“Please Ky,” Aby begged, “I don’t want another scene with Dad. I couldn’t stand another row right now. If he asks, will you just say you were with me all afternoon. OK?”
Ky and Aby were the first two to arrive at the dinner table on the roof of the family home that balmy evening.
“What were you doing then?” smugly inquired Ky with a smirk.
“I had an appointment that needed my urgent attention,” Aby curtly replied, hoping Ky wouldn’t press the matter. He did.
“Another spot of horizontal dancing?” Ky grinned, whilst raising and lowering his eyebrows comically.
“Don’t be crude. Will you give me an alibi or not?”
“Listen our Aby – you do realize we’ll all probably be dead by this time tomorrow! What with pharaoh not being too pleased with the way he’s going to find progress not having advanced very much around here. Things not being up to spec. And what with me still needing certain urges to be taken care of, I was wondering if you could see your way clear to…”
An entered the dining room to find her eldest daughter and wayward twin son conspiratorially whispering. This, she didn’t think would portend very well at all.
The rest of the family were soon coaxed towards the dinner table by the tantalizing aroma wafting around the house.
The only time the family were ever all together in the same place, at the same time, was for their daily evening meal. That day wasn’t like most days, even though everybody pretended it was.
“O.K. Who’s turn is it to thank the Gods for this bountiful feast,” said Zem.
“I’ll oblige,” offered Im. The rest of the family, including Im, cupped their chins in their hands and looked up towards the heavens. “We give thanks to mighty Amun, the father of life itself, for this veritable gift of sustenance. Ptah must also always be in our thoughts… (20 minutes later)… and we mustn’t forget Sobek, the crocodile God, for not eating us. Pharaoh be praised.”
The rest of those gathered around the table repeated “Pharaoh be praised,”
“Good job it’s salad,” muttered Mai.
“I’m starving” Ky told nobody in particular.
Everybody simultaneously got stuck in. Lots of satisfied eating noises could be heard from all around the table.
Slowly the sounds of sustenance died away one by one until there was silence, as it had been before the meal had started.
“You did us proud there, An. That was a good spread.,” praised Zem.
Muttered thanks, plus, “capitol,” and, “yeah good scran,” could be heard from various places around the table.
The short silence was broken by An. “It’s no use putting off mentioning it anymore. The whole village is aware. Pharaoh will arrive here at lunchtime tomorrow. And we’ll all be dead by afternoon.
“What a drama queen.” Zem tried to make light of it.
“Sorry if the truth hurts, but that’s the reality of our current situation,” continued An. The pitch of her voice was getting higher with each syllable.
It’s not as bad as all that. Is it?” asked Zem.
“YES,” replied everybody else, rather loudly as they all simultaneously pushed back their chairs, and sought to leave the dining table as fast as they could.
Rhovah, the family pet, wasn’t normally allowed in the house but was allowed by An to feed on the scraps left by her greedy family. The dog was not just a family pet. He was a loyal guard dog and excellent hunter too. An felt the need to show she cared one last time.
As dusk fell, Zem and Tej sat on the porch drinking the last of the good stuff. The seriousness of their predicament had finally dawned on Zem.
“Well, it looks like this is it old friend. I fear that on the morrow we will be finally parted, in more ways than one,” feared Tej.
“Yes,” agreed Zem, “my only ambition left was to reach the big five Oh, get a bit of parchment from pharaoh, and fade away gracefully. Now, all I’ll get from pharaoh is a quick death if I’m lucky.”
“This village’s luck has run out. Quick deaths aren’t the fashion this season,” slurred Tej.
“I know. I’m living in hope…” admitted Zem.
“…Hope is for the young. Hope is for those who can foresee a glittering future. As I see it, all the males in the village will be either crucified upside down, hung drawn and quartered, with optional castration, or buried up to our necks in the desert until the vultures have eaten our faces away. The women, of course, will be given to pharaoh’s soldiers to satisfy their lusts.” Tej had sobered up remarkably. “The ordeal will involve much pain and will seem to last forever.”
“Do you think it would be safe to assume the village aren’t exactly relishing this visit from our leader tomorrow?” Zem asked seriously.
“The whole village are bloody terrified is more accurate,” was Tej’s assessment.
A resigned hush descended over the pair. The two old friends sat deep in thought contemplating their short futures for what seemed like forever.
Zem suddenly spoke. “Do we still have a large supply of mad Mel’s metal polish, goat dip, and wood stain formula…?
“…that kills 99% of living things. We sure do.” Tej followed Zem’s thought process exactly.
Zem finally came to a decision. “Mass suicide in the square at sunrise?”
“I’ll spread the word,” said Tej moving into action.