Thief of Kuk

Royal Seal-Bearer, Sole Companion, Lector Priest, Scribe of the Royal Archives, Scribe of the Royal Works, A Man of Frightened Heart, Intef says:

I recounted the wisdoms of Thoth and shared his blessings. I acted as Scribe of the Royal Archives and was trusted with courtly writings. I was loved by the King of Upper and Lower Egypt, Sobekneferu. Her majesty had me in her heart. All was good.

Year 2, Second Month of the Inundation, Day 2; King Sobekneferu appointed me as Scribe of the Royal Works at Mazghuna and I departed court to fulfil this duty. The Overseer treated me as his equal, and all spoke to me with reverence. I guided the tools of builders and they carved magnificence. I directed the hands of craftsmen and they made beauty. Work was excellent.

All should have been good.

Four men were tasked with excavating the burial chamber and I observed them with vigilance. We worked in the burial chamber with torches as our light. Our tools kept busy, their chisels and my pen.

I felt sudden dread though my heart was content.

I stilled my pen though I knew what to write.

I saw a fifth among those men and wished my eyes blind.  

It stood six cubits tall and as slender as a reed. Not two arms but four, reaching almost to the floor. Its skin eternal yellow. I knew it to be alive, its limbs rippled like the Nile, but it did not try to approach. It stood and stared without a face. No nose nor eyes nor ears nor mouth.

My tongue was struck dumb while my Ba screamed within me, but I was the only fearful man. The others worked with no disturbance. They did not see what stood in the shadows.

The shadows that were not there.

Our light cast darkness to each corner except the one where it stood. Its yellow skin was bright and dead and flat as paint. When shadows crept near it, they faded. The dark was erased by its unnatural light.

I was gripped by madness, my legs carrying me from the chamber. I sought out large shadows. I sought out small shadows. And I wept prayers to Thoth that he may assuage my terror.

My flight was noticed.

All men asked if I was ill and the Overseer took me to his home. His wife and sister were good to me, they gave me honeyed milk and figs. I did not return to the burial chamber and remained beside their shrine of Ptah.

My night was restless.

As morning came, I gave prayers to Ptah that work would be good and to Thoth that my mind is clear of such madness.

I returned to my work. The Overseer’s heart was glad to see me, and he welcomed me as a soldier back from war. This day I monitored the entrance to the tomb and kept a record of the materials. Thoth guided my pen while the men did Ptah’s work. And Ra watched us from above, bathing us in the Aten’s light.

I felt sudden dread though my heart was content.

I stilled my pen though I knew what to write.

I saw the figure sharing our light.

It stood among the men and it did not hide. It stood in sickly yellow now ten cubits tall. No man walked near it. They did not avoid it but walked as if it were not there.

And the shadows were not there.

No shadows by its feet.

No shadows on its body.

No shadows by those who passed it.

I was gripped by madness. This time my legs became as stone. I looked to the sky, but Ra bore me no comfort. The creature’s light was a perversion of the Aten’s rays. It poisoned Maat and weakened my heart.

I closed my eyes.

A man asked if I was well.

I did not open my eyes.

Another man asked if I was well.

I did not open my eyes.

A third man asked if I was well.

I could not open my eyes.

The Overseer took me to his house again, but I could not be consoled. I begged the gods to help and sought comfort in what shadows I could find. A priest was brought, and he listened to me speak. He did not know this creature. He asked priests and priestesses, but none knew what I spoke of. Words and spells and amulets were offered. The Overseer offered his home to me.

I took all but found no comfort.

Seven days passed.

I could not return to work. I tried to work in the Overseer’s house. Shadows consumed my mind, but I feared losing them. I feared to see that yellow light. I feared all thought me mad. The Overseer returned each day to ask after me. His wife and sister made me welcome. Priests would visit me and cast spells of protection. I was told the gods were watching me, but I could not feel their gaze.

On the eighth day I met the father of the Overseer. He was a wise man of many years and he said to me:

“Why do you linger in the house of my son and his wife? I know you are an excellent man trusted by the King. What madness pulls you from your work?”

I recounted my tale and my fears. I told him of the yellow creature that stole shadows. I shared my heart’s true terror. He listened and then said:

“You are right that others do not know him. But I know many secrets. When Ra is swallowed by Nut, I will show you what is hidden.”

We left the house that night. My heart was still frightened, but the night gave me peace. He took me to a resting place. I heard a jackal and felt joy to know Anubis was watching. He took me down eleven steps into the sand. We entered a chamber with one wall of writing. I recognised some words. Others were not complete. But I saw a king’s name inside a cartouche.

Wazner.

I did not know this king. I thought he must be old. I thought he must be one of the first. Beside his name was another cartouche. I could not read it, but I knew it. It was the creature with four arms, thin and black in our torchlight.

I asked:

“How do you read this name?”

The Overseer’s father said:

“The Slender King in Yellow.”

A rage consumed my frightened heart, and I became a storm.

“I say this is no king!

What king would take such evil form?

What king would taint the Aten’s light?

What king would hide to all but one?

What king would make madness?

I say this is no king!”

The Overseer’s father said:

“You are right, he is no king. My father and his father and his father and all their fathers have chosen a different name. We call him Thief of Kuk. He steals shadows. He makes terrible light. And he has been here for many years. My father thought he was a force of Apep. That he seeks only to destroy Maat. You have seen him, but you must not speak of him.”

I said:

“Why do you say so? Why show me this if I must be silent? Why offer this goose food when the morrow brings its slaughter?”

The Overseer’s father said:

“I have spoken so you will not. I have revealed what you must forget. To speak of the Thief is to condemn us all. You are not the first to see him and you will not be the last. But you must be the only one now.

Let me tell you of one who tried to speak and what chaos it bore. It was in the time of strife when Kings were tested, and Egypt was torn. There was fighting. There was famine. There was fear. A man known to the father of my father’s father saw the Thief.

Like you he grew frightened.

Like you he was consumed by madness.

And like you he tried to tell.

He told his family and his comrades and the priests and the governor. He told men and women and children. Soon all grew to see the Thief and feared him. They begged the gods for protection and strength. Some tried to strike him down. Others wished to warn the King. But the Thief stole all their shadows. From every corner and crevice. The light made them blind to Ra. Despair took all.

People were not themselves.

People would not wait for death.

People fell to eating each other.

It was only when enough had forgotten that they could recover and enjoy Egypt’s return to Maat. So it was said that any who saw him must keep silent, and his story must only be told to those already touched by madness. So it was said and so I say.”

I begged him for more. For some liberation from my horror. But he would only say that I must forget. That I must be silent.

With shame I wrote to her majesty and begged to return home. I cited sickness and wished only for the solace of Thoth’s wisdom. Her majesty was kind and welcomed me home. I did not stay at court. I returned to the Temple of Thoth but found no comfort in his teachings. His wisdom could not destroy this being. But what god could I beseech?

Were it a foe I would beg the strength of Seth.

Were it an affliction I would seek the care of Sekhmet.

Were it death I would ask the guidance of Anubis.

I know not who can purge the world of his terrible light.

My heart is unburdened by my pen. I tell my life though I am far from old age. And I remain silent.   

When the Thief of Kuk invades my thoughts, death appears before me like the first drop of rain to a man consumed by thirst.   

So it is from beginning to end as found in writing by a scribe of frightened fingers.

//

Also available on itch.io – https://anmanarrative.itch.io/thief-of-kuk

Translation Notes: Kuk – Darkness, Aten – Sun, Cubit – A Unit of Measurement (1 Cubit is approximately 18 Inches), Ba – Soul

Thoth, Ra, Ptah, Maat, Seth, Sekhmet and Anubis are names of gods.

Apep is a god/demon of chaos.

So… this is Ancient Egyptian Slenderman.

Now this is an idea I had a long time ago, it was inspired by one of the many photoshopped pictures of Slenderman which showed a hieroglyph of him in a cartouche. Me being the Ancient Egypt nerd I am, I instantly fell in love with this image so I thought of writing him into an Egyptian story. Well I forgot about that, but with the resurgence of classic creepypastas (notably with #reheatedpasta on twitter) I remembered this idea and decided to revisit it (with some encouragement from Painticus, who came up with the ‘Slender King in Yellow’ line). But with an Egyptology degree under my belt, I wasn’t happy with just setting Slenderman in Egypt.

So I decided to get creative, and used the autobiography format of storytelling from the Egyptian story ‘The Tale of Sinuhe’ as well as a few other details to flesh out the world and characters. It might read a little off (hopefully that can add a touch of the uncanny though maybe that’s just wishful thinking), but I enjoyed trying to capture that voice (obviously I am not claiming to be accurate, this is still fiction after all). It also gave me a chance to add my own twist to Slenderman, and I’m really happy with what I came up with.

Overall, I had way too much fun writing this (just the research was amazing). I don’t even care if anyone else reads it, this story is a firm favourite for me (may even revisit it to add further details later).

If you’re interested in reading the Tale of Sinuhe to get an idea of the format I was following, here’s an online translation (it isn’t one that I used as I relied on the books I bought for university, but it’s still a decent translation and has some good commentary notes) – http://www.editoreric.com/greatlit/books/Tale-of-Sinuhe-text.html

Here’s the information on the Slenderman hieroglyph – https://theslenderarchives.weebly.com/egypt.html

And because he encouraged me to write this, here’s some promotion for Painticus (he does videos on horror games and he’s well worth watching) – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC3OycnktjrKQzATI3Uovlow

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