This story is by Carlene Griffith and was part of our 2020 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
As a temp, Nyah was usually assigned to jobs out of desperation. And Like most temp jobs, she’d work a week or two and move on. She was a nameless substitute, and no one had ever asked for her specifically, until now.
Nyah opened the door to Anderson and Associates, to find an empty room and unattended reception desk. The only other room led to the private office of Mr. Tucker Anderson.
She popped her head in to find a man, presumably Mr. Anderson, in his mid-thirties seated at his desk on a call.
He looked up at her with a pair of blue eyes and a movie star smile that instantly made Nyah squeamishly aware of her lack of attention to her wild hair and her simple makeup. She pursed her lips together.
He motioned for her to have a seat across from him. As she sat, she straightened her skirt, wishing she had chosen the red blouse instead of her go-to conservative white button-up.
Mr. Anderson continued his conversation, glancing at her occasionally. He spoke with a deep commanding voice, making it hard for Nyah to focus on anything else. She forced herself to look around the room to distract herself from staring.
Even though she was slender and young, she couldn’t imagine a movie star-type, like him, ever going for a plain-Jane nobody with no purpose in life other than to pay the rent and feed her cat.
The office was impressive and probably larger than her studio apartment. It smelled of vanilla and a hint of men’s cologne. The glass wall behind the desk overlooked downtown LA. To her left was wall shelving that displayed a fountain of books that if given the time, Nyah knew she could get lost in. Nearest the shelves were a pair of black leather couches facing each other. The opposite wall had two doors, presumedly, a closet and bathroom, with a tall glass display case between them.
Mr. Anderson still on his phone, had swiveled his back to her. Restless, she walked over to the display case.
Each shelf had an Egyptian influenced art piece, an ornate goblet, a bust of a pharaoh, a golden trinket box with a black cat on top, and a small necklace with a stone amulet with an Ankh symbol.
“Nyah Johnston, I presume?” asked Mr. Anderson.
“Yes?” turned Nyah, surprised to have him standing beside her. “Oh! Mr. Anderson, you startled me,” she reached out and shook his hand. “Nice to meet you.”
“Call me Tucker. I’m not my Father, yet.” He laughed folding his arms, making Nyah relax a smidge.
“What is this?” she asked pointing to the necklace.
“Oh, I’m a bit of an Egyptian zealot,” Tucker proudly picked up the necklace to show her.
“This is a Tyet, an amulet that represents the Egyptian Goddess Isis… or so legend says.”
Tucker smiled, “Isis was the goddess of the underworld and the amulet is said to bring its wearer protection and power.”
“Does it work?” smiled Nyah making him chuckle.
“I don’t know, maybe, for the right person.” Tucker smiled his movie star grin making Nyah blush. “Would you like to try it on?”
“Oh, I shouldn’t.”
“Don’t you want to see if it works?” he whispered. Was he flirting with her?
Curious, Nyah turned to allow him to latch the necklace. She closed her eyes as he drew near, getting lost in his scent. The amulet was cold against her chest.
“It’s stunning,” he awed. “Have a look?” he said opening the door nearest her. As she stepped in looking for a mirror, the door slammed shut behind her, making her jump. The room went black.
Nyah reached for the knob, but it was gone, nor could she find a wall with a switch. Her breathing became quick.
“Tucker?” she shouted into the black void.
The room began spinning, and a chorus of whispers began to crescendo, as specks of light burst around her until an image of a glowing Egyptian goddess stood before her, surrounded by an entourage of souls.
Paralyzed, Nyah watched the scene play out before her. Had she hit her head?
“I am Isis.” spoke the goddess. Her mouth dropped open.
“Nyah Johnston, I award thee favor. I grace thee with power, even as I.” and then the goddess touched her forehead.
Nyah awoke laying on a couch with Tucker anxiously staring at her.
“Your Highness?” he smiled and bowed his head, handing her a drink. “This will help.”
Tucker looked different. He was still strong, and beautiful, but submissive… to her? She sipped the water. Something about her felt different too. She felt renewed; strong and confident. Her movements were fluid and graceful, unlike her normal gawky self.
“The necklace. You tried it on, and Isis chose you.”
Nyah touched the amulet around her neck. She looked over Tucker’s shoulder. It was now dark outside, and she could see her reflection in the window.
Her reflection was hers, but not. The insecure young lady with wild hair and no makeup that had come to the office that morning was replaced with a stunning, strong beautiful woman that Nyah had always wished to be.
She released her wild black hair.
She could feel a new power surging through the necklace, into her veins with a cunning resolve to use it wisely in her heart.
Nyah looked at Tucker, whose eyes dripped of worship, making Nyah giggle. Never could she imagine a man like Tucker looking at her the way he did.
The next couple of weeks were amazing.
With Tucker’s assistance, Nyah transitioned her life from peasant to queen. He moved her from her studio apartment to his mansion in the Hollywood hills. He took her shopping for elegant expensive clothes, they ate at exclusive restaurants, he treated her to beauty treatments and hair salons and all the while calling her, “Highness.”
Her mind became photographic and ferocious for knowledge. She absorbed everything around her with new eyes. Her ears and tongue developed an understanding of all languages. Reading the intentions, physical cues, and thoughts of those around her became natural.
Wherever she went people were drawn to her. Without a word, people praised her and gave her whatever she desired. Tucker, always her sentinel. Never had she ever been the center of anything. Her mother would have been proud.
The barrage of attention, though entertaining, was also terrifying.
Then the nightmares started. At first slowly, images of crowds of people pining and groping at her, and then they turned into dreams of an underworld of lost souls pining for a voice.
She awoke, screaming in terror until Tucker’s loving touch calmed her.
“It has begun?” he said, stroking her long black hair.
“The transition of worlds. The door is opening as Isis begins her work in the living world, and we are a part of it.”
Nyah sprang to her feet punching the air.
“I didn’t sign up for this.” She grabbed at the necklace to pull it from her neck but stopped at the sight of Tucker’s panicked eyes. She commanded him to leave.
“Yes, Your Highness.”
She wasn’t asked if she wanted this. None of this made sense. Why her?
She shivered at the thought of what would come next. If she removed the necklace her powers would evaporate. She had gained so much more than nightmares. Taking off the necklace she would be the nobody temp again. The necklace made her a somebody, but was it really her?
Unknowingly she touched the amulet while wishing to commune with Isis. The stone started glowing and the room began to spin. Specks of light burst about her until the goddess Isis appeared again.
Isis knew her thoughts.
“I chose thee, but the choice is thine. The entwining of our hearts can serve both the living and dead, for that is my purpose.”
Nyah teary-eyed looked up at Isis who gently touched her forehead.
In a vision, she saw flashes of Isis’ life. She saw how love for Osiris powered her ability to bring him back to life. How love for her son Horus protected him from Set. How love for her people gave them resurrection rites into the underworld. Then Nyah saw herself lovingly caring for her dying mother in hospice and knew that was why Isis chose her. She looked up, her mother now standing beside Isis smiling at her.
Nyah reached out, gasping for breath, as Isis and her mother slowly disappeared.
She sobbed as her body collapsed beneath her. If the choice was hers, she now chose to serve, no matter what nightmares she would face.
From then on, her eyes were open. She was no longer afraid. The dead were walking the streets trapped, unseen by the living, seeking peace in the underworld. Nyah knew her work, powered by Isis’ love, was to assist in sending them home.