So this one time I was hiding from a disgruntled local. Usual story, he didn’t like my sales pitch and he really didn’t like that it was so effective on his wife. I can’t help it if women are naturally drawn to my Egyptian charm and I was only trying to sell her some aphrodisiacs which I’m sure would’ve been pleasurable for him as well. In any case, he was small minded and after I remarked that he was possibly small in other ways he decided that physical violence was needed. I must have hit a little too close to home.
I headed for the hills, and it didn’t take too long before I found a convenient cave to sidle in to. I could hear the angry local in the distance but was pretty sure he wouldn’t be able to spot the cave entrance. I picked up a handy rock (just in case) and waited. That local knew a lot of curses and I heard them ringing around the valley. Fortunately I was protected by Seth, a great god to have on your side in situations like those.
After a couple of hours he seemed to have given up. Or perhaps his throat had given up after all the shouting, so it was with caution that I started to leave the cave.
“Going so soon?”
By all the gods and their bowel moving mysterious ways I never jumped more than when I heard that voice. I shouted a few curses myself before seeing a figure emerging from deeper within the small cave. He was an ancient man, thin and scraggy wearing nothing but a rag around his waist.
“Who in the name of Seth are you? And what are you doing scaring people like that!”
“Oh, well, you seemed so worried when you came into my cave I didn’t want to disturb you. Then when you started to leave it occurred to me that you might be the Bab. I’ve been waiting such a long time you see. You don’t look like the last Bab, but then why should you I suppose…” He trailed off into mumbling.
“What are you talking about old man? I don’t have time for these riddles in the dark, there’s a rather nasty large man out there who thinks I should be a eunuch.”
“What? Oh, er, well, it would take an age to explain all the myriad things that – ”
“Fine, see you, bye!”
“No wait, I’ll give you the quick version. I really feel I need my Bab, it gets so lonely up here…”
“All right, just don’t make a lot of noise.”
We went back into the depths of the cave and as my eyes adjusted to the dark I could make out markings on the wall and lots of bones, fish bones?, on the ground. The smell indicated that the man had been living here for quite some time. He sat down to tell his story…
“Once, long long ago, in the land of Dilmun the people lived simple lives. Then the gods of the deep, the fish gods, came up onto the land and started speaking their ancient wisdom. Seven sages were selected to transmit this knowledge through the ages so that all men might become civilised. I was the last of the seven, and during my time the kings started to persecute us. They had their own wisdom and tried to kill those who disagreed with them. I went into hiding. But I still contacted the people through the Babs, that is the Gates of wisdom. The Bab would come to me and I would give them wisdom to take back. But eventually the Babs stopped visiting and I have been waiting here in hiding ever since.”
This was a strange story, the seven sages were supposed to be ancient indeed, from before the time of Gilgamesh even.
“And how long have you been here waiting?”
“Time passes differently in this cave, I don’t know, one, maybe two thousand years?”
I looked around. The markings on the cave walls were all symbols of time. And the fish bones, how did he get fish so far from the sea? A worry began and I made a silent wish to Seth. If time passed differently in here, when would I return to the outside world? Would my wife be still alive? My other wife? Suddenly I wished I had never entered this holy cave. I began to back away from this ancient sage.
“Sorry old man, but I can’t stay here any longer, you’ll have to look for a different Bab, I need to get back to my own time!”
I ran out of the cave, half expecting the sun to be long gone. But no, it seemed that only a few moments had passed. Had I aged? Who knows what had happened to me while I was in that magical cave, but clearly it wasn’t worth staying near. I called into the dark but there was no answer. Perhaps the sage was miffed that I wouldn’t be his Bab. Oh well, the chance of wisdom was all very well, but losing the time of my life just to get it seemed a bad deal.
As I walked back down from the hills I heard the screams of the angry local man. It seemed that not too much time had passed after all, but I still had the wisdom to start running again.