The Devourer

19 Oct

How did it come about that Police Investigator Mahu was the first to suspect the existence of a vast scheme of criminal extortion in ancient Egypt?

A number of wealthy families made complaints to his office in Thebes. He was the earliest to see common characteristics in these cases. The center of the fraudulent traps for the innocent was a promise of saving their ba-souls from violent destruction and annihilation in the afterlife that followed death. Fear of being devoured by an evil monster named Ammut drove victims to hand over vast amounts to those claiming they were able to guarantee protection once life was over. The members of the conspiracy would instantly disappear once they had what they wanted. Those who had been fleeced never saw their saviors again.

Mahu considered how he was going to capture such slippery imposters. Only by himself posing as a potential victim would he make the criminals surface. I will present myself as a rich trader who has just retired with a gigantic fortune. It will become known that I fear for the future of my soul because of how I have led my life. Yes, it will become known that I look for my rescue from potential damnation and demonic consumption. Can I entice the scoundrels to come after me?

Transforming himself into a great merchant named Uham, Mahu leased a large, opulent mansion and waited for the expected predators to appear.

One morning, the retired businessman Uham decided that he needed murals painted on the walls of his central room. Asking for recommendations from prosperous neighbors, he came into contact with a gifted artist named Tath.

The willowy painter, tall and bony, has an infectious smile. He made a profound impression on the impersonator from the first moment that they met in the chamber where the wall decoration was planned.

“What is needed here are emblems of divine Horus,” advised Tath. “I always tell clients that good health and well-being will come from images of the curative eye of that benevolent god. His power and influence can project itself from the wadjet eye of Horus throughout the room, upon all four of the walls. This can only bring about good results for you. What do you think, sir?”

Mahu eagerly accepted the proposal of the magnetic Tath. The pair quickly came to befriend each other. Before the painting project came to completion, the artist had succeeded in drawing his patron under his personal spell, giving him ever wider advice.

The two came to have a habit of eating together at midday in the mansion.

“Are you happy with the wadjet images that I have placed about the chamber?” inquired Tath one day.

“Yes, indeed,” replied Mahu. “They make me proud to have on display, and I am certain that their effects will be good for me. I owe all of this to you, my friend.”

“If you allow me, I can provide greater, lasting benefits that soar above that you have so far observed,” mysteriously said the mural painter.

“What do you mean?” asked the intrigued host.

Tath lowered both his head and his voice. He now spoke in a whisper.

“I belong to a closed, private circle of persons who seek the highest spiritual condition for their ba-souls. They aspire to preserving the existence of themselves in the period after death. The aim of our group is the safety of its members’ souls in the underworld.” He stared into the eyes of other man. “The subject is deep and complicated. I believe you might be interested in finding out more. I would be most happy to introduce you to the members of the circle, my friend.”

Mahu sensed the opening of a door with great potential for his investigation.

“Yes,” he responded with enthusiasm. “That is what I myself have long been seeking.”

Was this going to turn out to be what he had long been hunting for?

Following directions, Mahu located the apartment of his new acquaintance in a lower class section of the city. He found five unknown persons there with Tath. The latter stood opposite the others, who were sitting on stools. After introductions were made all around, his friend asked Mahu to take the remaining, empty low stool. Tath then addressed the group in a guarded tone.

“As all of us can see, a new individual is here to participate in our circle. It now becomes the duty of each of us to welcome him into our midst. The hope must be that he decides to attend our future meetings and become fully active in what we are about. That is what I myself pray for.

“Now I shall reveal to him the marvelous results of what we do. A short description of our principles will make clear what direction our thoughts and actions take.

“Early in life, each of us has been taught in general terms what will await us after our death. There shall be a judgment made when the god Thoth weighs the deeds we committed in our lifetime. Was our life one passed in the sphere of justice, right, and order under the rules of the goddess Maat, or was the balance of what we did on the side that is under the control of evil and injustice? Every human being who ever lived has undergone that trial and decision.

“Our parents, teachers, and elders taught us what the penalty for failing the test consists of. Eternal annihilation falls upon the sinner. One will be devoured by the abominable demon named Ammut. This horrid punisher is a hideous monster who eats the entire ba-soul of the person found to be undeserving of continued identity of any sort. Once Ammut has consumed an evil soul, nothing is left, nothing at all. That is the final end of what once existed. The tale is over and ended,there is no more. Nothing can be added.

“As we all know from childhood on, Ammut is a female form with a demonic nature, dwelling in the underworld. When the heart of a human is weighed by Thoth against the feather of truth and justice, the loser surrenders the soul to hungry Ammut. That means that he shall never see Osiris or be reborn with that god. The evil person shall never enjoy the field of peace and happiness where he souls of the just reside forever.

“Ammut is the executor of the last judgment. She is the ultimate, final destroyer. She fulfills the fatal role of Supreme Devourer. Her name must be pronounced with fear and trembling. She has brought destruction to innumerable evil souls.”

Tath, his eyes focused upon Mahu, paused for a time, then revealed an arcane secret.

“There is an ancient secret scroll that only a very few have ever seen. It is called The Book of Salvation. This old writing tells how one can avoid being devoured by Ammut. Those who otherwise would be completely annihilated can thereby save their souls and proceed onward into eternity.

“This scroll contains secret formulas that can secure rescue from the jaws of Ammut. One who learns and uses the miraculous sentences will escape the deadly teeth of the punisher.

“There is, of course, a price for such a method of preservation. My friends and I will spell it out for you later, but these formulas that we have are invaluable and priceless. Nothing can be worth as much.”

As he heard these concluding words, Mahu realized he had uncovered what he had long been after. This was the conspiracy that fleeced the wealthy of their riches. Here was the criminal gang he had gone undercover to locate. The specter of Ammut devouring their souls was the weapon used on victims of the fraudulent entrapment involved.

After several days, an approach for money came, as expected by Mahu.

The mural painter made a surprise visit to the retired merchant going by the name Uham.

“I have good news for you, my dear friend. It has now become possible to accommodate safe passage for your ba-soul through the final judgment that comes after every death. I have with me a copy of the necessary formulas, but there will be a price demanded by the keepers of the temple archives. It may seem to be a high amount that they demand, but that is the only way to win access to them. How else is one to escape the possibility of losing the soul to devouring Ammut?

“Do you think you can quickly amass enough money to obtain your own copy of the scroll?”

“How expensive will it be?” nervously inquired the investigator.

Tath gave the price, astounding the victim with its colossal size. A large fortune was being demanded.

The moment to make an arrest had arrived, decided Mahu.

“I must now inform you that what you have told me today has stepped into the area of illegal extortion and fraudulent claim. It will now be necessary for you to accompany me to the office of police investigation so that the legal authorities can question and then charge you with criminal conspiracy, my friend.”

Grinding his teeth, Tath did as he was told. In absolute shock, he offered no resistance to the orders given by the imposter who had entrapped him.

As the two left the mansion, the mural artist whispered a mumbled threat to his captor. “You will suffer for  doing this to me. Ammut will be eating you soul.”

lthough Tath was executed by hanging for major criminal fraud, that did end things for Mahu.

Walking through Thebes in the evening after several months, the detective thought that he saw something that should not have been there.

On a narrow, empty alley there appeared in front of him a large, ghastly shape that stupefied him at once. It was an entity he did not expect to confront in this life.

The head and face of a crocodile was looking directly at him. This had to be Ammut herself, an inner voice informed Mahu. Long, sharp teeth became visible when the wide mouth opened. Vile liquid dropped from the hungry opening. Crimson eyes bulged with raging fury.

Mahu never imagined he would ever see anything so horrid in this world and lifetime.

Had the demon risen against him on its own, or had it been summoned by vengeful Tath?

As the devourer leaped on him, Mahu realized that the criminals he had captured had been the tools and agents of Ammut herself and not independent illegal operators.

He never had any chance to tell others how the punishing demon had conspired with earthly operators of a criminal enterprise.

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