Monday, June 01, 2009

I'm posting the first three Chapters of my first novel Isis, a fantasy story that combines Egyptian mythology, and African-American History into an action-packed adventure. I wrote this back in 1999; it was the second novel I completed and the first I self-published in 2002 . I wasn't the greatest editor back then, so if there are any grammatical mistakes, please be understanding about it. I'm posting these chapters so readers can compare and contrast my earlier writing style to that of my recent novel The Cassandra Cookbook
(c) 2002 Shawn James

The blue flames of the lake of fire light my way as I descend into the dark pit of Hell. The sweet smell of brimstone and the harmonic wails of tortured souls put a smile on my face. I miss this place. As a herald I spend most of my time on Earth collecting the souls of the damned and torturing the souls of the righteous. It's a job I enjoy and wish to return to. If I had to stay in that palace one more day I think I would have snapped. There's only so much torment a soul can take.
I cross the lake of fire walking across a bridge of dead men's bones. As I approach the cave of the crocodiles, the great serpent Lord Seth slithers out to greet me. He's anxious to hear what I have to tell him. Ever since the elder gods banished him here, I have been his eyes and ears to the outside world. Without me all he'd know is darkness. Lucky for him, a lot happened during my visit to Heliopolis. Disguised as a servant, I was able to acquire some
valuable information. This time we will finally destroy the gods.
It's been a long time since I've made someone suffer. I take a seat in his throne, cross my legs, and smile at him. He gets back at me by being polite. That's just cruel.
“Greetings E'steem. Have you brought me more souls to torment?”
“I have something better than souls master.”
“What could be better than a soul?”
“Information. I've been in the palace of the gods.”
“There's no way you can enter the palace of Heliopolis-”
“There are ways. Remember my father went into Heliopolis.”
“Your father was slain by Osiris.”
“Do you want to hear what I've learned or do you want to discuss ancient history?”
He scowls at me. “What have you learned?” He barks.
“There has been a trial among the gods. The daughter of Osiris has been banished to the Island of Solitude for crimes against the gods.”
“You lie, I have no niece. My brother's only children are his bastard sons.”
“Oh but you do have a niece. This is the child of Osiris and a Nubian slave whom he sired as concubine. Her name is Isis, the same as her stepmother.”
“I watched my brother for centuries. I would have known if had left Heliopolis.”
“Perhaps not. He might have disguised himself to elude you.”
“What were the charges against her?” Seth digresses.
“She let hatred enter her heart. She betrayed the gods and went to worship another god.”
“I'm sure she was cleared on the latter charge. Osiris would have to punish ten thousand generations of Egyptians for not worshipping the gods.”
“Osiris didn't judge his daughter. Ra and the elder gods passed judgment on her. Remember, Osiris can't try a member of his own family. And you know Ra' s sentences are always harsher than Osiris'.”
“Hold on. If she has let evil into her heart why isn't she here?”
“She hasn't embraced the evil inside her as part of herself as you did. There's still hope that she can be redeemed.”
“Just like the elder gods to show mercy on one of Osiris' bastards. If she were my child she'd be rotting here.”
“What you have told me is of no use to me.” Seth continues. “So my brother has another bastard. I cannot harm a hair on his head.”
“That's where you're wrong.”
“How? I can't leave this place to extract vengeance upon-”
“You can harm Osiris in a way far worse than slicing him to pieces. Now that Osiris is aware of his daughter he will surely want a relationship with the child.”
“True, nobility was always my brother's greatest flaw.”
“Think about it. There are two sides of her family she can embrace. She's halfway here.”
He thinks abut it. “Yes, you're right. Perhaps I can harm my brother this way.”
Seth smiles in anticipation of the execution of my scheme.
“Go ahead with your plan E'steem. Go ahead and bring me the soul of Isis.”
Chapter 2

I am a prisoner of the gods.

They say I have hatred in my heart. With all that's transpired in my life these past few years I'm inclined to agree with them. You can't experience what I've been through and even want good inside you. When everyone and everything you love and care about is destroyed all you have left is bitterness and anger.

It probably doesn't sound like much for someone to let hatred enter her heart, except I'm not an ordinary woman. I'm a goddess. We're held to a higher standard than humans; we're not supposed to give into our emotions the way humans do. My mistake was giving into my rage. I wanted to destroy a nation of people because they killed my family. I still do. So to save the world from me and me from myself, the elder gods stripped me of my powers and banished me to an uninhabited island to sort things out.

The elder gods don't call this island a prison. To them, this is an “island of solitude.” It's supposed to be a place where I can think about what I've done and why it was wrong. Personally, I’d rather be imprisoned in a traditional filthy rat-infested jail cell. At least I’d know what to expect. The first day I was here I ran right for the shore to swim off this rock. I wanted to spite the elder gods and show them they had no jurisdiction over me. I quickly learned not to challenge the power of the gods after experiencing their interpretation of iron bars. When I got close to the water, I couldn't see anything, but I felt like I slammed into a wall. A really hard wall. A really really hard wall. Strange thing is I skim rocks on the water all the time. I thought about it later on. It would be foolish to plan an escape by just swimming; where would I go? There's no land for miles. All I can see around me are the deep blue waters of the Pacific. That's when I realized I'm going to be here for a while and I better get used to it.

The elder gods say I won't be allowed to leave this island until I'm redeemed. That's not going to happen any time soon. I have a lot of unresolved affairs I have to take care of before I can even think about getting back in the elder gods good graces. Besides dealing with the death of my family, I just found out my father is Osiris, King of the gods of Heliopolis. King of the cowards is a better way to describe him. It makes me so angry to think about the way he treated me at the trial. He told me he wanted to start a relationship with me after I've been redeemed. I feel that's too little too late; I needed his help yesterday and he won't face me. If this is the way he parents his children I'm beginning to see why Egypt fell.

I'm mad at Osiris for abandoning me, but I don't hate him. He's not so bad; in his own way he
tried to help me before I was banished here. Along with that empty promise to see me, he gave me some parting gifts. The first was a pair of smooth gold gauntlet bracelets. They must be enchanted because I can't take them off no matter how hard I pull at them. They used to feel funny on my wrists, but now I'm getting used to them. He says they'll give me hope. He might be right, every time I look at my reflection in them I feel like I might have a chance of leaving this island.

The second gift was a journal and a pen. Osiris says writing will help me deal with my feelings. I don't know, seeing my emotions written down on paper scared me. I never realized how dangerous my anger was until I saw it staring me in the face. Looking back at what I wrote in my journal when I first came here I've cursed every Heliopolitan deity at least twice and called my mother a few names I wouldn't repeat in church. If I were to say the things I wrote to anyone, I'd regret it for the rest of my life.

Since I've worked through most of my anger and grief, I've been trying to make a life for myself on my new home these past few months. In the beginning it was hard living here; the gods didn't provide me with any amenities. I was banished to this island with the clothes on my back, a short white linen wrap kilt and a crop top. I had to find everything else I needed to survive on the island myself. After several days of exploring, I found food and water. On the fertile land in the center of the island, trees and bushes grow a variety of tropical fruits and vegetables. Oranges, bananas melons, that sort of thing. There's a spring on the South side of the island.

Now that I've been here awhile I've got a routine. Chores keep me busy from sunup to sundown. As soon as I get up, I say my prayers. I know it's strange for a goddess to serve God, but that's my religion. Osiris may be my father but he's not the almighty in my eyes. I've served God for over a thousand years now and I'm not about to stop now. I know he's with me and he'll help me out of this mess.

After I pray, I jot down a few thoughts in my journal. Nowadays I write about the experiences I have on the island. It's not much, just a few paragraphs about what I've done for the day. I usually spend my afternoons gathering fruit and vegetables for my meals and fresh leaves for my bed.

Around sundown I take a bath and try to rest for the next day. I don't get much sleep, most nights I just stare up at the night sky. I'm afraid to sleep because when I dream it's always a nightmare. I keep seeing what happened to my family over and over again. Those memories make me so upset; I'm afraid to face them. I know what I did; I just don't think it was the only reason why I got this evil inside me.
Chapter 3

I watch Isis from my window as she writes her thoughts in the journal Osiris gave her. I still have reservations about the judgment Ra passed on her. I always felt his sentence was too harsh. She has withdrawn so much in the time since she's been imprisoned. The hatred can only grow inside her if she's left to herself again.

We made a promise to Keer-Sheba an eon ago to look out for her daughter. We haven't kept our word. We left Isis to the reprobate ways of humanity while we gods went about our business. Osiris and the elder gods are foolish to believe that he can have a relationship with Isis after she leaves the island. She'll never leave the island without our guidance.

I leave my bedchamber and head for the hall of judgment. Osiris is there judging the endless stream of souls with the balance and feather of truth. They have waited a long time to be judged, they can wait awhile longer.

“Osiris, I must speak with you. It's important.”

“I am about my business. Can this wait until later?”

“No, this can't wait.”

He takes the feather of truth off the balances. “Isis, what is this about?”

“It's about our daughter. We can't leave her alone again.”

“Ra has passed judgment on her. When the hatred is purged from her soul we will-”

“I know what Ra said. But we can't wait until then. Our daughter has gone on too long without our guidance. She'll never be redeemed without our help.”

“Isis, we're not supposed to interfere. She has to find her own way and we're supposed to go about our business.”

“What's our business Osiris? To advise and protect man. Your daughter is of mortal flesh, worthy of our aid.”

“Those are no longer our duties. Long ago in Egypt yes, but not in these godless times.”

He reaches to put his feather on the balance. I snatch it away from him. He scowls at me. I'm not going to let him do this to our family.

“I never thought you'd be a hypocrite. Who needs more help than our daughter?”

“I'm being practical. There are-”

“You can try the hearts of men but you won't try to face your own child. What kind of judge doesn't obey his own laws?”

“A fair and righteous one.”

“No. A corrupt one, and I know you aren't corrupt. Do you want Isis to be one of these unworthy souls?”

He sighs. He always does when he knows I'm right.

“Send for Horus. Tell him he is to rule in my stead until this affair is taken care of.”