a wall of water that crashes over Knossos, over all the stands along the shore, even for a moment, a blink in the eye of ageless Egypt, swells the Nile delta with salt water tears.

All the gods at the center of the world turn to look. Most must turn away. Even Horus must look away. Even Thoth must not speak of it. The gapping, gasping, grasping wound is a place they must not go.

Isis does not hesitate. There is no time for hesitation. This is no time for hesitation in timeless Egypt. She scratches her hand as she sets into flight. Where the drops of blood falls, stone flowers bloom in the desert.

She battles the wind, who longs only to keep her home. To keep her safe. Her sister, Nepthys flies with her. Takes the force of the wind so Isis can focus. Fly round and round over the mountain that was. Holding what she can within the wound of the world.

She cannot heal it. Merely hold it back. Keep the sea from draining away. Hold back what she can of the scream that would blot out the sight of Ra as he sails across the sky.

As she flies, she sheds no tears for her dead husband, or at least, she does not shed them at the roots of the Nile, and as Ra sails the dimmed grey skies that came of that great scream, he does not shine down on Osiris arisen on the banks of the center of world.  

As to the flowers of stone, no one finds any of them for some time. Not while Nut bends her back to keep the chaos behind her away. Not while Osiris waits for tears that do not fall. Not while Astarte strides across the red and yellow sands. Bound by Egypt and unable to do aught but roar.

For some time.

Then a child driving goats finds a stone flower. Sharp fragile pieces of quartz sit stiff petals in the palm of a hand where the dust is ground into the child's faint lines. Now fragments of quartz gather there too. Glittering.

He smiles thinking he will give it as a gift to his sister, Meryamun, who he calls Mery. He puts it in a fold of his robes and whistles to the goats.

They, the boy and the goats, return to the camp by nightfall. The smooth blue surface of the oasis pool reflects orange with the last gasp of Ra's glory. Set smiles in the desert. For the red sand is his. The oasis is his. The boy may be chosen by Osiris, but he is a child of the red lands.

The boy puts the stone flower in the water to wash it. Wanting it be clean and pretty for his sister, who is confined to the red tent for her monthlies. But when he dips the stone in the water, the flower dissolves into so many crystal shards and dust. He cries, because he already had the image of Mery's smile in his mind's eye. It was so real that the loss of that future hurts him like the loss of the stone flower.

His father chides him, but his mother comforts him. "Setep," though his full name was Setep-en-osiris, "there is no need to cry. Such things are better left in the desert. They are not meant for water. Now pick through the pieces and find the one you think Mery will like best and you can give it to her when she comes out of the red tent."

Setep feels himself to be foolish then. He leaves early in the morning so he can be back early too. He spends much time the next day picking a piece of stone.

There is one shard that holds a rainbow. He knows what a rainbow is. He's seen rain. The rain did sometimes fall in the desert. But Mery is not a rainbow. She has nothing to do with rain.

He wraps a bit of twine around one end of the rainbow shard and leaves it dangling from a brush.

There is a shard that looks like the golden moon on the horizon of a autumn day. There is a shard that looks like the moon high in the sky, cold and distant, but Mery is like neither of these. She is nothing like the moon.

There is a shard that looks like a red seed. This had been the heart of the flower. It reminds him of the look in Mery's eye when she argues with their father and mother. He leaves the golden moon and the pale moon to dangle in the brush. The red seed, he binds with a bit of chord and turns it into a necklace. But when he puts it on, it melts into his skin.

He doesn't question this. He tells himself that when he hugs Mery, it will become a part of her. He hold this idea in his mind. This future and fills it full of love.

But the stone  aches when he returns to camp. His mother tells him that Mery has run away in the night. Taking off on foot with enough water to take her to the next oasis and from there to Thebes where she has often spoken of going when she speaks of running away. Their father and uncles have tried to find her, but it is as if her footsteps took off from the earth the moment she left the oasis. There's little hope of finding her in the great city.

Setep touches the red seed. The palm of his hand has dirt and the fine pink and gold glittering grains of the desert flower ground deep into the lines. His hand tingles. He wonders if he will see his sister again then tells himself firmly he will. He holds firm to the idea of the future when he will give his sister the red seed to make her smile.

This future takes some time, but the gods are patient.