Drumming. Drumming. Endless drumming. I am falling through the ribbed tunnel. Drumming continues as I fall thousands of feet beneath the earth. I am either dead or else I am dreaming.
I feel the wind of the giant hummingbird's wings. The bird-sorcerer hovers before me. I know he is the Egyptian magician, Thoth, who ancient artists depicted as a man with a bird's head and a long, decurved beak.
The drumming goes on endlessly, as the giant, hovering hummingbird leads me through the many gates of the underworld. Each doorway is guarded by a dangerous animal. The hummingbird-god, Thoth, always pauses to see if I know what to do.
I am not afraid, because I know the secret names of these monsters. I learned them in early childhood while I was playing in the mud. The names just came to me like little sunrises. I forgot them for many decades, but, when drumming is going on, they come back to me.
"You do not frighten me!" I say to one of the beasts. "You are Eats-his-own-feces!" He stands aside and let me through, then I walk further along the back of the underworld serpent, following Thoth, the giant hummingbird, who creates a great wind as he flies.
Finally, after many more monsters and many more gates, Thoth leads me to the Hall of Two Truths. I have always known that I would be here some day, gazing at Maat and her twin sister, who is also called Maat. As the ladies of the ostrich feather, they are the way and the truth, the dharma. The truth-women sit silently in the hall and gaze at me.
I find I am wearing a Egyptian robe. I realize that Terrie is standing behind me, making music with the sistrum; and she is singing. Her loyalty extends into my dreams and even deep into my death.
A god comes, the one whose head is a falcon's head. He clasps his hand around my wrist and leads me away from the droning of the hummingbird's wings and the sound of he drums. We go down the long corridor and come to the Council of all Beings. All forty-two animal clans are represented.
Behind me is my wife, shaking the sistrum, creating endless cascades of music. She sings wordless songs as I begin to justify myself to the council. The sound of the shaman's drum is faintly heard in the distance.
"I have done no unnecessary harm," I say. "I have taken life only for food and shelter. I have not been cruel or wasteful. When baby birds fell from the nest I put them back; when dying animals were in pain, I smashed their heads with rocks in order to end their suffering. I did not pollute the air or water. I did not throw trash in the woods. I did not sell my soul for money. I have done all the hummingbird sorcerer told me to do."
The animals gaze at me in silence.
Horus, the falcon god, takes me once again by the wrist, and we walk deeper into the hall; my wife follows, still playing the sistrum.
We enter the weighing room, where a fox is adjusting the scales. A monster sits beside him; it has the head of a crocodile and the body of a lion.
I reach into my rib cage and take out my heart. Anubis, the fox, takes it and places it on one tray; then he places an ostrich feather on the other. I see the monster eyeing my heart; he wants to eat it, but the scales balance. I have been found innocent, and I am allowed to go into the chamber of Osiris. I cross a threshold.
The god stands before me. His face is green; he wears a tall white crown; a long, narrow false-beard is strapped to his chin; in his hands are the crook and flail. Isis stands beside her god-husband and smiles like the Mona Lisa. The dark splendor of the underworld radiates from her perfect body. I raise my arms as I have often done to the sun, and I greet the green god and his lovely wife. Then I place lotus flowers on their offering table. There is a faint sound of drums and a whir.
As I stand there I see that Osiris is a mummy, but he moves as he wishes. In his grave-clothing he looks like a fish. I even think I see gleaming scales on the cloth in which he is wrapped.
The god extends a green hand.
"You have become me," he says.
Isis smiles silently.
The falcon god speaks: "Osiris-Gates will be allowed to go forth by day."
Then green-faced Osiris gives me his benediction. I walk out of the tomb and enter the Field of Reeds, where Hathor the cow-goddess sticks her head from the vegetation and says, "Blessed is your wife; as Osiris looks after you, so will I look after her." I hear music behind me. And drumming far, far away. And the faint sound of hummingbird wings.
Looking up I see the sun taking his boat across the bright underworld sky. I hold out my palm and catch one of his rays. It is warm and alive.
I hear the drumming much louder now. I am rising back up through the tunnel. The underworld was nothing a chimera. Idle nonsense. A child's fantasy. Drumming. Drumming. Suddenly, for no good reason, I wake up.
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