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A CALL TO KISMET
Cheryl Ann Guido
It had been a long, arduous journey through miles and miles of hot desert sands. The bright rays of the sun seemed relentless, continuously scorching delicate skin despite the thick robes and turbans that thoroughly cloaked their bodies. Too many hours had been spent without adequate cover from sudden sandstorms, not to mention that the two travelers were constantly on alert for the snakes, scorpions and poisonous spiders that called the desert home. Still, this was a necessary pilgrimage.
The woman halted her camel and gazed up at the monstrous mountain looming in the distance. Almost there. While she mentally calculated the remaining distance, she noted how the intense shimmering heat caused the sand to appear like a liquid pool as sweltering air danced upon its ripples.
“Do you expect that many people will be there?”
She turned toward her companion who was seated beside her atop his own camel.
“There will be as many as there are.”
Aaron Abelman sighed. The woman slowly rotated her head and focused once again on the mountain. Aaron noted how she sat tall and stoic in the saddle with an unspoken determination he had never seen in all of their ten years together. Akila Abelman had always been the kind of girl who was the life of the party. Everyone loved her and she loved everyone. They had met in college and it was love at first sight. After graduation, it had become clear to him that Akila was the girl he wanted to marry. She said yes and although they had never been blessed with children, their life was happy and full.
One day, all of that changed. She woke up different somehow. Gone was the carefree attitude and the bubbly personality he had come to know and love. Instead, his Akila had become a sort of mystic, speaking cryptically and telling stories of ancients and prophecies. She informed him that they needed to quit their jobs, sell all of their belongings, go to Egypt and travel to this mountain. When he asked her why, all she would say was that it was time.
Aaron feared for his wife’s sanity, however, his love for her was strong. He believed in Akila and decided to take a leap of faith. So, after liquidating all of their possessions, they had flown to Africa and begun the long journey on camel back to the mysterious mountain of which she spoke. He wrapped the reins tightly around his hand and began to urge his animal forward.
“Well, let’s get going then.”
As the desert beasts plodded along the shifting sands, their riders began to see others heading in the same direction. Some rode camels, some were on horseback, and some even advanced toward the mountain in wagons pulled by oxen. They were of all colors, races and cultures, a kind of Noah’s Ark of people all headed toward the mysterious mountain.
Upon reaching their destination, Akila and Aaron climbed off of their camels and joined the crowd that had already gathered. A tall, bearded, brown-skinned man dressed in white robes stood on top of a jutting ledge facing the pilgrims. Once the remainder of travelers arrived, he held up his hands to signal quiet.
“My friends, tomorrow at noon the sun will be directly over the highest peak of the mountain. Rejoice, for our journey is almost at end.”
Miraculously, the man’s words were understood by all. It was as if each of them had been able to telepathically translate the language that he spoke into their own. Aaron did not understand how that was possible. He touched Akila’s shoulder and whispered.
“Who is that guy?”
“I don’t know.”
“You don’t know? What do you mean, you don’t know?”
Akila shrugged her shoulders. Aaron shook his head and snorted. He had placed blind trust in his wife. Together they had embarked upon this mysterious journey, but he was tired and his patience had worn thin. He wanted answers.
“Sweetie, I have done everything you asked up until now. I think it’s time you told me what this is all about.”
Confusion flooded Akila’s eyes. “I can’t. All I can tell you is that I had to come here. I was compelled to come here. It was as if some internal alarm went off inside of me forcing me to follow its directive. It sounds like something is going to happen tomorrow when the sun is over the mountain. I — I have a feeling that it’s something big.”
Aaron rubbed sweat off of both cheeks with the back of his hands and bit his lip.
“Look Akila, I’m done. I love you but I can’t do this. I want to go back to the States and restart my life. I’m leaving, with or without you.”
As Aaron began to gather his things Akila gripped his arm. Her eyes were wide with fear.
“No, please don’t go. If you go, you’ll die!”
Pushing her aside, Aaron stormed over to his camel and began to tie a sack full of clothes to the saddle.
“Die? So, you know that if I leave, I’ll die, but you can’t tell me why I won’t die if I stay? Uh-uhh, not buying it.”
Akila, who stood close behind his back threw her arms around Aaron’s waist, buried her head between his shoulders and hugged tightly in a desperate effort to keep him from climbing up onto the camel. He spun around and faced her.
“Damnit Akila, stop it! Don’t you understand what I gave up to come here, what we gave up? We both quit our jobs. I sold my construction business along with everything else we owned, traveled here on a smelly, stubborn camel through choking sandstorms across a steamy desert that is teaming with all sorts of poisonous creatures, and for what? For something you haven’t got a clue about and to hear some guy tell us our journey, that we know nothing about, is almost at an end? No. I’ve had enough.”
Just then, the white robed man approached the pair. Seeing their heated discourse, he intervened.
“Friends, do not abandon your destiny. The love between you is timeless. Trust and have faith. All will be made clear in time.”
As he finished speaking, the man closed his eyes and touched the tips of his fingers to each of their foreheads. A feeling of extreme elation surged through Aaron and Akila as their breaths slowed and a peaceful calm replaced the fear and anger that had caused the argument. After a moment, he removed his hands, bowed, then disappeared into the crowd.
Aaron shook his head and gulped. “Wow. What just happened? I don’t …”
Akila touched her index finger to his lips silencing him. “Shh. Don’t try to understand it. Just stay one more day, please?”
“Alright, one more day, but if nothing happens, we go home, agreed?”
She nodded. “Agreed.”
As dusk turned to night, the valley below the mountain became lit by the hundreds of campfires belonging to the pilgrims. Tents of all shapes and sizes were erected to house the many people who had come to the mountain in the desert in hopes of revelation and enlightenment. Many of them sat in groups, enjoying tasty regional food along with the strong Egyptian coffee being brewed and shared by those who called the desert home, others were on their knees praying, and some simply sat quietly watching their children as they ran about the camp laughing and playing.
Akila and Aaron had joined a small family whose tent was next to their own. The parents and three children had traveled all the way from Norway. They spoke in their native tongue, however, like earlier, all were able to understand the conversation. And just as Akila could not explain her compulsion to come to this place, neither could they.
As the night wore on, the white-robed man drifted from campfire to campfire speaking words of inspiration and hope. A few of the travelers had become skeptical and posed anxious questions to him just as Aaron had to Akila. But in each case, they were instantly calmed and reassured by his touch.
Akila stood up abruptly and walked over to a small open space nearby. Excusing himself, Aaron left his hosts and joined her. She pulled her shawl tightly around her shoulders as she gazed up into the night sky.
“Isn’t it beautiful?”
Aaron smiled and circled his arm around her waist. “Yes, it is. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many stars before.”
“That’s because we are so far away from civilization. Out here there is no pollution, there are no bright lights, nothing but crystal-clear skies between us and the rest of the universe.”
“Kind of makes you want to just reach out and touch them, doesn’t it,” Aaron sighed.
Without taking her eyes away from the glowing heavenly bodies, Akila smiled and nodded.
“I feel so small, so insignificant compared to them. Yet, seeing them comforts me, almost like I should be up there sailing through the galaxy in a magnificent spaceship.”
“I suppose one day that will be possible.” Aaron hugged her tighter. “But for now, those stars are merely the stuff that dreams are made of.”
Aaron gently separated himself from his wife, then took her by the hand and led her back to their tent.
Brilliant tentacles of orange flames peaked over the horizon as the sun rose and began its daily journey across the sky. Akila removed some dates and two pieces of the flat bread they had been given by one of the travelers. It wasn’t much, but it would fill their bellies. As she stirred the black coffee that was brewing in a little pot, her thoughts turned to the gods of ancient Egypt. She remembered learning about the sun god Ra who was said to travel across the sky each day, then plunge into the underworld at night where he would battle the serpent Apopis. After vanquishing the demon, Ra would be reborn and rise again for the new day, thus beginning another cycle. She imagined that perhaps some ancient Egyptian citizens even stood on this very spot marveling at how the sun rose, sailed through the clouds, then sank into darkness only to return the next morning and repeat the journey. Her thoughts were interrupted by Aaron who sat down beside her and poured himself a small cup of the aromatic coffee. He kissed her cheek.
“Morning, date?” She offered a piece of the dried fruit.
“Nah,” he chuckled, “I already have one.”
Akila laughed heartily. Aaron was pleased. It was the first time she had laughed in many months. Her laughter slowed and she tapped his arm playfully.
“No silly, I meant the fruit.”
“I know.” Aaron tore off a piece of the flat bread and stuffed it inside of his mouth. “But, I’m not a fan, so no, thank you.” His voice was muffled from the food he chewed as he spoke.
“Hey, don’t talk with your mouth full. That’s just rude.”
Akila tried to look stern, but Aaron could see the twinkle in her eyes. He swallowed, then grew serious.
“So, today’s the day. Are you scared?”
She exhaled. “Yes, a little. But there’s no use in worrying. We’ll know what’s going to happen in a few hours.”
They passed the time making their way through the crowd, introducing themselves and chatting. Everyone was a bit uneasy. Finally, it was time to gather at the foot of the mountain. All eyes were focused on the blazing sun which had moved into place directly over the highest peak of elevation. Its brilliance was blinding. In the luminous light a shape slowly became visible then completely blocked out the sun’s radiant form.
The shiny, round, saucer-shaped ship hovered over the top of the mountain. Mouths agape, the crowd watched as a door opened from the spaceship’s side, lowering until it became a ramp that touched the rocky precipice. A stately figure emerged carrying a tall, golden staff. The man was robed in white from shoulders to ankles. On his head, a gold and white striped headcloth flapped out behind his ears. His eyelids were heavily kohled with dark lines that extended from each of the corners, and around his neck he sported a collar made from beads of lapis lazuli, turquoise, rubies and gold. Gauntlets comprised of brown leather inlaid with precious stones wrapped around his wrists, extending into a point on the back of each hand. He took a step forward as he regarded the silent crowd.
“My friends, today is the day of reckoning.” His voice was a deep baritone that echoed across the valley. “Five thousand years ago, we came to this planet and planted the seed of knowledge in hopes that it would grow and bloom. Over the years, we have watched, and although that seed grew, it did not bloom. It was our hope that the people of this world would develop into an advanced civilization who would live in peace and continue to spiritually evolve into higher beings. You, my children, were left behind to nurture and guide its inhabitants who were just beginning. In each of your reborn lives throughout the ages, your mission was to teach the way of good and steer them from the path of evil so that when we returned, we could help them travel beyond their planetary boundaries and begin to explore the remainder of the galaxy and beyond.”
He paused as a look of great sadness came upon him. Akila bit her lip and threaded her fingers between Aaron’s.
“This has not yet come to pass. We feel that Earth’s civilization will never be ready for the next step in their evolution. In fact, they have become a malignant growth in the universe and therefore must be eradicated.”
Horrified, the pilgrims whispered and talked among themselves until the visitor clapped his hands loudly.
“Silence! We have made our decision.”
“But surely, there is hope!”
Everyone turned toward the high-pitched voice. Even Akila was surprised that she had dared to speak out. She took a deep breath and continued.
“Give us another chance to make things right. There is good in this world!”
The alien raised a brow as he eyeballed the young woman. She could feel his mind penetrating her own. Pulling herself up to her full height, she lifted her chin, her jaw set in dogged determination.
“My child, I am puzzled. Why do you plead for them?”
“Because humans are not evil, only misguided. They have progressed. They have learned from past errors. They really do try to right wrongs and make their lives better. Please, let us continue to help them grow.”
He closed his eyes for a few moments then addressed the crowd.
“Very well. I have been in communication with the Council of Ages. They are touched by your faith in the human race and have decided to grant your request. But I caution you, it is your only chance. There will not be another. We will return again in the future for the final day of reckoning.” He raised his staff high in the air as he gazed skyward. “Let this world begin anew and may the gods guide you.” The words echoed throughout the valley as the visitor violently slammed the golden crook onto the ground, and the world instantly plunged into darkness.
Akila sat upon an ornate pillow at the feet of the Pharaoh Djoser. The court was quiet that day and they were just about to retreat into their personal chambers when a guard brought in a prisoner and threw the man onto the floor where he landed with a loud thud.
“This slave tried to escape.”
The young man lifted his head and beheld the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. She stood up, walked over to him and held out her hand. The guard leapt between them and pushed the man’s head back down with his foot.
“Do not attempt to rise, scum!”
The guard paid no attention to the woman and continued crushing the slave’s skull with the sole of his sandal as the Pharaoh rose to his feet.
“You were given a command. Remove your foot, now!”
Reluctantly, the guard did as he was told. Without looking at her, the slave took Akila’s outstretched hand and pulled himself up.
“Why did you run?”
“I was being flogged by the Master Builder.”
Akila circled him, then gently lifted his chin with a finger so she could look directly into his eyes.
“And why was the Master Builder flogging you?”
The worker hung his head. “He wanted me to place some stones without proper anchors. I told him that the wall would crumble. He accused me of daring to think that I know more than he.”
“Ahh, so the Master Builder made a mistake and you tried to tell him how to fix it.”
“And he became angry and flogged you.”
“Yes, My Lady.”
Akila turned to Djoser. “This man has committed no crime, My King. He only sought to correct a structural error in the construction of your pyramid.”
The Pharaoh frowned. “But the Master Builder …”
“Should have listened to him,” she finished his sentence. “You do not want your tomb to crumble and fall to the ground, do you?”
“No, I do not. However, the slaves are well known for causing trouble.”
Akila’s eyes narrowed as she regarded the Pharaoh. “Are they? Perhaps if they were better treated that would not be a problem.”
She exhaled. “O’Wise and Benevolent One, you have been given a great gift, the gift of leadership. Only you have the power to guide your people and help them find the right path. Only you can teach them to do what is right and fair by demonstration of your own actions.”
“What would you have me do, Akila?”
“I submit to you that if the slaves were no longer enslaved, but instead became workers who were well treated, provided with a place to live and food on their tables in exchange for their labor, that they would build your monuments willingly.”
The Pharaoh Djoser turned away. “Are you suggesting that I free the slaves? No, I will not agree to this.”
Akila fell to her knees at Pharaoh’s feet. She knew that the best way to persuade him was to appeal to his vanity.
“My King, you have an opportunity to change the way of things, to set the right course, thus ensuring that you will forever be known as the greatest and most important Pharaoh in all of history.”
Djoser rubbed his chin thoughtfully. “The greatest and most important Pharaoh, eh? Very well. I will consider your suggestion, Akila, and advise you of my decision. However, as a gesture of good faith, I will free this slave and release him to you. Do what you will with him,” Djoser replied as he turned abruptly and exited the throne room.
Akila smiled. There was hope for these humans yet. After dismissing the guard, Akila motioned to the man. “What is your name?”
“I am called Aaron.”
“Walk with me, Aaron. Tell me more about your people … and yourself.”
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