by Bill Cox
Bastet stood in the alley, tobacco smoke flowing around her in a serpentine swirl. She heard the fire escape door open behind her and recognised the familiar scent of Leo, the club manager; cheap aftershave and a hint of vodka. He stood next to her and took out a cigarette. He searched his pockets, a tad theatrically she thought, before leaning in and asking, “May I?”
The tips of their cigarettes touched, her heat igniting his smoke. They stood in silence for a few moments, watching the wind blow the remains of yesterday’s newspaper around the alley, like a trapped bird frantically searching for the way out.
She could hear his heartbeat quicken before he spoke: “That was quite a melancholy set tonight.”
Bastet sighed inwardly. She could taste Leo’s pheromones, the chemical signature of his desire. She sensed his lust mingled with curiosity; her voluptuous body responsible for the former, her feline head for the latter. That was the problem with immortality, she thought; you were stuck watching the same movie over and over again.
“I’m in a melancholy kind of mood,” she replied, flicking ash, watching it dance like fading fireflies on its lingering fall to the ground.
“Not that I’m complaining,” Leo continued, “It’s a good crowd and your singing always goes down well. I just wondered if anything was up?”
Bastet contemplated for a moment. Was anything ‘up’? She had been reminiscing a lot lately. Her dreams were full of desert heat and the annual flood. Even now, the view from her temple in the centre of Bubastis at Festival time, with the worshipping masses laid out before her, came readily to mind. She remembered the joy of her kinship with Ra and her fellow gods as they embarked on the great mission that was the creation of the Egyptian kingdom. Days of fire and wonder.
For an instant she was overcome with nostalgia. In a moment of uncharacteristic candour she framed her reply as a question.
“Do you ever wonder, Leo, if your best days are behind you?”
“Are you kidding?” Leo grinned. “People come from miles around to hear you sing. I’ve seen grown men, made men even, in tears listening to you. Your voice is the most… soulful thing I think I’ve ever heard. For you, the sky is the limit!”
“Ah Leo, for my kind the sky was never the limit,” she grinned, a feline smile, “But you say the nicest things.”
From inside the club, the faint sound of music could be heard.
“Come on,” she said. “Frankie and the boys are starting up again. Time to give your customers what they want.”
With that they both turned and walked back inside. The door closed with a metallic thump. In the alleyway a certain hint of the desert lingered for a moment, a suggestion of heat and sand and glory, of times gone past. Then the cool autumn breeze picked up and only memories remained.
Art by Jessica Guarnido