|Excerpt from THE GOD DIG in the Egypt adventure series with fiction's renegade Egyptologist Anson Hunter|
“We know the ancient Egyptians had a firm conviction that you could take it all with you when you died, provided your worldly goods were placed in your tomb with you," Anson said to her. "Food, wine, furniture, games, weapons, treasures... They believed that the afterlife would be a continuation of life on the Nile, only better, but with the same sorts of challenges.
"Now imagine if we died and woke up in the next world to learn that they were right - only the ancient Egyptians owned any stuff. The rest of us arrive empty-handed. Mind you, not many ancient Egyptians retained their worldly goods for long with the systematic depredation of tomb robbers and of archaeology.
But picture this…”
“… It's the Field of Reeds and a man is running plish, plash, plish in the shallows of the riverbank in the dawn mist.
We are born alone, we die alone and we arise again alone and he is alone now, peering through the mist for another sign of life after death.
Reeds whip against his legs and body. Do scaly crocodiles lurk in here? Surely not. These are the fields of Aaru, not the menacing underworld that he has just passed through. That guardian-haunted journey of gateways, passages and passwords of the night still cling to him like a nightmare does to the newly awakened and he puts on a spurt to distance himself further from it.
Yet he longs for a weapon to defend himself.
Something. A rock. Even a stick in case he has to fight off an unknown terror.
His instinct for protection tells him to be afraid, yet he wonders what he should ever have to fear in this place. Then he recalls that here in this realm of the Field of Reeds men walk among the gods and demigods.
He hears a cracking voice that seems to bend the reeds like a breeze with its force.
“Who enters the reeds? And what riches and offerings do you bring with you?”
‘Riches?’ he thinks.
He is a poor man, a tomb guard, and he went to his grave with only a basket of food, his spear and a jar of beer, which he left behind when he ran out of the open tomb mouth to emerge into the dawn of another world.
Almost too late, he sees a figure standing in the mist like a statue. It is a giant, grim-faced being wearing a skull gap and a tightly fitting gown.
A neter, or god. Or perhaps a demi-god.
The air thins and chills and he smells a curious odour like burning gum. The perfume of divinity. The entity wears a thin curled beard and holds the symbol of a god in his hand. An axe like a flag on a long pole.
The running man drops to his belly and lies still in shallow water, plunged into shock and cold, amid a crowd of bending reeds, their acid-green pungency filling his nostrils.
“Bring wealth and you will be served,” the cracking voice said. “Bring no wealth and you must serve. You can run as they all do to escape eternal servitude, but you will be hunted down.”
What does this mean? That to those who have will be given and to those who have not, what little they have shall be taken from them?
Not paradise, but eternal servitude!
This does not seem like a fitting reward for one who has been justified by Osiris in the Hall of Judgement.
Is having a soul free of guilt not enough to earn rest and eternal bliss? Does he have to buy paradise?
“So you choose to hide and run?” the unseen god thundered. “Then the demigods will come after you. Men and women with serpent heads. Lioness women. Jackal men. And you have nothing to protect yourself with because you are one who has brought nothing... ”
‘I still have my spear back there in the tomb,’ he thinks. ‘Shall I return for it?’
No. He’s come too far now.
Better to crawl in a wide circle around the being and keep going.
There must be other tombs, other new arrivals that have brought things too. A spear. Bow and arrows. A sword.
And gold - that might be useful in this place.
He is shocked by his own thoughts. Is he going steal grave goods from a tomb in heaven?
He remembers the words that he recited to Osiris in the Negative Confession:
I have wronged none…
I have not stolen.
I have done no evil.
He has sworn these things before the Judge of the Dead in order to enter the Field of Reeds and now he is planning to commit the very sins he denied.
Is it his fate to become a tomb robber in heaven...?”