Back in the days of the ancient ones every human looked the same. There was no difference from one family to the next. Same sky black skin, charcoal eyes, and ruffled brown curls. Everyone grew at the same rate, no one weighed a pound over or under the rest, and even their hair grew in a similar formation. It was as if the gods had made one singular person and then duplicated them a thousand times over. It was impossible to tell a mother from a daughter, an elder from a child, or even a sibling from a sibling. Everyone was just like the gods wanted.
Except for Ebonee. She was different. Not physically; the gods make no mistakes; but she was different mentally. Unlike the rest of civilization, which was content with who they were, Ebonee wanted to be different. She had a deep and longing passion to be the only person not like everyone else. This greed tricked her into doing terrible things against the gods in order to achieve her goal. Ebonee took sharp rocks and sawed off chunks of her hair, but the curls reemerged instantaneously. Ebonee took mud from the banks of the Nile and rubbed it over her skin to be darker, but a sudden rainstorm washed her clean. She even tried to use berries and flowers to color the tips of her hair. Alas, the color ran dry and left dirty puddles along the ground.
Ebonee was frustrated. No matter what she tried she still looked the same. Her sister Lapis told her to accept herself the way she was; the way the gods intended her to be. Ebonee had to bite back her remarks about the god’s intentions being cruel and immoral. Instead, Ebonee decided to go a different route. Instead of fighting with the gods for her physical features, she would change herself spiritually. It was decided; Ebonee was going to steal some magic. She wanted something that would be truly noticeable to the rest of the world, but not something that people would need her to use for themselves. She wanted a power that she could use for herself. Then it struck her: infinity. Ebonee wanted the power of infinity.
She could make herself immortal; a person that the entire future would come to know. Her abilities could be endless! Time, space, destruction, creation, reality, death, and even life. Ebonee’s mind couldn’t even comprehend what having that type of power would be like. There was only one way to find out. She decided to sneak into the Temple of The Gods and steal the power of Heh: God of Infinity.
So Ebonee enacted her plan and set out at dusk for the temple. She could see its monstrous shadow on the edge of the world as Ra lowered himself underneath the land. As Apep cast his mighty hand across the sky, bathing the deserts in darkening silence, Ebonee walked with a swift purpose. After hours of walking Ebonee stopped. Rising in front of her was the most amazing structure ever built: The Temple of the Gods. It towered into the sky where its peak was shrouded by Shu and her mass of clouds and fog. The stones glowed a heavenly warmth despite the biting darkness surrounding them. Ebonee could feel the presence of the god’s powers working to support this place: their home. Without leaving herself time to think Ebonee pushed through the front doors and stepped into the entrance of the temple.
All around her stood statues in different textures, styles, and placements. Each one built by careful human hands in honor of one of the gods. The lesser deities, such as humans who had gained favor with the gods, were made from concrete and placed the closest to the door. The next tier was made of limestone and had silver fashioned jewelry adorning their necks. The tier after that stood taller with whole chunks made of polished silver. Semi-precious gems covered their heads and necks. Finally the primordial deities loomed over them all at the end of the walkway. Carved from gold and fashioned with the purest silk and most rare of gems, they were guarded by smaller gold statues of Anubis at their feet. All the statues together made up the long worshipping room of the temple. Light glinted off of the gemstones as the outside glow filtered through the holes in the endless ceiling. Star charts chiseled into rock showed where and when the stars needed to be for ceremonies and sacrifices. None of it made sense to Ebonee, she wasn’t a priest or a pharaoh. Ebonee approached the luxurious altar set back against the wall. She bowed deeply before the primordial statues so as Anubis would not rise to defend them. Ebonee whispered her words of thanks for life and for death. As she spoke the candles hanging around the altar ignited in eerie blue flames. The gods were listening.
“I call upon Heh; God of Infinity to bestow his presence upon me!” Ebonee spoke loud so her voice would echo up into the heavens. The light around her grew until she had to bow her head to the floor to hide her eyes. Ebonee did not open them again until a gentle tap of a staff against her back made her look up. There, hovering on the altar, was Heh. His bronze skin shined while his long black beard flowed like water. His twin palm ribs of eternity stood beside him; their marks of the centuries etched against the wood. Around his neck draped a silky fabric embedded with rubies, diamonds, and emeralds. His eyes reflected the human soul if stared at for too long, and his endless abilities sizzled through the air.
“Child,” he whispered hoarsely. “What say you to your God of Infinity?”
Ebonee swallowed down her fear and stood up gently. She barely came to his knee. “I am here to ask a favor of you, oh God of Endlessness,” she began. “All those of us out there are one and the same. I do not wish to live a life in that nature. I beg of you and your powers, help me be different than the rest! I will forever worship you and your children. I will drain the Nile when you ask for water, and burn the harvest for your sacrifices. No ox of mine nor of my descendants shall ever sit at our table. Your name will be whispered through my household and no thanks shall ever miss your ears. All this for you God of Eternity in return for what I ask.”
Heh watched her moves with his infinity eyes. His finger tapped against his palm rib as his other hand stroked his beard. “A very well thought offer my child,” he responded flatly. Ebonee felt her soul fall. He wasn’t going to give her what she wanted. It was clear not just from the way he stared at her like she was a mouse beneath him, but also from the barking laughter rising from Anubis behind him. So Ebonee did the only thing she could think of; she grabbed one of the infinity gems from Heh’s clothes and ran.
The sound of Heh’s shout followed her out of the temple. Ebonee looked back as a herd of Anubis minions gave chase. Fear rushed through her body as she wildly pumped her legs. The minions were too fast for her though and they quickly were nipping at her ankles and growling out her name. They would chase her to the end of the Earth if she let them! Ebonee clasped her hands tightly around the giant gem, practically the size of her head, and wished for the minions to crumble to dust. Petrified yelps surged through the air as the winds kicked up a sandstorm in Ebonee’s face. She dropped to the ground and covered herself from the pelting sand, but none touched her. Instead the sand washed over the Anubis minions. They one by one collapsed into small sand statues before melting into the vast desert. Ebonee’s heart jumped. It had worked!
It had worked too well. The sand powered its way across the dry land. Cacti and flowers crumbled under the power and small puddles dried to clay. Ebonee turned and watched as the vast Temple of The Gods sunk layer by layer into the ground. Sand filled the holes, caved in the roof, darkened the exquisite statues, and swallowed the stones like a hungry beast. Thunder rumbled, lightning flashed, and it seemed that darkness and light were fighting a war as the gods erupted into chaos. With fear as her adrenaline, Ebonee raced off into the desert. Her body flew over the rocks and dips that typically would have caught her feet. Ebonee knew better than to sneak a glance back at the horrors behind her. The return to her town was faster than the initial departure. Ebonee entered in a dazzling display of light; the gem in her hands mirroring all the colors around her. Her neighbors watched her in shock. A smile crept over Ebonee’s face. She was different.
Lapsi rushed up to her. “Ebonee what have you done?” She whispered in fear.
“I have made myself different sister,” Ebonee responded. “For the first time, there is a noticable difference between two humans!” A loud rumble caught their attention. The sky changed colors above their heads and ash coated the area. Not the town though. The gem in Ebonee’s hands glowed and not a single speck touched them.
“The gods are angry sister,” Lapis shook with fear. Ebonee brandished the gemstone.
“This will protect us!” The gem glowed in response. Ebonee gave it a loving stroke. “No god would dare fight a stone of endless capabilities.”
As if to contradict her statement the sky groaned out as it split open above their heads. The sounds of reality tearing in two rang through everyone’s ears as Heh himself dropped to the land below. His eyes held the fury of a thousand exploding stars, his entire being shook with the ability to wipe the universe off of time altogether, and when he spoke his voice scared even the gem within Ebonee’s hands.
“Ebonee!” Heh boomed. “You have disgraced the name of yourself and your town!” Ebonee cried out as the gem ignited in her hands. She dropped it but not before the angry red burns stained her skin. They traveled up her arms and around her neck before ending in a slash over her right eye and down to her mouth. The welts stung as Ebonee fought back tears. The heat dulled but the marks remained. The sign of a traitor.
Heh walked over, earthquakes rolling across the desert with each footstep. He plucked the small gem up and attached it back onto his attire. His gaze traveled down the people watching him and stopped for a long moment on Ebonee who remained on the ground; her red skin broken and cracked. “You wished to be different than all the others,” Heh spoke, “and here you are with your wish. That should not be.” Heh glanced once at the sky as if asking permission. He didn’t need permission for anything! Whatever he wanted to do had to be big, and terrible. Heh raised his hand and cast his palm rib out across the desert. Colors sprouted from the etches and sparked into the distance; running to whatever was out there. They flew past the edge and seemed to continue down to Ra’s resting place. Except one spark that stayed right over their town.
One by one Ebonee saw the change in them. Skin began to lighten to the color of sand while some darkened until the people were almost invisible in the night. Shades of brown and charcoal and tan decorated the people. Their eyes became solely encased in pupil black while others seemed to hold the oceans and the trees within them. Hair straightened, curled tighter, got looser, got lighter, got darker, mixed in between, and even fell out. Wrinkles appeared on the skin of the old, some gained muscle while others got leaner, people rose to six feet with some to seven, and others shrank down to five and four feet. Features began to be apparent from marks on skin to strands of discolored hair. Voices changed. Some were a lilting melody and others fell as deep as a canyon. Different people pronounced words different ways. There was slurring, drawls, and lisps. Ebonee heard letters skipped or pronounced differently and others so articulate the words stung her ears. It seemed that everyone had something that set them apart from each other. Except for Ebonee.
As Ebonee surveyed the area she turned and came face to face with her reflection. A girl of the same skin, hair, eyes, and body. Even the same red burn of a traitor across her face, down her neck, and to her hands. It was only then that Ebonee realised it wasn’t her reflection; it was Lapis.
“No!” Ebonee shrieked as her sister began to cry. “Lapis has done nothing wrong! You can’t brand her as well!” Ebonee turned to Heh who glared down unforgivingly.
“I can and I did child,” he replied. “You must learn to be thankful for what you are given and not to take more than what you deserve.” Heh leaned down. “I was going to grant you your wish,” he whispered. “I was going to give you a special mark, a birthmark, to identify you as different. Instead, you stole my gem and destroyed our temple. Now, you and all those who follow in your ancestral line, will never be different. Always the same, unable to be truly told apart, and with the same scar of a traitor.”
Ebonee began to cry. Her entire lineage devastated for eternity because of her. Lapis walked up next to her and Ebonee saw how scarily similar they looked now. With everyone different in some way the two identical girls stood out just as much. Not as separate people but as one and the same person.
“No longer shall you be known as Ebonee and Lapis but the two of you shall both bear the name Kissa. Sister of twins. All those after you shall have the same title: twins.” With that final declaration Heh ascended back into the sky and sealed the world away from the gods again. The twins marched through the crowd of mismatched people. The colors and textures blurred together as they brushed past and their ears struggled to catch every word in the conversations. Still they persisted past the accusing eyes and venomous words. The identical twins cut through the crowd of differences much like how a knife cuts through wounded flesh. All parted before the deadly objects. All feared them and the difference that they shared: similarity.