Chapter 1

Jason Storch and Baybars Saleh were excited.  They were two young men beginning their adventure at the ancient city of Luxor far down in Upper Egypt.  They had slept well on the overnight train, as well as one can, even in first class, and were ready to go.  Sunrise promised to make it a hot but ultimately rewarding day.

Five ‘o clock prayer woke Nour who was feeling  sore, tired, and angry.  The rugs in the the small worn mosque in Islamic Cairo provided only minimal comfort and protection from the unforgiving and cold-sapping stone floors.  It was a quiet and safe place as well as his home, at least for now, but that did not make his bed any softer.  All throughout prayer his head was filled with dark thoughts; mostly they were just complaints about the hardness of life and the struggle mounted by him and so many others like him to survive in this cruel world.  It did not make for a great beginning to the day.  Stomach rumbling, he gathered his things and left the mosque heading towards Talaat Harb Street.

He left for work dreading the exhaustion of running tea back and forth on the street for his boss, whom he secretly call Al Malik [the king].  His boss, Biyushi, never gave him a moments rest and barely fed him.  The pay got him by–just barely–but he couldn’t leave.  If he did, he would go back to being as poor as he had been, and more importantly, he would never have a chance to marry his boss’ daughter.  Nour, as an orphan, had no family to turn to, and he was estranged from his extended family for reasons that had existed before he was born.  He considered it an act of Allah that he had received this job, but it didn’t make life perfect. 

“Man, I love fuul so much,” said a satisfied Jason after chowing down on three sandwiches.

“Mmm-hmm,” Baybars agreed through mouthfuls of beans.

They had spent the morning wandering around Karnack Temple.  The two twenty year olds, one American and one Egyptian, were overawed by the huge complex and struggled to take it all in.  The enormous blocks of stone stacked on top of one another spoke of another age, something old, forgotten, and not fully understood.  It recalled another set of gods alien to their experiences.  In reality, these structures had existed in the space of time equal to the beginning of a blink in the cosmic eye.

“Okay, so the painting in the Hypostyle Hall is how old?” asked Baybars sitting in the dirty fuul and tamiya shop.

“The guidebook says it was started by Ramses I which would be around 1294 BC,” replied Jason.

“Wow, what’s next on the list of things to do?  Definitely not a carriage,” said Baybars, “I don’t like horses.”

“Yea, yea, yea sure,” Jason grinned, “Let’s try out a felucca ride.  The water will be great after the hot sun.”

The sun beat down on them just two and one half hours past its zenith; the flaming orb turning Jason dark and Baybars darker.  Jason was tall with cropped brown hair and green eyes.  At twenty he was the spitting image of his grandather, a robust man who never said no to nature.  This trait had passed down to Jason who had already hiked the complete Appalachian trail.  As a native of upper New York, there was no shortage of nature; so coming to Cairo had been a drastic change.  Passing by Luxor Temple as they crossed the street, they sought out a boat captain who eagerly roped in this pair of tourists.

Nour stood on the street fuming.  He hadn’t been spit on since he started working this job two years ago.  He had twenty-two years under his belt but had very little work throughout his life; not because he was lazy but because he was marginalized and cursed with a short temper. This work was important to him because it gave him something.  He felt deep in his bones a conviction against disrespect which took away one of the precious few things that he owned: his dignity.  Today, however, he had been spit on-twice!  It was almost too much.  In general, Nourhad a short fuse and very active temper which resulted in him moving from mosque to mosque unable to avoid altercations with the other homeless.  He refused to get angrier, though, because Biyushi, the big shot, had asked him to come to his home after work in three short hours. 

“Oh my love!” he muttered fiercely.

As soon as Biyushi said this, Nour knew it had to be about Haifa.  It just had to.  His whole being depended on it.  She was the sun to his moon, and not to mention aptly named.  Recreating the picture of the last time he had seen her with her well built and alluring feminine figure, he was able to push his flaring anger back into the dark recess of his body. He wiped the spit from his chest and with a sigh went back to get more tea.

Baybars stepped off the boat; Jason followed nearly losing his balance.  They had gone to Banana Island, a nice three hour detour.

“Okay, let’s go to Luxor temple.  I can tell you about it because we just covered it in my Egyptology class,” Baybars said.

Baybars had a likeable personality.  In shape from playing football, he looked every bit of Egyptian as the blood that flowed in his veins.  He was dark eyed, dark haired, and dark skinned.  In those eyes danced a mirthful spark for life which was always ready with a joke. 

Their captain had been nice enough to drop them back near the temple.  It loomed over them western side lit up brilliantly by the slowly sinking sun. 

“Sure thing,” whispered Jason once again stunned into reverent silence at something so incredibely old.

They reached the ticket booth and went through the metal detectors.  Since Jason had arrived in Egypt, he had found that the guards never stopped you, even if it went off.  Jason made to pull out his guidebook, but Baybars stopped him with the clicking of his tongue.  Passing a group of what looked like German tourists, he began a recitation of facts and figures to which Jason half listened, as they wandered depper into, albeit smaller, old stone complex. 

Nour raced up the stairs traveling up the third floor to get to Biyushi’s apartment.  It was situated above the Cafeteria Hurreya, an old establishement from the early 1900s.  He didn’t take much interest in it though because he served tea and they served tea.  They also served beer and as a Muslim, he abstained; therefore, he had no interest in this place.  Reaching the door, he knocked.

“Come in,” said a male voice, disctinctly recognizeable as Biyushi’s gravelly tone.

His heart fell a little as he had hoped it would have been Haifa.

Opening the door he stepped into the cramped apartment.  Shabbily decorated but clean, Haifa’s doing no doubt; it looked like home even if a poor one.  This surprised Nour, as he had always expected Biyushi who ruled like a king, to live like one.  Nour looked for Haifa but didn’t see her, and his heart sank even further.

“Maybe she is in the kitchen preparing tea,” he thought, “Yes, she will walk in with tea.  Then, having already discussed the marriage with her father, she will come out and agree to the proposition.”

The next words out of Biyushi’s mouth stung his heart.

“I’m sorry son.  These are some hard times; I have to let you go.  I’ve got one tea runner too many.  Goodbye.”

“That’s what he had to tell me.  He made me come here to tell me!”

He opened his mouth, thoughts running in frantic circles as if his mind was a bee-hive hit by a stone.

“Don’t speak.  Just go,” the brusque Biyushi ordered. 

“It wasn’t fair!  Just not fair!  He shouldn’t fire me!  Biyushiknew I would react this way, which is why he wanted this meeting in private.  But why shouldn’t I be mad?  I worked as his slave! I gave two years of my life for him!”

Nour’s thoughts were reaching that dangerous place he had only visited once before and that had ended with him in jail.  His anger pushed him beyond the pale of sanity; the hours, the days, the weeks of frustration building upon the years of marginalization and rejection.  It was the straw that brought the camels back.

He looked around hoping to break the spell by seeing something of Haifa’s.  Instead he saw an umbrella and an evil, truly evil, thought entered his head: murder.  He grabbed it as Biyushi shouted, “What are yo-?”

He didn’t finish the sentence.  Nour took the umbrella and smacked him across the face.  After the first blow, Biyushi tried to stand up but was hit over the head causing him to trip.  He fell down and Nour rained blows upon him, bloodlust engulfing his being.  When the umbrella bent, he grabbed a vase, a cheap alabaster one from Luxor by the looks of it, and beat Biyushi’s head in until the vase broke.  Still not finished and with his mind locked into a rage so deep it went straight to his core, he grabbed a chair and raised it above his head and

___________________

Somewhere and nowhere and everywhere, sometime and no time and all time–evil smiled. 

The mummy locked in the sarcophagus in the basement of the Egyptian Museum twitched.  At first it was nothing, just a mere rustling of the old fabric and dried skin; then, it became everything.  It became frantic–bones moving, skin flaking, ancient claws scratching at the lid until the body rent in two.  In the confines of the coffin, the dust swirled violently for a second; then it settled, drifting down calmly on its own around the disturbed remains.

___________________

then Nour felt a change come over him.  He felt what seemed to be a million fire ants crawling under his skin.  A deep burning, and strangely enough red sensation, enclosed around his heart like a candle being smothered by a hand.  He dropped the chair; it landed with a clatter behind him.  Nour fell to the ground sideways convulsing, his soul consumed while he was still alive. 

In Luxor, 721 kilometers away, gunfire erupted in the ancient temple.

What Jason had thought were German tourists had pulled mean looking and sleek black Glock 18s from under their plaid button down shirts and began shooting the men.  There were four of them lined up in a row each firing the 33 round magazine into the courtyard in order to deal as much death as possible.  Jason and Baybars were between the gunmen and the row of columns behind them just a mere 2 meters away.

“Oh?” was all Jason could get out as people screamed around him. 

He and Baybars moved behind a pillar bullets digging into people and zinging off stone.  The shooting stopped.  Frightened, Baybarsturned and peered around the side only to find himself looking into a black shiny and very foul smelling tube.  He whimpered and turned back around until he was again sitting shoulder to shoulder with Jason. 

The terrorists had merely stopped to reload. 

The two young men grabbed each other out of fear neither ready to face death.  Jason and Baybars had bonded so well, feeling a friendship and camaraderie much closer than anything with their other friends either in America or Egypt.  The silence of the reloading guns was replaced by more chaos as the Egyptian soldiers fired back.  The terrorist who had circled around to face Baybars and Jason was temporarily out of sight of the Egyptian military and quickly brought the weapon up to bear.

Pale eyes blazing, he said, “Vandaag heeft u sterven als leider mijn commando. Hij wil het bloed van de mannen te zuiveren ons en laat ons klaar voor de vrouwen.”

The pressed back into the pillar willing themselves to disappear, and then, they did.  As the sun touched the horizon, Jason and Baybars saw and felt a blinding light engulf them just as a very panicked terrorist pulled the trigger.

They fell backwards, and the bullets dug harmlessly into the stone.  The terrorist fell, finally cut down by the Egyptian soldiers.

Back in the flat, Nour opened his eyes and smiled.  Not a happy smile, not a sad smile–a malignant smile.  Something had passed through the ether.  And something else, not him, had told him that.  He had a mission it said. This was not communicated through words, images, and not even feelings. It was if it was just there, and Nour had forgotten it.  If he hadn’t thought hard enough, he would’ve have thought it to be his own idea. 

He stood up and wavered.  His smile faltered because he was weak.  Nour fell right onto the groaning Biyushi who had not died…yet.  The smile came back.

“Food,” Nour thought, not with happiness but with a single-minded purposefulness that bordered on frenzied insanity and led him down dark hallways of nothingness. 

Pushing aside Biyushi’s feeble hands he dug in ravenously.  Nour finished and stood up; he could stand and walk, but he still didn’t feel right.  Wiping the blood and gristle from his mouth and chin he looked around and slowly but steadily walked towards the kitchen where he heard whimpering.

Entering the rundown kitchen with its fading fake marble, he saw Haifa cowering behind the refrigerator.  Looking into her eyes, if Nour could have seen, he would have realized that she had never loved him.  He was too fierce of a person, his anger to near his soul.  That didn’t matter now as he reached toward her.

Nour was still hungry, though he had much more strength and coordination.  What was left of Haifa’s body lay crumpled on the ground pooling in the little bit of blood left within her shattered frame.  Her face gazed up, one glassy eye, unseeing at the ceiling fan.  He plucked it out, sucking on it as one would a candy, before crunching down. Nour made his way to the door of the apartment. 

He didn’t have his full strength yet, but then a light went on in Nour’s head.

“He had to stop thinking of himself as Nour.  Nour was dead, gone forever. No hope even of going to heaven, his soul had been corrupted and consumed in its rebirth,” it thought.

The man who was not a man remembered Nourseeing the wide open doors of the cafe on the groud level. No locked doors and lots of people.  Dinnertime…

8 Comments

  1. I am thinking about posting twice a week. It is kind of iffy, but let me know if you guys would like it. If It doesn’t happen now, then it should happen in two months-summer vacation!

  2. ahh – what happened to jason and Baybars?

  3. I’m liking this.

    One thing though, your transitions are a little awkward. The switches between the two separate stories were a little confusing. I think if you maybe put an asterisk between the paragraphs when you switch or a double space or something, it would be a little less confusing. Not that I didn’t understand it, just it would flow better if you accentuated the changes.

  4. dada-we shall have to see won’t we?

    peter-thanks for your suggestion. i will look at it and talk it over with you.

    to all-holy crap! i didn’t realize how important spell check is. i stupidly didn’t put this through spell check before i posted. today i went back through and got most of the errors. sorry about that all. i will do more proof reading in the following posts (or use words that are easy to spell :))

  5. Though not a good begining with expected Thrill, but as it moves looks much thrilling.

  6. swetha balu-thanks, i hope the rest thrills you.

  7. Very thrilling….I always loved Egypt…It is going great..Am eager to read the rest of it…….

  8. thanks maria, i hope you enjoy the rest of it.


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