Looking up into the puckered eye socket of my guardian mummy, I watched as its hand came down in slow motion to smash against the side of my face, flipping me over to lie in a still-spreading pool of my own vomit. A deep chuckle, filled with amusement and contempt, pulled me back to what I’d given up hope of being reality. How could it be? Ancient mummies walking around and Bruce dead, being sawed open and having his heart ripped out?
Bruce. Tears burned from the corners of my eyes, just missing my ears as they ran to my jaw. More harsh words in ancient Egyptian. I closed my eyes and tried to close my ears so I couldn’t hear Bruce being dragged away. He’d worked for me for almost four years. If we weren’t friends, at least we’d understood each other, more or less. I owed him grief, at least.
The floor boards shifted near me and a shadow fell across my face. I squeezed my eyes shut so I wouldn’t see it.
“Open your eyes.” The voice was the same, but not. Thicker, heavier, even more suited to command, and it forced my eyelids apart so I had to look into the backlit face of Pharaoh. Whatever his name and title in life, he could only have been royal. I had no idea who he’d been and didn’t really care, but I could see now the perfect, living image of the face on the sarcophagus. He gave me a slow smile and it showed his complete understanding.
Somehow, no blood stained his chest or face even though it must have fountained from Bruce’s heart as he bit or sucked or whatever he’d done to it. Pharaoh held up a hand, a tiny brown thing between thumb and forefinger, wrinkled like a crushed soda can. “Your slave gave his life for mine and so his name will be sung down the ages.” The brown thing dropped and my eyes followed it as it fell through the air between us and bounced off my chest.
“What remains of him will feed my minions, give them strength to do my bidding. But you.” Pharaoh leaned forward, wrinkling his royal noise and allowing something like a sneer to grace his lips. “You did not hold still as I bid, and would have raised my own tool against me. This I cannot abide. You might have been a servant of high order, perhaps even one of the heralds of the new age. Instead, I fear I must punish you.” English. How was he speaking English? I never understood that in movies or on TV. Ancient menaces and aliens always managed to speak modern English with no more than a slight accent and sometimes not even that.
I only just found the strength for speech, wishing I could find enough to be an asshole. “How can any punishment be worse than what you did to Bruce?”
Pharaoh smiled almost kindly. “Ah, but slave Bruce lives on in me and his spirit rejoices in the living. You.” He shook his head; the eyes and smile turned cold, calculated for fear. “I see into your soul now. You are kin to the rapists of my kingdom’s history and heritage, and that takes you past forgiveness, I think. Your transgressions are doubtless numerous and legendary, and so I pronounce sentence.” He raised his voice as if speaking to a crowd, spreading his arms to lift his hands in front of his shoulders. “You will suffer the indignity of the New Kingdom’s dead.” Pharaoh clapped his hands together once and a pair of mummies appeared to either side of me, hoisting me up much as they had with Bruce, but where his feet dragged, mine dangled.
I cleared my throat and spat, hoping to hit him in the face as he turned away, but the blob of phlegm and saliva flew over his shoulder. “Screw you.” He didn’t abandon enough dignity to acknowledge me as his two hideous minions carried me out of the hidden office and into the warehouse.
Dim as they might have been, the scattered overhead fluorescents had been turned on and while Pharaoh refreshed himself on Bruce, his undead minions had been busy. They’d opened every crate, every sarcophagus, every box, and decorated the warehouse interior in an ancient Egyptian motif. I couldn’t see how they’d done it all without some noise reaching into the office. But then, I didn’t really understand how most of the last few minutes could have happened.
While it didn’t surprise me, the open sarcophagus in the middle of a clear area scared me, enough that I started to shiver. I knew that stone coffin was my final destination. Were they going to embalm me? Or just seal me in to starve to death? What had Pharaoh meant with his pronounced sentence?
At least twenty of the desiccated walking corpses wandered around the inside of the warehouse, but they all turned to focus on me as I struggled in my captors’ grip, desperate to escape the stone box. Dark grey stone, not wood, and not inlaid with gold or anything on the outside at all. The coffin’s top leaned lengthwise against its side. I could see the remains of a carved face there, worn away by dozens of centuries. Eyes, nose, and mouth were all present, but they were smooth and nearly hidden in the stone, like an old photograph faded by too much sunlight. My adrenaline-enriched brain tried to see my own face in the carving.
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