A new series for the blog, in which a number of talented writers and historians are asked to imagine their 'Fantasy Twenty-Four Hours.' I placed no restrictions on time period, place, or format, save that they must go back in time.
I'm delighted that first up is author Diana Wilder. Go with her on a journey down the Nile...
Gather at my feet and listen, O Best Beloved, and I will tell you a tale of the moon and the stars, of the black earth and the red desert, of fish in the river and rivers in the sky, all in the sweet land that is Egypt.
Father Nile journeys north to the Great Green Ocean, passing through the hills and mountains of Nubia, crashing through the cataracts and whirling past the fortresses of Uronarti, of Buhen, of Kumneh and Semna.
Fish swim within his path, birds nest beside him, the crocodile hunt within his bounds and the hippopotami roar in the night. And man travels upon the breast of the Nile, bound north for the wide Green Ocean, or south toward the cataracts and the place of Father Nile's birth. ** ** **
I raised my head from the table and blinked at the notebook beneath me. I hadn’t meant to sleep so late, but it’s hard to stop with words flowing from my pen, mirroring the images in my mind. When scenes fall into place and I suddenly know the point of the story. In this case, the opening.
I sat up and stretched, then pushed back from the table. A torrent of sunlight spilled from the crack under the front door and poured down the hallway. It was strong light, from a closer sun. I set my hand on the latch and opened the door to a dawn that seemed to be set in a younger, somehow brighter world.
I moved out into the sunlight of a garden. Roses and acacias perfumed the breeze; I could see blue water beyond a border of marsh-plants and tall stalks bearing feathery plumes. Papyrus? They could be nothing else with those triangular stems.
I parted them and looked downriver toward the western shore. The morning sun gilded the white cluster of pyramids rising from the plateau. Giza – but new and barely touched by the years.
I heard the cry upstream from me. A ship was riding the river, moving north with the current. I could see the painted eyes of the ship gazing straight at me as a bank of oars emerged from the portholes, dipping and flashing in the water.
Horus of the West, I thought. I had invented her, every beam and sail, every member of her crew. I hurried to the river’s edge, lifting my head in the breeze that shifted the papyrus thickets and tossed the palm fronds overhead.
The ship was approaching quickly now, the oars dipping once more and then raising upright and holding as she drew abreast of me and glided in to the shore.
One of the men on the ship, holding a coil of papyrus rope, saw me. “My Lady!” he shouted.
“Throw me the rope!” I called. “I’ll tie her fast!”
He grinned and obeyed. I belayed it around the palm tree beside me. A gangplank slid to the ground.
I smiled up at the men and women leaning on the top strake of the ship, caught the dark gaze of an older man who wore a necklace of gold. “What is this, Nebamun?” I asked.
The High Priest of Ptah bowed to me. “An excursion to Giza,” he said. “You have described it often enough. It is time to experience it. We have music and good food: cumin-crusted fish, to be broiled when we dock and enjoyed in the shade of the monuments. Would it please you?”
I scanned the faces before me, lifted my head in the breeze that caught the scent of the river, the banks of flowers… The feathery heads of the papyrus thickets bobbed and dipped along the water.
A lady in a simple shift of striped linen bowed to me hand to breast, and straightened. I could see the bow and quiver of arrows at her back. Sitra, I thought. My woman archer…
“Well?” asked Nebamun.
I am dreaming¸ I thought. I smiled at him and lifted my face to the wind. “An excursion to Giza,” I said. “With broiled fish, with fruits…and wine of Inet, perhaps?”
“Most certainly,” said Sitra.
“Let me get dressed!” I said. “Jeans and a jacket are much too hot! It won’t take a minute!” I turned and ran back to the house.
A dream, I thought, closing the door. But such a nice one! And then, I wonder if I will meet a Thirty Cubit Crocodile… He could answer some questions I have regarding the plot…
One never knew with dreams.
Thank you, Diana, for getting the series off to such an evocative start!
Diana grew up all around the United States thanks to the U. S. Navy. She has always loved to weave stories for and about people, and her enjoyment of people-watching led to a love of history that is reflected in her writing.
You can find her on most days at some time or another watching people, playing with her dog, clerking at a cat show or trying to knit with greater or lesser degrees of success. She also does some graphic design work on the side for herself and others.
Find Diana on her Website