JUST OUTSIDE OF ṬŪKH, EGYPT
I’m in boy mode with my Indiana Jones meets Go Diego Go explorer getup, complete with khaki short shorts. I call it my Go Diego Go-Go Boy outfit, and I’m feeling the adventure. The dig site is in full swing when I swan in. I taste the sweet succor of resentment from the hard-working crew as the anonymous benefactor appears to take the glory without doing any of the work myself.
Hoisting a bedazzled gold shovel over my shoulder as I waft through the camp, I eat it up even as I hear Eggplant superficially apologizing for me in the background. He is getting quite good at that particular task.
“We’ve all done so well, and I really mean that,” I smarm with an obnoxious smile. The clarifier is as unneeded as it was passive aggressive.
“Yes, well,” the guide stifles an eye roll, “may I show you to the find?”
“No, thank you, my good sir. I think we’ll find it.” I wink. “You and your team can find your way out, right?”
This is met with first abject confusion then overt rage. I hear the click-clack of Eggplant’s phone as he gets more work out of the way, while I start another fire for him to put out.
“Well,” I say, like it’s obvious, “you all are a bit on the filthy side, and the camera crew is due any minute now.” I smile as condescendingly as possible.
I turn away from him at the precise moment I see anger bloom in his cheeks, and a retort forms on his lips. Eggplant swoops in behind me and does that thing he does where he communicates effectively with humans. So strange. Surely enough, they all meander away, leaving the delicious sweet taste of their hatred of me in the air behind them.
“We do still need them, remember?” Eggplant sighs without any real heat in his voice.
“Oh, they’ll keep working. We’re paying twice the going rate.”
“Yes, but you’ll survive when they stab us once the final check clears,” He says with a wry smile.
“Hush now,” I chide. “That’s a worry for another time. We’re here to fix an old mistake, not a new one.” I wink.
“So, how’s our fix looking?” he asks, coming to stand beside me. We look down at what they’d uncovered. A partially demolished wall of hieroglyphs, all circling one large design that resembled many of Egypt’s gods. This one bore the image of a sexually androgynous winged human body with the head of a bird.
“Perfect. A lost opportunity now reclaimed.”
“This is our lost god? Who you would have been had you absconded to Egypt with the rest of your kin?”
“Oh yes, but I was too busy hamming it up with Typhon and Echidna and didn’t get to enjoy any of the furry fun everyone else was having. Aren’t I, or shall I say they, perfect?”
“What’s the name?” He chortles behind me.
“I’ve been giving that some thought.” I hum. “I could give it an actual Egyptian name, but as that language is more or less lost to mortals, it would rather defeat the point. So as most Egyptian gods are known by Greek names, as Egypt itself now is, so shall they be. We will call this god Abythos.”
“Abythos? I like it,” Eggplant said with a smile that I did not turn to behold but appreciated nonetheless.
“As for backstory, my mom became the goddess Nut, so we’ll make this new god a spawn of Nut. Imagine the rude wordplay potential.” We giggle together. “This should be fun.”
Later in our shared tent, Eggplant and I are practicing for the big unveiling.
“So they find this lost Egyptian god, and after the initial press conference, Insane Troll Logic announces their hacktivist Middle Eastern outreach based on it?” Eggplant confirms as he updates the ITL socials.
“Yep. Then the outrage will come. People will be aghast that a social media company would use such a culturally significant find for profit and promotion. Imagine the protests. I wonder if sweet little Adrestia will join in with her poster board and sharpies.” I cackle like a Halloween decoration.
“Have you heard from…?”
“Oh, yes.” I nod, cutting him off. “It’s covered.”
“So we’re all set? Time for Troll Logic to take over?”
“So it’s time for me to be Eris classic,” I say, looking away from him to stare at my reflection in the mirror. My male form stared back at me, hair tousled as I take my Archaeologist Ken fedora off.
“You okay?” Eggplant asks, laying his company phone down for the first time that day.
“Yeah, you know…people sometimes think I just play dress up, but that’s not it. Back in the BC days, I didn’t have a word for it, but now? Genderfluid isn’t just one of my many gimmicks, you know?” I pause. “Don’t worry. I know you know. When a situation arises, and I need to be something I’m just…not… It hurts, and not in the fun way. Especially now that I know what it’s like to finally feel genuinely myself.”
“I’m sorry. I wish I could make it less painful.”
I turn to him at last and the naked empathy on his face lights something in the void of my black heart.
“Not your fault. Just after centuries of being overlooked for any reason they can think of, I prefer not to give any excuse for others to not see me. The real me.”
“I see the real you.” He smiles and steps into my personal space at my unspoken request.
“I know you do.”
He slips his hand beneath my waistband and does what he said he would. He does what he can to take the pain away, and it’s enough.
The dig site had been sufficiently prettied up for the press, and our plant “archaeologist” stood doing what we’d paid him for. He was telling a damn good story.
“The god was said to have fallen from the firmament of the Goddess Nut as a meteor would. It was said that the greatest of battles broke out where it landed, spreading from that spot like a wildfire and only ceasing once all who fought were dead,” Doctor Pushkin orated beautifully.
I was in female form in the middle of the crowd, wearing a black couture business suit with flared and feathered collars and cuffs. My dark sunglasses with decorative horns on each side hid my eyes. I had donned the Eris who ran Insane Troll Logic, and my mere presence is gathering looks and questions.
“As you can see, like many Egyptian gods, it bears an animal’s head. Like Set, it is an animal that isn’t easily identified with any known species. It resembles an extinct species, the red-breasted goose. We are still deep in our studies, of course, but we theorize it was perhaps a darker feathered offshoot which we have dubbed the black-breasted goose.”
Eggplant shows me his phone screen. We share an amused look as crude puns on the word breasted skyrocket.
“The god or goddess, whose figure is remarkably ambiguous compared to depictions of other deities, was seen as a malevolent trickster spirit. Akin to, and possibly an acolyte of the great chaos bringer, Apep.”
“You use words you do not understand!” A rough-hewn female voice screams in a thunderous howl, interrupting dear Doctor Pushkin. The rest of the crowd and I turn toward her, the flashes of the cameras following.
A group moves toward us, dressed in make-shift military-style gear and bearing guns and other weaponry. At its head is a well-toned middle-aged woman, her rifle raised and her eyes fiery, presumably the woman who had shouted out.
A rain of gunfire into the sky silences the screams from our crowd, and the woman takes the stage, two of her compatriots roughly pulling Doctor Pushkin from the microphone.
“For too long, the west has come and mined our history, our culture for profit, and perverted it with their foreign tongue and unworthy hands! They call us Egypt as if that means anything!” she howled. “I am Akila El-Ismail, and we are the Children of Kemet. It is time we take our kingdom back!!!”
Eggplant stood beside me, capturing this all on his phone.
A slow, Cheshire grin curved my lips. “Most excellent.”