Near East

“Can we go this way?” said Isis.

Osiris stopped on the edge of the bridge, where a path ran along the river. He remembered when he was a kid. Lucerne was just a clutch of farms and stores, and there was no bridge over this road, at least not one you could drive across. It was just a sham wooden structure that a farmer had nailed together so he could hop into town. The bridge was a short cut to their community centre – the modern glass structure known as the Transparent Temple.

Osiris wondered why she wanted to take the long way around. It was funny that so many people in Lucerne had ancient names, particularly Egyptian ones. Their parents must have been hippies, fascinated by Pharaonic lore. He recalled a book near his mother’s bed called Pyramid Power.

He said, “Sure love. Are you in the mood for a longer walk?” The past three months had been the best of his life. Meeting Isis had rocked his world. She was everything he’d wanted – pretty, funny, smart, cultured and spiritual.

“I prefer the scenic route,” she said. “Let’s walk along the river, then through the fields. We can go through those new houses and enter the back of the Temple.”

“Okay love, let’s do that.” Osiris was so used to doing things his way that whenever Isis expressed a differing preference, his instinctive response was to reject it, but this was followed by curiosity so intense that he agreed to her request immediately. And he found that most of the time her way proved better. If he had to pin a number on it he’d say that she was right seventy-five percent of the time. When he’d explained this to his best friend, the friend had been incredulous. “What? You reckon she’s right seventy-five percent of the time? That can’t be possible!”

“Why not?” Osiris had said. “She’s a clever woman.”

“But you are more clever, my friend. If you are right twenty-five percent of the time, and you accept that she is right seventy-five percent of the time, then that makes you right one hundred percent of the time!”

Osiris and Isis held hands and followed the river east. Its flow was higher than usual. This must be because of early warm weather melting snowpack, whose waters poured into rivers running through the Lucerne Valley. The snow levels on both Mt Alba, rising above the village, and Mt Negra, one hundred kilometres away at the source of the valley, were rising up their respective slopes. Imagine being the last snowflake, he thought, disappearing.

It was a pretty crazy route for such a small river. It twisted and turned, looping back on itself at one point, plunging into pools, and braving small waterfalls. It was said that the first man to find Lucerne had floated along this river. He had fought and escaped his enemies, and been aided by crocodiles and buffaloes. He had climbed out when he had seen the White Mountain and made this his home.

The river continued through green fields. When this first man became old and feeble, he was killed by his descendants and buried in these fields, and from his head sprouted potatoes, his slim arms became carrots, his plump thighs produced beets, his brains made garlics, his lungs produced hemp, and from his manhood grew the first banana.

They came to new houses. The original houses had been built by the first man’s descendants, who became a prosperous tribe. Their wealth had attracted roving bands of hunters, who looted them annually, just after harvest, raping and pillaging and leaving their mark – mixed-blood children, who became present day Lucerne’s inhabitants.

Beyond the village was wilderness, like the original chaos before the first man.

Isis clutched Osiris’s hand harder as they neared the Transparent Temple. It was the heart of the village. Government officials met in Room One to set village strategy. Business leaders met in Room Two to discuss the local economy. Village councillors met in Room Three to promote political agendas. Artists met in the bar to discuss cultural grants and collaborative works. Holy men and women met on Saturdays to promote the memory of the divine founder of their settlement, the first man, called Osiris.

On Saturdays they served falafels, which legend said were first made by Coptic Christians. Pha la phel means “of many beans”, as the Church was formed of many souls, all rolled into one Great Soul. People united by The Authority.

Osiris and Isis were greeted by the Supreme Guardian of the Transparent Temple. He was a crippled, olive-skinned man called Seth. He cast a mean look at Osiris, but winked at Isis. Seth knew it would soon be time for him to regenerate and to leave this chamber, chase out Osiris, marry Isis, and begin the creation cycle anew.

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