“Ra! Save me!”
Sekhmet bent down, a dagger in her hand. It was a simple tool, one of sharpened stone, but it had proven more than enough to allow her to disembowel the man in front of her. His innards spilled out over the brick floor of Sekhmet’s dwelling. The bricks would need to be remade – this much blood always caused them to turn to mush. “Interesting. Your entrails spill out of you, yet you still have the strength cry for Ra.”
“Please…” he whispered, blood running from his mouth. “Please, grant me a swift death.”
Sekhmet reached forward and brushed the man’s hair back from his face. She saw hope swell up in his eyes. “No,” she said, standing up and stepping backwards.
“Why?” the man asked.
“You deserve death,” Sekhmet said, stepping away to wipe the knife clean, momentarily turning her back to the man as she did. “You agreed that. However, I’m interested in seeing how long a man can survive with your injuries.”
When Sekhmet turned back, the man’s eyes were glossy, his chest unmoving. “Ah. Not very long at all, it would seem.”
“I could have told you that,” said a voice from behind Sekhmet.
She whirled around, stone knife coming up as she dropped into a defensive posture, certain the Pharoh’s men had finally found her.
It was not the Pharoah’s men. It was a shirtless man with the head of a falcon, regarding her with a curious expression.
Ra. God of the Sun. Was in her home. Sekhmet stood up, her heart pounding, putting the dagger back in her belt. The weapon would do nothing against a god, and Sekhmet was not in the mood to bow and scrape. “If you came to answer his prayers,” Sekhmet said with a gesture, “you’ll have to fetch him from Duat. He’s no longer of this world.”
A being without lips should not be able to smile, yet somehow Ra managed. “You respect me as little as the rest of the people of this city,” he said.
Sekhmet shrugged. “To be honest, I assumed you were here to slay me for my transgressions. I was not interested in pressing my forehead to the floor before my heart was weighed.”
Ra didn’t seem certain what to make of that. He looked down at the man again. “What did he do?”
“He died,” Sekhmet said, furrowing her forehead in confusion.
“I can see that. Before I revealed myself, you said that he deserved death. Why did he deserve death.”
Sekhmet shrugged. “I didn’t ask.”
“Then how did you know that he did?”
“He admitted it after I held his feet to hot coals for an hour.” Sekhmet sniffed. “If you’re not here to punish me, Great Ra, might we take this conversation outside? The stench of death isn’t my favorite.”
Ra strode out, motioning for her to follow. Irritation flared up in Sekhmet – she had invited him outside – but she followed.
Sekhmet’s dwelling was outside the walls of Nekhan, away from the prying eyes of civilization. She had a tiny oasis that provided her fruit and water. The men of the city would sometimes come to her, asking her to read the future in the entrails of a goat. She couldn’t see the future, but she could tell convincing lies that were vague enough that the men of the city would come back frequently, bringing with them meat and grain.
Sometimes, they would not return from those journeys. The roads outside of Nekhan are treacherous, after all.
“Why do you do it, Sekhmet? Why did you kill him? And the others, for that matter?”
“Does it matter?” Sekhmet asked, walking over to the oasis to scoop out a cup of water. She offered it to Ra, who declined. “Why do you sail under the world every night? Why bear the sun across the sky? We are what we are.”
“I actually do neither of those,” Ra said with a rumbling laugh. “Yet you kill so coldly. I ask again, why?”
Sekhmet frowned, “I do it to learn,” Sekhmet said, “There is so much that happens in the human body we do not understand. The only ways to understand is to open them up and look.”
“Then why make him admit he deserved death? To salve your conscience?”
Sekhmet shook her head. “No. Because I wanted to see if enough pain would cause a man to admit a terrible thing. Since he would only admit to deserving death, I presume either it would not, or he had no terrible thing to admit.”
“I see.” Ra sounded somewhat repulsed, and he turned back towards the city, as if steeling himself. “You’re a monster,” he said.
“I find that distinction irrelevant,” Sekhmet countered. “I am also a woman. I am also a scholar. I am many things that are more quantifiable than monster.”
Ra nodded slowly. “As you say. I wish to ad one other thing to that list. You are a woman, and you are a scholar, and you are – indisputably, in my eyes – a monster.” He looked back to the city one more time, then turned to Sekhmet. He raised his hand and opened it, revealing a small black stone within. “I’d also like you to become a goddess.”
Sekhmet stared at the stone. She could see stars swirling within, and felt a pull to gaze deeper into it. Ra closed his fist before she could. “And what would you want in exchange for that?” Sekhmet asked.
Ra tilted his head. “I offer you untold power, and you ask about conditions?”
“Why else would you make someone you consider a monster a goddess, unless you had a need?”
Ra nodded, then pointed back to the city. “The people of the city have forgotten my worship. I wish to see them punished for it. You would be my instrument in doing so.”
“I’m not interested in wholesale slaughter,” Sekhmet said. “I work personally.”
“If I wanted the city destroyed in an instant, I would do it myself. I want them to have time to think, and to beg for my aid. I want them to remember why they need me. You have the…personal touch I require.” Sekhmet frowned, still thinking. “Think of how much you could learn if you had millenia of life. Of how much knowledge there is to gain. All for the price of making one city know what it means to fear my wrath.”
“I want you to know I know you’re manipulating me,” Sekhmet said, stepping forward and holding out her hand. “You aren’t even trying to hide it. And yet…I will do as you ask, because you are right.”
Ra placed the stone in her hand. Sekhmet stared into it, and the stars filled her vision.
“Then go, Sekhmet. Show them what it means to anger the gods.”