“We would be honoured if you could weave a story for our wedding,” said the boy before her. He hovered awkwardly on his knees. Glancing nervously at his young bride, he flopped forward putting his forehead to the ground in her hut.
“Please, Ma’at,” the young girl added, also bowing, “The Elders speak of your weaves as tying the chaos of the world together into our fortunes and we wish to have many healthy children. Please give us your blessing.”
She smiled and nodded, and later that night her hands flowed rhythmically pulling thread together from disparate forms into a single, cohesive shape that held a pattern. It held a pattern–a story–of youth and love, passion and entwining of lives and bodies. It was a tale that had five children but two deaths and a rich harvest cut short by the coming war. Normal happy lives ending in death. The ending had some darkness in it–as all endings do–but there much light throughout this story.
She sighed and smiled, sadly.
It was not that Ma’at created this tale out of chaos but, rather, that she plucked from the chaos the truth of this particular story and then displayed it in the cloth.
When it was done, she stood up and walked outside. The Moon outside was radiant. Her sister was full and quietly shone down across a dark, rolling desert while glittering off the gently flowing Nile’s silvery streak that cut through it.
She sighed again and peered towards the oncoming horizon. She could see the lights of a young Memphis flickering with fires and candles even this late. Every day, mankind crept further into the desert and, every day, more of her brothers and sisters retreated further away. And, yet, she remained.
She heaved a final sigh and looked at her hands. One day, she knew, she would have to weave her own story. One day.
Ra’s intensity burned down in waves upon the land but the aircon in her car hid her from it. Her dark glasses all but made it disappear. All the power of a god overcome with a device that cools air and tinted glass.
Over the millennia, she had always marvelled at mankind’s inventiveness. Her family were born with their power but mankind has built their own. Almost all the challenges and struggles over the centuries had been solved but, for some reason, mankind just kept on creating new challenges and struggles.
“Drop Ma’at her destination on the left,” the digital voice announced in her Uber drive as the car slowed to a stop beside the curb.
“Thanks, ma’am,” the driver said as she got out, “You have a nice day now.”
“Listen,” she said, turning and leaning back into the Uber, “Take the rest of the day off. Go see your kids and tell your wife you love her. I will tip you well now, so you don’t need to work for the rest of the day.”
“Thanks ma’am!” the driver exclaimed as she shut the door and walked away. He would not take her advice. He would also be dead by this time tomorrow when the blood clot eventually reached his brain. That was another thing mankind was really good at doing: dying.
Her phone beeped as her tip went through while she walked into the gallery. She emotionlessly smiled and nodded at the manager. He beamed at her and tilted his head towards the crowds floating through the airy structure.
The walls were covered with woven patterns meters high. Incredibly complex, subtle and beautiful. They all told chapters of the story of mankind, including some that had not yet occurred. Crowds swooned around; artsy-types and tech billionaires exclaiming on the exhibition and the occasional news crew, blogger or journalist snapping a picture or filming an interview with sentences like “…in a visually-stunning crescendo commenting on the frailty of civilization, the artist known only as Ma’at has woven a tale of apocalypse hanging on the walls around us here…“
“Why is the ending so dark?” asked the Manager, appearing at her side with a cup of lotus tea–her favourite, “Why not something happier?”
She turned to him, taking the tea and sipping it thoughtfully before answering: “Given enough time, everything ends. And, all endings have some darkness in them.”
The Manager nodded and smiled, though she could see he did not understand. He also did not seem to care as his gallery had never been this full. Fifteen years from now, he would die alone from cancer. His wife would be dead in less time than that in another man’s bed. Yet both of them would look back on their lives and consider them to be happy ones.
Maybe then he will get it, she wondered, sipping her lotus tea and watching him as he drifted through the crowd, shaking hands and smoothly working those with money.
Later that night, she stood on her private balcony overlooking the Valley and its twinkling electric lights. A car horn blared somewhere as a soft strand of a pop song wafted by. Sirens flared and faded out. Almost blinded by the artificial light of man, the faint Moon and fainter stars peered down; relics from another age looking at the alien future and trying to recognise how they fitted in there.
They did not. It was that simple. This was mankind’s world now and the Old Gods no longer had any place in it.
The older civilization got, the more lights there were at night. The more lights there were, the less darkness there was. There was also less desert, less sky, less earth, and less of everything else she recognized.
But given enough time, everything ends. This is true of all things, even the world of man. All the darkness they chased away would eventually come back tenfold to reclaim its rightful place.
She sighed and looked at her hands. One day, she knew, she would have to weave her own story. In the meantime, the story of mankind and its ending was hanging on the walls of an art gallery and being commented on in blogs and tweets, trending in hashtags and being auctioned to the highest bidder.
When the ash had settled and the skies had cleared, when the fires had cooled and the surviving animals had crept out from where they hid, then she began her long journey home.
She was going back to her desert.
Across the oceans and through young, sprouting forests she travelled. Over blackened lands and passed crumbling skeletons of mankind she journeyed. Sometimes she walked at night, talking to her sisters shining down and, sometimes in the day, talking to her brother’s burning face. Sometimes the cool winds blew–still smelling of dust and ash–and she conversed with the twins, or sudden and violent storms beat down and she yelled at her brother from the North.
Ma’at was all alone in the world but, slowly, she started to feel like herself again. She knew exactly where to look to see her family. They were all around her all of the time. The aircon and sunglasses no longer hid Ra, and the lights of cities no longer blinded Isis’ pale face at night nor her sisters twinkling alongside. She could hear Horus call from the clear skies as Shu and Tefnut danced through her hair, Seth raged far away while Apep once again slumbered, having already feasted on this world…
All around her, the world was starting to look familiar; it was starting to look like the world she had first lived in. The Old Gods were starting to creep back out into the open.
Finally, she arrived back in her desert. The Nile was flowing again and the pollution was receding. Few of the old structures of mankind remained but she did not need them. She knew exactly where she was going.
A small sand dune; that was all that was left of her hut, her home and birthplace.
It did not matter. She smiled as she sat down cross-legged in what would have been the hearth of her hut. She reached out and touched the sand where over five thousand years ago a boy and his bride had begged her to weave their wedding. A single tear fell from the corner of her left eye and she looked up at the golden, bloody sunset spilling across the open sky. Horus’ two eyes–the Sun and the Moon–were on opposing horizons watching her. Ra and Isis, her sisters, a soft breeze and the distant thunder of a hidden storm all combined…
Her family was all around her again.
Ma’at smiled–tears starting to flow freely down her ancient cheeks–and she finally began to weave her own story.