“One hour.” The tour driver held up a nicotine-stained finger and tapped his imitation gold Rolex. “Be back on bus.”
I had no doubt Apep would stomp on the pedal, leaving any tardy foreign sightseers in a haze of diesel fumes, without a backward glance in the rear-vision mirror as he headed back to Cairo.
My fellow travellers abandoned their seats and mobbed the only working exit at the front, squeezing past the litter of backpacks and cargo boxes currently clogging the aisle. I’d almost whooped when Apep had offloaded the pen of live chickens at our last stop. I suspected the other tourists’ eagerness to disembark was more to escape the boiled cabbage stench that permeated the bus seats than a fervent desire to explore another nondescript tomb.
Egypt is a long way, geographically and culturally, from my New Zealand homeland, and I was often asked why a kiwi girl was exploring the archaeological sites on her own. When I explained I was a writer researching for my next book, there was usually a bit of a buzz from the rest of the travellers as most had never met a ‘real’ author before.
Prior research forewarned me that this ruin contained nothing but rocks and stale air, so I drifted away from the group. They were either ten-deep in the queue for the one functioning toilet or the main tomb attraction. I preferred poking around by myself away from the incessant chatter and camera clicking. Perhaps Ancient Egypt is hieroglyphed into my DNA, as its kohl-eyed paintings and pyramid monuments call to me with a sense of belonging. If reincarnation is real, I fantasized I was once a Pharaoh’s daughter.
Loose stones crunched under my sandals as I meandered along a path that threaded through rocky outcrops. The shade reduced the air temperature from scalding to char-boiled. The tension between my shoulder blades eased as I distanced myself from the catcalls of souvenir hawkers rising over the hubbub of several dialects.
Ahead, rubble blocked a collapsed entrance. Finding an undisturbed tomb was unlikely, as thousands of years ago enterprising robbers had braved the wrath of the old gods by stripping the graves bare. Their greed included desecrating the mummies, shredding the linen layers to unearth gems originally destined to accompany the departed into the afterlife.
Larger stones pitted the trail, so I carefully placed each footstep until I reached a dead end. After I turned around, I spotted a girl-sized gap in the debris. Keeping an eye out for creepy-crawlies or slithering creatures, I navigated to the hole and peered inside.
Faded lines of hieroglyphic text etched the far wall of the collapsed shaft. My heart ratcheted as I fumbled with my phone turning on the camera. I glimpsed gold and azure sun rays fanning out from images farther along the tunnel. Pushing aside common sense, I switched on my phone’s illumination and ventured a few steps into the shadows.
The toe of my sandal snagged on a protrusion in the dirt. Metal glinted in the torch light. I squatted and examined a long spout sticking out of the ground. For a moment, I debated alerting the authorities, but my hostility towards bureaucratic red tape made me pause. They would shunt me aside, and I’d never get a chance to witness what lay buried here. What were the chances of it being an artifact? How embarrassing if it was nothing more than a tourist guide’s discarded tea pot. With careful strokes I dug the mystery object free from the soil.
Aladdin’s lamp was the first thought that sprung into my mind. I edged towards the daylight and held it up. Dust coated its surfaces, so I rubbed a patch clean with my shirt sleeve, revealing smooth silver.
A tingling sensation rippled up my hand as the artifact disintegrated into fireflies of light. Startled, I stumbled back, dropping my phone. The brightness coalesced into one expanding mass. The image shimmered like a hologram before solidifying into a humanoid form. He bore no resemblance to a Hollywood genie. No tassels. No flared pants. No turban. Not much in the way of clothing at all. The loincloth barely covered his maleness and exposed his alien cobalt skin. A shock of silver hair tumbled past his shoulders. His only other adornment was a plain bangle circling his forearm.
Sweat trickled down my forehead as the confined space heated up several degrees. I struggled to suck in oxygen and my heart palpitated into overdrive. His sumo-sized bulk blocked my escape.
My hands clenched into fists, the nails pinched my palms, squashing my hopes that this was all a diesel-fumed dream. He stretched his arms up over his head and extended his spine before twisting his neck side to side. Sapphire eyes tipped with sliver lashes regarded me.
“About time, human. I’ve been stuck in there for thousands of your earth years.”
He bowed. “I am Jussamef the Blue. Let us conclude our business, as I desire to join my brethren in the other realms.”
My mouth popped open but no words came out.
Jussamef squinted at me. “Just my luck, if after all this time I’m saddled with a half-wit.” He snapped his fingers. “What’s your one wish?”
I squelched my first reaction about popular belief dictating three.
“And don’t waste my time with nonsense like I wish I had more wishes. You only get one so choose wisely and be swift about it.”
Selfish thoughts of filling this cave with treasure was shunted aside by echoes of Botox-cloned beauty queens parroting the phrase, ‘world peace’. Our world was a mess of daily blood-smeared headlines featuring war, hatred, intolerance and persecution. Hideous cancers stole our beloved family members away, turning them into faded shades of themselves. Hunger pangs rippled through war-torn nations, and hollow-eyed children picked through rat-infested rubbish dumps while military dictators grew fat on pilfered aid. Factory chimneys and drains spewed toxic poisons into our environments, their unsung company motto all too often — profit over people.
“Ahem.” Jussamef fidgeted with his armlet. It glowed and emitted a hum. “I don’t have another millennium to waste. Be warned, my presence here vanishes in three heartbeats. What’s it going to be?”
The hairs on the back of my neck rose and I gabbled my words as if I’d been sucking helium. “Kindness. I wish everyone would be kind to each other.”
He flicked his wrists in my direction. “So be it.”
Warmth tickled my solar plexus and I clutched my abdomen like a shotgun victim.
He turned away from me.
“Wait,” I shouted. “What happens now?”
“That’s up to you. I’ve seeded you with magic. Go forth and perform great deeds and the effects will spread like a contagion. The more you pay it forward, the quicker the kindness effect will expand.”
A flash lit up the cave and I blinked several times before my vision cleared. The cave was empty. No blue genie. No lamp. I plucked my cell phone off the ground. No photos. No proof.
In the distance a bus horn honked. Almost an hour had passed. I retraced my steps and sprinted for the car park. Could one person’s actions really change the world? I suppose I was about to find out.
~RWISA Author, Wendy Scott
Thank you for dropping by today’s RWISA “RISE-UP” stop. We hope that the message contained here has moved you in some way to RISE UP and do something; one small change could impact the life of another without you even knowing it. Don’t just sit around talking about the problem, be part of the solution. It doesn’t take much when you decide that you are going to RISE UP!
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