The sky was near to dusk, the mild glow of the sun will be soon hidden behind the twilight and the skies will be like as if the sun never existed. Suddenly the desert started to feel cooler than before. Zeruf opened his turban and wiped the sweat from his forehead looking at the sky just over his head which was glimmering with stars as if diamonds studded in the Pharaoh's staff. He somewhat got lost when suddenly the hunter lash fell on his back and it burned his skin, pain rose from his backbone into his head. He was tired from toiling since dawn. For a while he had forgotten that he was a worker. Far away the Red Pyramid stood erect marking the strength of the Pharaohs. He held the hammer firmer and started crushing the rocks.
Hunger was burning in his belly, the only meal he had was since when the sun was high above his head. The workers were given a full onion to have, the medicine men of Egypt had long ago written in the papyrus scrolls the magical powers of onion which was said to give the workers strength and power to fight the strongest desert heat. He knew he had to work until the Ra was asleep behind the horizon and start working as soon as the Ra rose in the morning producing light which was his blessing. Ramses II was very much worried about the completion of his tomb which he wanted to be the most ornate one in all Egypt. It shall stand beside the Nile seeping life from its waters, beneath the light of the almighty Ra and after sunset overhead will be the holy star which the philosophers call the ‘Star of Revival'. Everything was perfect matching his majestic honour. The interiors shall we worked on by the best artisans from all over the kingdom who will inscribe everything about his greatness, his invasions, his wives, his life and achievements. And of course his coffin shall be made from pure gold with imported rubies, diamonds, opals, sapphires and all kinds of beautiful jewelleries imported from Asia. But his only concern was the completion of the Great Pyramid whose progress had been very slow and he was furious about this.
Zeruf was looking impatiently at the sky to see whether the sun had disappeared or not. There was still a slight orange glow in the horizon. Then the time came when no more light was visible. The drumbeats indicated that it was time to leave work and head for the tents. As everyday he joined the line and the guards slashed their hunters to keep them moving. They were taken into the tents. They were given water and onions as supper. They were all shivering now because the mercury had dipped and cold winds were blowing over the deserts now.
It had been a long while since he had been lying sleepless when he carefully stepped outside the tent without drawing the attention of the sleeping guard. He sneaked out and did not go very far, he did not want to escape because he knew what the punishment of slaves trying to flee was. He quietly walked in shadows until he reached the banks of Nile. The holy river was flowing through the vein of Egypt as a boon on the lands. The silvery night was shadowing the banks and the waves showed glimpses of silver in its crests. The wind was very cold and it gave shivers to him, but he looked at the water that mesmerised him.
He thought of his life, he thought of the lives of the Pharaohs, he knew as it was told by the wise men that in his previous life he had sinned which he had to pay for when reincarnated in this life as a slave to serve the sons of the gods. He moved towards the bank and bent forth the Nile. He dipped his hands in the cool water and splashed it over his face, and the breeze burnt his cheeks carrying away the water with it which raised the hairs of his beard. He heard a faint rustle behind him which made his alert as he briskly stood up and looked back. It was a faint shadow flickering as if the flame from an extinguishing torch.
He stepped back when he saw the shadow approaching him. Fear ran through his spines. But it submerged when he saw it was a woman and no doubt she was a slave.
"What are you doing here?" he whispered slowly
"Came to see you, I know you come here often?" she said at the same tone looking into his moonlit face.
"But it is dangerous; if the guards see you they will thrash you." He said looking at the water.
"I have come here several nights wondering what you do here." She spoke in a much submerged voice.
"But why?, Why take so danger?" He demanded looking into her eyes.
"I want to be with you, I love you. I want to run away with you into the land across the Nile which is green and we will have a small house, we will have a farm and we will have small children. I don't like this life; I want to be happy with you." She said with a dreamy look in his eyes. He noticed her tender face the moonlight added to it a wonderful effect. Her eyes were glittering with passion of love and he knew she really was in love.
"But I don't know you even, who are you? And why do you speak so, you know what the consequences of trying to run away. Why are you so foolish?" he demanded angrily.
"I am Fatima" she said timidly.
"Fatima, you know we cannot have this life the gods have forbidden us to dream. We are to serve the Pharaoh, it is our destiny, it is written by the gods. We cannot escape it. I don't love you and don't want to love anyone. Love is a curse." He slowly spoke and she knew that the tears in her eyes were because the words he spoke were the reality of their lives.
He turned away and walked towards his tent leaving her behind. As he lay down sleeplessly he thought of Fatima, he thought how much he hurt her. He felt time creep slowly and resented the mistake.
"I will speak to her tomorrow." he thought
"I want to have freedom too, I will run away no matter it takes my life." He became stronger inside because it was the first time he was experiencing the strength love gave him.
The sun rose then with an orangey flicker on the sands. The day's work began but Zeruf was restless and his eyes searched everywhere for Fatima. He looked at all places of the construction but was disappointed not finding her. The sun's heat then increased so did the lashes of the hunter and the day ended the same way it does daily.
He waited in the tent for the right moment and finally sneaked out to find her. The desert was chilly and hard breeze blew into his face carrying with it sand grains. He somehow reached the banks. He waited there all night till dawn but she did not come.
The night went by and Zeruf's mind was heavy with pain. The sun rose again and so did the work so he toiled hard with an inattentive mind.
It was near noon they were being given their meals. The slave slowly called Zeruf and whispered in his ears "Have you heard the news, they found a slave's body down the Nile, it was a girl she drowned a day ago."
Zeruf's never experienced such anxiety before, he somehow thought he knew who it was and still he asked "Do they recognize her?"
"Yes, she is one of us, they say her name is Fatima." Zeruf's eyes became dizzy as tears erupted he spoke slowly "I was waiting for you."
The onion fell from his hand into the shining sand, the desert winds covered it in seconds and sand buried it like the soul of Fatima. The hunter lash fell on Zeruf's back but it did not give him pain.
A little distance away the Nile was flowing like the stream of tears from Fatima's eyes. Night came but the moon did not rise, and thereafter Zeruf never saw the Nile again.