What is this? Who am I?
Rising from a shadow, the warmth rolls along skin and speckles. It hurts, just a bit.
What is that brightness? It stings to look at. Don’t look at it, but its heat feels divine. Familiar, the blue of the sky enfolding and comforting, like a mother’s embrace.
Curiosity shifts from the pristine canvas overhead to the millions of particles below. Feet sinking, but still standing and solid. What is this?
Sand? The word echoes within the mind, but not originating from its source. What is sand? Handfuls of this beige substance feel soft and delicate, these particles slipping between fingers and falling silently to join their counterparts below. Attention lifts, it’s everywhere. Stretches to the horizon, forming hills, and valleys, a barren landscape almost appearing burned, scorched in coloring. A hush falls along, the air moving and shifting the sand, waving. Silence, almost deafening, rolling and moving - a tranquil beast.
What is this place?
That voice again.
An unforgiving landscape, hostile to life, but an oasis to those adapted to live in such conditions. We give little rain to this environment, it doesn’t need it. Only the strong survive out here.
What am I doing here? Who am I?
You are Set, son to Geb and myself, Nut. You are born of the sand and the being of this arid sea.
You are a god.
A god -
There are humans, mortals, who are persistent in living in this landscape. They find resources, food, and water in this environment. But, they will need you to guide them, to remind them this place is aggressive, that we are aggressive and not to be questioned. You will rattle the ground when they become incompliant, and keep the winds calm when they show dedication and respect. You will have power beyond comprehension bestowed upon you, and you will remind them of your wrath when necessary.
Power beyond comprehension…
Feet started to move, expecting the trek to be difficult through the shifting sand, instead, it was solid and stable. Awe and curiosity moved all intentions forward to see if there was anything else in this arid sea similar to Set, if another being would rise from the sand just as they did. But, as the bright light in the sky, Ra - the sun god - as Nut had explained, started to descend towards the hills, the isolation was becoming encompassing.
The light was shifting, shrinking behind the rolling hills, bursting into a display with pigments shattering across Nut’s darkening canvas. Set’s shadow begins to stretch behind, elongating and matching the blackness creeping across the sky above. The horizon bursts into flames, colors fanning out over the hills and setting them on fire. It was…unbelievable.
A sunset. You’re first. Ra demonstrating his own divine power.
A sunset. It’s incredible, it’s amazing, and this happens every night?
Movement slows to a halt, the sand settling and forming around the feet with the wind picking up and swirling particles around. It’s - magical. But, still, no other sign of something is present, and the isolation begins to stir up panic, confusion, and sadness?
Sadness, it’s not normal for a god such as you - a god meant to be malevolent.
Malevolent to what? There’s nothing else within this barren landscape to be a god over, to have power over besides the sand crumbling beneath and endless hills as far as the eye can see. Feet sunk out with knees falling to settle in the sand, the particles no longer warm and inviting, but cooling, the temperature shift almost a shock.
The desert becomes a different place once Ra sets. You question your purpose. But you will see your reign start small only to become rightful above mortals.
The sand, you are the desert, you can manipulate its course. Start small.
Set’s hands found themselves within the sand mere seconds later, fingers burying and curling gently, experimenting. Concentration closed Set’s eyes, feeling a vibration pulse within the core and spread to the feet and hands. The sand around started to vibrate as well and it felt as if it was an extension, the coolness sending chills along the skin, but center still burning with a light that wasn’t recognized until now. Eyes opened to see the sand shifting and swirling again, the wind picking up and creating a cyclone that was controlled and facile.
The previous panic and puzzlement from the isolation sparked into a brief anger but never caught fire. And the sand burst from the slow-moving cyclone to splinter out and away, creating aggrieved streaks scattering across the settled sand.
Wow, they did that?
As the darkness of the night started to blanket above, millions of stars began twinkling like diamonds on a black velvet cloth. The Milky Way, as Nut had described, a band of glowing gas and dust, stretched and fracturing across the sky, with the planets - other worlds - the only other source of light as bright pinpricks among the vastness of the universe. The only sound was the gentle whisper of the wind dragging the sand and the jagged shapes created earlier were erased. It was then the isolation felt all the more evident shrouded within the darkness, and Set was quick to rise and continue, trying to find any other sign of life within this barren sea.
It didn’t take long to eventually see movement within the sand that wasn’t Set’s own, and elation sparked the god to move closer.
A rattlesnake. They are venomous creatures that can harm a mortal.
You have seen vast spaces and observed other gods in action. But, not everything that walks the mortal plane that you stand upon is great and all-powerful. Sometimes the smallest creature is the most dangerous.
Set watched the creature slither around, it had no legs, and create smooth indentations in the sand as it went. While it looked fearsome, Set was curious and kneeled to the creature, extending a hand in front of it to see if it would take interest and come near them. The creature was hesitant, circling a bit with its tail rattling before finally stopping and sliding up; its underbelly was smooth and tickled a bit. Set half expected the creature to bite. But it didn’t. It curled around Set’s arm and hand, then almost unmoving, ready for the god to continue their course.
The creature will not harm you. No creature in this desert will. Even if it were to bite, you would not feel it.
Curious. What else could be hiding in this vast landscape?
Set continued with the snake remaining still coiled and quite content along their arm and wrist; it had adjusted itself at some point to face forward and out to the rolling hills. The god wondered how long it would have taken the creature to climb one of the hills, and if Set was doing it a favor taking it along with them. However, it must have only been a short distance until the god came across another curious creature. This one looked as if it was going to sprint from them at a moment's notice.
A kangaroo rat.
This creature was so small as well that Set could have stepped right over it if they hadn’t already had a hawk’s gaze toward the ground.
Another creature that will not harm you. This one isn’t harmful to humans either, but it can be a hostile little beast when threatened.
Set kneeled for this animal as well with their other hand extended, palm laying against the coolness of the sand. The rat behaved similarly to the snake in that it didn’t take interest in the god right away, but after a little sniff of Set’s hand, it took careful leaps up onto their awaiting palm.
The god was awestruck for a second. To have this life not afraid and instead curious, balanced on both palms, did Set start to feel the power expand in their chest. To have these creatures be so trustworthy, so calm, there was a sense of control swirling within. Set was supposed to be a god, but why a malevolent one? How could they be after demonstrating what a mortal could not - a venomous creature in one, calm and content, with a fast and pugnacious critter in the other? If he was malevolent, it would be correct to smite each creature, to demonstrate their power and that no being is left unjudged. Why would they do that? What mortal is around to demonstrate such power?
However, while stopping again at the base of another hill, Set was not paying any mind to the creatures in their hands and how close either arm had wandered to the other. The rattling had caught the god’s attention, and it was almost a flash, but the snake lurched forward to grab at the rat with its fangs. The rat hadn’t even seen the snake and struggled for as long as it could before the snake’s venom paralyzed it, leaving the rat to hang limp in its mouth.
Set had stared with mouth agape and eyes wide, shock sitting on their chest and horror to freeze their body.
You may be a god, Set -
The voice spoke again, sounding rather exasperated.
But the rules of nature are solidified, unwavering. No god can keep predators from prey, can topple the chain that these creatures are bound to. It’s only nature.
But…they did this…if they hadn’t picked up either one -
The snake would have found the rat. The rat would have tried to run, hide, and make it - or be caught and consumed. It is your judgment on whether you aided or observed.
Does this happen with all creatures?
Yes. The rat feeds the snake, the snake feeds the birds who live in this vast landscape. And even the carcasses of these animals will feed the earth below, in due time.
Set released the snake then, a large swell along its slender body indicated its consumption of the rat; and the god watched it slither out of sight into a near hole surrounded by the skeletons of foliage.
The shock of the event still sat heavy on their chest, and the god continued to wander up the hill they had stopped at the bottom of. They weren’t sure what they expected to see once at the peak of the hill, more creatures scurrying about, chasing, running, hiding. Instead, the landscape stretched and flowed, the millions of particles matching the billions of sparkling stars above.
Set mulled over their purpose as they lowered themselves to sit atop the hill, trying to fit themselves amongst the sand and stars. There had been an emptiness inside them since they rose from the sand, the feeling not as obvious until now as they sit there observing the desert, themselves.
Nut’s voice seemed as if it was growing softer, more distant.
The emptiness inside must be filled by a light only sparked by your purpose. Only then will you join us in the heavens to rule over the mortals as the god of the desert.
Set felt a breeze brush by their shoulder, the wind picking up and swirling the sand around them only to lift far into the sky above. And everything went silent.
No whisper within the wind, no echoing within their head. Everything felt all the more isolated, all the more frightening and empty. The rattlesnake, the rat, the barren, dry sea stretching for miles - unforgiving and…malevolent. It all was a part of nature, a part of the chain of life, taking and distributing to others within the chain to continue the cycle of life. Set had to decide if they were an influence or observer; if the desert would aid or observe in the natural balance of life and death. But how? How could they become one with this process, this judgment? Set had only done it on accident before...
Set straightened their spine with palms digging into the cool textured ground below, bringing their palms up with each grain sifting through fingers in silence. Set smiled then as a single grain of sand remained in their palm, a simple coinciding thought manifesting an answer to their question -
Engulfed in the desert’s parched silence, I was nothing but another grain of sand in the wind.
About the Creator
Young, living - thriving? Writing every emotion, idea, or dream that intrigues me enough to put into a long string of words for others to absorb - in the hopes that someone relates, understands, and appreciates.