The babble of noise faded and the world around me fell silent. I felt as if a door had closed between me and the throngs of people. I pulled my hood over my head and listened. And they were there.
Whispers. They were there when my mother cradled me as a newborn. A child is not supposed to remember anything of their earliest years, and yet I had a memory of being very small, carried by my mother, listening to whispers all around me. They encouraged and supported me when I learned to stand and walk, and started exploring the world on my own. Whispers that almost sounded like words, but not quite. They were there when I understood people were afraid of me and when I knew they thought me ugly, for reasons I could not understand.
I spoke of the whispers to my mother when I learned the words to do so. I asked her why people thought I was so ugly and to be feared.
She hugged me and said: "Do not mind my lovely, yours is a gift that has to stay in the shadows. But shadows are not a bad thing. When you stay in the shadows, you think deep thoughts, and learn more about yourself than you ever would in bright daylight. You may touch such wisdom that it compensates for the lack of friends. Wise ones of all ages have faced loneliness among people - and a deep connection to the world itself."
So I had stayed in the shadows, Shuet, the Shadow. I hid from the sunlight and night became my friend. I listened to the song of the stars, and paid attention to the emotions the whispers woke inside me. They were almost words, but never quite distinct enough to be understood. I felt those whispers of the night taught me something, but at a level I could never put into words. Wisdom grew inside me, but I could not give voice to it. It was intuition, a wordless knowledge of things, and a connection to something so vast I could not name it, but which gave me a deep feeling of peace.
And now, again hidden away from the blinding sunlight under my hood, the whispers changed.
"Shuet..." Someone uttered my name, within my mind. There was no sound but it was so vivid that I looked up to see who had spoken.
There was no-one there.
"Shuet, see them," the words were urging me to look around.
I raised my hood as the sun was still not high, and his red and golden light was not yet too bright for my eyes.
I saw all those crowds of people trying to reach for an ankh-bouquet, rushing off with joy when they managed to grab one successfully. And behind them I saw others.
The - others - were ordinary people, but transparent. They were reaching out and no one saw them, they were calling out names, but no one heard them. I saw a familiar face in their midst - an Ornament of the King, the daughter of a noble family in Waset. She had died in a burning fever not many moons ago in Mi-Wer. Afterwards, she had been embalmed and brought here to be buried in her family tomb in Waset. She saw me looking at her and an indescribable expression of joy and relief spread over her face. She smiled and waved at me and I nodded in recognition.
And I understood I was seeing the dead. People who had returned to join in celebration with their living family members.
Even as I watched the sun rose higher and the transparent forms disappeared from view. The voices of the living returned in such force I had to cover my ears and run away.
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