Chapter 8

If Den, the man-mountain, had known what a protestant work ethic was, he would probably have agreed that, yes, he had one of those.

He loved his work. He found solace and fulfilment in sweating and toiling. The satisfaction of a hard job well done was almost reward in itself. He also believed in enough gods to know that when his time came, his lifestyle and beliefs were his passport to everlasting peace.

He would have liked to have been a priest, but his parents weren’t wealthy enough. Never mind. Whilst not exactly being silly enough to work for nothing, Den knew that work for him wasn’t just something you did between sleeping and eating.

Den’s father had taught him at a young age the art of bending stone to his will. To cut and move great chunks of stone was for Den no more effort than the average person might expend on a brisk walk of short duration.

To have cut and roughly shaped the tomb of his pharaoh, with his team of masons, had been a great honor as well as satisfyingly opportune.

The rest of the village teams were to then decorate and furnish that great monument to the honor of their king.

Den had earlier noticed from the work detail that Aby, the daughter of his boss, was shortly due to arrive to begin work in the same tomb as him. He reminded himself to be careful, she had already tried to get into his pants twice before. She had told him she was determined to see if in his case proportion had been evenly distributed – whatever that meant?

Den was a good and decent man. He didn’t intend to hang around long enough for her to find out.

The adjective ‘bandy’ and all its connotations, if Aby had heard the expression before, that is, would have agreed. It perfectly suited her present state.

Not inebriated, as no alcohol/drugs had been imbibed, Aby was definitely unsteady on her feet. The familiar soreness of over exertion washed over her young body. She literally staggered from the coolness of the now dark tomb into the warm evening air.

Aby had been proved right in her hypotheses, and Den was no longer a virgin.

Zem was forced to admit the truth to himself, as he stared into the middle distance during his extraordinary long lunch break. It had only been three days since the life-threatening episode, and village life was now no different than it had been before.

He had failed. Yes, there were those who were conscientious and who lived for their work. For the most part though, most of the village’s inhabitants adopted an apathetic attitude towards life.

Zem had been handed a golden opportunity to finally lick the village into shape and restore some pride and purpose, and even secure Psammy his dartboard.

Zem admitted to himself that he was lazy and weak. He wished he could confide in his best friend, but Tej was just as lazy, and just as weak. They both would never admit this to each other, though. Just pretending nothing was untoward appeared to be a defining characteristic of their unindustrious relationship.

The amazing vista that unfolded before Zem’s eyes as he sat outside his workshop on that glorious afternoon, would have seemed just as magnificent had he had his eyes shut.

For Zem was blind to everything but his troubles. Physically he was well enough again, but mentally he should have been on a life-support machine.

A deep foreboding as to the village’s future, and Zem’s immediate prospects, loomed large. He couldn’t get away from the feeling of losing all that he had struggled to achieve over his lifetime. Zem felt it all slipping away.

Zem knew he wasn’t the clairvoyant one, but he didn’t need any glittering talent to foresee a non too glamorous future. A sensation of gloomy helplessness had permeated Zem’s consciousness.

The only option, Zem felt, was to do nothing but accept his fate and let the gods have their way.

Whilst Zem had been wrestling with his soul, Tej had been catching up on some well-deserved sleep. His young newly married neighbors’ coitus had kept him awake half the night. They were extremely loud.

Tej at one point had been about to summon one of the H’s as he felt sure that that amount of noise must be because another is inflicting some pain by way of a vicious assault of some sort. Alas not, the young couple were arm in arm and all smiles when he spied them earlier in the day, as he was hanging out his washing.

Tej was going to ask them if they could keep the noise down tonight, but he felt that this would be a bit too embarrassing.

The majority of the village’s artisans appeared to have either spent most of the day dozing in the shade from the hot sun or doing foreigners for each other. So much for Zem’s new schedule.

Apart from the thirty or so workers who looked after and provided for the elite eighty or so, the amount of work that had been carried out that morning amounted to precisely zero.

It was perfectly clear that things couldn’t go on like this.

Tej’s suspicion and Zem’s foreboding were realized by an official from the palace. Zem and a delegation had been summoned to the palace to justify their existence and outrageous expense, by Tjaty Jarha (or TJ as like to be known).

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