THE LEGEND OF SET
‘I know they took her. I know they hurt her. I listened to her screams as they cut her up.’ Set boasted. Following his smooth voice were two scarlet points, they emerged from midnight’s hold, grew brighter, and stopped. ‘You want revenge.’
Saad wanted to run away when his skin crawled, and he saw the God’s true face. His form, nothing more than an apparition, floated on the air. His eyes, held in the thick mist narrowed on Saad, conveying a silent threat.
‘You will be granted the revenge your heart seeks- if you swear your life to me.’ The request slithered through the air. Set slowly drifted closer, his floating spirit towering above the ground, while his forked tail whipped behind him.
It was a web Saad couldn’t escape. A new fear moved around him and wrapped him in its evil embrace. He prayed for his revenge and now it was within his grasp.
If he said yes? Set owned him.
If he said no? What punishment would Set create?
He repeated no, no, no, and sinking to the hot sand, knew he was already dying. Shaking his head, he prayed death to take life and free his soul. No mortal had ever denied a God, especially one as powerful as the Lord of the Desert. Death had become a promise of peace but now lying on the desert floor it had become more painful than he could endure. He gave up and made his oath to the pagan monster.
‘I have you.’ Set growled.
RETREAT OF THE GODS
After eons of sating their collective appetite with the flesh of humans, the Gods grew jaded by their feasts and immoral diversions. They sought to escape their boredom with hopes their absence would replenished their desires.
To protect themselves during their pause, their worshipers began building tombs and while they toiled, the Gods bled innocents, immersed their bodies in the pools of warm blood, and consumed death as if it was wine. The collective, the Gods, believed their realm, their evil, and indulgence into the immoral would keep their worshipers drunk. At the same time, fear of their wrath would keep the faithless from rising up and destroying what they had created. When the feel of debauchery grew heavy in the land and screams from their victims echoed in their ears, the Gods slithered into their tombs with their weak hearts and weaker minds.
It is there, deep in the heart of a fiery desert, under heated grains of sand, they slumber, hidden from humans, and nestled in evil.
TIME DOES NOT STOP FOR THE DEAD
Hundreds of years slip by, allowing time to weaken the God’s hold and eradicate traces of their existence. Their trusted worshipers, fell into the melancholy of their minds and without the dominance of their Gods, chose insanity and death. Soon the wild winds carried the desert’s floor masking the God’s dark secrets under its shifting layers. Buried under centuries, the unguarded realm collapsed, and like all fallen empires, it became more fable than truth.
Each new day steals their power and while the morning breaks away from night, it welcomes the rising sun. Its warmth caresses the land and tricks mortal men into forgetting the horrors that once stained the desert sands crimson with innocent blood.
After escaping he should have remained hidden from their worshipers. Powerless to stop himself when he learned of his true love’s death, he raced back needing to avenge her. His thirst for blood turned him rabid, and the sickness took him to their feet. He laughed, the bitterness undeniable, just as Set had laughed at him when he begged for mercy wanting nothing but death. The God of the desert mocked him, there was no revenge, no mercy, not for him. As if Set was going to feed off his misery, Saad would have pain and isolation for eternity. His knees gave out, he sank to the soft sand, and growing weaker fell to the ground and lay bleeding to death.
‘Curse you.’ Saad had yelled. With his words, he tasted blood’s sweet iron. Tangy drops of spoiled meat coated his mouth and slid down his throat. Panic chilled his skin, knowing the liquid churning his stomach was his dying body. The nausea rolled making him sick with shame. Set had taken his hesitation, his oath, and punished him. The image became real and Saad tried to turn away as grains of sand covered him, burned into his flesh, and felt as heavy as stones.
Set, the Lord of the Desert, was not a gracious god, nor did he give the gift of death. Instead he whispered a curse… turning Saad from man to mummy. His skin began shrinking around his muscles and bones, his heart slowed, and his blood turned to dust in his veins. Before darkness became his world and the curse took his strength, he seized the moment and cast his own spell. Pain etched itself in his muscles, gripped his heart, and drained his blood, breaking his will, and leaving him listening to his own screeching cries.
His pain and humiliation wasn’t enough, the callous God had forced Saad to the tomb, into the sarcophagus and after sealing the stone prison, whispered one last time and kept him between worlds for centuries. As the days and years passed, Saad had been left drifting between life and death. The struggle had darkened his thoughts and grown tiresome. Despite his weakness, fire consumed him and turned hate for Set in to a tangible thing.
A year stretched to five and continued to ten. Decade after decade time tortured him until he had slept through hundreds. Days and nights blended into a kaleidoscope of memories while the power of Set’s curse remained true. It weaves through his decaying flesh, forever tightening its talons on his stagnant heart. Its force, like poison courses through his spoiled veins, keeping his body alive, and his soul suspended between the underworld of the dead and the world of the living. Ribbons of weakness wrap around his will and demand he give up and die. He won’t. He remains alive feeding on the desire of revenge. The dark and deadly visions entertain him, and keep his ancient mind from eating the slivers of madness.
THE TIME FOR RESURRECTION HAS COME.
What will save him?
Seconds and hours, like the sand trickling through the layers to his sarcophagus, give him hope. Time is acting as fuel. His prison worked in his favor and now his once full lips, dry with death, move and his words carry on the wind with a motet of the starved.
Will his plea reach the Called?
Will they answer his feeble prayer?
Will Set sense his rebuke and rise to strike the final blow?
Caught in a web of delirium and sorrow he thinks about the God’s betrayal and how they abandoned their people in the pit of their own selfishness. Seeking refuge in the darkness, they are as he is, suspended forever between life and the hereafter, between the tangible and the mythical. Between madness and sanity.
The penalty for uttering the motet came fast and hard. Tremors grip his body causing him to shake uncontrollably. The decaying gauze rips away from his withered flesh and falling to the stone sounds louder than one thousand raucous horses. His thoughts splinter and abandoning reason, he knows there are risks to his design. Will the words of the sacred text bring him the sacrifices he needs to live again? He wonders if the scavengers of the earth know what cursed creature summoned them? Saad fears they will reject his plea and refuse to help.
In the darkness of his prison, his weakness stares him in the face. It glows in front of him as if it’s an eternal flame, mocking him, threatening him. His life depends on every manner of creeping crawling insect. Weakness is a sin, his mind screams. The accusation echoes through his resolve and stings. It doesn’t change his goal. In order to free his body from its suspended state, he needs their nourishment. After feeding on humans and animals, their fattened bodies will surrender to the demands of the motet. The Called will carry their lifeforce and the rich substance he needs. He prays to the unholy, his whispers will be obeyed and his demands will be met.
Their sacrifice will give him the blood of man and weaken the malevolent curse binding him to his prison and the edge of death. It won’t end there, no, it is merely the first step. His body quakes and the resonance of a heartbeat teases his ears. As if poisoning him further, he feels time slipping away. The wait, revenge, and dreams of having life in his grasp push his frustration beyond his control.
Twisted and dark, Saad begins to drift in to another nightmare. He fights the pull and the images and voices splinter, while awareness jerks him from the haze. Above him the march of thousands of scurrying feet fill his ears. Could it be? He prayed for it to be true. He needed it to be true. Merging with the scuttle of the Called, was the grating of slithering snakes as their bellies moved them along the sand.
Had the Called arrived to sacrifice their lives?
He waited with tormented patience. His limbs yearned to move, his body starved for life, and his mind… his mind rushed with every desire from his past. Lying motionless, seconds turned into minutes stretching out and feeling as if hours were being pulled from his remaining strength. Doubt struck, handing him deceit and the uncertainty his plea had died on the wind.
When the silence grew as thick and heavy as the stone walls surrounding him, his weak resolve began suffocating him. His heart wanted to pound with his anger, while his deteriorating body wanted to thrash inside his prison.
With his hopes dying, he prayed he would fall to the depths of the netherworld before going insane. “Too late,” he mumbled. His mind slipped to the darkness as it had for centuries. Only now, it tasted sour with wasted years and threw him in the abyss of failure and sadness. Falling deeper in to his bleak consciousness, his memories played before his unseeing eyes.
Still he fought against the memory, trying to escape, when finally, his suspended mind cleared. His skin slowly began to soften, the pain from pulling tendons began to ease, when blackness swam around him, pushing his senses to their breaking point. Pain struck, and he tried to push himself away from the stone’s rough touch. Through a sliver of space between his thick lips, he cried out. Lost in the sanctuary and resting place of his mind, a melody broke through his never ceasing nightmare to join a sharp chirping. The chorus grew louder as the army of the Called marched over his body. He laughed, a rough whisper, that escaped his lungs, pulled on his vocal cords, and scraped his throat.
Thousands of the Called arrived, breaking the silence of the tomb and scurrying across the floor, thick with sand, threaded their paths with lines trailing behind them. Through the rock wall the insects descended on the crack riddled sarcophagus in search of his body. As if waiting their turn, the serpents slithered on the stone slab, rose up and watched the mass of insects descend.
White hot pain raced over him as the serpents nosed under the gauze and drove into his frail skin. They slithered into the crevice of his belly and coiling their bodies filled him completely. His body shuttered in agony, his mouth trying to open with his screams while they pushed him through another birth. An evil unholy birth which absorbed the blood and lives of insects and reptiles. Saad, nothing more than a decaying mummy, struggled to maintain the nourishment the Called supplied. With sudden animation lacing through age dried bones, he could only absorb what his weak state would allow. The rest soaked through the gauze and was lost, while seeping out of the sinuous muscles of his arms and legs. The serpents coiled masses remained in his abdomen, feeding off the dead insects. If there had been any light in his resting place, it would have shown the sickly yellow film clinging to the wrapping.
Saad slipped towards the underworld as his body sated its need on the serpent’s bodies. After days of painful feeding, he had no more strength than that of a newborn infant. Still, he fought the savage wrapping on his arm trying for freedom. His slow movements ended the silence, as a dry rough groan escaped into the air accompanied by the sound that only thousand year old gauze could make as it pulled away from its resting place. He battled with his need to move and the weakness of his muscles.
The dead insects fell in a wave from his body to land softly beside him. Their bodies would remain as proof of their sacrifice until they turned to dust and blended in with the sand.
Without the strength to call a bigger army, true life would take time, but he would make his demands on those he could. Saad raised his arm, a scant sliver from the stone, unnoticed in the darkness, and silently let it fall. No more motion came from the sarcophagus. No more noise from his dried lungs. Saad, a mummy, gave up the struggle and movement. It had been enough for one day. After he grew in strength, he would call bigger couriers. He didn’t fear time, he needed its precious credence.
Saad retreated to the deep and thick of his mind, and rested, intent on gathering his strength and healing his body. Above him the sun blazed the last of its heated kiss before sinking below the horizon. Twilight brought a strong wind that licked at the cooling sand before gathering it up and swirling it into a funnel. With violence, it carried away thousands of grains and scattered them across the cursed valley.
Another night passes and the chill retreats as the sun, not yet at the horizon chases it away with its coming heat. With the sunrise, another day will open its arms to the cycle of life and death. Under the desert sand another world opens, a sinister plot is taking form and a new calling is taking place. Death is feeding from life. Saad’s ambition grows and with a stronger voice, he sends a new motet, a new song demanding a more powerful sacrifice.
One fit for a God.
The soul of a man.
Saad needs the sacrifice of a man. He needs man’s blood and soul to break the curse and give him absolute existence. After he indulged once more in the serpent’s poisoned kiss.
He sensed their presence, as the knot slithered toward the buried tomb through the warm sand. Saad’s emotions raged, teased him, fed him promises of revenge and its honeyed syrup coated his silent tongue like amber varnish. While he forced himself to relax, the anticipation of thinking and feeling conjured a coarse laugh inside his bony chest that grew when the silence ceased and sand fluttered down to land on top of the stone. Saad closed his eyes and dreamed of singing a song of glory and triumph to the Lord of the Desert.
The knot of snakes moved as a wall through the layers of sand. They drove their narrowed heads through the tomb’s crumbling walls, and easily glided through the cracks of the sarcophagus. Carrying the outside world on their scales, in their minds, and its poison in their fangs. As one, the knot used their muscled bodies to force the lid of the sarcophagus to the floor. With room to move, they covered his mummy cursed body while the scales on their bellies pulled the rotting gauze from his chest, arms, and legs. After years of stillness and stagnant air sitting heavy on cloth, he felt the cool air of the tomb caress his exposed flesh.
His emaciated heart, pulsed in its dry cavity, and slowly as warmth seeped in to him it began reforming. He waited, wanting to feel each beat, wanting to hear blood in his veins, and feel it heal his muscles. At the same time, scarlet threads reached out and threading through the ashen flesh turned it pink, with new life. Tissue and tendons not yet whole twitched under expanding skin and nerves.
It is real, he thought with ecstasy.
Hundreds of thoughts swirled through his mind. Some real, some dreamlike, some of his past while others served as warnings. Set was there- somewhere in the desert waiting.
Would the serpent’s kiss allow him the revenge consuming his being? Doubt crept in his mind poisoning his strength. Any clear thoughts carrying weight died as his mind gripped the pain that had made him a mummy. The snakes, their feel, their bites were forgotten as fire ruptured in his spine, crept up his neck and in to his skull. In his mind’s eye, he saw himself curling into the fetal position as scorching sand burned his bare arms, legs, and Set started the torture over again. Against his will, hot tears rolled down his tanned cheeks, glittering in the golden sunlight.
The memories took moments of his life and threw them into a sand storm of his past. His human life. It loomed before him, teasing his heart, ripping through mind as a lightning bolt. It was not the entity, creature, deity he was becoming. His denial of the western horizon and Atmuis’ abode into Amenti fed his rejection of the netherworld and he was going to pay with his human life. He was going to pay with his memories. He was going to lose everything. He was going to lose her. Forever. Her eyes. Her lips. Her touch. They would feed the spell and disappear from his mind.
With his heart clinging to his life and its loss, a rough cry escaped his raw throat. Around him the snake’s movements grew louder, their bites stronger, their presence more powerful. His woeful tears ended when fangs sank into bone pulsing new fire through his body. Muscles contracted as the serpent’s poison entered his veins, his heart, and gripping his body continued to work their offering from their slender cores. Each cry, each bite brought him closer to the tangible.
“Curse you, Set.” he yelled out. The sound of his voice foreign to him, the sadness in it burning his ears.
Pain seared through him, his thoughts shifted and gripped hate as it boiled in his middle. He would have his revenge. The cost was nothing next to the centuries he had spent suspended and tormented by the haunting memories of his love. As new muscles covered ancient bone and veins thickened with blood, his mind reminded him of the vow he had made with the Lord of the Desert, before his life had ended all those years ago.
In the throes of pain, the mummy cast his old self off, Saad’s life draining away, and he made a new vow, he would destroy Set and take his place. It might take another round of sacrifices and countless hours. He had plenty of time, if he moved cautiously and had patience. In the end, he would test the other Gods and destroy them all. Ruling the world was better than being its slave. The mummy moved in his new flesh, proving to himself his strength was returning. The sound of rotten cloth echoed in his ears with the sound of flowing blood.
“Cut, cut, cut.” Sasdy yelled from his perch. He pushed his ballcap back and stared down at the horrible replicate sarcophagus and Elliot, America’s heartthrob. “You are not a damn Desert Rose. You lost your woman, and when you tried to fight back, Set imprisoned you in the sarcophagus. You are a tortured man. For god’s sake, Set mummified you. That makes you a mummy bent on revenge! You are not a nar-ra-tor!” he inhaled a deep breath, wiped the sweat from his forehead with the back of his hand, and looked around the tomb. The entire cast and crew stared back at him, their eyes wide with worry, their faces glistening in the overhead lights. Each one of them, looking like they were holding their breath and waiting for him to yell again. He inhaled, slowly, and counted to ten. “Have the decency to believe you are in a real sarcophagus and try looking pissed off.” he ended.
“No worries there, Boss, I am pissed!” Elliot yelled back. “I can only act so much lying in this thing.” He couldn’t believe he was being treated like a supporting actor. He was the money maker here, not them. “If you hadn’t noticed it’s like a hundred and twenty degrees in this tomb, let alone this stone thing I’m in. Why we had to come to Egypt is beyond me. This whole thing, would have better on a soundstage.” The dyed polyester fell, folding in on itself, as he sat up. Fuzz stuck to his sweat soaked chest and arms while he glared at Sasdy with baby blue eyes.
“We are in Egypt- for the purity of the film.” Why couldn’t I have worked with Christopher Lee? Sasdy asked himself. He shook his head with frustration. “Whatever. Go to make-up and get those wrappings fixed.” With controlled anger, he pointed over towards the crewmembers. “You- over there- get the snakes out of there. Even I can tell they’re plastic!” In silence, the crew spread out as if Sasdy's voice had sprayed poison and went to work on the snakes.
‘Why must they invade my desert.’ His growl vibrated his thin throat and he tasted sand on his tongue and in his mouth. The grains stuck in the creases of his dry skin and grated against one another adding to his fury. His scarlet eyes narrowing on a woman as she separated herself from the group. His desires rose up in him and he wanted to play with her.
From behind him, a hand caressed his neck, feathered his wrappings and rested on his shoulder. “Let me play.” Nephthys pleaded.
“Soon.” Set drew in a breath, inhaling cobwebs and the scent of the living. While his serpents wound themselves around his legs, he turned around. “After we entertain ourselves, we will bury them under the sand. They will all fall to Set, Lord of the Desert.”