As a student majoring in archeology it was a thrill to go to other countries and study artifacts of that culture. My favorite has always been Egypt. Their mythology was more primal compared to any other mythology, with the gods having heads of animals. The ancient Egyptians were a strong believers of life after death. The afterlife played an important role in the people lives. So when I’ve received a letter from Elaina Fletcher, a woman who specializes in Egyptians artifacts that I was accepted to join her travel to Egypt at the Valley of the Kings, a very popular archeologic sit, I was overjoyed. I’ve booked my flight from Boston to Egypt and met with Elaina at the airport the next day.
The flight went smoothly enough, I slept during most of it. The person that met with us at the airport was the governor. I couldn’t remember his name, though I remember it was hard to pronounce. The man had a dozen cops with him, he said it was for our protection. I wondered who would hate us so much that he would need so many cops with him, but then I remembered that the locals hated foreigners “defiling” their ancestors’ graves. The drive to the Valley was about an hour. The long flight made me restless, I was eager to explore the most famous site, where only kings and pharaohs were buried.
We arrived to the West Valley at midafternoon. The Valley was surrounded by cliffs. The place was barren, there was only one road that led to the Valley. Two police officers were assigned for us, to prevent any grave robbers or any locals from hurting us. They were the two most fluent in English.
“We will arrive back here by sundown,” the governor announced.
He shook Elaina’s hand. His driver shut the door after he entered the car. One police car took the lead, followed by the governor’s black car with the other police car trailing behind. The halls had many ancient Egyptians painting, mostly dedicated to the afterlife. I saw the people burying their rulers, mummifying them, and wrapping them before placing them in their sarcophagus with extravagant jewels and gold being placed in with them.
They believed that they needed to pay to get to the underworld. I’ve trailed behind taking pictures of every artwork I come across. I was so focus on the walls that I nearly bumped into one of the cops who stopped so suddenly. I peered around him and saw Elaina agitated.
“Is something wrong?” I ask as I came beside her.
She shook her head, “This can’t be right.”
I wasn’t sure what she was talking about. I looked ahead and saw an empty square chamber. Every part of the wall had paintings mostly with Anubis, god of the dead. This god was always portrayed with a Jackal head and a human body. Many showed him preparing and mummifying the dead, others showed him leading the dead through the underworld while the tortured souls were trying to grab him. There was one painting in particular that fascinated me. It was up ahead and took up the entire wall. Osiris was sitting on his throne a large double scale was between him and Anubis with the feather of truth and justice on one of the pans. A man was placing his heart on the empty pan. If the feather is heavier than the heart than they will join Osiris in the underworld. If the heart is heavier than it will be eaten by Ammit the devourer, a little creature that only eats the hearts of evil intent. Many may find the meaning behind the scene disturbing, but it was secretly one of my favorites. Just to see that there may still not be an escape even after death for those with evil deeds.
The picture seem to have made the cops anxious to leave because they didn’t enter the room. Their eyes were averted away from the pictures. My eyes left the painting and that’s when I notice what caused Elaina’s frustration. The room was empty no mummies or their sarcophagi.
“Maybe we should look somewhere else,” I commented.
She walked up to the painting with the scale, “I should have known this trip would be a waste.”
“Come on, you shouldn’t beat yourself up over this. This Valley had been excavated in the 1800s…”
“Do you know how hard it is to find any unique artifacts in the modern world?”
I wasn’t sure if she was asking me or just speaking in general. I decided to think the former and shook my head.
“Ancient Egypt is starting to become overrated… I just thought this would be my big break. Finding something, anything would be better than going back with nothing.”
She was starting to sound depressed, “This Valley is big enough. We just need to look somewhere else.” I was trying to sound upbeat, not sure if it had work. She was quiet for a while, I just stood by her awkwardly.
“We better move.”
We went to leave when we heard a low grating sound. We both stopped and turned. I didn’t realize at the time but my hand had touched the double scale. One of its bricks was pushed in where my hand was. I quickly removed it and saw that where the scale once was, was now a passageway. Elaina was shocked as well. A stairwell led down where we only saw darkness. Nobody could have possibly known about this.
“Miss, you shouldn’t go down there. Wait until I call for backup,” One of the cops order.
“It will be too late by then. We have to leave here by sundown. This will be quick,” Elaina said.
The two cops looked uncertain, “One of us will go with you, just to make sure it’s safe,” The first cop said.
Elaina didn’t bother answering before taking out her flashlight and headed down the steps. I did the same. The second cop who was younger than the first, but taller followed behind. One hand was at his holster and the other was holding his flashlight.
The air was cool down here and the smell of musk was pungent in the air. I was amazed at how far down we went. It felt like we were being swallowed by a bottomless pit. What met us below was a small room, with several hallways branching out from it.
“Miss, we shouldn’t go much further than this,” the cop said nervously.
Elaina surveyed the room, “We are already here. We will check one hall and come back tomorrow.” Without waiting for a response she went to the furthest left hall.
The walk became a little disoriented. We discovered that all the halls were connected which made knowing our direction confusing. I felt like we entered the same halls a few times. Everything looked the same so it was hard to tell. We later decided it was easier to leave a mark on the walls to make it easier to navigate. It worked. We backtracked a few times until we saw a small room with paintings on the wall. These were the only paintings we’ve seen down here, but were different from the ones I’ve seen in my classes. Anubis was in all of them. People were running from him. Fear were in their expressions. Anubis was sinister I never saw a painting like this. One showed Anubis with glowing green eyes, mist coming from them and his open mouth. His hand was on a man’s throat. My eyes caught on something below the painting, I pointed my flashlight towards it.
“Hey what is this?” I asked as I stared at the hieroglyphic.
Elaina came beside me, “He who is in the place of embalming.” She read out loud.
“Ma’am we need to leave now,” the cop was anxious and I understood why.
Beside the disturbing paintings was a life size statue of Anubis standing like he was on guard by a human shaped sarcophagus. It was carved, decorated, and painted to look like a human. It was standing on a pedestal.
“Not just yet,” Elaina’s eyes focused on the sarcophagus. She gently touched its surface.
My eyes focused back on the statue that looked so real. It was 6ft high and was made of onyx. He held a scepter in his left hand. Gold bracelets were on his wrists and biceps and he wore gold anklets as well. A gold plaited kilt was wrapped around his waist. His chest was bared. The artist who made him took special care on the details. I could easily see the defined muscles. A Nemes was on his head, which pharaohs had worn. This one however had green stripes painted on the gold headpiece. My fingers grazed the smooth surface of Anubis’s snout. He looked calm, regal even. Emeralds were placed for eyes. The statue of Anubis was unquestionable an expensive piece.
“Be careful. We don’t want to damage any of these valuables,” Elaina called out as she started to study the pedestal.
She pressed on the front and the front board of the pedestal popped open. There was a hidden compartment. My interest peeked as I saw her take out a canopic jar, the cork was a jackal head. Three more canopic jars were in the compartment; a human, baboon, and falcon. The canopic jars represents protective spirits for the Egyptians.
“Ma’am we should leave,” the cop said, staring at the statue of Anubis anxiously as if he will spring to life.
Elaina took the jars and gently put them in her bags, “Tomorrow we will need help to get the statue and sarcophagus out.”
“The governor will send some help with you tomorrow,” the cop assured.
Elaina stood up, “We will discuss this once we are out of here.”
Finding our way back was easier than finding that chamber. We were almost there when a noise stopped us.
“What was that?” I ask as I aimed my flashlight behind me. I saw nothing, but darkness.
“We’ve been down here too long. It could have been a loose rock or water leaking through,” Elaina reasoned.
The sound came again, “It sounds like footsteps.”
I aimed my flashlight at the darkness again. What I saw caught my breath. Coming towards us was Anubis, the same statue we saw in the room. His pace was slow, though his footsteps resonated through the hall. His emerald eyes were now mist. His onyx skin was fur, green mist was also coming out of his mouth as he snarled. He looked like that painting. Fear and astonishment had me rooted to my spot. I heard my rapid heartbeat as he slowly walked closer. A gunshot brought me back. Anubis wasn’t fazed by it. He still walked with the same pace.
“R-Run!” The cop shouted.
I didn’t need to be told twice. I wasn’t sure if Elaina followed behind and I didn’t bother looking back. I knew it was a selfish thing, but life preservation was strong in me. I ran and ran. Breathing was becoming hard, I had to stop to catch my breath. I leaned against the wall. My whole body was shaking. What the hell just happened? What I saw could not have been humanely possible. The sound of running footsteps brought me back. I should not relax until I’m out of this hellhole. I evened my breathing and walked slowly, trying not to be heard. The gunshots stopped long ago. I didn’t even want to think about what happened to the cop. I stopped in a small room that looked like the one we’ve entered. I hope it was the same one. The problem was I didn’t know which direction would lead out. The footsteps grew closer. I went to run in any direction when I saw Elaina entering from a different hall.
“You’re alive?” She seemed more shocked than relieved to see me.
All I did was nod, “Do you know which way is the right way?”
“If I knew that I wouldn’t still be here.”
I didn’t let her remark bother me as I focused on each possible exit. Elaina was looking at all tunnels, her hands were sliding against the walls, trying to find anything similar that can guide us out. I heard a whistle, the sound of wind.
“Down this way!” I pointed to where I’ve heard the wind.
I ran not waiting to see if Elaina followed me. I heard Elaina fall. I stopped and looked behind me as I saw her hurriedly stood up. She grabbed my arm while she ran passed me. The momentum made me drop my flashlight. There was no time to go back for it. I had to depend on her to guide us out. She stopped so suddenly I crash into her. Annoyed and frightened I was going to ask her why she stopped, when I saw what was ahead of us. Anubis was in front of us. How did he get to us so fast? There was another tunnel to my right and I went to run for it but was held in place by Elaina’s iron grip. I could feel her shaking. I tried to pry her off.
“Please let go of me,” I pleaded with her.
I could see it in her eyes. The look of surrender. She gave up trying to escape. Anubis slowly walked to us. His green mist eyes were staring at her. His free hand grabbed her throat which made her release my wrist. I fell backward knocking the breath out of me. I watched in horror as I saw him lift her up in the air. She was gasping for breath. Anubis’s mouth opened wide and green mist flowed freely out surrounding her. There was no coherent thought as I saw her skin start to pale as it started to sink in and sag. Her clothes started to sag around her as I slowly started to see every bone in her body. Her body was deteriorating while she was alive. Her scream was the worst I have ever heard. It echoed off the walls making the sound almost deafening.
My body moved before I had time to think and I ran in the tunnel as tears streamed down my eyes. Will I suffer the same fate? I felt a cool breeze up ahead, spiking my adrenaline. The faded light up ahead was my only guide. My foot caught on something and I fell forward hard. My chin slammed against the floor. The numbing pain blurred my vision. My mouth was filled with blood. I had bit my tongue. I spit the thick substance out as I got up. A sharp pain pierced my right hand and I looked down to see a piece of stick piercing the palm of my hand. I quickly took it out. I got up when my foot stepped on something causing a loud snap. I removed my foot and realized it was a human bone. I quickly scanned the area and realized this whole hall was covered with human bones. Skulls looked like they were all grinning at me like they knew of my doom. I heard those heavy footsteps again. He was close. I stopped looking at the bones and ran.
The light grew brighter. I’ve never seen such a more beautiful sight in my life. My happiness quickly faded when I saw the path blocked by a pile of rocks. The only opening was where a small stream of light filtered in. His footsteps were getting closer and his growl became louder. I didn’t think and I took hold of a medium size rock that was loose. I had to be careful because one small mistake could cause a collapse leading to my death. The more rocks I took out, the more light that entered. I was scared to look, but had to. I turned and saw two small green mists. His eyes. He was far and his steps were slow and deliberate, like he already knew he won. I quickly went back to my task. At this point, the opening seem big enough for my thin body. I feared that if I moved any more rocks everything would collapse and I would be trapped. I glanced behind me and saw he was quickly closing the distance. I had no choice. I unstrapped my backpack and I undress as quickly as possible until I was just wearing briefs.
Rocks dug into my skin as I crawled through the small opening. I felt it splitting my skin as I slowly made it out. Before I was clear I felt a strong iron grip on my right ankle, I looked behind me and saw his claws digging into my skin. I fought for leverage. My hands braced against the rock pile as my free leg made it out, I was able to use my free leg as an extra boost. My leg almost made it out as I saw his hand that was once fur turn to mist as the sunlight hit it. We were in there all night. His hand quickly let go. I tumbled forward.
I shot out of bed breathing heavily. I scanned my surroundings quickly and realized I was in my dorm room. My roommate Chris was by my bed looking concerned.
“You’re awake. I was starting to worry.”
“What happened?” The confusion overwhelmed me.
“You were shaking and mumbling in your sleep. I couldn’t wake you. I almost called the nurse.”
Chris gave me a look of disbelief, “Don’t you remember? Today is the day of your internship. You couldn’t stop talking about it.”
I tossed the sheets and got up. I went over to my desk and saw the acceptance letter from Elaina Fletcher. I nervously read the letter. The more I read the more I couldn’t stop shaking. This was the letter that would take me to Egypt. I crumbled the letter and noticed a small piece of paper hidden under the letter. I tossed the letter and took the paper.
“Hey Oliver are you alright?”
I ignored my roommate as I looked at the hieroglyphics written on the paper. Right below it was an English translation: ‘Those that disturb the resting place will be punished by its protector of the underworld.’
“Do you know who sent this?” I ask Chris as I handed him the piece of paper.
He shook his head, “No, I got back pretty late.”
This was some kind of warning, one to acknowledge. I felt a throbbing in my leg. Fear rise in me, I was scared to look. I slowly lifted my sweatpants and was shocked to see right there in the same area were the claw marks, the one Anubis had given me.