The Kingdom of the Dead

by Swan Morrison


Ramesses the Second gazed from his palace balcony upon myriad workers cultivating the fertile banks of the Great River. It had been more than three thousand years since his entombment, and he had never ceased to reflect with admiration on the accuracy with which Imhotep had described the funerary practices required to reach this Afterlife.

Ramesses had shared the sacred Kingdom of the Dead with Egyptians who had lived before him, and those who had come after, until more than a thousand years after the death of his mortal body. Then, suddenly and without explanation, new arrivals had ceased.

Two thousand mysterious years had then passed without the Dead bringing news from the World Below... until the arrival of Arthur.

Arthur had been born in England in the second half of the twentieth century and had been enthusiastic in his New Age beliefs. It was with such an open-minded yet uncritical outlook that he had visited the monuments of ancient Egypt. Perhaps it had been due to the inspirational beauty and grandeur of the tombs and temples; perhaps it had been due to standing in the sun too long without a hat on. Whatever the cause, Arthur had developed his latest unshakeable belief: The Pharaohs had understood the truth about the nature of life and death. This conviction had no more of a rational basis than the other odd beliefs for which he was renowned. Ironically, however, he was absolutely right.

On his return home he excavated his back garden and began to construct a pyramid. After ten years he had created a tomb faithful to the Egyptian Book of the Dead.

Shortly after decorating the final hieroglyph, he contracted a minor ailment, easily cured by prescription medication. Arthur, however, had complete faith in homeopathic remedies and the healing power of crystals and so had died.

His aunt Mary, though sharing none of Arthur’s beliefs, was fond of her nephew and was determined to follow to the letter his detailed burial instructions. Thus was Arthur mummified according to ancient Egyptian tradition and entombed in his pyramid with correct ceremony. With him were goods for the Afterlife, including his computer games console, TV and the car in which Arthur planned to journey to the Kingdom of the Dead.

Ramesses recalled the day when the rising sun, for the first time in two thousand years, had been bisected by flashes of white lightning. Arthur had entered the Afterlife at the wheel of his Ford Cortina. The sound of its backfire had overpowered the thunder, and the smoke from its exhaust had obscured the sun.

It had fallen to Arthur, as the last entrant to the Afterlife, to transport the Sun God, Amun, in his daily journey across the heavens. Ramesses glanced upwards. The radiance of the god obscured the outline of Arthur’s Cortina. Just the bangs from the backfiring and the sun’s smoky wake betrayed Amun’s new chariot.

Ramesses reflected sadly on the demise of the Pharaohs. At least he now knew why no more souls entered the Afterlife. He had Arthur to thank for that, and, as he sat down on his throne and reached for the TV remote, he also had him to thank for the loan of the games console.


Copyright © 2009 by Swan Morrison

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