Dedicated to Marie in California who supports us via Patreon
Written, illustrated, produced by Bertie
Narrated by Natasha
A scarier story than usual - our feline friends travel to the Land of the Dead to solve the mystery of the Ghost Cats who are frightening the cats at the temple of Bastet in Perbast. They meet the Egyptian gods, Anubis, Isis, and Osiris.
Amon keeps a boat in the harbour which he uses for fishing. He carried us both onto this wobbly contraption, and set us down on the bench. Then took up his pole, probed for the bottom of the river and began to gently punt us through the moonlight.
It was a clear, starry night. We glided past palm trees, watery fields, sleepy buffalo, and hippo cooling their blood in the water. These were sights we were used to seeing every day - but this night we looked at them differently. Everything we saw seemed to be saying to us, “We are alive and belong in the Land of the Living. Bye Bye kitties. Best of luck in the Land of the Dead.”
Of course they weren’t actually saying that, but sometimes your imagination can seem more real than actual reality - well that’s how it is for us magical cats anyway.
Now as you probably know, the waters of the Great River Nile are fed by many little rivers that flow into it. But there is one river alone that flows out of it - and that is the River of the Dead. It starts in a rocky place where there are no crops or marshes. It is a favourite spot for jackals, vultures, crocodiles, ghosts and spectres, and anybody who is in their right mind sails swiftly past.
But Amon steered his boat towards a stony beach in the mouth of the River of the Dead.
`’This is where I leave you,” he told us, “You must continue from here on your own.”
Amon had brought two round baskets of tightly woven reeds. He had made them waterproof with mud, palm leaves, and a sprinkle of magic. These were to serve as boats to carry us.
“Bye Bye! Fair Well ! Come back Safely!” Called Amon, as the current of the river carried us away.
“Meehow !” We both cried, thinking that we would never return to the cat temple.
It was not long before the river flowed underground. The current took us through a massive tunnel lit by torches. Sometimes we saw bones and skeletons up on the boulders. Serpents and dragons slithered among the stones, or swam alongside us in the water.
All this was, needless to say, petrifying. Neither of us could move and we were cold with fear. No doubt these monsters believed that we truly were dead.
Finally we came out of the tunnel and into a vast wind-sweat plain. On the horizon, a giant pyramid sloped into the sky and pricked the clouds with its apex. The river cut through the plain and flowed into the center of the pyramid via a huge portal.
Up above us, flocks of birds were flying in the same direction as us.
“Why are there so many birds heading towards the Pyramid?” Chloe asked me.
“Are you a dummy?” I hissed. “Don’t you know that they are carrying the spirits of the dead the afterlife?”
I was bad tempered because I was terrified. Fear has that effect on me.
When we finally entered the Pyramid we knew right away where we were. This as the famed Hall of Maat - the goddess of truth. Here her servants, judge the souls of the dead to decide if they are fit for the afterlife.
It was a busy night, and hundreds of humans and animals were waiting to be judged. Sometimes it is fortunate not to be human - people have to face 42 judges before they are permitted to pass through the Pyramid to the Field of Reeds. We animals only have to answer three questions.
The judges were immortals with the heads of hawks. They perched on shelves that ran along two long walls. Humans passed between them and the Judges squawked questions at them. If the humans failed to answer correctly, or if their hearts called them out as liars, they vanished in puffs of smoke. The others carried on trudging forward towards the great door bearing the golden symbol of the sun.
There were many more of us animals than there were humans. Lions, cats, dogs, mice, lizards, scorpions, gazelle, locusts - every type of animal you see in the land of the living - was there - and none of us was in the slightest bit interested in bothering anyone else, let alone eating them.
Nothing there happened quickly. Time is not important in the Land of the Dead. Chloe and I both realised that if we waited our turn to be judged, it might take us years.
“We’ll have to push to the front,” I said.
“But that’s bad manners,” protested Chloe. I took no notice and I dove between the legs of a hippo. My sister friend had no choice but to follow. Soon we were both running forwards. None of the spirits complained or did anything to stop us. We even leapt over the snout of a crocodile and pushed through a pack of hyenas - moves we would never make in the Land of the Living. We only slowed down when we reached the front of the crowd.
Chloe took the first turn to be judged. She crouched fearfully before the wall where the hawk-headed judges were perched.
“Have you ever made anyone cry,” asked the first hawk.
“N...no,” said Chloe.
“Have you ever told a lie?” asked the second hawk.
“No, truthfully, I promise, I’ve never told a lie,” claimed my friend.
“And have you ever peed in the River Nile?” asked the third Hawk.
“Yea….I mean no,” stammered Chloe. The hawk-god stared at her with beady eyes. I thought for a moment that her heart was going lose courage and snitch on her, but my sister-friend took a deep breath and said, “Categorically, absolutely not, I can confirm that I have never peed in the sacred waters of the River Nile and I never would. Besides, I wouldn’t want to get bitten by a crocodile.”
The hawk-god nodded, and the great door bearing the symbols of the sun slid open in front of Chloe. She was allowed to proceed to the next chamber. I was next up for the interrogation by the hawk-headed-gods. I am glad to say that I answered my questions loud and clear with three good “no”s. And soon I joined Chloe in the Hall of Anubis.
Anubis is the least favourite god of us cats. He is the dog-god with the head of jackal. His job is to weigh the hearts of the souls who wish to proceed to the Field of Reeds. He stands by a giant scale. He places the soul’s heart on one side, and an ostrich feather on the other. If the heart weighs more heavily than the feather - that’s it - puff - the soul goes up in smoke.
“Come on you cats,” growled the Anubis, “hand over your hearts !”
“We, we, can’t,” I stuttered.
The dogged lips of Anubis snarled at us in contempt, showing us his scary sharp teeth. Sacred snot ran out of his nose. We both trembled for our lives. “It’s your choice, cat-face,” he said, “If I can’t weigh your heart, I’ll have to vaporise your soul.”
“Oh Great One, don’t do that. We are living cats.” I begged him.
“Yes that’s right,” added Chloe, “Our hearts are still beating.”
“Rather fast, as it happens,” I added.
“Well,” growled Anubis, while scratching his ear, “This is highly irregular. You’ll have to talk to Lord Osiris about this.”
And so we were permitted to proceed, without our hearts being weighed, to the final Judgement Chamber where Lord Osiris, chief god of the Underworld, sits on his throne.
Osiris is unusual for a god, in that he pretty much looks like a human - only his skin is bright green which is a tell-tale sign that he’s immortal.
He is very tall, slender, and holds a gold flail, which is a tool for separating wheat from its husks, or good souls from bad. That’s sounds scary, but people believe that he is kind. We both hoped that his reputation was a true one.
His golden throne room is full of light. It’s almost like stepping into the sun. Our eyes were dazzled and we had to shield them with our paws.
“Hello Little cats,” said a female voice. Our eyes were getting used to the light now. Through the golden haze we saw Isis leaning on the throne of Osiris. She’s his queen, and she’s meant to be nice too. She also takes a human shape, and is very beautiful. “Did you get lost?” She went on, “Because living cats aren’t supposed to come this way. “
We both started to purr. We couldn’t help it. These were the first kind sounding words that had been spoken to us since we left Amon and the Land of the Living.
“Oh, honoured Lady Isis,” I said, “We are sent here because every night ghost cats leave the Land of the Dead and harass the cats who live in the temple of our Lady Bastet. Our masters ask you to keep them in doors at night because they are bad for business. “
Isis turned to Osiris and said,”Honey, did you know this was happening?”
And her husband replied:
“Why no sweety. I thought the cats loved the Field of Reeds and didn’t want to leave. Let’s call Anubis and ask him what he knows about this.”
“Yes, let’s do that,” said Isis. And then she put two fingers in her lips and gave out a loud piercing whistle.
Anubis, who stood with his scales just outside the door, heard her whistle and came running in. Isis asked us to repeat to Anubis what we had just said - which we did. The dog-god scratched his head with his hind leg and responded :
“I didn’t know this was happening.”
“Tonight,” said Osiris, “When the moon is shining in the Land of the Living, take these two nice kitties back to Lady Bastet’s temple and see what it’s all about. Will you do that for us, Anubis?”
`”Yes Sire,” said the dog-god.
Which was convenient for us, because Anubis drove us through the skies in his Chariot - flying is a great way to travel by the way - you should try it one day if you haven’t already. We returned to the Temple of Lady Bastet in truly divine style, whooshing through the air and almost touching the moon.
We landed with several bumps on the ground in front of the temple. Anubis sniffed the night air: “Such a strong smell of cat!” he muttered, not exactly with approval.
We realised that all the temple cats were hiding - behind statues and stones and up on the branches of palm trees. They were getting ready for the nightly invasion of the ghost cats. The sight of the dog-god in his winged chariot must have terrified them even more than usual !
We did not have to wait long before the eerie screeching began. A swarm of white ghost cats with gleaming green eyes came charging over the waters of the Nile. They began to encircle the temple meowing and screeching. Chloe and I both kept our heads down inside the golden chariot of Anubis while the god-dog himself hid inside the temple. Suddenly we heard him barking - not just like an ordinary stupid dog - but loud enough to shake the palm trees and send waves rippling across the Nile. Even the moon looked scared and rushed to hide behind a cloud.
Oh Ra! Did those ghost cats get the fright of their non-lives! Anubis came charging down the temple steps. He ran here and there snarling and snapping at the ghosts - the spectors soon turned tail and scattered back across the Nile from where they had come.
And it’s safe to say, that they will never again trouble the temple of our lady Bastet.
And as for Chloe and I - well we both dined on the finest feast of fish in our entire lives !