Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Angry (08/02/07)
TITLE: A Choker
By Helen Murray
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He had learned to despise these prolific, uncultured slave gangs for their occupation of the most productive of the nation’s soil, for their fast growing populations that terrified the government, should they ever find a leader who could cause them to unite and stand their ground. Egypt was looking to him to be the major administrator of the nation, second only to the Crown Prince. He certainly had all the requirements for the work.
But in despising he found himself haunted. What was it? Distant memories of childhood, a sister, a nurse, an old lullaby that palace children didn’t know, a suspicion, a feeling of guilt, an estrangement, a difference from others? Not totally at home in the palace, he had his own thinking style, which no-one else seemed to follow or share. It isolated him a little.
Well, a lot actually, as he matured into magnificent manhood. He heard a servant telling another that he was different, but when he hauled her up to explain herself she had nothing to say, no explanation. He’d demonstrated his youthful authority by sending her off to prison for insolence, and then, a month later had her re-instated on the grounds that she should tell him what she knew. The promise of promotion had enticed from her the amazing story of a baby discovered in a basket hidden in the bulrushes of the river, and brought up by the princess.
He’d exploded at that! “How dare you invent such tales! I’ll send you back to prison!”
Ashen-faced, the servant-woman was led off again to consider her crimes. But he was curious and wanted to know more, so she was re-called in terror to stand before him, shaking, her knees knocking. Looking at her, the first, tremulous shades of remorse grew upon him, though it was not his place to admit it. His worst fears surfaced. It seemed that he had indeed been a Hebrew baby being saved from the malice of the current Pharaoh who had ordered the boys killed. His wily mother had hidden him and offered him to God’s care on the river aged about three months. This would account for his differences – the wildly curly hair, the unique mentality, the skin shade. He ordered the servant her promotion.
Visiting Goshen, among the vigorous, slave vegetable beds, the politically correct salutation offered to the Egyptian prince covered heated aggressiveness. His aid called for one, Miriam, occasional assistant to the princess. It had been masterful, he hoped, hiding the shock in his face when he met her and recognized the likeness. He’d then summoned the chariot with such speedy dignity as could be mustered.
Controlling unfamiliar anger over the identity crisis, the insecurity of his royal position, the clear image of the woman who was his sister and who knew it, exhausted him. Waves of unmitigated rage took their toll and he began restlessly pacing the halls at night. The servants, perceiving desperation, moved gently around him as if anticipating an explosion.
On the day he visited the mudpits to see how the building project was developing, He began controlled and calm. Even his horses trotted amiably. But the sight flooded his eyes. These were his own people, his blood brothers. He had been saved from slavery and wore the now unabating guilt of that. In a new identity crisis he belonged to them and not to Egypt. Shame at his relative position confronted him and palace insecurity moved in behind as he witnessed again the beating of a slave. What happened next was so quick that he thought no-one saw anything, and he went home satisfied to have got away with it.
The next day revealed the truth. The murder was comprehended. The death of the slave-beating Egyptian sparked the caustic remark that sealed the immediate claim of the merciless desert upon Moses, the refugee prince of Egypt, son of Israel.
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