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THE MUMMY

 

Summary: An adventurer, Jim Ellison, and a young librarian, Blair Sandburg, have to fight a terrible curse.

Note: This fanfic is my first story in english. It was first published in My Mongoose Ezine

Thanks: Thanks to Sue for helping me get this story into the correct English, thanks to Stephen Sommers for his great story and to Patt and Corinna for their encouragements. Dedicated to all the people who have to fight the Death.

 

 

 

PROLOGUE

 

 

Thèbes, 2134 B.C.

This beautiful city is the crown jewel of Pharaoh Seti the First. Its squares are so wonderful ! Its statues are shining in sundown. Egyptian opulence is everywhere. But behind palace's walls, a dramatic love is going to write a story for next generations.

Imhotep is the High Priest of Osiris and Keeper of the Dead. He loves Naroun, a young scribe of Pharaoh's palace.  But there's a secret about Naroun. No one has to know that Seti the First has chosen him as his lover. It would be a disgrace for Pharaoh, Glory of Egypt, Son of Rê! Since several weeks, Naroun can't leave Seti's palace. But this night, he find a way to join Imhotep. The High Priest is in love with the young scribe. It's a secret too, because of the shame for a priest to fall in love with another man in ancient Egypt and because Naroun is Seti's lover. But the young scribe could do nothing but obey to Pharaoh, or he could fear Pharaoh's rage. He doesn't love Seti and plans to escape with Imhotep. Before to be a scribe, Naroun was a slave. Seti gave him his freedom, provided that the young man become his lover. And with the High Priest, Naroun wants to come back to his country

The young scribe walks slowly through a big room with frescos. Maybe he doesn't notice Imhotep's priests who are watching him. Seti the First gave him a gold necklace with small gems. Precious stones are shining in torches' light. But they can't rival Naroun's beauty. His eyes are unbelievable for an Egyptian : they are blue like the sky. He has long black hairs and a sweet smile light up his face.  His skin is like ivory in the moonlight who catches him when he go through the bedroom curtains.

Two lovers look each other and then kiss passionately, feverlishly. But when they are embracing, Imhotep seizes Naroun's necklace and two gems fall on the floor. The High Priest and the young scribe don't notice it, because of their passion.

Meanwhile, priests are rushing over and close the doors. But just as they do, the doors suddenly burst open. Pharaoh angrily strides in and look at the priests :

"What are you doing here ?"

No answer. But the priests look scared and they back away. Seti the First stride for the curtains. Throw them back, Naroun is alone. He bows his head and Pharaoh sees the missing gems of his necklace. Pointing his fingers, he says :

"Who has touched you ?"

Imhotep is here, behind Seti the First. When Pharaoh sees him, he understands everything. He is looking at him, as the young scribe lifts a dagger and plunges it into his back. Seti screams. His High Priest has too a dagger and cut Pharaoh's throat.

But the doors are suddenly rammed from the other side : Seti's bodyguards, the Mumia, are coming. Two lovers share desesperate looks, but Imhotep's priests try to pull him towards the balcony. The High Priest try to break free. Naroun rips Pharaoh's sword out of his hand and pushes him towards the balcony :

"You must go. Save yourself. Only you can resurrect me."

Imhotep doesn't want to go. But the doors explode open and Pharaoh's bodyguards stride in, armed to the teeth. The priests hustle Imhotep out onto the dark balcony just as the guards rip through the curtains. The young scribe points at Pharaoh and hisses :

"My body is no longer his temple !"

He plunges the sword into his own heart. Out on the balcony, Imhotep's mouth opens into a horrible silent scream ...

 

To resurrect the man he loves, Imhotep go to Hamnunaptra, City of The Dead, where his body's lover is waiting for a new life. He wants to use 'The Book Of The Dead' which was never to-be opened, never to be read, for it contained the incantations that could bring a dead body back to life. But for Naroun's love, the High Priest is willing to defy the gods.

In the City of The Dead, Imhotep is organizing the ceremony. He's thinking continuously about Naroun, the first time he met him at Seti's palace. The High Priest has unwrapped Naroun's gorgeous, lifeless body and placed his five sacred canopic jars around him.

During the sacrifice, while the young scribe is beginning to resurrect, the Pharaoh's guards burst in and their head smashes the jar with the beating heart. Instantly, Naroun's soul leave his body and come back to the Kingdom of Death. Imhotep screams in rage and sorrow.

His priests who helped him to steal Naroun's body are condemned to be mummified alive. Imhotep can hear their screams when the horrid-looking embalmers, using knives, needles and thread, calmly perform their ghastly surgery on them. Priests are going insane from the procedure.

The High Priest is condemned to endure the 'hom-dai', the worst of all ancient curses, one so horrible, it had never before been bestowed. He is embalmed and laid in a wooden coffin inside a stone sarcophagus with dozens of scarabs. By eating the sacred scarabs, he would be cursed to stay alive forever. And by eating him, they were cursed just the same. He is to remain sealed inside his sarcophagus, the undead for all of eternity.

 

 

CHAPTER ONE

 

Hamunaptra Ruins, 1925.

Two hundred french foreign legionnaires scurry through the ruins, preparing for the onslaught of two thousand of Tuaregs armed to the teeth. A legionnaire, a lieutenant, is up on the wall. He looks out at the massive screaming horde galloping at him.

"I knew this was gonna be a lousy day." He says to a doughy little Frenchman who joins him as he makes his way across the top of the wall.

"Personally, I would like to surrender. Why can we not just surrender ?"

"Shut up and gimme your bandolier."

The little man pulls off his cartridge belt and hands it to his superior.

The horde of warriors thunders forward. The lieutenant and his doughy friend run through the ruins.

"How'd a guy like you end up in the Legion anyways ?" The lieutenant questions.

"I got caught robbing a synagogue. Lots of good stuff in them holy places ; churches, temples, mosques, and who's guarding them ?"

"Altar boys ?"

"Exactly ! I speak seven languages, including Hebrew, so my specialty was synagogues. How about you ? Kill somebody ?"

His superior shakes his head.

" I lost all my company in peruvian jungle. I became almost crazy and frequented all bars when I come back home. One day I met a legionnaire. He gave me a chance to leave my nightmare. I love desert. No forest. No jaguar. "

"Jaguar ? You're teasing me !"

They both skid to a stop at the front line as they see the horde of warriors. The sound of charging horses is deafening. Lieutenant gives the little man a big cheesy smile.

"Actually I'm here to look for a good time. My name is Jim Ellison."

"I am Beni," the little man replies.

And that's when the cowardly legionnaire colonel suddenly panics, cuts and runs Ellison instantly stiffens and gives the men around him courage. But onward comes the horde Hoofs pounding the sand. Several more legionnaires take off.

"Steady !" the lieutenant orders.

The Tuaregs let loose with those horrifying screams. More legionnaires haul-ass. Beni is one of them. The Tuaregs set their rifles and take aim. The lieutenant steels himself, cocks and locks. The cartridge in his mouth suddenly snaps, he spits it into the sand. Another beat. And then... 

"FIRE !" Ellison shouts. There is only a dozen of men with him. The rifles report with a crash. The blast blows dozens of Tuaregs clean off their mounts. The prone legionnaires quickly begin to reload.

"FIRE !"

The kneeling legionnaires fire. More Tuaregs bite the sand. The remaining warriors open fire. Thunder and smoke rip the hot air. A third of the legionnaires are killed instantly.

"FIRE !"

Tuaregs spin off their mounts and crash to the sand. And then the entire Tuareg force plows into the ruins and through the legionnaires. Ellison grabs the barrel of his rifle and starts clubbing riders off their steeds, fighting like a man possessed. Beni on the other hand, is bellycrawling across the sand, whimpering in full retreat as Legionnaires fall dead all around him. He crawls through the front gate.

The lieutenant throws his rifle down and goes for his guns. He cross-draws, gun in each hand, starts blowing riders off their mounts. Beni crawls faster, and then he spots an open temple doorway amongst the rocks. He gets up and sprints for the door as the last of the Legionnaires are shot off their feet behind him. Ellison's guns go empty.

"Son-of-a-bitch."

He turns and runs like hell, right through the front gate. Four Tuareg warriors on massive Arabians haul-ass after him. The lieutenant hurdles a stone column, hits the ground running. He spots Beni inside the Temple doorway, trying to close the heavy sandstone door.

"Hey ! Beni ! Wait up !"

The little man has no intention of waiting up, he pushes harder.

"What are ya doing ?! Wait up !"

Ellison runs faster. Beni pushes harder. The four horsemen leap the big column and charge after him.

"Don't you close that door! DON'T YOU CLOSE THAT DOOR !" The lieutenant screams. Beni closes the door just as Ellison reaches it and slams his body into the door. It doesn't budge.

"I'm gonna get you for this !" The lieutenant threatens. He turns and bolts off around the rocks. Running for his life, weaving through the ruins. The Arabians getting closer and closer. A pounding hoofs is getting louder and louder. Ellison finally spins around and faces his attackers. The four massive horses crash to a stop in front of him. The Tuaregs raise their rifles to finish him off. The lieutenant just stands there, exhausted and beaten, then he slowly lifts his right hand and gives them the bird. And that's when the horses go ape-shit. All four of them rear up. Two of the Riders are thrown to the ground. The horses screech and bellow and snort in fear, then buck like fury and haul-ass away as if the devil himself had scared them. The thrown Riders get up and race off after their mounts. Ellison just stands there, stunned, then he lifts his right hand and checks out his middle finger. And then he feels the evil himself, and turns around. A shattered, decrepit statue of Anubis stares back at him. Suddenly, the sand begins to shift under the lieutenant's feet. He starts to back away, keeping his eyes on the transforming sand, it looks like huge snakes are wiggling and writhing beneath it, forming lines and shapes, --drawing a picture. Ellison quickly turns and runs off through the ruins. The sand stops moving, and we can now see that, drawn in the sand, is a picture of a screaming face.

 

Up on a ridge, a group of riders watch Ellison stumbles clear of the decrepit city. The lieutenant feels their presence and looks up. Very different from the Tuaregs, they have blue tinted skin and faces covered in strange puzzle-tatoos. Their leader is a huge, fierce man in black robe, with dual scimitars across his waist. His black tattooed face is both handsome and horrible. His dark eyes watch Ellison stagger off into the open desert.

 

 

Cairo, a city so old the stars have actually changed their positions in the sky since it's birth. A city teeming with every form of life. A strange, mysterious, wonderful city.

Blair Sandburg loves Cairo. He returned to this city after he studied archeology and anthropology in England. He is a brilliant young man, but his intelligence and his work aren't admitted by his peers. He has a lot of unrecognized theories about ancient Egypt, and he is fascinated by Richard Burton who discovered Nil's springs and wrote a strange book about his journey in Peru. Burton asserted that people with uncredible senses were the watchmen of primitive tribus. He called them Sentinels. Blair defended vainly Burton's book. He tried to begin a dissertation about Sentinels. His parents died in an accident, whereas he was preparing a journey to Peru. Blair had no money to pursue his study and no help of his university. He obtains only a job in Cairo Museum of Antiquities, as a librarian. All the day, he has to classify old books. He is yet a young and attractive man. He looks very intelligent with his glasses and his concentrated expression.

The young man pulls a book out from a stack under his arm, blows the dust off it, then places it on a shelf with other books whose titles all begin with the letter "O". Then he grabs another book out from under his arm and reads the title. His deep blue eyes widen.

"Tuthmosis...? Now how did you get up here ?"

Carefully, so as not to lose his balance, he looks over his shoulder to the bookshelf behind him, where all the titles begin with the letter 'TO. Then he looks down. It's a long way to the bottom. Blair gently sets the other books down on the top shelf, then turns and gingerly starts to reach across the aisle with the Tuthmosis book. It's a little too far, so he stretches, reaching, holding the top of the ladder with his fingertips, he's almost got it, closer now closer.

And that's when the ladder pulls away from the shelf. The young man yelps, flings the Tuthmosis book and grabs the top of the ladder, which stands straight up. Blair holds his breath, swaying precariously, a long beat, and then he loses his balance, the ladder swings around and the young librarian starts stiltwalking down the aisle.

"OHEIUGM! ! AHHHHHH !" Blair shouts. The ladder crosses the aisle, does an about face and heads back the way it came. The young man clings to the top, struggling for balance. The ladder teeters out into the main aisle and picks up speed. Blair screams as it does a 180, spins into another aisle and finally crashes to a stop at the top of a bookshelf. The young librarian holds his breath, then sighs heavily.

And that's when the bookshelf falls away from him and crashes into the next bookshelf. Blair slides down the ladder and plops to the floor. He looks up just as the domino effect kicks-in : each bookshelf crashing into the next. And onward it goes. Bookshelf after bookshelf. Thousands of volumes flinging off shelves and scattering across the floor. It finally ends as the last shelf crashes into a wall. Blair's eyes are closed. He opens one eye. Looks left. Then right. Then opens the other eye and stares at the huge mess.

"Oops."

The Egyptian curator storms in.

"Look at this ! Sons of the Messiah ! Give me frogs, flies, locusts, Anything but this ! Compared to you, the other plagues were a joy !"

The young librarian quickly gets up and starts gathering books.

"I'm sorry, it was an accident."

"When Ramesses destroyed Syria, it was an accident. You are a catastrophe ! Why do I put up with you ?"

Blair turns to him, trying to contain himself.

"You put up with me, because I can read and write ancient Egyptian, decipher hieroglyphs and hieratic, and I'm the only person within a thousand miles who knows how to properly code and catalogue this library."

"Who needs a clumsy scatterbrain like you ?! I put up with you because your mother and father were our finest patrons, Allah rest their souls. Now straighten up this mess !"

The curator storms out. Blair just stands there, steaming. And then he hears a noise and quickly turns around.

"Hello ?"

No answer. Then he hears it again, like feet, slowly shuffling across the floor, coming from a nearby gallery.

"Abdul ? Mohammed ? Bob ?"

The young librarian walks through the stacks and enters--

Filled with treasures and plunder from the Middle Kingdom. The Ramesseum's very dark and quiet in here, the only light is from flickering torches at either end of the spooky gallery. The noise again ! From the far side of the room. Feet, slowly shuffling, plodding across the floor. Blair grabs a torch. He looks around, at a statue of Anubis, another of Horus, they stare down at the young man, who is starting to get scared now. He walks down the aisle. Past a closed sarcophagus. Past cases of ancient artifacts. Past another sarcophagus, --only this one is open ! Blair freezes, swallows hard, nervously looks around to see who could have opened it. Then he slowly leans forward with the torch, and peers inside.

A hideous rotted mummy sits up and screeches at him ! Sandburg screams, drops the torch and backs away, scared out of his wits. And then, coming from inside the sarcophagus, he hears a woman laughing. His eyes narrow as a beautiful brown woman in a green dress crawls out from behind the Mummy. She is half drunk.

"You... YOU !" Blair shouts.

"Yes, me, you're beloved sister."

As she crawls out of the sarcophagus, Blair pulls a cigarette out of the mummy's mouth.

"Megan ! Have you no respect for the dead ?"

"Right now, I only wish to join them." She grins drunkenly.

"Well I wish you'd do it sooner rather than later, before you ruin my career the way you've ruined yours. You're the shame of our family."

The young woman belches, then falls back and sits on the edge of a tomb. She excitedly starts scrounging around in her blouse.

"I have something right here !"

"Oh no, not another worthless trinket, Megan, if I bring one more piece of junk to the curator to try and sell for you."

His sister pulls out a small, ancient box. The young librarian is instantly curious, he grabs the box out of her hand.

"Where did you get this ? "

Megan knows his weaknesses, gives him a mischievous smile.

"On a dig, down in Thebes."

Blair rolls the box around in his hands, mumbling to himself as he translates the hieratics and hieroglyphs covering it. His sister licks her lips in anticipation.

"My whole life I've never found anything, Sandy. Tell me I've found something."

Blair's fingers play with the various little slats on the box, shifting them this way and that way, it's like a puzzle box. Then suddenly, it unfolds itself, almost-mechanically, turning itself into the box. Sitting inside the open box is a folded piece of golden papyrus. It looks like an ancien map.

"Megan ?"

"Yes ?"

"I think you found something."

 

 

The curator sits at his desk, staring through a jeweler's eyepiece at the box. Sandburg hovers behind him, excited.

"See the cartouche there, it's the official royal seal of Seti the First, I'm sure of it."

"Perhaps."

Megan leans in from across the desk.

"Two questions. Who the hell is Seti the First ? And was he rich ?"

The curator looks at the young woman. He can't believe that Mr and Mrs Sandburg gave birth to two children so different. //Megan is a smart girl, but her only interest in life is pleasure//, the curator thinks. She could have been an important person, like a professor's wife, but she loves too much her freedom. On the other hand, her brother is more thoughtful, even if he is younger. Without Blair, Megan could have ended in roadside or killed in a bar. Sandburg has had often to rescue his sister from her problems. She is very lucky.

"Seti the First was the last Pharaoh of the Old Kingdom, said to be the wealthiest Pharaoh of them all," Blair explains.

"Alright, good, that's good. I like this fellow, like him very much," Megan say with a smile.

The curator picks up the map.

"I've already dated it, this map is almost four thousand years old. And the hieratics over here.... (Blair inhales deeply) It's Hamunaptra."

The curator freezes, suddenly very nervous, then he recovers

"My dear boy, don't be ridiculous, we are scholars, not treasure hunters. Hamunaptra is a myth."

"Are we talking about the Hamunaptra ?" Megan asks.

//Finally//, the curator thinks, //she didn't forget all the things her parents learned to her.//

"Yes." Blair says. "The City of The Dead. Where the early Pharaohs were said to have hidden the wealth of Egypt."

"Right, right, in a big underground treasure chamber." His sister smiles.

"Everybody knows the story. The entire necropolis was rigged to sink into the sand. On Pharaoh's command, a flick of the switch ! And the whole place could disappear beneath the dunes."

"All we know is that the city mysteriously vanished around 2,134 B.C." Sandburg adds.

The curator holds the map closer to the burning candle-lamp.

"As the Americans would say : it's all fairy tales and hokum."

The map 'accidentally' catches on fire. The curator throws it to the floor. Megan drops to her knees and quickly puts it out. The left third of the map is now missing.

"You burned it ! You burned off the part with the lost city !" The young woman shouts.

"It's for the best, I'm sure," the curator says. "Many men have wasted their lives in the foolish pursuit of Hamunaptra, no one has ever found it, most have never returned."

Megan is devastated.

"You killed my map."

"I'm sure it was a fake, anyway, I'm surprised at you, Mr Sandburg, to be so fooled."

The curator reaches for the box. Blair quickly snatches it off the desk and gives him a very angry, suspicious look.

 

CHAPTER TWO

 

Cairo prison. One of the worst hell holes on earth. Every low-life form of scumbag can be found here. The warden, a first rate scumbag himself, escorts Blair and Megan across the gallows courtyard. Blair whispers to Megan.

"I said you to stay at home. It's not a place for a woman. And I don't understand why we are here. You said me you found the box on a dig down in Thebes."

"I was mistaken," his sister says as she's smiling to a guard who looks to know her.

"You lied to me !"

"I lie to everybody. What makes you so special ?"

"I am your brother !"

"That just makes you more gullible."

"You stole it from a drunk at the local Casbah ?!"

"Picked his pocket, actually."

"Oh ! God ! I'm so happy Mother and Father can't see you."

"But it was so funny. I was boring at my last job."

"Was ? Last job ? You lost it ?"

"Yes, of course. A customer tried to seduce me and because I didn't believe him and pushed him away, he said Mr Verrett I stole silver spoons. But restaurant's spoons are imitations."

Sandburg can't believe it. It was so hard to find a new job for Megan. After she lost his job as teacher, she was dressmaker, childminder (and she tried to learn poker to children whom she took care) and waitress in a good restaurant.

"Come here !"

The young man catches her red-handed as she was watching two prisoners playing with cards. He takes her hand firmly and they join their guide.

 

The warden ushers Blair and Megan into the visitoris pen. Sandburg looks wooried. He doesn't like this place. People around him are looking at him and his sisters and he can hear their comments about Megan, but too about him. God ! For those men, both sister and brother seem to be like fresh flesh. A prisoner look directly at the young man and send him a kiss. The young librarian freezes in his tracks and looks away, but another prisoner smiles to him and others laugh.

"And what is he in prison for ?" Blair questions to the warden.

"I did not know, so when I heard you were coming, I asked him that myself."

"And what did he say ?"

"He said,... he was just looking for a good time."

The interior cell door bursts open. A man with a legionnaire uniform is in chains, dragged by four guards. They shove him up to the cell bars. From the looks of it, he's been here awhile; his face is half hidden by long hair, a scraggly beard and many new bruises. Blair looks at him, disgusted by his appearance.

"But he's just a filthy criminal ?" He whisperes to his sister.

"Yeah !" Megan replies. "I love adventurer. And I'm pretty sure he is a good lover," she adds with a mischievous grin... " After a bath, of course."

The prisoner gives Blair the once over, then looks at Megan.

"I'll be back in a moment," the warden says.

" I tremble with anticipation, " the prisoner says. A guard clubs him across the head, his face bounces off the metal bars. He shows no pain, but just looks back and gives the Guard a nasty look. Blair steps closer.

"We uh,...found .... your puzzle box, and we've come to ask you about it."

"No."

"No ?"

The young librarian is stunned. He stares the prisoner and is now fascinated by his incredible deep blue eyes.

"No. ...You came to ask me about Hamunaptra," this man whispered.

Blair and Megan quickly look around, hoping the guards didn't hear him. They step closer. Sandburg plays coy.

"How do you know the box pertains to Hamunaptra ?"

"Because that's where I found it. I was there."

The young man is dumbstruck. But his sister looks suspicious

"How do we know that's not a load of pig swallow ?" Megan asks. The prisoner looks closer at her a glint of recognition.

"Hey,....don't I know you ?"

"Um, well, you see--"

The man tries to reach Megan's jacket. A guard clubs him again. His head bounces off the bars again. He shows no pain, but gives the guard another nasty look. Blair looks at his sister, then back at the prisoner.

"You were actually at Hamunaptra ?" Blair asks.

"Yeah, I was there," the man confides with a smile. 

"You swear ?"

"Every damn day"

"No, I mean--"

"I know what you mean. I was there, alright. Seti's place. The City of The Dead."

"What did you find? What did you see ?"

"I found sand. I saw death."

The warden enters. The young librarian quickly leans closer to the prisoner.

"Could you tell me how to get there,? The exact location ?"

"Want to know?"

Sandburg leans in even closer

"Yes."

"Really want to know ?"

The young man leans his face right up to the bars, nervous and excited

"Yes."

The man steps forward and kisses him full on the lips.

"Then get me the hell outta here."

Blair is stunned. It was so incredible. No man has kissed him before this prisoner. And the young man dares to confess to himself that he never felt something so amazing. A guard clubs the prisoner, his face bounces off the bars again, but before the prisoner can react the guards grab him, yank him away from the bars and drag him out of the room.

"Where are they taking him ?" The young man whisperes.

"To be hanged," the warden says.

The young librarian is shocked. The warden shows-off his green teeth.

"Apparently, he had a very good time."

 

Jim Ellison is thinking about the kiss. He doesn't understand why he did it. Oh, yeah, of course, the young man is seductive with his beautiful blue eyes and his long hairs with mahogany sweet curls. And it was so nice to see his surprise after their kiss. But Ellison is feeling something about him that he can't explain. And he will die. So he will never know what it is. Bad day. Good kiss. After all, he will die after to have enjoyed something in his life since Peru. Maybe that's why he didn't die in Peru : like all human, he is allowed to know gentleness in his life. Jim closes his eyes and the young man's face appears like a beautiful paint. //He looks like an angel//, Ellison thinks.

 

Hundreds of filthy prisoners stare down onto the gallows as the hangman's noose is draped over Ellison's head and cinched tight around his neck. Blair follows the warden onto a balcony above the gallows. The prisoners all go dead quiet at the sight of him ; like jackals staring at fresh meat. Jim looks up as the young librarian plops down beside the warden. //I have to save his life//, Sandburg thinks. //I don't even know his name. And... And I need him to find Hamunaptra.//

"I will give you one hundred pounds to spare his life," the young man says to the warden and he startles his sister. 

"I would pay one hundred pounds just to see him hang," the warden replies.

"Two hundred pounds."

Megan looks as if she'd faint.

"Proceed !" The warden shouts.

"Three hundred pounds !"

Ellison can hear every word, he looks hopeful. The hangman turns to him :

"Any last requests, pig ?"

"Yeah, I'd like ya to let me go."

The hangman grabs the lever to the trapdoor.

"FIVE HUNDRED POUNDS !" Blair shouts. The warden sets his greasy, lecherous hand on Megan's leg.

"And what else ?"

The young woman is revolted, she quickly shoves his hand away. Insulted, the warden angrily turns and gestures to the hangman, who pulls the lever. The trapdoor drops away.

"NOOO !"

Ellison drops through the hole. The rope pays-out. Then jerks taught. Jim's body snaps at the end of the rope. But he's still alive, because--

"His neck did not break !" The warden says. "Good ! Now we watch him strangle to death."

The prisoners go ape-shit, screaming and shouting in anger. The guards look around, nervous. Ellison struggles at the end of the rope, gagging. Blair is horrified, he looks to his sister who doesn't move and looks away. Then the young man quickly turns to the warden, leans forward and whispers in his ear.

"He knows the location to Hamunaptra."

The warden spins around and faces him

"You lie."

"I would never !" Sandburg replies with an innocent glance. At the end of the rope, Ellison is choking and gagging and turning several shades of red. The warden stares at the young librarian.

"Are you saying this filthy godless son of a pig knows where to find The City Of The Dead ? Truly ?"

"Yes and if you cut him down, we will give you ten percent."

"Fifty percent."

"Twenty."

"Forty."

Blair hesitates, bites his lip. Jim's eyes bulge as he looks up at him, he can't believe this kid.

"Give .... give him .... give him GLAAAA--!"

"Twenty-five percent, and not one single farthing more, " Sandburg pursues. The warden flashes a big green smile, then yells in Arabic. A scimitar slashes the air. The rope is cut. Ellison crashes to the ground. Half dead. All of the prisoners burst into cheers. Jim looks up at Blair. He smiles broadly and waves down at him.

 

 

Curator's office. At night.

Candle light flickers across the curator's face.

"He must die."

Standing in the shadows across from his desk are three Mumia : blue tinted skin, hideous facial tattoos, --the works. One of them has a rusty metal hook for a hand. He shrugs his shoulders.

"He is like all the others. He will die in the desert."

"No ! He has seen too much. He knows too much."

The curator leans across his desk, fear in his eyes.

"Not only does he have a map, but he has the key."

"The key !? He has the lost key !?"

"Yes. No one has ever had so much, been so close. We must stop him, or it will be the end of us all."

"Then we will kill him, we will kill him and all those with him."

"And burn the map and retrieve the key,"  the curator orders.

"It will be done. But what of the American expedition ? They leave tomorrow as well."

"Forget the bumbling Americans, they will be like all the others. without the map to guide them, how can they possibly find Hamunaptra ?"

 

 

Giza Port. Day.

Beni is speaking with Americans.

"It is three days down the Nile, then two days by camel, sahibs."

The little man is standing on the bow of a passenger barge, an old ship. He's surrounded by Americans named Daniels, Henderson and Burns.

"For all the money we're paying you, something better god-damned well be under that sand, Daniels says. Henderson slaps him on the back."

"Hamunaptra, Daniels, that's all ya gotta keep sayin, to yourself, Hamunaptra."

 

Washed, shaved, Jim Ellison feels better, like a new man. He bought clothes with money given by Megan Sandburg. Strange woman. She tried to seduce him once again, as if she didn't steal him the box. He resisted easily to her charm. He's only thinking about his brother, even if he's trying to forget this strange feeling in his heart when he remembers their kiss. He has to confess that it's disturbing. A soldier like him can't fall in love with a man, a kid, a librarian ! Ellison shrugs his shoulders.

While he's looking for Blair and Megan, he notices them near an old boat, a passenger barge. Instinctively, he tries to hear what they are saying.

"Behave yourself !" The young man orders to his sister. He doesn't like Megan's clothes (white vest and pants) and her very mannish bearing. Dockers and travellers are looking at the young woman who is laughing.

"It's so funny, Sandy. And those clothes are perfect for a journey to... Mmmmm... Are you trying to kill me ?" She shouts.

"It could be good idea," the young librarian says with anger." I told you that our destination is a secret."

Megan glances at him.

"I'm not stupid. I can't understand you offers that man (she looks at the warden who's drinking) to come with us."

"No choice. I need Ellison to guide us."

"This big guy is odd. He didn't want to tell me how he came back from... where we go."

Jim frowns. Headache is coming while he's trying to remember it. But he can't, as when he returned home from Peru's jungle. Nevertheless,  there are dreams about a Native named Incacha, a temple with a big eye and a jaguar. Ellison shivers, shakes his head and decides to join Blair and Megan.

 

Across the Nile, the pyramids spike the sky. The young librarian and his sister walk along the boardwalk besieged by hawkers selling everything from toy tombs to King Tut action figures.

"Do you really think he'll show up ?"

Blair is worried. Their boat will set off and Ellison isn't there

"Undoubtedly, I know the breed, he may be a cowboy, but his word is his word," Megan answers.

"Personally, I think he's filthy, rude and a complete scoundrel. I don't like him one bit."

"Anyone I know?" A voice asks.

They both turn. Ellison walks up. Blair is astounded.  The taller man looks more dashing and handsome than ever.

"Oh .... um,...hello," the young man stammers. His sister grabs Ellison's arm and shakes his hand.

"Smashing day for the start of an adventure, eh, Jimbo ?"

The taller man quickly checks his pockets.

"Yeah, sure, smashing," he says. He finds his wallet and relaxes.

 

Direclty above him, on the bow of the barge, Burns wipes his bifocals and turns to Beni.

"You're sure Hamunaptra is out there ?"

"Along with the scorched bones of my entire garrison, sahib."

And that's when Beni spots Ellison. He shakes his head, as if seeing a mirage, then starts backing away from the men.

"A thousand pardons, my good sahibs but there is much work to be done."

He quickly scurries off, vanishing down into the hold.

 

Blair, recovering, clears his throat.

"Mister Ellison, can you look me in the eye, and guarantee me this is not some sort of flimflam? Because if it is, I'm warning you--"

Jim steps up close to the young man, invading his space looks his straight in the eye. Blair doesn't back away.

"All I can tell you, Chief, is that my Colonel found that map in an ancient fortress, and the whole damn garrison believed in it so much, that without orders, we marched halfway across Libya and into Egypt to find that city. Like I told ya, all I saw was sand. Everybody else was wiped-out by Tuareg warriors."

"Did you call me 'Chief' ?"

"Yeah. (Ellison shrugs his shoulders) You're in the lead of our expedition, aren't you ? So you're Chief."

Blair's eyes follow him a bit wistfully, as Jim gets into the same passenger barge that Beni and the Americans are on.

"Yes, yes, you're right, filthy, rude, a complete scoundrel, nothing to like there at all," Megan says. Her brother gives her a look. The young woman just grins.

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER THREE

 

The moon is shining down on the desert. The three  vicious Mumia quietly glide a narrow skiff out onto the river. The one with the hook sits in the middle of the skiff, the other two row, heading for the passenger barge coming their way.

Megan and the three Americans are playing poker. Ellison comes out a door carrying a gunny-sack

"Sit down, Jimbo, sit down, we could use another good player," the young woman invites him.

"I only gamble with my life, never my money."

"Never ?" Daniels questions. "What if I were to wager five hundred dollars says we get to Hamunaptra before you ?"

Jim returns Daniel's cocky look.

"What makes you so confident, sir ?" Burns says.

"What makes you ?" The taller man replies.

"We got us a man who's actually been there," Henderson says.

Ellison's poker face drops, perplexed. Same with Megan.

"I say, what a coincidence, why--," the young woman begins. Jim 'accidentally' hits her in the knee with the gunny-sack, shutting her up. Megan quickly covers.

"--Whose deal is it ? Is it my deal ? I thought I just dealt ?"

 

Blair sits on a table, staring out over the passing river. The gunny-sack drops onto the table, startling him.

"Sorry, didn't mean to scare ya," Jim whispers.

"The only thing that scares me, Mister Ellison, are your manners."

"Still angry that I kissed ya, huh ?"

The taller's man heartbeat runs faster.

"If you call that a kiss," the young man says, sternly. Jim reaches into the gunny-sack and starts pulling out revolvers, pistols, hunting knives, a massive elephant gun, and a half dozen carefully wrapped sticks of dynamite.

"Did I miss something ? Are we going into battle ?" The young librarian asks with a strange smile.

"The last time I was at that place everybody I was with died."

This takes the smile off Blair's face. Ellison starts dismantling and cleaning the guns.

"There's something out there, you know, something under that sand," the taller man confides. 

"Yes, I'm hoping to find a certain artifact, a book, actually, my sister thinks there's treasure. What do you think is out there ?"

Jim looks into Blair's eyes. So incredible eyes. So deep...

"Um... (He clears his throat) Evil. The Tuaregs and the Bedouins believe that Hamunaptra is cursed, they call it, 'the doorway to hell.'"

"Ahmar is Ossirion. 'Passageway to the underworld', actually. (The young librarian gives him a know-it-all grin.) I don't believe in fairy tales and hokum, Mister Ellison-- But I do believe that one of the most famous books in history is buried out there, 'The Book Of The Living'."

"A book like this one ?" Jim questions, whereas he notices the book Blair is holding.

"No... This one is a birthday gift of my mother. It's wrote by Richard Burton. It's about... Sentinels in Peru."

When he hears 'Peru', Ellison frowns. He changes of topic of conversation.

"And the fact that they say 'The Book of the Living' is made out of pure gold, makes no nevermind to you, right ?"

Blair is surprised by his knowledge.

"You know your history," he says.

"I know my treasure." Jim replies.

Blair gets up to go, then he hesitates, nervous, he turns back to Ellison, and as matter-of-fact as possible says :

"By the way, ... why did you kiss me ?"

The taller man, cleaning his guns, just shrugs his shoulders.

"I was about to be hanged, seemed like a good idea at the time. To have a new experience--"

The young man's eyes widen, furious, he turns and storms off. Jim looks up, watching him leave, a bit perplexed

"What ? .... Wha'd I say ?"

Then he hears someone snickering under the table. He quickly reaches down, grabs that someone and lifts him up. It's Beni.

"My very good friend ! What a surprise," the little man says.

"Why if it ain't my little buddy, Beni. I outta kill you."

Ellison sticks a knife under Beni's throat. The little Frenchman swallows hard, then tries to weasel his way out with a big grin. Jim rumbles :

"So you're the one leading the Americans, I shoulda figured. So what's the scam ? You get 'em out in the middle of the desert then leave 'em to rot ?"

"Unfortunately no, these Americans are smart, they pay me only half now, half when I get them back to Cairo, so I must go all the way."

Ellison pulls the knife away. Beni relaxes, rubs his neck.

"You never believed in Hamunaptra, lieutenant. Why are you going back ? The devil himself lives out there."

They look as they hear Blair yelps. A single camel in the horse paddock takes another bite at him. The young librarian yelps again and backs away. Jim grins as the young man flees down the deck.

"The kid saved my life, figured it was the least I could do, keep him out of trouble."

"You always did have more balls than brains."

The taller's man eyes narrow at the insult, he looks back at Beni

"Let's make us even, shall we ?"

"Even ?"

Ellison grabs him and chucks him over the side of the barge. Beni splashes into the river. Jim takes his gunny-sack and starts walking off down the deck.

"Ellison ! I am going to kill you for this !" The little Frenchman shouts.

"Sounds familiar," the taller man says. And that's when he spots three sets of wet footprints, coming up over the railing from the river and heading down the deck. He quickly looks around, immediately on the alert.

Blair, wearing pajamas, stands in front of a mirror. Then he turns around, right there is one of the hideous Mumia. The man with hook slams his hand over his mouth and lifts up his hook, ready to strike.

"Where is the map ?"

Blair tries to struggles with the Mumia, but he's smaller than his adversary. His terrified eyes glance down. His attacker looks over, sees the map lying next to a flickering candle on a nearby table

"And the key ? Where is the key ?"

The young librarian's eyes look confused. He shakes his head. The Mumia grins.

He cocks his hook, about to kill him. And that's when the door is kicked open. Ellison bursts in, gun in each hand. The Mumia spins Blair around and holds him out in front of him. Jim looks at the young man.

"Friend of yours ?"

Sandburg's eyes widen. And that's when the candle on the table flickers. Everything happens at once,  read fast : the taller man spins around just as a window bursts open. Another Tuareg leans in. He fires. Woodchips blast off the wall next to Jim's head. He returns fire and kills the Tuareg who falls back. A lantern in the room is blasted. Kerosene splashes across the wall which bursts into flames. Blair grabs the candle on the table and jams it back over his shoulder, right into the hook man's eye who screeches in pain and lets him go. Ellison grabs the young man and yanks him out the flaming room. Jim pulls the kid down the hall, Sandburg tries to jerk free.

"The map ! We need the map !"

Jim shoves him up against a wall.

"Relax ! I'm the map ! (He taps his forehead) It's all up here."

"Oh that's comforting," Blair replies sarcastically. The taller man gives him a look, then pulls him forward

"C'mon, Chief, there's still one more of those guys around here somewhere."

Hot melted wax covers the hook man's face as he holds his sore eye and struggles to the door. Then he notices the key/box on the floor. He bends over to pick it up. And that's when the door is kickd open again, it hits him in the ass and knocks him into the fire. Megan leans in and sees nothing but flames.

"Sandy !"

Then she sees the key/box on the floor and picks it up. A hand suddenly snatches the key/box away from her.

"Hey that's mine---" She says.

It's hook man. His backside is now on fire. He lifts his pistol. The young woman quickly backpedals out the door as hook man opens fire.

 

 

Jim and Blair race out onto the deck near the horse paddock. People are screaming and shouting. BLAM ! A chunk of the wall is blown off next to Sandburg's head. Ellison pivots and fires back. It's the last Mumia, on the other side of the paddock. He and Jim exchange gunfire. Another lantern bursts into flames Ellison shoots off the paddock lock. The horses go nuts. The taller man fires over their heads. They charge forward and crash through the door. The Mumia screams as the horses stampede over him. Flames sweep up the walls and race across the roof. Half the barge is now on fire. Jim throws the gunny-sack over his shoulder.

"Can you swim ?" He questions to Blair.

"Well of course I can swim, if the occasion calls for it."

"Trust me."

Jim picks him up and throws the young man over the side

"The occasion calls for it."

Sandburg splashes into the water. Ellison dives in after him.

 

Megan runs out onto the bow, sees the three Americans, guns in every hand, fanning their pistols, shooting everything in sight. The young woman just shakes her head.

"Americans."

Hook man suddenly stumbles up behind her, --now a flaming torch. Megan turns around, hook man grabs her by the throat with his flaming arm and pins her to the cabin wall. Megan's eyes widen as she sees a hook rising up inside the flames about to strike him. The Americans pivot and open fire and blow hook man over the railing. Megan turns to the Americans and smiles.

"I say ! Good show !"

Then she points her thumb at herself

"I'm the only woman here. Did I panic ?"

She lifts up her other hand, --she has the key/box back. She fits her vest and pants and says grinning :

"I think not."

And that's when the horses stampede onto the bow. Megan dives over one side, the three Americans dive over the other.

 

Ellison, Blair, his sister and the warden wade out of the water. The young librarian's pajamas clings tight to his body as he wrings it out. He looks good, Jim notices. Everybody else, including the horses, is getting out on the far shore The taller man spots Beni running up to the Americans.

"Hey lieutenant ! Looks to me like I got all the horses !" The little man says.

"Hey Beni ! Looks to me like you're on the wrong side of the river !"

Beni looks up at the stars, then angrily kicks the sand cursing. The flaming barge drifts off, slowly sinking--

Sandburg sits down and looks at the boat. Worried, Jim joins him.

"What's wrong ?" He asks to the young man.

"I've got the box !" Megan declares, believing that's why her brother is so sad.

"Burton's book," Blair whispers. "It's burned."

Ellison's jaw clenche. But he finds nothing to say. Megan puts her hand on the young librarian's shoulder. Sandburg stands up, wipes his tears and turns his back on Nil.

"I want to find another book." He proclaims, refering to 'The Book of The Living'.

"I'll help you." Jim swears.

 

 

Ellison barters in arabic with a camel trader at a trading post. Blair forks over some cash. The trader hands them the reins of four ugly old camels.

"I can't believe the price of these fleabags, " the young librarian groans.

"We coulda had 'em for free, all we had to do was give 'em your sister."

"Yes, awfully tempting, wasn't it ?" Sandburg replies with a strange glance.

"She's self-willed, isn't she ?" The taller man questions.

"Yes. Like my mother. She was a woman of character. But my father was used to saying he prefered a woman like her, with conversation. Megan and Naomi were often venturing into incredible stories. My mother didn't tolerate to be restricted because she was a woman. She learned to Megan everything she knew. When we were kids, as I was studying, my sister was playing with Cairo's rascals, with Naomi's blessing. She said that Megan could learn to be stronger than other women. My sister says nothing, but I'm sure her sadness is very deep. Since my parents' dead, she's more self-willed-- I don't know why I'm confessing you those things," the young man exclaims. Jim shrugs with a grin.

"Maybe 'cause we could be friends."

"Friends ? Really ?"

The young man looks stunned. Ellison nods.

"You're my first friend-- I-- mean--, Blair stammers. With my parents, we were often in journey, so I wasn't at school often--"

"You are telling me that you have never had a mate ?"

Sandburg shakes his head.

"There was another problem. Children thought I was too--"

"Studious ?"

"Yes," Blair whispers. "But I love to learn so much !"

"Can understand," Ellison confesses. "Didn't have schoolmates too."

"Why ? "

The taller man can't reply. A terrible headache hurts him.

"Hey ! Are you OK ?" Blair's voice is full of concern.

"Headache," Ellison groans.

"You should rest. You're so pale."

"No-- I'm well."

"Come with me," the young librarian orders. And Jim can do nothing but obeys. He sits down with Blair's help in a palm tree's shade.

"Close your eyes and try to breathe slowly," Sandburg recommends. The taller man feels Blair's hand on his thigh. It's like an anchor on which he can be concentrated to forget his pain. Then the young librarian begins to massage his shoulders.

"Take it easy, man. Yes, that's it."

The kid's voice is like an haven which is surrounding Ellison. Jim smiles.

"Are you a wizard ?" he asks to Blair, before to open his eyes.

"Egyptians believed in-- energy. Their pyramids were built to contain it. There were experiences about it. I read a lot of books concerning theories about their medicine."

" Good-- Do you learn your kindness from books too ?"

" My-- ? No."

Sandburg stops to massage, as he is flushing. He stands up and says :

"If you feel better, we had to join Megan. I don't know where she's and I'm worried."

Jim stands up too.

"Have you had headache like this before ?" The young man questions.

"No."Ellison lies. Blair glances at him. He seems to say something, then shrugs and leaves the taller man to look for his sister.

 

 

Sahara desert, sand dunes.

Ellison, Sandburg, Megan and the warden are on camels in the middle of the frying pan ; the endless, sunbaked Sahara.

"Never did like camels. Blair says. Filthy buggers. They smell, they bite, they spit. Disgusting."

The warden savagely attacks a chicken wing with his vile green teeth. Flies buzz around his head. He sucks at his gums, then spits out some gristle. Ellison watches him.

"Yeah, disgusting."

Megan is having the time of her life on top of her camel.

"Well I think they're cute."

 

The moon shines down an four lone camel rider's trekking across the vast wasteland. Megan is sound asleep, her head bobbing comically to the rhythm of her camel. On the camel next to her, the warden snores loudly. Up in front of them, the young librarian slowly starts to slide off his saddle. Jim reaches over and stops him, then gently pushes him back up onto his saddle, never waking him. For a long moment, his eyes watch Blair, and then he looks up at a distant ridge-- --where a group of Tuaregs are pacing them.

 

The dawning sun hasn't yet crested the distant horizon as Megan and the warden ride alongside a giant sand dune.

"And you snore !" Megan says.

"I do not snore!" the warden replies.

"All night you snored !"

"I have never snored !"

Up in front of them, Jim looks at Blair.

"We're almost there."

"Are you sure ?"

"Pretty sure."

The others look down and see dozens of skeleton sticking out of the ground. Bleached and eaten away. Some of the skeletons look like they're trying to crawl up out of the desert floor.

" What in bloody hell is this ? " Megan asks and her brother glances at her with disapproval. The warden shivers in fear :

"Other seekers of Hamunaptra."

 

The American expedition rides out from behind the far end of the dune. The Americans are accompanied by two dozen natives diggers and an Arab egyptologist. Beni rides lead on a camel, the rest ride horses.

"Good morning, my friend !"

Ellison just nods. The two parties come to a stop a hundred feet apart. The taller man turns and stares out across the endless horizon. Beni does likewise. The Americans look puzzled.

"Well, what the hell we doin' ?" Daniels asks.

"Patience, my good sahib, patience." The little Frenchman replies. Henderson looks over at Jim.

" First one to the city, Ellison ! Five hundred ! Cash bucks !"

Jim and Beni just stare out at the flat nothingness. Blair and Megan share a look. And then, the sun starts to rise in the distance, breaking the flat horizon.

"Get ready." The taller man groans.

Sandburg can feel the suspense and the majesty of the moment.

"For what ?"

"We're about to be shown the way."

Far off to the right, a huge shape begins to rise with the sun. A volcano. Ellison and Beni watch it, expressionless. Daniels, Henderson and Burns share a look, and then--

"HEYA !"

The Americans take off, racing towards the rising volcano.

"SEE YA THERE, ELLISON !" Daniels shouts. The young librarian and his sister give Jim anxious, sarcastic looks.

"Ah, begging your pardon, but shouldn't we be going ?" Megan asks.

" After all, you rode us night and day to win that bet. " Her brother approves. Jim doesn't say a word, staring hard. Beni watches the Americans and spits into the sand.

"Fools." The little man grumbles.

And then suddenly, the volcano shifts across horizon. Passing across the sun as it goes. --It's a mirage. The Americans crash their horses to a stop and race the other way, after the volcano. Megan and Blair smile, amazed. The volcano shifts again, floating across the watery horizon. The Americans crash to a stop again and chase after the volcano. All three of them confused and cursing. Jim and Beni just stare, waiting. The volcano shifts again. And the Americans crash to a stop again. Burns is thrown from his horse. Henderson angrily rips his hat off and chucks it to the ground. Daniels just curses as they give up the chase. The volcano comes to a stop on the far left of the horizon. The Americans are on the far right. Nothing moves. A beat. And then Ellison grins. So does the little Frenchman. They share a look. And then swat their camels and race away. Everybody else hauls-ass after them.

Jim and Beni are neck-and-neck. And then Megan comes galloping up, hair flying in the wind. The Frenchman takes out his camel whip and starts whipping Ellison, trying to knock him off his camel. once. CRACK ! Twice. CRACK ! But on the third try the taller man grabs the whip and jerks Beni off his camel. Beni slams to the ground and tumbles. Megan and Ellison race across the desert. The young woman looks like she has never felt so alive. She laughs. Jim grins and looks at his brother who's following. Beni stumbles to his feet, then quickly dances out of the way as Blair and all the other riders stampede past him. Megan beats Jim to the stone ramp, racing hard.

"Slow down !" Ellison shouts.

The young woman ignores him as she races up the ramp towards the gate.

"SLOW DOWN, MEGAN ! SLOW DOWN! THERE'S A REALLY BIG--"

Megan goes ass-over-teacups through the air and crash lands in a sand dune. She sits up, stunned, sandy hair in her eyes. Ellison stops at the edge of the ramp next to her camel.

"Never mind."

The Americans ride up and look in wonder at the ruins inside the volcano. Jim gives them a big, shit-eating grin. 

"You boys owe me five hundred dollars."

Then he waits for Sandburg who is coming slowly. The young man looks annoyed.

"Hey, Chief. Are you sulking ?" Jim teases him. Blair glances at the taller man with anger.

"My sister is more intrepid," he says.

"Yep. But you're more gorgeous."

The young librarian blinks. Jim can't believe he says that. He clears his throat.

"C'mon. We have a work to do and we need your talent."

He ruffles Blair's hairs and the two friends join Megan and the warden.

While they are walking, Sandburg suddenly frowns. He points a mound near the volcano.

"What's that ?"

"Did you see something ? " Ellison questions, taking his pistolet.

"Yes. A wolf."

The taller man glances at Blair.

" It's a mirage."

The young man looks strange. He shakes his head :

"Yeah. You're right. Just a mirage."

But he doesn't seem convinced.

 

 

Under the guidance of the Egyptologist, the diggers are busy hauling rock and dirt out of the Temple doorway. The three Americans are playing poker. Beni smokes a hookah and swats flies. Dozens of stray camels roam the decrepit city ; dusty backpacks and old saddlebags still slung over their humps.

"Where'd all these camels come from ?" Daniels questions.

"They belong to the dead. They will wait years for their masters to return before leaving." The little Frenchman answers.

 

Jim, Blair, Megan and the warden are working next to a narrow crevice, which weaves it's way through the ruins. Ellison ties a rope around a pillar and throws the rest of the coils into the crevice, about to rappel down. Megan bends over to have a look, her ass hits something, she yelps and backs away. It's the decrepit face of Anubis.

" That thing gives me the creeps. " The young woman says.

"Be nice. That thing saved my life. " Jim replies.

Sandburg is positioning ancient mirrors along the crevice.

"That 'thing' gets me excited. According to Bembridge Scholars, inside the statue of Anubis was a secret compartment, perhaps containing 'The Book Of The Living'." The young man explains.

"What are those mirrors for?" The taller man questions.

"Ancient Egyptian trick. You'll see."

Ellison shrugs, then rappels down into the crevice

 

Jim waves a torch as Megan, his brother and the warden drop down next to him. The young librarian peers into the spooky darkness.

"Do you realize, we are standing inside a room that no one has entered in over four thousand years."

"Who cares ? I don't see no treasure." The warden groans.

" You're welcome to my share of the spider webs. " Jim proclaims sarcastically.

"And it stinks to high heaven in here." Megan adds.

Blair just rolls his eyes. His sister sniffs the foul air, then she looks at the warden and realizes where the smell is coming from. She stops sniffing.

Her brother brushes cobwebs away from a metal disk on the wall, then repositions it on it's pedestal, aiming it at a ray of light shining in from the outer mirrors. --The ray of light hits the disk and quickly shoots around the room from one disk to another until the whole chamber is lit up. Light rays shoot off down the passageways. It's the embalmer's chamber.

"That is a neat trick." Ellison comments.

"Oh my god, It's a preparation room." Blair exclaims.

"Preparation for what ?" The taller man questions.

"For entering the afterlife"

Jim quickly draws his gun. Megan gently nudges him.

"Mummies, my good son, this is where they made the mummies."

Sandburg heads down a narrow passageway. The others follow.

 

 

CHAPTER FOUR

 

Ellison, Blair and his sister crouch as they make their way through a narrow, cobweb infested labyrinth. The short, squat warden can stand straight up. Then they hear something and freeze. It sounds like somebody is clawing inside the walls. They share looks. Then slowly move forward. It's getting darker and darker as they go. The strange sound getting louder and louder. And then it stops. Sandburg holds his breath. His sister licks her lips. Jim cocks his pistol. The warden farts. Ellison, Megan and her brother glare at him.

They slowly creep out of the labyrinth and up to the foot of an enormous half-buried statue. The lower half of Anubis. Then they hear the sound again, coming closer now, from the other side of the statue. And closer. Jim pulls Blair behind him. And closer. Ellison raises his gun. He leaps out. Three horrible sweaty faces lunge at him. He reacts. But he doesn't pull the trigger because it's just the Americans, their guns are up, cocked and aimed.

"Ya scared the bejeezus out of us, Ellison." Henderson says.

"Likewise." The taller man replies.

But nobody lowers their guns. Daniels grins, the tough one.

"This here is our statue,...friend." He says.

"Don't see your name on it,...pal."

And that's when Beni, five diggers and the Egyptologist step out of the shadows, --all holding guns aimed at Jim.

"Ten to one, lieutenant, your odds are no-so-good." The little Frenchman notices.

"I've had worse." Ellison groans.

Megan clenches a tiny derringer.

"Yes, me too."

Jim gives her a sideways glance. Beni cocks his gun, grinning, he wants it to happen. The tension thickens. Then Blair gently takes Jim's gun hand and pulls it down.

"Let's be nice, children, if we're going to play together, we must learn to share."

The young man pulls Ellison away. His sister and the warden follow. Beni and the Americans slowly lower their guns, laughing. The Egyptologist excitedly begins translating the hieroglyphs.

 

Jim, Blair and the warden are using sledge-hammers against the ceiling.

"According to my calculations, we should be right under the Anubis' statue. We'll come up right between his legs." Sandburg blushes and laughs.

"And when those dirty Yanks go to sleep--" Megan begins, then she looks at Jim. "No offense."

"None taken." The taller man says.

"--We'll sneak up and steal that book right out from under them." The young woman grins.

"And you're sure you can find the secret compartment ?" Ellison asks.

"Yes, if their Egyptologist hasn't already found it." Blair answers.

After a break, as they want to work again, Megan questions :

"Where's our smelly little friend ?"

Nobody noticed the warden left.

 

The warden crawls into a dark chamber and lights a torch. A mural wall comes alive. Embedded into it are dozens of black amethyst scarabs. Awestruck, the warden pulls out a pocket knife and starts prying away at one of the precious bugs.

 

Beni and the Americans hover around the Egyptologist, who's found the secret compartment inside Anubis. The Egyptologist brushes sand away from the seam. Henderson steps forward and grabs the seam, --the Egyptologist quickly stops him.

"Seti was no fool."

"Yeah, sure...."

Henderson looks back at the native diggers.

"We'll let them open it."

The Egyptologist nods, then yells in Egyptian at the diggers. The diggers hesitate, filled with fear. Daniels pulls out his gun, aims it at three of them. The three diggers hesitantly step forward with crowbars and stick them into the seams. The other diggers back away, scared shitless. Beni and the Americans exchange looks, and then they back away as well.

 

Jim, Megan and Blair are digging into the ceiling.

"I can't believe he left us, the young woman groans. I can't believe I have to work !"

"Shut up !" Ellison and her brother shout in chorus.

"Lemme get this straight, they stuck a sharp, red hot poker up your nose, cut your brain into small pieces, then ripped it all out through your nostrils ?" Jim questions. 

"OWCH ! That's really got to hurt." Megan says with disgust.

"It's called mummification. You're dead when they do this." Sandburg explains.

"Still..." Megan replies.

"Yeah, that'd bring you back to life." Jim adds.

" You two are worse than a couple of schoolboys." Blair says. His sister blinks and snorts :

"I'm a woman."

"I forget it sometimes." Her brother groans.

"Stop it !" Jim orders, shaking his head. And that's when a huge chunk of the roof suddenly gives out. Ellison grabs Blair and jerks him clear. Megan dives for the far wall. A massive stone casement drops out of the ceiling and crashes to the floor. Dust flies and fills the room.

 

Having heard the crash, Beni and the Americans have their guns pointed at the floor. The Egyptologist could care less, he looks at the diggers, gripping their crowbars, and yells--

"FENI !"

The three diggers pull hard. The ancient seams start to give, The Egyptologist yells again. The diggers pull harder. The compartment starts to loosen. Again he yells. The diggers give one final pull and-- -- An intense burst of liquid sprays out of the seam and hits the three diggers. It melts their skin clean off. They scream, dying horribly. They are half skeletal by the time they hit the ground--

 

The dust is starting to clear. Jim, Megan and Blair slowly get up and step over to the massive stone casement.

"Oh my god, ...it looks like, it looks like a sarcophagus." The young librarian says.

"Why would they bury somebody in the ceiling ?" Ellison asks.

"They didn't, they buried him at the foot of Anubis. He was either someone of great importance. or he did something very naughty." Sandburg answers.

 

The warden drops an amethyst-scarab into his pouch, then greedily-starts prying away at another. It rips off, he drops it into his pouch, --only he misses, and this scarab quietly falls to the sandy floor without the warden noticing. The scarab  falls on the floor. It begins to transform. The amethyst starts to glow. Something inside starts to wiggle ; as if the amethyst were some sort of strange cocoon. Then it splits open and a real live hideous scarab-- Beetle scurries out. It races over to the warden's shoe, quickly burrows into the leather and vanishes inside. The warden's eyes fly open. He starts to scream, drops his knife and frantically starts clawing away at his pant leg, higher and higher until he rips open his shirt revealing a large, hideous lump, burrowing under his skin. It burrows it's way up his fat belly and across his hairy chest. The warden claws and scratches at it, trying to stop it. The lump burrows up his neck. The warden starts gagging and coughing. And then the scarab-lump vanishes into his head.

 

Our heroes clear the dirt off the top of the sarcophagus, revealing a single, ominous hieroglyph. Blair stares at it Megan impatiently strums her fingers across the lid.

"Well ? .... Who is it ?"

His brother stares at the hieroglyph, confused and concerned.

"He that shall not be named."

Jim dusts off the huge lock.

"There's some sort of lock here. You say these thing's are made of granite with a steel interior ?"

"Quarried granite with a cobalt lining." The young librarian replies.

"Whoever's in here, sure wasn't getting out." His sister says.

"No kiddin', without a key, it'll take us a month to crack this thing." Ellison groans.

"A key ! Blair shouts. That's it ! That's what he was talking about."

"Who was talking about what ?" The taller man questions. 

Sandburg starts rummaging through the pack on his sister's back.

"The man on the barge. The one with the hook, he was looking for a key."

The young librarian pulls out the key/box. Megan tries to take it back.

"Hey that's mine !"

Her brother slaps her hand and quickly unfolds the box, --it's now shaped exactly like the lock's keyhole. Blair smiles. And that's when they hear the warden's screams echoing through the labyrinth.

All three of them turn and take-off running.

 

The warden is screaming and dancing insanely around the labyrinth, totally freaked from the extreme pain in his head. Jim, Blair and Megan run up just as the warden starts ripping his own hair out of his head. Ellison and Sandburg grab at the warden's hands, but he's far too crazed, he shoves them aside, runs full bore down the length of the labyrinth and slams his head straight into a rock wall. The warden drops to the ground. Dead as lead. Eyes wide open. Jim, Megan and her brother just stand there staring, breathing hard, wide-eyed themselves...

 

 

Blair and his sister are nuzzled up to a campfire.

"What do you suppose killed him ?" The young man asks.

"Did you ever see him eat ?" Megan answers.

Jim comes up over some rocks.

"Seems the Americans had a little misadventure of their own today, three of their diggers were killed."

"How ?" The young librarian questions.

"Salt acid. Pressurized salt acid. Some sort of ancient booby-trap."

"Maybe this place really is cursed. But how did you hear them ?" Megan wants to know. "I'm pretty sure they didn't let you move near their camp."

"I've got good ears." Ellison shrugs. Blair glances at him oddly. He seems to tell something but keeps silent.

Megan opens the warden's pouch, the one that held the scarabs. She reaches in, starts scrounging around. And then, --she screams in pain and rips her hand back out of the pouch. Jim and Blair both jump.

"WHAT ?! WHAT IS IT ?!" They shout in chorus.

The young woman sucks her finger, then reaches back into the pouch and pulls out a liquor bottle, the top has been chipped off.

"Seagrams !"

She smiles at the bottle, then turns the pouch inside- out and shakes it, nothing but sand is inside it.

"Well, he may have been a stinky fellow,... but he had good taste."

She takes a swig. Jim and Blair laugh, guiltily

And then Ellison suddenly kneels down and sticks his ear to the sand. Sandburg and his sister watch him. And then a barrage of gunfire is heard coming from the American camp. Jim jumps up and throws the elephant gun to Blair.

"Stay here !" He orders. He takes off running through the ruins. The young man immediately gets up and runs after him. Megan grabs a gun, holds the bottle of Seagrams;  tight and dashes after him.

" Sandy ! Excuse me ! But didn't the big guy just say-- !"

 

The American camp is under siege. Two dozen Mumia Riders gallop through. firing rifles. Several Diggers are killed as they run. The Americans leap out of their tents firing. They kill multiple Riders. Daniels is shot, spins and falls, keeps shooting. Henderson and Burns run to his aid, blasting away. Ellison races through the ruins and slams right into Beni, who is obviously trying to high-tail-it out of there.

"Goin' somewhere ?"

"Just looking for you, lieutenant ! I wanted to be with my friend !"

Jim drags him back towards the American camp.

"C'mon, friend."

"Why do you like to fight so much ?" The little man questions, struggling.

"'Cause I look good doin, it."

 

The black leader of Mumia gallops through the camp, cutting diggers down with his scimitar. Ellison runs up on top of some rocks, leaps out and tackles him off his horse. The two men slam to the ground. Jim spins up onto one knee and fires, point blank. Blows the scimitar out of the black leader's hand. Ellison is about to shoot again when a horse rides up between them. A scimitar swoops down, almost takes the taller man's head off, misses him by an inch. Ellison leaps up and blows the Rider off his mount. The horse bolts. --But the black leader is gone. Blair hides behind some rocks, watching the scene, suddenly, he hears something coming up behind him and spins around. A vicious tattooed Mumia Rider races at him. The young man quickly backpedals over the rocks, terrified. The Mumia Rider raises his scimitar, about to strike. Sandburg trips over a rock and fires the elephant gun, --BLAM ! He blows the Rider off his mount and catapults him twenty feet back into some ruins. At the same time, the kick blows the young librarian off his feet and over a ridge. He flails through the air and lands in a sand dune. Megan and some diggers are holding their own near the temple door. Four Riders come charging right at them. The young woman takes a swig off the Seagrams.

"Let 'em have it, boys !"

Megan and the diggers open fire. When the smoke clears, the Riders are either dead or gone. The young woman grins.

"I say, bloody good show."

And then several more Mumia leap off the temple and land behind them. Megan and the remaining diggers spin around and suddenly find themselves in hand-to-hand combat. Jim is quickly loading his pistol. He hears something thundering up behind him. He spins around just as the black leader on a horse swings his scimitar. Ellison instinctively raises his hands to protect his face, the scimitar strikes ! It hits his gun, --CHING ! Jim's gun flips away. Disarmed, Ellison dives and rolls and suddenly comes up with a stick of dynamite in his hand. He shoves the fuse into a fire. It ignites. He faces the black leader, towering above him. The two men lock eyes. The fuse continues to burn down.

Suddenly, the black leader's eyes widen. A shadow appears near Ellison, ready to jump.

"Black devil---" The man whispers. Ellison turns and looks at the shadow. He shivers when he recognizes a jaguar. Retreating, the Mumia's leader points his scimitar at Jim's head.

"LEAVE THIS PLACE ! ... LEAVE THIS PLACE OR DIE !"

Then he gallops off. The remaining Mumia Riders race after him, vanishing into the night, like the jaguar. Ellison watches them leave, then turns to the burning fuse,.... and blows it out. Blair staggers up, looking very shaken. Jim gently takes him and holds him close.

"You alright ?"

The young man looks up into his deep blue eyes. It's the first time Jim's shown genuine concern for him. And he likes it. The taller man's also holding him a little too close. And he likes that too.

"Yes,... fine,... thank you."

Beni crawls out from under some pillars as Henderson and Burns help Daniels to his feet.

"See !" Daniels exclaims. "That proves it ! Old Seti's fortune's gotta be under this sand !"

"For them to protect it like this, you just know there's got to be treasure down there." Henderson says.

Jim looks up into the surrounding ridges, unsatisfied.

"These men are a desert people they value water, not gold."

Blair looks at Ellison, suddenly very worried.

"Where's Megan ?"

 

 

Megan falls into frame. She hits the ground. The young woman's eyes are wide open. Her mouth agape. Clearly dead. A beat. And then her eyes close and his mouth widens into a goofy smile. Shit-faced drunk. Jim and Blair laugh, both half-in-the-bag themselves, the bottle of Seagrams is almost gone. Ellison offers the bottle to the young man, he waves it away, slurring badly--

"Unlike my sister, sir, I know when to say no."

Jim polishes off the bottle and chucks it away.

" You're a whole new brew."

"I know, you're wondering, what's a place like me doing in a kid like this ?"

"Something like that."

Blair is insulted, he staggers to his feet.

"'Not... a kid !" He stammers. "I... I'm proud of what I am."

"And what is that ?"

The young man plops back down beside him, really drunk, he grins and proudly lifts his head high.

"... am a librarian !"

Sandburg leans in, very close to Jim's face, looks him in the eyes,

"I'm going to kiss you, Mister Ellison."

"No you're not."

"I'm not ?"

"Not unless you call me Jim"

"Why would I do that ?"

"Because that's my name."

The young man gives him a goofy smile. Ellison leans forward and kisses him. Blair's eyes slowly close. And then he passes out, slumping into the taller man's arms. Jim looks down at the young man, and just smiles.

 

It is a nightmare. He's back in peruvian jungle ! Jim can see the odd Temple with this big eye which seems to see directly in his soul. He can't move, despite his efforts. Trees begin to vanish and Jim realizes that the Temple is a pyramid. A Native appears in a blue light. It's Incacha !

"You found him," he says to Ellison. "You have to protect him. He's in a terrible danger. The Walking Death wants him and his soul could be cursed if you don't stop it."

"I don't understand !" Jim shouts.

"You have to remember, Enqueri. Or you'll lose him forever. You're soulmates. Save his life ! Save his soul !"

While Incacha's speaking, a wolf appears and is attacked by a black jackal which devores wolf's heart. Ellison can do nothing but see. The jackal vanishes and the wolf changes in a human form : it's Blair ! Jim cries over and over and then--

He wakes up and sits. He hears a groan and looks down. Oh ! God ! Blair ! Sandburg is leaning against him. Jim pulls him closer. The young man sighs and whispers something.

"I'll protect you." Ellison swears and until the dawn lits up the sky, he's watching over the kid's sleep.

 

 

Sandburg's hand slips the key into the sarcophagus, lock and turns it. A series of strange mechanicals-like sound are heard, and then the sarcophagus unlocks with a giant hiss. Jim, Blair and Megan all look very, very hungover. They start to slide the heavy lid off the sarcophagus. Pushing, shoving and groaning the lid budging, inch by inch.

"I can't believe I allowed the two of you to get me drunk." The young man says.

"Don't blame me, I don't even remember being there." His sister replies.

"Well neither do I, thank you." Sandburg stares Ellison who gives him a strange look.

"You don't ?"

Blair gives the taller man a nervous glance.

"No . .... Why ? .... Should I ?"

"Gee, yeah, you told me it was the best time you ever had."

Jim gives him a big cheesy smile. Sandburg's face drops, appalled and embarrassed. And that's when the lid falls off and loudly crashes to the ground. All three of them instantly grab their sore heads and moan.

 

Several fear-filled, sweaty-faced diggers reach into the secret compartment. Henderson and Burns hold guns on them. Daniels has his arm in a sling. The diggers slowly pull out the ornate chest. They set the chest down on the sandy floor. Beni watches as the Egyptologist translates the hieratics.

"There is a curse upon this chest." The Egyptologist notices.

"Curse ! My ass." Daniels says.

"Yeah, who cares."

The Egyptologist gives them the evil-eye

"In these hallowed grounds, that which was set forth in ancient times, is as strong today, as it was then."

"Yeah, yeah, okay, what's it." Henderson replies.

The Egyptologist slowly and carefully reads the inscription :

"Death will come on swift wings to whomever opens this chest."

A guest of wind blows through the chamber. Torches flicker. All the diggers suddenly turn tail and run off screaming. The Americans look at each other, suddenly very nervous.

"It says, there is one, the undead, who if brought back to life, is bound by sacred law to consummate this curse. " The Eyptologist pursues." Yeah, well, let's just make sure we don't bring anybody back from the dead then, huh ?" Daniels asks. The three Americans laugh.

"He will kill all who open this chest,... and assimilate their organs and fluids." The Egyptologist translates. 

"Assimilate their organs and fluids ? Ya mean eat 'em ?" Henderson questions.

"And in so doing he will regenerate. And no longer be the undead, but a plague upon this earth. " The Egyptologist concludes.

The wind whistles. Torches flicker very spooky. Beni and the Egyptologist share a fear-filled look. Henderson just shrugs.

"Ah hell, let's open it anyways."

 

WHAM ! The wooden coffin is dropped to the ground next to his stone sarcophagus. Blair is very excited.

"Oh my god, love dreamed about this ever since I was a little boy." Sandburg exclaims.

"You dream about dead guys ?" Ellison asks.

The young man just gives him a look, then starts brushing dirt and cobwebs off the top of the coffin. Then he freezes.

"Look, all the sacred spells have been chiseled off. The hieratics and hieroglyphs that protect the deceased on his journey into the afterlife, they've been removed. This man was cursed,...doomed."

Jim and Megan are too excited to care

"Tough break." The taller man says.

"Yes, I'm all tears, now let's see who's inside, shall we ?" The young woman adds.

 

Blair can't believe them. Megan inserts the key/box into the coffin's lock. Turns it. The lid cracks open with a hiss. They all react to the foul stench. Then Jim grabs the lid. It's stuck. He pulls with all his might. Blair helps him. It starts to give way. Slowly. Slowly. Slooooowly. And then it suddenly pops open and the most hiddeous, maggot-infested, rotten corpse imagniable jumps up.

"AHHHHH ! ! !" Three yells.

They all jump back. Scared to death. Imhotep is now the 'Elephant Man' of corpses ; twisted and deformed. The years have not been kind. He slumps back into his coffin.

 

Henderson and Daniels start to pry at the lid of the wooden chest. Beni and the Egyptologist watch. In the background, Beni starts backing away, filled with fear, sweating buckets.

"The curse, ....beware the curse !"

The Frenchman turns and bolts from the chamber. Daniels spits.

"Stupid superstitious bastard."

And that's when the seal breaks--. A black vapor blasts out of the chest. Everybody vanishes into the strange cloud.

 

Blair, Ellison and Megan slowly creep forward and carefully look back inside Imhotep's coffin, creeped-out

"Is he supposed to look like that ?" Jim asks with disgust.

"No. I've never seen a mummy look like this. He's, he's still..."

Sandburg stammers.

" Juicy ?" His sister completes.

"Yes. He's more than four thousand years old and still decomposing."

"And look at this." Ellison says.

He points at the inside of the coffin lid, where there are fingernail scratches and dried blood all over the inside.

"Oh my god, he was buried alive." The young man realizes. This sends a chill through everyone. Blair leans in closer.

"And he left a message. It says : 'Death is only the beginning'"

Megan shivers. Jim looks around.

"Where's my gun ?"

"What are you going to do ? Shoot him ?" The young woman asks.

"If he decides to wakes up, hell yes !" The taller man replies.

 

The vapor is settling. The Americans have their guns aimed at the chest. The Egyptologist slowly steps up, reaches inside, and lifts out a heavy burlap bag. Everyone's eyes widen in excitement as he sticks his hand into the bag and slowly pulls out the black 'Book Of The Dead', the same book Imhotep used in his attempt to bring Naroun back to life.

"I have heard told of this book, but I never truly believed it existed." The Egyptologist says. "This, good gentlemen, is a most priceless treasure."

Henderson kicks the sandy floor in anger.

"I wouldn't trade ya for a brass spittoon !"

"Yeah ! It's supposed to be made outta pure gold !" Daniels adds.

He kicks the chest. It breaks open, unfolding to reveal a lower compartment. Inside, are Naroun's five jewel encrusted canopic jars (one is shattered and without jewels)

 

 

The two camps have now joined together. Ellison and Beni are roasting chunks of hairy meat over a fire. Megan wrinkles her nose, disgusted by the smell.

"What is this stuff ? It smells like our late friend, the warden." 

Jim and Beni both grin. The young woman looks horrified.

"You did not ! ? .... We're not ! ?"

"Rat gizzards. They smell bad and taste worse, but that's the best the desert has to offer." Jim says.

The gloating Americans sit down, fondling their jeweled jars.

"Say Ellison, whadaya think these honey's'll fetch back home ?" Henderson asks.

" We hear you gentlemen found yerselves a nice gooey mummy. Congratulations." Burns teases them. 

"Ya know if ya dry him out, you can sell him for firewood." Daniels adds.

The Americans laugh. Blair walks up, sits down and drops a pile of big dusty bug skeletons onto the ground.

"Scarabs, flesh eaters, I found them inside our friend's coffin. They can stay alive for years living off the flesh of a corpse, or in this case..."

He shrugs, then looks at the roasting meat

"Famished."

Jim and Megan stare at the bug skeletons, disgusted.

"Are you saying somebody threw these things in with our guy, and they slowly ate him alive ?" The taller man questions.

"Very slowly." Sandburg replies.

"He certainly was not a popular fellow when they planted him." His sister notices.

"Must of got a little too frisky with the Pharaoh's daughter." Jim says.

"According to my readings, our friend suffered the 'hom-dai', the worst of all ancient Egyptian curses, one reserved for only the most evil blasphemers. In all of my research, I've never read of this curse actually having been performed. "

"That bad huh, Chief ?"

"Yes, they never used it because they feared it so. It's written, that if a victim of the hom-dai should ever arise, he would bring with him the ten plagues of Egypt. "

"The ten plagues ?... You mean all ten plagues." Ellison says.

"Like what that Moses guy did to that Pharaoh guy ?" Beni asks.

" That's one way of putting it." The young man answers.

"Let's see, there was frogs, flies, locusts...." His sister lists.

"Hail and fire." Burns adds.

"The sun turning black." Henderson says.

" Water turning to blood." Daniels tells.

"And my personal favorite : people covered in boils and sores." Megan ends.

All the men share nervous looks, really spooked. Sandburg n just laughs at them, then pulls a meat stick out of the fire.

"Fried gizzard anyone ?"

 

 

Having just freshened up for bed, Blair exits the temple and steps past the sleeping diggers. He spots the Egyptologist, his jeweled canopic jar snug under one arm, 'The Book Of The Dead' laying loose under the other. The young librarian stares at the Book, nervously biting his lip, then he sneaks over, carefully steals it, and quickly tip-toes away.

Lying on some blankets by the campfire, Ellison rolls over and sees Sandburg, sitting wide-eyed, staring at the Book.

"You sure you outta be playin, around with that ?" The taller man questions.

"It's just a book, no harm ever came from a book."

Blair opens the cover. The fire flickers. He and Jim share a nervous look, then the young man shrugs and starts reading.

"Ahm kum Ra. Ahm kum Dei."

He continues reading the book aloud in ancient Egyptian.

 

The Egyptologist sits bolt upright. Quickly looks around, sees Sandburg reading the Book. He gets up and runs for him.

"NO ! NOOOO ! YOU MUST NOT !"

He skids to a stop as a strange, piercing whine is heard, coming from out in the desert. Ellison and the others all leap to their feet. The Americans run out of their tents. The sound gets louder and closer. And then from out of the darkness a huge wall of locusts swirls into camp and envelops everyone. Jim grabs Sandburg, and with Megan at their side they race for the crevice, trying to fend off the horrid vermin as they go. Beni and the Americans run for the temple. The Egyptologist is covered in locusts. He stares at The Book Of The Dead, looking haunted.

"What have we done ?"

The campfire is sucked up into the air.

 

Into the labyrinth.

Jim, Blair and his sister race down the labyrinth, slapping at themselves and picking locusts out of their hair

"Did you see that ! ? Grasshoppers ! Billions of grasshoppers !" Megan says.

" That's one of the plagues, right ?" Jim asks. " The grasshopper plague !"

"This is not a plague. It's generational. Every so many years the locusts of Egypt have a population explosion and they all take flight."

The young librarian steps forward, something squishes. Jim lowers his torch, --the entire floor is filled with slimy frogs.

"Okay, ....and what about frogs ?" The taller man asks.

 

The Americans, Beni and the diggers race into a passageway. Burns is knocked down, his bifocals skitter across the ground, they get crushed in the stampede. Burns staggers to his feet, squinting. Blurry figures vanish into the darkness.

"Daniels ! Henderson !" Burns shouts.

 

The ground under Jim, Blair and Megan starts to shake. Then suddenly, right in front of them, --hundreds of chittering scarab-beetles boil up out of the sand. They start scurrying towards them. Megan screams. Blair screams. Even Ellison almost screams. They turn around and haul-ass.

 

Burns staggers down a passageway, squinting, his hands out in front of him, groping, trying not to bump into anything. Then ten feet in front of him, a dark, blurry figure steps out.

"Daniels ? .... is that you ?"

Burns half-blindly staggers forward. The Figure doesn't move.

"Henderson ?"

Burns trips, stumbles forward, towards the Figure, his hands reach out and sink into a mummy's putrid chest cavity. Burns jumps like a scalded cat, pulls his hands out and looks at them, --His hands are coverred in molten flesh rot. He starts to scream. A skeletal hand clamps over his mouth.

 

Sandburg, Ellison and Megan race up the staircase, just ahead of the mass of scurrying, chiterring scarabs. Jim leaps out onto a pedestal. Megan jumps up next to him. Blair jumps up into a grotto on the other side of the narrow stairway. The horrible herd of vicious scarabs scurries between them, their ear-piercing critters send shivers up Blair's spine. He leans back. The wall moves. The young man falls backwards through an opening. Ellison and Megan watch the scarabs vanish up the staircase. Then they look across the way. Sandburg is gone.

"SANDY !?" His sister shouts.

 

The young librarian sits up, shakes the sand out of his hair, fearfully looks around. It's almost pitch black. He gets up and feels his way along the dark walls. He rounds a corner. A shaft of moonlight filters in through a crack in the ceiling. A man stands in the middle of the room. Blair walks towards him.

"Oh thank goodness, you're one of the Americans, aren't you ?"

Just as he reaches him, he turns around. It's Burns. Both of his eyes are missing. He stares at him with vacant sockets. Sandburg shivers in horror and backs away, hyperventilating, he bumps into something. He screams and spins around It's the mummy. With two fresh eyeballs in its sockets.

The young man screams again and backs away into a wall. His hair is down, his face is dirty and sweaty. He looks so young and scared. The mummy squints.

"Naroun ?"

 

 

Jim is feeling his way around inside the grotto.

"Damn-it !" The taller man curses. "Must be a trap door around here or somethin'."

And then Megan and him hear men screaming, and suddenly, Henderson, Daniels and one of the Diggers come running down the stairs.

"RUN, YOU SONS-A-BITCHES ! RUUUUN !" Henderson yells.

Ellison and Megan join them as they hear the herd of chiterring scarabs coming their way. The digger suddenly trips and falls. Jim slows down, about to go back and help him. But it's too late. The digger screams in horror as the herd of scarabs run over him, eating straight through him, leaving behind the Digger's half eaten skeleton. Daniels Henderson and Megan react in horror. Ellison's already running, races right past them. The others turn and haul-ass.

Running, Jim tries to concentrate on his hearing. He has to find the kid ! He has to remember how to use his heightened senses ! But with his fellows' groans and scarabs crunching behind him in their race, it's too hard. 'You have to remember, Enqueri. Or you'll lose him forever.' Incacha said. //I have to remember ! I have to remember !// Jim is saying to himself over and over. And finally, beyond screams and scrapping beetles, he picks up a familiar sound : Blair's heart pounding very quickly.

 

 

The mummy steps forward, --the sand around its seems to magnetize, swirling and dancing around its flaking skeletal legs. Sandburg starts backing away, horrified, looks at Burns who opens his mouth, but can only grugle and moan because his tongue is missing. The mummy grabs him, throws him to the ground and sets his skeletal foot on Burns' chest, like a big game hunter standing on his kill. The mummy then parts its fetid lips, --A fresh tongue flaps between his rotted teeth.

"Kadeesh pharos Naroun !"

The young man shivers in fear. Suddenly, Ellison comes flying around the corner and runs right up to him.

"Would you quit playin, around, Chief ! Let's get outta here already !"

Jim sees the look in Sandburg's eyes and turns around, --at the sight of the mummy, he jumps back in fright.

"WHOA !"

Jim and Blair start backing away down the wall. The mummy glides sideways with them, like a tiger cornering his prey, the sand around it swirls and dances. Burns starts to crawl away, whimpering as he goes. The mummy suddenly stops and unhinges its skeletal jaw, its skinless mouth stretches to an inhuman size, and it lets out a horrific, primordial shriek.

"NAROUN !"

Sandburg screams. Jim shudders, then, embarrassed by his fear, he opens his own mouth and roars right back at him--

"Ahhhhhhhh ! !"

Then he blasts the mummy with the elephant gun, --BLAM ! Through the smoke and flammage, the mummy blown off its feet, its ribcage half torn away. Ellison grabs the young man and runs.

 

Sand and wind whip through the ruins as Jim and Blair stumble up out of the crevice and come face-to-face with ten armed Mumia who quickly raise their guns. Ellison and Sandburg quickly raise their hands. Megan, Henderson, Daniels and the Egyptologist are already on their knees, hands over their heads. The black leader of the Mumia steps forward.

"I told you to leave or die, you refused, and now you may have killed us all. For you have unleashed the creature that we have feared for more than four thousand years."

"Relax, I got him." Jim says.

"No mortal weapons can kill this creature. He is not of this world." The black man replies.

"Are we talkin, about the same creature ? The walking corpse ? Really big mouth ? Really bad breath ?" Ellison questions.

 

Beni sloway backs up around Anubis, eyes wide, gun up. He turns around, --the mummy is right there ! Beni screams, backs away and opens fire. Six gunshots perforate the mummy, but have no effect except to splatter molten flesh rot onto the back wall. Beni retreats into a corner, scared shitless. The mummy moves forward, its one hand trying to stop the molten mummy guts from oozing out of the large shotgun hole in its side. Beni drops his gun and grabs at the chains around his neck, religious symbols and icons dangle from each chain. Beni holds the first one up : a christian crucify. He quickly makes the sign of-the cross and blesses himself in English :

"May the good Lord protect and watch over me as a shepherd watches over his flock. And may Satan in all his forms be vanquished forever."

It has no effect on the mummy, which continues forward. Beni quickly grabs at the other symbols and icons, holding them out towards the mummy, one after the other, trying to slow his progress : an Islamic Sword and Crescent Moon necklace ; a Hindu Brahma medallion ; a small Buddhist Bodhisattva statue. All while blessing himself in Arabic, Hindi, Chinese and Latin. Nothing works. The mummy's skeletal hand reaches for Beni's throat. Tears run down Beni's cheeks he's so freaked. And that's when he holds up the Star of David and blesses himself in hebrew. The mummy stops in its tracks. Its hand lowers. Its grotesque new eyeballs stare at Beni.

"The language of the slaves." The creature says in hebrew, then looks at the Frenchman quizzically and takes a step back.

"I may have use for you. And the rewards will be great."

The mummy reaches into its tattered robe, and then holds out its fetid hand, filled with squirming maggots. Beni cringes, about to throw up, but then the maggots part, --revealing a tiny pile of little jewels. The little man's eyes widen. The mummy raises its other hand, it holds Naroun's broken canopic jar.

"Where are the other sacred jars ?" It asks.

 

Several Mumia drag Burns up, he stares out with vacant sockets. Daniels and Henderson are especially horrified.

"You bastards !" Daniels shouts.

"What did you do to him ! ?" Henderson questions.

"We saved him ! Saved him before the creature could finish his work. Now leave, all of you, quickly, before he finishes you all." The black man replies.

"You're not going to kill us ?" Megan asks.

Blair elbows her.

"We must now hunt him down, and try and find a way to kill him, before he consumes the earth." The leader says. And with the other Mumia, he starts heading down into the crevice. Ellison yells at them, trying to convince himself-

"I told ya, I already got him !"

The black man stops and looks back, deadly serious

"Know this, the creature will be coming for you. He must consummate the curse. And until he does, he will never eat, he will never sleep, and he will never stop."

He turns and jumps down into the crevice.

"Hey !" Ellison shouts. "I want to know who saved our life !"

"My name is Simon." The black man replies and then, he vanishes with his fellows.

Ellison and Megan boost Blair up onto a camel. Daniels and Henderson throw Burns up onto another. The Egyptologist, still clutching The Book Of The Dead, gets up on yet another. They all head off into the dark, windblown desert...

And then in the extreme foreground, A skeletal hand suddenly puches up out of the sand, accompanied by the most horrific primordial shriek imaginable.

"NAROOOOOUUUUUNNN ! ! !"

 

CHAPTER FIVE

 

 

British Fort. Cairo. Several days later.

A British flag flies over british soldiers manning the front gate. Our tired, disheveled heroes saunter up on their dusty camels. The Soldiers check their papers, then let them enter.

In Blair's quarters, a steamer trunk is slammed to the floor and thrown open. Ellison chucks a load of trousers and shirts into the trunk.

"I thought you didn't believe in this stuff ! ?" He asks, heading to the closets. Sandburg replies unpacking his clothes :

"Having an encounter with a four thousand year old walking-talking corpse tends to convert one."

"Forget it, we're out the door down the hall and gone." Jim proclaims.

"No, we are not." The young librarian says.

The taller man throws a handful of his undergarments into the trunk.

"Oh yes we are." He asserts. And he continues to pack Blair's clothes as he continues to unpack them :

" No we are not. We woke him up, and we must try and stop him." The young man replies.

" We ?! What we ?! You didn't read that book. I told you not to play around with that thing."

"Alright then, Me, I, ...I read the book, I woke him up and I intend to stop him."

Ellison angrily stretches boxers between his hands.

"How !? You heard the man, no mortal weapons can kill this guy."

Blair grabs the boxers and throws it into a drawer.

"Then we'll have to find some immortal ones."

"There goes that alieff again. Not me, I am outta here !"

The taller man stuffs a pile of Sandburg's books into the trunk. The young man kicks the lid shut, slamming it on his fingers. Jim yelps and angrily storms around the room sucking his fingers as Blair follows him.

"According to that Book, once this creature has been reborn, his curse will spread, and as he grows in strength, so will his curse grow, infecting the people until the whole of the earth is destroyed." The young librarian explains.

"Yeah ? So ? Is that My problem ?"

"It's everybody's problem !" Sandburg answers, incredulous.

"Look, Chief, I appreciate you saving my life and all, but when I signed on, I agreed to take you out there and bring you back, and I did, now were even, end of job, end of story, contract terminated."

"That's what I am to you ? A contract ?"

" You can either tag along with me, or you can stay here."

"I'm staying." The young librarian maintains.

"FINE."

Ellison storms out and slams the door. A beat. Then the door opens and Jim's hand reaches back in and throws a handful of boxers to the floor. SLAM goes the door.

 

Jim angrily strides through the compound. He sees Beni coming up the path with a man dressed in hooded robes, his face covered by an ornate death mask.

"Beni ya little stinkweed, where did you slink off to ?"

"You left me ! You left me in the desert to rot." The Frenchman complains.

"Oh yeah,... sorry bout that (Jim gestures to the man in hooded robes) So who's this guy ?"

"This is Prince Imhotep, High Priest of Osiris."

"Oh, hey, how ya doin' ?"

Jim sticks out his hand, --Imhotep instantly recoils. Ellison  gives him the once-over. Beni quickly covers.

"The Prince does not like to be touched by other humans. A Silly eastern superstition, I'm afraid."

"Yeah, well, we all got our little problems today don't we ?" The taller man shrugs.

"He has come to help Mister Burns. Somehow I feel responsible."

"Don't gimme that, you never had any scruples." Jim says, suspiciously.

"Do you know where I can steal some ?"

Jim fake-punches him. Beni flinches. Ellison gives Imhotep a look as he strides off.

"See ya around, Padre."

Imhotep's grotesque new eyes glare out from behind the mask.

//This guy smells strange//, Jim thinks. But he's too worried to linger on it.

 

British Fort's mess.

The proverbial den-of-iniquity. Hard men, hard women and hard liquor. Lots of deals going down. An older guy with a walrus mustache is drunk and talking to some tough customers. He wears British WWI fighter pilot gear. His name is Winston Havlock.

"I'm the last of the Royal Force still stationed here, you know ? All the other laddies died in the air and were buried in the sand."

The tough customers shove him away. Winston staggers over to Jim and Megan at the bar, not missing a beat.

"Ever since the end of the Great War, there hasn't been a single challenge worthy of a man like me."

"I've heard it before, Winston." Ellison says and shoves him away. Winston staggers back to Megan.

"I just wish I would've chucked it with the other laddies, gone down in a flame of glory, instead of sitting around here, rotting from boredom and booze !"

The young woman shoves him towards another group of unlucky sods Henderson and Daniels sidle up to the bar next to them.

 

Burns, now tongue-less, talks with a severe impediment.

"The drawer there, spectacles. (He tries to laugh) As you see, I won't be needing them."

Imhotep opens the drawer and pulls out some bifocals. He puts the bifocals on over his death mask, --and grins broadly, his rotted teeth showing through the mouth hole.

"Mister Burns," Beni says. "Prince Imhotep thanks you for your spectacles, - and for your eyes,... and for your tongue."

The expression on Burns' face starts to change, very puzzled.

"But I am afraid more is needed, the Prince says he must finish the job, consummate the curse which you and your friends have brought down upon yourselves."

A look of pure fear registers on Burns face. Beni quickly backs away and runs out of the room. Imhotep picks up the sacred canopic jar, then removes the death mask, revealing his hideous, shattered corpse-skull.

 

 

Three shot glasses clink together. Ellison, Megan and Henderson slug 'em down, --all three of them instantly spit out the liquid. Half the bar spits out their drinks as well.

"Sweet Jesus ! That tasted just like, ....like..." Henderson stammers.

"Blood." Jim completes.

They all look at each other, even more nervous.

"And the rivers and waters of Egypt went red and were as blood." The young woman quotes.

A look passes over the taller man's face, a realization.

"He's here."

He sudden1y jumps away from the bar and runs for the door.

"Who's here !?" Megan asks, following him.

"The guy ! The Priest ! THE MUMMY !" Jim realizes. "I'm a dumb. I have to trust in my senses."

"Your what !?" Megan says.

Lightning flashes as Ellison races across the compound, knocking several soldiers out of his way, panic stricken.

"Sandburg ! Blaaair !!"

 

The young man calmly steps into a courtyard carrying a handful of books. A blast thunder and lightning scares him. He drops half the books. Then a hand grabs him. He jumps again and drops the rest of the books. It's Jim, breathing hard.

"We've got problems." The taller man whispers. And that's when a barrage of hail and fire slams into the courtyard. Ellison and Sandburg jump back. A water fountain bursts into steam. A wooden trellis catches fire. Jim and the young man run under the eaves as soldiers, servants and camels run in every direction, trying to avoid the maelstrom.

"He's here ! I saw him ! My senses ! Why didn't trust my senses ?"

"What do you mean ?" Blair asks.

"That thing is here !"

"The creature !? Are you sure !?" The young man questions.

Jim gives him an incredulous look and gestures at the hail and fire

"Pretty sure !"

The hail and fire come to a stop. Everything goes dead quiet. Ellison and Sandburg freeze. And then a blood curdling scream is heard coming from the living quarters directly above them. Blair  and Jim race up the stairs.

 

The two men race into the room, past the servant who is running out screaming. They skid to a stop as they spot Burns, or what's left of him, lying dead on the floor, --His body is shrivelled to half its size, drained of all organs and liquids. Jim and Blair are shocked. Then they hear a loud moan and notice Imhotep standing on the far side of the room. Ellison draws his gun. The mummy is regenerating : a thick skin forms over powerful new musculature. Its tendons ripple. Its bones bulge and reform. Its mouth opens to an inhuman size as it moans and cries out, in severe pain. And then it's over. And the mummy looks like an incredibly muscular, corpse-like vision from hell. Jim and Blair are stunned.

"We are in serious trouble." The taller man whispers. Imhotep starts to move towards them, staring at the young librarian.

"Back off, creep." Ellison says. 

Imhotep keeps coming. Jim open fire. Blasting the mummy bullets rip through his body. Imhotep doesn't seem to mind. Megan, Henderson and Daniels run into the room. They're all stunned at the sight of Imhotep. Ellison steps forward, throws a right hook, punches Imhotep in the face, --His fist goes through Imhotep's skull and gets stuck deep inside his head. Jim stares at it, shocked, then quickly yanks his fist back out. The area of Imhotep's face that came into contact with the taller man's fist quickly degenerates and decays, right down to the bone, as if Jim's hand instantly infected it. The mummy angrily turns, grabs the taller man, and with no effort, throws him across the room and into Megan and the others knocking them down. Imhotep looks at his hand, the one that just grabbed Ellison, --It starts to shrivel and decay. He quickly turns to Blair who backs away into a wall, terrorized. Imhotep steps up to him.

"You saved me from the undead. For this, I shall make you immortal."

He leans in, about to kiss him with his decayed face. And that's when a white cat jumps onto the piano, hissing. Imhotep shrieks. The balcony doors blow open. The mummy spins into a blast of wind and sand and swirls out the doors. Gone. Jim, Blair, Megan and Daniels stand transfixed. Henderson kneels next to Burns, shriveled body, horrified.

"The curse, the curse." He murmurs.

 

 

Ellison, Megan, Henderson and Daniels follow the young librarian across the Ramesseum.

"There's only one person I know who can possibly give us some answers." Sandburg asserts.

They round a corner and come upon the curator, --who is talking with the Mumia's leader. Everybody stops.

"YOU !" Blair shouts. Ellison and the American's quickly draw their guns. The black man just scowls. The curator nods his head.

"Mr Sandburg. Gentlemen."

"What is he doing here ?" The young man asks.

"Do you truly wish to know ? or would you prefer to just shoot us ?" The curator replies. Everybody tenses, guns up. Then Jim uncocks his .38.

"I just saw my fist vanish into some guy's head." He says and he slides his gun back into his shoulder-holster. "I'm willin, to go on a little faith, here."

"You will not believe it." The curator swears.

" Try me." Jim says.

 

 

Moments later...

Everyone is assembled around the tomb display of Seti The First. There is his chariot and sword. The curator sits on Seti's throne and he explains :

"We are part of an ancient secret society, the cult-of-the-Mumia, and we have a sacred mission, passed down through thirty-nine generations. For over four thousand years we have guarded The City Of The Dead. We are sworn at manhood to, do any and all in our power to stop the High Priest Imhotep from being reborn into this world."

"And because of you, we have failed." The man called Simon adds.

"And you think this justifies killing innocent people !?" Blair shouts.

"To have stopped this creature ? Yes !" The curator answers.

"Okay, let's cut to the chase. He's afraid of cats, what's that about ?" Jim asks.

"According to the ancients, cat's are the guardians at the gates of the underworld. Imhotep will fear them until he is fully regenerated, and then he will fear nothing."

Daniels is totally wigged-out, he looks at Ellison.

"Right ! And ya know how he gets fully regenerated ?! By killing everybody who opened that chest and sucking us dry ! That's how !"

"Yes, the creature must first try and regenerate, and then he will attempt to resurrect the one he has loved for more than four thousand years," the curator replies.

" Naroun." Blair whispers. The curator and Simon look at him, thunderstruck.

"In the necropolis, when I saw him, alive,... walking, he called me Naroun. And then in Mister Burns' quarters he tried to kiss me."

With uneasiness, the Mumia's leader stares at him, like the curator.

"You mean," Henderson says, "that this creature is in love with you ? A man ?"

The curator clears his throat.

"It's because it was you who read from the Book. He has chosen you to be-the human sacrifice needed to regenerate the body of Naroun."

Megan glances at him and notices :

"I'm pretty sure you don't tell us all the truth. It doesn't explain why this mummy tried to kiss my brother. Am I wrong if I say that this Naroun was a guy ?"

The curator doesn't answers, but he looks very disturbed.

" Oh ! great ! A High Priest of Ancient Egypt who falled in love with a man ! So, does it explain the 'hom-dai' ? " The young woman asks. Simon shakes his head. The curator tries to stop him, but the black man ignores him :

"Naroun was too Seti's lover. And he killed Pharaoh with Imhotep's help."

Jim glances at Blair. The young man looks stunned and troubled. And Ellison doesn't like it. He remembers their kisses and Incacha's words : 'You are soulmates.' Like Imhotep and Naroun ? The taller man is disturbing by this thought. The High Priest wants to kill Blair. Jim has to protect the young librarian. That's all !

"This is not good. Not good at all." Megan says, shaking her head. Simon has been staring out a wall of windows.

"Tonight is the full moon. The moon of Osiris. It will begin tonight."

Everyone follows the black man's eyes, through the windows we can see the sun, --which is now going into a full eclipse.

"...and he stretched forth his hands towards the heavens, and there was darkness throughout the land of Egypt." Megan whispers.

Ellison looks out a window at the British soldiers manning the walls. Above and beyond them, --is the black sun.

 

Several hours later...

"We must stop him from regenerating." Blair asserts. He turns to Daniels and Henderson. "Who opened that chest ?"

"Well, there was me and Daniels here and then poor Burns of course, oh yeah, and that Egyptologist fella." Henderson replies.

Jim turns from the window. He tried to track Imhotep through his hearing and smell a moment before, but it didn't work and he joined Sandburg and others. The young man is trying to find a solution. Jim can almost see his brain working.

"What about my buddy, Beni ?" The taller man asks suddenly.

" Naw, he scrammed outta there." Daniels replies.

"We must find the Egyptologist and bring him back here to the safety of the fort, before the creature can get to him." Sandburg says.

Jim looks at him, Henderson and Daniels.

"Okay, ...Chief, you wait here, you two come with me."

All three of them pounce on him at once--

"The hell with that ! I'm not goin' nowhere ! We're safe here." Henderson groans.

"Yeah, I'm not leavin, this fort for nothin'." Daniels approves.

"Who put you in charge ? You can't just leave me behind like some old suitcase. I'm the one responsible for this mess and I intend to be the one to clean it up." The young man protests. Ellison just shakes his head and sighs. Totally put-upon. Then he takes Blair, shoves him into the bedroom, slams the door and locks it with a skeleton key. From inside his room, the young man is pounding on the door and yelling. Jim throws the skeleton key to Daniels.

"Keep an eye on him. If you leave his door, I'll rip your spleen out. C'mon, Megan."

"Me ? But you forget I'm a weak woman !" She says.

"You're more courageous than those cowards. And you know this city better than anybody."

Ellison grabs her hand and she must follow him.

 

 

Cairo Alleyways - Bazaar.

The Egyptologist stumbles through the dark alleys, looking haunted. He clutches the Book of The Dead in one hand and his sacred canopic jar in the other. Imhotep is stalking him. A street vendor turns and sees Imhotep's horribly decayed face. He reacts and scurries away. Imhotep lifts his robe, covers his face, and moves in on the Egyptologist, who is heading into the bazaar.

 

The Egyptologist's Office.

Beni is ransacking the joint, pulling out drawers and files and throwing them on the floor. He finds a silver pocket watch, shakes it, then throws it into his pocket, then he starts tipping over bookcases and clearing shelves.

"Well, well, well." Ellison's voice is heard. "I was sure to smell a familiar stink."

The Frenchman spins around. Jim and Megan stand in the door.

"Lemme guess, spring cleaning ? " The taller man asks.

Beni turns and runs for an open window. Ellison grabs a chair, flings it into his path. The little man trips and crashes into a wall. Jim strides over, grabs him and lifts him up the wall. Beni's feet dangle off the floor.

"Where's your new friend ? "

"What friend ? You're my only friend." The Frenchman replies.

Ellison quickly slides his knife up under the little man's chin

"Then you got no excuse for living. What the hell you doin, being buddies with this creep, Beni ? What's in it for you ?"

"It is better to be the right hand of the Devil,....than in his path. As long as I serve him, I am immune."

"Immune from what ?" Jim groans.

"You shall see."

"What are you looking for ? Lie, and I'll slit your throat." Ellison threatens. He shoves the knife deeper into Beni's skin.

"The book ! The black book they found at Hamunaptra ! Imhotep wants it back. Said to me it would be worth it's weight in diamonds."

"What does he want the book for ?"

"Something about bringing his dead dear friend back to life He needs the book...." The little man looks at Megan. "And your brother."

Ellison looks at youg woman. Beni seizes the moment and knees Jim in the balls. The taller man doubles over and collapses. The Frenchman leaps out the window. Megan cringes.

"That looked rather painful."

"Ya know, ever since I met you, my luck has been for crap." Ellison moans.

"Yes, I know, I do that to people." The young woman replies, shrugging.

And that's when they hear a blood curdling scream coming from down in the bazaar. Jim and Megan scramble to the window and look out--

Down in the bazaar, people are screaming and quickly backing away from the shrivelled corpse of the Egyptologist.

 

A partially decayed hand reaches down and takes the sacred canopic jar out of the Egyptologist's shriveled hand. It's Imhotep, having regenerated even further. He looks up and catches eyes with Jim. The High Priest grins, then unhinges ; his jaw, his mouth stretches to an inhuman size, and then a huge swarm of comes out of his mouth and races straight up at Ellison and the young woman. They both slam the shutters. The flies slam into the closed window and immediately spread throughout the bazaar. People are screaming and running.

Jim and Megan look at each other.

"Damn-it ! That's two down and only two to go." The taller man groans.

"And then he'll be coming after Sandy."

They turn and race out of the office.

 

British Fort.

Daniels stares out a window, watching the British guards at the front gate. More Soldiers march the encircling parapet.

"Ten O'clock ! All is well !" A soldier proclaims.

" The hell with this. I'm goin, downstairs to get me a drink. You want somethin ?" Daniels asks to his partner.

"Yeah, get me a glass of bourbon, a shot of bourbon and a bourbon chaser."

Daniels nods and heads out. Henderson just sits there, alone, smoking. He reaches into his jacket pocket, pulls out his sacred canopic jar and fondles it. A breeze suddenly comes in through the open window. The curtains flutter. He gets up and goes over to shut it. He looks out the window. And then...

Henderson is lifted into the air by a mass of swirling sand. His body twists and turns and Slowly shrivels as the life is sucked out of him. Then he collapses to the floor. On the wall above him, the shadow of the swirling sand condenses, forming a silhouette of a human body. It convulses as the body regenereates. And then it's over.

Imhotep steps into view. He's regenerated even further and looks almost normal now, his face no longer decayed. He steps over Henderson's shriveled body and up to Sandburg's door, rattles the knob. It's locked. The High Priest grins.

 

The young librarian is asleep in his bed as sand begins streaming in through the keyhole, pouring onto the floor, forming a large mound. Sandburg starts to toss and turn.

To the door, the mound of sand is gone and in it's place is Imhotep.

 

Blair is dreaming. He's in a strange forest, near a temple's ruins. With fingertips, he caresses a huge feline statue, which there's a name engraved on. ENQUERI. The young man is pretty sure to know this name... Suddenly, an enormous Anubis' statue arises between trees and heads for the young man who is petrified. That's when the feline statue wakes up and becomes a giant black cat which struggles against Anubis. Blair can do nothing but watches their fighting

 

Ellison and Megan race into the foyer and skid to a stop as they see Henderson's shriveled body on the floor. Jim runs up to Blair's door and rattles the knob, still locked. He can hear slow heartbeats and creasing fabric. He bends down and looks in through the keyhole.

 

Imhotep leans down towards the young man, about to kiss him as he sleeps. The door starts to crash and bang from Jim. The High Priest ignores it. And kisses Blair. His lips and mouth instantly start to degenerate and decay, right down to the bone. The door bursts open. Sandburg wakes-up and sees Imhotep's rotted mouth kissing him. He screams and shoves him away.

 

" Get your hands off the kid, pal. " Ellison threatens.

Imhotep's sadness turns to anger as he spins around and faces Jim. The High Priest licks his fetid lips. The taller man smirks.

"Nice lips."

 

Imhotep starts to move for Ellison who throws a white cat at the High Priest who instinctively catches it. He shrieks, drops the cat and stumbles back towards the window, --which suddenly blows open. Imhotep spins like a dervish and bursts into a whirliwind of sand. Everybody covers their eyes. The Imhotep/sand-devil explodes out the window and vanishes over the compound.

Megan runs toward the windows. But their ennemy disappeared. She's shaking and can say nothing. Jim hugs Blair as the young man wipes his mouth in disgust. Daniels walks in, looks at Henderson's shriveled body on the floor... and drops the martini glasses.

 

 

CHAPTER SIX

 

 

Cairo's Bazaar

A full moon now shines down on the bazaar, still bustling with activity. Suddenly, a breeze kicks-in. Green mist begins to swirl down the street and through the stalls. The people begin to choke and cough and retch, as if being hit by a severe sickness. --It's already too late. Imhotep strolls through the sickened mob, his face half rotted off, his deformed mouth grinning happily. Beni is at his side, looking very nervous. And then, one-by-one', the people silently begin to follow the High Priest, their skin now covered in disgustingly hideous boils and sores.

 

Museum of Antiquities.

Ellison, Megan, Daniels, the curator and Simon follow Blair as he strides through the museum.

"Last month I came across an inscription that mentioned 'The Book Of The Dead'." The young man explains

"That book we found at Hamunaptra ?" Daniels asks.

"Yes. I dismissed it, because it talked about bringing people back from the dead. A notion I was unwilling to believe." Sandburg replies.

"Believe it, Chief. That's what brought our buddy back to life."

"And now he's going to use it to bring his boyfriend back." Megan adds. Daniels glances at her and her brother with an odd look.

"And if he succeeds, the two of them together will bring about the apocalypse." Simon says.

The curator joins Blair at his side as he heads up the stairs, everyone else in hot pursuit.

"The plagues we have seen so far, are merely Imhotep flexing his muscles. Only at the moment of Naroun's resurrection will he be truly invincible. "

"They reach the display cases." Sandburg quickly opens them. " I'm thinking that if the black 'Book Of The Dead' can bring people back to life..."

"Then perhaps, the golden Book Of The Living can return them to the underworld." The curator ends.

"Exactly." The young man nods.

"So your sayin', if we find the book made outta gold--" Ellison begins.

"--And read the sacred incantations contained inside it. " The curator says.

"You think it'll send this guy back to hell ?"

"Correct." The older man answers. And that's when loud chanting is heard coming from outside They all rush over to the upper windows and look down-- Outside, a large crazed mob covered in hideous boils and sores comes chanting up the driveway : Imhotep ! Imhotep !

"It has begun. The beginning of the end." Simon whispers.

"Not quite yet it hasn't. C'mon." Sandburg says. He dashes back to the display cases. Everyone follows.

 

The crazed mob crashes into the huge front doors, which are locked. They pound furiously, throwing themselves at it while chanting constantly. Imhotep solemnly comes up the driveway.

 

The banging on the doors can be heard as Blair and the curator quickly sort through broken pieces of stone tablets. The others watch. The young man pulls out a large piece.

"Got it !" He shouts.

"Got what ?" Jim questions.

The banging gets louder. Multiple windows shatter. Sandburg talks while quickly translating the tablet :

"Since the black 'Book of The Dead' was found inside the statue of Anubis, then according to this, the golden 'Book of The Living' should be inside..."

The young librarian finds the translation in the tablet and smiles.

"What ?" Ellison asks.

"What ?" Megan asks.

" WHAT !?" Daniels shouts.

"The golden 'Book Of The Living' is inside the statue of Horus." Blair replies.

"Which would be located not far to the east of the Anubis statue." The curator says.

"Don't tell me we gotta go back out there ?" Jim groans.

"If we want to kill the creature, yes." The older man answers.

Two hideous boil and sore covered men charge out of a doorway, screaming. Ellison and Simon grab them and chuck them over the railing. The men fly through the air and crash into the lower display cases. The front doors suddenly burst open. The crazed mob pours into the museum. Our heroes haul-ass across the balcony and down the staircase.

 

Megan sneaks out of some bushes and quickly heads for a convertible. Suddenly, a splinter group of the diseased mob comes around the side of the museum. The young woman instantly bugs her eyes out, starts drooling, and begins chanting---

"Imhotep ! Imhotep !"

The crazed group runs past her and heads into the front doors of the museum. Megan leaps into the convertible. She's looking for something. Yes ! Keys are here ! She fires the car up and 180's it back over to the bushes.

Jim, Blair, Daniels, Simon and the curator jump inside the convertible. Beni steps out of the museum and sees them.

"Imhotep ! IMHOTEP !"

The High Priest looks out of the museum from the shattered upper windows just as the car peels out. Ellison points a finger at the Frenchman as they race past him.

"You're gonna get yours, pal !"

Imhotep unhinges his jaw, his mouth stretches to an inhuman size, he lets out one of his horrific, primordial shrieks. His disease-ridden disciples immediately begin pouring out of the front doors of the museum and chasing after the car.

The convertible hauls-ass down the narrow bazaar street. Crazies start jumping out of stalls and leaping onto the car. Ellison and the others fight them off, throwing them overboard. More people jump on. Megan swerves the car, crashes through some stalls, knocking them off, but not before they manage to open the back door and yank Daniels out. He tumbles across the pavement and gets up shooting. He backs into a corner, firing his pistol into the hideous rabble, killing several, keeping them at bay. His gun goes empty, CLICK ! CLICK ! CLICK ! But the mob stays back, looking at him like rabid vultures. Daniels eyes them, filled with fear. The mob parts like the red sea as Imhotep walks through them and up to Daniels. Daniels whimpers in fear, tears pour down his cheeks. Then he gets an idea, reaches into his pocket, and pulls out his jewel encrusted sacred canopic jar. He holds it out for the High Priest. Imhotep takes it and grins. Through his tears, Daniels grins back, hopeful that he'll be spared.

A blood curdling scream is heard.

 

The convertible slowly motors down the narrow alleys. Megan, Blair, Jim, Simon and the curator are still in the back. All of them staring out the front windshield. Freaked-out. Then suddenly one of the hideous ghouls crashes through the windshield ! Everybody screams. Megan hits the gas, loses control, the car crashes into a wall. Jim grabs the young man.

"C'mon! C'mon ! Let's go ! Let's go !" He says repeatedly. His fear is growing. He is only thinking to protect the kid. 

They all leap out of the car. But the angry, festering mob quickly surrounds them. Ellison quickly reaches into his gunny-sack, pulls out a stick of dynamite, then reaches into his pocket and pulls out a match. He looks around for a way to light it, then reaches over and strikes it across Simon's stubbly face. The black man yelps. Jim holds the lit match near the fuse. The crazed, chanting mob gives Ellison a wide berth, staring at him and the others with insane, bloodshot eyes. And then Imhotep steps through, --having fully regenerated, he now looks as young and handsome and muscular as he did the day he was buried alive. Blair stares at him. He has to confess that the High Priest is gorgeous.

Jim gives the young man a look, the match burns his fingers. He yelps and throws it down, grabs another match and strikes it across Simon's face again. The Mumia's leader yelps and gives Jim a look to kill. The curator shakes his head.

"He has consummated the curse, now all he need do is raise Naroun from the dead, then it will be the end of us, and the beginning for them."

Imhotep moves forward, heading right for them. Jim lights the fuse. The High Priest steps up to him and stops, watching the fuse burn down. It's a game of chicken. The tension mounts. The lit fuse is about to vanish inside the stick of dynamite, blowing it up, --when Sandburg leans forward and blows it out. Ellison exhales, but keeps his eyes on Imhotep, who extends his hand to Blair.

"Koontash dai na." The High Priest says quietly.

Beni steps through the swarming mass, translating.

"Take his hand and he will spare the others."

The young man hesitates, looks around at the huge, bloodthirsty crowd surrounding them, holding axes, picks and scimitars, waiting to pounce, then he looks at Imhotep, confident, powerful, invincible. Then he looks at Jim.

"Any bright ideas ?"

The taller man talks through angry, grit teeth.

"Sorry, fresh out."

Sandburg looks back at the High Priest, then starts to reach out to take his hand. Both Jim and Megan move to stop him, --but Simon grabs them both and holds them tight.

"Don't do it, Chief !" Ellison shouts.

"No choice." The young man replies. His trembling hand touches Imhotep's : the High Priest smiles.

"Keetah mi pharos, aja nilo, isirlan"

"Come with me my prince. It is time to make you mine, forever."

Beni translates. The young librarian gives the Frenchman a nasty look, correcting him--

"All eternity, idiot !"

Then he looks at Jim and puts on his best face.

"You better think of something, because if he turns me into a mummy, you are the first one I'm coming after."

Ellison almost smiles.

"Got guts, Chief."

"Yes, I know, and I'd like to keep them." Sandburg whispers. Imhotep suddenly notices something. He reaches forward and-- rips the key/box out of Megan's upper vest pocket. 

"Hey that's mine-- !" She protests. The Mumia's leader holds the young woman back. The High Priest pulls Blair away. Jim can't take it anymore, he tries to break free of Simon's grip.

"Blair !"

The huge, powerful man holds him tight.

"Be calm. There is still time. we can stop him yet."

The crowd parts for Imphotep and Sandburg. And then the High Priest stops and looks back at Ellison.

"Pared oos."

The young man screams :

"NOOOOO !"

Beni smiles and says :

"Kill them."

Imhotep pulls Blair away. Jim breaks free of Simon's grip and stumbles forward.

"BLAIR !"

But the rabid vultures are already moving in for the kill. Ellison quickly bends down, pulls open a cistern/manhole cover and shoves Megan down inside it, then jumps in after him. The curator pushes Simon towards the cistern hole.

"Go ! Find a way ! Kill the creature !"

The older man turns and throws himself at the mob as the Mumia's leader crawls down into the hole. The mob tears the curator apart.

 

 

Quonset Hut. Sahara desert.

Jim, Megan and Simon stand before Winston Havlock, the massive dunes of Erfoud as background.

"So what's your little problem got to do with His Majesty's Royal Air Corp ?" The pilot asks.

"Not a god-damned thing." Ellison replies. Winston looks intrigued.

"Is it dangerous ?"

"You probably won't live through it."

This really interests the pilot.

"By Jove, do you really think so ?"

"Everybody else we've bumped into has died, why not you ?" Megan says.  Winston nods his head, he's hooked.

"So what's the challenge then ?"

"To save the kid in distress, kill the bad guy and steal his treasure." Jim answers. A slow grin spreads across Winston's face, then he gives them a snappy salute.

"Winston Havlock at your service, sir !"

 

"You stay here !" Jim orders to Megan.

"No ! My brother is in great danger. He helped me so often I stopped to count. I know I'm always bothering him, but... I can help you !"

"There's only two places in the plane."

"Simon comes with you ! The young woman replies. Jim looks at the Mumia's leader who says :

"You need help. All the help you can find."

 

"But Megan is..."

"A weak woman ?" Blair's sister says. "I can surprise you."

"I have to sit in the the gunner's compartment to help Winston. That means that you have to travel fastened to the wings."

Megan's eyes wide.

"Oh... God..."

"Not a problem for me." Simon says. The young woman glances at him, then sighs.

"I like new experiences, anyway."

She smiles and considers Ellison as the Mumia's leader is joining Winston.

"And I have to insure that your intentions are creditable."

"What ?" Jim reacts. He looks confused.

"You know what I mean," the young woman says. "You're worrying, aren't you ?"

"Yes, of course ! Your brother saved my life !"

"And that's why you kissed him ?"

"It... It was just a joke." Jim stammers. Megan shakes her head.

"I noticed your expression when the curator told us Naroun and Imhotep's story. I saw your anger when this monster was leaning over my brother to kiss him ! And I see now your sorrow and your fear. Strange that an adventurer like you takes care of a young librarian like my brother. You're a kind of lone wolf and suddenly, you are becoming a knight who wants to defy a god !"

The taller man snorts :

"This monster isn't a god."

"No mortal weapons can kill this creature. He is not of this world." The young woman cites. "For me, it's a definition for god."

She brandishes her forefinger.

"You love my brother." She asserts. Ellison shivers and whispers :

"It's impossible. He's a man."

"A kind, brilliant, gorgeous man. And 'impossible' isn't at stake. There's a bond between Sandy and you. I can feel it when you're looking at each other."

"Soulmates," Jim murmurs.

"Yeah, that kind of thing." She nods. "I'm warning you : don't desert him, cause if you save his life, it will belong to you.

"As my life belongs to him." Jim adds and the young woman grins.

"So, we are agree. And you have my blessing." She says waving her hand. The taller man shakes his head, smiling :

"You're very odd."

 

 

Way off across the desert, a large sand-devil races over the dunes. The sandy whirlwind comes to a stop and starts to dissipate. Blair and Beni are suddenly ejected out of it, they land in a dune. The swirling sand condenses and forms into Imhotep. He looks up into the sky, listening carefully. Sandburg shakes the sand out of his hair and looks at Beni.

"What just happened ?"

" All I remember is him turning into a blast of sand..., and then I remember nothing."

Then they hear a plane in the sky and look up.

The wind whips at Winston in the cockpit. Ellison sits in the gunner's compartment. Megan is strapped spread-eagle across the left wing, Simon is tied tight to the right. The Mumia's leader looks scared, like the young woman.

Imhotep's jaw unhinges, his mouth opens to an inhuman size, he lets fly with another one of his horrible shrieks. --And a massive wall of sand rises up out of the desert

 

Jim watches the desert below him come alive and rise up towards the plane. Winston looks over the side and sees what's coming. He laughs, throws the throttle, and puts the plane into a dive.

"Hang on, men !" The pilot shouts.

The sandstorm chases the diving, twisting biplane, getting closer and closer, about to engulf it. Ellison looks back into the blinding sand and sees a giant face forming inside the sandstorm. It's the High Priest, grinning. Jim grabs the Lewis machine-gun, cocks the bracket and fires, blasting away at Imhotep's giant face inside the sandstorm. The face begins to laugh, then his jaw unhinges, his mouth opens wide, and he engulfs the plane. Winston blindly fights for control, elated.

The biplane spins inside the blowing sand. Engines are roaring, wind is howling. Megan and Simon are screaming. And Winston Havlock is laughing. Jim braces himself for impact.

Blair leaps to his feet and runs over to Imhotep.

"Stop it ! You'll kill them !"

But the High Priest doesn't pay attention. He's still concentrated on the plane. //I have to find a way !// The young man thinks.

Suddenly, he heads toward Imhotep, grabs him, pulls him close and kisses him right on his lips. The High Priest is stunned and loses his concentration. The sand wall collapses immediatly. Blair is so happy that he applauds, but the plane is going on to fall. It smashes over a dune, rolls over and crashes upside-down into another dune.

Blair is overwhelmed. //He's dead. Jim is dead. And my sister... And our hope to destroy this monster.// He looks at Imhotep who is smiling. Sandburg's eyes are filling with tears.

"Fools." Beni says, shrugging.

 

 

CHAPTER EIGHT

 

 

Ellison falls out of the gunner's compartment. The left wing is jammed into the dune, Megan hangs upside down.

"Excuse me... A little help would be useful... IF IT'S NOT TOO MUCH TROUBLE !!"

Jim goes to help The young woman. Simon stumbles over to the gunner's compartment and tears the Lewis gun off it's mount. He throws the machine-gun over one shoulder, a cartridge belt over the other and staggers away. Ellisonand Megan look into the cockpit. Winston Havlock is dead, a smile on his face. The plane suddenly starts to move, the sand sinks under their feet, they quickly high-tail-it away. Ellison, the young woman and the Mumia's leader make it to some rocks and look back. The biplane, with Winston Havlock inside, slides away over a dune. Jim gives it a salute. The plane vanishes over the dune and into the swirling sand.

 

Hamunaptra.

Our three heroes come down a ravine in the volcano and look out over the ruins of the City of the Dead.

"Okay, now what the hell does this Horus guy look like ?" Ellison questions.

"He's a big fellow with pointy ears and a face like a falcon." Megan answers.

"Got it !" Jim says.

 

Carrying torches, Ellison, Megan and Simon make their way down a long, winding, narrow staircase, heading into the bowels of the necropolis. A passageway to hell.

 

Sandburg follows Imhotep into the underground cemetery. He stops at the sight of all the big hairy rats scurrying through the mausoleums and over the gravestones. Beni shoves his rifle into his back and pushes him forward.

"Keep moving." The Frenchman orders. The young librarian gives him a look.

"You know, nasty little fellows such as yourself, always get their comeuppance."

Beni suddenly looks worried.

"Yeah ?"

"Oh, yes, always."

The little man looks even more worried, he nervously starts chewing on his lip. All three of them walk over the bridge crossing the disgusting detritus moat. Sandburg looks down at it, horrified.

 

Jim and Simon are busy digging out a collapsed doorway. Megan notices an amethyst scarab on the far wall.

"I say, look at that."

She walks over and tries to jiggle it free. It comes loose in her hand. Shee looks at the scarab in her palm. It starts to glow. And then something inside it starts to wiggle.

" Say, gents! You should come have a look at this."

The wiggling continues. A long, agonizing beat, and then the scarab breaks out of it's cocoon and instantly burrows into Megan's palm. She starts to freak out and scream. Jim runs up and rips the arm off the young woman's vest. The scarab is now burrowing up her arm. Ellison whips out his butterfly-knife, snaps it open and grabs Megan's arm. The young woman's eyes widen in terror as the knife passes in front of her face. She screams louder, obviously being cut open. Jim's hand flicks something away. The scarab hits the floor and immediately starts scurrying back towards Megan, wanting to finish the job. Ellison pulls out his gun and blows it away, --BLAM !

 

The gunshot echoes into the cemetery as Imhotep, Blair and Beni step up to the strange altar, where four thousand years ago Imhotep tried to bring Naroun back to life. The High Priest scowls at the sound and angrily reaches into a canopic jar. He pulls out the crusted remains of Naroun's heart, crushes it to dust in his hand and starts reading from The Book Of The Dead. Then he blows the dust against a mausoleum wall, --The wall starts to come alive. Sandburg and the Frenchman stare at the wall, both of them wide-eyed. Two forms emerge from the mausoleum's wall, horrific-looking mummified corpses, two of Imhotep's long dead Priests. They bow to the High Priest, then turn and move off down a passageway.

 

Jim helps Simon to mend Megan's wound.

"From now on, don't touch anything." The ex-legionnaire orders. "Not a damn thing. Keep your hands off the furniture, got it ?"

The young woman swallows hard and nods vigorously. Suddenly, she freezes and looks over Jim's shoulder. The Mumia's leader glances too and his eyes widen.

"The black devil." He whispers. Ellison shivers and slowly turns to discover a jaguar : its eyes are shining in torches' light. The Mumia's leader wants to shoot it, but Ellison says :

"Don't be afraid. It's... Its my animal spirit."

"Your what ?" Megan asks.

"Long story." Jim replies. Simon gives him an odd look. The taller man sighs :

"I was a soldier, in a country far away from Egypt, named Peru. I lost my compagny and during months, I lived with a tribu, the Chopecs. There was a shaman, Incacha. He helped me when my senses heightened."

"Heigtened ?" The young woman questions.

"It means that I can see before others see... sens what others can't... Incacha gave me a Chopec name : Enqueri. And he told me that my animal spirit was a jaguar. I forgot my stay by the Chopec when I came back home. But now, I'm remembering."

He glances at the black panther, which suddenly turns. But the animal seems to wait for Jim and others.

"We have to follow it." Ellison says. "I'm pretty sure it'll lead to Horus. Trust me."

Megan and Simon give him a look, then looks at each other. The young woman is the first to stand up.

"I trust you."

 

 

Imhotep prepares the altar while speaking in hebrew. Beni holds his gun on Blair, translating :

"Prince Imhotep wants your heart."

The young man blushes, feeling complimented by the handsome prince.

"Tell him, I'm truly flattered... but that it's already taken." Sandburg whispers, flushing. Imhotep continues speaking while laying the four jewel encrusted canopic jars next to the shattered one. The Frenchman says :

"He wants your heart and your brain, your liver, your kidneys..."

The young librarian's eyes widen.

"... and how do you say ? Those slimy things, in your stomach ?" The little man asks.

"Intestines."

"Yeah ! Them."

Blair can't believe it, he furiously turns to the High Priest.

"You only want me for my organs ?!"

Imhotep looks at him and grins, then backhands the young man --WAP ! Sandburg goes down for the count. The High Priest stares at him, cold, malevolent, then he turns and walks off into the mausoleums. Beni nervously glances around, then quickly scurries away.

 

Following his animal spirit, Jim squeezes through a small crevice in a wall and drops to the floor of a dark chamber. He picks up his gunny sack and scans the darkness. Something glitters. Megan and Simon crawl in behind him. Ellison notices a shaft of light, high above him, shooting through a small hole in the ceiling and stopping against a wall next to one of those mirror disks. The jaguar groans.

Jim aims his gun and fires. The bullet strikes the disk's pedestal, spinning the mirror into the shaft of light, --And WHAM ! The shaft of light hits the disk and wuickly bounces around the room from one disk to another until the whole chamber is lit up. It's an enormous treasure chamber, filled to overflowing. Everything sparkles and shines. The wealth of Egypt. Ellison, Megan and the Mumia's leader are speechless. that's when the two mummified Priest-mummies walk in.

"Who the hell are these guys ?" Ellison questions with disgust.

"Priests. Imhotep's priests." Simon replies. Jim pulls the elephant gun out of his gunny-sack.

"I never killed a priest before."

"They are evil, cursed, they matter not." Simon asserts.

"Well, okay then."

Jim fires the elephant gun. Smoke and flame shoot out. One of the mummies is blasted. It's blowed its upper torso clean off. Jim pumps the gun, the huge spent cartridge flips through the air. He fires again and blasts the other mummy, b1ows this one's torso clean off as well. The smoke clears. The two sets of legs keep walking forward, unaffected by the loss of their upper torsos. Ellison can't believe it.

"Oh come on, gimme a break here."

And then the disemboweled upper torsos start to move, turning over and crawling towards our heroes, who start to back away.

 

Imhotep turns from the altar as he hears more gunshots echoing out of the passageways. He angrily reaches into another of Naroun's canopic jars, pulls out his crusty liver and crushes it to dust, then quickly starts reading a passage from the Book and blows the dust down a passageway. The High Priest orders in ancient Egyptian :

"Kill them ! Kill them all !"

A dusty breeze blows into the treasure chamber as Jim, Megan and Simon back away from the mummy pieces. The floor where they were just standing suddenly starts to move. The black panther groans again and looks ready to jump. Two more mummies slowly dig their way up out of the floor. More mummies start coming out of the walls and crawling out of the piles of gold. All the mummies head for our heroes. Ellison lifts the elephant gun. The Mumia's leader stops him.

"My turn."

He opens with the Lewis gun, blasting the shit out of the mummies. They keep on coming. Even more now. Jil opens fire with the elephant gun, pumping and firing as all three back away and haul-ass, led by the jaguar. The mummies and mummy pieces follow them into the passageway. Then Beni creeps into the chamber. He stares in wonder at all the treasure. Then falls backwards into a pile of jewels and rolls about.

 

Blair wakes up, lying chained to the top of the altar. He blinks, then turns his head, --and looks right into the rotted face of Naroun's corpse. He shivers, eyes widen, and holds back a scream.

 

Jim stops to breath. His animal spirit is standing near a giant statue.

"Horus." The taller man murmurs. And then, the black panther vanishes.

With Megan and Simon, he runs up to the base of the statue.

"Hello Horus old boy." The young woman says. Jim looks back at the mummies coming down the passageway. He reaches into his gunny-sack and pulls out a stick of dynamite. Simon taps him on the shoulder.

"Allow me."

Ellison hands him the dynamite and a match, then turns to look at the statue. The Mumia's leader reaches forward and strikes the match off Jim's stubbly face. Ellison yelps. Simon lights the dynamite and throws it down the passageway. They all hit the deck. The dynamite explodes. Ripping apart the creatures, causing a cave-in and sealing the passageway with rock and dirt. Now there's only one way out, --another dark, creepy passageway.

 

Chained tight to the top of the altar, Blair hopelessly struggles to free himself. He stops as priest mummies start surrounding the altar. Sandburg is horrified as the hideous mummies kneel down and begin to chant, --which now sounds even more horrific due to the lack of tongues, jaws and mouths in the room. Imhotep steps up carrying the black 'Book Of The Dead'. His hand reaches out and lovingly caresses Naroun's decayed cheek.

 

Jim and Megan are digging away at the seams of the secret compartment, it starts to give. And that's when Simon spots another group of rotting mummies coming down the dark passageway, heading right for them. Ellison looks up.

"These guys just don't quit." He groans. The Mumia's leader grabs the elephant gun and a handful of shells and runs off towards the mummies.

"Keep digging !"

Jim and Megan redouble their efforts, pulling harder on the seam. The compartment starts to loosen. About to give. The last time this happened, salt acid sprayed out, remember ? Our heroes keep tugging. The tension mounts... And that's when a skeletal hand bursts up tout of the ground and grabs Ellison's ankle. Several more moldy hands burst up out of the ground. Jim and Megan struggle with the mummies as they crawl up out of the dirt floor. One of the mummies violently shoves Ellison away. Another grabs the young woman by the throat and starts to strangle her. A third mummy grabs at the secret compartment and pulls hard. An intense burst of acid sprays out of the seam an hits all three of the mummies. The one strangling Megan gets it in the back and drops him. All three mummies melt horribly.

 

Imhotep begins to read from 'The Book Of The Dead'. A large swirling hole starts to open in the detritus bog. Blair's eyes widen in amazement and horror.

 

Simon blasts away at the oncoming mummies. Over at the base of the statue, Jim and Megan pull an ornate chest out of the secret compartment. Ellison rips off the lid, reaches inside and pulls out a heavy burlap bag. He and the young woman exchange nervous, excited looks. Then he reaches into the bag and slowly pulls out the solid gold Book Of The Living. Golden light reflects off their faces as they stare at it in wonder. The elephant gun goes empty. Simon takes it by the barrel and wades into the remaining mummies swinging.

"Save the kid ! Kill the creature ! "

The mummies quickly overwhelm and start to tear him apart. Jim lights the last stick of dynamite and throws it against the far wall. He and Megan hit the deck.

"That's the last one, we better get lucky."

The wall blows. Debris collapse, --but now here's a hole for them to get out. Jim and Megan race out through the hole just as the remaining mummies enter the chamber.

 

Outside, Beni staggers across the sand with a saddlebag filled with treasure. He throws it over the rear of a camel. He starts to climb up. He hesitates and looks back at the temple door. He licks his lips. And then his greed gets the better of him and he quickly climbs down and scurries back towards the door.

 

Imhotep reads from the Book. The rotten Priest-mummies rock back and forth,  are chanting. Sandburg struggles. Then suddenly, a strange mist wafts up out of the swirling hole and over to the sacred jars, it passes through them and into Blair. The young man jerks as though he's been electrified. The mist passes through him and into Naroun's body. The chanting priests, swirling hole, wafting mist  and Imhotep's readings reach a crescendo. Naroun's crusty eyelids suddenly pop open. Blair stares at him in disbelief. Naroun's rotted head turns and looks at Sandburg with empty sockets. The young librarian freaks out and struggles wildly, then he notices Imhotep holding the ancient sacrificial knife.

"With your death, my love and I will be invincible !"

He raises it up over Sandburg's chest, about to plunge it down. Blair's eyes widen in horror And that's when Jim and Megan burst in. The High Priest spins around and faces them. Megan beams as she holds up the golden 'Book Of The Living'.

"I found it, Sandy ! I found it !"

"Shut-up and get me off of here !" His brother shouts.

Ellison grabs an ancient sword out of a statue's hand, jumps up onto a gravestone and leaps out over the Priests. The Priest-mummies stop chanting. The mistvanishes. Imhotep steps forward. Jim strikes the sacrificial knife out of his hand. The High Priest bellows a command. The priests stand up, swords and knives in hand, they attack Jim.

"Open the book, Megan ! Open the book ! That's the only way to kill him !"

Ellison racks and chops at the attacking priest-mummies, fighting his way to Blair. The skeletal creatures wildly swing their swords, trying to stab Jim. Megan fumbles with the book, struggling to open it, --she can't.

"I can't open it ! It's locked or something !"

Ellison cuts two of the mummies in half, then swings his sword down at Sandburg, --CLANG ! One chain breaks free. Megan spots a series of solid gold, four-sides locks along the binder. It hits her like lightning--

"We need the key !" She shouts. Imhotep grins, then grabs the key/box hanging from a chain around his neck, rips it off and shoves it into his pocket. He picks up the sacrificial sword and heads for the young woman.

"What do I do, Sandy !? What do I do !?"

"Read the inscription on the cover !"

Jim swings his sword down again, --CLANG ! Blair now has one hand and one leg free. More mummies attack Ellison, force him back. Megan quickly starts translating the cover inscription, but his ancient Egyptian is clearly awful.

"Keetash-something, naraba-something."

The young woman starts to backpedal through the cemetery, clutching the golden book, wide-eyed, as Imhotep moves in on her.

"Ebarra im hatu Kashka ummmmm--?"

Megan trips and falls on her ass. Imhotep charges forward. Jim slashes another chain. Only one more left holding the young librarian. His sister sits up and quickly looks back at the cover.

"Rasheem Aaaaa ANUBIS !"

The High Priest raises the sacrificial sword, about to kill the young woman. And that's when the giant statue of Anubis suddenly crashes through the wall. The god of Deaths, horrible, decrepit stone face stares angrily down. Megan stares back.

"Oh hell..."

Ellison decapitates a mummy and looks up at Anubis.

"This just keeps gettin, better and better." The taller man says sarcastically. Imhotep leaves Megan and heads for the giant statue. Ellison leaps over and with one last swing of the sword, frees Blair from his chains. More priest-mummies attack, forcing him away. Sandburg jumps off the altar and starts to head for Jim, --a skeletal hand grabs him and spins him around. It's Naroun's rotted corpse. The young man reacts. Imhotep looks up at Anubis, points to Ellison, and in ancient Egyptian commands him to attack. Anubis moves for Jim, stomping over mausoleums and through the detritus moat on his way. Ellison quickly backs away.

"Do something, Megan ! Kill it !"

"You have got to be joking ?" The young woman questions, disappointed. Her brother is backing away from Naroun.

"Finish the inscription, idiot !"

" Oh." His sister whispers. Naroun attacks Sandburg. The young librarian  fends him off as best she can. Megan quickly looks back at the hieroglyphs on the book cover, fumbling badly under the pressure-

"Ummm, Hootash im .... Hootash im now what is this last symbol here ?"

"What's it look like !?" Blair asks as Naroun grabs him by the throat. The statue of Anubis corners Jim, reaches down and brabs him with it's massive talons. Ellison hacks away at it. Megan stares at the inscription, slightly oblivious.

"It's an Ankh symbol, with two little squiggly lines above it, and a bird, a stork! on either side."

His brother is being strangled by Naroun

"-Ah ! Ah ! Ahmenophus !"

"Yes, ...I see." She says. The talons lift Jim up and start to crush him.

"Hootash im Ahmenophus !" Megan shouts.

The giant statue of Anubis instantly freezes in it's tracks and petrifies. It's off balance. It starts to fall. Jim slides free of it's talons. Blair shoves Naroun away, Naroun looks up and opens his fetid mouth to scream just as Anubis crashes down on top of him, smashing him to powder and driving him into the ground. Imhotep shrieks in rage and horror, then turns and angrily heads for Megan. The young woman, sitting on her ass, quickly backpedals on her hands and heels. Ellison leaps to his feet, sword in hand and runs for the High Priest. Imhotep grabs Megan, lifts him up, rips the golden 'Book Of The Living' out of her hand and pins her to a wall. Jim runs up and swings his sword at the High Priest, --WAP ! He slices Imhotep's right arm off. It drops to the ground, still clutching 'The Book Of The Living'. The High Priest drops Megan and spins around, facing Jim who grins.

"Okay pal, let's see how tough you are without your right arm."

 

Imhotep grabs Ellison with his left arm and throws him half way across the cemetery. Jim slams into a gravestone, bounces off and crashes to the ground. He shakes it off.

"Alright, ...so he's left handed."

The High Priest is already striding towards him. Megan lifts up her hand, --She has the key/box back. She smiles at his brother who's running for her.

"I got it !" She proclaims.

Jim swings his sword and cleaves a big chunk of molten flesh rot out of Imhotep's stomach. on the outside, the High Priest looks human, but on the inside he is still a rotten old mummy. The creature backhands  Ellison. He knocks him twenty feet back. Jim staggers to his feet. Imhotep is right there. He clubs him hard with his left arm. Ellison spins through the air, slams into the side of a mausoleum. The High Priest approaches, rage in his eyes. The ex-legionnaire gets up, quickly pivots and hacks into Imhotep's head. The creature grins and pucnches him in the face. Jim is thrown back, pulling his sword with him. He bounces hard off the mausoleum, and lands on his feet. Totally beat-to-shit. Knees buckling. He can barely stand. Megan lifts up the heavy gold book, --Imhotep's severed hand still clings to it. The young woman cringes in disgust. Blair yanks it off, throws it away, then start furiously working the key into the series of locks, unlocking each of them. The High Priest strides forward. Jim backs into the mausoleum, swings the sword, Imhotep tries to catch it, --it cleaves through his palm and deeply imbeds itself into his forearm. No matter, the High Priest rips the sword away from Ellison and casually flings it away. The golden 'Book Of The Living' opens with a hiss. Megan holds it tight as his brother quickly turns the heavy gold pages, looking for something. Jim turns to run, but Imhotep grabs him by the throat and lifts him off his feet. The ex-legionnaire hangs there, a dazed mess. The High Priest grins, says something in ancient Egyptian, then starts to strangle Jim who chokes. About to die. Sandburg turns and faces Imhotep and reads an inscription:

"Kadeesh mal ! Kadeesh mal ! Pared oos ! PARED OOS !!"

The High Priest pivots and looks at the young man, a look of sheer terror on his face. Then he looks over at the detritus bog. Which starts to bubble and shift. The swirling hole begins to open. And then suddenly the spirits of the Egyptian gods waft out of the black bog and swirl around the priest-mummies. The mummies all collapse and turn to dust. And then the spirits attack Imhotep, lifting him and Jim up into the air. The High Priest let's go of Ellison, who falls to the ground. Blair and Megan fearfully stumble away from the spirits, the young woman trips and falls and accidentally throws 'The Book of The Living' into the detritus bog. His brother watches as the golden book sinks into the black putrescence. Megan looks like she's about to cry. Ten feet off the ground, the spirits swirl around Imhotep's body, twisting it and turning it and slowly shriveling it. He's accompanied by the same strange flashing light which was seen when Naroun was cursed. One last huge flash, accompanied by a blast of wind, and Imhotep is spit out and thrown to the floor. He staggers to his feet, he looks perfectly normal. His body is completely intact. Ellison swings his sword. The High Priest jerks back. The sword scrapes his chest, --a swath of blood appears across his chest where the sword hit him. Imhotep touches the blood on his chest, amazed and horrified. He's mortal. Jim runs the High Priest through with the sword and shoves him backwards. Imhotep stumbles back and falls into the detritus bog. The sword still in his stomach. Blair and Megan run up next to Ellison. They watch as Imhotep gently sinks into the fetid swamp, slowly dying. And then, just before his head goes under, the High Priest looks up at them, grins broadly, and says something in ancient Egyptian. Sandburg translates :

"Death is only the beginning."

Imhotep's grinning face vanishes under the black bile

 

 

Beni staggers across a chamber, straining under the weight of another saddlebag filled with treasure. He spots a large, ornate staff sticking out of a wall. He throws the saddlebag over the staff and collapses against the wall. He's Exhausted. A beat. And then the weight of the treasure pulls the staff down, which starts a massive aural chain reaction. The Frenchman backs away from the wall, wide-eyed, filled with fear. All the walls start to sink into the ground. Driven by tons of pouring sand. Beni turns and hauls-ass out of the chamber.

 

Jim, Blair and his sister look around as all the walls start to descend. The taller man grabs Sandburg's hand.

"C'mon."

He pulls him forward and all three of them race past sinking pillars. They duck as they run into a descending doorway.

 

Beni scampers down a passageway, the ceiling getting lower and lower until he has to crouch. And then he has to stick the torch between his teeth and crawl on his hands and knees.

 

Ellison, the young librarian and Megan crouch-run into the treasure chamber. Blair skids to a stop. Looks in wonder at all the treasure. Sand rains down on them. Jim grabs him again and quickly pulls him through the mounds of treasure towards a sinking doorway on the far side of the room. The sound of the sinking walls is deafening. Beni crouch-runs into the treasure chamber. Jim, Blair and Megan race past him. He joins them as they run up a staircase, heading for a descending doorway, which is already half gone, it's now only four feet high -- now three feet high -- now two feet. Megan dives through the narrow gap. Then Jim dives through, he spins around. Blair dives, but gets stuck in the middle, about to get cut in half. Ellison grabs the young man's arm and yanks him through in the nick of time. Beni reaches through the narrowing gap with his hand--

"LIEUTENANT !"

Ellison grabs it, but it's too late. The Frenchman yanks his hand back just as the top of the door crashes to the floor, sealing him in. Beni quickly crawls back down the stairs as the ceiling slams down behind him. He stands up and looks around with his diminishing torch. All the doorways finish closing. There's no way out. He's trapped. And then he hears something, and turns around. Over in the corner, a scarab-beetle stares at him, chittering. The little man waves his flickering torch at the scarab and backs away.

"Go away."

He stands in the middle of the treasure chamber as dozens upon dozens of scarabs boil up out of the floor around him. The Frenchman is absolutely terrified. The scarabs start to move in. And that's when Beni's torch goes out. Pitch black. A beat. And then Beni is heard : he starts screaming in horror and pain. And the scarabs chittering hungrily.

 

The temple collapses as Jim, Blair, Megan and a pack of stray camels race through the ruins. A sinking crevice drops out right behind them, chasing them out through the front gates. The whole place rumbles ominously. They make it down the ramp as more ruins crash down behind them. A massive cloud of sand and dust billows out over the wall and into the air. Our heroes and all the stray camels race out into the desert ...

They stand in the middle of the plateau, surrounded by stray camels. They stare off at the sandy, dusty, volcano as it continues to rumble ominously.

"Well, ...I guess we go home empty handed." Megan says with regrets.

Jim looks at Blair.

"Wouldn't say that."

The young man returns the look, and then he wraps his arms around his neck and kisses him. The taller man returns it. Megan just rolls her eyes, but she's smiling.  She climbs up onto a camel. When the kiss is-over, Jim and Blair share a smile, then Ellison leaps up into the saddle, reaches down, grabs Sandburg's hand and pulls the young man up behind him. Sandburg wraps his arms around his waist. Jim and Megan slap the reins.

"TUK-TUK-TUK !!"

The camels start to move out.

To the saddlebag behind Blair, hidden under the closed back flap, --there's Beni's stolen treasure. Ellison, the young librarian and his sister ride off into the sunset.

 

EPILOGUE

 

An oasis.

The moon is shining over clouds. A silhouette slowly goes out a bedouin tent and makes its way toward a lake lined with palm trees and a big rock. The silhouette takes off its clothes and dives in fresh water, then begins to swim for several peaceful minutes.

"Beautiful." A voice is heard. The swimming man jumps and looks up at the rock and another silhouette appears. Moonlight shines its smile.

"You frightened me !" Blair shouts, as Jim is sitting down. " Where were you ? "

"Need to think," Ellison replies.

"About what ?"

"Shamanism. Legends." The taller man shrugs and keeps silent for severeal seconds. "I have to go back... in Peru." He whispers. The young man's eyes wide.

"Oh... I see. I saved your life. You saved mine..." Sandburg would like to cry. Then Jim starts to tell him his story. And when he talks about his heightened senses, the young librarian interrupts him :

"Wait a minute !" He swims towards the rock and stares at Ellison. "Can't believe it. You're a Sentinel !"

"A what ?" Jim asks.

"If I'm correct, you're a behavioral throwback to a pre-civilized breed of man."

Jim's jaws clenche with anger. He stands up and looks down at Blair.

"Are you out of your mind ? You are telling me I'm some sort of caveman ?"

"No... No... Calm down. Do you remember Burton's book ?"

"Yeah." The taller man answers, frowning.

"It's said that in all tribal cultures every village had what Burton named a Sentinel. Now this was someone who patrolled the border." The young man explains. "This Sentinel would watch for approaching enemies, change in the weather, movement of game. Tribe survival depended on it."

"What's this got to do with me ?"

"A Sentinel is chosen because of a certain advantage. A sensory awareness that can be developed beyond normal humans. Now these senses are honed by solitary time spent in the wild. Peruvian jungle first, then Sahara desert..."

The young man falls in silent. He shivers and his teeth are chattering.

"I'm cold. Could you... turn round ?" Sandburg asks. Jim glances at him dryly, then smiles :

"You know... with heightened senses, I can perfectly see... (he grins) how beautiful you are."

The young librarian flushes and blinks. He begins to move away from the rock, saying : "Please, Jim." But Ellison has vanished.

Back on the shore, the young man hurries to slip on his clothes.

"What a shame." A voice whispers. Jim is here behind Blair. He wraps his arms around Sandburg's shoulders. His warmth is surrounding the young man.

"Would you... ?" The taller man swallows. "Would you come with me ?"

"In Peru ?" Blair questions, his eyes widen.

"Yes..." Ellison murmurs. " I mean... Aren't you fed up with temples, pyramids, mummies, sand... ?"

Sandburg smiles and he replies :

"You know... There are temples, pyramids and mummies in Peru too."

"Oh... But no sand." Jim questions, kissing his neck. The young man can't help it. He closes his eyes and groans.

"No sand..."

And then, Jim's lips are on Blair's. Sandburg's mouth opens under this pressure.

"I love you." The young man whispers, but he doesn't dare to open his eyes, too afraid by Ellison's reaction.

"Look at me, Chief."

Blair complies and he's stunned when he sees Jim's expression.

"In a dream, Incacha talked to me. He said : You found him. And I knew it was you."  The taller man says. He runs a thumb down the side of Blair's face, pushing back the strands of his beautiful mahogany hair. "Incacha said too we are soulmates. And I believe it. Cause I love you too."

Sandburg grins and then he wraps his arms around Jim's neck and kisses him

"I will come with you in Peru." The young man swears.

 

On the rock lining the lake, two shadows are standing. The first one becomes a jaguar, the second a wolf. And between them, Incacha appears, shining in blue light. He glances at the two lovers and nods with a grin.

 

The End.