“All people who enter this tomb who will make evil against this tomb and destroy it: may the crocodile be against them in water, and snakes against them on land.”
I hate sand. And here it is everywhere, on everything. I think that possibly it is everything. In stark contrast to my previous assignment of the lush, humidity-drenched Louisiana, Egypt’s is a parched, brittle landscape, heated beyond belief by a sun whose only reason for existence it seems is to torture me. I arrived at the cemetery grounds with trepidation, fearing what I might encounter there. However, milling around the site with a group of light-hearted tourists soon lifted my spirits; surely, there could be no lurking danger on this oppressively hot and sunny day.
As the gaggle of sight-seers formed a cluster around an information plaque and the entrance of a tomb, I strayed from the group, lost in my thoughts about what life may have been like for the souls resting at this place. I descended a ramp that stopped at what appeared to be a stone door that led to nowhere. Strange, I thought. Why would they build such a thing? While I pondered the philosophical significance of a doorway to nowhere, I ran my fingers along the carved outline of the entryway. All was quiet. The murmuring voices of my fellow explorers were dim and faded. A soft, hot breeze flitted by, carrying a woman’s whisper. My eyes darted around but saw no one nearby. Again, the hot wind caressed me, and with it, the voice, the sultry sigh, the exotic hush. Was the voice hidden in the wind, or was the woman’s sigh the breeze itself? Could it be the breath of the goddess Hathor lighting across my cheek? Feeling suddenly faint, I leaned against the door and rested my forehead against a stone block. A grating, the sound of stone grinding against stone, resounded. The block sunk into the door, and the door eased open. A putrid current of air flowed out from within, curling around me, wrapping me up in invisible tendrils of the most morbid odors of death and decay. My feet moved against my will and I was drawn into the tomb!
The phantom limbs pulled me deeper into the tomb. I saw a dim light looming in the darkness ahead. The eerie gleaming grew brighter, taking shape, morphing and transforming until its diabolical metamorphosis was complete and before me hovered a gigantic, all-seeing eye. The eye of Horus? Perhaps. I had no more time to ponder for a single blinding beam of light like a ray of pure sun shot out from the great eye, striking me in the center of my forehead. Ancient powers and secrets infused my being. The mighty wind continued to swirl around me, taking solid form, turning to cloth that spun and wrapped tight around my arms, legs, head, and torso. Helpless, I could only watch as I was covered in filthy, soiled gauze. Hot breath and a fetid stench filled the dark corridor. Evil laughter bounced off the stone walls. A crocodile’s snarl belched up from some unseen depths of the chamber.
The eye took its light from me. I stumbled in the purest darkness I had yet to experience, spinning until my newly bound hands struck stone and I steadied myself against the wall. Though my cloth bindings were tight, I began to shuffle along with focused steps, determined to make my way out of this dreadful tomb. The rasps of my shuffling steps were soon accompanied by hissing; a horrid chorus that rose in volume and proximity with every passing moment. It was the serpents of the tomb, coming for my body and soul. Alas, the curse was upon me!
Straining against my cloth bonds, I ran from the serpents, screaming for my life. Through the gauze that covered my eyes I dimly saw sunlight peering in through the still open door. Salvation was within my grasp! Just as I felt the snakes at my heels, I burst forth from the tomb into the unforgiving Egyptian sun.
With my arms outstretched, I cried for help. Upon hearing my exclamations, the nearby group of tourists turned my way. Shrieks of horror erupted from the small group as they fled from me. I screamed for them to return, begging for their help, but my words came out a garbled mess, muffled by the cloth over my mouth, turning my words to nothing more than tortured moans.
I heard the persistent hissing closing in. I glanced back. Droves upon droves of serpents slithered from the tomb. I threw out my hands and again pleaded for assistance. The sight-seers rushed the tour company van in a panic. The tour guide gestured wildly, pointing at me and running away.
My next bout of shouting was due to the pain caused by the armed guards who accosted me and tossed me violently to the ground. I writhed beneath their hold, protesting, shouting to be saved from the advancing serpent horde. One of the guards screamed at me in broken English, admonishing me to hold still while I continued to yell one word over and over: snakes. He leaned down and shouted to me that there were no snakes, only sand and sun and frightened tourists, whose visit to the cemetery I had just ruined.
Assuming that I had somehow accessed a hidden passageway, dressed myself as a mummy, and reappeared to scare my fellow tourists as part of a “stupid and typical American stunt”, I was held under protest at the gift shop until the local constable arrived. Thankfully, with the help of my official credentials and a phone call on which my dear employer, the ever lovely Emerian, was able to persuade the local authorities that I meant no ill will, I was released under the single condition that I would never, ever return. I assured them I would absolutely do no such thing, and, once freed from my cloth bindings, I went on my way, shaking the dust from my shoes. Now here in this safe space, days later, the hissing of the pursuing serpents, the horrible eye, the stench of death seeped into the mummy’s cloth that bound me –all these terrors torture my mind. Oh Egypt, when will you set me free?