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“Queen of the Nile”

 

Entries found on Papyrus sealed and preserved within a tomb in Egypt
Circa 20th Dynasty
English Translation complete in 1958

Believed to be written by Kesi, who lived in a village near Giza, and is later known as Kesi Akhede.

 

Wind over the desert creates a sandstorm that has left all in ruin. The days of old. Eras long past. Will he believe that I existed long ago and was dubbed "The Nile’s Graceful Queen" by pharaohs and kings? Will he believe that, to Amenhotep I in the eighteenth dynasty, I was viewed as an "exquisite work of art?"

 

I pray now. Not to the gods the desert people bow to, but to my ancestors and my family. I pray that he will understand what it is I must tell him. Who I am. Where I come from. And where I must go.

 

I think about the time that has passed so quickly. My heart swells with love for my family, for the desert so cruel yet forgiving, the people, and most of all for Jabari.

 

Life was once simple yet elegant and my people worshiped. When I was young, I heard say that all of the gods had blessed me with a part of themselves. The grace of Bast, the eyes of Horus, the wisdom of Thoth, and even the cruelties of Seth made me who I am. Perhaps this is true still. And yet I remain as I always have and life around me continues to weave its gradual yet inevitable web anew.

 

Now, the sands of the Sahara have drifted, propelling the destiny of the Pet Mer in a new direction, forcing me to choose, to make the most difficult decision of my life. A decision on which I have procrastinated for too long. A decision, I know, I must make on this night.  And so, I prepare my journey with a questionable destination.

 

 

 

Entry One

 

Tonight the desert was cruel and armed with its own weapons as the sharp winds howled, whistling past Khufu’s grand pyramid and whipping sand into my face, making concentration difficult. I could smell it in the air—even the fresh scent of evening was not the same. Shomu had only begun, the inundation waned, harvest well on its way, when the news had come to me and the decision set uncomfortably upon my shoulders. Father and our people would leave this place forever, removing all family and connection to blood ties. The land and desert would be empty, cold and desolate; as it had been thousands of years before when my relatives had first arrived. Without the winsomeness, grace and eccentricities my people laid here, there will be only dust and wind, and life for the desert people will go on as fate meant it. 

    But what did it matter? For the gods that had once taken physical form were no longer revered.  A new era had dawned, a fearful era, and mankind now shunned those they once worshiped.  Fleeing is the only way to avoid persecution and eventual starvation.

But for me it is not so simple, the decision to run not as easily made. For me there is a divide in the road ahead, and I am chained to a chariot that races down each one. 

    Tethered by honor and family is the desire to leave and start anew. Yet bound to this place by way of tradition and birth. And by way of heart in the form of a sweet and wonderful man.

    I hugged my linen shawl more tightly around my shoulders and moved to the eastern wall of the pyramid where the massive triangular structure could form a better shield against the harsh wind.  I leaned against the smooth limestone that, even after all the withering years, still shone like silver in the light of the full moon as if the power of Ra kept the sun harnessed within its rocks.  Ah, to witness the miracle of the sun, just once to walk beneath its great rays, to feel its warmth on my flesh. 

    Humans, how they complain so of the heat.  And all I do is wish. Perhaps, I ponder, elsewhere there exists a sun, a light, that will not kill. But not here. Never here. And within that hand I hold my desire to leave, to be with my father and the others of my family, to travel to a fresh land and start anew, to erase mistakes of the past.

    But within the other—

    I sighed and followed the pyramid’s eye to the stars. One of them, somewhere out there...How could I leave? 

    Even on the harshest, coldest evenings when the fierce winds lift the sands and storms ravage the villages, threatening to reclaim them to the desert. Even when my people remain hidden in the bowels of the pyramids to avoid persecution. And when the inundations are poor and famine common, do I still love this place.  The only home I have ever known. And Jabari, my love, my future husband, how could I even imagine leaving him behind? But, I wonder, will he understand my explanation?

    I chose this night to reveal the complete truth to him, inform him of my decision. But I worry once he knows the truth, will he then bless my departure?

So many questions ravage my mind. I am consumed by them.  Should I stay? Is it right to leave? Were they all in such turmoil, those who were indigenous to this place? 

 

    I did not hear his approach.

    "You are deep in thought." The voice startled me. So lost in reverie, I had not sensed a presence. I straightened quickly and turned. 

    He emerged from the darkest shadows, argent moonlight dancing upon shoulder-length blond hair braided with silver strands. Like a deluge in the driest desert, he stood out amongst these dark-haired people, his green eyes gleaming like that of a majestic feline.  From him I received only the pale complexion.

    "Father!" I smiled. "Your ability to startle me has not waned in five-hundred years. One would think in all this time I would learn to sense you." I leaned to him, kissed his cheek. 

    His face felt cool; he had recently awakened and bathed. The scent of lotus petals, however subtle, clung to his flesh and the loose white robes that fell to his feet.

    "Your mind is preoccupied," he said with his usual stoic grace. "This decision is more than you can bear at times, I know.  And I am truly sorry to have placed the weight of it upon your shoulders.  But you know well why we must leave this place."

    "Yes."

    "You worry about Jabari, and the effect of this on him."

    How precisely he knew my every thought.  "Whether or not my decision keeps me at his side or sends me into the stars, I must tell him from whom I descend, from whence my people came. But how does one bring up such an unbelievable truth?" I paused for a moment, a thought on my mind.  "How did Mother accept it?"

    My father's thin, pale lips curled into a small smile. "In the days when I met your mother," he began, "life was very different here. We were protected by the Pharaoh and our existence was revered by those who knew of us, kept secret from those who did not. The rumors your mother had heard of us were in admiration, not in fear as the rumors of today."

    "And if he fears me? Father, I love him so very much. I know not what I would do should he shun me."

    My father, whom the locals call Sefu, took my hand. "His love for you shall overwhelm doubt and beget acceptance. Just as your mother’s did for me so long ago."  He sighed then, and looked at me thoughtfully. "And if it does not, then you have your answer."

    "I wish it were as simple as you make it seem, Father. I could not bear his ill will, even if my decision is to leave with you. And what of loving a mortal—watching them grow old…die. If I stay, how long shall we have to share life together?  And then what do I do?  You shall be gone. I shall be alone."

    "Love never offers easy answers. But it guides our heart and the decisions we make and there is no way of knowing if that decision is right or wrong. With your mother I knew it was right. I shared fifty wonderful years with her that I would not trade for the sun. And though by human rights, time was a mere grain of sand from the vast Sahara, yes it was all worthwhile."

    I gave his hand a light squeeze. "I hope you are correct," I said, though I knew this was truth. My father was the wisest of the Pet Mer. "This is all so much to think on."

 

Note scrawled alongside page: My situation with Jabari is a special one, of that I do not doubt.  When so many are forced to wed those they do not love or many times even know, Jabari and I are truly bound by heart. I cannot imagine life without him. Would I find such happiness in another place?

 

    I sighed, an act all too common these days, straightened and squared my shoulders. "Is my appearance pleasing?" I had taken great pains to be sure all was perfect.

    "As always your beauty radiates…but yes, your attire is suitable for such an occasion."

    I had had my servants weave golden ribbons into my long black hair and braid it tightly as a measure against the strong wind. The clothing I chose was casual yet at the same time elegant; wrapping my tall stature was a black linen dress and a golden belt hugged my slender waist, complimenting the gold bands that snaked around my upper arms.  My feet remained unbound.

    "I must be on my way, Father. I have an…appointment waiting before I meet Jabari. I want to be well satiated for this," I stated.

    "Please take your meal indoors tonight, Daughter."

    I shook my head. "I am not like you, Father. I cannot enjoy repast holed in the guts of a tomb."

    He sighed.  "It is becoming increasingly dangerous—"

    "I know, do not worry. I will show discretion.  I promise."

    He shook his head. "I am going to spend the rest of my life worrying over you, am I not?"

    "No, you are not.  Trust me." I kissed his cheek and was gone.

 

 

 

 

Entry Two

 

The journey was a familiar one. The mud-brick estate stood on the edge of the village, far enough from the Nile that few had business in that direction, yet close enough to Jabari’s estate to place little travel time between the two. My thoughts had already run too far and I needed to make haste.

I saw her before she saw me. Head bowed, ebony hair flowed over her shoulders. Though they were lowered, I knew her russet eyes. My heart pounded, loins ached, each time I saw her. She stood half hidden behind a copse of rose bushes, palm and myrrh trees, nestled within the vast gardens, just as we had arranged. I approached, letting my presence be known.

    She raised her head. "Mistress. No one saw me come but I have little time this night, as my chores are vast."

    I nodded. This one I had known for over a year. One of few humans remaining who, through family ties, still revered Father’s people. One of few raised to recall a time when my people were seen as Gods from the Sky. When offering their blood to us was an honor. 

    Yet still I did not know her name. Usually, it mattered little. She was merely a servant, though a generous one with the sweetest scent in all of Giza, Saqqara, Alexandria, and all the Nile Delta. Even as far as Abydos. So many I had tasted none of their names known. But tonight it mattered. Tonight everything mattered. This could be my last eve here.

    "I know the time has been long," said I, "but please, tell me your name. I need to know it now."

    The girl raised an enigmatic brow. "Zahrah." 

    I smiled. "Zahrah." Though the dim light exaggerated her high cheekbones and ruby lips, her beauty was real. I pulled her toward me, one arm snaking around her slight waist. Our lips met then, and the lust of Seth came to greet me. Zahrah, her taste. Her scent. Her beauty. Everything about this human tantalized me. Almond and olive oils. 

     "Sweet," I whispered.  "Sweetest in the Valley." With more care than usual, I pierced the thin human flesh of her lips with my teeth.  No hesitation. No pain. Zahrah parted her lips against mine.

    And then the smooth satin that I treasured above all others flowed over my tongue. Youthful innocence. Power. And within it I was lost. The surrounding world shrank away and all that existed was that sensuous taste. Exuberance. Tensions of the past week released. A cocoon of calm wrapped me in its warmth and I reveled in it. But it was not to last. All at once, coldness settled over me like a cruel wind. A shiver ran through me. Someone approached. In the distant fog of my mind I heard my name on the breeze.

    "Kesi! What are you doing?

    A man’s voice, deep, confused, angry. Zahrah was forced from my arms. Painful. The hunger had not been satiated. Frigid desert air flogged at my flesh. My eyes blinked open. At first the whole scene was as a surreal dream.

I heard my own voice. "Jabari?"

        He was there. He had taken my hand, pulled me from Zahrah.  Away from my meal. I was disoriented, having been interrupted, too bewildered to respond. He was speaking to me. 

"What were you doing!? Wha—There is blood!"

I realised then I still tasted the bliss, licking it from my lips, feeling its trickle on my chin.

"What are you?" I had never heard him so angry.

       Indeed, what am I? Tell him. You need to reveal who you are, where you may go.

"What has happened, Kesi? Answer me!" He grasped my shoulders with firm masculine hands. He shook me. A blast of wind and sand—a gritty slap in the face—helped to awaken my mind. 

    "Kesi!"

    He took my hand, hauled me away, farther and farther from the delicious meal, the sensuous blood. I could have easily defeated him, gone back to finish my repast. But, no. I loved him. I could never harm him. My mind had begun to clear, to return from the stupor of that intoxicating meal. Those sweet lips. I glanced behind and saw Zahrah running toward Jhafi's manor, in which she served.

    "What is wrong with you, Kesi?" I turned back to look into Jabari's face, the shadows of confusion cast over him. "Y-You were kissing her! And the blood...She is a servant...a slave!" He moved away, dragging me along. I followed in an obedient manner, too lost to resist. You were going to inform him anyway, I told myself. There was no getting out now.

     Not like this. The time is not yet right.

     No one spoke and we did not stop until we reached the portico of his home. He released my hand. The scent of human food wafted from within. The combined scents of cumin and onion assaulted me, and spices the names of which I had never learned. My stomach churned. Jabari sat on the stone bench, I paced to the rail. I squeezed trembling hands into fists at my sides. 

       "Kesi?"

       I kept my eyes averted.

       "How long have we been together? Please! What is your explanation for what I saw?"

       Time was not right. 

       Hunger persisted and made me weak. I could not think. Perhaps I should fib, leave things as they were. For almost a year our life together was near perfection. Why alter it with a truth that might well push him away? Or leave him sour?

       It is too late.  He saw.  He knows. What lie would amend what his eyes witnessed? I battled with myself.

       "I have always held the knowledge that you are different, Kesi. You have never taken a meal with me. I have never seen you in daylight hours."

       A sea of stars spread out beyond like a blanket in the sky. I concentrated on them. Soon I would join them. My decision had been made for me.

       "I have heard rumor," continued Jabari. "That many thousands of years ago gods in human form emerged from the night desert, that they were, and gave birth to, a new race—blood drinkers. Night stalkers with superb strength and a lethal demeanor.  Killers who fed on others."  His voice was cold, as if he did not believe himself, his own words, or what he suspected in his heart.

       I placed my hands unsteadily on the marble rail. In the distance the tip of Khufu’s great pyramid was a silhouette against the night horizon and the dim light of civilisation along the Nile. 

       "It looked to me, Kesi, as if you were…as if you were drinking from that girl. As if…no, it is too horrible a concept to imagine that you, my future wife, could be one with the killers of rumor. Being a man of reason, I never believed these tales, and I certainly would never define you as having a lethal demeanor. But I cannot ignore what I witnessed this night." I heard the rustle of his clothing as he stood.  "Will you please speak to me?"

       And here it is. Time has come.

       "I have meant to tell you the truth," I started. "I should have told you before now."

       "Truth?" His voice quivered. "What truth?"

       Still I did not turn, did not look at him. "The truth about what I am."

       "Tell me."

       "I have not been honest with you, Jabari. I am," I swallowed hard the lump that cut off my words. "I am not what I seem."  Finally I turned, slow and careful. Jabari's dark brows were furrowed as he stared at me, his lips parted as if his next words were frozen on them. His hands wrung the linen material of his robe. 

       I continued. "In the guise of the woman you love stands a monster." I backed against the rail, clasping my hands in front of me.  "The rumor you have heard is true and I am a part of that truth."

     "That was over one and a half thousand years ago—"

       "It is the truth."

       His features stiffened. "You are not going to tell me that you were there!"

     "No. I was not."

     He nodded, lips taut. He ran a hand through his ebony hair, causing it to stick out this way and that, making me want to run into his arms, forget telling him all of this. But it was too late.  He stared at me in expectation of an apex to my story. My heart seized. It was over. He would not accept it. Would not accept me.       If only I had had the chance to tell him on my own terms, my own time—

     "My father," I started, "was one of whom the tale recites."

     "Your father is a god?" His lips pursed in an expression of disbelief. 

     "No, he was merely one of many mistaken as such."

     "Perhaps you should start from the beginning." His tone was less angry, touched more by skepticism.

     "This has been very difficult, Jabari.  Knowing I had to relay the truth one day. I was going to come to you with this tonight."

     "You were late. You are never late. Someone said they saw you heading towards Jhafi’s manor."

     I stepped toward him, a mere step, wanting to stand beside him, hold his hand, look into his soft eyes. But he flinched as if flame had touched his flesh. And with that move, I knew. I had lost him forever. Even before the explanation was born, his heart had turned away.

     I would tell him the story, so he would know.  He deserved the truth. But then I would be gone. I would travel into the stars with my father and his people and those like myself, and Jabari would live out his mortal life without fear.

     The pain in my chest cut my breath short. I slipped back to the rail, stared once again out into the desert. A sandstorm danced on the horizon. No human eye could detect it from this distance. Slowly I drew a breath and began.

       "My father is of a race that came here from very, very far away—"

       "How far?" His voice like daggers that could slice me in two. 

I tried to think, to concentrate through the clenching agony in my heart, the lump in my throat. I could no longer swallow. My mouth had gone dry. I motioned to the sky, to a cluster of stars directly in line with the tip of the Giza pyramid. "You see those stars?"

       "Yes," he said shortly.

       "Far beyond that cluster is where my father and the others of his race come from."

       "He comes from," Jabari gazed toward the sky, "out there?"

       I nodded. He thought me insane. I did not have to possess the power to read minds in order to know.

       "How did he get here?"

       "How would I-I cannot describe it in terms you would comprehend. Perhaps one day humans will understand the concept of journeying beyond the stars, but for now it is too far a reality to grasp."

     "Humans. You speak as if you are not…" he paused, brows narrowing.  "You are not human?"

"I am half human. My mother was a human. She died many centuries ago by this planet’s calendar."

   "So you are…quite old as well?" His words were careful, deliberate. And yet the skepticism remained, almost mocking.

I held my composure. "Yes." 

       "Please tell me how this is possible."

       How to explain to him a civilization more advanced than any he had ever encountered or imagined? A civilization that had existed among his people for thousands of years, were once revered as gods, had aided in erecting massive structures of death and worship bearing labyrinthine tunnels in which to slumber and feed, had bred with humans to create yet another race? My race. Children of the Pet Mer. Jabari was no fool, I would not have chosen him if he were, but the explanation of my existence was beyond the grasp of human comprehension.  My words would have to be selected carefully.

      I turned to look at him, once more leaning against the rail. Its support aided in my comfort. "My father and his people. They hunted for food—at night mostly. There was little sun there, not like here. The animals of their planet. My father’s people took what they needed of the blood, but never killed."

"Drinking the blood—as the rumors I have heard?"

      I lowered my eyes to avoid the dubiety of his expression.        

     "Yes—very gentle people, the Pet Mer. They existed in harmony with all others on their planet. But then something went terribly wrong. I am not clear on the details and I am sure you would not understand should I try to explain. An explosion…a star. It caused the planet to careen toward their sun…become uninhabitable.  They had to leave."

       "And so they came here?"

       "It was the only inhabited planet with beings similar in appearance to themselves. Only, the sun here is much closer and stronger. They have had to live only at night, just as I must. My father told me that, in the beginning, they fed only upon the animals of this world, which most resembled the plant eaters from their own home, but soon another flaw plagued their plans—the blood did not contain the proper agents to sustain them and soon they suffered much discomfort and illness."

       "So they drank from humans?"

       "Yes."

       "And they kill?"

       I hugged my shawl close. His words chilled me so. "No, they refuse to, which is why they must leave."

       I wanted him to understand. No, I needed him to understand. We are not killers.  

       "You see, at that time, the peoples of Egypt looked upon my father and his kind with reverence and respect, often willingly offering small doses of their blood. Human blood combined with theirs strengthened them and they never got sick, never developed the diseases that plagued man. 

       "They did not wish to interfere in the natural course of human progression; therefore they kept much to themselves, only trusting a few mortal friends and the great earth to watch over them in the day.  By night they aided humans in erecting the tombs and structures you see beyond."  I motioned toward the pyramids, no longer visible as the distant sandstorm grew ever nearer and consumed the desert.  "By day, they took repast and slumbered in the dark underground chambers.

       "As time passed, many moved on, away from Egypt, to Europe and Asia. Most paired with human mates, as my father did, and bore children. But, alas, we are of a mixed heritage, and we...we cannot have heirs of our own. Such as myself, Jabari…I am... I cannot bear children from my own body."

He merely nodded, but I was not sure if in acceptance or dismissal of the tale I wove. All of it as I had heard, passed to me from my father and many others of our race. Jabari, however, was mortal and born so. Whether or not he believed me at that moment was unclear. And so, I continued.

       "Soon, the children discovered they could indeed bring offspring and heir into their lives. The discovery came quite by accident, I assure you," I explained carefully. "One of us, a child of the Pet Mer— He did not understand. He was hungry. He was feeding and he went too far. He panicked. And so in his mind he felt he needed to replace the blood he had taken, so he cut his own wrist and fed the dying human." I paused, waiting for a reaction from Jabari.

He nodded his head once. "Go on," he said with indifference.

       I drew a breath. "A change occurred. No one is sure how, but our blood combined with that of a human's will create a...well, a—" I stuttered, trying to find the words. There was no word for what we could create, no way to easily describe them without fear of more persecution. Maltreatment of my father's race was now sending him away. Those left behind, the heirs created, faced a new threat to their existence by remaining. "Um, another race," I said. "I suppose you could call them such. A mixed breed. Human, but displaying certain characteristics of my race. Better vision. Better physical capabilities. Long soft hair."

At that I saw the corner of Jabari's lips curl in a small smile, but it was gone too quickly.

       I continued. "And the teeth." I parted my lips, displaying the small fangs he had seen so many times yet had never commented on— "Like mine."

       "So, this new race..." His words came as a sigh, soft and to himself.  He stared at his own hands before him. At this time I could see he truly was trying to understand, attempting to believe me. Hope was drawn back into my heart. "They need blood to survive as well?" he asked.

       I nodded. "Mostly. Some can still take repast in your food, but it has not the properties nor the necessary agents to sustain them for long periods. Others cannot tolerate human food at all."

       For a long while he said nothing. I could not read his stoic expression and it unnerved me. He seemed to come to some conclusion within his own mind then, and said outright, "Your kiss was always so enchanting to me." His eyes rose slowly to meet mine and in them I saw his next question, even before he spoke.       "What power have you held over me?"

       He feared me. He worried. He no longer trusted me. Yet, I would never lie to him. "I admit I do possess a certain…ability to manipulate human minds if I so wish. But I assure you with all the love I hold in my heart that I have never done so to you."

       "And they are all like you, these…mix breeds?"

       "To a varying degree, yes. Though rare, some can walk in sunlight."

       "And of the sun—"

       "Would kill me if I were to be exposed to it for too long."

       "Have you ever…drunk my blood?"

       I had hoped to avoid that question, but what matter did it make now?  "Yes, once. I-I did not do this on purpose, Jabari, I assure you!  We had only just met. I was so lost in you—"

       "Were you going to make me…like you?"

       "No. No. I would never risk you in that way. I love you too much. I love you as you are—human!"

       "And this is the only way you may bear children? By making a human into…like yourself? Have you created such a being yourself—a blood drinker?"

I had never in my long life partaken of a conversation so difficult. I am strong, not only of body but of mind. Or at least I thought such until tonight. As this conversation progressed, I began to feel weak, like that of a child. Helpless. Exposed.

"I have tried," I replied honestly. "But I have not been successful."

Jabari cocked a brow in my direction. An indication for more information.

"The Pet Mer. They feel that because the blood from their lineage is omnipotent and mighty, that when mixed with that of...a half breed if you will, such as myself, all attempts are met with disastrous results. I have tried three times to bring a ‘child’ into my life and have failed each time. They, eh…went insane and fatally harmed themselves.  Or became vicious and had to be—"

"Killed?"

       I nodded, hating this conversation more with every word.  Each death was like the bite of a viper to my heart. How I wanted a family, even if I could not bear and raise children conventionally.

       "Did you…kill them?" It was a small move, as he pressed himself closer to the solid wall behind him, but I noticed it—as if he were backing away from me. As if he feared I would take his life next. As if he could melt into the wall away from me.

       "I did not take their lives. I could not. I do not even spill one drop of blood when I feed."

       Visibly, he relaxed a bit.

       "If I ever was successful in bringing even one human into my world…creating them in a sense, then I would be able to have a full family with many children."

       "How is that?"

       "I suppose because the blood is not as strong in consecutive generations, a child of mine could then create others with much better results.  I have seen it done many times.  If I could create but one that did not go amiss, I could have the family I always wished for."

      "You have done this to children?"

     The misunderstanding became clear then. I used the word "children," as my parents and all others before me had done. To human ears, the word was literal.

     "No," I spoke quickly. "Not the young. It has been done, but once the transformation is complete, they no longer age as a human. They would remain the same age for too long. And they would need to be fed, unable to fend for or feed themselves."

      "And so if not the young, with whom would you choose this risk?"

      "Do not fear. I would not try with you…I could never harm you or risk harm to you.  If that is what you dread."

       Did he believe me?  His eyes were still wide—whether with fright or disbelief I could not be sure—and his knuckles had grown white from the tight grip on the folds of his robe. I wanted nothing more than to hear him say he understood, that despite all I had told him he would still love me, still want me there to share a life with him. But his expression remained as stoic and somber as a funerary mask.

      "You shall not have to worry any longer about me," I said. "My father and the others—this night is our last here."

       Finally, a response. His head cocked, brows furrowed and his lips drew thin.

       "The Pet Mer have chosen to leave this planet and find a new home somewhere within the stars."

       "Why?"

       The question was a simple one, yet so much doubt and confusion was borne within its context. I grew more apprehensive.

       "As the years have passed, humans have developed a growing awareness, and fear, of us.  We are forced to take sustenance only from those willing and able to keep our secret, but the numbers of such humans dwindle each year and soon there shan’t be enough food to provide for our growing numbers. If I remain, one day I might have to kill to survive or to protect myself or my family."

"And could you do this—kill a human?" He said the words with apathetic grace, a hint of compunction behind them.

       No sense in lying. "If it were a matter of kill or risk the persecution that plagued the Pet Mer, then I would have no choice."

       "Would that not be viewed as murder? You are after all half human."

       "And half of me is not.  Jabari," I said in my softest, most loving voice.  "I never said I preferred things this way.  But if I remain here, this is life as it has to be." I looked down at my bare feet, shuffled some sand beneath my toes. "I do not wish to lose you for who I am," I whispered.

       Stay with me and have a family. You shan’t have to kill, we shall work something out. The words I wished to hear spiraled like a whirlwind through my mind. A gust of wind and sand stung my eyes. The storm grew closer. Jabari only stared at me, his head shaking slightly. Back and forth. Back and forth. Say something!         

       "Please, my love, do not stare at me as if I were a cobra ready to strike." 

       "I am not sure what to say, Kesi. It is an awful lot to take in at once. And you give me so little time in which to digest it all. Everything…the woman I thought I knew and loved—" he shook his head again. "It was all a lie." His gaze dropped as if he were ashamed of his own words.  But no one could feel the same extent of shame that stung my heart at that moment. 

       Slowly, I nodded, understanding what I must now do. 

       I looked back to him. His deep brown eyes were so full of ambiguity.

       "I have never regretted what I am," said I.  "Who I am, or what I must do to survive. Until now." 

       I stepped from the portico, out of Jabari’s life, and disappeared into the angry, swirling sands of the Sahara.

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© 2019 by Christine Church 

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