Sweat dribbled down between Gloria’s shoulder blades. The Giza plateau was dry and dusty and the pyramids were a disappointing sight. She’d been expecting them to be so much more imposing. Instead they were really big heaps of crumbling rocks that tourists from all over the world used as climbing walls. To make matters worse they hadn’t been allowed inside the great pyramid. It was closed to the public. Some nonsense about preservation and too much carbon dioxide. She hadn’t understood most of what the tour guide had said. The sphinx, with its nose blown off by one of Napoleons cannons, had also been so much smaller than she’d expected. She came to Egypt hoping to be overwhelmed by magnificence and history, but had ended up being decidedly underwhelmed. Not to mention the undercurrent of political unrest that made everybody look a little nervous. She kept expecting a riot to break out on the streets of Cairo.
Perhaps it was that her feet were killing her or the heat that had put her in such a foul temper. The scuba diving accident and almost losing all her gear probably hadn’t helped. She couldn’t wait to get out of Egypt. Just another twenty-four hours and she’d be on a plane headed home and to her own bed. She missed her bed. The bunks on the boat had been less than comfortable. But, on the upside, she had gotten laid by one of the dive masters on the trip. It was a pity she’d had to leave him behind in Dahab. Ali had been the only good thing about Egypt.
The third pyramid, the pyramid of Menkaure, was the smallest and the only one they were allowed in. The walls were blank. None of the hieroglyphics she’d been expecting decorated the main chamber. Just one more disappointment on a long list. She’d spent all her savings on this so-called dream trip of a lifetime and was going home to an empty bank account without anything to show for it except a few photos. And she wasn’t even allowed to take any photos inside the pyramid, not that there was much to photograph. Apparently something about the flash of cameras being bad for the preservation of the monuments. What was the point of spending all that money to see inside the pyramid if she wasn’t even allowed to snap a picture?
It was gloomy and confined inside and the throng of people pressed against her. One of the women in her tour group fainted. Gloria had never suffered from claustrophobia, but the small, dark, space made her feel like the walls were closing in on her. One of the men picked up the collapsed woman and carried her out, followed by most of the disgruntled tour group. Gloria decided to stay behind and enjoy the coolness inside the chamber. It was a reprieve from the heat outside. The bus would only depart in an hour, so she had plenty of time to waste.
Now that there were fewer bodies in her way, she got a proper look around and noticed that they’d roped off a narrow passage to the right. Hieroglyphics had been carved into the wall above the entrance to the tunnel thousands of years ago but were now barely visible. She’d done a course at University on Egyptology and recognised one of the hieroglyphs as being something about death, but was clueless as to the meaning of the others. She guessed that they were probably a warning about some or other curse. Ancient Egyptians had loved their curses.
“Superstitious nonsense,” she said to herself and shrugged.
Nobody was paying attention to her and her curiosity overwhelmed any sense of propriety. The trip, so far, had been a bust on the adventure front and by hook or by bloody crook she was going to have an adventure. Even being thrown out of the pyramid would make for a better story than the one she had so far.
The narrow passage descended, deep beneath the pyramid. Using her cell phone as a torch, she made her way down. It was a good thing she was skinny, if she’d been any bigger she’d have gotten herself wedged between the smooth stone walls. She doubted anybody would find her before she starved to death. Thankfully she’d charged her cellphone that morning, so the battery was full and gave enough light off for her to see where she put her feet. The passage declined at a steep angle and without the light she would have stumbled over her own feet on more than one occasion and landed hard on her face or her backside.
Being in the dark scared her senseless. Ever since her mother locked her in an unlit bathroom as punishment when she was a child it freaked her out. For years she had to sleep with a night light on. But her mother never locked her in the bathroom again, and it gave her plenty of ammunition for endless guilt trips, which she utilised to their utmost for many years. She’d, unfortunately, never quite managed to make her feel guilty enough to buy her that pony she’d always wanted.
The smell of wet earth drifted on a light breeze coming from up ahead. The walls were damp beneath her finger tips and she heard water dripping somewhere in front of her, in the pitch-black. A twinge in her stomach and the hair prickling on her arms made her wonder if this particular adventure may have been ill advised. But she couldn’t turn back, the passage was too narrow. She would have to press forward until she found a place where it opened up a bit more and she had space to manoeuvre. She wasn’t particularly looking forward to the trek back up. It was going to be killer on her thighs.
The breeze felt stronger against her skin. The temperature dropped a few degrees and Gloria shivered. The passage opened up into a small room. The light from the cellphone danced on the walls, which were also blank, like the pyramid above. Except for a line of hieroglyphics on the opposite wall which matched the ones at the entrance to the tunnel. Disappointment sagged her shoulders. All that build up and struggle down the passage and … nothing. Just a single line of chicken scratches and no statues. Just another empty chamber.
Her cellphone picked that moment to die on her. She was left standing in the pitch-black of an abyss. Panic gripped her heart. All her childhood fears came rushing at her.
An involuntary squeak erupted from her mouth. She gripped her cellphone and tried tapping it on the screen to get it to work, but the bloody thing wouldn’t cooperate. The passage was only a few paces behind her. She turned around and stuck her hands out in front of her, trying to feel for the tunnels entrance. She took two steps forward, but only felt empty air. The walls of the chamber should have been there. She had only taken a couple steps into the room. She took another couple steps, but couldn’t find the wall. Perhaps she hadn’t turned around enough and was walking in the wrong direction or she was already in the tunnel and just didn’t know it. Sticking her arms out to the side, she felt for the tunnel walls but felt nothing but a cool breeze brushing past her finger tips. Completely disorientated, she wanted to cry, but convinced herself to suck it up. It wasn’t a big room, she told herself. She would eventually find a wall and would simply walk along it until she found the entrance to that damn tunnel.
Something scraped on the ground behind her.
“Hello,” she called out.
She heard the quiver in her own voice as it bounced off the bare walls.
A musty smell made it’s way towards her. The smell reminded her of something dusty and decaying. A piece of material tickled her right arm. She turned her head to the right, and tried to peer into the blackness only to be smacked hard on her nose. Tiny stars speckled the black curtain over her vision. Blood spurted down her mouth and chin. The salty, metallic taste of her own blood made her want to vomit.
A blow to her stomach forced all the air in her lungs out. She doubled over in pain, struggling to breathe. Another blow hit the back of her neck. The ground slammed into her. Her dead and useless cell phone spiralled across the floor.
Regaining consciousness was a strange sensation. She didn’t quite feel as though she was back in her own body. Her skin didn’t feel like it was attached to all her nerve endings and her eyes didn’t want to open of their own volition. She tried concentrating to get her body to react to her commands and that concentration resulted in another wave of nausea.
Fear and anger rivalled each other for dominance. Fear won and her instinct was to run, but found that her hands and feet were bound and that her body still wouldn’t cooperate. After a silent argument and a plea she finally managed to get her eyelids to open and was confronted by an impossible vision. She wished she could go back to being blind. The dark was more hospitable than the vision that presented itself.
Flaming torches burned from all corners of the room and a bare-chested man with the head of a jackal stood over her. She remembered enough of her Egyptian mythology to recognise him as Anubis, God of the underworld. A scream froze in her lungs. She was paralysed by fear or drugs – she wasn’t sure which.
Blood ran from deep cuts in her wrists and inner thighs and pooled in brass bowls beneath her naked body. It took a few seconds before she realised that she wasn’t lying on the ground but floating in mid-air. It took her another few seconds to notice that Anubis wasn’t the only one in the room with her. There were bald men in loin clothes kneeling in a circle around her and chanting. The blood loss made her weak and the chanting gave her a headache. Differing emotions competed for dominance. Anger, fear, and annoyance were the top three. She was angry at herself for being so damn stupid. She was afraid for obvious reasons, and annoyed that the last thing she’d hear before she died was chanting in a language that she couldn’t understand. She was also annoyed by the fact that the last thing she’d see on this earth were a bunch of overweight, bald men who really needed to put some clothes on.
She was going to die. She knew it beyond any shadow of a doubt and there was nothing she could do about it. She thought about her life and all the things she’d left undone. The life she was leaving seemed so pointless now. The only thing that gave her some consolation was that her final words to her parents at the airport had been good ones. She’d at least had the chance to tell them that she loved them. She’d had the chance to say some form of goodbye, even though she’d thought it was only a temporary one at the time. She thought about going quietly into that good night, it would be easy to simply drift off to sleep, but her mother hadn’t raised her to accept her fate. She’d been raised to fight, even when the odds were against her. And the odds were certainly against her now.
Looking around for a way out, she noticed three canopic jars on a waist height marble pillar next to her head. They looked to have been carved out of black granite and decorated by hieroglyphics. Each jar had a different Egyptian Gods head as a lid made from gold which had been polished to a shine. Under different circumstances she would have thought them beautiful, but now they drove home what was going to happen to her. On another marble pillar stood a brass scale. Having a decent knowledge of ancient Egyptian history and custom was now something she wished she didn’t have. Sometimes ignorance can be bliss.
Hope was an elusive bitch and she’d deserted Gloria. There was no escape. Anubis picked up a knife and said a few words in ancient Egyptian. She watched, unable to scream or move, as he plunged it into her side and cut down to her hip. She’d heard that being shot felt like being punched, but no-one had warned her about the pain of being stabbed and cut open. It was beyond anything her brain could comprehend and shut down. She watched what he did to her from a distance. Her mind separated from her body. He ripped her ribcage apart and shoved his hands inside her. The pain penetrated the barrier her brain had erected and the scream that had been trapped erupted from the very centre of her being. The pain was unlike anything she’d ever felt. He was literally tearing her apart. His hands rummaged around inside her. She kept hoping for the blissful ignorance that unconsciousness could provide, but it never came.
Over the pain an important question formed at the edge of her mind. Why? Why was he killing her? And why was he doing it so cruelly? She wasn’t a good girl, she knew that, but she wasn’t that bad either. She didn’t deserve to go out like this. Nobody did.
Anubis plucked out her beating heart and placed it on the scales. The counter weight for her heart was a pure white feather. She watched as her palpitating heart dropped below the feather.
“When you stand in the hall of judgement, no one can interfere with the scales that weigh your heart for truth and goodness. Your soul is laid bare and everything is revealed.” Anubis’s voice was deep and guttural. He snarled at her. “You have trespassed in this sacred hall and defamed it with your presence. You ignored the warnings and are being punished for your disrespect.”
It was then that Gloria realised that she would not have a peaceful afterlife. There would be no going quietly into that good night, whether she wanted to or not.
He dropped her beating heart inside the jar that had an effigy of his own head as a lid. He then removed her intestines and stomach and placed them in another jar. She thought that when he shoved a sharp metal rod up her nose and scrambled her brains and put her liquidised brain in the third jar that that would be the end of it, that she would cease to be, or to think, or feel, or that her spirit would leave her body, but it didn’t. The pain didn’t stop, she didn’t leave her body. She watched, unable to speak, as he wrapped her mutilated body in bandages. The chanting which had never stopped throughout her ordeal came to a crescendo.
She could only watch in painful silence as the monks carried in a stone sarcophagus, from where she didn’t know. Her face had been carved into the lid, along with the head of Anubis. Her curse, written in hieroglyphics, decorated the base. They placed her inside it and put the three jars between her bandaged legs. There was only silence and darkness as they closed the lid.
“As penance you will now protect this temple for all eternity against others who, like you, violate its sanctity.” Anubis’s voice thundered through the lid of the sarcophagus.
She’d gone looking for adventure and ended up dead and cursed, forever stuck in this underground temple. If it wasn’t for the pain she would have laughed at how ridiculous it all was. She was a fucking Egyptian mummy doomed to kill any who were stupid enough to follow in her footsteps. She wondered how long it would take before she had some company. The odd bit of murder and mayhem would certainly break the monotony of an eternity of being cursed. She just hoped it didn’t take a millennia before some curious tourist stumbled down the passage and broke the humdrum of being undead.
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