Batresh arrives at 1962, Tupelo, Mississippi
She walked along the uneven sidewalk in heels that pinched her toes, watching the concrete to avoid tripping over the cracked surface. That day, she purchased clothing appropriate for the heat. The thin, cotton dress fluttered around her knees. Two old men seated on a bench between the sidewalk and the street, were fanning themselves. The top buttons on one man’s shirt were unfastened exposing gray chest hairs crookedly peering above his undershirt. The men spoke with thick Southern accents. She heard one of the men pronounce the word, “segregation.”
The man closest to her, removed his straw fedora, revealing a shiny, baldhead. He leaned to one side, “One day I tell ya, one day, he will get what’s comin’ to him!” His mouth open from laughter, he saw Batresh walking towards him. He examined her walk and the curve of her hips.
She observed cars, mannerisms, the style of dress as if she had never seen them before — as if she landed on a strange planet. In some ways, she had.
Informational downloads, memories of others who had been here, didn’t make August 23rd, 1962, Tupelo, Mississippi seem any less foreign. Knowing the language helped. But, the particular accents, the political and social divisions, the attitudes and expectations of humans here were strange to her.
She’d only been away from Kemet four times. Young, white women were expected to behave in a way that was anathema to her. Her whole life was lived in what human scholars at 1962 would call Pre-Pharaonic Egypt.
She brushed loose strands of hair from her forehead, catching a glimpse of the Lee County Courthouse on the small hill to her left. Mindful of where she was, she looked towards the street, congested with large vehicles. The sidewalk was crowded with workers going to cars and women leaving shops. In front of her, stopped in rush hour traffic, was a dull, dark green Chevy from the previous decade.
A small boy peered through the back window. He watched the old men. Tiny and fragile, dark circles under his eyes, he couldn’t have been more than five or six. He didn’t see her, but looked at the men. The boy’s mother, petite, young, driving the large vehicle, was barely able to see above the dashboard. She looked through the opening at the top of the steering wheel, searching for a parking space.
Batresh turned around. Behind her, the early evening sky had turned pale blue, white clouds were touched with pink. A statue honoring dead Confederate soldiers on the corner, faced away from her. Turning back, Batresh saw the young woman had parked further up the street. The boy leaned forward, looking through the windshield at people on the sidewalks. Ahead of the car, black people were busily shopping. Women in colorful, tight dresses, wearing small hats, laughed, shouting to friends. The boy’s mother leaned forward to see better. He and his mother were talking. She turned, reaching back to touch his face. He pointed towards the women.
A chill fell over the mother’s face. Her smile tightened. The boy turned to look. A thin, young man, wearing a khaki uniform exited a brick building ahead. He looked around with a cocky smile, moving his head with self-assured invincibility. His blue eyes settling on a black woman’s hips, he squinted, and pressed his lips together.
The boy sat back away from his mother. Not wanting to look at the man’s face.
He opened the passenger side door and slid into the front seat. Speaking through tightened lips he snarled, nostrils flaring. He gestured aggressively, and the mother opened her car door and went around to the other side.
The father moved across the seat to the driver’s side and started the engine.
The mother opened the passenger side door, but the father jerked the car forward, causing her to stumble. He laughed, and looked at her.
She got inside, and they drove away.
Batresh watched the car as it turned a corner and disappeared. Across the street, she saw a small shop with its door barred shut. She wondered why the Matriarch came here? Why did she choose to inhabit the boy’s body? Why come to this awful time period, to this small, poor, town on the other side of the planet? Maybe the Hathors miscalculated. Maybe this was not the right time. Maybe this small boy was not her Matriarch.
She felt dark energies around her. Still focused on the closed shop, she saw one of the older men was standing, looking at her. “You look like you’re lost, Miss,” he offered. “May I help you with somethin’?”
Knowing she must look out of place, she responded, “Thank you.” She looked into the old man’s face. A strand of gray hair, combed over his bare head, blew wildly in the breeze.
“I had some business at the court house this afternoon.” Trying to appear casual, she continued, “I was hoping to find a restaurant to have some dinner.”
Her accent, though convincingly Southern, was not familiar to them. “You don’t sound like yer from around here,” the standing man said. He was leaning on the bench, his walking cane within reach. A newspaper lay where he had been sitting.
She responded, “I am here visiting my aunt. I’ve just come from Virginia.” Both men looked at her curiously, but were too polite to pry.
The seated man offered, “You can go over to Main Street to TKE’s and get somethin’ to eat.” He looked into her face, trying to guess which family she was related to. The man who was standing looked to the east, towards a taller building a short distance away, a gray, plastered jail house. He squinted his eyes, and then turned to her again, “You look like one of the Reeds. Are you a-kin to the Reeds?”
Batresh was reluctant to say more, afraid of showing how foreign she was. She looked towards the Court House again. “I believe my mother mentioned the Reeds.” She continued, “Thanks for your help. I think I will look for TKE’s.” She turned back towards Main Street, looked at the men and nodded.
She examined a brick building across the street, stained with rust from metal plates. A block ahead, the signal light turned red. As she walked, she heard someone walking behind her, a man’s footfall.
He was small and his walk inconsistent, as if he were not accustomed to walking in the shoes he wore. He stumbled. As he grew closer, she felt cold.
She took a deep breath, not knowing what to do. She was told they might be here, but she had never seen them in person. Her heartbeat grew faster as she focused on the cadence of his walk. Perspiration beaded above her lips. Her breathing quickened. Not considering consequences, she reached into her handbag and removed a disk-shaped object. As she held it in her palm, it activated, vibrating softly. She looked down at her hand.
The man walking behind her, slowed, as if he knew she held a weapon.
She looked nervously to the side, afraid she had given away too much.
They would know she was here.
She continued walking towards Main Street.
She sat at a table at TKE’s, a drug store with a café, also selling school supplies. To her right was a soda-fountain and two tables. A young mother with her little girl entered, and walked towards the back to ask a young man about a school book. Looking up from her grilled cheese sandwich, Batresh saw a short, thin man at the door.
They knew she was here.
The little man at the door was a Potacas. They had appeared at Kemet, just before the heretic Pharaoh, Akhenaten, took the throne, thousands of years after Batresh grew up there. Of the two temporal-portals the Tayamni constructed in the Solar System, they received messages, not physical objects or time travelers, just information, via the Jovian Portal, the temporal-portal at Jupiter. Even before the Potacas arrived, the Tayamni knew they would.
They were not the only extraterrestrial enemy her people encountered at Earth, but, slowly, over centuries, had become the most persistent. Their goal was to disrupt, to turn humanity backwards, to reverse the work her people had done. Motivated by greed, they created biological weapons, marketing products to other alien races. Humanity was simply their testing ground, their test subjects.
The Potacas theorized, the more self-destructive humanity became, the easier their work would be, the less likely they would be noticed. They wanted to keep their victims unaware, obsessed with their own survival.
Batresh watched as the small, pale man struggled.
He winced at the weight of the heavy glass door. He wore a loosely fitting gray jacket, neck tie, fedora, and trousers too big for his small frame. The oversized leather shoes he wore clicked on marble tiles. He walked towards the counter, fixing his eyes on Batresh as he passed by. He took a free chair, and examined the menu on the back wall. Although his eyes were focused on the lettering, his attention was fixed on Batresh. He could hear her breathing and feel her heart beat. His keen sense of smell allowed him to make note of her chemical signature. He knew she was afraid. Still looking at the lettering on the wall in front of him, he decided to proceed. He suspected the Tayamni knew of their plan. But, this one was young, inexperienced, freightened. Her presence was of little importance.
The Potacas had made an alliance with a more advanced species. The little man told himself, they Tayamni could not stop them.
“I’ll have a coke, please,” the told the young man behind the counter.
Batresh ate a few bites of her sandwich and sipped iced tea through a paper straw.
Within five minutes another small man, dressed similarly, walked to the store. He also struggled with the door, but walked in and headed towards the man at the counter, taking a stool several feet away. He fumbled in his jacket pocket and withdrew a small, flat case. Placing it on the counter in front of him, he opened the silver lid.
She felt coldness again.
The atmosphere in the store changed. The man behind the counter looked down at the tiles on the floor and frowned. He concentrated on an imagined slight from earlier in the day. Another customer had teased him about pimples on his chin. His face reddened.
The mother in the back of the store raised her voice, “But, her teacher said we should come here to get the notebook!”
The man responded, “We’ll get ‘em in a day or two.” His face creased with annoyance.
Batresh reached into her bag again, and drew the disk into her palm. She felt the vibration. It calmly activated. She stood. Both small men at the counter turned to face her. She opened her palm towards them. The atmosphere changed again. The man put the small case back into this pocket. Both men stood from the bar stools. Their expressionless faces belying their panic. They clumsily, but hurriedly rushed to the door of the store.
“Hey, that coke costs ten cents,” the young man behind the bar called out.
But, the small men were already gone.
Batresh slid her hand into her purse, releasing the disk. It unattached itself from her hand. “May I have my check please?”
The summer Mississippi sun was setting behind her as she walked eastwards on Main Street. She wondered why the Potacas at the restaurant were here, what value could the population of this town be to them? Surely, they were not here simply to murder the boy.
She wondered how much time she had. The evening sky grew dark. She looked up, knowing that she would not be able to see Tayamni-Pa until almost morning. Newly installed streetlights blinked on. Rush hour in this small southern town was winding down. Sighing with relief, she allowed herself to feel the heat. Evening breezes felt sensual on her skin. The cooling night caressed her. She was reminded of Kemet.
After a time, she reached the fair grounds. The Mississippi, Alabama Fair and Dairy Show would be a whirl of activity later in the autumn, but for now, the fairgrounds were empty. She slid through a partially opened gate and entered the darkening field. Her shoes made hushed sounds against soft earth and wet sawdust. She walked further, and turned left, making her way to a corner near a stack of boards. As she approached the vehicle, she saw the warm glow of awakening systems. She walked closer, and heard a soft click, as an opening appeared. Although not completely obscured in the darkening night, its matte surface reflected little light. The trapezoid profile of the ship, the roof shorter than the base, hidden in shadows, was a small, one-person vessel. She stepped inside and sat, facing a display showing topographical characteristics of the surrounding land. Twin nacelles under the vehicle activated, casting cold blue light underneath. The opening closed behind her.