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The Ghost of Akhenaten
a Mushroom eBooks sampler
Copyright © 2001, Moyra Caldecott
Moyra Caldecott has asserted her right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, to be identified as the Author of this work.
First published in United Kingdom in 2001 by Mushroom eBooks.
This Edition published in 2003 by Mushroom eBooks,
an imprint of Mushroom Publishing,
Bath, BA1 4EB, United Kingdom
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of the publisher.
This is a sampler of The Ghost of Akhenaten by Moyra Caldecott. If you enjoy reading these sample chapters and would like to read the rest, you can buy the complete Mushroom eBook edition from the usual bookshops online, or find more details at www.mushroom-ebooks.com.
The Pharaoh Akhenaten reigned in Egypt from c.1353-1335 BC.
He was the son of the powerful Pharaoh Amenhotep III, and succeeded his father as Amenhotep IV. However, early in his reign he changed his name to Akhenaten, indicating that he revered the god Aten instead of Amun. Within a few years he had virtually dismantled the elaborate religious system of ancient Egypt, abolishing the worship of its many gods, demolishing their temples, and dispossessing their priesthoods. He declared the Aten, represented by the Sun’s Disk, the only true god, and himself and his wife, Nefertiti, the sole channels for its influence on earth.
No one knows how he died, but after his sudden death his successors declared his name anathema and everything he had put in place was destroyed. The temples of the other gods were rebuilt and the power of their priesthoods reinstated. His name was removed from the King Lists and it was as though he had never been. It is only in recent years that the persistent curiosity of archaeologists has uncovered his story. The city he built to the glory of his One God was excavated and an archive found that tells us much about his life.
There has been much speculation as to whether he was assassinated by the powerful priests of Amun who had suffered so much during his reign, and more than one source mentions a curse that doomed him to wander as a ghost for the rest of Time as punishment for his heretical deeds.
While I was writing the novel Akhenaten: The Son of the Sun many strange and extraordinary experiences in dreams and through mediums led me to believe in this curse, and after the book was published I came upon someone who claimed to have personally encountered the ghost of Akhenaten in the Egyptian desert. A friend lent me Tombs, Temples and Ancient Art by Joseph and Corrina Lindon Smith, who describe a mysterious encounter they themselves had with the priests of Amun when they tried to set Akhenaten’s soul free from the curse in 1909. The archaeologist Arthur Weidgal who witnessed it also reported the incident.
In response to my novel about Akhenaten I received many letters from around the world claiming to be from reincarnations of Akhenaten or of members of his family. I also received reports of channelled messages from Akhenaten. It seems that whatever happened at his death, and in spite of all the efforts to wipe his name from history, Akhenaten is very much an active force in the world today. The books about him run into many hundreds – from cautious archaeology to wild speculation.
In this novel I hope to tread a path between the two extremes, never losing sight of the fact that there are many different realities.
The Dreams Begin
The man lay on the desert sand, his body twisted and broken.
Dark shapes circled around him like jackals around a lion’s kill.
Deep voices intoned the malevolent words of a curse.
‘This man will not rise again.
This man will not go to the stars.
This man will lie forever in the desert cut off from those who loved him and those whom he loved.
His god will have no access to him.
HIS GOD IS DEAD.’
The sky deepened from the colour of fire to the colour of blood.
One broke off from the circle, crouched and wrote hieroglyphs in the sand – each one reversed.
The chanting continued.
‘May you never enter the barque that glides among the unwearying stars.
May you forget the names of those who guard the seven doors, the fourteen gates, the twenty-one mounds of the Otherworld, and may you never be vindicated in the presence of the forty-two assessors. May your heart weigh heavy against the feather of Maat in the Hall of Osiris, and Ammut, the Devourer of the Dead, feed on it. You have denied the gods of your ancestors, may they in the Everlasting deny you.’
Darkness fell and absorbed the figures of the priests who chanted these fearsome words, as though they were part of the darkness itself.
When the dawn came and the sun rose in a splendour of blue and gold, the man who lay, twisted and broken, alone at the centre of a vast and featureless desert, did not witness it.
* * * *
Eliot rang the bell in shabby Swallow Street and Emma looked around curiously. She had never visited Eliot’s friend Jack before. The place did not look promising. The door paint was peeling and scuffed, the wall grimy, and the beautiful honey-coloured stone almost unrecognisable. The whole street resembled the back of a stage set that no one had time to tidy up before the play started, while just around the corner – the front of the stage – was resplendent with reproduction Roman buildings housing a genuine ancient Roman bathing and temple complex.
At last, a disembodied voice greeted them and a buzz indicated that the door was unlocked. A steep, dark staircase confronted them, and they started to climb. The first indication Emma had that she had not entered the den of some impoverished troglodyte was the shine of leaves caught in sunlight from a skylight high above the landing. From then on the place was a delight.
A life sized Egyptian statue of worm-eaten wood that had once guarded the secret entrance to a tomb in ancient Egypt, stood beside the door to the living room. The statue held a staff that was irreverently draped with Jack’s red winter scarf, and a ski hat graced the forbidding head.
The front room, the living room, was large and light, with a view of chimneys and rooftops.
Emma knew that Jack had inherited money from his father, and many of the precious artefacts in his apartment from his great-grandfather, Ben Wilson, an archaeologist. He was in the enviable position of not having to work too hard at making a living. He fancied himself as a writer, but had never written a book, though he had a drawer full of titles and discarded first chapters. However, he had had some travel articles published and, if anyone asked, he claimed to be a freelance travel writer.
The tomb guardian had been inherited from his great-grandfather, taken out of Egypt, no doubt, before the authorities fully worked out their strategy for preventing heritage artefacts leaving the country. He also had from his great-grandfather an old leather suitcase stuffed full of ancient manuscript fragments on papyrus. He only looked at them when he was showing off to a visitor and had no idea what they were. Since they had come into his possession he had intended to have them deciphered by an expert, but never got around to it. He and his friends enjoyed speculating on their origins and meaning.
Emma stared at his mantelpiece, which was full of ancient Egyptian artefacts – a couple of ushabtis, faience slaves waiting to labour for the deceased in the afterlife, a blue pottery hippopotamus painted with flowering lotus on its sides, and several exquisite stone bowls filled with paper clips and boxes of matches. Most impressive of all were a pair of tiny ancient Egyptian silver statues of gods: Anubis, the jackal headed protector of the necropolis, and Isis, the Queen of Heaven.
On the wall above the mantelpiece was a flat piece of white chalk-like stone with the symbol of the sun painted in thin black lines, each ray ending in the stylised drawing of a hand holding an ankh, the Egyptian sign for eternal life. Something was scrawled under it in hieroglyphs, but the end sign was broken off and so the inscription, whatever it was, was incomplete. Beside it a similar shard of stone was carved in relief. It was of a hand with long, sensitive fingers reaching out to touch something that had been broken off and lost.
The hand had pride of place, mounted so that the best light in the room fell on it.
Eliot and Emma were visiting Jack because they were worried about him. Jack and Eliot had been close friends since Jack visited the United States as a teenager, and had stayed at Eliot’s home as part of an educational exchange programme. They kept up their friendship at long distance until Eliot decided to come to England, to Jack’s home town, to work.
Jack had recently been having disturbing dreams.
The first dream that he told Eliot about had occurred about a month before. In the dream the ancient Egyptian hand seemed to be beckoning, instead of reaching out. He was in a desert among the columns of ruined Egyptian temples. Whenever he looked directly at the figures painted and carved on the columns and walls they were still and lifeless, but as soon as he turned his head away, out of the corner of his eye, he could see them move.
He had lain awake for some time after this dream feeling uneasy, as though he had woken too soon and missed something very important. When he went into the living room his eye went straight to the hand. It appeared as it had always done – inanimate. And yet he sensed a subtle difference.
Eliot had laughed.
‘You really ought to write that novel you’re always talking about,’ he said. ‘Your imagination is getting out of hand!’
‘I didn’t imagine it,’ he had protested. ‘I really felt...’
But already he was not certain how he had felt – and the dreams kept coming.
Some were only made up of the flotsam and jetsam of his ordinary day-to-day life, but others were more disturbing and powerful. He seemed to be recalling, in great detail, people and places in what seemed to be ancient Egypt.
Emma, an ardent New Ager, had pricked up her ears at once when Eliot told her that Jack was having disturbing dreams about ancient Egypt.
Eliot himself had no time for the New Age and had often indulged in jeering at it before he met Emma. She had not converted him or even lessened his scepticism and distaste, but he was prepared to humour her.
Emma paused a long time beside the battered old leather case containing the papyrus manuscripts. Eliot was talking, but Jack was watching Emma. Tentatively she put out her hand and touched the case. She withdrew it at once, but then put it back again and left it there for a long time, frowning in concentration.
‘What is this?’ she asked at last.
‘Oh, that’s a lot of old useless stuff from Egypt – bits and pieces of papyrus no one can read,’ Eliot answered for Jack. ‘I don’t know why he doesn’t just chuck it away or give it to some old museum.’
Emma looked at Jack. ‘It must have come into your possession for a purpose,’ she said. ‘You should have it translated.’
‘The case has been in my family for ages,’ he replied. ‘It contains mostly fragments. I can’t see that any sense could be made of them.’
‘Perhaps one of them would explain your dreams.’
Jack glanced at Eliot crossly. So he had been spreading it around about the dreams!
There was an awkward pause, and Emma moved away from the case. To break the tension she lifted up a small earthenware lamp.
‘This is Roman. Was it found in Bath?’
‘I don’t know. I bought it at the flea market in the old tram sheds in Walcot Street.’
She held it up and turned it over, examining it closely.
‘Perhaps you should rub it,’ Eliot mocked, ‘and a genii will come out and grant your every wish!’
‘What would be your wish?’ Emma asked seriously, holding the lamp up, her hand poised ready to rub it.
Even Jack laughed, and then, because she seemed so earnest and was so beautiful, he said: ‘I’d wish to understand what is going on in my dreams.’
Emma rubbed the lamp.
Nothing happened. Of course!
She put it down and returned thoughtfully to the leather case.
‘I sense very strongly that this is a key to something,’ she said. ‘You really should have the fragments translated.’
Jack crossed the room and opened the case. Inside lay the yellowing scrolls, half worm-eaten, covered in strange markings – writing, but to him indecipherable.
‘They are powerful,’ she said. ‘I’m not surprised you have strange dreams!’
He frowned, shutting the case. He had been finding his attention drawn to it more and more recently. In several of the dreams he had about Egypt it seemed as though someone was calling him, urgently, as though there was some danger. He had the feeling he was expected to do something he did not want to do.
If he had a second chance to wish on the Roman lamp he would wish for the dreams to go away, not for him to understand them.
‘Aren’t you going to offer us a drink?’ Eliot asked, impatient with what he would term a ‘spooky’ turn to the conversation.
Jack left the room at once.
‘You were supposed to be trying to help him,’ Eliot said accusingly. ‘Not freak him out even more.’
Emma moved reluctantly away from the case.
When Jack returned with three glasses and a bottle of wine, she told him she knew someone in Glastonbury who might be able to interpret his dreams for him.
‘She might even be able to give you a past life reading,’ she added.
Jack shrugged. He was uneasy that they were having this conversation about something so personal, and was not about to expose himself further to a total stranger. He knew enough about Freud to be very wary of letting anyone loose on his inner motivations. Who knew what an ‘expert’ would make of what happened to him at night in the privacy of his subconscious!
No. Emma was well meaning, but he needed no witch at Glastonbury to analyse him. He was irritated with Eliot for dragging her into it, and wished he had told his friend nothing about the strange events he was experiencing in the ‘twilight zone’.
Luckily Emma did not press the point, and the conversation turned to what Eliot had been doing since he last saw him. It seemed he might go to Chile soon to attend the wedding of his sister to a rich rancher.
Emma sat quietly, cross-legged on a cushion on the floor, and seemed removed from the conversation. Jack glanced at her frequently and saw that she was gazing at his Egyptian treasures intently. Eliot was lucky, he thought. Her hair was brown and long but shining like fire in the sunlight that had now suddenly broken through the rain clouds. Her eyes were deeply grey, her lashes long. She wore a tight jumper that did not meet her jeans, and had kicked off her sodden shoes to reveal beautifully shaped feet. The wine glass was on the floor in front of her and she was meditatively drawing her finger around the rim, listening for the high, fine sound she hoped it would make.
Eliot’s voice seemed further and further away. Jack felt he and Emma were alone in the room. The sound started on the glass and it seemed to him it was a thread drawing him away, like the voice calling in his dreams.
He struggled to free himself from the web he felt tightening around him, and turned his eyes to Eliot – good, solid, down-to-earth Eliot.
* * * *
That night he dreamed again.
‘Will this exile never end ...will there be no pity ...
Other men have failed, but their punishment has had a season and then it has passed and gone, and they have sailed the golden barque among the stars...
I reach up ... I cry ... but even the God I have served so faithfully has deserted me ... Ai-i ... Ai-i...’
The voice was in the wind that wailed over the desert dunes, lifting the sand like fog around the bleak and lonely figure.
Jack in his bed reached out his arms, but he could not touch him.
When he woke he found that tears were streaming down his cheeks.
* * * *
He dressed and went out. He walked by the river and stared at it long and hard. The water rushing over the curved weir almost mesmerized him, but not quite. He could hear the early rush hour traffic building up behind him, the coaches with their air brakes breathing heavily as they stopped for the lights. The covered market was already busy and bustling. A lone canoe came into sight, but turned and left before the rough white water of the weir. Along the far bank, downstream, the houseboats sent up little signals of smoke as their inhabitants boiled water for their morning coffee. The rugby field on the other side lay silent, wet with dew, and beyond it the wooded hills rose, holding the town, nesting, between them.
At last he walked away, hands in pockets, head down. He could not go on living like this. He had to know the meaning of those dreams.
He found a phone box and dialled Eliot’s number. Emma answered. He invited himself to breakfast and put the phone down before she could demur.
When he arrived Eliot was about to leave for work in smart suit and impeccable tie. Emma was still in her dressing gown with her hair tangled and unbrushed. He scarcely noticed how lovely she looked.
‘You know that interpreter of dreams in Glastonbury you mentioned?’ he said. ‘I’ve decided. There’s nothing for it. I have to see her.’
‘She’s away for a few days,’ Emma said. ‘Have some camomile tea.’
He was disappointed. Having made the decision, he was impatient to get started.
‘You look terrible,’ Eliot said cheerfully, slapping him on the shoulder. ‘Give him some strong coffee Emma. He needs it.’
Emma looked as though she might argue, but gave in and poured him a strong black coffee. He sipped it distractedly.
‘I’ve got to go,’ Eliot said. ‘Emma will set you right.’ And he leaned down and kissed her as he left.
‘Ciao!’ he called at the door and was gone.
Emma looked at Jack thoughtfully.
‘Sit down,’ she said. ‘Have some fruit. You look unhealthy.’
‘I feel unhealthy,’ he said. ‘I think I’m going mad. Half the time I don’t know whether I am dreaming when I’m asleep or dreaming when I’m awake. Which is the reality?’
She laughed. ‘Probably both,’ she said.
‘I dread going to sleep. Or rather...’ He hesitated. ‘I both dread and long for it.’ He began to pace, frowning.
‘Sit down, for heaven’s sake; you’re making me dizzy! Have an apple while I go and get dressed. Calm yourself.’
Jack sat down and poured himself another strong coffee.
He tapped his fingers on the table while she was gone, thinking of Egypt. He had been there only once, briefly, and only to Cairo – busy, noisy Cairo which gave no hint of its ancient past. He had not even been to the Museum there. He was writing an article on its restaurants and hotels and he had felt no urge to sample anything else. Islamic Cairo had been visible with its mosques and the way the men washed and prayed so often in the day, but the Egypt of the Pharaohs was another country. He had promised himself he would visit it one day, but that day had not yet come.
When Emma returned they talked about his sudden impatience to have the dreams interpreted, and the fact that the woman she knew in Glastonbury was not yet available.
‘I have a friend here who might be able to help you,’ she said. ‘She isn’t a professional past-life reader and she won’t even admit to being a psychic, but she has visited Egypt many times and some pretty strange things have happened to her!’
‘I’m not sure that I want to spread it around that I’m going crazy,’ Jack said cautiously. ‘A professional is one thing...’
‘Believe me, she won’t spread it around.’
He looked doubtful.
‘It’s worth a shot,’ she urged. ‘If you don’t feel comfortable with her you don’t need to tell her anything. We’ll just visit. I often do. I enjoy her company. And her house is even more cluttered than yours with beautiful and interesting things to look at.’
Eventually he agreed, and she rang Mary Brown. She could see them that very day.
* * * *
They drove almost to the southern limits of the city before they stopped at a house half hidden behind a high shaggy privet hedge in urgent need of cutting. The gate was tall and solidly panelled with grey and splintering wood, so they could see nothing of the garden until they opened it and stepped inside. Jack almost gasped. It was a tangle of wonderful plants and colours. Oriental poppies gleamed and shone in the sunlight. Peonies leant untidily against the hedge in brilliant crimson. There did not seem an inch that was not burgeoning and blooming. When the gate shut behind them, they were in a magical and private place – a miniature nature reserve in the city.
Emma rang the bell and while they waited Jack gazed into the conservatory, which was a jungle of exotic plants that he recognised from his travels abroad – bougainvillea and plumbago, hibiscus and lemon, a ten-foot tall Egyptian papyrus plant and several African aloes.
Through the glass door he saw Mary approaching. She was an old lady leaning heavily on two sticks.
She greeted Emma warmly and ushered them into her home. In the small front room two of the walls were lined with books up to the ceiling. The other walls were covered with real pictures – not prints. The windows glowed and gleamed with the vibrant colours of stained glass.
If his own home was deceptive from the outside, hers was even more so. He had passed down this road many times and never thought that the people who lived there might be like this.
She offered tea and while she was away in the kitchen Emma showed him round, pointing out that the pictures were all painted by members of her family; the blown glass was made by her son-in-law, and the stained glass in the windows was by Mary herself. She showed him the books Mary had written and the extensive library she kept for research.
‘Everything in this room has personal significance,’ Emma said enthusiastically. ‘That is why it feels so good. I knew you would like it!’ she added triumphantly, reading his face.
‘You wouldn’t think such an old woman would...’ Jack began, but stopped at once when she came back into the room.
‘It’s my disguise,’ she said. ‘We all use disguises to hide the fact that we are eternal beings on a journey through the universe! Yours is of a rather feckless young man intent on nothing but a good time.’
‘I may have used that disguise once, but not any more,’ Jack said. ‘Things have changed a lot lately.’
‘Which is why Emma has brought you to me. Do you have milk and sugar?’
He nodded and there was a pause while milk and sugar were dispensed and biscuits offered. He was impatient to get to the crux of his visit and would gladly have forgone the tea and biscuits. But Mary seemed intent on playing out the little ritual, as though it had some importance.
‘Perhaps she holds to these little ordinary things to keep her sane,’ he thought, feeling that in her presence he could very easily leave this reality behind and swing off into unknown realms.
Emma smiled at him, amused, as though she sensed his impatience.
He tried to be patient.
At last the cups were put away, Emma carrying them through to the kitchen.
He met Mary’s eyes expectantly.
‘Tell me about your dreams,’ she said.
The floodgates burst open and out came the torrent.
She heard how he had never been particularly interested in Egyptian history, but now almost every night he seemed to be in ancient Egypt. She sat with her hands folded in her lap, listening and waiting. Emma held her breath. She began to feel a strangeness growing in the room as though the world outside had ceased to exist.
‘I can never make the dreams come,’ he said, ‘and they rarely come in sequence. They seem to be scattered fragments of another life I am beginning to think I once had, and yet I don’t believe in reincarnation.’
Emma spoke for the first time.
‘His apartment is full of things from Egypt left to him by his great-grandfather.’
Mary’s eyes flicked over to Emma when she spoke, and then back to Jack.
And then she stood up and limped across the room. She pulled out a book of astronomy and handed it to him without a word. Puzzled, he turned the pages. The most wonderful photographs of the universe he had ever seen were there, taken through the most advanced telescopes, some based on satellites above the earth’s pollution. The whole magnificent panoply of what surrounded us in outer space, but which could not be seen with the naked eye, filled him with awe.
‘Take this picture,’ she said, pointing. ‘All these stars look as though they are clustered together, yet what we are seeing is actually an illusion. Our experience of them is simultaneous, yet they are separated from each other by millions of years.’
He studied the picture carefully. He could see no difference between them.
She watched his reaction.
‘Do you understand what I am trying to say?’
He hesitated. He was not sure. Something was glimmering at the back of his mind, but he could not bring it into focus.
‘There is a sense in which we experience events as simultaneous, although they are in fact separated in time by millennia,’ she said. ‘Our minds are skilled beyond belief at surfing the ocean of consciousness in which we have our being.’ She paused. ‘Everything that has ever been is still present, though we may not be aware of it because it is in a form usually inaccessible to us. Some call it the Akashic records, but perhaps we should not use the word “records” because it suggests something inanimate, stored on shelves, gathering dust. The Akashic is rather an imprint from life in dynamic motion, interacting, interrelating, influencing. Eternal and yet ever present...’
Jack struggled to come to terms with what she had just said.
‘We are just part of the choreography of that universe,’ she continued, indicating the pictures once more. ‘We are, it is true, hurtling through space on the surface of a very small planet, but our consciousness is free of time and space. You can experience ancient Egypt as though it is present in your life now because you can see the bigger picture where everything that has ever happened still exists in some form. You are in a sense seeing two stars separated by millions of light years, simultaneously...’
‘Whew!’ Jack laughed nervously. He needed to think about this. The unfamiliar ideas were crowding in too fast.
After a long pause when each sat wrapped in their own thoughts, Jack spoke again.
‘You mean you don’t think I actually lived in ancient Egypt, but am just picking up impressions floating around?’
‘But why does he just pick up those impressions?’ Emma asked. ‘Why are we not continually bombarded by all sorts of things so that we don’t know what is now and what is not?’
‘Because we could not live like that,’ Mary said. ‘We have filters. We have screens to protect us. When you walk down a street you don’t notice everything that is there. A baby in a pram might notice only the dogs and the other babies. A gardener might notice only the gardens. A young girl the clothes in the shops ... a young man the cars ... Not one of us sees everything. Only occasionally we focus on one or two of the host of impressions that are with us all the time. When we are in a relaxed state, sleeping for instance, we may lower our screens, and extend our range.’
‘But why do I feel that I am personally in ancient Egypt experiencing those things?’
Mary shook her head. ‘You must not think I am claiming to know for sure everything about the nature of reality. No one does. But I see no reason why we can’t access the past, because it is part of the universal consciousness, and we are part of that. Even in the physical universe nothing is ever destroyed, but only changes form.’
Jack had heard that every cell in the body changes every seven years. If this was so, he could not be the person born to his mother – yet he knew that he was. Something continued through all the physical changes, something that was not physical. This non-physical element could be in touch with a non-physical universe.
‘The ancient Egyptians believed that the human being is made up of nine parts, or aspects,’ Mary continued. ‘I understand the Khu, or Akh, as the Spirit, the original and eternal Being of a person. The pharaoh Akhenaten incorporated that word into his name to indicate that he, as eternal spirit, was in touch with his god, the Aten. In ancient Egyptian iconography it is represented by the sacred crested ibis, a bird whose feathers are iridescent. Through it we are in touch with Eternity, for Eternity is where it actually dwells. It only temporarily overlaps, as it were, with this world, while we are in the body. By becoming conscious of the Akh we can communicate mystically with what is normally beyond our comprehension.
‘The Ba, or soul, is more local to oneself as a personality formed in time. It is represented aptly by a migrating bird, a stork, standing beside a pot with a flame burning brightly, or, perhaps more frequently, by a human headed bird. This Ba is judged after the death of the body. If its thoughts and actions in life can balance against Maat, the ultimate arbiter of truth and justice, it could pass on to rejoin the Akh, or eternal spirit. If it is judged not to be ready and has failed in some way to satisfy Maat, the ancient Egyptians believed it had to return to earth and try again as a reincarnated being, or, in some extreme cases, be flung back into the void where it ceased to have any individuality at all.
‘The third aspect of the non-material part of us was named the Ka, this was represented by two upraised arms. It seems it was thought of as being much more earthbound than the spirit or the soul. It may be what sometimes appears to us as a ghost, or helps us in invisible form as our guiding spirit. In the tomb, a false door was placed for its convenience so that it could pass in and out of this world after the death of the physical body. Food and drink were left for it, sometimes in a literal sense, but mostly in picture form. The ancient Egyptians had much more of a sense of the vital essence, the life, of a thing, not only residing in its material form, but in the idea of it. We might call the Ka the astral body – but that would not be totally accurate.’
‘What on earth is the astral body?’ Jack asked, groaning inwardly at all this mumbo-jumbo.
Mary laughed and threw up her hands. Where to begin!
Emma helped her out.
‘We also believe our physical bodies are not all there is of us. The astral body is a sort of invisible envelope around us while we are in this world, operating on a different vibrational wavelength to the physical or the spiritual, but nevertheless connecting the two. Healers can sense it and use it for diagnosing and healing what is wrong with us. When people have out-of-body experiences it is usually believed that it is this astral or etheric body that detaches itself from the physical, floats away and observes the physical from a distance. This could happen during the shock of a near death experience, or under the influence of drugs. A friend of mine experienced astral travel under morphine during the long labour to deliver her first child. I have experienced it, without drugs, unexpectedly. There are stories of saints experiencing it in states of high mystical ecstasy, and Eastern holy men inducing it deliberately by practising certain esoteric disciplines.’
‘The other six aspects the ancient Egyptians believed in are easier to comprehend,’ Mary said, laughing.
‘I’m glad to hear it!’ Jack said thankfully.
‘The Name had special significance because it was the one thing that held all these disparate elements together in the minds of others, identifying an individual. The Heart represents the motives, the will of the individual. The Shadow we might call the sub-conscious; the Double, the template given at birth to guide the individual into what it should become.’
‘You mean like that story, “The Portrait of Dorian Gray”,’ Jack asked, ‘where the portrait kept in the attic changes throughout the man’s life into a hideous monster to reveal at last what he is really like, as opposed to what he pretends to be?’
‘Well, that would be the principle working the opposite way! But it just shows how these ancient beliefs are still part of our culture, though we may distort them or deny them.’
‘I have seen Egyptian images of a potter god fashioning newborn twins on a potters wheel,’ Jack said.
‘Not twins,’ Mary corrected him, ‘but the newborn and its Double. Some Christians believe one’s guardian angel is assigned to one at birth. Perhaps this is what the Double is – not just a template which holds the image of us as we ought to be, but someone who helps us to fulfil that potential.’
But Jack had had enough. He was becoming confused and uneasy. He felt that the ground that had always seemed so firm and solid under his feet was shifting and dissolving. He needed to get away.
He stood up.
Emma seemed surprised.
‘Are we going?’
‘Yes, I have another appointment,’ he lied.
Mary smiled and stood up at once, leaning on her stick. She knew he was running away, but she knew also that he would be back.
‘But we haven’t told Mary about the papyrus fragments you have,’ Emma cried. They had been uppermost in her mind when she had arranged the meeting. She knew that Mary had studied hieroglyphics at evening classes, and, although she was no expert, she might have been able to decipher enough to tell them if they were worth getting properly translated.
Mary shook her head.
‘Another time,’ she said. ‘We must not make Jack late for his appointment.’
He could see that she did not believe that he had an appointment, but she spoke in a way that suggested she might know of an appointment that he did not yet know he had.
They left, Jack not looking back. Emma turned at the gate to wave at the old lady still smiling in the doorway.
* * * *
That night he dreamed again. Was this the appointment he had to keep?
He found himself walking in a beautiful garden, but one unlike any he had seen in England. The trees were tamarisk and sycamore fig, with tall palms against the perimeter walls, bushes scarlet with pomegranate flowers, and lilies everywhere. The sun was low in the sky but still blazing hot.
He turned a corner and found himself looking at a rectangular pool lined with flowering shrubs. On the water a variety of water lilies rested – an exquisite waxy blue the most common. At the far side, a lotus raised its long stalk and held up a luminous white flower in the fragrant air. He glanced down at his feet and was surprised to see his legs were bare and he was wearing a pair of flimsy sandals. A white linen kilt was fastened around his waist.
A slight sound made him lift his head.
On the far side, just emerging from a leafy avenue, was a woman. He caught his breath. He had no doubt now where he was. He had seen paintings of ancient Egyptian gardens and women dressed in that way, finely pleated, almost transparent fabric revealing every curve. As she paused beside the pool, the sunlight, shining through the leaves, flickered over her, turning her skin to gold and black like a leopard’s...
‘Ah, but she is beautiful,’ he thought.
‘Will she turn? Will she see me standing here ... waiting?’
‘Will her eyes – deep as the Great Green Ocean – look into mine and smile?’
There have not been many smiles lately.
She will turn to me, but her eyes will be cold and sad... Will I ever bring back the light to them?
Soon after the visit to Mary Brown, Emma set up an appointment with Denise, the dream-interpreter and past-life reader she knew in Glastonbury.
As they sped along the road in his red sports car they hardly spoke a word to each other. They had not met since the visit to Mary, but Emma knew that Jack had been dissatisfied with what she had said. He did not want to find that he was only in touch with a vague ‘sea of events’ preserved in some unspecified way outside time. He, who would never have given mind-space to the possibility of reincarnation before, now wanted it to be true. The dreams were so vivid he had begun to believe they were memories, and wanted more than anything else to have a clear storyline from ancient Egypt with himself as protagonist. He pressed Emma to make the appointment with Denise in spite of his former resistance to the meeting.
Emma glanced at him sideways and a strand of hair blew across her face. He was staring straight ahead, driving too fast. When she looked back at the road she found that they were approaching her favourite stretch of the route.
They were on the crest of a hill and were looking down on a wide vista of what had once been low-lying marshland punctuated by islands. Glastonbury Tor, an extraordinary hill, rose high above the flat farmland, crowned by an abandoned church tower.
Emma could see that Jack was impressed with the distant view of the Tor, but was anxious to keep his appointment, and did not slow down.
‘I don’t wonder there are so many legends about Glastonbury,’ Emma said. ‘From this distance it looks such a magical place – and when it was an island rising above the marshes with the mist swirling among the reeds below it, it would have been easy to imagine it as the gateway to the Otherworld. I can almost see the mighty figure of Gwynn ab Nudd greeting the souls of the Celtic Dead as they are ferried across the waters and through the mist...’
She stopped speaking, dreaming of a later time when Glastonbury was thought to be King Arthur’s Avalon. She imagined Arthur and his knights riding out in search of the Holy Grail, when, according to another legend, the sacred chalice was lying hidden nearby all the time, placed in the well at the foot of the Tor by Joseph of Arimathea after the crucifixion. She dreamed of Merlin weaving his spells and teaching his Druidic wisdom ... of Guinevere meeting her lover... She wondered if the monks had indeed found the grave of Arthur and Guinevere in 1190 as they claimed, re-interring their bodies before the High Altar in the Abbey.
The road dipped and the Tor disappeared. They were coming down the long slope of the hill towards the town of Wells. They passed through a green tunnel where the trees on either side knit their canopies together, to emerge where houses lined the road, and Jack had to slow down for buses and cars. The great Cathedral of Wells rose impressively before them.
‘This must have been how Glastonbury Abbey once looked,’ Emma thought, and decided she preferred the romantic ruin to the busy building with coach loads of tourists crawling all around it like ants. The architecture of Wells Cathedral was certainly grand, but her favourite thing was a tiny panel on one of the walls inside that Mary Brown had once pointed out to her. It was a relief carving of the Ascension of Christ to Heaven – a group of astonished people were gathered on the ground staring upwards to where a pair of feet comically disappeared into a cloud!
She would have liked to show it to Jack, but she was not sure he would be willing to stop. There was something of awkwardness in their friendship. She was, after all, his best friend’s lover, and although Eliot seemed happy enough for her to help him with the mysterious dreams, she did not know how he would react if they seemed to be getting too friendly. Jack himself seemed obsessed with solving the puzzle of his dreams and, although she caught him looking at her occasionally in a way that might have worried Eliot, he glanced away at once when her eyes met his, and kept the conversation strictly to the matter in hand.
Emma always felt she was entering a special realm when she entered Glastonbury. Not only did it resonate with its extraordinary history, but also the contemporary scene itself was like nowhere else she had ever encountered.
Eliot was cynical about Glastonbury. He claimed that it was all sham and fake. He hated the vegetarian cafes, the shops that sold crystals at exorbitant prices just because they were supposed to be impregnated with healing energies. He hated the women who had substituted one gender of an impossible god for another, and the statues of gross fat women purporting to be images of the Earth Goddess. But most of all he hated the ragged unemployed who hung about the streets like hippies left over from the sixties, with matted hair, ear-rings and dogs on leads of frayed string.
Emma saw it as an exciting mix of many different cultures. The farmers used it as a market town. The Christians earnestly paraded through the streets with crosses and candles on certain days of the church calendar. Then there were the New Agers who built invisible temples and walked an invisible maze on the Tor, who had rituals they believed dated back to ancient times. Shops sold Christian icons beside images of pagan gods and goddesses, magnificent reproductions of Medieval and Renaissance archangels beside impossibly fey paintings of tree devas and angels looking like winged Barbie dolls. And on every notice board were advertisements promising alternative and complementary healing.
Emma believed that there were genuine seekers after enlightenment there, and inexplicable miracles of healing. She claimed that for every charlatan overcharging for bogus alternative healing there was one who was truly in touch with the spiritual dimension that brings wholeness to the fractured psyche. She believed that tucked away among the bookshelves in shops and libraries housing so many superficial panaceas for the ills of the world, there were genuine gems of wisdom that could change your life for the better and divert the world from destruction.
* * * *
The trees surrounding the house of Denise, the Psychic, were hung with wind chimes. Jack and Emma approached the front door setting off a discreet and delicate cacophony of fairy sound. Huge white roses brushed against them, and white doves circled above their heads.
Jack took hold of Emma’s elbow.
‘Let’s go,’ he whispered urgently. ‘I don’t want to do this.’
‘We can’t go back now,’ she replied, shaking her arm free of his clutch. ‘She probably knows we’re here.’
‘I don’t care.’
He turned to go, but the door opened and a woman in a flowing robe stood squarely in the doorway.
‘Welcome!’ she cried in a voice that could not be disobeyed.
Like a child caught in a naughty act, he turned and stood before her. He scarcely heard Emma introducing them.
She had pitch-black hair flowing almost to her waist, and a huge Egyptian ankh studded with semi-precious stones rising and falling on her ample bosom.
‘Come!’ she said, and reached out her bejewelled hands to him.
He stepped meekly forward and entered the house.
Surrounded by portraits of her spirit guides – whispy Tibetans, stern ancient Egyptians and one magnificent Amerindian in full feathered head-dress – he was offered herbal tea, and sat, sipping it out of a bone china cup, as Emma and Denise talked.
Emma had promised she would not tell Denise any details about his dreams, but just that he needed a past life reading to see if they had any relevance to his present life. He wanted to see what she could pick up psychically.
He soon felt uneasy under the stare of the disembodied beings she believed communicated with her. Emma and Mary seemed to be unperturbed by the belief that they were surrounded by invisible beings of various species and orders – some the dead who chose to return to try to help the living, others who had never lived on earth yet interacted with it in a dynamic way... Had not Abraham been visited by angels, and Paul heard voices on the road to Damascus? But what if Denise’s voices were mischievous or ignorant? Enlightenment might not come as an automatic result of dying, but have to be won by passing further trials and tests in the Afterlife.
After tea Denise told Emma to stay where she was and took Jack alone into her inner sanctuary, a small room resplendent with crystals. A candle burned inside a giant half geode of amethyst. There was no furniture, only a rich Indian rug on the floor.
She indicated that he should sit, and he sat, cross-legged, in front of her. A narrow arched window was the only daylight source. The sun was shining directly through it, illuminating with unearthly beauty one huge quartz crystal ball on a silver stand close in front her.
He was feeling extremely nervous and not a little resentful. Emma had not prepared him for the weirdness of everything in this house.
‘I don’t want to be here!’ he thought.
He was just about to rise and leave when she started to speak, and the power of her voice gave him pause. Like a wild animal held transfixed by the headlights of a car, he stayed where he was.
‘Don’t be afraid,’ she said. ‘You are held in the heart of Spirit. No harm will come to you.’
Out of nowhere soft music started to pervade the room.
‘Listen to the music. Relax. Stop fighting.’
He shut his eyes and tried to accept what was happening. Emma had been so sure that Denise would be able to help him.
‘I have come all this way, I might as well give it a try,’ he decided. ‘But as soon as I feel her taking over my mind, I’ll leave!’
She had started intoning strange sounding words, and at first he let the sound wash over him, but then, when the power of her voice became almost unbearable, he opened his eyes, alarmed.
Her appearance seemed to have changed. Her pale blue eyes were dark and unfathomable. There was a kind of beauty about her he had not noticed before. The voice that he heard seemed not to be her own.
‘Oh God!’ he thought. ‘She has gone into trance!’
But he was now too curious to leave.
She claimed to be Isis, the Great Goddess of the Two Lands.
‘Egypt!’ he thought. Had Emma disobeyed him and told her more than he had wanted to tell her?
‘You have come to ask a question. Ask it, my child.’
He hesitated. If she was indeed the Goddess Isis surely she should know without being told what his question was. Those dark eyes certainly seemed to be gazing into his very soul! He must be careful what he said out loud if he wanted to test if she was really who she said she was.
‘I am having strange dreams. I wanted to know the meaning...’
‘Let your mind form images,’ she commanded.
‘Of the dreams?’ he asked.
‘You are resisting – fighting against yourself. You don’t want to know what they are trying to tell you. Stop fighting ... let your mind drift... It will take you where you need to go.’
‘I would rather be guided by you.’
‘If the answer comes from me, you will not believe it. You have to find the answer yourself. Drift ... let images come ... first the water will be muddy from the tap ... then it will run pure...’
It crossed his mind that an ancient Egyptian would not know about taps.
‘I am not in ancient Egypt now,’ she said in answer to his thought.
He sat up straight. He would try to do what she said but the images that floated like smoke through his mind were at first of the landscape he and Emma had just driven through ... then Mary Brown’s room with all the glass gleaming in the sunlight... He even saw an image of his old school playground. But gradually other images came ... ships tossed on a stormy sea ... a Roman villa in a Roman town ... the columns of an Egyptian temple ... the carving of the Egyptian hand in his room in Bath ... the graffiti of the sun with all the rays ending in little hands ... a man and women raising their arms in adoration to it...
She listened impassively as he talked on, warming to his theme, having no idea if he was remembering things or just imagining them...
At last she raised her hand and stopped the flow.
‘You have had many lives,’ she said in that strange voice. ‘But the one you are describing now is the one that troubles you most.’
He was puzzled. It did not seem to him that he was describing a life, but the objects in his room and drifting images they evoked.
‘I sense you are holding back because you are afraid of the truth. The sun’s rays ending in hands is the symbol of Akhenaten, the symbol of his God. The hand you describe is the hand of Akhenaten reaching out to his God. You have something in your possession that proves to you who you are.’
‘But...’ Jack started, and then lapsed into silence.
He felt very strange as though he was standing at the edge of a precipice about to be pushed over.
Was she implying that he had been Akhenaten in a past life?
‘You cannot avoid your destiny,’ she said. ‘The more you try to do so, the more it will pursue you.’
‘What is my destiny? I’m not trying to avoid it. I just don’t know what it is.’
He began to feel angry. He was to pay a hundred pounds for this ‘reading’ and so far he had done all the work and was nowhere nearer enlightenment.
‘Will you tell me who I am, and why I am having these dreams about Egypt?’ She must have heard the impatience in his voice, but she took no notice.
‘Does the hand on your wall feel like your own hand?’ she asked.
‘Yes,’ he said at once without thinking. ‘No. I don’t know. It is an old fragment of sculpture, of course it can’t be my hand! In the dreams it beckons me as though it belongs to someone else. But sometimes I have felt it is mine...’
She smiled pointedly.
‘Are you implying that I was Akhenaten in a past life?’ he demanded angrily.
If she did not give him a straight answer now he would get up and leave, strange feelings or no strange feelings!
‘Do you think you were Akhenaten?’ She asked.
He had been to a psychiatrist once who had persisted in asking questions and giving him no answers. He was annoyed then, and he was annoyed now. With an exclamation of disgust he rose to his feet and strode out of the room, slamming the door behind him. A hundred tinkling mobiles moved and spun.
Emma looked up, startled, from the book she had been reading.
‘Let’s go!’ he snapped. He put his hand into his wallet and pulled out two fifty-pound notes and flung them on the coffee table. One missed and fluttered to the floor. He did not wait to pick it up but made for the outer door without a backward glance.
Emma looked anxiously back at the door he had just slammed, but hesitated only a moment before she followed him out of the house.
‘What’s the matter?’ she asked as he furiously started up the engine.
‘Nothing!’ he snapped. ‘A waste of time. I don’t know why I let you talk me into it!’
Emma gritted her teeth and prayed to her Guardian Angels for protection as they hit the road much too fast.
The Tomb Guardian
Several weeks passed in which Jack resisted any discussion on the matter with Emma. He tried to get his life back as it had been before the dreams started. He went drinking with Eliot and his other friends and treated Emma, when she was in their company, like a stranger, except when he made barbed jokes about the New Age, which she interpreted as criticisms of herself.
At first she was hurt and upset by his treatment of her, and then began to resent it. By the time he was ready to ask her help again she did not want anything to do with him, and told Eliot that if he wanted to see Jack he would have to see him alone.
Jack made sure he drank so much he fell into bed in a stupor most nights, and if he had any nocturnal adventures, he certainly could not remember them in the morning. He was just beginning to believe he had imagined the whole thing, when, one night, he inadvertently went to bed without drinking, and he dreamed one of ‘those’ dreams again.
He found himself in a vast desert, featureless to every horizon. The feeling of loneliness and aloneness was overwhelming. The sun was directly overhead, casting no shadow. He had no idea whether he was facing north, south, east or west.
He was near to despair when he spotted a tiny smudge on one horizon, which steadily manifested itself as a figure walking towards him. He was greatly relieved. Rescue was at hand.
But when the figure was near enough to distinguish, he was startled to see that it was the figure of the tomb guardian he had in his apartment – worm-eaten, black painted wood with gold belt, gold painted staff and eyes of black onyx. There was a bitter taste of disappointment and fear in his throat. He turned to run, but his feet sank into the sand.
He braced himself and waited.
The striding figure reached him and passed him. Its eyes, staring straight ahead, showed no recognition. It moved like an automaton.
Jack stared, astonished, as the statue strode past him, making no indentation on the soft sand into which his own feet were sinking, each step precisely the same length as the last.
‘Wait!’ he cried, suddenly realising that he would be alone and lost again when the figure had reached the other horizon. Anything was better than that!
He stumbled after him and was still stumbling and sweating, struggling and calling, when he awoke...
* * * *
It took another week of heavy drinking to ward off further disturbing encounters.
Meanwhile the statue of the tomb guardian was becoming a problem.
Occasional visitors had complained that it was frightening, but Jack had never found it so. Now he was aware of it all the time he was not drunk. Its eyes seemed to follow him whenever he passed it, and on more than one occasion he swung round in the bedroom or the living room convinced it had followed him and was standing behind him.
He threw a patchwork quilt over it, one his grandmother had made for him when he was a child, but this only made things worse. He knew its eyes could still see him through the fabric.
At one time he almost threw it down the stairs, wanting to break it into a thousand pieces, but he could not bring himself to touch it.
‘I’ll sell it to a museum,’ he thought, and phoned an archaeological friend of his fathers, saying the matter was urgent, as he needed money desperately. The man, Colin Meredith, was excited at the prospect of getting his hands on a genuine ancient Egyptian tomb guardian and made an appointment to come to see him the following Friday.
Jack decided to stay with Eliot until his visit. He could not face sharing his apartment another night with the ghostly figure. He was determined to tell no one of this latest turn of events. Not even Emma, picking up that something dramatic had happened, could wheedle a word out of him.
Every evening he and Eliot drank a lot and she went to bed early to escape the maudlin songs and the exaggerated memories of the time they had spent travelling the States on a Greyhound bus before she had met either of them.
* * * *
When Colin Meredith arrived to view the statue he was tremendously excited and said at once he would take it to Sotheby’s for valuation and possible auction.
‘But I’m afraid I can’t get you a buyer quickly and easily. We will have to have documentation of provenance, and I’m sure there will be questions about the legality of your great-grandfather taking it out of Egypt.’
‘I thought there were no such laws in his day.’
‘Certainly not as strict. But this is a very valuable piece and I very much fear your right to hold it privately may be questioned. Are you sure you want to start all this? Would you not rather just keep it away from the limelight as your great-grandfather did?’
‘I need the money,’ Jack lied stubbornly.
‘You have a lot of treasures I see,’ Meredith said, glancing appreciatively around the room. ‘Perhaps something else, less controversial, will bring you in the required amount.’
Jack frowned. He did not want to admit to his fear of the statue. He imagined an ironic glint in its eyes as though it were listening to the conversation and knew that he would not be able to get rid of it as easily as he wished.
He tried to pull himself together. He had lived with the statue most of his life and had never felt this way about it before.
Meredith was meanwhile exploring and had come across the leather-covered case left by Jack’s great-grandfather. His initials were embossed in faded gold on the top and were recognized at once by the young archaeologist.
‘Some old papyrus manuscripts. Mostly fragments,’ Jack said abstractedly.
Meredith opened it and started to riffle through it carefully, but with growing excitement.
In the dust at the bottom he found an insignificant looking dull silver ring with a flattened turquoise bezel, and put it aside on the coffee table while he examined the documents.
‘Not much in hieroglyphs,’ Jack said apologetically, ‘so they can’t be very old.’
‘Hieroglyphs were mostly used for formal or magical texts. They themselves were believed to carry a direct magical charge. A much easier writing developed for everyday use called hieratic, and, in the seventh century BC, it became what we call demotic. These are mostly demotic, but still very interesting.’
He held up one of the larger fragments covered with hieroglyphs.
‘This looks pretty old,’ he said. ‘It looks like ... it looks like a list of names... a genealogy perhaps.’
He held it up to the light by the window. Many of the characters were faded and some eaten away by insects.
‘I see the name Wa-en-ra,’ he said thoughtfully, and then looked round at Jack, his face astonished. ‘One of the names of Akhenaten,’ he cried.
‘Oh, no!’ Jack thought. ‘Not that again!’
‘I really think you should have these properly translated and evaluated,’ Meredith continued, his eyes alight. ‘I don’t know enough to do them justice. But there are plenty of scholars I know who would appreciate a chance to study them.’
‘Take them if you want,’ Jack said impatiently. ‘They are no use to me as they are now.’
The archaeologist could not believe his good luck. He started immediately to pick up the papyri, before Jack could change his mind. It was clear they would deteriorate further without proper care, and who knew what information they would reveal about the ‘heretic’ king!
‘It’s the statue I really want to get rid of,’ Jack said suddenly. ‘It’s too big for this apartment and it frightens my guests.’
‘I don’t wonder,’ Meredith laughed. ‘Those tomb guardians were fortified with all sorts of magical spells.’
He did not notice Jack’s expression, because he was still poring over the papyrus fragments.
‘If this is a genealogy,’ he mused aloud. ‘We might finally be able to solve the mystery of Tutankhamun’s antecedents, and whether Smenkhkare was a separate male king or just the throne name of Nefertiti... There might even be something about what happened to his daughters after his death...’
But Jack was not listening.
‘The statue has to go today,’ he announced.
‘What?’ Meredith exclaimed, looking at Jack in surprise.
‘I really want to get started on selling it at once,’ Jack insisted.
‘You can take the papyri to translate,’ Jack said stubbornly, ‘only if you take the statue away today.’
Meredith looked at him as though he had gone mad.
‘You must know that is impossible.’
‘We could wrap it up and put it in your car. No one will know what it is. We could phone Sotheby’s to tell them it is coming...’
‘I’m sorry. It is priceless. It must be properly crated and transported. There are procedures...’
‘I tell you. I’m fed up with it. I want it out of the house. If you don’t take it today, I’ll crate it up myself and put it in storage somewhere where it will not be seen again until I die.’
* * * *
And so it was that Colin Meredith found himself driving down the motorway towards London in his Vauxhall station wagon with an ancient Egyptian tomb guardian wrapped in a blanket in the back, and a box of precious papyrus fragments on the seat beside him.
* * * *
That night Jack went to sleep in his own bed, sober, and had no dreams. He had not noticed that Meredith had left the ancient ring on the coffee table. It was Emma who found it on her next visit with Eliot.
Since the departure of the statue Jack had almost returned to his former self. He was not drinking so much and was good company again. She did not ask if he was still having the dreams, although she longed to.
As she put her coffee cup down on the low glass tabletop the ring was knocked off onto the floor. She picked it up and examined it curiously.
‘What’s this?’ she asked.
Jack peered at it without interest.
‘Oh, just some old ring that came with the papyri,’ he said. ‘Meredith must have left it behind. He could probably see it was of no value.’
‘But it looks old,’ Emma mused, turning it over and over.
‘Oh, I’m sure it is old!’ Jack laughed.
‘There is a cartouche. It must be the name of a pharaoh!’
Jack shrugged. ‘I have no idea who it belonged to.’
‘Mary Brown has lots of books on Egypt,’ she said. ‘She will probably be able to find out.’
She put the ring on her finger and held her hand up to admire it. The ring fitted well, but her finger began to tingle uncomfortably. She removed it and returned it to the table.
Jack’s coffee table was one of those display units, consisting of a heavy piece of thick glass over a wooden base. In the tray under the glass he had a good many fossils displayed – whorled ammonites, bi-valves changed to shining pyrites, ancient shark’s teeth, and skeletal fish caught in a moment of graceful movement and locked in stone forever. Emma stared down at it, and, in the glass, she could see her own reflection and, behind her, that of Jack.
A strange shift in focus occurred and suddenly she was aware of the fossils that had been living creatures millions of years ago, the ring worn on the hand of a living being several thousands of years ago, and she and Jack living and breathing at this time, yet all part now of the same moment. She remembered Mary Brown’s image of the starry heavens to illustrate the interconnectedness and simultaneity of everything.
She glanced up, eager to pass on her insight to Jack, but he and Eliot were laughing at some joke and she knew it would not be appropriate.
When they were ready to leave, Emma managed to extract a reluctant agreement from Jack that together they would take the ring to Mary for an interpretation of the cartouche.
Over the next few days Jack heard from Meredith, who was handling the sale of the statue at Sotheby’s, that most of the difficulties had been ironed out and that it would not be long before it was put up for auction. He also reported that the papyrus fragments were well on the way to being translated. He had found just the scholar for the case. Jack listened with only half his attention. The only news he wanted from Meredith was that the statue had been sold and was out of his life forever.
* * * *
And then he had another of ‘those’ dreams. This time it concerned the ring. He dreamed he put it on and could not get it off. Someone was demanding it of him and he tried to pass it over, but tug as he might it would not budge. Suddenly he saw the flash of a blade, and the shadowy figure before him cut his ring finger off. For a moment he stood there, in agony, watching the blood spurt out, and then he awoke.
Shuddering, he climbed out of bed, and, in the light, examined his hands. All his fingers were intact. He went to the living room and looked for the ring. Emma had put it on the mantel shelf, saying it would be safer there than on the coffee table.
He stared at it where it lay, but did not pick it up.
Next morning he phoned Emma and they made an appointment to visit Mary Brown.
* * * *
Mary examined the ring with great interest, and Emma noticed, if Jack did not, that there was a growing excitement expressed in her face as she began to translate the glyphs. But before she would tell them what she had discovered she drew out several books from her shelves and consulted them.
At last she held it up and declared with conviction that it was the seal ring of the pharaoh Akhenaten.
Emma gasped, for Jack had told her that Meredith had isolated one of the names of Akhenaten on the papyrus fragments.
There was silence in the room. Both Emma and Jack felt a chill down their spines, Emma remembering the tingling she had felt in her finger when she had worn the ring, and Jack remembering Denise’s suggestion that he himself was a reincarnation of Akhenaten. Mary seemed deep in thought.
‘It is strange that Akhenaten’s ring should come our way,’ she murmured. ‘It seems as though something connected with him is stirring again and we are being drawn into it.’
‘An archaeologist friend of Jack’s said the name of Akhenaten was on one of those papyrus fragments of his,’ Emma said eagerly.
Mary looked up at Jack sharply.
‘Are you having them translated?’
‘I would very much like to see the translation.’
‘Of course I’ll let you see it,’ Jack said. ‘But...’ He paused.
Mary looked at him steadily, enquiringly.
‘But ... I don’t really want to get involved in anything spooky...’
‘You are involved!’ Emma cried. ‘Tell Mary what Denise said!’
As he hesitated to speak, Emma took the initiative.
‘A famous psychic and past-life reader in Glastonbury said he was a reincarnation of Akhenaten!’ she cried.
‘She didn’t say it, she implied it,’ Jack said testily, wishing he had not given in and told Emma what had occurred between Denise and himself. ‘She was pushing me towards admitting it, but I knew it was nonsense. She was absolutely off the mark.’
Mary was listening intently, her hands resting in her lap, still holding the ring.
‘We will know more perhaps when those manuscripts are decoded,’ she said quietly.
Jack frowned, convinced he did not want anything more to do with Akhenaten and his mysteries.
As though she had heard his thoughts she said sympathetically: ‘I know how you feel, but once something like this has “chosen” us, we cannot escape. It’s better to see it through to its end. I know from my own experience how mercilessly one is hunted until one capitulates.’
He did not like the sound of this, and rose to go.
‘Do you believe Jack is Akhenaten?’ Emma asked eagerly, not at all keen to end the conversation.
‘I have met at least five people who claim to have been Akhenaten in a past life, some of them with very good credentials.’
‘There you see!’ cried Jack. ‘The whole thing is absurd.’
‘I would not say that it is absurd,’ Mary said, ‘but that something is going on that needs investigation.’
‘It might just be a matter of people trying to give their own pathetic lives some kind of significance,’ he said scornfully.
‘Is that what you are trying to do?’ she asked.
He flushed angrily.
‘I didn’t ask for these dreams! I didn’t ask for all these things to be happening! And I absolutely deny that I was Akhenaten in a past life. Denise is a manipulative, misguided woman with no more psychic ability than a horse!’
Mary laughed. ‘They say horses have very strong psychic abilities,’ she said with a mischievous twinkle in her eyes.
Jack glared at Emma and jerked his head towards the door.
‘Whatever!’ he snapped.
Mary rose to her feet and led the way to the door. Emma followed reluctantly.
As they parted Mary reached out the ring to him.
‘Keep it,’ he said brusquely. ‘It probably means more to you than to me.’
‘I don’t think so,’ she said softly, and pressed it into his hand.
The Window of Appearances
He was in a city – in a street where a throng of people pushed and crowded around him. All were facing one way, steadily making their way towards the east where a bridge spanned the street from one building to another. It was a city he knew well although he had never seen anything like it in his life as Jack Wilson. The buildings were low and angular. Flags fluttered from tall flag poles in front of angular stone pylons, while gigantic statues guarded the gates of the temples – each one the divine pharaoh himself.
Over all the sun was blazing down, the one round object in all these straight lines.
As the crowd pushed him near the bridge, the small figures that were standing on it became clearer. The royal family ... Akhenaten, the Son of the Sun, Nefe-Kheperu-Re, sole one of Ra, and the beautiful wife of the God, Nefertiti ... both naked but their skin gleaming with gold dust. Ranged beside them were their six daughters, the three youngest chattering and pointing at the crowds like excited children anywhere, the three eldest standing quietly, somewhat bored. High officials were dispensing gifts from the King – gold collars – jewels – fine transparent alabaster goblets and jars of precious ointment...
People were falling into the dust in obeisance.
Jack was awed. He was witnessing the love and generosity of a god towards his people.
With tears in his eyes he fell to the ground and put his forehead in the dust. If he died now there would have been no better moment in his life.
He felt a hand under his shoulder, raising him. He looked up and it seemed to him Akhenaten himself was gazing straight into his eyes with a knowing tenderness that melted his heart.
Ah, Wa-en-ra Akhenaten, Saviour of the World, Lord from Everlasting to Everlasting...
He scarcely noticed the official putting a jewelled menat around his neck.
Weeping he knew that he would serve his lord until the end of time.
* * * *
‘No!’ he shouted, leaping up and pacing about the room. The dreams had started up again.
The noise of drunken revellers in the street gave him pause for a moment. Had the sound of crowds rejoicing in the street below his apartment influenced his dream? He banged his knee against a chair in the darkened room and swore. Now he had no doubt where he was and who he was, yet the experience in Egypt had been so vivid he could not believe that it was only a dream. Were Mary Brown and Emma right about there being more than one type of reality?
He calmed down after a while and pulled a beer out of the fridge, sitting in the kitchen, drinking and thinking.
Then he went to the living room and picked up the ring Mary Brown had said was the seal ring of Akhenaten, and stared at it long and hard.
Jack knew very little about the history of Egypt and he decided, for the first time, to open a book that Emma had lent him. He found a list of pharaohs. Akhenaten was given the dates 1353-1335 BC.
It seemed Akhenaten had turned his back on the ancient Gods of Egypt, and instituted what amounted to monotheism. He moved his court from the traditional royal cities of Memphis and Thebes, and built a brand new one in the desert uncontaminated by the old religious cults of Egypt. Akhetaten, City of the Sun. From the line drawings based on ancient tomb reliefs he could see how it once was, and it was remarkably like the city he had seen in his dream. There had been ‘a window of appearances’ on a bridge across the main street where Akhenaten and his family appeared from time to time to greet their people and dispense rewards.
Jack shivered. He felt he was being drawn inexorably closer and closer into a web. He felt someone was setting him puzzles and watching to see how he solved them. He felt that every move he made, awake or asleep, was somehow being observed.
‘What do you want with me?’ he shouted aloud in the oppressive stillness of the night now that the revellers had gone. ‘What do you want me to do?’
Someone was playing games with him – but they were not children’s games.
He paced the rest of the night away alternately angry and afraid. When first light came he fell on his bed into a dreamless stupor and was still sleeping when Emma rang the bell at noon.
Bleary eyed and dazed he pressed the intercom button. Emma’s voice, bright and cheerful, seared a path through his head. Groaning, he pressed the button to activate the door opening and leaned against the wall with his eyes shut as she opened the door and stepped lightly up the stairs.
Where was he? Part of him was aware of his room, curtains still drawn shut, a dim light diffusing over familiar objects – but somewhere else in his consciousness he heard a voice calling – a voice he had heard before but did not recognize.
‘What’s happened? You look like hell!’ were Emma’s first words.
She stared at him for a moment, and then went straight to the kitchen and put on the kettle.
When she came back he was gone, and there was the sound of water splashing in the bathroom. Emma decided he must have had another of those dreams, and was impatient to hear about it. But she knew she would have to wait.
When the water stopped running, she called out the question she had come to ask.
‘Have you heard from Meredith yet?’
‘The papyri? Have they been translated?’
He grunted his reply, which she could not catch.
‘Sotheby’s? When is the auction of the statue?’
This time she got an audible reply.
‘Next month. The 20th.’
‘And the papyri?’ She tried again.
‘Haven’t heard. I think he has found someone, but nothing has come my way yet.’
Later, after three cups of strong black coffee, he volunteered a description of his latest dream.
‘At least it proves I was not Akhenaten himself,’ he said with relief.
‘But you did live in Akhenaten’s time!’
‘I don’t understand why it is all happening to me. You would be a much better candidate for these things!’
‘All the more reason to believe it is all really happening. It cannot be a case of manifestation caused by wishful thinking. I would love it to happen to me. Yet it does not.’
‘Perhaps if we slept together I could pass the dreams on to you!’ He looked at her in such a way that she could not be sure if he was just joking or not. She decided the only way to react was to pretend she thought he was.
She laughed, but a bit nervously. His hair was still damp and ruffled from the shower, his shirt open. She noticed a trickle of water tracing its way slowly from his neck to his waist. She stood up quickly and drew the curtains aside vigorously, letting in the bright sunlight.
He was still looking at her, quizzically, when she turned around. She could not meet his eyes.
‘We should see Mary Brown again,’ she said briskly. ‘Or perhaps Denise. One of them might be able to make sense of what is now emerging.’
‘I don’t want to go back to Denise,’ he said firmly. ‘And I don’t think we should see Mary again until I have the translations of the papyri. There would be something definite to report then.’
‘You have something definite to report now,’ Emma insisted, not wanting to wait before another piece of the puzzle was fitted into place.
He shrugged. ‘Who knows,’ he said, ‘it is all probably just imagination!’
‘I hate that phrase “just imagination”! Imagination helps us to extend our understanding beyond our own limited experience. Mary says it is the greatest learning tool we have.’
‘Okay!’ Jack laughed. ‘Okay. I admit imagination may have its uses.’
‘Mary says there are three main types of consciousness. The super, or higher consciousness, in which we are in touch with what she was trying to describe the other day, the Inter-Related. Everything. Then there is the ordinary practical consciousness with which we operate day by day in our immediate lives on this earth – which has shields up against too much input. The subconscious is the third type. It draws on both of these and is the hidden agenda we all have whether we are aware of it or not, the half forgotten memories, needs and desires that influence our decisions and our actions.’
‘So, you are saying...?’
‘I am saying that even if the dreams you are having spring from your subconscious and are given form by your imagination, that does not mean they are not expressing or revealing a significant truth. They may be coming from the Higher Consciousness via the Subconscious, because your Ordinary Consciousness will not listen.’
Jack rose and crossed the room. He moved an object on the mantelpiece to a different position, and then back again.
Emma watched him, waiting. Would he turn the matter aside with a joke, or make some excuse to be somewhere else?
He looked at his watch, but before he could dismiss her with a lie, she herself said she must go.
‘Let me know when you hear from Meredith,’ she said at the door. ‘Especially about the papyrus with Akhenaten’s name.’
‘That will probably turn out to be someone’s laundry list,’ he said. And they parted with a laugh.
* * * *
Jack did in fact speak to Mary Brown again before he received the translation from Meredith. He was crossing the Abbey courtyard and saw her sitting on one of the benches, staring up at the ‘Jacob’s ladders’ that were carved on the twin towers of the Medieval church. He could have passed without her noticing him, and at first he quickened his pace hoping to avoid recognition. But then he stopped and glanced back at her, remembering her remark that it was only her disguise that made her look like an old lady.
He followed her gaze up at the ladders on the towers. Angels were going up and down as in Jacob’s dream. He had seen, or rather half-seen, these ladders and these angels hundreds of times without paying them much attention. But now, experiencing, as he was, the power and significance of dreams, he paused and stared at them with new eyes.
He walked back to Mary and sat down beside her. She lowered her eyes to his and smiled without surprise.
‘It seems Jacob had interesting dreams too,’ she said.
He grinned. ‘Do you think he really saw angels?’
‘Of course,’ she said. ‘Why not?’
‘You don’t believe in angels?’
‘Not ones that have to climb ladders!’
She laughed. ‘Metaphors and analogies are always crude compared to the real thing,’ she said. ‘How else can we express what we feel to be spiritually higher or lower? Of course we know heaven is not up there. The other realms of being are simultaneously with us. They are around us in this courtyard even as we speak.’ She waved her hand to indicate the passing throng of tourists, the stone buildings, the busker dressed in eighteenth century costume playing his flute at the abbey door. ‘We may not see them but they are here as surely as those people there...’
As she spoke Jack could almost see the invisible worlds around him passing through him like smoke. How many tourists were aware that what they could see was only a very small part of what was actually there? How many would go home thinking thoughts that changed their lives, never knowing how they had come by them? How many others would go home carrying no more than dull photographs of themselves posed before buildings.
‘Dreams and interpretations of dreams come a lot into the Bible,’ Jack said thoughtfully after a long pause. ‘People in ancient times were always altering their lives because of a dream. I grew up believing that we knew better.’
‘We know nothing. We are still in kindergarten.’
There was a long silence between them, Jack pondering Jacob seeing beings from another reality.
Mary spoke first.
‘Emma tells me you have had another dream about Akhenaten,’ she said.
He experienced a moment’s irritation. He was not sure he wanted his private dreams discussed behind his back.
‘Its funny,’ she continued musingly,’ that Jacob, whose dream we see in stone before us here, had a connection with Egypt too, and possibly with Akhenaten.’
Jack looked surprised.
‘Jacob was the father of Joseph of the many coloured coat who was sold to slavers by his jealous brothers, sojourned in Egypt, and was thrown into prison when he was falsely accused of seducing Potiphor’s wife. Then he interpreted pharaoh’s dreams and became a power behind the throne in Egypt. Jacob himself visited him there. Genesis chapter 46.’
Jack tried to recall the story from his Sunday school days. He could only remember the musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber, ‘Joseph and the amazing technicolour dream coat’. One of the songs started to run through his mind, blotting out everything else.
‘I would give anything to know who the pharaoh was,’ Mary said. ‘Some say it could have been Akhenaten, in which case the idea of the one God could have come from Joseph. People have noticed the similarities between Psalm 104 in the Bible and Akhenaten’s hymn to the Sun. But it is impossible to tell from the Biblical story, and the Egyptians themselves left no record of the event.’
‘Can’t we tell by the dates?’
Mary shrugged. ‘The dating of ancient events is mostly inaccurate. Each pharaoh’s reign began at year one, and the next one that followed also began at year one. Egyptologists make neat lists, but they are mostly approximate based on incomplete data. They frequently find evidence of pharaohs they hadn’t known existed! Even comparison with other events in other ancient civilisations is suspect. And as for the Old Testament! We don’t know how lucky we are to have a fixed date in the Birth of Christ on which to base our historical records.’
‘I believe even the date of the birth of Christ is controversial.’
‘It is based on the known dates of Herod the Great and the massacre of infants that was supposed to have taken place near the end of his reign. We have no independent confirmation of the massacre, but Herod from all reports was quite capable of such a monstrous act.’
‘If I’ve learned anything over the past few months,’ Jack said, ‘it is not to take anything at face value.’
She smiled, and Jack suspected she was thinking: ‘I hope you have learned more than that!’ But she said nothing.
He stood up.
‘Will you be staying?’ he asked.
‘No. I’m going now too. But you go ahead. I’m so slow.’
He hesitated, but she waved him on, and he turned to go.
A busker at the other end of the forecourt was playing the theme tune from Lloyd Webber’s ‘Joseph’ that had been running through Jack’s mind a few minutes before!
That's the end of the sampler. We hope you enjoyed it. If you would like to find out what happens next, you can buy the complete Mushroom eBook edition from the usual online bookshops or through www.mushroom-ebooks.com.
For more information about Mushroom Publishing, please visit us at www.mushroompublishing.com.
About Moyra Caldecott
Moyra Caldecott was born in Pretoria, South Africa in 1927, and moved to London in 1951. She married Oliver Caldecott and raised three children. She has degrees in English and Philosophy and an M.A. in English Literature.
Moyra Caldecott has earned a reputation as a novelist who writes as vividly about the adventures and experiences to be encountered in the inner realms of the human consciousness as she does about those in the outer physical world. To Moyra, reality is multidimensional.
Books by Moyra Caldecott
The Egyptian Sequence:
Hatshepsut: Daughter of Amun
Akhenaten: Son of the Sun
Tutankhamun and the Daughter of Ra
The Ghost of Akhenaten
Guardians of the Tall Stones:
The Tall Stones
The Temple of the Sun
Shadow on the Stones
The Silver Vortex
Weapons of the Wolfhound
The Eye of Callanish
The Lily and the Bull
The Tower and the Emerald
The Waters of Sul
The Winged Man
Child of the Dark Star
Three Celtic Tales
For more information on the above titles, or to find out more about Moyra Caldecott please visit:
More info about "The Ghost of Akhenaten"
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