Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Pigeon Post

"He picked up the birdcage and walked in a stupor to the sweltering warehouse where he was to work. In a corner was a rough table, papyrus rolls, pens and ink.  Other clerks were stacking ingots of copper in piles and morosely tallying them on the strips of papyrus.  He looked at the thin papery strips, the pens and the ink; then at the bird.  What about the sign-game he had played with his sister?  How much of it, he wondered, did she remember?

Perhaps it was not too late to get a message through to Gebal -- a message that would tell his sister what had become of him.  At the same time it might warn the King of Gebal of the danger that threatened the city.  But it was unheard of, to send a message through the air a distance of many weeks' marches.  Fearful doubt told him it was preposterous, but he had to believe it was possible, and that was enough to make him forget the oppressive heat and the hopelessness of his situation.

He put the birdcage inconspicuously in a corner and set immediately to work with the other clerks, piling ingots, checking and tallying them, packing them in panniers ready to be sent off by ass-train to the armourers in Egypt.  It was exhausting work, physically and mentally, yet he kept a corner of his brain alive and apart, and through it paraded the signs that meant nothing in the world to anyone but him and his sister -- the twenty two letters.  Could he remember them himself?  He said their names over:
     Aleph - the ox
     beth - the house
     gimmel - the stick
     daleth - the door ....."

The Twenty-two Letters   Clive King

No comments:

Post a Comment