It was an absurd idea from the beginning, to build six mastabas, one on top of the other, getting smaller as the structure grew; it was insanity. The orders were crazy, and the workload was certain to break us, but the Pharaoh didn’t care, as they never have. It didn’t matter; I had to work in order to eat. The Egyptians weren’t the type to give you food for lazing around. I remember I used to live with no worry whatsoever about feeding me and my family, but the gods are ruthless, and the floods have no mercy. When my farm was destroyed by the floods, I had no choice but to work for the pharaoh in order to feed my children and my dear wife. I was nothing but a muscle, a tool to carry bricks, to build a tomb that would house the bones of just one man.
It was early in the morning; my wife was asleep, and my kids were searching for something to entertain themselves. They were highly active at this time of the day; I wondered where they got that from—maybe from their dearly departed grandfather, I thought. When I was young, I too wished to be like him—a brave warrior who would protect our lands against those who challenged our divine right to occupy this land. Asim, my eldest son, aspired to be a warrior and serve directly to the pharaoh. Ur, on the other hand, wished to serve the gods as a man of religion. It was my duty as a father to make sure they would live to carry out their dreams. That is why I gathered my courage and walked to the Pyramid Site.
Far from the river, the land was dry, the wind harsh, and the heat scorching. When I arrived at the construction site, I was greeted by Omari, the only one in this cursed place I could call a comrade. He wore white robes with the sigil of our gods, wooden sandals, and brown trousers made of silk.
“Hello there, my brother. Have you rested well? If you lack any water, I would be more than happy to offer you some of mine.” He spoke with a calming tone, his soothing voice alleviating the weight on my shoulders.
“I am alright, Omari. You must save that water for yourself. “Today promises to be a long and exhausting day.” I responded with a stoic expression. “The pharaoh demands the fourth mastaba be finished by the end of season, so Sadiki is sure to increase our chores.”
We chatted for a few minutes before Sadiki interrupted our conversation. Prior to making impossible demands, he declared that all our efforts were to be doubled. Soon after that, we got to work transporting limestone, with a weight capable of crushing one’s soul. How much more time will this take, how much more can I take? I had no idea, but I continued anyway with the faces of my children in my head.
The weight of the rocks was no laughing matter; it took at least 30 men to carry them. The sad reality of it was that sooner or later, some of us would break. The sun had just reached its peak when Gyasi hit the floor. He was a noble man of high morals, but that did not translate into muscle strength. Since he couldn’t even make it to the end of the day before our work increased, it was no surprise that the increase in our work hurt his body so greatly that not even his noble soul could support this burden.
Gasps filled the group when his body fell to the floor, and I could see tears in Omari’s face. Gyasi was very much loved by the workers; his high spirits always made it seem like these dark times would one day pass. None of us could reach him. We had no idea if he was dead or exhausted. We did not have permission to let go of the rock as it would take too much time to pick it up once more. We ended up doing the only thing we could. We walked away and ignored his body, praying so that the gods would help, because we no longer could. This was the dark reality in which we lived. The pharaoh’s greed would bring upon the death of the common people. I could not believe that he was chosen by the gods, at least not our gods. In the end I collected my coin and returned to my home. In my way back, I could not help but think of Gyasi`s family, and of mine if I was the one who had suffered his fate. I purged those thoughts from my mind as I made my way to the market. I left with a pack of playing cards. I think its about time Asim learns to play cards with his old man.