The journey of a young egyptian boy named, Nebi, who is called to work on the Great Pyramid of Giza.
(This is only the first chapter.)
Nebi stared into the deep colour of the water in front of his home. His eyes followed the quaint flow of the river. Many people were on their wooden boats, their sails up high toward the blue sky and the hot Egyptian sun, shinning vigorously upon their backs covered in sweat and their arms working hard pulling their vessel into the harbor. Many other men rowed with oars into the busy port where venders tried to sell their possessions to passerbies. Children occupied the busy streets playing little games with hand made dolls, tops, or animal toys which they chased each other through the streets. Boats of all different colors and sizes, carrying treasures from afar, floated past the boy whose eyes reflected the Nile River and its wonderful characteristics.
His lush dark brown hair blew in the soft breeze that kissed his back and stomach. A large piece of cloth made of linen danced in the wind tickling his knees. His eyes were dark brown, the colour of the boats that sailed by him. He and his family could not pay for the rich black makeup so nothing protected his eyes from the harsh sun. His seventeen year old body was skinny but full of muscles for which he received from his hard labor. On his dirty feet he stood on reed woven sandals his mother made for him when he was younger. He watched the commotion on the river that lay before him.
“Nebi!” a voice cried out from behind him. A sixteen year old girl came running up to him. Her dress was dirty from playing in the sandy ground with her younger brother. Her eyes, too, were dark brown, long bangs getting in their way. Her long black hair followed behind her as she raced toward her older sibling.
“Nebi!” she cried out again, “You won’t believe what I just saw!” Her eyes were big as she continued her news. “I was playing with Omar and we thought we were getting noisy because these older women told us to be quiet. Quickly we quieted and then we saw it. There was a huge spectacular boat! Many men controlled its oars and there, on the top, just sitting was a man. He was so dressed up and he looked so beautiful!” She stopped and her eyes grew wide. “Look!” She pointed toward the bend in the river and there, a long majestic boat came sailing into the harbor. Many men sat and worked the oars and on top there was a man. He wore two hats that we intertwined, one white, one red. They shone in the sunlight. His eyes, which were painted around with black makeup, looked straight forward, showing no sign of emotion. He was dressed in a long white linen robe. A belt tied it at his waist and he wore a spectacular piece of jewelry that hung around his neck, which appeared to be gold. He just sat there, making no urge to move. All he did was gaze into the river before him.
“Who is he?” Amisi asked looking up at her brother.
“I don’t-“ he stopped short, thinking as he watched the boat sail out of sight. “Amisi, I think that was the Pharaoh.” Her eyes grew wide and she smiled. “What’s he doing here?”
Nebi didn’t answer. He just stared at the place where the boat vanished from his sight. Amisi tugged on his loincloth. “Nebi!”
“Nebi! Amisi!” there was another voice that rung out behind the two siblings. They both turned and a woman dressed in a cloth dress, scurried up to them, her dark brown hair in braids behind her head.
“Nebi! What are you doing here! You’re father is waiting! You were supposed to fetch water!” She cried as she picked up the pale at his feet and scooped up water, flinging the bin into his hands. “Go! Now!” She demanded and took hold of Amisi’s hand.
Nebi walked back up the hill toward his house which lay a few feet away and disappeared behind the structure.
“Mother? Did you see that man?”
“Yes,” her mother replied as she looked into the direction of which her son disappeared.
“Do you know who it was?” She asked as she brushed off her dress.
“That was your King, the pharaoh.” She answered now walking back to the house, “Come, we have chores to do Amisi.”
Amisi did as she was told and followed her mother into the house.
“What was he doing here?” She repeated her question which she had previously asked Nebi.
“He’s on a journey.”
“To where?” she said lifting a bunch of papyrus leaves into a wooden slot upon the wall. Her mother appeared to be fed up with all the questions and just ignored her.
No one talked for awhile and all Amisi could here were voices which belonged to the workers on the Nile. The sound of their cat meowing as she chased her prey through the dirt.
Then all of a sudden there came loud voices outside which belonged to men who Amisi never heard before. There came a harsh knock on the brick mud wall that made the house. It made Amisi jump in her spot. Her mother walked toward the piece of cloth that hung in the doorway. She lifted it and the sun came pouring into the house. It lit up the table and chairs, all hand crafted which lay close to the southern wall. There was a corridor that led from the main room to the bedrooms. A lamp rested on the low table’s surface. Boxes were scattered around the house, one where Amisi had recently just laid her papyrus in.
“We have come in the name of the King!” the man said in a low and deep powerful voice. He wore a loincloth that extended to his ankles. On his neck he had a necklace similar to the king. Another man appeared next to him dressed in the same sort of clothes. They’re faces were drawn and were tired appearing. Their black eyes stared into the eyes of Amisi and her mother.
“I’ve heard you have a son, by the name of Nebi.” The man thundered. “All boys over the age of sixteen are required to come forth and work for his King.” The taller one read off a piece of papyrus paper which he held in his large rough hands.
“My son…” Eshe said staring past the two men at her doorstep. Amisi just stared at the two men, hoping that they were just joking.
“Yes your son.” The second man said. “Now!”
“You can’t take Nebi!” Amisi cried as tears began to swell in her eyes.
“I wouldn’t be talking if I were you.” Said the one who had read the paper.
Her mother just glared at her and turned back to the men.
“He’s out in the fields.” She answered solemnly, her light brown eyes glistening with water. The two men turned around and started walking off toward the back of the fields.
“Wait” Eshe called running after them. “Can we at least have one last meal with my whole family. Since I presume he won’t be back for a long time.”
“How dare you ask for a delayed departure of your son who is to work for your King!” He raised his hand ready to strike Eshe in the face. The taller one stopped his companion and glared at Eshe.
“You have until sundown! Then he MUST go!” He made a hmph sound and walked off muttering under his breathe. The other quickly followed behind.
Amisi quickly ran up to her mother’s side.
“Mother, should I go tell Nebi?” She asked as she realized her mother was crying. Her mother only turned away and faintly nodded her head. Amisi hurried off toward the fields that lay behind her house.
* * * *
“Father, I’m sorry!” Nebi said as his father came into sight, his arms crossed in front of his chest. He was an adult Nebi. His hair blew silently into the wind as Nebi approached him.
“My apologies fath-“ he stopped as a sharp pain went through his cheek. His father stood before him, his hand to shoulder. Nebi’s cheek burned as he stood under the still burning sun.
“Come son, we have much work to do.” They set off into the field buckets in hand. His father checking each separate plant to make sure it was healthy. When he found one that was ill he picked up the pale of water in Nebi’s hand and shoved its cool refreshing mass onto the plant. They then continued.
Minutes past as the cycle continued, his father examining the plant, when needing watering the plant and moving onto the next one. A new pain appeared as his back began to burn.
“Father, I think I need more oil on my back,” he said as his father grabbed the pale and poured water on the plant. His father just ignored him and the work ensued. What seemed like hours after the same cycle his father stood up and stretched his back.
“Nebi, I need to go check something with your mother. Continue as I am gone.” He instructed and with that he set off toward the house.
Why do we have to have so many plants? Why can’t we just have a little garden? Nebi thought as he continued with his duty.
Finally his job was done and he started off toward his home, which he so wanted to just collapse and talk to Amisi and Omar.
“Nebi, you better hurry up!” a man called from the next garden. Nebi looked confused as he faced the man. “Two men came by and left your mother crying, Amisi is coming for you soon. Just saw her leave a few moments ago.”
Nebi just stared at the man who just looked at him like nothing bad came from his lips. Quickly Nebi dropped his pale and ran toward the house. What happened?! Who were the two men? What did they want with my mother? His thoughts poured in his head like a waterfall.
“Nebi!” Amisi cried as she came into view from the side of the house.
“What’s happened? Where are mother and father?” He asked words spilling from his mouth.
“Follow me,” she answered quietly and took his hand leading him into the house. The coolness engulfed him as he stepped into his home, his mother still sniffling on a stool, his father beside her. The atmosphere was the gloomiest he had ever felt.
“What’s…going on?” he asked as his sister joined his mother and father.
All he got was his mothers pleading eyes along with his sisters and fathers.
“Mother!” A boy came running past Nebi straight for the woman sitting in the chair.
“Omar, this is not the time,” Amisi said grabbing Omar’s arm. The little boy squirmed in her grip. His face scared. His black hair matted to his head from sweat, his light brown eyes, like his mothers, staring at Amisi. “This is not the time for a thirteen year old boy to act up.” Then Omar gazed at his older brother who just stood there, motionless like a statue.
“Mother…” They both said at the same time.
“I…I must prepare dinner. I must get dinner,” she said getting to her feet and scurrying out the door, the piece of cloth falling back over the doorway. Their father just stood up and slowly followed his wife.
“Amisi, something is going on, what is it?” Nebi asked his sister.
“Time will allow the answer,” was all his sister spoke before she too disappeared out of sight. All who was left was Omar. Who, Nebi knew too, was clueless.
“Nebi! You’re back, its all burnt!” cried Omar who had gotten behind him. He touched his brothers burnt back. Nebi only twitched as his brother poked his back. Nebi never realized how severe his back was until his mind was quiet and still.
“I’ll go get Amisi,” Omar said leaving Nebi alone. He hurried towards his sister who was cooking in the back yard.
“Amisi! Nebi needs help. His back is all burnt.”
“I’ll go help him in a few moments, I just need to ask mother if I can.” She said as she laid her spoon into the bowl.
“Mother, may I go help Nebi?”
Her mother only nodded and continued with her cooking.
“Come on!” Omar pleaded clutching onto his sister’s dress, leading her back to her brother.
The two entered the small house. The room was empty and all that was left was an overturned chair.
“Nebi! NEBI!” Amisi cried out, panicking rapidly. She started running around the house calling her brothers name. Omar joined desperately in the search.
“What?” Nebi answered, coming out of his bedroom. Amisi never saw her brother like he was that moment. Usually he was the happy spirited son. Now, before her eyes there was a boy who had dry tears coming from his eyes. His eyes were like the two men; tired and sad. His mouth twisted ready to make a cry of sadness.
“Oh, Nebi,” Amisi whimpered as she hugged her brother. All Nebi could do was look down at his sister.
“Amisi, please, tell me whats going on?” his voice droned.
“You’ll find out soon. I promise,” Amisi answered as she turned and grabbed oil out from a cabinet near by. “Now where’s that back of yours?”
He turned and Amisi dropped her bottle, it shattered on the dirt floor, the noise echoed through the house. Omar just stared at the broken bottle.
“I’m sorry,” Amisi apologized as she got down on all fours and began picking up the shattered shards of the once beautiful bottle. “Mother’s going to kill me.”
“Amisi, Omar….Nebi!” Their mother’s voice rang through their ears as they saw her carry in food. The sun behind her beginning, to slip behind the horizon, she looked at the mess on the floor. She just turned her head and set down food on the table.
“Amisi, help me with this.”
Amisi joined her mother while the two brothers picked up the rest of the bottle.
“I’m so hungry,” whined Omar rubbing his stomach to emphasize his statement.
“Omar, shh” Nebi instructed his little brother, “dinner is just a few moments away, you can live.” He managed a weak smile. Omar responded with a hearty laugh.
“Dinner.” Their father announced sitting down on the table. Nebi sat in his usual seat and the rest of his family members did the same. He looked at his mother and father’s faces. They looked back at him and began eating what was in front of them.
“Amisi, this is really good!” Omar complimented his sister. She only smiled and then it was like nothing happened. His mother and father stared at their son and slowly his mother inhaled and took a deep breathe.
“Nebi. This will be your last dinner in this house.” She said in an almost eerie voice. Nebi just looked at his mother, confused.
“….You’re probably not coming back here…not in a long time.” She said now crying.
“I’m sorry, is this just a cruel joke? It has to be!” Nebi demanded.
He looked desperately at his sister who only wearily shook her head.
“Nebi, your mother speaks the truth.” His father said as Eshe took hold of her son’s hand.
“Nkosi,” their mother said now tears rushing down her cheeks, holding onto her spouses arm.
“Eshe…you have to tell him why.”
“Nebi,” she slowly spoke his name like it was as fragile as glass. “Two men came today while you were at work with your father. They came, they’re looking for you. You are…you need….need to go with them…in the name of the King.”
Nebi only sat there, motionless, staring at his mother. “You’re lying!” He cried as a tear rolled down his cheek. “You are all lying!” He let go of his mothers hand and stood up almost knocking the table over.
“Nebi, listen to me son, please, I am not lying.” Eshe pleaded holding onto her son’s hand. Nebi shook her off again.
“Nebi.” Amisi said as she too lifted from her seat. “Nebi…she’s not lying.” Nebi just turned his head. “Nebi! Look at me!” She took his chin and turned it toward her. “Brother. We’re not lying, look at us, do you think this is the face of lying?” She pointed at her face which was tear stained.
Nebi just collapsed onto the floor and started crying. Omar crept toward his older brother and hugged him. Amisi followed and so did his mother and father.
“Nebi, we love you, so much,” his mother said as the sun sank behind the horizon. She quickly looked back at the night sky that was unfolding and whirled around and hugged her son tightly. “My Nebi, I love you.”
“I love you too,” Nebi hugged his mother tightly.
Then there came a sudden bang and the two men stood in the doorway once more.
“Nebi, come with us.” The taller one spoke through the house to the seventeen year old boy. Nebi gulped and stood up leaving his mother on the floor sobbing.
“Come!” The other one demanded.
“Nebi, here, I made something for you,” Amisi said emerging from her bedroom holding out a little bag. “It’s full of food, for you on your journey.” Nebi accepted his present and hugged his sister for the last time. “Nebi..I love you, you are a great brother.” Amisi whispered in his ear. He let go and turned to the two unknown men who were splitting him up his family.
“Nebi, come, NOW!” the taller one shouted.
“Son,” his father said and then embraced his son. “Good luck.”
“Nebi!! I don’t want you to go!” Omar’s finally rang out as he hugged his brother and sobbed.
The two men frowned and the shorter one’s face told his impatience. The taller crossed his arms and stomped his foot.
Nebi hugged his younger brother, “Take good care of my stuff and the work in the fields, will you?” Omar only nodded tears streaming from his face.
The shorter one lost his patience and stomped toward the two brothers. He grabbed Omar by the shoulders and began to try to pry him off Nebi. Omar didn’t budge screaming “Don’t! Brother!” as the shorter one continued his fight.
“That is enough!” The taller one said now helping his companion of forcing Omar off Nebi. With one big push the taller one grabbed Omar by the shoulder and flung him off Nebi. With one big noise he crashed into the wall and fell to the floor. Amisi screamed as she ran towards her fallen brother.
“How could you!” She yelled as she helped Omar to his feet.
“Don’t talk back to us young lady.” With that the shorter man slapped her face and yanked on Nebi’s arm pulling him out of the house. The two’s grip made pain shoot through Nebi’s arms. He didn’t try to escape the two men. All he did was silently cry. Nebi! Was the last thing he heard from his house as the two men escorted him to a boat which berthed at a dock near a palm tree which Nebi remembered was the tree he fell out of when he was younger.
The men pushed Nebi into the boat which he realized was a big boat that could probably hold up to twenty people. The taller one kicked four boys in the back who began, immediately, to row. Nebi gazed at the four boys. They were about his age, their muscles working hard to push the boat forward. Their bodies were skinny and their faces sweaty.
“So, boy, you’re names Nebi?” The shorter one asked sitting down across from Nebi.
The man just nodded and looked at the taller man who now sat next to him.
“You’re seventeen, right?” The taller one said.
All Nebi did was nod and another tear fell from his eyes.
“My name’s Tau,” the taller man said, “and this is Yafeu.”
Yafeu just stared at Nebi. All was to be heard were the oars hitting the Nile’s service and the heavy breathing of the four boys.
“Who are they?” Nebi asked.
“Them? They’re just four people, just like you.” Tau explained stretching his arms. Nebi just continued to look at the four men and he began to think about his family. About Amisi, Omar, and his mother and father. His thoughts were so strong he didn’t realize the boat stopped. Tau and Yafeu got out and began their way up a hill when Yafeu turned around. “You, boy, don’t move!”
With that he walked away and the two disappeared. Nebi turned and faced the four resting boys.
“What are you looking at?” one of them asked glaring at him, his eyes dark and his hair brown. His face tired.
“Siberia!” another boy said sternly, who looked exactly like him, faced Nebi. “My name is Zahur, that’s my brother Zuberi.” He nudged his brother in the ribs, who gave a small grunt of hello.
“My name’s Sefu.” Another voice answered. His hair was black and cut shorter than Nebi’s, his eyes charcoal coloured. “This is my friend, Sudi.”
Sudi just smiled, his brown eyes were full of sadness, his black hair ruffled and his bangs in his eyes, looked up into the night sky, the stars shinning in the dazzling night sky. The moon staring back at them, illuminating the Nile and the five faces in the boat.
“Where are we going?” Nebi asked no one in particular.
“Somewhere special,” Sefu responded lying down.
“Zahur, I miss mother and father.”
“I know Zuberi, I miss them too.” Zahur said patting his brother on the head.
“I bet your parents most have missed you as much when you le-“
“Our parents are dead.” Zauberi cut him off and looked up at the moon.
“Oh…I’m sorry,” Nebi apologized.
“It’s fine, our parents died when we were thirteen it’s been four and a half years. It seems like so much longer…” Zahur said looking at Nebi with his dark eyes seemed to go straight through him.
“Come! Now!” Yafeu’s voice pierced through the night. The two men appeared and had in hand eight boys, ranging from age and size. Nebi was distraught as he saw a boy, younger then him being pulled by the wrist into the boat next to him. Yafeu and Tau shoved them down, hard, into the boat.
“You four! Get moving!” Yafeu ordered kicking Zahur in the ribs. He winced in pain and stood up. Zauberi, Sefu and Sudi followed. The sound of oars hitting the cold water echoed through Nebi’s ears as he sat in silence.
“I want to go home!” The young boy cried standing up. Tau stood up in front of him and soothed him by speaking in a nice calm voice. “You’ll be home before you know it, Thabit.” The young boy sat down beside Nebi and stared at the boat’s bottom.
Silence crept over the boat and it’s passengers.
“Tau, where are we going?” Nebi asked, breaking the silence.
“Somewhere grand, Nebi! You will see in a few days.” He smiled and turned his head toward the bow of the boat.