Categories
Ancient Past Earth Her Dark Arts

Si me deseas

Rol
¿Cómo estás?

Sol
Muy bien, gracias. ¿Y tú?

Rol
Ha pasado demasiado tiempo.

Sol
Sí, eso es cierto. Pero mi hijo tuvo fiebre. Mi esposa y yo teníamos que traerle al boticario.

Rol
Lo lamento. ¿Está bien, tu hijo, ahora?

Sol
Sí. Por favor no me mires así.

Rol
¿Cómo?

Sol
Como si estuvieras a punto de devorarme.

Rol
Deseo lamerte la cara. Lentamente. Y después, tengo ganas de tocarte profundamente.

Sol
Por favor, debemos preparar por el Consejo.

Rol
¿Me deseas? Déjame acariciarte.

Sol
Sí, te deseo, pero hoy, no puedo.

Rol
¿Qué pasó? El otro día estuvimos en la pasión del fuego.

Sol
Tú solamente tienes ganas de beber de mi sangre.

Rol
No, no, no.

Sol
¡No me mientas!

Rol
Por favor, mi amor. Pueden oírnos. Tú me dijiste que a tí …

Sol
¡Basta ya!

Rol
Bueno. Podemos discontinuar, pero hazme el favor de creer que te quiero. Ven acá. Voy a besarte. Te he esperado desesperadamente. Déjame meter la lengua en tu boca.

Sol
Rol, por favor…

Rol
Ven acá.

Categories
Ancient Past Earth health

Scorpia

Memphis
The Apothecary and Entomologia in cooperation with the Bank of Commerce present a definitive plan for controlling the lice problem, Highness. We believe it a most effective solution.

Cleo
Owwww! Hades!!!!!!

Neferati
That hurt you so. That’s the last of it. Let me add this spearmint and chamomile salve. Press down to stop the bleeding.

Cleo
The torture.

Neferati
There you are. Now put your knees down.

Cleo
What have you come up with, sirs?

Memphis
Scorpions.

Cleo
Venom? You’re not putting that on my skin. Use Nefe.

Ari
Highness, we present them and their insatiable appetite for lice.

Cleo
Hmmm. You want me to ask citizens to let scorpions run around in their homes?

Memphis
Highness. It is a means to an end. We present a solution if they help us.

Plymouth
Let me explain. We present a specially bred venomless scorpion. These scorpions will live in the homes of our citizens and eat their lice.

Memphis
It’s the Cardashian Cluster, Highness. They regularly visit from east Europa with beautifully woven rugs. The demand has never been higher, regardless of the infestation.

Cleo
Can’t we just ban their rugs? Persians make better quality products.

Ari
The merchants will never agree to it. The Cardashian rugs are affordable and aristocrats change their decor three times a year.

Plymouth
The market forces us, Highness.

Cleo
All right. I’m listening. Nefe, can you depilate my armpits while I’m distracted by these politicos?

Neferati
With pleasure.

Memphis
Highness, I present, “The Scorpion King.”

Cleo
It’s … big.

Memphis
This is a wax likeness. They’ll be this size so they can be tethered with hemp string and returned to cages after feeding. See the opening at the tail, there?

Cleo
How does this help …? Ahhhhh!!! Nefe, why?!!!! May I die now.

Neferati
Oops. Other arm.

Ari
We present “The Scorpia.” It’s a …

Memphis
Move around to her other side.

Ari
… a new tax system. Citizens will display this waxed Scorpia seal on their doors to certify they have lice free homes. Monthly inspections and renewal fees apply.

Plymouth
We believe the new system will foster good neighbourly relations and give birth to a new business elite.

Cleo
What do we need the money for?

Memphis
To purchase goodwill from Roman aristocrats and scholars, of course. They already say Alexandria has no control over parasites. We recently learned that knowledge of this unfortunate infestation has been added to the Roman curricula. Young aristocrats will grow up thinking we are a lice infested State.

Cleo
I like it and mostly because the pain from this regular waxing of my body hair is ageing me. Be dismissed.

Memphis, Ari and Plymouth
Highness.

Notes: In this story, Cleopatra is getting a beauty treatment while attending to matters of state. Image courtesy: The Smithsonian Magazine, “Rehabilitating Cleopatra.”

Categories
Ancient Past Earth Her Dark Arts

Shelter, or the long stay

Röben
Shelter. It’s what we need most urgently now. I had this awful dream last night. I was drifting apart from you on a sea of sand, as a very old man. I grasped at air, and felt a great sense of despair at having nothing to stand on.

The counsellors have met in Röben’s tent on the second night of the full moon to eat a hot stew of fatted calf meat. It had been roasting in the sun all day in a ceramic crock pot. One of the men, Lvi, had found a course translucent blue grain in a dry pit. He had grabbed a handful and sniffed it, but it had no smell.

After eating the midday meal of millet with his fingers, he noticed that the taste was different. He licked his palm and it, too, tasted different. He went back for a small sackful of the thing and as he was presenting this evening’s meal, he gave each counsellor a small portion of the grain on the side of his plate. They weren’t sure what to do with it.

Röben suggested touching a little to the fingers and then touching the meat. Ysåk suggested swirling it all over the meat. That was unbearable, and so he wasted a serving. That caused a bit of grumbling. Ekob, however, thought it would work better to rub a little on the teeth and under the tongue and then savour the tender goodness of the veal with the juices from the mouth.

Röben
Alright, alright. Let’s be done with this. The bullock has served us his fattest youth and we gather now to enjoy his gift. Blessings on our meal.

All
Blessings.

Lvi
I think we should add the millet to the stew, just for various.

Lvi was already thinking about their next meal.

Ekob
Various?!

Ysåk
Various? Various is a word for bullocks. Big bullock, small bullock. Not so big bullock. New bullock, old bullock.

Cackles of dry hysterical laughter shook the tent canvas.

Lvi
No, I’m just trying to…

Benjamin
Shut up, this is a hallowed gathering.

Röben
Brethren, we must discuss the future of our tribe. I think that all we have are the children our wives bear us, these metal plates, these adornments, the ropes that tie our tents down on those pillars. We must be long in our stay.

Esai
You mean, make one dwelling place?

Ysåk
Yes, brother! I have the same feeling, but how can we all fit in the same tent?

Simeon is stunned at the sudden opening for ideas and speaks up.

Simeon
I have an idea. Can we prepare for a new home by charting the heavens in one location and observing the changes over the land?

Ysåk
Hmmm. Children play that game.

Simeon
The point being that we need to know where is best for our families to be long in our stay.

Röben
Hmm, hmm, hmmm.

A long awkward paused ensued. The odourless substance had altered the taste of their veal stew. Some of the men were licking their fingers.

Ysåk
Where can we get more of this, ahhhh… clear sand?”

Lvi
Ah! The cook has his secrets, brethren!

One of the brothers scraped off the rest of the clear sand from his plate and into a small piece of hemp cloth he’d produced for his shoulder bag.

Benjamin
For the wife. And children.

The others followed suit. Ysåk looked around desperately at the others. He’d run out. Lvi shook his head as if to say…

Lvi
(Sorry, none left)

Röben tried to continue through the excitement.

Röben
I think brother Simeon has made a good point. We should do a survey to prepare for a big change such as this one. May I add that we should split up into units? Man, woman, children together in one unit. Not separated.

Esai
Then what?

Röben
We choose one area but stay close enough to each other to meet for our moon meal.

Esai
How long do we separate for?

Ekob
How many full moons?

Röben
Simeon, your wife is with child. Let’s decide what to do when your newborn grows to the height of a reed or loses his first teeth.

Ekob
What are we looking for in the heavens and on the land?

Röben
We’re noting down everything we see, smell, touch, hear. The earth under our feet, and the wind in our ears. Simeon can make a graphic of what we don’t know a word for.

Simeon sees the opportunity, and takes it.

Simeon
Brothers, papyrus is needed. I don’t know how long my reserves will last.

Benjamin
True, but you don’t use so much at the moment.

Simeon
That’s right. We need to make more. Might I start by teaching our sons to help us to protect the trade? The trade of making papyrus? By making more papyrus.

More cackles.

Ekob
For variety? There’s more papyrus here than you can use. How do we make more? They just grow out there in the swamp.

Simeon
Not variety, but continuity. We can make sure we never run out of the plant. I have some ideas.

Benjamin
Let the girls and women do it. They need an industry.

Simeon
I will show you all the glyphs first but can we also teach our youngest to inscribe and interpret the glyphs? Maybe, gather them under one tent after sunrise on days when millet is not planted or harvested. All of the youngest children can live here with us in a tent, tended to by the older mothers. Among our brethren, I can teach Lvi first.

Ysåk
Yeah, make him write where we can find his eatable sand.

More cackles.

Röben
Lvi cannot run or trek like the rest of us. This should be his industry. He will teach our youngest to inscribe and interpret glyphs. We don’t have words for everything we want to say right now, but we can find them or even make them.

Esai
Like Lvi’s stews?!

More cackles.

Röben
First things first. We create a legacy by learning these symbols and we all inscribe what we know about the stars. Then we put them all together under one tent so we are saying the same thing. We’re going to need a shelter for the papyruses that won’t be blown away by sand storms.

Esai
Or the water.

Röben
Exactly. Shelter. It’s what we urgently need right now. Simeon, please take charge of this project.

Categories
Ancient Past Earth Her Dark Arts

A Book of Days

Simeon
A tax. What is a tax?

Simeon looked at the space where the male twin would be standing if he were visible to the naked eye. The twins’ voices are heard at a loud volume in an untouchable space behind his head. Simeon’s right shoulder is dragging downwards. He clenches at papyrus sheets as the full power of their thoughts activate receptors in his cerebral cortex.

> A tax is completely inconsequential in itself, but symbolically, it keeps people from easily and without obstruction, relocating to new settlements with the wealth, knowledge, goods, and services they’ve generated in your community.

<< You need a strategy for keeping your community members in. Outsiders should have higher living costs if they stay for a short time, and community members should not be able to maintain a separate living arrangement outside without incurring significant losses here.

Simeon’s hands drop on a pillow. The stress of the present exchange leaves him out of breath. Crumpled transcripts fall to the floor.

Simeon
Do you see what’s in front of me? You say many things, but its hard to understand any of it. How can I create this tax? How do we make sure everyone will cooperate?

<< Offer something in return. It’s quite simple. A sense of community, stability and privilege will ensure loyalty to the community as a unit. This sense of community ensures that newcomers must prove they are qualified to become a part of the system.

Simeon
I’m not sure I can sell “loyalty” or “community”. Shouldn’t people be able to go about as they please?

> They are indeed free, but how can you collect taxes if that’s true?

Simeon
Exactly. Why do we need to collect taxes at all?

<< It’s just a strategy for keeping a stable society. It’s what we’ve said before.

> I have modified the idea. Why don’t we put a value on the land. How much is one length worth?

<< No, before that, let’s measure the land space. How many lengths are contained in it? Then attach that value to the most basic measure of wealth that everyone is accustomed to.

Simeon
Goats, cows?

<< Copper, it’s difficult to mine. You can just breed goats.

> I have an even better idea of what will ensure future collection of taxes.

<< I am rapt.

> Good. We collect time and labour, and build things using materials that are long lasting and difficult to destroy. They don’t easily erode over time.

<< So the wealth is preserved in the infrastructure, and built into the land.

Simeon
We like moving around. Stability doesn’t appeal to our tribe.

<< You have to try it first.

Simeon
What would we build anyway?

> First let’s start with your stars.

Simeon
The stars?

> Yes, your children use the skies to chart a course across the desert during the year, do you not?

Simeon
Yes.

> So, build something using the earth as material, to capture the light of the sun over the course of a day.

Simeon
Hmmm. I’m … mystified here.

<< What my brother is saying, is that you should try to capture the movement of the sun across the sky in one day. Use that as your measurement to make decisions.

> Yes. Using this writing system we have taught you to record the position of the stars in the night sky every day. Use this collection of records to explore the patterns and cycles you already know.

Simeon
I understand what you’re trying to do but that’s too much work for me, I’m just one man.

> Ah, now you’ll need another building.

Simeon
For what?

> To teach people to create records of the observations. For future use, of course. And then we need another building in which to place these records.

Simeon
Hold on a minute. How many people do we teach?

<< Show the youngest ones first how to use the glyphs we’ve taught you. Then ask them to record the charting of the stars. The adolescents will learn how to create material for recording and storing your records. Another group will make the tools for inscribing glyphs. Just small units of three, for each task, are enough for now.

Simeon
But there is only a small amount of papyrus. And where do we find tools for writing?

> First, cultivate the papyrus yourselves.

Simeon
Cotivate?

<< Cultivate. Farm.

Simeon
These .. and many words you use don’t exist in our language.

<< Cultivate: Make more of the papyrus by growing the shoots in an area just for that purpose. Farm: collect the leaves at harvest.

Simeon
Uh, huh. Farm. What do we call the ‘teach’ building?

> A college.

Simeon
So we’re doing all of this to build a college?

<< No, we’re building a college so children can be taught how to create records of the sun’s movement. We’re doing that to keep your tribe in the same place. If we do that, we can collect taxes at last.

> But to start, you must convince your peers that this particular territory provides a good, long stay. One thing at a time.

Simeon
Where do you find your ideas?

<< We calculate. We’re very good at it. Just try it our way.

Simeon
It won’t work. It’s many ideas all together.

<< There’s a word for that: It is “complex.” We’ll make sure the idea is welcomed. Pay attention to what’s happening around you and make sure to grasp the opportunities presented. Brother, let’s be away before he says something again.

Categories
Ancient Past Earth Her Dark Arts

The Boy

The twins stare intently at the lonely boy sitting crossed-legged at the edge of the savannah. He’s passing time by observing empty space. Air is aqueous. The boy will sit there, as he does every day, until darkness falls. His eyes are large. Gelatinous layers of mucous slide around on his corneas. His irises radiate an iridescent hue of violet. His heavy lidded, deep-set eyes have double rows of thick, long, rose-coloured lashes that curl upwards and away from his face. They keep water from condensing in his eyes and obscuring his vision. His skin is a pulpy, greenish, translucent nougat. 

The twins telegraph their thoughts to each other.

> At this point in their timeline, a body on land needs gills to filter nitrogen from wet air. Based on their physiology, we assume that it is converted to an aqueous solution of nitric acid, which functions as battery acid for mitochondria.

<< Why are we interested in him? He is sitting there waiting for nothing to happen.

The twins pull back to mull things over.

> The boundaries for them are perceptual. They see, hear, touch and taste. These perceptions only serve to help them identify members of their own species in order to reproduce.

<< Beyond that, they’re oblivious to existence itself. They are not yet sentient.

> Does a mind need speech or language to have thoughts? They think in images, familiar ones. Therefore, to communicate with them, we must use familiar images in unfamiliar situations, highlighting the contrasts.

<< It’s a futile task, interfering with them. Just look at them stumbling around without purpose. They’ll become a vile and stubborn race, trusting only these limited perceptions. I am disinterested!

> Time is spherical from our perspective. So we can show the outcome of a course of action on a unique string of intent. Let a familiar image signal propositional intent. We need only show how their present actions will move them away from or toward a beneficial or detrimental outcome.

<< What about the Deluge caused by the fallout of this new asteroid’s explosion into orbit? These beings don’t know precipitation, nor have they seen their precious orb illuminated in the night sky. Perhaps you can encourage the boy to move to high ground. If he is receptive, he will survive to see the asteroid as it settles into its permanent space. If that happens, I will accept that our interference at key points in the newly created timeline will not be in vain.

> M’aal Arch, we have the perfect opportunity to test your ideas about them.

<< Agreed. We will interfere with the boy.