At the Gizah plateau west of Cairo three ancient pyramids
of stone are situated on a diagonal running northeast to southwest.
The largest of these structures -- commonly called the Great Pyramid
-- appears surrealistic in the distance to the traveler approaching
Cairo by the desert road.
The Great Pyramid, the largest single building ever constructed
by humans, is also called "Cheops'," or "Khufu's"
pyramid. Very little is actually known of Cheops or Korfu, precious
few written references exist, but archeologists have concocted
theories. For all the contemporary archeological theory, no evidence
exists to establish any architectural structure as pre-dating
the Great Pyramid, or that its construction is anything but a
For hundreds of miles south of the Gizah plateau there
are many smaller pyramids, each of which housed the earthy remains
of one ancient Egyptian megalomaniac or another. Comparing the
size and workmanship in the Great Pyramid to its less perfect
replicas reminded Hellanback of the clumsy fashion in which humanity
strives to emulate nature. Most of the vanity pyramids had been
ransacked during the dim recesses of history. It wasn't until
the 11th century A.D., and only after considerable difficulty,
that would-be grave robbers succeeded in penetrating the Great
Pyramid's hard shell to discover only two empty chambers, inter-connecting
corridors, and a third chamber with an empty stone sarcophagus.
No jewels, no body, no nothing. The treasure hunters had been
had. With only "educated guesses" supporting the notion
that the Great Pyramid was ever a tomb, Hellanback thought it
may have had other origins.
The mathematical concept of Pi, unknown to the western
world until Archimedes wrote about it in the 3rd century B.C.,
is enshrined in the construction of the Great Pyramid. Hellanback's
readings, checked against a pocket calculator, led him to wonder
whether the builders of the Great Pyramid may also have had knowledge
of all the mathematics presently known.
The most ancient evidence of the Great Pyramid in western
literature is attributable to Plato, who wrote that Solon had
visited Egypt five centuries before Jesus, when he reported having
seen the Great Pyramid. The Egyptian priests, who told Solon they
had a written history dating back some five thousand years from
that time ... well before the reign of Cheops. When Solon inquired
as to the age of the Great Pyramid he was told that the information
had been "lost in antiquity."
In search of an historical starting point for the imposition
of human creativity on Earth, a truth-seeker might begin, as reasonably
as anywhere, at the Great Pyramid of Gizah. If built by people
just shortly removed from cave dwellers, the facts that something
could be so old, embody so much knowledge and be so perfect had
caused many before Hellanback suspect that, unless the builders
got incalculably lucky, they may have had Divine assistance.
Hellanback was amazed. "What arrogance." He thought.
"They have no credible evidence to support the idea, yet
contemporary academicians claim to date the construction of the
Pyramid, and pretend, without explaining, that it's construction
is somehow explicable."
His arrival at the Great Pyramid ended the physical stage
of Hellanback's pilgrimage. He hadn't taken any thought for tomorrow,
and, true to his interpretation of Jesus' words, he had survived
Some of his beliefs, however, did not survive. When he
began Hellanback thought that he knew quite a bit, now he thought
he knew virtually nothing. The Arabs proved to be far more civilized
than the United States media had portrayed them. The six months
crossing North Africa had been more educational than his previous
twenty-eight years of existence. Now Hellanback hoped to embark
on a metaphysical pilgrimage. He had read stories of fantastic
revelations experienced by those who passed a night within the
Great Pyramid. That was to be his next adventure.
At five o'clock each afternoon tours ended and the iron
door at the Pyramid's entrance was locked. A small antechamber
separated the King's Chamber from the top of the Grand Gallery.
A tunnel, probably cut by ancient treasure hunters, was covered
by a wooden door and led off from the antechamber, twisting upward
toward the Pyramid's apex. At about four o'clock, after one tour
left and before the next arrived at the King's Chamber, Hellanback
opened the wooden door. Closing it behind him he lit a candle
and started climbing the tunnel. When the tunnel ended Hellanback
stopped and waited for the iron door to lock on the Pyramid's
When he made his way back down the tunnel and opened the
wooden door the electric lights that illuminated the pyramid for
tourists had been extinguished, and the interior was black as
he could imagine. He passed the night, without incident, in the
He passed a second unremarkable night in the Queen's Chamber.
In all, daily using the same method, he spent seven uneventful
nights within the Pyramid.
Disappointed, reluctant to give up too quickly on the idea
of instant enlightenment, Hellanback began spending his days talking
to guides and tourists, and his nights sleeping on the truncated
top of the Great Pyramid. After following that routine for a month
without experiencing any significant realizations, Hellanback
thought this stage of the pilgrimage was also over.
He called Donna, collect.
"Your party will not accept the call," the overseas
"It must be a mistake," Hellanback told the operator,
"are you sure you have the right number?"
"It's the right number. Your party knows you,"
the operator assured him. "She just won't accept the call."
Another stage of his pilgrimage had ended. An unenlightened,
unwanted Hellanback wondered what to do next.
From a guide at the Pyramid, Hellanback learned that the
Madras Port Said, a secondary school located in Zamalik, attended
by the offspring of high-ranking government and diplomatic officials,
had need of an English teacher.
"What are your qualifications?" asked Mrs. Snipes,
the British headmistress, looking as though she'd stepped out
of Charles Dickens.
"I've spoken English all of my life, I read very well,
and I've never had any trouble getting along with children."
"I'm quite sorry, really. We need an English teacher
desperately. These girls have been through seven of them so far
this year, and we must complete their syllabus in time for their
final examinations. But I'm afraid that you lack the proper credentials
"What remains of their syllabus?"
"They must finish Julius Caesar, and an assigned novel."
"You're desperate for a teacher and I'm desperate
for something to do. I get on well with children. Why don't you
give me copies of Julius Caesar and the novel, let me have twenty-four
hours to review them, and then give me a quiz. Perhaps I will
do well enough to convince you that I can teach your girls."
Hellanback got the job. He enjoyed teaching, and, after
the final examinations were completed, the school invited him
to return to teach the following year.
After Madras Port Said closed for the summer Hellanback
went to work producing transcripts of movie scripts for Anis Abed,
a company which puts Arabic sub-titles on foreign language films
and distributes them throughout the Arab world.
By local standards Hellanback was making a lot of money,
four times as much as his friend Abdullah, a mid-level bureaucrat
who lived with his wife and daughter in a flat in Siadya Zenab,
and worked supervising a staff of eight who administered government
Thousands of pages of spaghetti westerns, "Eight is
Enough," "Love Boat," and karate flicks. The work
seemed pointless. Transcribing the words of a soft core pornography
film destined for a private collector in Saudi Arabia, Hellanback
thought of the Children of Israel, held captive in Egypt, laboring
for the entertainment of their captors. Here he was doing no greater
service to God or humanity than he had been doing back in New
Mexico, peddling jewelry to flatter egos. And that had been his
home. At least there he had had Donna, a home, familiarity, comfort.
He had left all that to follow the ways of God. Obviously he had
gotten off the track. He felt much better when he'd been walking
across North Africa.