The Book

I picked up the plate from the table and started out of the kitchen, then down the hall. I’d barely made it three steps when a foot shot out in front of me. I tripped and landed flat on my face, the plate of food splattering the walls. A strong hand gripped my arm, and pulled me up. I braced myself for what was coming. After two seconds, the hand slapped my face. That would be the third time today. My face burned like fire. A voice filled with rage followed. “You know we are low on food. Do not be so clumsy, or you will feel something worse than that.”

My name is Tabitha. I am an Egyptian slave. My people, the Hebrews, have been slaves of the Egyptians for many years. For all of my fourteen years, I am a servant in the palace. I don’t have a specific job, but If I want to stay alive, I am not to be seen. The Pharaoh is very troubled because of the plagues on the land. He often falls into fits of rage, and when he does, drastic things happen. I find it best to do my orders quietly and then go to my favorite spot, a palm  tree hidden behind the palace by the River Nile. Of course, my job would be a lot easier and a lot less painful, if I wasn’t hated so much by the other Hebrew slaves.

When I look back to see who tripped me, I see Mary, smiling at me in a way that makes my skin crawl. I pick up the plate and start to clean the mess off the walls. Mary leans over and whispers to me, “You’d better watch where you step next time.” I turn my head and look into her steely grey eyes. My green ones stare back just as hard. I hear some shouting from the other end of the kitchen and guess by the smoke that some food is on fire. I walk over the the table and grab another plate of food, which is not part of the batch that is currently ablaze, and walk down the hall, careful to watch my step this time.

I reach the princess’ door without any more “accidents.” I knock and hear a childish voice from inside yell, “You may enter.” I push the door open and come face to face with the shortest royal ever. The princess, little Arsinoe, stands about waist high but has the vocabulary of a wise man. She is taught by the smartest men in Egypt. I bow low, holding the plate out to her. “Your royal highness,” I say with a smile on my face. Unlike everyone else, little Arsinoe is the only person who truly likes me. Observing my grin, she takes the plate and sits down at her ornate desk. “You know Tabitha, it would be nice if you would dine with me.” “Your highness, I must politely refuse your generous offer to dine. But, I look forward to seeing you again.” “It would be my pleasure,” replies the royal. With a wave of her small hand and a smile, I am dismissed. Arsinoe may be only five years old, but she is the only friend I have.

With no more jobs to do, I walk briskly down the hall, turn right, walk some more, take an immediate left, walk through a hallway, and out the side door. I jog down the little used path, around the side of the palace, and up the hill. On the other side, standing tall, is my palm. I reach the bottom of the hill and slide on my knees to the base of the tree. I hurriedly dig up the soil and sand. After a few minutes, my hand hits it. I pull up the object and wipe away the dirt. It is a small book.
I gingerly open the cover. Inside is my family tree. I take a deep breath and turn the worn page. On the page, sketched on the old papyrus, is a drawing of my mother. My father, who was somewhat of an artist, loved to sketch faces. His favorite to draw was my beautiful mother.

Seeing her face again and thinking of the man who drew it makes my eyes water. My parents were both killed when I was small. I hear my name being screamed from the palace. I bury the book again and scramble up the hill. I run to the door, through the maze of twists and turns that led me out, and reappear in the kitchen. A strict voice says, “Take this letter to the Pharaoh.” I gulp as the letter is shoved in my hand. I have never entered the royal courts before. I reach the doors, and open them. Inside, a royal throne provides a seat for the mightiest man in all of Egypt. Standing before him, dressed in plain clothes, is a man I have never seen before. I hear the men arguing and the hear the man’s name. Moses. Then, it all clicks. This is the man who speaks for God, who brought all the plagues on Egypt. I am awed beyond measure and stand with my mouth gaped open, unable to move.

Moses says, “Child, do you need something?” I stammer,”I h-have a m-message for the P-Pharaoh.” I walk towards the golden throne and extend my shaky hand for him to take the letter. He takes it and I bow, this time without a smile on my face. He doesn’t even read it but tells Moses, “Leave this court. You are not welcome here.” Moses turns to go, but halfway to the doors, stops and turns around. In a loud voice he says,”Thus says the Lord. Tonight, the angel of death will pass before every door. If it is not marked with the blood of a lamb, every firstborn shall die.” After he says this, he turns and makes his exit. I follow his lead and run for the doors. No one tries to stop me.

After leaving the court, I sit against the cold palace walls. I would go to my palm, but what Moses had said drained all the energy out of me. I begin to think. Pharaoh has a son. He is firstborn. Will he mark his door?

That night I am awakened by a servant. “Arsinoe wants her dinner,” she said. “At this time of night?” I ask. “Yes,” says the girl,”just go.” I slide off my cot and run to the kitchen. Sitting on the table is a plate of food. I grab it and walk down the familiar hallway. I am almost to Arsinoe’ s room when I hear a blood curling scream. My first thought is the angel of death. Then, as if on cue, I hear more screams. They are coming from all over the land. They embed themselves in my mind, and ring in my ears.

I drop the plate and run toward my plam tree. I dig up the book and run toward the Hebrew village. I expect to hear screams, but the village is silent. I choose the nearest house and before I go in, I notice there is blood over the door. I open the door and see Moses talking to a group of people. “You were the child in Pharoah’ s court weren’t you,” Moses says. “Yes. I was going to deliver dinner to the princess when I heard screams coming from a room in the palace, then from everywhere.” I said.”I didn’t know what to do, so I came here. What am I going to do?” “Trust the Lord,” said Moses. “He will deliver us.”

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