The Museum of Time

The brush of her coat turned me around. For a moment, I believed that she, too, was standing on tiptoes in the effort to more closely inspect the Goddesses of the Heavens who seemed equally intent on meeting us half way, in the mid-air below the museum ceiling of the Louvre, Paris. Perhaps they pressed down on their high heels, pushing away from the canopic stone above us, in the same polished boots that were worn by this woman standing beside me admiring the map of the celestial vault taken from the Temple of Denderah in Egypt, where thousands of years before the priestesses greeted their Goddesses, Hathor and Isis.

She did seem Egyptian in her appearance according to my sidereal glances, as my head continued to spin. Her coat made from black fur and the long leather gloves both attracted and repulsed my confused and buzzing mind. She was dressed as a fashionable Parisienne, no doubt about that; her boots were too perfect to have been crafted in Egyptian times, unless those Goddesses whose lofty sphere echoed their booted progress through the zodiac's constellations, had once brought to their temple some examples to share with their priestesses.

Again the strange sensation of being enclosed within a tube or tunnel that extended down from the domed roof of the temple, returned to me, and I was aware of the ring of tourists that were circling this invisible barrier, trying to penetrate its magnetic field, in which I stood held by the presence of this resurrected priestess of Isis. Her position directly beneath the dome's centre seemed to free this beautiful woman from the pressure of forces circulating within the sealed chamber that we occupied together, now that the people outside were no longer visible.

The central position adopted, I believed, by chance by the priestess was, I have since realised, being used to activate those forces that through their increase caused this tunnel effect to bulge outwards, centrifugally, soon establishing a spheroidal shape of which the temple roof appeared to be the lid that spun and expanded the internal volume.The museum floor that had seemed so secure was, in an instant, substituted with an open area of sand surrounded by a wooden fence of joined, waist-high panels, that produced in result an area some ten times larger by diameter than that section of ceiling under which I had been considering the advantages of taking a train rather than a plane, back to London after a long weekend of exploration; neither of which would have been practical to reach this destination from the past.

My companion whose body had lifted clear of the wooden floor of the museum just before this sudden change of scene, so that her boots seemed to push against my face in the urgency of their climb, landed just after me, at the central point of this arena, where like a parachutist failing to break his fall, I lay looking in a daze at the shining boots that had settled upon my reconstituted body. Standing over me, as if fully concerned about my states of body and mind, the priestess was repeating a name to me, my name, but from a slave past that was infinitely more real to me, than that of any parallel existence of mine in Paris.

I felt both her leather gloves smacking successively against my cheeks, reviving me with their sandy touch, leading me to tears by this forced repatriation of my soul in a past that I had sought to escape by a knowledge of alchemical formulae.What I saw next would leave any but the dead, struck dumb by the force of its beauty and by fear of its potential. In my first circuit around this sandy arena designated by Isis herself as the place of training for her horses, I saw such a number of superbly dressed Parisiennes who enjoyed this dual nationality by virtue of the section of the temple vortex transported from Egypt, and by their recollection of ritual through membership of secret societies whose history had begun at Denderah.

The tiered seats, again of polished wood, provided a 360 degree view of the shape-shifting transformations experienced by those returned slaves who had in ignorance wandered onto the plate of the vortex like the nonchalant house-mouse who steps onto the trap without time to regret the irreversibility of the events to follow. Pulling against the rapidly inserted and tightened bridle and bit, with what must have been seen as a maddened look in my eye, or even the first sign of transformation, I caught repeated glimpses of the women beneath their travelling coats of fur: cloth- ing that suggested an Arctic destination and not the sweltering heat of the Sahara. To the last woman, they were wearing leather polished to match the gleam of their black, stiletto heeled boots cut beneath the knee, over which the hem of their dresses rested.Only then did I notice in their eyes the constancy of their stare as if determined not to miss some new phase in my development within the horse-ring. There was no conversation between them. Indeed, I would say that I was the unwilling subject of their rapt attention, and that my deliverance to their Goddess apparently required their unremitting support.

The very heat of the ring, were the viewing stands themselves empty, would have soon slowed my pace at the end of the lungeing- rein. The first slack in its length became evident as I drifted from the perimeter fence, no longer fighting its pull, and relieved that this reluctance of mine was met with only a few reminders from the whip that had been wriggling after me throughout this period of training. With my legs buckling and turning to rubber beneath me, I fell to my knees, and then forward onto the sand that had worked its way into my burning feet.

A murmur went through this audience of several hundred women, as if to acknowledge the appearance of some celebrated equestrienne whose unheralded arrival had taken these fixated priestesses of both temple and fashion, by complete surprise. Yet in retrospect, I believe it was my final collapse there on the ground that elicited this response, because it was then that they left their seats in hurried silence, and took their positions immediately behind the wooden fence. Whether Isis had appeared in the sky at that precise time and been observed, is unknown to me.

With her fur-coat left like the cape of a bull-fighter in the middle of the ring, the only woman there, except perhaps Isis herself, to be wearing riding-clothes, now accepted as if in ritual from the youngest in the crowd, a pair of the highest heeled boots into which, to gasps of appreciation, she inserted her feet. Perhaps I was taking part in an event whose origin predates our version of history, being the precursor of the modern bullfight; for, like the banderillas applied cruelly to the flesh of the selected beast, I was, I feared, about to be so mistreated and then dispatched. Again, the women looked to the sky in patient expectation, as if for a sign from their Goddess whose heavenly tread, I believed I also could hear in the total silence that then ensued. But no sign was given as they waited, immaculate in their unmoving boots, until moonlight had replaced sunlight in the shining of their leather. Had I been spared like the god, Seth, by the will of Isis?

The equestrienne, slow to concede to the Goddess' verdict, and treating my body as if it had indeed been gored by her heels of death, then tied in quick well-practised knots, a coil of rope under my arm, wedging its fibre into the pit, and then round my neck, before mounting a horse to the approval of the crowd, and drag- ging me away back from the desert towards the temple complex. Once there, my body was taken to what Egyptologists refer to as being a mud-brick `sanatorium' where I was quickly bathed to cure the cuts of the whip, in the waters sacred to the Goddess, before being deposited in a sealed cubicle of limited space, on my back to `incubate' or to await the appearance of the Goddess within my dreaming.

How long I had been there I do not know, nor am I sure whether in that world time can be relied upon to go forward without going sometimes sideways or in reverse when the Goddess turns the tem- ple's zodiac in the anti-clockwise direction. But the blizzard of snow, this time, not sand, was real enough, as was the reappearance of the Parisiennes pressing keenly in greater numbers against the wooden fence. The sensation of shaking that ushered in this rec- reation of the desert arena had faded, leaving me to survive or die in this black and white dream in the moonlight. As I ran once more at the end of the leash of the woman I had carelessly stood next to in the museum, my feet this time frozen by the powdery snow that was falling still, I was avoiding as often as I was able during my circuit of the perimeter, those ominous patches of blood red colour that remained upon the floor of the riding-school.

Exhaustion set in earlier, due to the previous exertion, and the whipping of my back ceased so that the women in furs might request of their Goddess their preferred reward. But the invisible Goddess shook her invisible head in denial, and the blizzard blew again, until the women had gone and I was alone with only bridle and bit, and endless snow. Like the ant that listens for the echo of human steps upon the floorboards overhead, my equine ears were pricked to the sound of Isis' booted tread descending from the roof within her zodiacal sphere, where by the shaking of the dice within her leather gloved hand, the cycles of life are decided. One shake and I would be returned to the museum's vortex, to be captured by this horse trainer and led to a third and then a fourth riding-school, until the Goddess' dice had fallen in her favour. Another shake and I would see the Goddess herself wrapped warm in the snow, out looking for her human steed lost in one of her empty worlds.

A blackening vortex of swirling particles greeted these thoughts of mine, turning this way and that, pinpointing my position in space and time, before becoming fixed like the photographer's image, into magnificent form in front of where I knelt in readiness to apply my training in the transport of the Goddess. In her glove, a riding- whip had replaced the set of dice, which lay with her discarded fur-coat upon the snow; circular spots of black about to be crushed like ice beneath her booted feet.

`I am Isis, the Goddess. I am worshipped in Paris. Return with the priestess who brought you to me. I give you to her . . . Die to be reborn!'