Sunday, February 23, 2003

A Tale of True History (Revised) (3348)

(*original - Feb 23, 2003)

    Listen, O Reader, as I tell you a tale... an old and valuable tale, a tale of three worlds.
    Many many suns ago, a hundred hundred suns past, and a hundred hundred more, there existed a beautiful place: a planet, home to a proud and accomplished people.  They lived in great soaring cities the size of mountains... the shape of pyramids.  As the pyramid represents stability, so too were they – grounded and wise, happy and stable.  They could have reached the stars, these people.  They had the technology.  But they did not... for they had what they needed, they were told, by way of legends, legends which warned that those who reached too high, reached for the heavens, would fall and suffer.
    They did not know at first, these people, that the legends came from that most mysterious of sources: those who ruled from the shadows... the powerful, secret Authority.
    They might have done well to listen.
    One man knew.  He discovered the truth.  His name was Menteptah.
    That man, Menteptah – Pharaoh, monarch of this proud civilization – stood on a balcony one day, overlooking the sprawling vista of his realm, brow heavy with the burden of his discovery.  He saw that his people had accomplished nothing.  Their achievements were empty.  They were puppets, and he the strings that pulled them.  His people were not free, could not be free for so long as he, and they, remained puppets of hidden masters.
    He set out to awaken his people to the truth... but he had to work carefully, quietly.  If he moved too quickly, thrust the risqué truth upon them too suddenly, they would resist – they would brand him a heretic, and he would fail.  If he alerted the Authority, he would fail.  Over the course of many years Menteptah instituted educational programs, new ways and ideas, and planted the seed, the idea, in their minds that they were meant for greater things... and that the heavens were their birthright.  They came from the stars, as all life did in the universe.  What was wrong with reaching for them?  The stars were not forbidden... they were home.
    It worked – had Menteptah known, to his everlasting regret.
    The Authority saw what he was doing and sent one of their feared assassins – the white tigroid Osira, part human and part tiger – to kill Menteptah.  Without his leadership, they believed his campaign would falter.  Amazingly, Osira could not kill the Pharaoh... for she fell in love with him, and he with her.  And so the Authority sent that dreaded, all-devouring destroyer of worlds instead, the monstrous Juggernaut, a sentient machine created for one purpose: to destroy those who defied the Authority – not just by killing one individual or a few or a group, no, but to wipe them out utterly, they and their entire civilizations.  Such was the measure of Authority resolve.  For the Authority had its own legends, you see... ancient warnings that any world which defied them, no matter how insignificant the portion of defiance, would lead to its downfall.
    On the same balcony upon which Menteptah once stood and saw the empty truth of his existence, he stood, one day, with his beloved Osira's white arms laced about him, staring out over the horizon... and saw a new truth: saw it rising on the horizon in the dark shape of the Juggernaut, about to be unleashed.  It would have meant the end of his people, their culture, their way of life.
    Menteptah relented.  In a slash of Osira's claws, he gave his life to spare his people's.  The Pharaoh and his lover-killer understood that there was no other way.  Afterwards, Osira could not go back to her own life, consumed as she was by the tragedy of lost love, and committed suicide.
    That might have been the end of it.
    Except, it wasn't.
    The king and his killer who fell in love with him... the tragedy of Menteptah and Osira... became the stuff of legends.  Their bodies were preserved, as ancient ways taught, so that the ka, the immortal stuff of souls, would not be lost forever, and thus they might find each other in the afterlife.
    And what Menteptah had started could not be undone.  The fallen Pharaoh became a martyr to his cause.  The people learned the truth as he did.  Rising against the Authority, they created the Wah-Djeti, bioengineered soldiers like Osira: part human, part animal.  Quick, vicious and cunning, they were the first and last line of defense against the Authority.  Yet it wasn't enough.  The Authority learned of this and attacked.  A great war ensued.  Menteptah's world became unlivable.  Thus ended a civilization, and an age.
    However, not all perished.  In secrecy, they built a great ship composed of a black obsidian-like material which deflected sensor scans, thus hiding its existence from the Authority who would surely have destroyed it... a colony ship, large enough to carry the survivors of Menteptah's civilization to a planet known eventually as Anubus II.  There, they planned to start anew...
    ...But their defenders became their own worst nightmare.  The Wah-Djeti, faster, more cunning and vicious, and more ambitious than those who created them, seized power.  Carnivorous, violent and bloodthirsty, they imposed a harsh, cruel reign on the race of their creators who had long since died (some speculated by the creatures' own inhuman hands), enslaving them and demanding sacrifices of flesh and suffering.  It wasn't long before they began to war amongst themselves.  Some predicted that Menteptah would return and stop them.  Others opted for a more practical solution, as their new world tore itself apart trying to overthrow them.
    Some of the colonists escaped, fleeing through a rare wormhole which opened once every hundred hundred suns [10,000 years for the mathematically disinclined] to another world, sparsely populated by a primitive people similar in appearance.  They settled there, forsaking that which brought them to ruin – the technology, by returning to the simpler life they once had, and the names, by law.  Some cursed the names... Menteptah, Osira, Wah-Djeti, Anubus... claiming that to speak them invited suffering, and so they outlawed them.  The old legends proved true, after all – reaching for the stars had brought them low, and they had suffered.
    Now, try to avoid speaking a person's name sometime.  Do everything you can to avoid letting it slip out. You'll find yourself thinking about it to no end.  Small wonder, then, that a certain mystique came to be built up around the names that these people were supposed to forget.  They survived in altered form – Osiris from Osira, Anubis from Anubus, and so on.  Menteptah became the basis for Ptah, the creator in one version of the Egyptian creation myth, self-creating and self-creative, who brought order to the Primal Chaos by the sound of his voice.  Wadjet was the original name for Buto, the personification of the sun-god Ra's retributive power, regarded as defender of royal authority.  Stories and retellings made the creature-creations the basis for Egypt's ancient pantheon of animal gods.  What of the actual creatures?  Their fate was a mystery, as they had been left behind.  Only the stories remained.
    As happens with time, the laws fell by the wayside and the origins were lost, though not entirely forgotten.  Menteptah's survivors abandoned the past and resumed the simpler life they once had.  Eventually their descendants founded Egypt's First Dynasty... and the rest, as they say, is history.
    But what of Menteptah, who was prophesied to return?

    That, dear Reader, we shall focus on, in Part Two.