“The coin was minted around 300BC for the Pharaoh Ptolemy Soter. The obverse shows Ptolemy in the role of Osiris, the reverse as the dark god Sutekh.”
The audience of the Numismatic Club squinted at the ancient coin.
“In modern times, the coin belonged to the artist Richard Dadd. After his return from the Middle East in 1843, a string of murders led to his incarceration at Broadmoor.”
The slide of the Victorian serial killer drew gasps. I was complimented on a “stimulating” presentation. While packing away, a whim prompted me to toss and catch the ancient coin.
Heads – Osiris – meant home to bed; tails – Sutekh – meant a nightcap in a nearby bar.
In the bar, Osiris proposed a shandy, Sutekh a scotch.
Six whiskies later, a group in a nearby booth, including a pretty young woman, caught my eye. I trusted Dadd’s coin for one last spin: heads I go home, tails I talk to the young woman.
Her name was Alicja, Polish, very friendly. Going on to a club was not my scene at all. I swapped authority: now Sutekh meant home, Osiris followed Alicja and her friends.
In the club, Osiris urged me to dance with Alicja, which was delightful, and kiss her, which was better. In the toilets, a dealer offered me Speed: heads or tails? Grinning Sutekh landed on my palm and the night took on a new urgency. More dancing, Alicja half-undressed in the taxi, then undressing in my bedroom while I stood in the kitchen, staring at the coin in my palm.
Heads and I made love to Alicja; tails, a cold shower instead.
Sutekh’s face scowled at this feeble option. Not exciting enough. Sex or rough sex? Sex or …
My eye fell on the steak knife by the sink.
Sex or death.
I flipped the coin. Sutekh and the knife.
Ridiculous. I was not going to murder Alicja.
Flipped again. Sutekh.
Laughing, I changed authority: Sutekh meant sex with a beautiful woman; Osiris meant death.
I flipped. Osiris.
This was madness. Again. Osiris. Again. Osiris. Osiris. Osiris.
Sobbing, I grabbed the knife. Death then, but whose? Heads, Osiris, and I kill the girl. Tails, Sutekh, and I kill myself.
I flipped. The coin turned in the air, reflecting the light with the blinding glare of a desert sun.
Richard Dadd (1817-1886) returned from a trip to the Middle East in 1843 quite mad: he murdered his father and attempted to kill a passenger on the train on which he escaped. He was committed to the Bedlam and subsequently Broadmoor psychiatric hospitals, where he painted his greatest work. He wasn't actually a 'serial killer' (though not for want of trying) but it is fascinating to suppose a supernatural cause for his madness.
Osiris and Sutekh (more commonly Set or Seth but I like the name Sutekh because it alludes to a classic Doctor Who story) were Egyptian gods locked in conflict.
The Daily Ghost
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