Friday, 22 June 2012

The House of Bast (Part II)

“I think you got confused with the name Miss. Did you say you had already booked your stay there?”

“Yes! I’d called up at the local hotel to reserve my stay. A lady receptionist had answered the phone. 
She booked my stay for two nights. I do travelling on a regular basis Mr. Peter and I make sure I inquire about the place and plan carefully all details beforehand. It is just beyond my understanding to come here all the way from another country only to find that the place I was looking for specifically has now vanished from my map. This doesn't make sense. I must be sounding crazy to     you… Hmm … Well, are you sure there is no town called the ‘House of Bast’ nearby?”

“Absolutely positive”

“I hope you don’t mind Peter but I will go and enquire from somewhere else and see if I find any good news. Hmm…”

“It’s totally okay Miss. You can ask about this place but it is next to impossible that you will find anyone who’ll tell you that the place exists.”

“I gotta go give it a try anyways. Good bye.”

The drizzling had stopped only to be followed by a cool breeze. This cheered up my spirits somewhat and  I decided that the best course of action for me to take now would be to spend a couple of hours searching for that elusive town and then head back to my hotel if I don't find the House of Bast. As my engine purred to life, I drove straight ahead out of the village.

Looking back at sudden turn of events of the past two days, it was the sunlight streaming through the windows that had done it- cast a spell. Hmm … It wasn't so much so all the sunshine as that single ray of sparkling sun which like a pointer had concentrated my attention on the only name (so out of place) on the brochure! Two days ago, it had seemed incredulous to me to find in Europe a town with links to religious practices and beliefs followed by the ancient Egyptians!
Oh yes! This was the idea- the idea that took shape at my little apartment in the suburban condo. To search for such unique locations which would prove that Egyptians had left not mere traces but abundant proofs of their mighty civilization at different strategic points on Earth. I pulled an all-nighter and came across some very interesting facts!

In the early 1900s, just 100 kilometers north of Sydney, Australia at the National Park Forest of Hunter Valley were discovered 250 ancient hieroglyphs of archaic style particular to the old ruling dynasties of Egypt. These rock carvings sketch the voyage and grievous tale of some ancient explorers who were marooned here after their ship wreck. The rocks show the engraved name of the ‘Pharaoh Ra Djedef’ (son of ‘Khufu’ – the ruler of the fourth Dynasty of Egypt, Builder of the Great Pyramid and Founder of the Giza Plateau) and a certain Lord Djes-eb who was supposedly the royal leader whose death due to the twice biting of the snake has been clearly chronicled on the rock walls (It is said that this royal leader was the son of Pharaoh Ra Djedef)

According to the statement issued by Mr. G.E. Kinkaid (an explorer) in the service of Smithsonian Institute which appeared on 5th April, 1909 in the Arizona Gazette, archaeologists under the directions of Prof. S. A. Jordan (also of the Smithsonian Institute) discovered a great citadel located high above the Colorado River in the Grand Canyons. G. E. Kinkaid reported that they found scores of passageways radiating as if from a wheel, a shrine, crypt and hieroglyphs. Another interesting fact is that the Hopi Indians (a group of Pueblo people of the northeastern Arizona) hold the belief that their ancestors lived underground in the Grand Canyons! However, the twist in the story comes when we find that the Smithsonian refused to acknowledge any such research and exploration funded by them. Also there are no records of any G.E. Kinkaid and Prof. Jordon!  

Hoax or no hoax, I was thrilled enough to keep on reading till my eyes closed on their own volition and I slipped into a dreamless stupor. With so many connections leading to Australia, America, Crete, New Ireland and whatnot, I now had something to work upon.

A flash of light from the oncoming car took me by surprise. As I maneuvered to my left skidding to a halt, I couldn't help but steal a look at the black Alfa Romeo. The young driver probably drunk as well looked both apologetic and gleeful (if that's possible!) as he stuck his head out of the car window. And there it was! It appeared out of nowhere- a fusty old signboard with the letters ‘pr-bȝstt’ carved on it. It had begun to grow dark and the lane beside the signboard looked too narrow for a car. It was 6 pm and that meant I’d have an hour or two at max to explore the city. So, leaving my car parked, I walked with trepidation with just the flash light and my cell phone for emergency. Yes, I should have been excited and happy to have found the mysterious 'House of Bast', somehow that wasn't the case. I took a closer look at the signpost, it was so old as if from another age altogether. The pathway was narrow indeed and from the looks of it, had seldom been trod upon. No wonder the people at Enniskerry had never heard about it! I walked till the trees his the main road from my view. Instinctively I switched on the flash light. And then two things struck me as strange. 

No! Not strange, simply 'Wrong'!

One, it should have been dark. It wasn't dark. In fact, the whole city that stood stretched before me for miles and miles around was absolutely bathed in brilliant sunlight. Two, I was standing in a ‘Desert’!

I looked back instinctively and all I saw was the desert. I don’t know what took hold of me. Stunned, I just knew that I had stopped breathing. And then broke the dam of a myriad emotions- one after the other at so great a speed, as if my neurotransmitters had impulsively taken to working overtime. Shock, Panic, Denial, Reason apportion; in my case- Hallucination due to tiredness, a soothing deep breath and all helpful meditation tips I had learnt over the years to calm my frayed nerves were deployed into action, sadly to no good effect. I tightly shut my eyes and stood there caught in the vortex of this chimera or whatever it was! 

“… to Bubastis” was all I heard until I acknowledged the speaker- a bronze skinned man through the haze of the heat. Poker-faced he gestured and I knew he was here to escort me. Strange, he seemed familiar somehow. A short walk took me to the base of a huge temple with stone steps flanked on both sides by colossal monolithic cat statutes. Hieroglyphs were etched on every brick, stone and pillar. They were beautiful and even in such primeval surroundings, looked new. 

The only thing I knew about the cult of the Egyptian Goddess Bastet was that the people believed she was the daughter of the Sun God Ra and aided his journey to the underworld every night by capturing its fire. A vibrant energy suffused and radiated from this temple. It flowed and swirled around me like a breath of rain drenched air soothing and filling me up with memories long suppressed. As I climbed the last step, I was instantaneously struck by the beauty of the olive skinned woman who stood there waiting. She had been waiting for Ra knows how long! 

“Welcome to the House of Bastet, Daughter”, she smiled and spoke with a musical lilt in her voice. 
It took me a complete two minute silence to say “Mother!”  We hugged as my monosyllable conveyed those years of separation, longing, and want of the warmth I’d been missing all these 21 years of my life. 

“It is Time. Let us go “Wadjet Bast". My name! Oh! How I had missed hearing the sound of it. Thrilled, we went inside the temple which was just a rectangular hall rendered Spartan due to its lack of adornments. The focus was the altar built in the center. I knew the ritual and was ready.  Burning wax candles we wrote the name of ‘Apophis’ (the enemy of the Sun) in green ink, chanted prayers and spells to ward off the evil spirits and cast a hex on the Serpent God who posed a danger for the whole Earth. If Apophis was successful in killing Ra during the night time when it travels to the underworld (to rise again the next day), there will be no more daylight and no Life. And that is why the priestesses of Bastet, once in every 66 years invoked her, to open our sacred eye ‘Utchat’ from which would release the power to manifest the ‘Eye of Ra’ to be worn by the next priestess in line. My mother’s term had ended today and now the responsibility was mine. It looked pure magic, a brilliant divine vision when the ‘third eye’ manifested on my mother’s forehead in breath taking flash of sunlight. As she touched it with her fingertips, it slid onto her palm. 



It was a beauty alright. An opal doublet set in silver and gold accent snake chains. She clasped it around my neck and then we went outside down the steps to the back of the temple where flowed a river so sparkling blue that it put to shame all the sapphires. The boat ride was the most peaceful time I spent with my mother. And then when I looked into her eyes, she smiled- a dazzling smile that lit up her black dramatic eyes. I closed my eyes to capture it, to capture her Fire in mine.

A sharp pain hit my forehead when I opened my eyes. My forehead was bleeding. Horns were blasting somewhere. The sound of the sharp rapping on the car window made me look at the police officer who was leaning and demanding my attention. With slow movements I pulled down the window.

“Ma'am, you okay? Please open the door. The medical van is right here, the paramedics will take good care of you." 

"Where am I?"

“You’re just outside Enniskerry, Ma’am. You had a minor accident." 

“Oh my God! The pain, I feel so much pain in my head." Those were the last words before I passed out. When I opened my eyes, I found myself in a hospital ward. The only coherent thought I had was of my mother. My mother! Where is she after all? I tried to get up. My head still felt a little woozy from all the pain killers and medicines. The nurse realizing that I was finally awake hovered over me and checked my pulse, head injury and inquired after my health. 

"Miss Astrid, how are you feeling now?" I answered her with a weak smile. “There’s one Mr. Menkhaf who has come to see you. Will you meet him?”

“Who did you say?”

"Mr. Menkhaf. You had an accident today, remember? Your car hit a black Alfa Romeo around six pm. He was the one driving it."

"What time did you say?"

"Sometime around 6 pm." 

"I don't know what you're talking about. I was in the House of Bast with my mother that time. I was with her till sunset. Where's my mother? Please call her.”  

"No, Miss Astrid you were quite alone when the accident occurred. We never found your mother in the car. ”

Irritated I replied, “I will repeat. I was in the Temple of Bast, in the desert land. I was there with my mother and not on any damn road during that time. I was there for like a whole day.” At this the nurse became quiet and looked at me as if I was crazy. “I’ll call the doctor.” With a smile, she went out the doors. She had not even gone for thirty seconds when a big beautiful man entered my room.

Of course I remembered him! My escort! Without wasting my breath, I said, "Good that you came. Please tell that nurse..." I was interrupted when the nurse returned just that moment with the doctor and gladly announced, “Oh good, Mr. Menkhaf is also here.” I stared hard at him and I indeed sensed some vague resemblance.

“I thought I’d bring some flowers for the lady.” All smiles Mr. Menkhaf placed the flower basket with a get well soon card at the bedside table and went away. Speechless, I nodded and waited patiently while the doctor finished examining me and went to check on the others. 

The more I thought, the more confusing it became. Within a span of two hours I had met with an accident, admitted to a hospital and taken rest for an hour (according to the nurse). Then was that time in the desert some figment of my imagination? Surely I had spent a whole day with my mother. When I looked at her I had known. Was I dreaming then? Because two kinds of such significantly different events aren't possible! And this guy, whoever he was, was part of the puzzle too. Was my injured head playing tricks?

Anyways, as the doctor had predicted I got well and after a week flew back to my condo. As the days passed by, the probability of my strange time in the House of Bast got reduced to an almost zero. Maybe a concussed head was after all capable of producing such brilliant life like hallucinations. Sometimes the memories of that time would come to me unbidden but I had by now come to realize that sometimes in some state of unconsciousness, our subconscious mind takes control and shows us what we had either repressed or wished for ardently. Work and its demands took all of my time and I put the whole episode behind me. Life went on absolutely fine until one day when my doorbell rang at dusk. 

I opened the door and saw there was no one. I closed it and started going back to work. Something stopped me. It was the sound of the doorbell ringing again. And this time I saw my visitor. I knew it the moment I saw her. It was the eyes. My visitor was actually a furry white Mau kitten. She had brought my Eye of Ra along with a note: 


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