Anpu grabbed my hand and led me away. I knew the way it would start this time would be different than how it started before, but I asked anyway.
“We’re not going to the black room again are we?”
“No, you’re pretty much all here.”
I thought about what had happened before. My ka, my ba, my ren were all back. My shut wasn’t but “shadow work” so it was around here somewhere. What was missing?
“What about my shadow?”
Anpu chuckled. “What were you just thinking?”
“And my ib?”
He didn’t quite answer me. He didn’t exactly say where it was, but he did say he essentially had it, except for a shard which Z has. Instantly I thought of the box with Z’s shard in it. It appeared in my hands, perfectly safe and firmly locked and sealed with magic. I waved it away to wherever it had been hiding.
“Smart girl.” Anpu said cheerfully, pleased that I had opted to hide it than carry it.
He led me into a hallway and then into a room filled with water. The floor of the room was three feet below the doorway, creating a pool of glowing water. Anpu waltzed into it as if it were nothing. Truly the Jackal was cheesy, stealing ideas from other gods, but he knew me well enough that I was more likely to try something I had seen others do than something new. Hence the creation of the black room and now this pool of water.
Of course, there were other reasons for the water, reasons that were uniquely mine. I stared at the water, worried. For one thing, it was cold. It wasn’t frosty or slushy but I could just tell that it was freezing. Anpu had told me earlier that he wanted to teach me strength and bravery first and compassion and empathy second. Passion and drive, the mars to match Pluto. He wanted Sekhmet to teach me, but he was considering Serket instead. I still didn’t know why.
“Come on then.” Anpu coaxed, holding out his arms like a father to a small child. I could almost hear him coaxing me in other ways
Water is your friend. You have a connection with it. You always have. It is soothing to you, healing.
They weren’t lies. However, all I could think of was drowning. I’ve had a fear of drowning for a long time. Some people who have tried to teach me to swim scared me by accident. The cold water often shocks my asthma and I can’t hold my breath very long when in water, and I greatly dislike being splashed or having my face covered with water. I also have sensitive ears, so water in them is painful and disorients me. This all adds up to panicking, which isn’t very useful for trying to swim. My endurance is also low, so I can’t get the hang of it.
Anpu could see my terror on my face. I had told him before I was afraid of drowning, of suffocating in any fashion.
“Do you really think i’d drown you?”
“I don’t know.”
“I swear that I won’t let you drown, and if you do it won’t be because of me.”
I took one step forward, and then turn around and ran. The hallway looped right back to the room.
“Come on now, you didn’t think this would be over that easily did you?” Anpu shouted from the room.
“I’m patient but I won’t wait forever.”
I stood in the hallway, annoyed at the bright blue light of the doorway and took some deep breaths. I called to Dapper, who appeared behind me, amused.
“Come with me?”
He grabbed my shoulders and marched me back to the room. Anpu was waiting patiently.
“Come on then.”
I backed away, but Dapper held me and gently walked me forward. I dipped a toe in. It was cold, as I expected.
“It’s what you’re expecting. Come on, it isn’t even deep.” Anpu said, losing some patience.
Dapper pushed me more, forcing me down the steps into the water, it was freezing and froze under my feet. I was walking on ice. Anpu rubbed his face, exasperated that I was so desperate to stay out of the water. He grabbed my arms, waiting for me to relax. The ice broke apart and I sank slowly into the water. It wasn’t icy anymore, but it was still chilly. It occurred to me that I was in a dress, but it didn’t float up, it absorbed water and clung to me.
I turned around, Dapper sat on the threshold, curled up so as not to get wet. He smiled at me and I turned back to Anpu. Anpu helped me to float on my back.
“I can’t do this in real life you know.” I said, staring at him.
“I get scared.”
“Right, fear of drowning, which is really being afraid of suffocating.”
“For someone so afraid of suffocating you don’t take care of your asthma very well.”
“Well, that’s because I’m used to my asthma. I’m used to it not being a big deal, to being able to fix it, to have easy and fast access to medical intervention.”
“Why does your fear prevent you from floating?”
“I don’t like feeling water on the sides of my face. It’s like it’ll come up and cover me. If I sink I’ll drown. And my ears are sensitive, I feel like they hurt more than other people’s when they get water in them.”
Anpu nodded. “Maybe this irrational fear is rooted in a past life.”
Later that night I would dream of being drowned in a barrel while a baby, my baby, cried and was stolen from me. It was scary.