|Mysterious Ptah, British Museum|
They all joined in a search of the walls and floors, as they hunted for hidden levers or mechanisms that might open the doors, pressing individual blocks of stone, running fingers between cracks.
Sound above their heads put a stop to their efforts. Something was happening in the ceiling. Anson listened. Hissing sounds. Small apertures had opened in the roof. Red streams ran softly into the chamber.
"Not blood, after three thousand years." Daniel bent and scooped up a handful. He sniffed it. "Clay dust," he muttered.
It wasn't blood, but it could kill them just as surely as any liquid.
"It's symbolic blood, dry red clay from Elephantine,” Anson said. “The red is haematite, iron oxide. In ancient legends red clay often took the place of blood when mixed with wine or water. I think this dust represents the blood of Osiris."
"If we don't get out of here soon, it will choke us," Kalila said, giving voice to their fears.
They redoubled their efforts to find a lever. They ran their hands like nervous spiders over the walls.
The powder-blood flowing into the heart gathered in piles around their feet. The streams were running faster.
Kalila coughed. Fine dust filled the air. It would suffocate them long before it covered their heads.
"Keep looking!" Daniel urged them.
"There’s nothing," Kalila said.
"It is a mechanical trap," he insisted. "There must be something that will open it again."
Were they going to die, choking in blood? Anson looked up. Was it possible to climb out of here? He searched for a beam or projection, something they could use to hang a rope from the ceiling? Nothing.
Anson went on watching the streams of red dust particles falling from the ceiling. Then the world brightened as an idea floated down to him.
“As light as a feather?” he said. “What human being is so innocent? That’s it. No human being is that light. We have to change ourselves, take on the forms of the gods. Before the dead can go on to take their place in the realm of Osiris, they had to say a spell that would change the parts of their bodies into the parts of gods.”
His eyes swept around the walls at the carved reliefs of the gods and goddesses, the torch beam turning the dust into clouds of blood.
Red dust piled up around their ankles. Anson felt the dust tickling his lungs. Daniel covered his mouth with his shirtsleeve, spluttering.
“What were the parts that must change?” Anson said.
He banged his forehead with the palm of her hand, trying to jolt his memory.
“Think, brain. Think. The Chapter of Coming forth by Day. The Papyrus of Ani...”
The red dust turned the air into a blood storm, as if blood had already filled the chamber to its roof.
“There’s no way to open that door,” Daniel said.
“Then we’ll all die, unless we can think of a way,” Kalila said.
“I’ve got it, I think. We’re going to need a bit of divine help,” Anson said. The powder blood billowed up into their faces and seeped into their clothes. He waded through it, sinking up to his ankles.
“Am I right?” he said, with a rasp of dust in his throat.” Is there an order to this?” He reached the wall. “ The dead must take on the parts of the gods. Which gods and in which order?”
The powder was in their lungs and it tasted metallic like blood.
Anson recalled the prayer of the papyrus of Ani.
“My eyes must become the eyes of Hathor...” he said.
Hathor stood with a crown of cow horns and a solar disc between them, her lithe form rippling in the blocks of stone. He reached up to Hathor’s face and pressed the eye. A block grated back into the wall.
He twisted, face alight with relief. “I haven’t lost my touch. We’ve got to choose the parts of the gods and so change ourselves. Each part of a human body has to become a part of a god... The eyes of the dead must become the eyes of Hathor, his face the face of Ra, his cheeks the cheeks of Isis, the backbone that of Seth, the buttocks of Horus, the phallus of Osiris, the thighs of Nut, the feet of Ptah...”
Each part had to change into a god...
(Excerpt, The Smiting Texts, first in the series.)