Batresh returns to Sekhem between missions
Batresh opened her eyes. She lay on a lounge at the edge of private chambers. Lotus petals slid on the canal just beyond the polished floor. Summer breezes pushed tiny waves as papyrus stalks danced. She felt Amun’s breath on her neck, his right arm under her, his left arm around her waist. A dragon fly skimmed over water. Removed external walls allowed shifting currents of air to waft through the palace. Birds cooled themselves under olive trees.
Still asleep, Amun moved his hand, his fingertips grazing against her upper thigh.
Batresh was back home, back at Sekhem, safely in Amun’s arms, safely in the past.
But, nothing was as it had been. The palace seemed changed, the city older and decaying. Even the Vizier’s teasing annoyed her. The temple complex, still affixed to the bluffs across the river, used to grow out of the rock, as if it had always stood there. Earlier that day she saw cracks in walls, crumbling plaster at corners, the faded designs of lotus blossoms at the dining terrace. She knew, at 1962, there would be no traces at all of this city, of these people.
As promised, she sent messages to Jerry through the Jovian Portal, having no idea how or when he would receive them.
She thought of his awkwardness, the way he wanted to be in control, of the small southern town she lived in for three months. She remembered the elevator man, Willy, the young bellman, who explained he could not go to the same restaurants that she did. She wondered that humans, so advanced in some ways, had regressed so dramatically in others. She didn’t understand white supremacists. How could they find people with darker skin, the same complexion as most humans, to be inferior to the descendants of a small group whose skin turned pale because of climatic changes? She wanted to go back and change things, to go back and make things better. She wanted to go back and explain things to Jerry.
She considered staying here and relinquishing her inheritance. She didn’t want to go on another mission, she didn’t want the responsibility that came with her position as heir. She did not want to be Matriarch.
But, that had changed.
The night before, she sat with Rekhmire, the Vizier, in his villa near the palace. Two soldiers stood in front of them, reporting recent thefts. A young man from the desert took food from the tavern. Rekhmire stood, stretching himself to his full height in front of the soldiers. “You will go to the caverns, tomorrow, as the sun rises,” he began. “You will find the young man called Panther Claw.” The young man was named after scars from a panther’s attack. He continued, “You will bring him to us for punishment.”
Suddenly, Rekhmire seemed imperious, superior, pretentious. It enflamed her. She stood abruptly. Rekhmire turned to her, surprised.
“You will not!” she ordered, raising her voice. “He is hungry, otherwise he would not steal. You will put food out for him, and for anyone else who may have need.” She drew her brows together, her face reddened.
She looked towards the Vizier. “Do we not feed the animals who come to our kitchens, begging?”
Rekhmire, stood back. Never had she interrupted him, countermanding him so forcefully. He was speechless. He opened his mouth, but was silent.
“Are not the people of the desert at least as deserving as wild animals?”
Rekhmire only looked at her, his eyes widening.
She looked at him more directly, into his eyes. “You will cease these kinds of punishments. You will focus on teaching morality.”
She saw fear in the soldiers’ faces. She became aware of her authority over them. Without thinking, she had flexed her power. She looked down at the floor, embarrassed at her loss of control. She slowly sat down again. “Forgive me. I don’t mean to frighten you.”
Rekhmire had never seen his childhood friend as ruler of Sekhem until now. She was strong, powerful, in control.
“We will teach compassion by example. We will teach love, by loving. We will teach respect by respecting.” She looked at the soldiers. They relaxed, looking at her with curiosity. “Instruct the tavern keepers, and restrict your activities to protecting our city from attack.”
Rekhmire bowed his head. She was Matriarch now. He would never again approach her simply as his childhood friend.
Lying on the lounge, with Amun’s arms around her, she felt eager to begin her next mission. She wanted humanity to evolve, to learn how to use the power they inherited. She wanted to help her mother.
Batresh would arrive during the winter of 1977 at St. Louis, a city further north than Tupelo. Amun and Namazu would return to late 1962 to begin fighting the Tlalocs. Between missions, they all hoped to return here again.
To the inhabitants of Sekhem, they had been gone for two days. But, Batresh had been at Mississippi for three months. Amun had been at the United States for 60 years. She understood she would be sent to time periods at which her Matriarch’s mission was most at risk, at times when the boy, Denny, most likely faced death.
She submitted to genetic modifications. She would appear as a different woman, so Denny would not recognize her. Her hair was black, her skin darker.
But, for now, lying on the lounge in her chambers, watching lotus blossoms tremble on the water, all was quiet n this desert paradise.
Amun stirred behind her.