Monthly Archives: March 2013

Issue 7: The Wise and Ancient Dead: Mummies!

© Аrtranq - Fotolia.com

© Аrtranq

Are You My Mummy?, by Maria Kelly (Editorial)

Montu the Mummy, by Reed Beebe (Microfic)

I Am Not the Mummy, by David Edward Nell (Short Story)

Revenge, by KR Smith (Drabble)

Gauze-a-Strip, by Audiowriter (Short Story)

Dead, But Not Gone, by Aaron Wyckoff (Drabble)

The Red Mummy, by Audiowriter (Short Story)

A Matter of Personal Taste, by KR Smith (Short Story)

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Are You My Mummy?

© Igor Kovalchuk - Fotolia.com

© Igor Kovalchuk 

The ancient Egyptians were some creepy people.

When you died, they didn’t just bury you…they preserved their dead in a most delicate way. They had a strong belief in the afterlife. But it makes you wonder, the Egyptian mummification process. Did they expect their dead loved ones to return?

Who knows?

I asked writers to think about this and other ideas concerning mummies for this month’s issue.

The result was some pretty damn weird and scary tales. There are a couple of genre-blender stories; where horror crashes into alternate history and science fiction.

Enjoy!

Maria Kelly, Editor

The Were-Traveler

***NOTICE: I’m considering taking artwork for some upcoming issues. If you’re a new artist and would like something to put on your CV, read over the Calls for Submissions page and send me some of your work. I can’t afford to pay you, but if I select your work, I’ll give you proper credit and a mention in the issue, complete with links where possible paying clients can contact you.***

Montu the Mummy, by Reed Beebe

© Tatty - Fotolia.com

© Tatty

Egypt – 2,700 B.C.

The acolytes of the sorcerer Montu had furtively retrieved his body from the Pharaoh’s palace guards, and his embalmers were in the process of snaking a long hook through his nose in order to remove his brain. Earlier, his body had been carefully washed with palm wine and water from the Nile, and Montu’s followers surrounded his body as the embalmers worked, chanting as Montu had taught them. Montu had angered Pharaoh and his priests by invoking ancient, forbidden gods. Pharaoh ordered Montu’s death, but the cunning sorcerer had planned for this defeat. His followers’ preparations would ensure his return.

Egypt – 30 B.C.

History remembers Cleopatra for her wiles and her ambition, but she was also a talented witch. She kneeled before the mummy of her dark patron, Montu.

“I have failed you,” she said. “Marc Antony is dead, like Caesar before him. Our plans to rule the world are at an end.”

For you, they most certainly are, Montu’s voice echoed in her head. An asp slithered from the base of Montu’s sarcophagus. I had hopes that we could shape the world to our will. But I will find another partner.

The asp bit Cleopatra on the arm, and she died painfully.

Egypt – 1799 A.D.

General Napoleon Bonaparte was stressed. The British had destroyed the French fleet, cutting off supplies supporting his Egyptian campaign. He planned to abandon his troops in Egypt and flee to Paris. He was seriously thinking of overthrowing the government. And now the spirit of an old Egyptian mummy was whispering to him.

Take me from this tomb, take me to Paris, it whispered. People once feared the magic of Montu. With me at your side, the world will be ours.

Bonaparte stared at the ancient mummy his troops had discovered. No, thought Bonaparte. I’m not in the mood to share.

USA – 1939 A.D.

The Nazi occultist had eluded the police, but no criminal escapes The Matador. The masked vigilante had tracked Hans to an abandoned warehouse; Hans was standing before the sarcophagus he had stolen from the City Museum, engaged in dark, arcane rituals.

Unsheathing his sword and dramatically twirling his red cape, The Matador confronted Hans.

“You’re done, Nazi!” shouted The Matador, as he thrust his sword into the villain’s chest, before Hans could fire his handgun.

“Nein,” said the dying Nazi. “So close. Montu would have helped the Reich conquer the world.”

Looking at the mummy, The Matador felt a chill.

USA – 1985 A.D.

The artist stepped back from the drawing board, admiring her work. Amanda’s commission to design a mascot character for Tasty Food Company’s “Cereal Monster” brand was her big break, and she wanted to make sure everything was perfect.

Amanda’s visits to the City Museum provided inspiration. The Egyptian mummy she sketched there evolved into her “Montu the Mummy” character. Soon cartoonish Montu would be on millions of cereal boxes, winning the devotion of kids everywhere.

At night, Amanda dreamed of Montu, and when she awoke she remembered his promises of fame and riches, but not his invocations to dark gods.

USA – The Age of Montu (Day One)

President Keaton and his Cabinet stood in the Oval Office, surrounding the sarcophagus of Montu, chanting. Keaton had been a boy when he first heard Montu’s voice. Montu had been a secret mentor to Keaton since his mother bought that first box of “Montu the Mummy” cereal. Keaton came to realize that he was not alone; others, including his Cabinet, were Montu’s friends. Museum officials were eager to honor his request that the mummy be brought to the White House. Outside, in Washington, and across America, thousands chanted. The sky turned red. Montu laughed as his gods came to Earth.

~~~

Reed Beebe writes fiction and poetry in Kansas City, Missouri. His stories have been published by The Were-Traveler, Schlock!, and Inner Sins.

I Am Not the Mummy, by David Edward Nell

He had agreed to do the interview on one condition: that it be conducted in the middle of nowhere, inside an abandoned warehouse in Dunkirk. In addition, no one was to know. That’s why both of us had come alone. City germs–that’s the reason he’d cited. Personally, I figured his choice of location rather had to do with the reputation he was trying to mask. Criminal ties. Shady characters. Deadly deals. At least, that’s what the fringe suggested. I knew the risks, but couldn’t resist meeting one of the most infamous idols on the planet. Indeed, I was quite aware of the rumours about there being a hit on his head, too. Now that he was sitting in front of me, in the flesh, I was beginning to understand why his life was on the line.

I had been greeted with silence, made to wait until he was done with a call to his agent. In the awkward quiet thereafter, I discerned what was of his clothing. I figured those old bandages or perhaps the lingering rot of his bare feet was cause for the rank aroma. Grimacing past the torture, I was asked to lean over to feed his cigarette with my lighter; he’d run out, being the rich man he was. Parting his gauze, The Mummy treated his lips, and I had a glimpse at the horror which lurked behind that cover. I shook away the sight which I will not describe here, as it is a memory too painful to recall. When he was done, I sighed in relief.

“You’re a sweetheart,” was his response. Stretching, he dismounted a poster hanging on the wall above that was advertising Blazing Sands 2, a paranormal action film centred at teenagers. For whatever reason, even though there were no cameras about, he had hung it there, anyway.

I offered a hand. “Do you want me to–”

“Just leave it there,” The Mummy replied. “Let’s begin.”

So I clicked on my trusty tape recorder. “Mr Mummy, thank you for doing this interview with Shifting Slabs Esoterica Magazine. It’s definitely exciting to speak to you here today.”

“Awww, sure thing. I suppose you’re real honored, aren’t you?”

“I am,” I lied.

“That’s why they’ve nicknamed me Mass Appeal.”

“Who has?”

“Friends, associates, people in clubs.”

“Right.”

“So how’s England?” he asked, staring at his cigarette which he was dangling in the air, coughing unexpectedly. “Strong stuff,” he muttered.

“Actually, I’m from Wales.”

“Freaking Wales,” he quipped, having a chuckle.

“That’s a bit cheeky, sir,” I was tempted to say. But I did say this, “Wales is a beautiful country.”

And he replied, “Bet you’re just saying that otherwise your king will smack your bum.”

I ripped open his chest and ate his heart. In my mind. In reality, ignored his jest. “I’d like to discuss this new project of yours.”

“Yeah, yeah. It’s gonna be huge.”

“Some consider you to be one of the most mysterious and opportunistic figures in show business.”

“I wouldn’t say opportunistic. The opportunities fall at my feet. I would say talented.”

“Not necessarily…in that order.” I straightened my spectacles. “With your reach in a variety of arts and even sport and business, you’ve certainly shown how flexible you can be. Thirteen big-budget television films, most of them in the martial arts genre; your very own infomercial network, which sells home appliances to retired folk; two autobiographies selling at all the Barnes and Noble stores; and a bronze medal for high-jump in the winter olympics. Or so you claim.”

“Those are facts. Wikipedia that shizzit.”

“Good for you. Plus, you achieved the latter fully-clothed, no less.”

“That’s how I do.”

“But you recently took quite a long hiatus from all this activity. Have you stepped out of the game?”

“Nah. I needed some time to relax and unwind.”

“So what are your new plans?”

“Hold on. I’m getting to that,” he said, and showed me his palm, which I envisioned biting. “To be humble for a minute, I consider myself a lucky stiff. If it wasn’t for the adoration of my peeps, I wouldn’t be running this one-man show.” The Mummy threw up a hand sign aimed at no one in particular, and I gently clapped–my hands, not his face–to appease him.

“Shall we say freakshow?” I dared to say, hoping he’d get the joke.

“That’s a little insulting. Nah.” Of course, he didn’t.

“My apologies,” I said. “Now, this new career venture of yours. Rap.”

“Yeah?”

“Allegedly, you’re about to open a record label and release your own album. Bit of a left turn, isn’t it?”

“I’m a pop star. I go with the wind. No one tells me what to do.”

“Ah. A rebel you certainly are. Can you tell us more about your decision?”

“I reckoned the shift to rap music was natural. Most people think they know me, but they don’t. I’m a creative juggernaut, an original. Hell, I’m creating my own sub-genre, which I call wrap music.”

“Oh.”

“Rap with a W.”

“I get you,” I said.

“It’s gonna be the next big thing.”

“How would you describe this musical concoction?”

“Can you ask that question differently?”

“I’m sorry?”

“I didn’t get that word. Concoc-whatever.”

“How would you describe your genre?”

“It’s an underground rhythm straight from the Egyptian streets, raw and deadly, yo. Also, I’m releasing my own underwear line called Fruit of the Tomb. So look out for that in May.”

“I’m sure we will.” I asked what I’d been meaning to ask, “Do you consider yourself a man with a lot of enemies?”

“The media loves to hype,” he replied. At my behest.

“Can we talk about your longtime grudge with Boris Karloff and Karl Freund?”

“What’s there to say that hasn’t already been said? They ripped off my act, dirtied my image. I mean, who the hell walks like that? Nah, man, that was a terrible imitation. Shit.”

“What about all the offshoots? What do you think of those?”

The Mummy shook his head. “Makes my heart pain. They all took a big chunk out of my soul. But what can you do? It’s a thing of the past. Never say I don’t dwell on the future.”

“Okay. Is there any truth that you’ve had your life threatened? When you disappeared, there were claims that you’d been kidnapped.”

“I don’t know where you got that. Who’s your source?” he asked.

“There’s a number of sources, actually.”

“No comment.”

“So you were kidnapped?”

“Maybe. Maybe not. You know, I’m a very successful businessman. There’s a lot of peeps that hate me, dig? They’re jealous, is all. Especially that overgrown nut on the East coast.”

“You’re referring to Frankenstein’s Monster, who runs the studio East Coast Death Jam?”

“Frankenbitch is more like it. And maybe,” he said, shrugging.

“Does he perhaps consider it a cheap shot that you’re stepping into his industry? Surely, reading this, he’ll take offense, will he not?”

“I don’t care. Next question.” He ate the rest of his cigarette.

“What role does The Blob play in all this?”

“That small-time jig can’t even find his own ass, okay?” The Mummy ripped away from his seat. “Wrap up this interview,” he demanded.

As he began storming off, I pulled a fiendish smile and asked, “Before you became what you are, you were said to have–and I quote–bought your way to fame. Where did this wealth come from, sir? Are you involved in illegal activities?”

“Who do you think you are, mother fucker? Are you from the feds?” The Mummy returned and brooded over me.

I saw his Mickey Mouse sweater underneath, and had a eureka moment. I gasped. “Are you the real Mummy?”

There was a bit of hesitation on his part. Then, in a sudden moment of rage, he put his hands around my throat, thrusting his thumbs into the small of my neck, my mouth desperate to gulp down breath, my face turning beet-red like the stains on his teeth I was now noticing. At the same time, I felt the need to retch. So I did, right onto his hands, yet he persisted in his need to kill yours truly. I must’ve blacked out right there, though the crash I heard was quite audible, enough to awaken me, and I wasn’t certain where it had come from until I was out of that swine’s grasp and on the ground, scouring the area that was filling with dust. Then I saw it. A hummer. Out of nowhere, it had come careening through the walls. There was even a head poking through its roof, another scaly figure who was gripping a crossbow and pointing that weapon at my ridiculous guest, looking exactly alike as he. I heard the Mummy pleading.

“I’m young and famous, B. I can’t die like this.”

His voice was right by me and I realized he was nearby, so I proceeded to slap The Mummy in revenge. And it was quite the resounding one, because he certainly didn’t have the gall to try me that instant, that humbled oaf. And for those reading this, don’t ever put your hands on me–you will regret it.

Next, the mysterious man, or thing, climbed out, lifted his target up, and pinched him by the ear to drag him to the vehicle. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t cheering on this public beating.

“Who are you?” I questioned of my hero.

“I should ask the same,” that man-thing said.

I was still hacking. “Just a journalist.”

“Did you do anything with my boy? Frolicking or suchlike?”

“No, not at all. But he was choking me and–” I was taken aback, hearing those words. “Your boy?”

“My son.”

“What? How?”

“That’s right, my son. And his place is in the tomb with his family.”

After a confused pause, I said, “But he’s a grown man, isn’t he? He’s a…” I hesitated. “A celebrity?”

“Who, he? No. This boy is nothing but a reckless, thieving brat with his head in the wrong place, inside his own arse.”

“Well, sir, I guess I have to agree with you.”

He threw his voice towards the hummer, “Are you listening? I ought to smack you upside the mouth for stealing our money. Always with the fame and bollocks.”

I cleared my throat to get his attention. “Will he come back?”

“Never again, madam. Never again,” he said, and he left with The Mummy and drove back through the way he came.

That was the last anyone would ever see of the boy who wasn’t really a man who wasn’t really a human, that notorious figure who had once invaded an awards show to claim his rightful trophy. But there was one incident a year on, after my big story hit papers. Tabloids began printing photographs of someone appearing to be The Mummy, who appeared to be having a rested walk in Hollywood Boulevard with a poodle. However, it was determined later on that it wasn’t him after all.

Finally, I’d just like to say that I am not writing this to clear up the rumours that I, Shirley Watson, am actually The Mummy. I can assure you that this is impossible, and that the real Mummy was quite addicted to the allure of fame, not shy of it. So, crazy theorists, please stop referring to me as The Mummy. Thank you.

~~~

Having spent years trying to evade the Equestrian mafia, David Edward Nell now writes from a nameless hideout in Cape Town, South Africa. By night, disguised as numerous pop culture figures, he can usually be found scouring the African plains for loving. Stalk him at http://davidedwardnell.blogspot.com, but keep this a secret.

Revenge, by KR Smith

Image courtesy of Fotolia.com

Image courtesy of Fotolia.com

As it was foretold, I am awakened from my slumber by the faithful followers of Isis, rising again to reign over what once was mine. My dry bones move slowly, deliberately, through the dark tunnels, through the dusty passages, until I reach the realm of mortals. As my ancient eyes reopen to see what has become of my kingdom, I am not pleased. The warmth of the sunlight upon my parched flesh renews my desire to rule this new world and destroy the descendants of my enemies. I have paid my price in death; now it is time for them.

~~

K. R. Smith is a full-time Information Technology Specialist and a part-time writer, frustrated by his inability to get any meaningful programming code to rhyme and still function properly. While mainly interested in writing short stories of the horror genre, he occasionally delves into poetry, songwriting, and the visual arts. His escapades may be followed by reading his blog at www.theworldofkrsmith.com.

Gauze-a-Strip, by Audiowriter

© Morphart - Fotolia.com

© Morphart 

Searing heat rippled in waves across the rolling dunes of sand just west of the Egyptian Nile River. The air is rank with human sweat and animal feces as sounds of taught ropes stretch and oxen snort while stout foremen angrily bark out orders reinforced with sharp snaps from leather whips. An army of a thousand dirty slaves are aligned in neat single file rows loudly grunting in timed unison as they gallantly pull the colossal granite statue of Pharaoh Ramses II up the steep slope to its final position just outside the recently deceased king’s tomb.

The workers are laboring extraordinarily hard today because there are four muscular men in clean white pelvic wraps approaching. They are grasping two thick carrying poles that support the Pharaoh’s litter throne. The vertical posts and upper railing of the mobile room are gold plated and brilliantly reflecting the mid day sun. A gold embroidered plush red velvet curtain surrounds the cabin on all sides. Inside sits the High Priest, Roma. His very name strikes fear within the hearts of every soul in the kingdom from rumored tales of torture and murder, which are constantly whispered during the late hours of night throughout the slave camps.

Pale fingers and wrists adorned with large gold rings and elaborate bracelets sparkle in the relentless sun as Roma holds the soft curtains slightly apart to view the important construction efforts currently underway. His weather worn face and sour expression leer out from within his cool transport sanctum, only confirming truth to his evil intentions. His eyes are thickly trimmed with black paint, exaggerating his angry expression, making him look even more intimidating as he scans the terrified peasants with a brutal criticizing stare. The thin lips below his large pitted nose have never been known to smile, not even in the slightest, over the past decade of his untouchable position as High Priest.

Roma has been jealous of how each and every Pharaoh would solely receive the affection and respect of the kingdoms subjects, even though it is actually he, Roma, which is the driving intelligence behind every decision. This last Pharaoh, Ramses II, was no different than all the ones before, spending every waking moment indulged in selfish erotica, spanning endless hours to make up a lazy, care free life filled with luxury and bliss, while Roma’s days and nights had been totally consumed with planning and overseeing every pertinent aspect of the kingdoms varied needs for continued existence.

But, that was all in the past. It was Roma’s time now. Ramses had died a decrepit old man of almost ninety two. Roma took pleasure in seeing the old man suffer from several rotted and hideously abscessed teeth and crippling arthritis. Yes, it had been sweet revenge watching that wrinkled and hunched over king struggle in pain just to walk or lift a challis of water to his parched lips.

Roma arrived back at the palace as the moon rose in the sky and a cool breeze began blowing in through the high open balcony. It felt joyous to lie down and violate the queen in the king’s bed. Yes, he could finally feel vindication by ramming his thickness into her without worrying about being caught by the Pharaoh’s personal guards.

After he had finished sexually abusing the queen, he moved to relax on the king’s vacant seat in the throne room while sipping a goblet of sweet wine. Roma began reminiscing about performing the lengthy mummification rituals on that old mans corpse over the past several weeks. He remembered the revolting stench of decomposition flooding his nostrils each time he entered the Temple of the Dead. The dead king had been lying on an elevated bed of stone, his blackened body beginning to bloat, as two of Roma’s female assistants sat with hands busy near the lifeless head. They were topless, sprouting firm, sweaty breasts that glistened in the dancing flames from numerous small pyres burning around the room. The young slaves knew not to look away from their task of jamming long wires with hooked ends up through the nostrils into the corpse’s skull as they dug out long, stringy trails of brain matter. Roma almost smiled while watching Ramses brain being removed piece by piece by these naked young girls in such a crude fashon. He relished the feeling of ultimate power that surged through his thoughts as he recalled the savage sexual threesome he experienced on a daily basis only a few feet away from the dead kings rotting body. He indulged his every sexual fantasy with several vivacious women, knowing their lips were forever sealed from ever retelling the depraved violations they received. Roma was intoxicated with the knowledge that not a single person would dare enter the Temple of the Dead while the mummification process was underway. This process would last nearly one hundred days, and that would be sufficient time for him to indulge in wicked desires with an endless supply of helpless, beautiful daughters of the slave population. He also recalled being eternally grateful for the mandatory traditional burning of incense throughout the entire ceremonial process to help alleviate the overwhelming rotten stench of decomposition lofting thickly in the stagnant air of the dimly lit room while he abused his numerous slaves. The smell of sex, death and burning ambers only heightened his arousal for sexual release day after despicable day.

Roma couldn’t help but pleasure himself while sitting in Ramses throne room and mentally reminiscing about the sixty or more innocent girls he had savagely violated in the Temple during the past months. After only a few minutes of stroking his erection, his essence was spent on the dusty stone floor and he resumed sipping wine from the dead king’s royal challis. Just as the rim of the goblet touched his thin lips, he heard a noise coming from the huge stone pillar lined hallway just beyond the towering wood doors. His body tensed. He waited in anticipation of seeing who it was that would be receiving a severe and probably fatal flogging for disturbing his privacy.

Muted sounds of cloth scraping across the sandy stone floor echoed throughout the hall and began growing louder and nearer. He set the goblet down and slowly walked to the enormous doors, placing his ear against the thick timbers to listen intently. The scraping continued until it was just beyond the wall of wood and suddenly it stopped. Roma waited for several heartbeats, but the air remained silent. Finally, he could take the suspense no longer and unbolted the latch and pulled the goliath, creaking doors slightly open.

The gaping crack revealed a midnight black hallway of nothing but dark shadows. He could see only a single torch dimly flickering in a leaning sconce at the far end of the wide passage. Then, suddenly, a powerful hand lunged in through the gap and cinched tightly around his slender neck. The fingers felt soft against his jugular skin but the strength was incredible. He couldn’t breathe. He was beginning to feel light headed as the blood flow to his brain almost ceased. Just as he was about to pass out, the hand shoved him away extremely hard, showing another display of tremendous strength and power. Roma’s frail body flew high in the air across the large room, landing with a painful thud on the cold stone floor near the throne seats. His body rolled with the impact and slammed hard against the throne platform landing. Roma tried to regain his senses as he looked around in total confusion and a long forgotten but increasingly growing sense of primal fear.

Then Roma got a flashing glimpse of his attacker. It was a man, but not a regular man, it was a human body wrapped in tattered linens and smelling of decomposition and spiced oils. The room was too dim to see anything in clarity from only a few small pyres burning near the outer walls. But Roma was now positive it was the mummified corpse of Ramses, now walking, limping, stumbling toward him, and dragging one leg as if it were broken. The hideous creature etched closer and closer with paused, scraping sounds of his left foot being drug across the sand strewn stone floor.

A glitter of shining gold caught Roma’s eye from the right. It was the king’s scepter. It was standing upright, leaning against the throne, only an arms length away. He reached for it, grabbing the six foot long elaborately decorated spear in his trembling right hand, the metal rings on his narrow fingers clinking sharply against the gold plating on the wooden shaft. Roma used the scepter to pull himself into a standing position then quickly turned to find the mummy only a few feet away, arms outstretched, several dirty linen wrappings dangling, swaying with the stumbling motions of the apparition. Roma swung the scepter hard, directly at the brainless head of the walking corpse, but it did not connect. The mummy’s left arm shot up lightning fast, grabbing the scepter in mid swing, stopping it as if it had struck a wall of stone. Roma reared back, pulling hard on the glittering spear, but to no avail. The mummy jerked it backward once, causing Roma to stumble straight into his attacker. The scepter fell, loudly clanking to the floor and quickly rolled toward the wall out of reach. The mummified Ramses grabbed Roma by the neck with both hands, lifting him off the ground. The dead king seemed taller and bigger than his rotting corpse had actually been earlier that same day. He had somehow morphed into a demon from the underworld, a demonic warrior of the God Osiris. Roma kicked violently at the mummy’s legs and crotch while using is glittering jeweled hands in a useless attempt to peal the dingy white linen wrapped fingers away from his neck. Then Ramses spoke,

“Roma, you have dishonored me and all Pharaoh’s before me. You shall reap a death of eternal sacrifice to the sun God Ra.”

Roma’s eyes released tears of pain and freight, causing the black makeup to smear down his thin cheeks, slowly making his face appear sad and defeated. Then a loud popping sound echoed throughout the large room. It was Roma’s neck snapping under the tremendous force. The angered mummy squeezed harder and harder until the Priest’s head separated from his shoulders. His lifeless body fell with a slapping thud to the hard stones, wriggling and twitching in spastic convulsions. The detached head shot upward and off to the side, spiraling downward, bouncing with a hollow clunk on the solid floor.

Ramses quickly licked and sucked the freshly spilled blood from the crimson soaked linens on his hands and fingers. The life giving liquid droplets instantly completed his resurrection into full reality. He was now beyond human, beyond the imagination, he was now the risen dead, the living dead, and the ultimate God of revenge.

The queen had silently witnessed the carnage and began screaming as she made a desperate attempt to flee back down the monolithic hallway, away from the creature that had once been her royal husband. Ramses picked up the scepter and held it in a jousting stance, then slung it with all his might. The gold plated spear whizzed through the air, spinning and reflecting shards of light as it passed between the tall gaping doors, ultimately striking the queen in the center of her back and erupting out of her naked chest, precisely between her sumptuous breasts with a bloody, fatal exit. Her impaled body fell and skidded to a mangled heap on the sandy stone floor. Ramses calmly walked down to her, removed the scepter from her bloody torso and held it in both hands, high above his head, as he let out a demonic moan from hell that awakened all the land to bow down before their new King of the Dead.

~~~

Audiowriter is an entrepreneur of many endeavors and a seasoned musician, located in southern Indiana.

 He has an obsessive compulsion to spend every available moment creating written text and audio recordings of melodic musical notes. He currently has several completed novels on the shelf awaiting publication, varying from graphic horror to commercial fiction. Also in his literary arsenal is an abundance of short stories, drabbles and lyrics. Many of his original songs and music are directly inspired by the intriguing tales flowing from his wildly descriptive imagination.

Should you dare to enter the realm of Audiowriter, go to:

www.customaudioproductions.com/Audiowriter

Dead, But Not Gone, by Aaron Wyckoff

© Igor Kovalchuk - Fotolia.com

© Igor Kovalchuk 

“You want what!?”

“I want to be mummified.”

I stared in disbelief at my brother, my only remaining relative.

“You have to be kidding! They don’t do that anymore.”

“But they can. We know exactly how to make it all work, better now than they ever did in the past. I’m dying. It’s a matter of days. I want to leave something behind, something permanent.”

I don’t know how he managed it. He actually found someone to do it.

Now, looking down at his mummy, I finally understand. Tomorrow I will change my will. Together we will last for millennia.

~~~

Aaron Wyckoff is a native of Columbus, Ohio, and works as a freelance writer, editor, and genealogist. In addition to short stories, he also enjoys writing picture books and novels for children and young adults. You can read his blog at aaronjwyckoff.blogspot.com or follow him on Twitter @ajwyckoff.

The Red Mummy, by Audiowriter

The images from Mars Rover 12 were incredible. Not even a professor specializing in ancient historical structures, Dr. Jake North, could confirm with certainty what the detailed pictures seemed to suggest. Several huge red stone pillars carved into a solid rock wall guarding what seemed to be two large metal doors. Professor North compared the pillar’s construction details to both early Egyptian and late Roman design and the doors were definitely of modern titanium metal. Of course, this made absolutely no sense, because this structure was in a deep crater on the surface near the north pole of the planet Mars, and how could these Earthly designs have been constructed centuries ago on such a distant planet?

Even though the year is 2079, and several manned missions to the red planet had already been completed over the past decade, nothing like this had ever been found. The WGEA (World Galactic Exploration Agency) immediately made preparations for a new mission to the red planet. Professor North volunteered to spearhead the investigation along with a security military team and a construction specialist team. A total of seven men and two women were set to launch on the 48 hour journey the following morning.

The exploration space vessel, aptly named the “Explorer”, made the trip in just under 47 hours, landing in the reddish soil near the edge of the enormous crater. Dr. North wasted no time in beginning the investigation. He and two heavily armed security officers, Captain Zack Savage and Lieutenant Raven Holms accompanied the two construction specialists, Tom Gunn and Lance Drake on the first expedition into the unknown. The remaining two militants, Privates Ashley Waters and Terrance Bond were stationed at the Explorer with pilot Ron Vance and navigator Harold Tread as an extra back up security measure.

The five member mobile team disembarked the Explorer dressed in bulky white space suits with thick mirrored reflective glass bubbles protruding from their helmets. They awkwardly boarded the large personnel rover, with its chrome metal glittering as it reflected the eerie weak beams of the unusually distant sun. Capt. Savage was in the drivers seat with Dr. North riding shotgun. Lieutenant Holms and construction Foreman Gunn were in the rear seats with explosives specialist Drake standing on top of the large tool boxes near the back of the rover while everyone sternly held on to the overhead roll bars.

Four faces watched intently through a large plate glass window in the Explorer’s observation deck as the rover was quickly and completely swallowed in total darkness as it disappeared over the crest of the vast crater. The mobile crew found little comfort in the twelve headlamps as they barely cut through the blackness just in front of the bouncing rover as it bumped and jarred over rocks and small boulders down the steep descending slope until it reached the flat plateau at the craters bottom. The rover had seemed fairly large and comforting only moments ago in the dim sunlight above, but now it seemed small and frail in the endless abyss of darkness. The ride smoothed out and the tires made deep tracks in the thick, red dust as it neared the location of the unbelievably tall structure that grew in size just ahead.

As the comparatively insignificant rover approached, the pillars towered above them like four redwoods made of stone. The frail headlamps were only powerful enough to partially illuminate a single pillar, and only the lower portion. The titanium metal doors behind the enormous posts of stone reflected the artificial light back at the five humans, causing their mirrored helmets to glisten like miniature disco balls.

The team exited the rover and retrieved powerful flashlights and other equipment from the toolboxes. Dr. North paused at the pillar illuminated by the headlamps and began to investigate the somewhat familiar carvings that fully encompassed its circumference. The lower three feet was cut with vertical fluted ribs which reminded him of Roman or Greek architecture. Above that, the pillar was covered with Egyptian hieroglyphics as far up as the lights illuminated. There was no mistake, the caricatures were definitely of Egyptian origin. Dr. North was so excited, and scared, he could barely operate the high definition camera to visually document this momentous sight.

Capt. Savage glanced at the oxygen gauge on his wrist and placed his hand on Dr. North’s shoulder to get his attention. Dr. North jumped in absolute terror and almost dropped the camera. Savage pointed to his wrist and said through the communication radio,

“We’ve got to keep moving.”

Dr. North slowly nodded with understanding that their life support tanks contained approximately two hours worth of oxygen, which meant they actually were left with only an hour of exploring when subtracting the thirty minute rover descent into the crater and the forty five minute return climb back out. He reluctantly agreed to move on, and the team then approached the huge shining metal doors.

The surface looked smooth, but upon closer inspection, it actually consisted of thousands of small pyramid shaped impressions, about an inch square. The valleys between the shapes were exactly the same size and shape as the protruding pyramids, only in reverse. The entire surface was consistently covered with these symmetrically perfect pyramid impressions. Dr. North ran his left hand over the surface and the thick gloved finger tips gently rubbed across the pointed tips.

At that moment, the huge doors began to slowly swing outwardly open. A powerful vibration could be felt, but only the slightest of sound could be heard. This was due to the atmosphere being less dense than that of earth.

The team had no choice but to back away and allow the behemoth doors to travel their course. A powerful gust of smoky steam rushed out with a slight hiss as the doors breached their dormant seal. The steam instantly vanished into the thin atmosphere and the solid rock beneath their feet constantly vibrated as if a biblical earthquake was taking place.

The doors came to an abrupt halt when they were pointing straight outward at 90 degree angles to the walls. These monolith slabs of metal were each ten feet high, six feet wide and several inches thick. Savage estimated them to weigh several tons each. The inside surface of the doors adorned the exact same pyramid design as the outer.

Savage quickly inspected the door edges where they met when closed and discovered a row of small holes running along the entire length. He assumed all four edges of both doors, top bottom and both sides, had these small holes that must be the source of some kind of atomic seal.

The inner sanctum was pitch black. The flashlight beams seemed to go on forever into empty depths. No matter which direction the beams were directed inside the cavernous temple, the light simply faded into abysmal nothingness. The team all looked at each other in hopes of someone having an intelligent explanation or suggestion. But nobody was able to come up with anything reasonable.

Savage made the decision. He stepped through the threshold and stood motionless for a fraction of a second just inside. Then, he began walking deeper into the blackness. The team focused their beams on the back of his white suit until it eventually disappeared out of sight. They couldn’t see him or the beam of his flashlight. They again looked at each other in absolute terror as their beams of light began to quiver into the dark interior from trembling hands.

Then, suddenly, a faint beam of light could be seen shining from deep within the darkness. It looked to be hundreds of feet away. But there was no way Savage could have traversed that distance in such a short amount of time. The beam grew brighter and larger, as if Savage had begun walking back toward the entrance. Then the frail beam of light suddenly disappeared.

Another several seconds ticked by and each member of the team jumped in fright as the communications in their helmets screeched with blaring tones of feedback, then quickly fading to a steady scratch of static. Then they heard Savage’s voice excitedly saying,

“Come on in here! You won’t believe what I’ve found!”

The team again looked at each other and just as Dr. North began to enter the temple, Lieutenant Holmes grabbed his arm and said,

“We’re going to do this by the book. I will lead, you follow, then Drake. Gunn, you stay out here until I call for you on the radio.”

They entered into the blackness single file as directed, and Gunn watched from the threshold. Just as Drake was completely inside, the doors silently began to close. Not even Gunn noticed the movement. The ground didn’t shake or rumble. Gunn was pushed from behind as the behemoth doors closed tightly together and sealed shut. When the doors slammed shut, they vibrated the floor. The rest of the team looked back to see what had happened. Gunn had fallen down from the sudden push from behind and his flashlight had slipped from his grasp and began spinning in circles on the gritty slab floor. The beam flashed in a quick circle like a police car light, only white in color, as it spun wildly on the floor.

Just then the entire space was instantly illuminated with blinding light. The team held their suited arms up to block the glare coming into their helmets as they tried to see what had happened to Gunn. Then, out of nowhere, Savage came running up from behind. He was frantic, heading toward the door. At first Holms though Savage was going to help Gunn, but there was something much more sinister taking place, and Savage was the only one quite aware of what it was.

The radio communications blared with the terrified voice of Savage saying,

“Run! Get the hell out of here! It’s coming after us!”

Holms turned to look deeper into the temple to see at what Savage had encountered. Dr. North and Drake began running after Savage toward the doors. Gunn had gotten to his feet and the four of them turned back to see a tall, black beastly creature with a metal spear in its hand running toward them. It was heading straight for Holms. She turned and began running toward the doors, but the creature was gaining on her. She wasn’t gong to make it.

Dr. North couldn’t believe his eyes! The creature was the Egyptian God Seth. The God of chaos. But this thing wasn’t human. Hell, it wasn’t animal either. It looked to be made of black painted wood. It must have stood twelve feet tall with a head shaped like a huge bird. It’s running motions were as smooth as a human mans. How could this be? The long spear in its right hand and huge beak like nose with pointed ears standing straight up on the sides of its head. This is impossible, Dr. North thought to himself.

Just then a barrage of machine gun fire sputtered out from his left. The sound was muffled, barely making a noise. The puffs of gunpowder residue timidly pelting the side of Dr. North’s suit. It was Savage. He was shooting at the creature, trying to save Holms, but the bullets seem to travel in slow motion. Not super slow motion, but slower than expected. That didn’t seem right. The thin air should allow the bullets to zoom even faster than they would on Earth. It must be the low oxygen content in the atmosphere not allowing the gunpowder to fully burn, causing the bullets to travel slower.

Then the gunfire suddenly got louder, the bullets began traveling faster. The atmosphere inside the temple was thickening. The air pressure and content was miraculously changing.

The bullets began striking the beast with ferocious accuracy. Splinters of black painted wood were tearing off the head of the creature. It slowed its pursuit of Holms. Savage changed clips and began another barrage of fire. Holms finally reached the rest of the group and began firing her weapon. The creature was coming apart. Large chips and splintered shards of wood flew in the air, cluttering the stone floor. The beast fell to its knees, still trying to attack its victims. The bullets kept pounding the wooden apparition. It fell flat on the hard floor, crawling, reaching, clawing at the team. Then, when it was only twenty feet away, Drake threw an explosive charge at the faltering creature. The charge went off, the blast threw the team up against the titanium doors and ripped the creature apart into nothing more than wood chips and sawdust.

Dr. North was stunned, he couldn’t move, absolutely engulfed with the horrid scene. Savage and Holms tried to open the huge doors, but to no avail. Then all of a sudden they heard a clomping sound. Like stone on stone. They all fearfully looked into the depths of the temple to witness an even more horrific vision. A solid stone statue, running, clomping with thunderous footsteps straight toward them. It was huge. Twenty feet tall. Thick as an oak tree. Savage and Holms began firing at it. The bullets ricocheting off, whizzing and whining off into the distance. The lead projectiles seemed to have no effect on this creature of stone.

Drake prepared another explosive charge as he said,

“I’ll have to get closer to it before it reaches us, or the charge will kill us too!”

Savage nodded to Holms and they took off running toward the charging statue. Each ran on opposite sides toward their attacker, along the outer walls of the enormous temple. The statue slowed to a walk, moving its head from side to side with a loud scraping sound, trying to decide which one to chase. Drake took advantage of the few seconds and made a mad dash straight toward the confused creature of stone.

Drake had covered the charge with a sticky silicone substance. He ran past the creature and tossed the charge toward its shoulder. The explosive glop slammed against the hard surface and stuck for a moment, then it began sliding down the creatures back. The stone beast stopped and tried to reach the charge, but it was out of reach of its awkward arms and hands. Drake yelled loudly in the radio,

“Take cover! It’s going to blow rock everywhere!”

Drake dove and rolled into a fetal position only ten yards away from the creature as it still fumbled awkwardly, stepping in circles, as it tried to remove the gooey charge. Savage hid behind a smaller pillar on the left wall and Holms did the same on the right wall. The rest of the team hunkered down together, facing the doors, with their backs toward the immanent explosion. Then it happened.

Drake had made this charge quite a bit larger than the last. The shockwave carried bits and pieces of shattered stone and grit in all directions around the room. The entire team was pelted with sand and rubble from the completely shattered monstrosity of stone.

The lights suddenly dimmed and several loud moaning roars filled the air. The team looked toward the rear of the temple to see an even more hideous sight. A countless number of dingy linen wrapped human figures were advancing toward them. It was an army of mummies. Arms outstretched, legs stiffly fumbling to walk their ancient bodies fore ward. The moans so loud, they were almost deafening. Padded scrunching of linen wrapped feet scraping across the gritty red stone floor.

Savage leaped out from behind the small pillar and pointed his machine gun at one of the advancing apparitions. Something invisible jerked the gun from his grasp and floated it several feet above his head. Then the gun began to glow a dull red, as if being heated in a furnace. It red glow quickly grew ever brighter, hotter and hotter, until the bullets within the clip exploded from the heat. Then the gun began to melt in mid air. Molten steel oozing, dripping and plopping then sizzling onto the hard, cold floor. Then it was only a cooling, graying pile of useless steel. The same thing happened to Holm’s machine gun. Drake yelled at the rest of the team through the radio,

“Get away from my back pack – all of the C4 inside is going to explode.”

Gunn grabbed the pack and threw it as hard as he could toward the advancing mob of mummies. It flew, flipping and twirling through the air, then it suddenly stopped motionless, ten feet above the floor. Hanging there as if tied by a rope to the ceiling.

Then, simultaneously, each of the teams helmets unlocked and flew off their heads, bouncing off the walls and floor. Each member knew this was the end. And what a horrific end is was going to be, to die of suffocation. They all held their breath as long as possible. Dr. North was the first to succumb. His face turning blue, mind and body undulating, wanting, compulsively desiring to breathe. He had no choice but to let out his last breath and suck in something… anything! It was a natural reaction. He sucked in hard, wanting to feel cool air filling his lungs, but knowing it was going to be toxic nitrogen and carbon monoxide, or who knew what other gasses instead. The rest of the team impatiently waited to see what happened to Dr. North. There wasn’t much reason to wait, they too were only seconds away from having no choice but to breathe. Hell, even if they could hold their breath long enough to pass out, their automatic brain functions were going to breathe as soon as they became unconscious. But they all were ever so wrong. The air flowed in to Dr. North’s lungs with life saving oxygen. It was good. It was perfectly fine to breathe. He breathed in and out several times, almost smiling at the satisfaction. The rest of the team followed suit, feeling the comforting feeling of breathable air. The few seconds of relief was short lived as the advancing army of mummies surrounded their prey.

Waters, Bond, Vance and Tread were by now frantic. The last transmission they had heard was when the team had entered the structure in the bowels of the crater. They had been trying to reach the team on the radio ever since. Then Vance suddenly let out a yell in the observation deck,

“I see them! I can see the rover lights coming up out of the crater!”

The four watched impatiently, and slightly concerned, as the team crested the craters edge but didn’t respond to the radio call. The team sat stiff and oddly calm in the rover seats. Then the rover disappeared underneath the Expedition, heading for the air lock. Inside the mother ship, the four waited at the air lock to be briefed on the structures contents. Within a few moments, they heard the outer doors open, then close with the team safely inside. Then the inner door opened.

The impatient four found it very odd that all five of the team had left their space suits on upon entering the inner sanctum of the Expedition. Then Vance noticed something odd. The face of Capt. Savage looked very strange, very strange indeed. He couldn’t be certain, because of the mirrored glass visor, but Vance seemed to have some dirty linen shroud covering his face. Then all hell broke lose. The five team members, Savage, Holms, North, Drake and Gunn overpowered the four reserve unit members, Waters, Bond Vance and Tread.

The starship Expedition never did return radio hails from WGEA back on Earth from that moment on. The Expedition was tracked out through the solar system and beyond known space never to be seen again.

~~~

Audiowriter is an entrepreneur of many endeavors and a seasoned musician, located in southern Indiana.

 He has an obsessive compulsion to spend every available moment creating written text and audio recordings of melodic musical notes. He currently has several completed novels on the shelf awaiting publication, varying from graphic horror to commercial fiction. Also in his literary arsenal is an abundance of short stories, drabbles and lyrics. Many of his original songs and music are directly inspired by the intriguing tales flowing from his wildly descriptive imagination.

Should you dare to enter the realm of Audiowriter, go to:

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A Matter of Personal Taste, by KR Smith

© Аrtranq - Fotolia.com

© Аrtranq

“Dr. Wickham?” the old man asked, poking his head inside the tent. “Your guest, Prof. Moretti, has arrived.”

“He’s here? Thank you, Amenzu. Please show him in.”

Dust swirled through the opening as the Professor entered, his hand extended in greeting.

“Francesco! Welcome!” Wickham said, smiling as he clasped Moretti’s outstretched hand. “I’m glad you were able to join me here in Egypt on such short notice.”

“It is my pleasure, Jeffrey. Your message intrigued me. I cannot wait to hear more about your discovery.”

“Thank you, Amenzu.” Wickham said, dismissing the old man with a nod. “And you will, of course,” he continued to the Professor, “but first, some refreshment after your long journey.”

“That would be wonderful. I haven’t eaten since yesterday. Needless to say, my route wasn’t on the tourist maps.”

“I can only imagine,” Wickham replied while pulling another chair over to the table. “There’s not much, but I have a bit of prosciutto, some bread, and dates, of course, being so close to the oasis,” he added as he poured them both a cup of tea.

“A feast fit for a king,” proclaimed Moretti graciously. “So tell me, Jeffrey, what is it that has you so excited? Your message was rather cryptic.”

“Yes, I know. I didn’t want word getting out until I’ve had someone else confirm what I’ve found.”

“I understand completely. But tell me, what led you to this place?”

“It was Amenzu. Shortly after I arrived at the oasis, he approached me and told me there were tombs to the southwest of Siwa. I was a skeptical, but he showed me several artifacts that indicated it was possible.”

“So you played a hunch?”

“Yes,” Wickham laughed, “but I never expected a find like this. He led me to the entrance in the hill outside, only then it was mostly covered by sand, with pottery and such laying everywhere. The shaft was only accessible for about five meters, the rest being blocked by loose rock and a huge slab that was simply impossible to move.”

“It could not be broken up?” asked Moretti while plucking a few dates from the bowl.

“The entrance is too unstable. Any shaking might collapse the opening completely.”

“Which explains the winch I saw?”

“Yes. It’s rather large. I had to use an old military truck to get the bloody thing out here. I hope it’s big enough. If we can pull the slab away from a safe distance, at least we won’t be inside if the entrance does come down.”

“An excellent plan. But you’ve mentioned nothing so unusual as to justify all this secrecy.”

“Ah! But there is! In the entrance I found the remains of two mummies, mostly destroyed, but with enough tissue left to do a rudimentary analysis.”

“The graves had been robbed?”

“No, it appears some sort of animal had gotten to them. They were chewed up rather severely. And yet, what was left was in astoundingly good condition.”

“How so?”

“The tissues were in a most remarkable state. They were actually pliable.”

“Pliable? That is unheard of in specimens of the age this site would suggest.”

“Exactly. And if there are more, there may be undisturbed tombs from which uncontaminated samples could be taken.”

“To try to determine the method of preservation?” offered Moretti.

“Yes. I want to send samples back to Dr. Strasser in Germany.”

“Dr. Strasser?” Moretti asked with a smile. “You mean your friend Bethanne from back at university – don’t you?”

“The same,” Jeffrey replied, returning the grin. “But she has the skills needed to determine how these tissues have been so remarkably preserved.”

“Have you contacted her?”

“I sent a letter some weeks back detailing what tests might be needed, though I haven’t had a response. I suppose that’s not unusual out here.” Wickham took a sip of tea, then added, “I do hope she’s received it. I didn’t want to chance someone overhearing me on the radio. It’s far too important to risk damage by scavengers.”

“Which leads to my next question,” said Moretti, placing a piece of meat between his bread. “The workers here – are they trustworthy?”

“I’ve had no problems thus far. Why?”

“The theft of artifacts on these digs has become nearly epidemic. What do you know about them?”

“Well, they are a bit odd. They don’t seem to follow any particular religion or practice. They mostly speak Berber, with a few words of what I think is Coptic. And Arabic, of course. But we’ve always been able to work out what needs to be done. Fortunately, that old fellow, Amenzu, speaks English rather well.”

“The one who led me to your tent?”

“Yes. He tells me his people have been here since the time of the pharaohs. I could swear he’s old enough to have known them personally,” Wickham added with a chuckle. “The rest – they’re a curious bunch, almost protective of the site. The fact that we’ve been able to work out here unfettered is nearly a miracle. Whether it’s the reputation of these workers – well, I can’t say. Then again, the area around the Siwa oasis has always been unique.”

“Their reputation?”

“They seem to be distrusted by the locals at the oasis. They believe the workers, or at least their leaders, practice dark rituals, whatever that means.”

“The old superstitions, they die slowly, no?”

“Very slowly, I’m afraid. Everything changes slowly out here,” Jeffrey said, lifting the pot and shaking it slightly to determine if it was empty. “More tea?”

The following morning, Wickham was up at first light, Moretti rising shortly thereafter. By the time the Professor had joined him, Wickham was finishing the inspection of the winch and cables to be used to move the stone slab blocking the shaft. Mounted on a large truck, it was powered by a gasoline engine, with heavy steel cables attached to forged eye-bolts inserted into holes drilled in the stone.

“It took a lot of work to get this equipment out here and in place,” Wickham said, checking the equipment visually. “I hope our efforts are worthwhile.”

“As do I, Doctor.”

“It’s best we stand back,” Wickham yelled, waving his hands toward the workers to move them away. “These are strong cables, but you don’t want to be around should one let go.”

With that, Wickham and Moretti moved behind a pile of smaller cut stones, just their heads peeking over to see the entrance. Wickham gave one last look around, then called to Amenzu to start the engine on the winch. Once it was running smoothly, he nodded for the old man to engage it. The cables reaching into the opening tightened immediately, the truck shaking under the load as if it were unsure whether the stone slab or the vehicle would be the one to move first. The engine wavered and there was a scraping sound from within the entrance as the cables began to wind slowly onto the drum of the winch. After a few moments, a loud crack echoed from inside the entrance, the cables going slack for a moment before tightening again, an indication that the slab had indeed moved, whereupon Wickham motioned for Amenzu to stop the winch.

Once the dust settled, Wickham made his way to the entrance, with Moretti and Amenzu close behind. The slab had toppled over and moved enough that he could see the shaft extended much farther into the hill. Stepping inside, he shined a flashlight down the tunnel, the dust-filled beam unable to reach the end of its length. On each side of the wall were large alcoves, with all except the closest covered by a thin slab of sandstone.

Wickham climbed over the debris to the exposed alcove, aimed his light into it, and illuminated the unmistakable shape of a sarcophagus lying in the recess.

“By God, it’s untouched. Very plain, like many of those at Siwa, but pristine. And who knows how many more there are.”

“This is you’re lucky day!” Moretti said, putting his hand on Wickham’s shoulder

“Yes. But it will have to remain here until I can prepare a suitable workplace in order to properly examine the contents. Amenzu! Have the men clear out the tent by the generator while I update my notes and determine what to do next.”

“As you wish,” Amenzu replied with a smile.

Less than an hour later, Moretti, looking puzzled, entered Wickham’s tent and asked, “Jeffrey, hadn’t you had requested that the sarcophagus remain in the tomb for now?”

“Yes. Why?”

“The men – the workers – have moved it into the tent.”

“What? I had expressly asked that it not be moved!”

Wickham ran to the tent where Moretti had seen the workers carry the sarcophagus, stopping immediately as he entered, shocked by the sight of the lid shattered on the floor, the few inscriptions on it beyond recovery. Looking up, he saw the workers sitting around a table, some with knives carving up the remains of the mummy and passing pieces around to others who were busily chewing on their portion of the grisly feast.

“My God!” was all that Wickham could get out as Moretti entered behind him.

“Jeffrey, I have heard of such things,” said Moretti while shaking his head, “but I never believed them to be true.”

“Doctor!” Amenzu called out. “Welcome! You’re just in time for lunch.”

Wickham stood frozen, unable to grasp what was before him.

“This is worse than I could have imagined! We must leave this place,” Moretti whispered.

“What?” Wickham responded as though snapping out of a trance.

“Doctor, I really do think we should leave.”

“Leave? And allow them to destroy all my work?”

“I don’t believe it would be wise to remain,” said Moretti, watching the workers nervously. “I wish you luck,” he added before backing out of the tent.

Amenzu turned slightly and called out, “Amalu! Many illa?”

A man at the table nodded, then slipped out the side of the tent as a couple of the workers moved to block any further chance of escape. Amenzu returned his attention to Wickham, a broad smile on his leathery face.

“We want to thank you for providing access our larder.”

“Larder?”

“Yes. The collapse, the sand storms, all had placed our stores beyond reach. We had to make do until you were so kind as to provide the equipment needed to reopen the tunnels.”

“But how – how can you do this?”

“We find the flavor of fresh meat to be so unsavory.”

“This isn’t meat! This is, or was, a human being! I may study them, perhaps take samples, but like any civilized person I treat them with a degree of respect and dignity. You’ve destroyed irreplaceable archaeological artifacts all for this – this revoltingly ghoulish ritual!”

“This isn’t a ritual, Doctor.” Amenzu stated calmly, “This is how we survive. What preserves them also preserves us.”

“You can’t be serious.”

“Quite serious, Doctor. The cool, deep catacombs of the ancient tombs, with the salts and herbs we use, provide for a most perfect curing of the meat.”

“And you expect me to believe this grotesque meal somehow extends your life?”

“I am much older than you might believe. In any event, why do find our repast so unusual? Is it not strikingly similar to the prosciutto you and Dr. Moretti shared the other evening? Only the animal is different.”

“It’s not the same at all. You’re little more than a filthy bunch of ghouls.”

“I prefer to think of myself as an educator,” Amenzu said with a slight shrug. “Your educator.”

“You? An educator? That’s the most abominable use of the word I could possibly imagine!”

“On the contrary, Dr. Wickham,” retorted Amenzu while unsheathing a long, silvery blade. “As you will soon see, nothing provides a greater understanding of history than experiencing the customs of an ancient people —­ first-hand.”

~~~

K. R. Smith is a full-time Information Technology Specialist and a part-time writer, frustrated by his inability to get any meaningful programming code to rhyme and still function properly. While mainly interested in writing short stories of the horror genre, he occasionally delves into poetry, songwriting, and the visual arts. His escapades may be followed by reading his blog at www.theworldofkrsmith.com.