As the Ampoletta ended her voyage, another night was beginning to loom over the ancient Egyptian city of Alexandria. Sirianna gazed out along the starboard side as the schooner passed by the archaeological ruins of the Pharos or Lighthouse of Alexandria, entering Abu Qir Bay on the eastern side of the city. The sun hung low in the clear western sky, positioned from her vantage point at about the height where the Pharos’ flames once glowed as it greeted the mariners of a younger Mediterranean. The lights of the city were beginning to glow in the darker shadows fending off another round of impending darkness throughout the hemisphere. Sirianna viewed the sparkling bayfront as the clean smell of the Mediterranean faded into the smells of pollution and stagnant civilization.
Gone were the clothes of a modern western woman of the 1970s. Sirianna’s loose fitting sunflower blue dress, belted at the waist, along with her matching jibaab or headscarf, fluttered on the schooners windswept deck. The crew guided the vessel up to a small dock near edge of the seawall and she gracefully stepped onto it with no apparent sign of sea legs, even after the thirteen day voyage. The boat remained in motion as it steered away and back into the bay after dropping off its lone precious passenger in a maneuver that would make any smuggler proud. The Ampoletta and her men would moor offshore for the night. Sirianna never looked back.
There wasn’t much time, the museum would be closing shortly. She affixed her veil, leaving only her now piercing blue eyes exposed, walking along the darkening streets from the harbor until she came across a smoke filled taxi. Sirianna startled the driver as she opened the door and quickly climbed into the the backseat.
“To the catacombs,” she commanded. “And please hurry.”
The older smarmy driver, unshaven, his dark hair slicked back, in a western red collared shirt raced through the narrow streets of the ancient city even as he constantly looked into the rear-view mirror at his passenger. Sirianna watched out the window as the street vendors and the markets closed up to hide away as another day ended. The city was still abuzz, but taking in its lasts moments of daylight life. Sirianna watched the growing shadows transform pockets of the city into places of darkness as sweaty boys finished up football in the streets. Smells of cumin, cloves, cardamom, and lamb being prepared for the evening meal, wafted through the dusty evening air along ancient jagged streets.
The cab pulled up near the worn museum entrance of the Catacombs of Kom El Shoqafa. Sirianna paid her driver thanking him and then exited the cab before standing in front of another man, this one larger and rougher, wearing a brown turban that matched the sandstone walls of the entrance to the necropolis behind him.
“We’re closing in ten minutes,” said the man, not bothering to look up from his newspaper.
“I’m here to meet a man inside about a glass shard,” she replied.
The hulking man eyes widened as he looked up from the paper, meeting Sirianna’s piercing bluish-green eyes.
“Well then, I hope that you can find him down there in time,” he said nervously, opening the tall iron gate at the mouth of the tunnel stairs for her to pass.
The old gate groaned so loud that the man didn’t hear her say “Thank you” before she descended the worn and uneven spiral sandstone stairs. The space was dimly lit with single light bulbs spaced far apart, strung from a single wire affixed to the ceiling of stone. The simplistic lighting cast uneven shadows along the steps, poorly illuminating many of the signs describing the ancient spaces and chambers carved into solid rock. Descriptions of archaeological artifacts and relics written in both English and Arabic with the titles like: 2nd century AD, One of the Seven Wonders of the Middle Ages, and Mound of Shards, in reference to the piles of broken terra cotta plates and jars left in the tomb.
Sirianna was the only living soul inside the ancient and stale necropolis, making it easy for her to descend undetected below the second level to the bottom of the stairs. The steps and chambers of the third level, the lowest level, being completely submerged in stagnant sea water. The calm water at the bottom makes it appear to be some sort of spiral baptismal chasm.
At the edge of the water, she exhales and steps down on to the first submerged step and then to the next one as the water ripples and collides all around her legs. Sirianna descends stoically into the murky water and it rises with each step, as if her ankles were weighted. Her blue dress billowed, floating all around her like a cornflower in a breeze. Not phased at all, the women continued walking down, water up to her neck, and down, water over her head as she reached the caverned entrance to the third level disappearing into the calming abyss.
Her transcendence complete as she rises from a pool of crystal blue, now naked and still as stoical as when she entered. The sound of the water cascading and dripping from her body with each step echoes throughout the spacious and palatial marbled hall. Clutching the prism in her left hand, she locks eyes with a servant waiting nearby and gives her a slight smirk. Dressed in a tan flax linen sheath dress, the young girl awaits at the waters edge, bare arm outstretched holding a white robe. Sirianna takes the robe, putting it on as the young servant diverts her eyes, looking down at the immaculate marble floor. There are two flaming torches standing on both sides of Sirianna, warming her as she looks forward from the pool chamber and down a long blindingly white marble corridor. A brilliant sun shines directly in, lighting up rows of tall tan sandstone columns.
Sirianna strolls down the corridor turning to a small darkened chamber lit by several fiery torches mounted to the rough sandstone walls. She stops at the entrance to a large chamber on her right where a tall Egyptian man, with tan olive skin and deep blue eyes is waiting.
“Janus, we’ve acquired St. Augustine,” she says smiling with a tone of accomplishment.
“Not without sacrifice, I’ve been told,” dampening the mood a bit.
He leads her into the cavernous chamber, brightly lit from the series of fiery torches that line the four sandstone walls. On the far wall facing the both of them as they walk closer, is a massive map of the world, crudely carved into the sandstone, outlining the continents against the oceans. None of the man made borders exist, only the natural ones where earth meets water.
Janus takes a hold of a ladder leaning against the corner of the atlas wall and slides it over to the edge of the eastern North America. He positions it carefully into place and releases a low groan before uttering, “The Northern Hemisphere climb.”
The women releases the prism from her hands and into the hands of Janus who takes another step up the ladder before sliding the shard of glass onto a hole at along the coast of northeast Florida. The prism slightly vibrates as he inserts it, giving off a low supernatural harmonic hum that fills the empty cavernous, torch-lit room.
“Diego would be very pleased,” Janus quipped sliding the ladder down to the end of the map wall as the low hum faded.
“He will be, upon his return,” Sirianna replied.