Serpent Dreams

25 Sep

Ancient Egypt contained students of the more ancient, early buildings and structures of the land. In a sense, they were archeologists. Such an interest in the remains of the distant past fascinated and engaged a wealthy young man named Uny.

Extremely tall and thin, he never told anyone in the locations he visited what his business in their area was. Yet there was always a need for a knowledgable guide in the region. Often the best candidate for that role was a public notary or legal scribe.

Uny thus came to the border of the western desert to inspect the ruins of a temple of  Seker. Asking questions, he was referred to a scribe called Abeth.

The scholar visited the office quarters of the latter, his plan to convince the man to assist him in his search for information concerning the empty, unused relic of early Egypt.

Uny was uncertain how successful and convincing he himself would be.

Abeth was a short, middle-aged figure with sparkling ebony eyes and unusually whitish skin. He greeted the stranger with warmth and sincerity.

“I am amazed that anyone from Thebes is interested in desert ruins as you are,” the scribe smiled.”Tell me, what is it you hope to find or learn?”

Uny decided to hold nothing back.

“My hope is to uncover hidden legends and lore about the ancient beliefs concerning various supernatural beings. There can be no question whatever that much about those subjects has been lost and forgotten. It would be of benefit to know more about the knowledge our ancestors had concerning those creatures. Of that I am completely convinced.”

Abeth widened his grin. “What you say is true, but such investigations of the past must be done cautiously and slowly, for there exist risks that could become most dangerous. ”

“I realize that only a few people in our time give any attention to things that are long past,” solemnly said Uny. “But such matters have come to obsess me. I have dedicated myself to resurrection of what is now gone and departed from our everyday lives. Is it a mad pursuit, perhaps?”

The scribe failed to answer his last question, but made a surprising statement to his visitor.

“Yes, I believe that I can be of assistance to you about the remains of the temple of Seket. You must understand that he was considered the god of death in olden times. We will have to start from that idea. Can you join me tomorrow on a trek out to the desert site, my friend?”

Uny agreed with heartfelt satisfaction, having found a partner for his quest.

The newcomer was exhilarated by the rich variety of giant serpents pictured on the walls of the ruined desert temple.

Abeth pointed out to him the figure of Kata, the head of a human person at each end of the long, sinewy snake form. “Such demonic creatures of Seket dwelled in the underworld. Their task was to feed upon the souls of the dead that were found to be impure. They devour the final shadows of the unworthy dead, who can no longer exist in any way.”

The pair proceeded along the crumbling walls, allowing Uny to see horrid images of numerous serpentine fiends. The guide named the main ones as Sebau, Sa-ta, Nau, Nehebkau, Hau, and Neha-her. It was when they reached the innermost parts of the disintegrating structure that the voice of Abeth fell to a low, muffled tone.

“This was the sanctum with the serpents closest to and most intimate with Seker. They were the terrible guards and warders of the god of death.”

He went on to point out Shemtii with four heads and faces at each of its ends. Then there was depicted Tepi, also having four horrible human heads at its extremities. Last of all, there was the crimson serpent named Ash-hera, a fierce monstrosity that had five human heads at each end of its devilishly long body.

“The shrine of Seker contained the blackest darkness possible for these serpents of death to hide in,” explained Abeth. “This was once the sanctuary of final, eternal destruction.”

Uny kept staring up at the painted images as if under a spell of enchantment.

“I can provide you scrolls that tell the story of how Seker used these reptilian creatures to guard the underworld and destroy the souls of humans judged not to deserve further existence of any kind.”

The young student followed the learned scribe out of the temple ruins as if dreaming.

The sleep of Uny all the following nights was disturbed by visions of what he had seen and read. He was haunted by the fiery shapes of the many-headed snakes: Shemtii, Tepi, and most of all Ash-her. The monsters became part of his slumbering memory.

He would often awaken in the night, his body in a cold, wet sweat.

What is happening to me? he asked each time.

Uny was uncertain whether he should inform Abeth, his guide and mentor, about these spells of nightmare. His decision was to remain quiet, but then it happened one day that the scribe himself spoke of a noticable change in the young man.

“Why have you grown pale?” he asked. “Why is it that you do not eat or have energy any more? Is there something happening to you, my son?”

Uny was compelled to describe the serpent dreams troubling him every night. “What can I do? What is the cause of these horrible night visions?”

Abeth lowered his head, thinking for several moments. When he replied, his voice was hollow and distant.

“Perhaps it is possible to help you with a special medicinal powder that has been known and used for untold ages to protect human beings from the influence of serpents. You see, Uny, the temple and the area immediately around it is still permeated with the hidden scent and spirit of the fiendish snakes. I myself have intimations of them at odd times.

“Will you swallow some protective powder if I obtain it for you?”

Uny agreed to the proposal, seeing no alternative for himself

How was his night going to turn out after taking the powder given to him?
It was hard for Uny to fall asleep, but he eventually lost consciousness and was slumbering. Now would come the test of his condition. Was he to see the monsters once more?

All at once, in a fraction of a moment, the sight of a snake flashed into the young man’s mind. The sleeper suddenly shook, jerking his head from side to side.

It was easy for his night mind to identify what was visible: an Ash-her with five heads on each end. He had viewed this often before, but there was a disturbing dfference now.

The faces turned toward him were familiar, recogizable ones.

They were what he often saw during the day on the head of the scribe called Abeth.

A voice, coming out of the crimson reptile, began to speak in a hard, gravelly sounding tone.

“Do not be startled by the sight before you. Let me show you another such as me, my new dream companion. Look to my right side and see what is now a new dream inhabitant.”

Uny did so, catching sight of a second Ash-her, a double of the first one.

Another, similar five-headed creature faced him.

But this one had all of its faces identical to his own.

Uny trembled in his sleep, experiencing his personal being in the face of an Ash-her with five heads on each of its extremes.

How is he to escape this horror? He sensed how helpless he was, how hopeless his state.

With a last effort of will, Uny awakened himself out of the nightmare. His breathing had turned into rapid panting. His body was covered with the liquid of sweat.

I must go to Abeth at once and awaken him so that explanation can be granted me, he told himself. The terrified youth raised himself and rushed to the tiny cell where the scribe slept every night.

Only after several efforts to awaken his mentor by taking hold and shaking him was it clear what the condition of the little man was.

Abeth was no longer among the living, having moved forward to the underworld of the dead.

How can that be? Uny asked himself.

It had to be connected with his own nightmare.

Had a serpent spirit resided in the small man while he was alive?

Had it now migrated into himself as its new home?

Uny trembled with dread as he contemplated what his future sleep might contain. Dare he enter that terrible condition and all the dangers that it contained?


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