Under the Sands
The winds howled when its currents passed through the dark gap in the stone. Logic told her to wait until the next day to enter the tomb but eagerness advised against it. The sandstorm coming in a few hours would cover all of her men hard work if she dared leave, sending them back to square one. So it was either enter in that precise moment or wait a few days, maybe a week, to do it; Tessa preferred to do it that day.
“Are you sure about this?” Her partner— a dark skinned man in his late forties— asked her, worry creasing his brow. “Sandstorms are unpredictable and the wind is already picking up speed.”
“Don’t worry, Amun! I will be in and out of this hole before you can say: ‘I found King Narmer’. You’ll see everything will be okay.” She reassured her friend and tested the harness before tightening the bonds of her tools. “Besides, I am armed with a chisel and a flashlight to battle the armies of mummies. Nothing bad will happen to me.”
The man sighed, ignoring her little jest, and helped her sit on the edge of the gap while the workers prepared to lower Tessa into the darkness of an unexplored Egyptian tomb. She winked at him one last time and slipped inside the crevice, disappearing from view in a couple of minutes.
The slow descend was a little bumpy and she had to yell at the men outside to keep it steady a couple of times but she ended up reaching the floor in one piece. She announced her wellbeing to the figure that peeked from above while unhooking the ropes and grabbed the flashlight to start exploring.
Her jaw dropped when she waved the flashlight, illuminating all around her. “I found it,” she whispered from the shock. “I found it! We found it! This truly is Narmer’s tomb; his deeds are painted all around me!” Tessa shouted, running below the hole and shielding her eyes from the sun to see the shadow of Amun.
“Then hook the ropes to your harness, we are pulling you out.”
“No! I want to observe some more.” And she vanished, returning to the wall where it was depicted Egypt’s unification. How was all this possible when Narmer was the founder of the first dynasty?! They buried their dead in holes in the ground at that time! Then, why was she standing inside a tomb that, for the decorating and architectural style, must have been constructed on the 19th dynasty?
Confused beyond measure, she whirled around and caught sight of something that hadn’t called her attention before. There was a passageway in the corner to her right that could easily be dismissed because an enormous statue of Anubis hid it from view. Tessa walked carefully around the sculpture until she stood in front of a dark passage with the same height than the rest of the tomb. Thank God for small miracles! She slowly make her way through the narrow space, hearing nothing but her own breathing and the sound of her steps over the stone, until she found herself inside another chamber. When the passing light of her flashlight illuminated the center of the new room, the young archaeologist almost fainted on the spot. There in the center, sitting over a raised platform, rested the golden sarcophagus of a pharaoh.
“Oh my God!” she exclaimed, covering her mouth and weakly walking to the elaborated coffin. Made entirely of gold, the jewelry and eyes were actual gemstones like rubies and sapphires. Beneath the crossed arms— holding the crook and flail— could be seen a cartouche with the name Narmer plus some titles: Unifier of Upper and Lower Egypt, Vanquisher of Evil, and— the strangest of all— Drinker of Lives. Tessa read the last one three times, unsure she had translated it correctly but if her sight or memory weren’t playing tricks on her, those last hieroglyphs meant “drinker of lives”.
Ignoring the weird title, that probably was related to some spiritual notion, she gazed at the head of the sarcophagus and her heart dropped. “No, no, noooo! The mummy must have decomposed by now! Why the hell did they made an opening for air to enter!?” The pharaoh’s image carved on the lid had the lips open wide enough to slip two fingers inside.
The woman hovered over the opening with her flashlight but couldn’t make anything inside. Desperate to the point of breaking in tears, she slipped a finger through the golden lips to try and find something that would assure her the mummy was still inside. She stretched her finger all she could until she touched something slimy that made her recoil and take some steps away from the sarcophagus.
She shook her head. “Don’t be a scaredy-cat, Tessa, you can do this.” Again the same process but this time something grabbed her finger and bit her, making her scream and pull away immediately.
The archaeologist looked wildly between the ancient coffin and her bleeding finger, trying the wrap her mind around what had just happened but then a scratching sound inside the casket got her attention. With all the tiny hairs of the back of her head standing on edge, the woman got closer to the beautiful sarcophagus and stuck her ear to the lid. The scratching stopped altogether and for long minutes she only heard the sound of her own breathing until two loud bangs echoed around the dark place and lifted the lid a little.
Tessa screamed again and fell to the rock floor, knocking down some shabtis in the process. A roar was heard from somewhere behind the walls and the earth shook, making the old tomb crack in various places, sand slipping through the fissures immediately.
I have to get away from this place!
Holding on to her flashlight for dear life, she ran through the passageway all the way to the first chamber and heard Amun’s screams telling her that the sandstorm was almost upon them. Shaking from head to toe, the young woman secured the ropes to her harness and the men quickly started pulling her out of that miserable place.
“I shouldn’t have come down here,” she whispered while hearing the roaring wind and the shouts of the men trying to get to a safe place from the sand. Halfway up, the shouts turned into screams of terror and she began dreading ever reaching the top. Sand started to hit her and as she lowered her face intending to protect herself, the wind picked up speed, the screams sounded louder and her rope was suddenly released, dropping her to the darkness of the tomb. With the impact, her head hit loudly the stone floor and she lost consciousness instantly.
Tessa awoke to find herself face first to the floor, her body aching from head to toe and suffering a head splitting pain that surpassed any hangover. Thinking past the headache she tried to move but felt something heavy weighing her down. She lifted herself on her four shaky limbs, sand falling from all of her until suddenly the weight on top of her lifted when the thing fell with a heavy thud to the ground. Curious but a little frightened, the young archaeologist looked beside her and a scream escaped her throat as she scrambled away from the spot.
The dim light that filtered through the gap illuminated the horror deformed face of Amun, eyes almost bulging out and mouth hanging open, looking at her with the opaque eyes of death. The body, or what was left of the upper torso, was so torn that it was impossible the winds and sand had done so much damage.
Bracing herself to shake the coldness out of her soul, she look at what was left from her friend, mentor and partner, and thick tears fell down her dirty cheeks. It had to be a nightmare. How could Amun lay dead in front of her when hours ago they had been laughing and joking about mummy curses while the workers dug?! Tessa covered her mouth and let her sobs shake her body until her nerves calmed down and the weariness beat her.
The young woman awoke with a jolt when a thunderous noise echoed around the pitch black tomb. Trembling and mentally beating herself for getting asleep inside such a place, she slowly probed the floor for her flashlight and looked desperately to the darkness surrounding her because her small ally, the sun, had vanished from the sky while she had slept. Just when her fingers grazed the lantern, the loud crash of a heavy piece of metal echoing from the king’s chamber made her jolt upright, checking every corner with the small light. Minutes ticked by while nothing was heard then, slowly, the jiggling of heavy beaded jewelry— coming from the passageway— got closer with every heartbeat of Tessa’s paralyzed body. Her eyes and flashlight were fixed on the spot where the statue of Anubis guarded the entrance to the tunnel until a thing of nightmares appeared from behind the death god’s stone figure.
The creature looked at her fixedly, white orbs surrounded by mummy wrappings peeling off their owner and showing chunks of decayed flesh in between. Slightly tilting its head, the monster licked its teeth with a rotting tongue before hiding inside the darkness so quickly that it almost vanished in front of her eyes.
Looking wildly to the darkness but terrified of moving the flashlight and finding the mummy beside her, Tessa took a step back and heard a “click” before a small circular plaque sank a few centimeters. The woman froze, her stupid mind screaming landmine immediately, but when the seconds passed and nothing happened she dared to move only to scream for the thousandth time when the stone slab beneath her feet disappeared and plummeted her down a long set of stairs.
She tumbled and rolled all the way down until her back slammed against some kind of base. Warm liquid trickled down her forehead as well as in various spots of her arms and legs but she ignored them. Her hands probed around, looking desperately for the flashlight but it wasn’t anywhere near her nor it was around the smooth, almost polished, base that she had crashed against. Curiosity and her archeological side came to the forefront of her mind— the mummy already forgotten— and she began to glide her fingers over the soft surface that had very sharp edges at the sides and the feet of some statue over the top. It must have been carved on granite or obsidian stones; nothing more could have this smoothness and perfection!
A gravelly and raspy voice interrupted her thoughts, making her jump and turn around only to feel the breath of death over her face. Even without seeing him she trembled with fright and when a bony finger trailed the curve of her cheek, her knees weakened, making her wobble slightly. The creature whispered something in old Egyptian to her ear, licked the blood from her forehead, moaning from pleasure, and left as suddenly as it had appeared. She didn’t understand all that the ancient pharaoh had said to her but the words “beautiful mortal”, “delicious” and “sweet blood” rang in her ears long after the mummy disappeared from her side.
Tessa silently cried, dropping to her knees and shaking, thinking that her foolish impatience had sentenced not only her to a horrible death but Amun as well. Suddenly, a bony and papery-like foot stepped on her hand with so much force that she heard the bones crack and an ear splitting pain-filled cry ripped out her throat. The increase in the pressure over her, a slight shift on the air around her and a breath by her ear, told the young archaeologist that the dead pharaoh had crouched beside her.
“Like screams not tears.” That horrific voice confessed in bad English before lifting his foot and roughly grabbing her hand, earning a whimper. He whispered something in old Egyptian, that she didn’t want to know the meaning of, and licked the already drying blood from all the wounds in her limb. “Be mine,” he rasped again in English.
“Go to hell, monster!” she screamed without turning to face him while shaking with disgust, fury, fright, uncertainty, regret and a thousand things more.
He made a growling sound and held her by the neck, lifting her up from the ground. “Do not call me monster again, wretched human!” the creature screamed in modern Egyptian but with a foreigner accent, or more to the point, with her same accent. “I am Narmer, the eternal ruler of Egypt; and for your insult you deserve to be punished before I drink you completely.”
Narmer dropped the stupid female to the ground and chanted an old spell that formed a blueish energy he molded into a little sphere. He scratched the woman’s neck before she could scramble away from him and let the energy seep through the shallow gashes before stepping back to enjoy the show.
Tessa caressed her wounded neck when she felt something cold slipping through the scratches and hurried to get away from him. Running blindly through the darkness, her foot stumbled against something and she fell to the rock floor, scraping her knees and arms again. Great, more blood for that bastard to lick off me!
Her blood... The mummy seemed to be acquiring knowledge from somewhere. Could it be from her blood?
Then she felt it. She got dizzy all of a sudden, even still lying on the floor, and her mind became hazy. Her mouth tasted bitter and nauseas invaded her for almost an eternity when all of a sudden her strange symptoms vanished.
Carefully, she got up and began tiptoeing around, trying to find a wall that could guide her to an exit but she stopped abruptly when her foot stepped on something soft like... like flesh! Tessa tried backtracking but she stepped on the same thing and when she pointlessly looked down, another thing grabbed both her feet, making her fall again; only this time she didn’t hurt herself. Dozens, maybe hundreds of hands grabbed her at the same time, making her scream before trying to crawl away. It was futile. She was trapped by hands that pulled at her hair— ripping locks from her scalp—, others scratched her arms and face— hurting her broken hand which for some strange reason didn’t hurt anymore—, while a bunch of them just caressed her intimate parts and ripped out pieces of her clothing.
I’m going to die in this horrible place or worst: go nuts! Maybe that was it, maybe the toxic fumes of the sealed tomb made her go crazy and she was imagining everything that was happening. Or it could just be a dream, a sick and horrible nightmare but a dream nonetheless!
She continued crawling through the mass of hands, kicking and biting, until her strength faltered and she lay helplessly over the layer of limbs.
“PLEASE, PLEASE, NARMER, JUST MAKE IT STOP!”
A sinister laughter echoed around the old chamber and his voice pierced the darkness. He spoke again in old Egyptian, saying something about arousal and then changed to the modern language. “I could never say no to a woman begging for release.” A door opened on the far end and the dancing light of fire torches chased part of the darkness away. “Now you have the exit you wanted. Try to escape if you can.”
Seeing the light, Tessa grabbed the chisel with her good hand, still in her tool belt, stabbing every limb that tried to touch her and ran to the illuminated door. When she passed the threshold she found herself inside another chamber filled with two rows of columns and torches hanging from the walls. This one was smaller than the last one but the exit had been blocked by a beautifully painted stone slab copying the depictions of the world famous Narmer Palette.
Looking backwards to assure herself the monster hadn’t follow her in, she ran to the blocked path and tried to pry it open using the chisel on the cracks between the wall and the stone slab. Within seconds the wall howled in pain and the point where the chisel was began spurting blood, covering her torso in the dark red liquid. Trembling, the archaeologist continued prying the portal, ignoring everything and telling herself that it wasn’t real over and over again.
Please, God, let this nightmare be over soon!
Moments later, the slab moved a little but before she could celebrate, a face formed within the stone and screamed, making her jump away, dropping the chisel in the process and colliding with someone behind her.
Tessa stood paralyzed, looking directly to the beautiful stone slab and shaking when his voice murmured by her ear some kind of incantation. The exact moment he finished the coldness that she had felt before left her body.
“No more illusions,” he whispered. Instantly the blood vanished from her chest, the slab stopped bleeding and utter silence took possession of the chamber. The decayed pharaoh spun her around to face him and she gasped. The skin beneath the rotten bandages had rejuvenated a little; now instead of the dry and papery look it was juicy and fuller.
“What are you?”
“The man you rejected,” he said in Egyptian and threw her to the ground, sinking long canines on the soft flesh of her neck and drinking her sweet blood. She fought him at first but when he responded moaning and sinking his fangs deeper, she surrendered to him.
Her blood was like sweet honey recently taken from a beehive and her soft skin a temptation that he would have been happy to possess but she had ruined everything by calling him a monster. He could have gifted her with immortality but after that insult the only thing he would give her will be her death.
Narmer kept drinking until the woman’s body slumped in his arms and the blood didn’t flow so easily anymore. With an angry expression, he dropped her to the floor and gazed at her heart shaped face and caramel eyes, regretting the loss of such a fine female specimen. “Now you will accompany me forever; a pity that it won’t be as my consort.”
Still breathing but feeling the cold touch of death, Tessa saw the creature’s clear blue eyes glowing in the semi-lighted room as he ripped the remaining wrappings from his head, revealing short raven black locks that shone reddish with the torches. His skin had rejuvenated completely and now had a healthy golden tone that made the color of his eyes appear otherworldly. But before she could admire more of her assassin’s body, her eyes closed as one last word came to her tired mind: vampire.
The ancient pharaoh sighed, looking at the lifeless body of the mortal woman one last time before directing his attention to the exit— or entrance— of his tomb. Winds swirled around him until all the torches were blown out and the sand covering the outside stairs was swept away by gusts that filtered through the cracks opened in the stone. “It’s time.” A grin spread on his lips and he moved the stone slab to see the stars for the first time in millennia.
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