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Fiction

The Sun God At Dawn, Rising From A Lotus Blossom

Mr. Abraham Lincoln
Smithsonian Institution
National Museum of American History
1400 Connecticut Avenue, NW
Washington D.C. 20004
United States of America

12 February 2168

Dear Sir,

I hope you will forgive the impropriety of this personal letter sent without the benefit of previous acquaintance, but I feel compelled to write you in order that I might, indeed, introduce myself, and also so I might render to you my personal wishes for your hale and happy birthday. And, as I am scheduled to go on display in just a few days’ time, I would additionally like to express my genuine and incalculable pride that I am soon to be joining your illustrious ranks.

I do not know what, if anything, you have heard of me in the media—I myself am never exposed to such things and know not what they say—but I have led a quiet life thus far, one much devoted to the study of my impending duties and, to better acquaint myself with my peers, of the other personalities currently on display.

I must admit that the latter has been a humbling endeavor.

Chopin, Michelangelo, Czarina Catherine—so many great and talented people to measure myself against. And yet, sir, of all the biographies I have been researching, yours is the one which impressed me most of all. Your humble beginnings and your determination to learn in the face of all obstacles struck a deep chord within me. And your eloquence, your integrity, your steadfast and erudite devotion to freedom for all peoples despite hardship, war and criticism—truly I do not think there is another man in history that can match you.

Which makes me quite determined, sir, to emulate you in all things, right down to your expressed inclination for handwritten correspondence, in order to, as you say, “keep a true and genuine connection to the past.” My mentor, Dr. Fouad, is quite of the same mind on such things. Dr. Fouad is the curator of the Museum here in Cairo. He, also, believes that I should live as my prime did, or as close to as possible and, no doubt, would chastise me for not employing the use of a scribe in the writing of this letter. I enjoy writing, however, and so, if you would be so generous as to keep my secret, I will continue to draft my own correspondence, with only you and I to know the truth.

Again, please forgive me if, in the fervor to express my admiration, I have inadvertently offended you with any ill-timed or unwanted correspondence. If so, perhaps you will be kind enough to allow my youth and inexperience to buy my pardon? I hope that you will.

Signed,

Your admirer in all things,

cartouche

Tutankhamun

• • • •

3 April 2168

Dear Mr. Lincoln,

I cannot express my gratitude—indeed, my utter relief—at the receipt of your letter of 23rd March. While I did not think you would completely ignore my overture, I must admit to being worried that I had somewhat overstepped the boundaries of polite address. And as you yourself so hilariously illustrated in the story of your treatment at the hands of the Bonaparte, one can never be sure of one’s reception, even amongst peers.

I am equally gratified, I confess, by the extended hand of friendship and the warmth of your welcome into this august fellowship of ours. To be counted amongst such men of history, vision and accomplishment is no easy burden, especially for one so young and inexperienced as I am, and yet the kind and generous tenor of your words made me feel so very much a part of something greater than myself that I vow I shall strive to be worthy of the honor.

As you so kindly inquired, here are my particulars:

Until my installation in the Museum this February past, I lived in the household of my mentor, Dr. Fouad. Dr. Fouad is also my teacher, instructing me in my heritage and in the long and glorious history of my country, and under his tutelage, I have learnt how to perform the various tasks that are part of my duties here at the Museum.

I also study daily with Dr. Sweeney of Oxford University, who teaches me languages, of which I have mastered Arabic (of course), English, French, Spanish, German, Italian, Greek, and Hindi. A modest eight to your twenty-four. However, Dr. Sweeney assures me that I shall soon add more as I am “linguistically gifted.” Is that not a pleasing phrase? I find it to be so, as I find much of your English to feel and sound musical on the tongue. Such fun and bizarre pronunciations, too. Thur-oh or thur-ah for thorough? Kawf for cough? And the absence of gender! Well, I cannot say that I understand it at all, but I enjoy it just the same.

And so that brings me, again, to this past February when I turned nine (our birthdays fall within the same week!) and was formally installed in the new exhibit.

The Living Pharaoh it is called, and they’ve built a palace reconstruction to house it—to house me, really—and annexed the whole of it to the Museum.

It was strange, at first, moving from Dr. Fouad’s small home to this airy, cavernous place. Despite the palace they have built and despite the guards that roam the halls, the Museum is dark at night and full of dead things, and I must confess to being greatly affected and reluctant to stay alone. But Dr. Fouad detailed for me the Museum’s and his own quite sizable personal investment in my creation and vigorously explained that, as I am a man now and a king, too, in some respects, I must endeavor to behave as such. And, from time to time, men—and especially kings—must do things they would rather not. This was one of those times. And so I stayed. And indeed, after a period of acclimation, all is now well, though I must admit that I had some help in my adjustment, and that help was named Hanifa.

Hanifa is Dr. Fouad’s daughter. She is fifteen and terribly clever. She grew up in the Museum due to her father’s work, and so she knows all the guards and the best places to hide as well as how to sneak in and out without being caught by the cameras. And in the beginning, when I was so horribly lonely, Hanifa would come and stay with me at night. Her presence made the world of difference, and I am glad that I have such a friend—a sister, really—who cares so for my happiness.

And so, over the past months, I have settled into my new routine: I arrive in the throne room at eight a.m. and receive “ministers” and “ambassadors” whilst the tourists stand beyond the glass listening to the prerecorded guides. Then I lunch in private, often with Dr. Sweeney. Then I either go back on display performing various other pharaonic activities or I give private tours to more important guests—foreign officials and diplomats and the like.

And that is the long and the short of it, for now, sir. Once I have more responsibilities, I will relate them to you.

On a truly personal note, I would like to request an indulgence, if I may. In my first letter, I operated under the assumption that if I used my cartouche as my signature, that perhaps it would lend more weight to my words. I feel foolish, now, thinking I needed such bait. For you see, when I was just a babe and learning to speak, I had trouble pronouncing my name, and so it was never used. But, too, Hanifa thought the truncated “Tut” was simply not dignified enough. So instead, she called me Ghazi, after a favourite uncle, and the name has stuck. Only those closest to me call me so, and I would ask, sir, that you do the same, for indeed I second your hope that we are to be great friends.

Sincerely,

Ghazi

• • • •

30 June 2168

Dear Mr. Lincoln,

I wish to thank you for your last letter for two reasons, the first being your introduction of the word “quotidian.” Such an excellent word! And so very useful as well. I have managed to employ it in my dialogues several times in the past month to great effect and even once in a tour I conducted for a senator visiting from your country. I believe he was greatly impressed.

My second reason for thanking you is for making me aware that I am fashioned to be proficient in languages. I asked Dr. Sweeney, and he confirmed that, yes, language skills are standard genetic design for us, though he did seem to be of the opinion that Dr. Fouad would be angry if he knew I was aware of it. For the life of me, I cannot understand why.

But despite that, I think it quite a remarkable accomplishment, and quite clever, as well, considering our intended purposes. For we—you & me & all the others—are, in effect, ambassadors for our countries & for our cultures, and as such, communication is our stock in trade. And I, for one, am quite proud of my trade.

And now, though you have been so very indulgent, Mr. Lincoln, I hope that you will indulge me further still. I have told you of my life, and I wish, now, that you would tell me of yours. What are your duties? What were your experiences when you first took on the mantle of your service? I ask in order that I might ascertain how a truly great man handles the burden of this trust we are both a part of, as I believe there is much I can learn from you.

Again, thank you for being so tolerant of my curiosity.

With all my respect,

Ghazi

• • • •

13 September 2168

Dear Mr. Lincoln,

I must say, sir, that your roster of events & activities is quite impressive indeed. Would that I had so many public engagements, so many speaking events. I come into contact with people only through my private tours, and those are given mainly to government officials, et al & are very highly regulated for reasons of which I am not entirely certain. However, Dr. Fouad has assured me that in time, more public events will be scheduled, and I confess that I look forward to those a great deal.

And yes, I believe you are right when you say our experiences will likely differ greatly. One, because our cultures are so divergent, and two, because you, in fact, are a third generation & have your routines down, whereas I am a first, and we here in Egypt are, to use your American slang, still “playing it by ear.”

As always your admirer,

Ghazi

• • • •

18 November 2168

Dear Mr. Lincoln,

I hope this letter finds you anticipating a very happy Thanksgiving Holiday. I wish you great joy of your turkey & your cranberry dressing, and I also wish the football team of your choice great success in the day’s contest.

Allow me to say once again, sir, how greatly impressed I am by your accomplishments. It is not every man, nor even every country’s leader, who can lay claim to promulgating a national holiday, especially one that has lasted so long & speaks so much of your country’s traditions & of family & of faith.

I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States. And also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens.

In copying that out, I was struck again by how rich is your prose in reference to god. Or perhaps I should clarify & say one, singular god. You would think this would not come as an oddity to me, the product of a country & a people as steeped in our religion as is Egypt. However, I was raised as an ancient, you see, not a Muslim, and my gods are the oldest gods: the gods of the sun & of the moon, of the earth & the sky, of animals & of rebirth &, finally, of death & an eternal & glorious afterlife.

I cannot speak of such matters with Dr. Fouad, for he is not a spiritual man, preferring to talk, rather, of money or business and such. But I consider it passing strange that of all the pharaohs, of all the great pyramids & the secret burial chambers, the false doors & the hidden corridors & of all the great curses & of all the prayers said by all the thousands of priests of Ra, that I, Tutankhamun, am the only one to achieve a true & lasting afterlife.

Perhaps I truly have become a god, then? Perhaps, upon my death, Anubis led me here to this future? I do not know. But it is an odd thought, don’t you think? Odd & somewhat humbling.

Again, I wish much joy to you on this quintessential American holiday & allow me to hope that, your schedule permitting, you will find the time to write again.

Always your servant,

Ghazi

• • • •

17 February 2169

Dear Mr. Lincoln,

I can barely find the words to thank you for your magnificent gift! A scooter! Even the name is fun!

How very generous a friend you are, sir, to think of me on my birthday & to go so far out of your way to find me something that I most certainly did not have. In fact, I must admit to not knowing even what a scooter was until Dr. Sweeney showed me. And a good thing he was with us, too, because he also had the knowledge of how to put it together. We did have some trouble finding a wrench at first, but once that was accomplished, Dr. Sweeney had it assembled in a trice.

How fast I went! I wish you could have seen. I raced the scooter up & down the marble corridors of the palace, in & out between the columns of the hypostyle hall & then out into the garden, where I led the guards on quite a chase before they finally caught me. And how we all laughed when they did!

And I must thank you for this, also: that you made a festive occasion out of a somewhat lackluster celebration. Indeed, a lackluster few days. You see, Dr. Fouad is currently on a speaking tour & is not expected home for some weeks, and for the span of his absence, my duties have been curtailed. I am not certain why, but Dr. Fouad feels it is appropriate, and so that is that.

In any case, we had a small party amongst ourselves: me, Dr. Sweeney, Hanifa & my guards Atef & Kamal. We hung zeena all about the reception room & ate cookies & gateaux & sesame sticks that Hanifa had made. As a gift, Hanifa gave me a painted crocodile on a string that snaps again & again when you pull it. From the guards: a football to kick about in the garden. And Dr. Sweeney gave me an excellent new senet board inlaid with real ebony & challenged me to a game. (Dr. Sweeney is a fine senet player, but not so good as I am.)

But your gift was truly a sensation. I do not remember when last I had so much fun. Believe me that your injunction to remember that I am still a boy has gone well heeded.

Your devoted friend,

Ghazi

• • • •

15 May 2169

Dear Mr. Lincoln,

I apologize for having taken so long to reply to your last letter, but I feel the need to relate to you an incident that has occurred, and I hope that you will not judge me too harshly, as I am greatly in need of your guidance.

The evening Dr. Fouad returned from his European engagement, we dined together to discuss the reinstatement of my regular schedule. And I told him, over dinner, of my birthday celebration & of the fun we had despite his absence & of the gifts I had received, & quite suddenly Dr. Fouad was very, very angry—angrier than I had ever seen him in my life.

And the source of his anger? Can you guess it? Your scooter! Such a thing is neither ancient nor Egyptian, he said & I am likely to break my neck on it & what right had I to risk my life for such childishness? And so saying, Mr. Lincoln, he took your gift away and forbade me from contacting you again. I do not know when I have been so sick at heart! I confess, I cried the entire night until sleep took me.

Hanifa, when she discovered what had happened, was furious. She, also, was angrier than I had ever seen her. I asked her not to interfere & extracted a promise from her that she would not, but later that night, she woke me from my sleep. She had the scooter, had found it in the refuse pile where her father had tossed it, and she took it & returned it to me.

And so I am conflicted. Mr. Lincoln, though I do not approve of purposely defying Dr. Fouad, contrarily, I cannot imagine never writing to you again. And I must admit that I was quite happy to see my scooter. Your gift truly meant so much to me, sir, not only for itself, but also as a symbol of your friendship. Would it be so awful, then, if I were to continue with our correspondence? If I were to keep my scooter? I do not know. Please, if you have any advice, it would be greatly welcomed.

Sincerely,

Ghazi

Post Script:

Atef has agreed to post my letters for me now & to receive yours in return. His address is as follows:

Mr. Atef Fahmi
256, El-Makrizy St., Heliopolis,
Cairo 13148
Egypt

• • • •

8 August 2169

Dear Mr. Lincoln,

There is, of course, no reason for you to apologize, sir. I, in fact, should be the one extending apologies for putting you in the awkward position of sending letters to a strange address & having to endure a scolding at the hands of Dr. Fouad.

I am eternally grateful to you for bearing it as well as you have done & not taking what would most likely be a rightful grievance to your government officials. I would be appalled to think that I had been the cause of an international incident.

However, I thank you for your concern, and I wish to assure you that I am much more sanguine about the situation than I was in my last letter. Dr. Fouad believes this issue to be closed & believing such, will not broach the subject again, nor allow it to be broached by any other.

And so, you see, we continue on with our lives as if nothing had happened. And indeed, it seems as if nothing did happen, really, except that I may not bring out my scooter when Dr. Fouad is in the Museum, nor have your letters about where he can come upon them. He need not ever know, and no one, not Hanifa, nor Dr. Sweeney, nor the guards about the Museum, will tell. It is not so great a sacrifice, nor so heavy a sin, don’t you agree?

Again, thank you for the grace with which you have dealt with us. I would be forever heartbroken should this in any way impair our friendship.

Your friend,

Ghazi

• • • •

21 December 2169

Dear Mr. Lincoln,

At last, I made a trip about the city, a la the great Heb Sed processions of my ancient ancestors! What a glorious experience!

Even though they had planned it for months, I did not know about the excursion until President Hamouri & Dr. Fouad told me a few days beforehand. I was so excited I could barely sleep that whole week!

Regular viewing hours were cancelled on the day, but even so, my excitement would not allow me to lie abed past the first stirrings of the sun, and so I rose and dressed myself in the most kingly garments I own. I could barely sit still for the stylist to apply the kohl to my eyes, which greatly exasperated Dr. Fouad, and yet, when it was all done, even he was pleased with my appearance, I think. Truly, I looked like a pharaoh, and I felt like one as well!

I could tell by the noise that, outside, crowds had begun to gather, and when all was ready, I exited through the lower hall of the palace & there, in the courtyard, was a chariot, all of gold & lapis. Painted, of course, not real inlay, but a golden chariot nonetheless & pulled by a pair of fine white Arabians. And at the reins was poor Atef, dressed in his ancient soldier costume & looking none too pleased to be driving about the city in such a get-up. I covered my mouth so that he would not see me laugh.

Out into the streets we drove, into the crowds, and on each corner, people, four or five deep, waving fronds & cheering as I passed. Tourists, yes, to be sure, in their odd holiday clothes, with their cameras, snapping pictures & sweating, unused to the Cairian heat. But, also, I saw my own people, Egyptians, and they, too, were cheering!

The trip lasted so short a time, only a few minutes it seemed to me. I know it must have been longer, two miles we traveled, or so I am told, but when we reached the Museum again, I could hardly remember what had happened, or all I saw & did.

I truly do not have the words to describe how the crowd made me feel, how much I enjoyed the adulation, the singing, the throwing of flowers, and I can only imagine what the pharaohs of old, pulled in chariots of real gold through the dusty streets of Amarna & Thebes & Memphis, felt. Truly as gods, I suspect.

Sincerely,

Ghazi

• • • •

19 -го февраль 2170

Дорогой Г-н Lincoln,

Веселое рождество и С Новым годом к вам, и мне огорченны мои приветствия праздника настолько последние. Вещи довольно многодельны последн. Извещение от моего письма, я пытаюсь выучить русского! Я люблю он почти как очень как английская язык. Будет чудесным языком — настолько грубо и хрипло, настолько хорошо для инвектива! Alas, Dr. Sweeney will not teach me those kinds of words.

And so the reason I am learning Russian now is because the President of the Federation himself is coming to Cairo for an official visit, and I am to play Museum host & tour guide! And there will be a press conference (my first!) with members of the media from all around the world. I believe I will have a chance to test all my languages. I am so very excited!

I must return to my studies. Dr. Sweeney is drilling me on idioms this evening. I will write you immediately after the visit to give you a full accounting of all that has gone on.

Your friend,

Ghazi

• • • •

9 April 2170

Dear Mr. Lincoln,

Have you heard the news? By the time you read this, you will have. I am not quite sure what has happened, and I greatly need your counsel.

The Russian president arrived with his family, and I greeted them with all official rites & courtesies. I showed them some of the pharaoh’s rituals, and I gave them a tour of the Museum & the palace. It went very well.

And then the press conference, and it was all so exciting: the large room with the tables, the sea of reporters stretched out before us, interested in us, in me.

Dr. Fouad was not happy; I could see that from the outset. I do not think he wanted the press conference, didn’t want me around all those modern things, but I believe President Hamouri arranged it, and so he could not argue.

In any case, the questions began: about the Russians’ trip, about the tour, how we all got along & etc. And everyone listened to what I had to say, and they wrote it down. What a heady feeling that was!

And then a reporter stood & asked me a question & I remember exactly his words. He said, “How do you feel, your majesty, about the threats to your life?” And before I could speak, before I could even contemplate what he had said, Dr. Fouad, just like that, ended the press conference & motioned the guards to take me out. The room became a cacophony of shouted questions & yelling & such. It was utter chaos. I did not even get a chance to say a proper goodbye to the Russians. I am sure they were offended.

And now I am here alone with no one to talk to. Dr. Fouad has not come to see me & explain what has happened or what that man meant. Hanifa has not come, either, most likely prevented in some way, and that in itself is disturbing. And Atef & Kamal stay outside the doors & let no one in. They have been ordered not to talk to me either, though I hope still to be able to persuade Atef to post this letter.

I do not understand, sir, and I appeal to you to tell me what has gone on, what the significance of that man’s question is. Why would anyone want to threaten my life?

Sincerely,

Ghazi

• • • •

4 May 2170

Dear Mr. Lincoln,

Thank you so much for your upfront & forthright reply. You cannot imagine, after the events of the past few weeks, how refreshing it is to have someone be truly honest & open with me.

I understand now so much more than I did, and, yes, I agree, it is much better to see truth in the clear light of day than to linger in the shadows of ignorance. However, with this newfound understanding has come an attendant sorrow.

I had no idea, sir, none at all, that there were factions opposed to our existence, nor that they were willing to go to such violent lengths to achieve their ends. No doubt Dr. Fouad intended to keep me ignorant of such malice, and I do not fault him for it, not really. He is trying to protect me, I suppose, though his methods are not all that I could wish.

The day after “the incident,” as Hanifa has come to call it, I awoke to find all my morning duties cancelled, and I sat upon the divan in my bedchamber, not sure what I should be doing. I am unused to idleness, and I do not like it in the least.

When Dr. Fouad finally arrived—well past mid-morning—I was overjoyed, not only because I assumed he would bring me an explanation for the goings-on of the previous evening, but because I wanted so desperately to have someone to talk to.

I quickly found myself quite mistaken on both counts.

Without preamble, Dr. Fouad announced that I was to listen only & then proceeded to inform me that the reporter was mistaken. My life, he assured me, was in no danger; no one was threatening me. He asked if I understood, and, not knowing if the injunction to stay silent was still in effect, I merely nodded my head. He returned the nod, told me I would be resuming my duties the following day & left. And that was that.

I knew straight away that I did not believe him.

It is a shocking thing to realize, suddenly, that you do not trust a man you have known your whole life, a man as close to you as a father.

I longed to speak with Hanifa.

She came, finally, late that night, and I have never been so delighted to see anyone. It was as I had suspected: She had not come before because her way into the Museum was blocked by police.

Yet after I had related to her my fears that her father had lied, she expressed no surprise. In fact, she readily agreed that it was so, told me that she knew for a certainty that he was lying, because she had seen the threatening letters herself!

I was, you may say, astounded. Not only had Dr. Fouad lied to me, but Hanifa was his co-conspirator!

A charge she denied, and, yes, perhaps it was a bit unfair, but still, I wish someone had consulted me, had informed me of these facts which bear so heavily upon my very life!

To her credit, Hanifa apologized profusely. It was, she said, only out of a desire not to upset me & because the information came to her by a rather underhanded method—she had snuck into her father’s office where none of us is allowed unsupervised & there found the letters amongst the papers on his desk.

And so I have told her I forgive her, and I have. I love Hanifa & would not quarrel with her.

Yet after all of this, I still do not understand why anyone would be so opposed to us. You say poverty, Hanifa blames ignorance, and I suspect you are both correct, but who knows where the whole truth lies?

However, I have conceived a hope, sir, that perhaps we can convince these people that we are not, after all, abominations. That we are, in fact, as human as any other men. Perhaps I am being naïve, but do you, sir, believe this is possible?

Sincerely,

Ghazi

• • • •

10 August 2170

Dear Mr. Lincoln,

I have a confidence I wish you to keep, and I hope you will not tell a soul nor chastise me for concealing such a thing from the authorities. The secret is not mine, you see, or perhaps I should say it is not wholly mine.

The evening of this Wednesday past, Hanifa came to my rooms through her usual methods, and, of course, I was delighted to see her. However, this night she was not alone. She brought a man with her, a friend, she said, from university. I was, of course, surprised, because she had never spoken of any such friends, and I had assumed that Hanifa always kept me abreast of all things concerning her life outside.

He gave me the Arabic greeting & introduced himself as Khaled. He was tall & dark with the full beard of a Muslim, a very imposing man. Hanifa seemed nervous, the first I had ever seen her so, and she talked quickly of how this friend could help me to understand the reasons why my existence was opposed by so many.

I was, to say the least, skeptical. I did not see how a stranger, friend to my friend or no, could do this, when those that I loved & trusted could not seem to make it make sense for me. Yet I held my tongue; I love Hanifa & would not disappoint her, & so, for her sake, I invited this man to talk.

And he spoke to me of religion & of politics, of centuries of conflict, of war & oppression & of rich men & of poor men & of all the many strata in between.

I must admit that he was exceedingly articulate, and, after a time, I understood why Hanifa gazed at him with such fire in her eyes. Yet, what I understood also, what became so very clear to me, was that it truly is all so very foolish, all these things that make one man hate another.

I know you feel this way as well, sir. Perhaps that is because, indeed, we are somewhat different from others in that we trace our origins back to science, not an almighty or an act of procreation. And perhaps now, by gene & precept, we are above such petty hand flapping that makes other men so very unreasonable. I do not know. All I know is that I wish to do something about it. I do not know what, but I pledge to you, sir, that when I am grown, I will do my best to erase such intolerance & blind hatred. An ambitious goal, and one I whisper only to you, for I know that you will never mock my aspirations.

Sincerely,

Ghazi

• • • •

16 November 2170

Dear Mr. Lincoln,

I met a prince of England today, a boy named Edward. He is my age or thereabouts.

Initially, I was quite excited by the prospect. It had been arranged that I would give him & his family a tour of the Museum, talk about my heritage & the history of my country, etc . . . not much different than any other special visitors, though it was special to me because it was a boy my age, a peer. Things, however, did not go exactly as I had anticipated.

The prince did not talk much, and I attributed this to a natural shyness on his part. Though I do not suffer from this condition, (I expect I am genetically predisposed towards extroversion???) I sympathized with Edward, and so I chatted a great deal to compensate for his silences. Everyone seemed greatly pleased. But then after the photographers had all gone away & Dr. Fouad & the president had taken the king & queen into a reception room for tea, I was alone with the young prince.

I understand you have met him as well, and I am compelled to ask you, sir, how you found the boy, because, though I am loath to admit it, upon closer acquaintance, I must say I did not like him at all.

To begin, I soon discovered that he was not in the least shy. In fact, in private, the boy was outright rude. He mocked the shape of my head. He criticized my clothes & my crown, told me he had a much finer one at home, said that he would be a legitimate king someday, not some pathetic museum piece.

And then he asked me a question for which I still do not have an answer. He asked me what I was famous for. What is one expected to reply to that? He said in his museum at home, they had Lord Nelson, and he was famous for winning a great battle. And he’d met Bonaparte who was famous for being defeated at that great battle. But what was I famous for? What great battle did I win? What did I do to deserve a second future?

And though I have pondered this question the entire day, I must admit that I have yet to find a satisfactory answer. What did I do? What right do I have to be reborn when there are so many more deserving pharaohs resting within this very building? Ramesses the Great who defeated the Hittites; Tutmosis III, the Napoleon of Ancient Egypt; bold Hatshepsut who dared to attach the beard to her likeness. Why not these? Why me?

When I told Hanifa, she scowled & said that all English are like this: arrogant & full of their own importance. But I have never found this to be so with any of the other Englishmen I’ve encountered during my duties, nor has Dr. Sweeney ever seemed so to me. In fact, when I told him of this incident, he became quite angry. He called the boy an ill-mannered lout & apologized for his countryman, and I thought that quite well done.

And so, in the end, I find myself utterly dejected and confused. Tell me, sir, since you have a benefit of years that I do not, was this boy right? Am I out of my league? Am I treading in footsteps I have no right to follow?

Sincerely,

Ghazi

• • • •

3 January 2171

Dear Mr. Lincoln,

Thank you so much for your letter. I am quite gratified—relieved, even—to learn your impression of the boy meets my own, and I appreciate your kind words of support.

Yes, I have posed my questions to Dr. Fouad (without relating the particulars of the incident, of course.) According to the doctor, I am an icon; I am the embodiment of my country’s history; I am what people think of when they think of Egypt, which is why I am here & the others are not. So, though I won no great battles & made no great strides, this, at least, is something Dr. Fouad says that I can point to with pride: that my legacy survived where so many others did not. And yes, when I think on it, I am proud of that.

As for the other matter, yes indeed, you do speak quite a lot of good sense. And I agree that it is wrong to condemn a whole people on the actions of just one representative. Not all men are the same, and you are right that I should judge them on their individual actions, not on other people’s intolerances.

I do not know why Hanifa suddenly dislikes the English so. She has never displayed such a prejudice before, and she has always treated Dr. Sweeney with seeming great affection. It is a puzzlement, indeed.

And no, sir, you need not worry that I dwell on this incident overmuch. A mere evening of melancholy prompted me to write the dolorous letter you received previously. I assure you that I am quite my old self once again.

With many thanks & great affection,

Ghazi

• • • •

21 March 2171

Dear Mr. Lincoln,

Khaled & Hanifa came to my chambers last night, as they have been doing often these past few weeks. They bring me news of the city, and we discuss politics & religion & such. It is all quite stimulating. I have always loved learning, but no one has ever challenged me as much as Khaled does.

Last night’s discussion concerned humanity & its nature. Khaled tried to convince me that a true human—a true man—is willing to give his life for a cause; that martyrdom is the ultimate test of humanity & of manhood. I disagreed & argued that a test of true humanity is not one’s ability to take life, but to save & to nurture it. He countered that, in the end, the acts of a martyr do indeed save lives, and that the martyr braves death for the greater glory of his brothers, thus transcending humanity. A specious argument, I believe, yet even so, I do not think that I prevailed; Khaled is quite the talented debater.

But then after we were done & had agreed to disagree, he said something quite extraordinary. Khaled said that he was surprised by how truly human I was. He did not think I would be so, and when Hanifa proposed a meeting, initially, he had been opposed.

I do not quite know what to make of this confession. Should I be flattered? Insulted? I am unsure. Perhaps I shall resolve to think neither one nor the other, the better to preserve the peace.

Ghazi

• • • •

26 June 2171

Dear Mr. Lincoln,

At long last, another procession through the city.

I will admit that I was quite nervous for this outing, as it was the first since I learnt that there were factions who would see me dead. And indeed, the crowd did not seem as welcoming, the sun not as warm, the garlands not as bright. A function of my nerves? I suspect so.

From the moment I stepped foot inside the chariot, a knot formed in my belly the likes of which I have never felt before, and it did not desist, even after we began riding about the streets. Oh, there were as many people as always, cheering & waving fronds, and Atef & Kamal & all the other guards were their usual alert selves. But still I could not help it: I looked at every man, woman, & child askance.

The tourists, of course, all wore their sunglasses so I could not see their eyes, and this bothered me. Then, even the faces of some of my own people took on a sinister cast, and I had quite determined to ask Atef to turn the chariot about & return to the safety of the palace when out from the crowd pressed Khaled, grinning at me & waving a frond above his head. I smiled. And then I laughed. And Khaled laughed, too. I did not ask to go back.

A strange story to relate, and I am still unsure of its meaning. But this I know: Today I have faced down a demon, and I have triumphed. Are you not proud of me?

Ghazi

• • • •

17 September 2171

Dear Mr. Lincoln,

I write to you of a dream I had last night, of which I have told no one, not Dr. Fouad nor Dr. Sweeney nor Khaled & most definitely not Hanifa, though she is my closest friend & confidant.

In my dream, I lay upon the couch here in my bedchamber, a breeze blowing the linen hangings back into the room like white wings. The sun sprawled lazily on the western horizon, its orange light sparkling across the Nile below my terrace. I wore only a shendyt, the cool air from the river a million gentle fingers across my bare skin, the breath of crushed lotus an opiate to my senses. And, still, I felt alive, more alive & awake than I have ever felt before.

Then Hanifa came, though it did not resemble her in the least. This person was more womanly than any I have ever known, more beautiful than I have ever seen, but I knew, the way one knows in a dream, that it was she, Hanifa.

And this woman who was & was not Hanifa, she smiled, and she walked to me, and I rose to meet her. She said no words, yet brushed her lips against mine. I grew restless & hot, though the cool breeze from the Nile still fluttered the curtains. I pressed myself to her, felt sensations I have no words for. I placed my arms about her, held her to me. Drums thumped upon the Nile, the sound carried up & outward by the water, beating in time with my heart. I pressed my face to her neck & the smell of the lotus flower enveloped me & I realized that she was the source of it; she was the crushed flower giving forth its scent.

I became dizzy, and the room spun. It became hard to breath. My body felt rigid & liquid all at once, and soon I could stand it no longer, and then, like a shot, I sat up.

I was alone, awake in my own bed, the linen sheets clinging to my damp skin, my breath ragged in my throat.

I do not know what to make of such a dream, sir. I have never had one so strange before, and I must admit that I felt somewhat ashamed when I saw Hanifa the next day. It is all very odd. What do you make of it? Have you ever had such a dream?

Sincerely,

Ghazi

• • • •

22 October 2171

Dear Mr. Lincoln,

Thank you for your insight. I feel somewhat foolish, now, for not having guessed as much myself, and for bothering you with such frivolousness. Well, I suppose it only goes towards illustrating exactly how human we are. If only I had the courage, I would send the evidence to those who would call us abominations.

Regards,

Ghazi

• • • •

28 February 2172

Dear Mr. Lincoln,

I have seen my corpse today.

I tell you, sir, that you are lucky that yours is out of reach, for I have discovered it is indeed a fearsome thing to bear witness to one’s dead self. How did this come about? I will tell you.

Last night Khaled and Hanifa visited, and we talked of history, Egyptian history, a subject about which I did not imagine there was anything else I could learn, and yet, Khaled surprised me.

Did you know, Mr. Lincoln, of the servitude my people suffered under foreign rule? Of how we were made second-class citizens in our own lands, in our own culture? How much of my country’s wealth was taken by the English and other looters? How much of my ancient history has been pillaged to grace the museums of London or Paris or New York? Khaled showed me on his computer the extensive “collections” in these so-called bastions of culture. Collections, indeed! Stashes, they should be called, their museums merely elegant buildings made to house their plunder, their archaeologists nothing more than crooks and swindlers and tomb robbers. At least the men who stripped the pyramids in antiquity were honest thieves. They did not lay grand claims to preservation; they did not call themselves saviors of culture.

And I looked and I looked and when I could take it no longer, we spoke of my own tomb. I have known for quite some time the story of its discovery: the hints of a long-lost boy king, Carter’s years of fruitless digging, Lord Carnarvon nearly at the end of his patience. How could I not know it? But, oh, there was so much more. So much I was not told. So much deliberately kept from me.

My body is housed in the Museum now, did you know this? All the mummies were moved from the Valley years ago due to the depredations of “archeologists” whose methods brought about the extensive water damage that has made the final resting place of so much royalty completely unviable.

And so they rest now, those kings, not in their silent, stone tombs, but in sliding glass trays, packed in cotton, under special lights, pulled out from time to time and poked like dead animals upon the road.

Down into these rooms we went, to the lonely, dark place where little-known kings and mummies too delicate to display sleep. To the room that also holds me. And there—there I was.

Tutankhamun.

He is smaller than I am. The mummification process, I know, but I was unprepared for how fragile, how desiccated he would be. I was also unprepared for his condition. This they never told me: that to remove the precious objects from the body, which were stuck fast by the hardened embalming resins, Carter cut the mummy to pieces. The arms and legs were detached, the torso cut in half. The head was severed; hot knives were used to remove it from the golden mask to which it was cemented by resin.

Me. My head. My body. Carved up like a holiday feast.

I have never been so angry, and, truly, I do not know how I will go on with my duties when everything I have been told is a lie, when everything I have ever believed is suspect. And how may I look Dr. Sweeney in the eye, now, when all I see is the avatar of so much misery and destruction?

Indeed, I begin to suspect that Khaled has been in the right all along, that his path is the true one.

No doubt you will chastise me for this polemic, try to reason with me, enjoin me to make some kind of peace. But I cannot listen. No. No, I cannot do it. Much though I regret the sentiment, your brand of prudence, sir, would not be welcome at this moment.

• • • •

3 March 2172

Dear Mr. Lincoln,

As you wrote, sir: Beware of rashness. Beware of rashness, but with energy and sleepless vigilance, go forward.

Perhaps I should have reviewed this admonition before I penned my earlier missive.

Sir, allow me to apologize unreservedly for the ungracious words and splenetic tone expressed in my letter dated 28th February. I cannot begin to articulate my chagrin when, in a calmer frame of mind, I recalled what I had written. I hope I have not given any lasting offense; I pray you will chalk it up to the hot blood of youth, and not to any kind of true or permanent enmity.

I assure you, Mr. Lincoln, that I am dedicated to, as you so succinctly and elegantly voiced, do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations.

Again, my humblest apologies.

With eternal respect and affection,

Ghazi

• • • •

11 April 2172

Dear Mr. Lincoln,

I cannot begin to thank you, sir, for your charity. Yes, it is said that forgiveness is a divine trait, but not many men who had been so sorely abused would deign to forgive so readily and so generously.

I do not know what I have done to deserve such unmitigated understanding and friendship.

Again, thank you.

With respects,

Ghazi

• • • •

21 August 2172

Dear Mr. Lincoln,

I believe I said that I would not trouble you with the frivolities of my dreams again, but this one bears discussion.

In this dream, just as before, I lay upon the couch in my bedchamber whilst the wind blew back the curtains. It was evening, and the Nile was alive with silver light. Again I inhaled the scent of the crushed lotus. I turned to view the door & there, once more, was Hanifa.

The restlessness grew upon me even before she had crossed the room into my arms. The sweetness in the air was overwhelming. Her lips were as soft as petals, her arms about me like iron bands. Drums beat upon the water again, stirring me, urging me on.

Then, like a crack of lightning to my skull, a blow from behind. I fell & lay bleeding upon the cold, stone floor, yet still Hanifa smiled whilst my life’s blood pooled about my head.

It is foolish to be frightened by dreams; it is childish to wake crying. And yet I did, and now, hours later, I still cannot shake the feeling of melancholy which has descended upon me. Do you know what such a vision means? Do you suffer much from your dreams, sir?

Ghazi

• • • •

7 October 2172

Dear Mr. Lincoln,

Thank you, sir, for your concern. No, I did not tell Dr. Fouad. I never spoke of the other dream, nor do I wish to, and it seems foolish to speak of one without mentioning the other.

However, I believe, now, that it was all a great deal of nothing, and I am, I assure you, quite recovered from its frightful effects. It was only a dream after all, only a stray thought woven inside a nonsensical story. I shall bother you no more with it.

Sincerely,

Ghazi

• • • •

31 March 2173

Dear Mr. Lincoln,

I am so chock full of secrets that one day I imagine I will simply burst apart, and all the confidences I keep will come spilling out from me like silvery fish upon a wooden dock.

Dr. Fouad called me to his office last evening. Dr. Fouad rarely receives me in his office. In fact, he rarely receives anyone there at all, preferring to preserve his privacy, or as Hanifa calls it, his secrecy. It is an imposing room, small yet full of papers & cabinets & books of all sorts & types & levels of disrepair. Something was amiss, I knew, and not only because of the unusual summons.

Though Dr. Fouad’s mien is always serious, the one he wore last night was especially so. Troubled is how I would describe it, though I do not believe that I have ever really seen him so in the past. Angry, yes. Irritated. Imperious. But never troubled. He paced for several minutes behind his desk strewn with papers & files, up & down, up & down, looking for all the world as if he were trying to form his question. And when he did form it, he asked it, point blank & without patina: To my knowledge, were there or had there ever been any others in the palace or the Museum at night?

I do not know what expression I wore at first. Shock, perhaps? Surprise? I do not know. I think my mouth opened once or twice but nothing came of it. Finally, I cleared my throat. No, I said. Just that. No.

Dr. Fouad appeared to believe it, for he nodded only once & released me to my leisure.

I have lied to him, Mr. Lincoln. I have never outright lied to my mentor before. Yes, this letter is, in effect, a lie. This I know. But a lie of omission, not commission. I know, I know you shall say that I should not have done. I know you shall say I must tell all, make a clean breast of it, wash my hands of the whole affair.

And yet . . . and yet.

The secret of Khaled is also Hanifa’s, and how shall I face her again should I betray that trust? It is a conundrum I cannot untangle, and I am left quite at odds.

Ghazi

• • • •

5 April 2173

Dear Mr. Lincoln,

I wonder if perhaps you aren’t right, sir, that I should not be keeping this secret from Dr. Fouad.

Hanifa & Khaled came to my bedchamber last night, and I told them of Dr. Fouad’s suspicions, and to my great astonishment, Khaled insisted that Hanifa leave with him & not come back.

She said no, of course, whispered that she still had facts to root out for him, argued that her position was crucial to the cause, whatever that may mean. And though Khaled disputed her many points, still she remained steadfast in her resolve to abide.

But it was, to my discerning eye, a reluctant no. And the way she looked at him—I had assumed before that it was merely admiration for his erudition, for his oratory style that made her eyes so bright when he speaks. But now . . . now I have a suspicion that that is indeed not the case.

I tell you, I cannot like it. I cannot like how readily he believed she would leave her family at his word. I cannot like his over-familiarity.

Should I tell Dr. Fouad, then, that he has been here? I suspect Hanifa would never forgive me. I could do it under a cloak of anonymity, I suppose, but to be so underhanded . . . no. Best to do it honestly or not at all. I am thinking only of Hanifa’s safety, am I not?

Ghazi

• • • •

17 March 2174

Dear Mr. Lincoln,

My apologies for being so long absent. I am sure you know what has happened, of the “cowardly attack” as the media here has named it.

I am perfectly fine. I was not injured in any way. And I am sorry that so many of your urgent letters went unanswered and for the worry that caused you. I only wished to be undisturbed for a time. I cannot truly explain it, but I hope you can understand, nonetheless.

We were on another chariot procession through the city in a place where the streets grow quite narrow. They were jammed that day with people three or four deep. We had just reached the Midan Hussein, a more open plaza where the sun could shine down on us and the air could circulate. I looked about me, at the startling blue sky, the silver domes of the Mohamed Ali Mosque shimmering in the distance, at the sea of faces, waving fronds and cheering, and the tourists, so conspicuous in their dress and their paraphernalia. And I smiled, as I do, because indeed I love these trips.

And there on the edge of the crowd, where I have seen Khaled stand and smile and wave like the rest, I saw another man, a man darker of aspect, who was not smiling, who was not waving a frond or cheering. I caught his gaze and a cold frisson gripped me, the kind of cold that is not felt here in the desert. The man pressed forward into the sea of people, and he clenched his fist, and as he did, the crowd surged, and I lost the sight of him.

Then there came a loud concussion. I was thrown back, down to the ground, and I lay there for several heartbeats staring at the blue, blue sky above. My ears did not seem to work right, as if I were floating just beneath the surface of water. So I shook my head, and after a moment, I could hear again, though I soon wished that I could not.

The screaming of the horses was an horrific sound. Then I saw them, rolling on their sides, broken and bleeding and tangled in the traces. People were screaming as well, and I saw them running with blood upon their hands. I saw tourists lying in the street, missing limbs and faces and gods know what else. I saw blood fill the cracks in the pavement like rainwater. And then my guards carried me from the carnage, and I saw nothing more.

And that is that; I will speak no more of it.

A month passed before Hanifa brought Khaled to me. I did not want to see him. Hanifa pleaded, but no, I would not do it, I would not face him. I turned to look at the wall. So he sat upon the edge of the room, talking into the air.

A mistake, he said. Not meant for me, he said.

I did not care. I wanted only to be alone. He spoke, then, of the civil war that left Egypt a wounded battleground, of the dictator that replaced a dictator that replaced a dictator and called it democracy. He spoke of the struggle of the poor against the powers of money and corruption. He spoke of victims and of symbols. He spoke of me, of my life and my existence. I am a victim, he said, and a symbol, as well, of money and of power and of the oppression of the true people of Egypt. And then, in his best sideways fashion, he said I had the power to change all of it.

As if this would convince me to be part of his cause! As if I wanted his sort of glory! As if I could do such evil as this!

I could listen no more and put my hands over my ears, and so he left, and I have not seen him since, though Hanifa asks and asks.

Dark dreams have come again. I do not want anyone to see me cry.

Ghazi

• • • •

12 June 2174

Dear Mr. Lincoln,

I appreciate your concern & your offer of help. Thank you for listening. It lightens my burden to speak of these things.

Two nights past, I dreamt I stood upon the west bank of the river, the soil beneath my feet black from the flooding, and in the distance women sang a lament in the old tongue, though I could not pick out the words.

And then I hunted wild bull in the waving grasslands beyond the delta. The animal came at me, snorting, the ground trembling beneath its heavy tread, and though I tried, I could not heft my spear. My arm was leaden, stuck to my side. The animal came nearer, and I strained against my invisible bonds, but to no avail, and it gored me where I stood. I lay upon the ground bleeding from the wound, crying for help, but none came. None came. And the women only sang and sang.

And I woke thus, crying like a child. I have told no one of these dreams, Mr. Lincoln. No one but yourself, knowing that you will keep my secrets. Knowing that you are my loyal friend.

Sincerely,

Ghazi

• • • •

9 October 2174

Dear Mr. Lincoln,

Sir, I assure you there is no need for you to be so troubled as all that. In fact, I believe that you are more unsettled on my account than I am. Knowing your caring disposition, I realize now that I should never have burdened you with my nonsense. And, of course, it is just that: nonsense.

You worry for me overmuch. Do not, I beg of you. All is well enough.

With affection,

Ghazi

• • • •

26 February 2175

Dear Mr. Lincoln,

Perhaps Khaled was right. Perhaps I am indeed become a symbol.

We traveled to Abu Simbel today. The Nile was placid, our voyage down smooth. My guards no longer wear their costumes. Instead they wear uniforms & armour & guns, glittering & black in the desert sun. There is no need for this trip other than to prove they can do it, that I am not a prisoner of fear. They have cameras staged along the banks of the river to capture our journey, to make sure the world knows it is safe for tourists here. And I must smile & wave, a trained dog before its audience.

But despite their efforts, the crowds are gone now, and with them the cheers, the adulation, the palm fronds waved for the visiting deity. No one is allowed near me any longer except those I already know: Dr. Fouad, Dr. Sweeney, Hanifa. But in Hanifa, there is no comfort, there is only the question in her eyes, and I cannot answer.

I felt small at the feet of the colossi. So massive, those stone giants, proclaiming the greatness of Ramesses loud enough so even the gods could hear. There are no such statues for me. I was the king lost so thoroughly even the thieves could not find me. Such a noble story!

No, Ramesses was a real pharaoh, a man who deserved to be made again, though instinct tells me that he would not have stood for remaining this impotent puppet they have made of me. Perhaps that is why I was chosen; perhaps they thought I would be satisfied with less. Or perhaps they designed me to be placid and accepting, designed us all to be so. Who is ever to know? All I do know for certain is this: that Ramesses was the man to be resurrected, not Tut, the accident of history.

When we returned to the Museum, Hanifa insisted on speaking to me of Khaled, said she wished for me to see him, to speak with him again. I refused, and I said to her things I should not have, things I will not repeat. And then I told her that I hoped she would leave with him, because I wanted never to see her again. She fled my room with tears in her eyes, and I immediately regretted my words & wished I could retract them. But I could not.

I wax melancholic. It is time for sleep. Perhaps tomorrow will bring brighter & better things.

Ghazi

• • • •

19 July 2175

Dear Mr. Lincoln,

I ventured down to the Royal Mummy Room last night and stood amongst my ancient ancestors, my brother kings. There was Ramesses. There Tutmoses. Akhenaten. Amenhotep. All with their pictures displaying how they appeared in life. I was reminded of that prince—so long ago it seems now—the one who asked me what I was famous for. I did not know how to answer him then. I still do not.

I left there quickly. I have enough to make me sad without inviting it myself.

Have you finally tired of your little friend, Mr. Lincoln? I have received no letters from you in some time. I miss them, truly.

Ghazi

• • • •

12 December 2175

Dear Mr. Lincoln,

Has something happened? It has been months since your last letter. Have I offended you? Do you wish me to stop writing? I hope that is not the case. Please, sir, send a note so that I know that we are still friends. I value your company & your counsel, distant though they are. I did not know how much until I was deprived of them.

With respect & admiration,

Ghazi

• • • •

31 January 2176

Dear Mr. Lincoln,

I do not know if you will get this letter or if you’ve received any of the letters I’ve sent in the past few months. I write now in the slim hope that I may have the opportunity to post this at some future time.

Hanifa is gone, and I feel as if the world has come to an end.

Dr. Fouad summoned me to his office, early, just after I had risen. Hanifa had decamped, he told me. She had chosen a man over her family. She had chosen shame, and I was not to mention her name again. Ever. Then I was dismissed & that was that.

When I returned to my rooms, I found that all my guards had been replaced with men I did not know. I have been taken off display & confined to my bedchamber for I do not know how long.

She is gone. They are all gone. And now I am alone.

How could Hanifa abandon me? How could she leave without even saying goodbye? How could she choose Khaled when I need her so? I did not mean it when I said I wished her gone. Not truly. I do not know now if I will ever see her again, and it is a thought I can hardly bear.

Ghazi

• • • •

27 March 2176

Dear Mr. Lincoln,

I understand now, sir, why I have not heard from you. You, I would guess, do not have a similar knowledge. Allow me to shed light upon the situation.

Last night I was awakened from a restless sleep by Hanifa, and I was so happy to see her, I simply held her for a full five minutes. She had repented, I’d hoped, come back for good. But no, she said, only to see me and even that could be but a brief visit.

They had intercepted our correspondence, she said, and that is how Dr. Fouad learned of Khaled, how she’d come to be shunned. My fault, though Hanifa says no, because when her father came to confront her with the evidence, he discovered her reading his personal files, the ones he locks away and lets no one else see, and that alone would have meant her exile. So she does not blame me. They did not know everything, obviously, or else she would not have been able to get in through her back door, but they knew enough, which is why I am no longer receiving your letters.

And then she began to speak in strange and ominous hints, of things she says she cannot tell me, things she says I must discover for myself.

In her father’s office, there is a cabinet, locked, and inside this cabinet are files—files containing information about me. She gave me the combination. She did not tell me to go there. She did not say must or have to. She said only this: that it was there, and that I had the choice. And with tears in her eyes, she kissed me, and she left. I do not know if I shall ever see her again.

Will I go down to the office & open the cabinet? I do not know. I have kept the paper with the key code close to my heart. I have meditated over it late into the night, after everyone has gone & the doors are locked & only the nameless guards are left to wind their way through the dark & empty corridors of the Museum.

I have prayed, to Ra & to Osiris & to Isis. I have prayed to Jehovah & to the Christian god & to the god of the Muslims for guidance. But none has given me an answer.

The decision is mine to make. I do not know what I shall do. I long for your sage advice.

Ghazi

• • • •

14 April 2176

My Dear Mr. Lincoln,

This letter is my farewell and the last you shall be hearing from me. And of the things of this world I will miss, this grieves me most of all, for I find that I have come to rely greatly upon your kindness and your boundless generosity. Your wisdom has been a great boon to me, though perhaps I did not listen so well as I should. Yet above all these, I have been most proud, sir, simply to call you my friend.

Mr. Lincoln . . .

Abraham.

Though you have called me Ghazi for years, only now, at the end, do I feel able to lay claim to the honor of referring to you in so familiar a fashion. It was never any lack of affection that fettered me, of course, only that I never felt equal to you, sir, and tended to look upon you more as a child might look upon a father rather than a man upon a peer. I hope you take the sentiment with the love, affection, and honor in which it was meant. And I hope that you, in your wisdom, do not judge me so harshly as perhaps I now deserve.

You cannot understand, my dear, dear friend, what it means to be a working class king. You do not come from such a country. Your society has never known monarchs, and your gods have never walked amongst you. And you personally, Abraham, have already lived a life so full of accomplishment as to never need to wonder if your deeds will be remembered. That proof is in your very existence. I have no such laurels, recent or ancient, to rest upon. I have no past, and my future, such as it is, is set as stone in the pattern of my genes.

For you see, I have ventured down into Dr. Fouad’s office. I have unlocked the cabinet. I have seen all the contracts and read all the reports, and now I know the truth. Now I know what it is that I am.

An experiment. A “limited test run.” An attempt to justify the cost. And if the tourist money came, if it proved to be enough, then . . . then the government itself would invest in a new creation. A new Tut. A real one. One that would last longer, stay young.

And as for me? What is to be my fate? It is this: that no matter the outcome, no matter the success or failure of the experiment, I, Ghazi, am designed to expire, just as my prime did, in my nineteenth year. For who indeed wants to see a boy king at fifty-five? Surely, that is not what the tourists pay good money for.

Oh, there will be no pain, of course. They are not monsters, no. No, for me there will be only a night like any other and a simple and gentle fading away, down into an endless sleep.

Two years, my friend. I have but two years left to live. Do you blame me that I choose to spend them no longer as a eunuch? I hope that you do not, and I hope that, in the passage of time and the soft light of remembrance, you forgive me for the course upon which I now, this night, shall embark.

For even as I write this, evening has come to Cairo. The sun hangs low upon the western horizon, casting its red arms across the sands to limn the pyramids, to plate the churning waters of the Nile, to tip in molten gold the thousand minarets of this ancient city until finally they slant, beggar-like, into my window and tug upon my soul. In the distance, the muezzin calls the faithful to prayer, and outside, somewhere, beyond the walls of the Museum, Khaled waits for me. I shall not disappoint him.

For now, this day, I am finally become a man.

And no longer do I dream of pain and death and ignoble endings. No longer do I cry like a child in the night.

Last night I dreamt one last time. And last night my dreams were of war.

And of golden chariots. Of dust in the desert and of the crying of the people. Of soldiers and of blood and of vast and magnificent battlefields.

And of a barque of gold.

And of Isis and Osiris, their arms lifted in prayer.

And then, finally, just before waking, I dreamt of Ra, his hand outstretched, leading the way across the heavens to my immortal glory.

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Andrea Kail

Andrea Kail

Andrea is a television writer and producer in New York City. Currently, she shares her home with several hundred books, three cats, and a large box of wine.