The renewed hollow grinding sound startled me. I didn’t know how long I’d lain there, but I must have been asleep. Falling asleep in a sarcophagus, wrapped up like a mummy. No point in struggling. They’d wrapped me too tight. Nightmare faces jumped out of my memory. Mummies, the old Pharaoh and the young one, Bruce.
Ah hell. Bruce. No tears, but I felt his death again.
Grinding. I knew the sound. Someone had started to move the sarcophagus’ lid. Was it opening? Had Pharaoh changed his mind? A chill ran through me. I’d be fodder for his restored youth after all. Or could I be so lucky that the mummies were gone and someone had come to rescue me? Was there a Van Helsing for mummies?
Voices. Muffled, but definite voices. I tried to say something, but my lips locked shut. Talking right now might not be the best idea I’d ever had. I didn’t know if I wanted to be discovered yet. Only a few words reached through the mask, not enough to make sense of anything except that there was more than one voice. Accented English but not Egyptian-flavoured, or even anything from America. A couple more words, and I pinned it to the British Isles, probably, but couldn’t do better than that. Mediterranean accents were more my specialty.
Fingers wrapped around the mask’s edge and lifted it away. I wanted to close my eyes, but needed to see what was going on. When the mask had risen far enough to be clear of the edge of the sarcophagus, it moved aside and Doctor Harold Witkinstein held it. That didn’t make any sense. I’d seen his body, or parts of it at least.
“What did I tell you, guv?” A broad grin showed several missing teeth and half of the rest were crooked. His bushy eyebrows jumped up and down at someone I couldn’t see. “Look at the preservation on this one. Why, three thousand years old if he’s a day, but he doesn’t look a day over three hundred.”
Not the accent or the dental work I expected from a member of the modern German upper class. The second voice, belonging to someone I couldn’t see, fit a little better. Cooler, even, and with the barest touch of an accent. Probably still British. “Indeed. It appears well preserved.”
Witkinstein reached into the coffin and slapped my stomach. I didn’t have time to flinch, but the touch was weird, hollow, and didn’t carry a lot of sensation with it. It didn’t feel much like a slap, but more like remembering what a slap to the stomach might have felt like. It wasn’t worth a flinch or even an ouch.
And I couldn’t say ouch, anyway. I tried opening my mouth to say something, anything and couldn’t feel my lips move, couldn’t make my lips move. Breathing deep, I found I couldn’t breathe and fought down a sense of panic. What had they done to me? Why didn’t Witkinstein and his unseen friend see me? They acted as if I weren’t present. Thoughts tumbled in my head, coalescing and shattering again.
Three thousand years old if he’s a day, but he doesn’t look a day over three hundred.
“As well preserved as you can get, guv. So, is it worth a few pounds to you?”
“Yes. Yes, I think so.” A sniff. “I’m quite willing to pay a few coins above the current market rate. You can keep the stone box, though. I’ve no need for that.”
“Of course, of course. The customer’s always right, isn’t he?”
“Indeed. I understand you have the ability to powder them?”
Sleep now, if you can, though when you wake, you will wish you had not.
Witkinstein bowed. “Aye. We grind the mummies to order for a nominal fee. It’s all about what the customer wants. There’s them what want the whole thing shipped back home, box and all, but those in the medical profession, such as yourself, usually want just the powdered remains for treatment and whatnot.”
“Exactly. The grinding will be fine.” A short pause as a shadow shifted just out of my sight. “Just be sure you don’t cut it with anything. My master treats a higher class of patients than most. Only pure ground mummy will do. Anything else, aside from being less efficacious, would be insulting to his patients.”
Look at the preservation on this one.
The look of shock on Witkinstein’s face, so obvious, so expressive, belonged to an earlier age when haggling was part of every transaction, as much friendly banter as driving the price up or down. “Certainly not, guv. You’re in Egypt, the land of mummies. That kind of thing might go on back home, but there’s no need for it here with a nearly limitless supply at hand.”
“See that it doesn’t.”
You will suffer the indignity of the New Kingdom’s dead.
If I could feel the cold, it would wrap around my heart. If I had a heart. I wondered where the jars holding my organs were. And shouldn’t my brain be in one of them? How could I be aware and thinking in my present state? Why should I expect any kind of logic to hold sway in my present state?
Money changed hands. The clink of metal coins in a leather bag.
“How soon can I expect delivery?”
Witkinstein bowed and bits of dandruff rained down over my face. “We’ll have it rendered down for you and packaged by lunch time tomorrow, if that’s acceptable.”
“Quite.” Departing footsteps.
Tucking the small bag of coins into his shirt, the old Doctor, if he was a doctor any more, looked down at me and smiled. He reached into the sarcophagus and patted my cheek, not using enough force to give any sensation to my preserved flesh. “Alas, it’s the grinding mill for you, my lad. I don’t know if it’ll hurt much the first time, but the Holy Master assures me you’ll come back in every mummy that goes through the rods.”
You will suffer the indignity of the New Kingdom’s dead.
Witkinstein chuckled and dropped the mask back onto my face.
Note: “Mummy Powder” is released on lanceschonberg.com under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 3.0 Unported License. It can be shared, copied and distributed in its current form, but not changed or sold.by