Curse of the Hieroglyph
Masud was still feeling tired after a hard day’s work when he decided to take a stroll down and he called out to his wife. ‘I’ll go out for a while, Hafsah’.
‘Aren’t you tired, you had a long day?’.
‘Yes of course, but I need some fresh air’
‘Ok come back soon’, Hafsah followed her husband to the door as he straightened out his long Egyptian cotton robe and moved out, ‘it is getting dark’, Hafsah looked up at the sky and then watched her husband going.
Masud walked down the streets, it was getting dark but the street lights were still not turned on. He moved past the camels and a tourist group of a large number of foreigners who just returned from a trip to the nearby pyramids. Masud was moving towards a deserted area, quite dark with sands and he walked up the street which was uneven and reached the trail towards the pyramids that seemed isolated and away from the small village. He stopped for a while, breathed heavily as he was still tired but for some strange reason wanted to move on even further. He left the village streets behind him and walked towards the sand, the region that led to the pyramids and heard camels returning with tourists and children winding up their day’s play. Masud moved on further and watched the red horizons beaming down at him, as if they knew a secret that he didn’t know.
He was suddenly too tired and noticed a small rock like structure where he finally sat down. Feeling bored he dug his toes deeper into the sands and noticed something shiny and hard on the ground. He bent down to scrutinize it closer and finally with his hands removed the sands to discover a broken tablet made of stone embedded with some shiny metal on the top. He lifted it up, it was irregular in shape but must have been rectangular in its original form and was around eight inches in length. Masud was quite thrilled to find something so unusual in the midst of a near desert. He peered into the tablet and found something written on it and immediately recognized the ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs. ‘This is a discovery, a message, a message!’ Masud almost shouted in excitement. His face flushed, Masud stood up with the stone tablet in his hand and made his way back home.
Hafsah was surprised to see her calm husband, so excited when she opened the door. ‘Sit down and tell me what happened’, she urged. Masud sat and showed his discovery to his wife. ‘You see, I found this one, this is an old Egyptian hieroglyphic tablet, this is a message, it says something. This is probably many thousand of years old. I don’t know how it got there’.
‘Where did you find this?’ Hafsah asked
‘In the sands, near the pyramids, this must be very old and will be worth thousands’.
Hafsah took the tablet and examined it closely. ‘Are you sure this is many years old, an original or simply a fake one made according to an Egyptian tablet, an imitation?’
Masud looked at her. He always thought is wife is more intelligent and wiser than him and her words made him think for a while and he looked at her face and then at the tablet and suddenly decided something.
He stood up again impatiently. ‘I will take this to Latif, you know Latif who works for the papyrus factory. He can tell me whether this is real, he deals with these things, he is an expert’. Masud quickly wrapped the tablet inside a newspaper and walked out into the dark.
Latif examined the tablet for nearly half an hour and finally beamed at Masud. ‘Masud, I know you’re lucky. Listen to me, this is many thousands years old, probably during queen Nefertari’s rule, because the picture here at the side shows Nefertari’s image, it is broken though and not completely clear. I’m surprised you found it near the pyramids. But I can tell you this is original, not fake and if you want to sell it….’
Masud interrupted him. ‘No, no I don’t want to sell this. Tell me what’s written in it. There are some hieroglyphs on it, you know how to read this, just tell me what it says’.
Latif peered into the tablet for a while and drew out a paper from a drawer beside him. He then copied the hieroglyphs on the paper and after a while, he looked up at Masud. ‘Masud, this is probably a prophetic hieroglyph, it says, “he who finds this, is rich”.’
Masud’s eyes were shining as he heard this. He smiled. ‘I knew, I knew this is a message, I’m going to be rich. I’ll become very rich’.
Masud almost danced his way back home and Hafsah was surprised at her husband’s sudden change of behavior. ‘I’ll be rich, Hafsah, we’ll be very rich, this is a real hieroglyph, it says that I am a rich man’. Hafsah smiled as well as she took the tablet from her husband and kept it inside the safety locker.
‘It’s in a safe place now. We don’t have to sell it, this will bring us a fortune’, Masud said. Masud was in cloud nine and almost had a sleepless night, he was so excited.
Weeks passed and then months. Masud’s perfume business was going on well. His shop sold various types of Arabic and Egyptian perfume to people from all over the world, to tourists who visited Cairo and he even exported huge quantities abroad to countries in the West and even East, to Dubai and to Bombay and even to cities like London and Rome. Yet Masud was not quite happy, he wanted more. He knows that he could be very rich if the prediction of the hieroglyph is true, but the prediction has not worked yet. He made more profits, almost double profits this year but that was expected. There has been no unexpected windfall of fortune since he discovered the hieroglyph and he thought about the tablet and the prophetic statement every single day.
He looked worried as he looked up at the clear sky one night and his wife sat beside him. ‘What is wrong, you look depressed?’ she asked. He turned at her, ‘You know Hafsah, I was thinking of the stone, the tablet and the prophecy. It didn’t really work out. I thought it was a message, I was so convinced, I thought I will become a millionaire but I’m still ordinary’.
‘This year you had good profits’ Hafsah reminded him
‘Yes, but not as much as I expected. I would made this much money anyway, I’m angry with myself for believing in the hieroglyphs, in the tablet’. Masud turned his face away once again and became engrossed in his own thoughts.
When Hafsah was gone to the other room, Masud opened the safety locker, pulled out the tablet and looked at it once again. It was a dark grayish stone with remains of copper sheet at the top with colored hieroglyphs.
A sudden thought struck him and taking the tablet in his hands, Masud went out of the house and walked swiftly down the streets in the middle of the night.
It was midnight, but the street lights were still dazzling, the Nile was looking ornated with colorful lights and there was a festive spirit in the air with a swarm of tourists visiting December Egypt. Masud reached near the Nile and watched the cruise ships with that never-ending wonder, the beauty of the sea was mesmerizing in the night. He walked up near the river and rolled out the tablet from his hand letting it fall in front of him. It fell with a thud on the ground and he pushed it slowly. Then, as if he was playing with it, he suddenly picked it up again and used some force to throw it as far as he could send it into the river.
The hieroglyph was gone, into the Nile , along the river and so were the expectations. Suddenly Masud felt happy and free again. He could work without thinking of prophecies and without feeling bad that the tablet has given him nothing. He was a free man.
Masud hurried back home and took a shortcut. As he reached his house he saw his wife running out of the house and towards him. ‘Masud, Masud’ she shouted and ran towards him as if in desperation. ‘What happened?’ Masud was suddenly apprehensive.
‘I was looking for you all this time, where were you? Hafsah’s voice was broken ‘…. our shop, our shop....is on fire. Latif informed me’. Hafsah started crying.
Masud stood still, almost like a stone for a while, his face was expressionless as if he didn’t understand what was being said and what was going on. He held his wife’s hand and then his hands began shaking. They heard Latif shouting as they moved out of their house. ‘Don’t worry, don’t worry, we’re trying to control. I’ve called the fire service. It will be fine’.
As Masud watched the flames eating up his 20 year old business and the desperate firemen and everyone else struggling to control the flames, he couldn’t help wondering whether this was the curse of the hieroglyph.
All rights belong to its author. It was published on e-Stories.org by demand of Saberi Roy.
Published on e-Stories.org on 02.02.2008.