The heretic – a short story

4 Oct

The heretic is dead. That enemy of Akhetaten, the so called son of the Sun is no more. Whilst there was no wild cheering as such, his death wasn’t greeted in Thebes with universal mounting either. 

 The last two decades hadn’t been kind to the city noted by the poets as ‘Hundred Gated Thebes’. Once the sparkling jewel of the two lands and beyond,it’s hallowed streets once filled with the sounds of festivals now filled with the cries of starving children. It’s once great shrines now overgrown with weeds.

Merit was walking the hot dusty Theban streets, a man on a mission.

His mission was to find the hallowed statue of Amun Ra. Venerated for centuries in the great sanctuary of Karnak, once paraded to popular acclaim in his golden barque shrine, he was hidden to escape Akhenaten’s destructive purges.

He had learned his arcane trade in secret.It had been 5 years since this tall youth was shaven and begin his clandestine ministry to those still secretly devoted to the old gods. His temples were the cramped basements of the private homes where even the Aten couldn’t see.

Since the Heretic’s death, the shift away from the Aten had begun tentatively, but there was still doubt in the air. Would the boy king and those advising him make good on their promises and restore the old gods? Would they break away once and for all from Akhetaten?

As he entered through the towering portals of the temple, he wept. The sanctuary had been defiled. Any images of Amun that were once brightly painted were now scratched out. His name, be it on the walls or on the sky piercing obelisks, was obliterated. Even the name of the Heretic’s father wasn’t spared; no longer was he ‘Amenhotep beloved of Amun, Lord of Thebes’.

He was searching for hours and hours, raising paving slab after paving slab. Then he found it. The bright sunlight reflected off his gilded skin. Though a leg had snapped off during its hasty removal, the statue largely survived. In his hand, he held a small stela that portrayed the bizarre elongated features of the Heretic worshipping the Aten. This was the man who’s zealotry led to nearly two decades of oppression, who destroyed image after image. He would have to be careful, sacrilege against a god, even a flawed heretic like him carried a strong penalty.

Merit picked up a rock and pounded the image over and over again, until his image was indistinguishable. He recited a curse

‘May you not live forever, you who ruled without the divine order of ma-at. May your heart be devoured by the monster Ammut, Neferkheperure Akhenaten.’

But he wasn’t alone in the temple…

Tut’s wife

15 Aug IMG_0645-0

She brought him something old,

A throne of gold.

The change of names was something new,

The golden mask was borrowed,

The garland laid on his coffin,


The hustings – a short story

10 Aug

‘Welcome to a packed town hall in Birmingham for what promises to be a titanic battle between these 4 candidates who seek to be leader of the opposition and possibly the future resident of number 10,’ the new political editor said as she eagerly introduced her first big political event. 
‘Lets introduce the candidates. Candidates, you have a time limit of 45 seconds to introduce yourselves to our audience.’
‘My name is candidate A and I seek to become your prime minister. In these tough times for all hard working families, we need to create robust growth in our economy by promoting more green shoots. We mustn’t be afraid of telling hard truths, and the truth is we can’t just oppose. We need to change our party to change our nation into an aspiration nation. We need to bring back aspiration to our nation. I believe I can bring this aspiration.’
‘Hello and thank you for watching, I’m candidate B and I aspire to work hard to improve the lives of all those hard working families across the country. I grew up in a hard working household and I know that hard work should pay off. I aspire to bring back aspiration.’
‘Good evening, I’m Candidate c . I say that it’s not enough to aspire while I was a minister the last time we were in government I opened sure start centres that work hard to support hard working families. We need aspiration of action not just to talk about aspiration.’
‘I’m Candidate d . This unprecedented financial crash has changed the rules of the game. I seek aspiration for all not just the privileged few. I also want to work hard to oppose these loathsome policies and represent those working hard for their families. Austerity isn’t just an abstract concept and neither will aspiration be. ‘

The crowd applauded, the kind of applause that seemed to convey a mentality of ‘ I better clap or else it would look very impolite.’
Caroline from Kent asked the first question. ‘What would you consider to be your priorities?’

Candidate A’s eyes lit up as she responded. ‘My priority is aspiration. I seek to create a society where all hard working families can aspire to live a better life. Though we also face some hard truths and we need todo whatever it takes to aspire to grow those green shoots of our economy.’
Candidate B fluttered his eye lashes as he pondered his response. ‘I agree with candidate A as I too aspire to bring back aspiration. As you all know (yes we do know I thought), I grew up in a hard working household and I aspire to make this country work hard for the hardworking. I also agree somewhat about the hard truths…..’
Sorry to interrupt,’ candidate D said in a loud voice, ‘ but candidate B, didn’t you state the other day that you agree with me that you would seek to oppose harsh policies of the government and oppose austerity?’
‘Yes I did but I also agree with candidate A too, this is my aspirational vision.’ Candidate B responded, seemingly oblivious to the contradiction in his soundbite response.

Candidate C spoke in a calm but dispassionate manner. ‘My priority is to begin the work I started when I was a minister which included sure start, and other measures to help (you guessed it) hard working families. I call this aspirating to act.’
Candidate D added in his loud voice, ‘I seek to reopen the mines as I feel this is a great way to aspire to create a fairer society. I aspire to work hard for those families who work hard….’
It carried on in this vein after many questions asked. I switched off. Not one question answered. I wanted to be inspired, but I was just tired of the same vacuous slogans of aspiration and hard working families. Tired of keyboard warriors for each candidate ripping lumps out of each other.

As I watched the show unfold, I was reminded of the end of George Orwell’s Animal farm. I looked from candidate A to D, from D to A, but already it was impossible to say which was which. 

Kepler 452b 

24 Jul IMG_0498-0

A whole new world – Kepler452b 
Scientists announced today,

The discovery of another Earth,

A whole new world 

In the depths of space light years away.

Do the fish and the whales swim free,

In the distant seas of Kepler 452b?

If there ever was any life on Kepler 452b,

Did they cherish forests of thousands of trees?

If we traversed the stars to Kepler 452b,

Would we destroy or conserve what we came to see?

Would those days numbering 385 or more,

Be lived in peace or unending war?

Pygmalion politics

12 Jul

Pygmalion politicians
Day by day,

Fashioned from clay.

We mould them,

Too harsh on welfare

Too soft on immigration.

Too harsh too soft,

Too harsh too soft.

We distrust grand speeches of passionate fire,

so we opt for play it safe politicians 

that don’t inspire.

Our discourse moulds the clay wet

It’s Pygmalion politics

This is what we get.


11 Jul

New poem ‘Srebrenica’ on the 20th anniversary of the massacre.

is a tale we tell,
Of the depths to which Europe fell.

where neighbours once lived side by side,
Committed bloody genocide.

Slaughter in a ‘safe place’
A mark of blood and disgrace.

Remains a fork in the road.
Do we have the courage to tolerate
to ensure it

The Iconoclast

7 Jul

The Iconoclast

‘Clink clink,’ the sound of chisels against stone echoed. Scratching out finely carved eyes, disfiguring noses and mouths.

Every last image, the commander ordered. Every last image needs to be destroyed. Some were more brutally destroyed than others- gunned down in a hail of bullets, blown to pieces by explosives. Their robust forms obliterated.

Only the hallowed Celestial Lion remained. The lion, like the ancient ruins that surrounded it, dated from the dawn of civilisation itself. Towering over the landscape, it’s colossal form had given it a legendary status. Once worshipped in an ancient sun cult, then feared as the Father of Fear, to now be revered as a symbol of mankind’s artistic and engineering prowess.

The lion and the vast temple it guarded had withstood earthquakes and wave after wave of bloody invasions. Yet it survived. It’s wide eyes continually staring out, watching all.

Then they arose. The civil war saw a multitude of factions arising from the desert sands, ripping the nation apart. The Iconoclasts, the idol breakers, spread like wildfire from town to town, killing those who stood in the way of ‘purifying the land.’

Not just content to wage war on their own countrymen and the rest of the world, not just content with waging war on modernity, they seek to also wage war on the past. They’ve ransacked museums, put statues on trial for idolatry and sentenced them to death by decapitation.

Their quest to purify a heretical land, their trail of destruction has lead them here, to the paws of the great Lion.

‘The commandment tells us there should be no graven idols’ he thought as he climbed the ladder chisel in hand. He, the charismatic young warlord who commanded this seemingly invincible army, had the power to rewrite history with this one act.

As he climbed and gazed upwards, he was struck by a curious mixture of awe and nostalgia. He remembered his mother taking to see this wonder long ago. He remembered how this one statue had the power to unite many different peoples together. Was this idolatry?

His faltering hand shook as his chisel got closer to the face.


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