Перевод на английский Ивана Жаворонкова, выпускника филологического факультета, поэта и переводчика. Стажировался в США.
The papyrus in the sepulcher of a Pharaoh began with these words: "I greet thee, o great God Lord of the Two Truths! I have come but to view thy beauty! I know thee and the names of the forty two gods residing hither in the Great Court of the Two Truths - they are waiting up for villains, and drink their blood as they are judged by Unnepher..."
And there was another inscription: "He that removed the cover from the face of mine shall die."
Gajus, however, did not know it, and the longer he scrutinized the mysterious hieroglyphics, the more it seemed to him that some mystery was right about to disclose, and not just mere mystery, but something very important, and tjhat to him, Gajus. As though this young Pharaoh, thousands of years ago, had by an inexplicable miracle been able to foresee that, at the appointed time, he, Gajus, would come to make a very important, perhaps the most important decision in his life. Depending on it other people's lives would take a different course, which were anyhow connected to him, Gajus, hence so would the lives of the people who were connected to the people before them. And if you continued that thought, it would develop in the end into as follows: depending on what decision he, Gajus, would make at that very trying minute, too many lives would take a different course, even those which ensued. Suddenly, with somewhat doomed knowledge, he clearly saw all these people in the image of an endless pyramid of existence which was sort of circled by both him, Gajus, and that very Pharaoh (but with his own pyramid of death), the mysterious sepulcher of which had - by chance or not - been discovered by his centurion with the help of a weird being named Zaz. They said, he once had been a priest, but later on gods had taken away his mind for some of his transgressions, and then Zaz had declared himself a god. He had used to make up his eyes with antimony green stretching their shape up to his ears, he would take on a tile-like wig, and with tape would tie up to his beard an Osiris' twist of fair hair taken from Libyan wives' heads. It was here at the pyramids that he lived moving along as their shade changed its position, as though he performed a magic rite known to him alone. However, what if there was a connection, a deed between him and the Pharaoh? Zaz with sticking exactness pointed to the place where to seek the entrance of the funeral chamber, and toward evening his, Gajus', faithful centurions broke through the monolith of enormous stones to the entry. And there was one more wish of his that came true: catching his breath he removed the mummy's cover in the light of cracking torches and saw through the glowing cast of the gold mask the pharaoh's too young, almost a boy's face - his dark bottomless eyes you could not take yours off. Now, already sinking into the pleasant weightlessness of the night he heard as though from far away a song - thus mother sings to her child - to make him growing up wise and calm. Thus sings the wind getting lost in the boughs of sycamore trees. Else caught he a faint odor of myrtle and saffron, redolent odor of childhood and holiday when they gave away sweets and drove off the night. The cheerful dwarfs would be dancing and dancing until the sound of their small silver bells merged with the chattering of wondrous birds. These birds has no one ever seen because they start singing when everyone is still asleep, and later they turn into nameless shadows. Right now, these shadows rushed about and beat by the walls of the small funeral chamber as though seeking the way out, and he, Gajus, knew he must find the door at any costs. It turned out that there were two doors for some unknown reason. One had a picture of goddess Isis on it, the other - a portrait of queen Nephretare, and both of them gazed at him, Gajus, with that ineffable gaze of a woman at which you feel your whole body warmed up. There was one more door in there with a strange ornament on it and a turquoise beetle scarab in the upper left corner, and he, Gajus, knew he would choose it. He stood motionless for a while before forcing... very slowly... his first steps. As though crossing the invisible line once overstepped, there was no way back. Another footstep was needed, and many others, to better discern the outlines still sharper and more clear-cut through the dark with each pace. He recognized some of them at once, the ones rousing no feelings though, some of them, however, were unfamiliar, at times unexpected, and even pleasant... He turned around involuntary just to assure himself that there was no door behind any more, and he could in peace and quiet with pleasure proceed examining every item and being changed more and more. Some things he had never seen before, nevertheless they had an unknown very special meaning for him. And as his glance with increasing interest and excitement, more and more boldly moved around everything what was opening to his, Gajus', eyes, a strange occurrence was taking place - at first he didn't recognize anything, but he had only to move his view for the late recognition to remind him the exact time and place he had seen it before. He even tried to come back to repeat the experience, and it happened again - everything proved to be different as though time was altering more quickly then he with his thoughts. At one moment, he found himself at the bottom of the sea near an enormous octopus from whose womb was coming out to the silt the seed of life. Right before his, Gajus', eyes, a seaweed was transformed to a sea animal, then - to a land one, a fish became a bird, a sea-shell changed to a butterfly, a sea-urchin - to a hedgehog without paws yet, a sea-horse - to a real horse on its hind, not perfect yet legs dragging out of the silt... Thus, link upon link, creature upon creature until the last link had appeared - a Human Being. Raised from the dead he was coming out of his grave, from the womb of earth, like a child comes out of his mother's womb - it was him, Gajus, whom he himself could only watch from the side having no right to interfere. Now this newborn man had a dilemma - to return and find the door of exit leaving everything unaccomplished, or to go forward and found the way to the future. The future that would be as beautiful as children's dreams at the dawn, as promising as ghostly visions in the Great Desert Ziph, as exciting as awaiting of the first date, anticipating the first kiss, and other ten thousand wonderful things which compose life. And he, Gajus, saw it all as through the giant magic crystal of the Pyramid, saw the future which would be to someone the past, the same way the past had been to someone the future... There were a lot of lives in that future, and each life had had its own name such as Nephretare, Brutus, Pharnaces and Crassus, but all of them had been shuffled by time like a pack of cards, and he didn't yet know which one he would choose first or which second. There were still other voices talking to him in different languages, telling him hurriedly the Important, but he could pick up only separate words and broken phrases. It was then that he called the dwarf named Zaz, who once had been a priest, but later gone mad to avoid anybody's attention. "What is important then?" asked Gajus, and the dwarf deftly climbed up onto his shoulder, and nestling up against his ear managed to whisper with hot because of the sick brain air... and there and then turned into a small golden statue of hawk-goddess Nebeth. There was the inscription on it; "I stop the sand from strewing the secrets."