Chapter 25: Monsters Lurk in the Water
With nothing dragging me down this time, I was able to reach the water's surface without any struggle. I spit out the water in my mouth. It wasn't salty, but it still didn't tasted terrible. My surroundings had changed once again. Amun's temple was gone as well as the city that surrounded it. Instead I saw cement walls hugging each side of the water. Hints of buildings poked from their tops. I was in the Nile again, and Cairo was hopefully the city that was above me.
I looked around but there wasn't a hint of a boat near me, not even a ferry or cargo ship I could wave to for help. There were no ladders. The walls holding in the river weren't made to be climbed down this deep. Unless someone found me, I was trapped.
"HEY!" I shouted but my voice couldn't reach anyone. I was wading in place, my legs already aching. The hike to Amun's temple had already taken a toll, and I didn't want to nearly drown twice today. If I started swimming I would only tire myself faster. Frustration and hopelessness boiled in me as I could only wait. Wait and hope that someone would find me.
"Anubis, you are looking for me, right?" I whined. I could faintly hear the sounds of the city above the walls. Car horns blared, some generic pop music played, voices of people murmured as a park fountain bubbled with water… No, that wasn't coming from above me.
I turned around to see two large, yellow eyes watching me from just above the water. I froze, holding my breathe. I tried not to move. I wanted to freeze my whole body, but I had to keep moving to stay afloat. The eyes kept watching and slowly became bigger and bigger. My heart raced. And then I panicked. It was coming for me and I had to get away.
The moment I started kicking away the crocodile rushed at me. I turned my back. I focused on swimming away. Then a pillar of water blocked my path. Another animal, with leather skin and a wide open mouth. I couldn't think. I didn't know what it was. All I knew was that I needed to get away or something was going to eat me. I turned right and started swimming under water. I kept pushing my body deeper and deeper. I looked behind me.
They weren't following me. The light of day made the water shine a murky green. Two black silhouettes blocked the light. They thrashed and chomped at each other, stirring bubbles around them.
I couldn't watch. I needed air. I didn't take a big breathe when I swam away. Now my chest was aching. I swam upwards and away. I didn't want to drown. Please make it!
I took a breath before I reached the surface. Water was in my lungs. I reached the surface and couldn't breathe. I clawed at my neck dipping up and down in the water. I started beating my own chest and it finally came out. I started to sputter and cough. I knew I was breathing but my brain couldn't register it. I still felt like I was drowning. I started to spin my body each way trying to find a way out. I knew I couldn't keep myself above water much longer. I need help. I'm dying. I'm dying!
The creatures were gone, but I didn't care. I needed a latter, a boat, a lifeguard, something. Instead I found a mouth. It had burst from the water and was lifting me up. Before I could grasp what was happening, it clamped shut, blocking all the light.
"NOOO!" I somehow screamed. I couldn't think about suffocating. It was there, but now my mind screamed to not be eaten. My foot found a corner to wedge itself in. It was wet, steamy, and smelled like ten week old seafood. I tried to grab onto the teeth but everything was coated in mucous. I used my feet to keep myself in place.
I was sure I was two seconds from death. The creature had me. It only had to swallow, but it didn't. It didn't thrash or fight. Its head bobbed up and down as it swam through the river. Like the tide coming into shore, water would come in through the gaps of its teeth but would quickly spill out again. I coughed, sputtered and wheezed. My throat was on fire every time I took a breath, but at least I felt like I was breathing again.
I don't know how long I stayed in there. It felt like days. My instincts urged me to beat at the crocodile to try and escape, but it's teeth was everywhere I looked. If it closed its mouth on me it would kill me.
Then everything turned into golden light. I lost the grip I had held onto for so long. My body smacked onto the gritty mud. I was so sore, but I still pulled myself up fumbling to get away.
"Nakia, it's okay! We're here." Horus came into view squeezing my shoulders.
"It wants to… eat me…" I croaked. My lips trembled as I spoke. If it weren't for Horus' grip, my whole body would be shaking.
"No, he was just holding you. Like crocodiles carrying their young. He wasn't going to eat you. You're safe. Don't worry."
It didn't make sense what he was saying. I had forgotten what the creature holding me was. Behind Horus I could see the massive crocodile sitting still on the shore watching us. My hands latched onto Horus' arms as I shrunk away from it.
"Why did you go into the river?" said a voice beside me. My body jolted not realizing anyone else was here. Both Anubis and Duamutef were to my right standing over us. Anubis' eyes were dark, shadowed by the deep creases of his furrowed brow.
"Give her some space, Anubis. She's frightened," Horus scolded.
"We've been searching for you for over an hour. You could have died!"
"She needs to calm-"
"She needs to tell us why she did it!"
My shoulders throbbed in pain from Horus' tight grip. He glared at Anubis. "It was just an accident. It's not her fault she fell into the water."
"I saw her fall in! She did not have to fall off!"
"She's human, Anubis! She can't control everything that happens to her! You need to stop blaming her for what-"
"I am the one who is protecting her, not you! Stay out of this!"
Horus let go of me and in the next moment he was sprinting at Anubis. Horus pounced on him and they both splattered into the mud. I saw Horus take one swing at Anubis before Duamutef turned my head away. He crouched on the ground in front of me, holding my head to look at him.
"Ignore those idiots. Just hold your hand to my chest and try to breathe like I do." He held out a hand inviting me to give him mine. I placed a shaky hand in his. He gently placed it near his collarbone where I could feel his chest rising and falling at a much slower pace than mine.
Even if my muscles were spasming too much to match his pace, the deep, slow rhythm calmed me. It wasn't enough to block out the noises from behind. I could hear them going at each other. I even heard some growling, barks, and the screech of a hawk. My imagination couldn't grasp what could be happening behind me, so I just focused on trying to breathe right.
Eventually I did slow down to Duamutef's rhythm, though my breathing still rattled and my throat felt raw. He let go of my hand, asking, "Do you feel better?"
"Yeah, I'm fine. Sorry."
"It's no worry. Brian has panic attacks all the time."
"Your drummer?" The image of a guy with a bald head, a long, blonde beard, and a face littered in piercings popped into my head.
"Yes. He has his problems but he's a good kid. Really talented too."
I wiped off a tear still sitting on my cheek. "'Phantom Mind' is my favorite song just because of the drum solo in it."
"Is it? We'll have to play that live for you some time."
"That would be really cool," I said sniffling.
I hadn't realized the commotion behind me had stopped until Horus came staggering into view. He dramatically pointed at us shouting, "And don't get any ideas about fighting Anubis! Only I'm allowed to beat him up! You got me?"
Duamutef scoffed. "And what if I did anyway?"
"I'll fight you too!" Horus boasted raising his fist.
"Pff. I could take you."
"How about no one fights and someone tells me what's going on," I interjected.
Horus' eyes widened and he looked past us. "Oh yeah, Sobek's still here. Sobek!" Horus ran past us waving an arm at the giant crocodile.
Since I wasn't getting any answers from Horus, I asked Duamutef, "Where are we anyway?"
He ran his fingers along his head pulling back his long hair. "We're north of Cairo, where the river is shallowest. We thought the waters might have swept you here." He pulled me up with him as he stood. "Lets get out of this mud and see what the Pharaoh of Idiots is doing."
"But Anubis…" I looked behind me. Anubis was huddled in a ball with his back to me. He had his head down and wasn't moving. He didn't look okay. Uninjured, but not okay.
Duamutef pushed hard on my back stearing me away from him. "Let that loser lick his wounds."
I didn't have much choice. If he was still angry and had an outburst towards me, I wouldn't fair well. Besides, I wasn't sure what to say to him. Instead, we went over to Horus who was petting the giant crocodile like has was a massive labrador. The crocodile even wagged his tail, causing giant splashes in the water. I ducked behind Duamutef as we approached.
"Who's a good, mostly evil crocodile?" Horus coed.
"What the hell are you doing?" Duamutef rightfully asked.
"Hey, he found Nakia for us. We might as well thank him."
"That god works for Set."
Horus shrugged. "Well, sometimes."
"He nearly bit my arm off!" I added.
"Nakia, he was just carrying you back to us."
"No, not today." I stepped in front of Duamutef, closer to Horus. "It was a few months ago when Anubis and I were in the Amazon. He jumped out of river and tried to bite my arm off cause I was holding a canopic jar."
Horus pulled away from the crocodile. "Is that true, Sobek?"
"Yes," he said with pride.
"Set said if I get jar I get lots of meat to eat."
"So you did what he told you?"
"I like meat."
Horus rubbed a hand over his forehead in disbelief. "So, what, you're working for Set now?"
Sobek slumped his shoulders, letting his head hang low to the ground. "I no get jar. I no get meat."
"How tragic," Duamutef said with sarcasm.
"I was mad. I so mad I eat Set instead."
"Nice," Horus exclaimed, clearly approving of this turn of events.
"He taste bad, though. Like sand."
I raised my voice. "So why did Set want the jar in the first place? Did he say?"
Sobek tilted his head and stayed in that position for quite some time. Finally he said, "Maybe someone offered Set meat?"
"Not everyone is as easy to please as you, big guy," said Duamutef beside me.
"Hey Sobek," Horus called. He crouched down to talk to him which was completely unnecessary since Sobek was twice as tall as him. "If you happen to find another jar and bring it to us, I will give twice the amount of meat Set offered you."
"Meat!" The crocodile pounced in the water, dancing in a circle as best it could.
"Why is this my life," Duamutef rubbed his temples. I think I heard a quiet 'what idiots' under his breathe.
"I find you jar!" And with that declaration the crocodile slithered into the water, completely disappearing from sight.
"Wow," Duamutef exclaimed. "We are making so much progress getting Nun to flood the river." He crossed his arms, raising an eyebrow at Horus.
"Setbacks happen." Horus strode back to us, rubbing his hands as he did. "Man, my knuckles are sore."
"I didn't realized Set was targeting us from the beginning," I said. "We only encountered him recently, but that jar Sobek tried to take was the first one I found."
"Why would Set come after Anubis all of sudden?"
"Oh, please. Set has been picking fights with just about everyone except Anubis for centuries. I say this was a long time coming." Duamutef jabbed a thumb to the river. "Are we taking the boat back or what? We're losing daylight."
"Yeah, we have Nakia. We should get back to Cairo."
"Good." Duamutef turned and shouted to the huddled ball that was Anubis. "Hey mutt! We're going back! Tuck your tail between your legs and lets go!"
Anubis turned his head slightly but didn't move. Then his form turned into a black mass of sand that fell into a pile on the ground.
"Hmph, what a baby."
"Let him go back alone. He probably needs some space right now," Horus reasoned.
I trotted to Horus' side and asked softly, "Is Anubis going to be okay? You weren't too hard on him, were you?"
Horus grinned and patted my head. I only realized now that he had a long cut underneath his golden eye. "Don't worry about it, Nakia. We get into fights all the time. It's normal brother stuff. I'm just glad you're alright. I think the reason he got so mad was cause he was scared you were hurt."
"He... wouldn't feel that," I mumbled.
"Well… if he was his usual self that would be why. Trust me." Horus patted my back and we followed Duamutef's footprints back to the boat.
The journey back to Cairo was uncomfortably silent. As soon as we got back and undocked, the tension spilled out.
"That was a whole lot of nothing," Duamutef complained. "What did we even accomplish today? Nearly killing a human? Wouldn't that be great for my career if the media found out I was involved."
Horus climbed up from the river's edge, hoisting a ring of rope over his shoulder. "So today didn't go as planned? At sunrise we can go back out there and look for Nun again."
"And what? Search the whole river. I'm telling you, Nun doesn't want to be found. We're either going to waste our time and find nothing, or we'll piss him off and he'll wipe us out."
Horus threw his hands in the air. "Then what do you suggest we do? My father is stuck in the duat, Egypt is without water, but, please, tell us how everything we're doing is pointless, huh?"
"Hey," Duamutef jabbed a finger at Horus' chest, "at least I've been protecting the gods from getting washed into the abyss. But, no, you had to come along assuming you knew how to fix everything better than everyone else. I don't even know why I let you drag me along."
Horus swatted his hand away. "Then stay home. We don't need someone to complain the whole time we're trying to get things done."
"Oh, I will. But I go back to what worked, which means no gods going into the water. And that. Includes. You."
"Fine," I shouted to them. Horus stopped, sharply turning to regard me. "We won't get in the water."
"Nakia, you're not just gonna let him walk-"
"He said it's dangerous to go into the river, so maybe we should draw him out of the river instead."
Horus stopped. He folded his arms, clearly in thought, but then scratched his head saying, "Okay, but how can we draw him out?"
I shrugged my shoulders. That was as far as my thinking got. I didn't know how to lure a god, unless Nun likes meat as much as Sobek does.
Duamutef started laughing behind us. We turned to him, Horus looking as confused as I felt. "Look at you two," Duamutef jeered. "You guys are completely hopeless on your own."
"And you would do better?" Horus taunted.
Duamutef smirked. "Oh, if there is anything I've learned the past few years is how to drag cranky, old men out of their houses."
It took two hours for us to get all the equipment Duamutef delivered to us setup. We were at the tip of one of the small islands nestled in the Nile. Somehow Duamutef arranged for a small crew to set up an impromptu stage for a private concert. There were huge amps that towered over us, microphones, and a fancy red wood guitar. All this was powered by a single solar panel.
Actually, the solar panel was the one thing we offered to help with. We unplugged it and took it off the boat this morning. We had to call a cab especially to take us plus the equipment. As of now, Horus was sitting directly in front of it. That was basically his job today. As long as he sat in front of the solar panel everything would stay powered. 'Basic science' is what he called it.
I did what I could making sure all the wiring worked, though I wasn't sure how much help I was. The guys knew what to do, while I was unfamiliar with what most of this stuff did. I basically went around seeing what wasn't working and looked for someone who could figure out how to fix it.
Anubis… he was sitting in the distance watching us. Horus had given him a nasty black eye, which he was keeping hidden under a bandage. He hadn't really spoken to me since yesterday. I had said good morning to him earlier and he walked past me. Not a word. No eye contact. When we left the boat this morning, Paws ran off ahead and disappeared around a corner. I panicked, running after him but Anubis said behind me. "Let him go. He'll come back." Anubis didn't look at me as he spoke. We left without Paws, who would probably spend the day chasing squirrels instead of gods.
Horus kept assuring me that he was just in a mood and he would bounce back. But he was assuming Anubis' reaction yesterday was without reason. In truth, I didn't want to talk to Anubis as much as he didn't want to talk to me. What could I say to him? He knew. I fell into the river on purpose and he knew. If I could tell him why I would have told him in a heartbeat, but I couldn't. It was all because of Amun and his stupid secrecy. None of the gods knew he exists. If I started telling everyone about him they would all think I'm crazy. Not to mention I would make an enemy out of Amun. And he was the last person I would want as my enemy.
So I pretended I knew how wiring worked instead. If I pretended I was keeping busy, I wouldn't have to acknowledge Anubis watching me from the sidelines.
And where was Duamutef, or lead guitarist Donovan Sab, during all of this? He was… in his trailer. He brought a trailer just so he could lounge in luxury while everyone else worked. It wasn't until everything was ready to start that he made his grand appearance and waved everyone away.
"Alright, alright everybody! Lets get this show on the road!" He shouted rubbing his hands together.
"Oh, wow, Duamutef? You're here?" Horus said with mock surprise. "I didn't realize. It's been so long since we've seen you."
"Laugh it up all you want. Despite what you assume, I was busy warming up my vocals."
"You're singing too? Do you take requests? I want to hear you sing 'Nami Nami.'"
Duamutef's face was incredulous. "You want me to put Nun to sleep with a lullaby?"
"Sing it," Horus whined. Duamutef gave him a rude hand gesture and turned to his guitar.
All the equipment worked like a charm as Duamutef started plucking some notes and fixed the tuning on his guitar. As I watched, Anubis appeared. Without warning or a single word, he turned me around and start pushing me from behind, away from the everyone.
"What are you doing?" I protested, but he didn't stop. We left the shore side, crossed a sidewalk, and came to a hotel that faced the river. He swiftly swung open the glass door, pushed me through, and closed the door behind me. I swung around glaring at him. "What are-"
"Stay," he said from beyond the glass.
"I'm not Paws. I don't take commands."
"Stay," he repeated and walked back to the riverfront.
I punched my fist on the glass, but Anubis either didn't hear or didn't care. He left me behind. I spun on my heal, my hands curled tight. With no regard to the guests here, I grabbed a wicker chair from the lobby area and swung it around to face the performance that was about to start.
I threw myself deep into the chair and whispered to myself, "Guess what, Molly? That favorite band of yours; I met the lead guitarist. He held a private show and everything. How close was I? Front and center until this jerk pushed me into a whole other room. I know, asshole, right?" I kicked at the ground, and sighed. "Yeah right, Nakia. Have you looked in a mirror? One to talk…"
As I sank into cushions of guilt, some real music started to play. People in the hotel looked around, curious about the noise. They probably weren't able to see very well with all the foliage blocking the view. The only reason I could see anything was that I knew where to look.
Duamutef was rocking it out filling the whole area with the screech of his guitar. I could see his long hair bouncing to the beat as headbanged to the music. He started to sing as well in a deep, raspy voice. I had never heard him sing before, but it wasn't too bad. Not nearly as good as his band's main singer, but not bad. Some of my anger dissolved as I watched this once in a lifetime experience.
By the third song I was really into it. I was quietly singing along to "Fighting Superheroes" forgetting why we were here in the first place. But it came. As Duamutef's finger's danced across his instrument a column of water rose above them, casting a shadow over everyone. The water took the form of a giant man with flowing hair, a beard, and startling blank eyes. With a boom his voice rang, "CUT THAT RACKET!"
From where I was I couldn't tell what was happening. There was silence, but a moment later the microphone gave off some feedback, resulting in a loud "NNNNNNNN" sound.
The giant shouted in rage. His entire figure collapsed onto the island's edge. There was a split second where I saw the others trying to get away before a wave crashed against the windowed wall in front of me.
"NOOOO!" I screamed. I jumped out of my chair and threw myself out the door. The water quickly receded but I chased after it. The river's tide left behind ruined equipment, all knocked over in disarray. A solar panel lay face down on the ground. Speakers dripped with water. I guitar stand was half buried in the sand with no guitar.
And there was no one here. No one at all. And I couldn't remember if there had been anyone here in the first place.
Author's Notes on my profile