Tekhenu: the ancient, Egyptian word for obelisk. Built many years ago, they stand tall and grand in grey stone, complete with a pyramid-shaped top. Time has not withered their majesty, nor their strange sense of foreboding.
I didn't know why, but the one which stood tall and dark in the middle of a field some way from our house, and could be seen right in the middle of the horizon from my bedroom window, had always scared me. During the day it was fairly benign, though I found I had to avoid looking at it for too long. Because it haunted my dreams.
At night, it seemed to me to stand even taller, even blacker, more menacing. I tried telling my mother about my fear, but she smiled and patted my head. I was only young at the time. "Don't be silly," she told me, ruffling my fair hair. "It's only an obelisk. Just a stone statue. It’s not dangerous or anything to be worried about."
Obelisk. Such a strange, alien word. Especially to my young ears. "But why is it there, mum?" I pleaded with her. "What is it for?" She laughed and told me that they had been built a long time ago, and that it was now just a part of the landscape. “Like those old red letterboxes, or the old ruins we see around,” she assured me.
I tried to heed her advice and put my fears to the back of my mind, but I found that I couldn't stop searching for information about those structures. I became obsessed with the word 'obelisk.' And when I joined the library, I started searching for books and websites that gave me any information about them and their purpose. To me, they seemed frightening and bizarre. Yet anybody I tried to speak to about my unnatural phobia, either laughed, or thought I was joking. Nobody understood why I was so drawn to my fear, least of all me.
One day I read a very enlightening book about archeology and history, and learned that the obelisk, or 'tekhenu' as it was originally known by the Egyptians, had originally been a way of worshipping the sun god Ra. That the word meant 'to pierce,' as in to pierce the sky. This was why, I learned, they were always tall, and thin, and pointed. This scared me even more. I had thought that learning about these things would ease the fear, by removing some of the mystery and strangeness. But this didn't happen. Instead, as my knowledge and understanding of these ominous structures grew, so did the feeling in the pit of my stomach, whenever I so much as thought about one.
Obelisks started to invade my dreams; I'd imagine that tall, black pointed top looming over me in my bed, and I'd wake up in a sweat. I'd have to go over to the window and peer out at the one in the distance, to check. To make sure it was still in its usual place. I didn't tell anyone about my now all-consuming fear, and every night, I checked. Without fail, I checked. My biggest fear was that one night it would be gone from sight; vanished like a spectre. An even more terrifying fear was that it would reappear somehow closer to me, whether in my dreams, in my mind, in my line of sight from the window…
I’d been to the library, and must have been absorbed in my reading, as I fell asleep in the pile of books on the desk before me, awoke with a start to the sudden smell of scorching… was something burning? I tried to lift my head up, but it felt sluggish, like I was stuck in treacle. My eyes moved to the side, towards the lift door which connected the ground floor of the library up to this floor, the reference floor. I’d heard the ping somehow, though I didn’t remember my ears registering the sound. It was as if it had happened inside my head. The lift doors opened to the most dreadful vision of a person, a woman engulfed in flames; her hair a red fire, reaching and roaring for me with arms outstretched, and her eyes black and burning. She was emitting death and destruction to my very soul, and I screamed and I screamed as I felt sharp pain in my hands, and I couldn’t move…
I yawned, and stretched, sighed… gauged my surroundings. I was lying on my bed. I must have been asleep and had a night terror. How real it felt though. Had I come home and fallen straight asleep on my bed? I thought back; I was sure that I had gone to the library for real. Had I dreamt that whole incredibly vivid event?
I sat up on the bed, placing my feet on the floor. I closed my eyes briefly. The mass of reading up on Egyptian gods and goddesses was getting to me, the obsession taking me over. All I had in my head and my dreams were iconic symbols, worship rituals, and the Eye of Ra. No wonder I was feeling nuts and having episodes where I blacked out. I had clarity for the first time; I needed to step back, for my own sanity. I needed to move through this, to get my life back. Feeling sudden pain in my hands, I opened my eyes and looked at myself in the mirror opposite my bed. My eyes were black. I daren’t look down, though I felt my palms with my fingers and winced at the small, triangular-shaped holes embedded in my skin. The window beckoned, and I moved to it one last time. The sun was going down, we were almost at twilight. And I could feel the sun burning within me.
I knew I was the one who had been chosen. Finally.
Squinting, I could see the obelisk in the distance, and I didn’t feel afraid. It was liberating, and I breathed out in relief, a long, audible breath. I saw the flames licking around the base of the obelisk, illuminating the sky, calling to me. And I smiled. It was my turn.