Oct 08

The Riddle

“Homework for today: Research ancient Egyptian deities, read the book about the Ogdoad, explain the meaning of it. I slammed my planner shut and plopped onto the couch. Today was a very tiring day, and the homework hung over my head as the sword of Damocles: what was the point, anyway, of studying non existent gods. But the challenge was there, and it was due: tomorrow. I didn't know where to start.

Hesitantly I took the “history of religions” book, opened up, and read. It was not as bad as I thought. Actually, the mystical cults, rites, and shrines were so fascinating that I began to dream up fantasies of visiting Egypt. As I was ready to climb on the great sphinx, my head nodded. With a huge effort I remembered the deadline for the homework and opened my eyes.

The room was just the same, but somewhat different.

A light warm wind was blowing through the curtains (for a moment I wondered when and who put them in my room, but decided not to twist my brain over such a trifle.  Small grains of sand landed on my head and onto my book. I shook them off. But where was the sand from? I closed the book, placed it onto the table, and went to the door. A gust of dust swept into my eyes, blinding me. A hazy picture swam into view. Several scraggly palm trees, an endless yellow sea, and… a blurry silhouette that looked like a giant lion was standing right before me. I blinked. It was huge. I rubbed my eyes.

The lion, or a dog with a human face, scarred by time, made of sandy yellow limestone was towering up above me. I recognized him. It was the great Sphinx of Egypt.  And what was the most amazing? It somehow felt quite natural: you open your door, and step into Egypt!

I came closer to the statue, rubbed it with my fingers, and stared up at the colossal face. It was purely amazing, but I wanted a closer encounter. My fingers and toes itched to climb up the Sphinx, way to the top, and enjoy the great view. “No one will see it” I thought, carefully checked if any guards or humans were around.

Taking a deep breath, I hoisted myself up…. One foot…. Two feet…. Three feet…. Five feet…. I stopped to catch my breath. This was surely hard. Six feet…. Ten feet…… “STOP PROFANING THE HOLY RELIC!!!”

A voice boomed, somewhat scary and unsettling. I hushed myself and pressed my body against the Sphinx's forearm, peeking over my shoulder. No one was there. “Huh?” I caught my breath and continued my dangerous ascent.

“STOP IT. NOW.” I lost my grip on the rock, sliding down, scratching my arms, and landing onto the ground: surprisingly, onto my two feet and without a single bruise. “Who…. Who are you?” I spun around, looking for an answer. “A RIDDLE. NOW THEN, EVALUATE: 11 + sqrt(-4 + 6×4÷3)” I stomped my foot. “A riddle is not an answer. What's your name?”

“SOLVE THIS MYSTERY AND YOU WILL GET AN ANSWER TO THE SUPREME SECRET OF LIFE.” It was queer, but intriguing.

“The algebraic equation?” I continued to search the ground for a hidden microphone or a speaker. (Was this all a freaky talk show?)

“NO. JUST STOP RUNNING AROUND AND LISTEN CAREFULLY: THERE ARE TWO SISTERS, ONE GIVES BIRTH TO THE OTHER AND SHE, IN TURN, GIVES BIRTH TO THE FIRST. WHO ARE THEY?”

Now, I was pretty good at riddles, and this one was a classic. “Huh? Day and night,  now I have to get home, bye.”

“....WAIT. STOP.” I paused. More riddles? Only if it wasn’t algebra. “WHAT IS A COMPLETE DISORDER BUT HOWEVER IS An ORDERlY MATHEMATICAL PATTERN.” Math! Why does math have to be everywhere?!? I gritted my teeth, closed my eyes, and thought…… “What a total chaos--!”

“CORRECT. I SPARKLE BUT AM NOT A STAR. I RUN BUT I DO NOT HAVE LEGS. I FALL BUT I DO NOT GET HURT.”

“....I feel so thirsty… If only I can have water--!”

“JOLLY GOOD. I HOWL LIKE A WILD ANIMAL, CARESS AND RELIVE, THE ESSENCE OF LIFE, THAT WREAKS CHAOS.”

“... It is so hot, I wish there would be at least some wind--!”

“HEY, BETTER, THAN I THOUGHT. A NON EXISTENT MOTHER WHICH IS THE FATHER THAT GIVES BIRTH TO ALL AND TAKES ALL LIVES!”

“On my God… What time is it--?!”

“RIGHT ON TARGET! SPHERICAL, BUT NOT A BASEBALL. HAS A CORE, BUT NOT AN APPLE. HAS A CRUST, BUT NOT A LOAF OF BREAD. HAS PLATES, BUT FOOD IS NOT SERVED ON THEM. HAS A MANTEL, BUT NOT A FIREPLACE. MOSTLY COVERED BY WATER, BUT NOT AN ICEBERG.”

“Come on, let's get down to Earth--”.

“ВINGO!” 0=1=2x4= WHAT?

“What, is this going to be eternal? I need to go study the Ogdoad! And what kind of a riddle you are, anyway--?”

“TWO POINTS! IN THE IT MORNING WALKS ON FOUR FEET, DURING THE DAY - ON TWO, AND AT THE EVENING - ON THREE!”

“Are you even a human--?!”

“CORRECT. YOU ARE SMARTER THAN PRETEND TO BE! AND NOW, I GIVE YOU…. THE SUPREME, ULTIMATE, OMNIPRESENT SECRET OF LIFE….”
Something rubbed me on the cheek, so tickly! I slowly opened my eyes. The curtains and sand were gone.

I glanced downwards. The sweet gaze of my graceful black cat was exuding endless love and devotion. “B...Bastet?” Why… YOU STUPID CAT, WHY DID YOU DO THIS?” I nearly cried, throwing wrathful glances at the innocent kitty. “My…. My reward! THE SUPREME SECRET of life! You beast!” Bastet continued rubbing me, licking my hands, purring, and I started petting her in return. I stroked her smooth silky hair, purring, she cuddled in my lap. I turned the pages of the book. “Bastet, the female Goddess, commonly depicted with the head of a cat, associated with happiness, music, dance, beauty and grace, fertility and love!” I laughed and leaned back on the sofa. The golden, translucent hands of Aton Ra were caressing the branches of the gilded trees, sending its warmth and love to the entire world. I tucked the purring Bastet under one arm, grabbed my book with the other.

So what is the supreme secret of life? What was this the “Riddle” really wanted to tell me? Who knows!