This is the continuation from the morning teaser of Entombed (Brian's Story.) Click here to find it
Entombed: Brian's Story (Part Two)
Had it only been two hours ago? It felt much longer. To Abbot Crenshaw, the camel ride through the desert might as well have happened to another person another lifetime ago. They were a train of four going at a seeming snail’s pace. Plodding along the desert on camelback like ants across a sandbox.
Abbot despised the heat, and wild animals even more so. But his curiosity was peaked and he figured if he was going to fund this little vacation then he wanted to be front and centre if they found something, scratch that, WHEN they found something. He remembered Doctor Jack Andrews call, signals across the ocean that barely hid the excitement in his voice. They found something, by God they finally found something. Asim Rah had been a rich man. As counsellor to the pharaohs, he’d amassed as big of a fortune as his overlords would allow. And, if Abbot was being honest with himself, it was that fortune rather than the historical and scientific significance that coerced him to step from his chartered leer jet to the rickety Cessna that took him from Cairo International airport to the small desert runway in the ocean of sand where Andrews was waiting.
When their camel caravan stopped, Abbot thought they were lost. There wasn’t anything out here damn it, just a few errant plans and crumbled stonework being enveloped by decades of sand.
“This is the decoy, one we nicknamed fool’s gold.” Andrews explained as they dismounted “a lot of high-status Egyptians had decoys meant to offer grave robbers worthless trinkets for their troubles. We found a little ..extra in Rah’s decoy. From what little we can find of him, Rah is described as a vengeful man. We ah, we’ve had some first-hand experience at what his temperament was.” Andrews looked at his watch, then shielded his face against the sun as if it was the most interesting thing he’d ever seen rather than that same glowing ball of energy that dawned every morning.
Looking back on it, Abbot should have pressed him for details on just how much blood had been spilled on this sand.
The small team led Abbot through a carefully roped-off path that zig-zagged at ridiculous times. Abbot let Andrews’ words digest and wondered just what kind of brutish traps could be left over after all these years. Surely anything considered remotely advanced would have been proven rudimentary by now. They started down a slight slope that levelled out, ahead of them a small group of people was clustered. It was as if part of the desert had simply melted away from vast carved rock the same khaki colour of the sand around them. The team of workers surrounding one massive block, each working a pry bar underneath any spare scrap of space they could find. As his boots (purchased off the shelf for this trip alone) touched the stone, Abbot marvelled at how deep the stones went, some still completely buried under the desert sand. He could see the ruins they’d passed in the distance behind them, now like children’s toys. He felt a shiver run through him as one would when starting at a gravestone too long. He heard the jarring sound of stone dragging across stone and cheers of triumph rose from the small party of workers. Abbot’s thoughts of graveyards vanished as he thought of what they might uncover, the darkness practically sparkling in his eyes.
Dr. Andrews cracked a glow stick and tossed it into the cavity. Abbots shouldered his way past the migrant workers and a woman in glasses who gave him a dirty look. He looked right back, he would remember her refusal to budge when it came time to pay Andrews and his team.
Andrews peered into the hole, Abbot couldn’t help but lean in, vertigo be damned. At once Abbot’s breath seemed to take refuge in his broad chest before seeping out of him like a leaky balloon. The age-marred stone of the outside was contrasted by stark white walls inside depicting scenes of people seemingly at war with gods. The garb of the gods was laced with elaborate gold trim and sapphires that glinted in the green glow thrown by the stick. Abbot’s heart raced as he greedily eyed the rope uncoiling into the darkness like a massive asp.
Andrews protested as Abbot approached the rope. He said it was for everyone’s safety, but as he did so Abbot saw him appraise his sizeable belly and read between the lines. “You don’t think I'll be able to make it back out, is that it?”
“It’s not out I’m worried about Mr. Crenshaw. We don’t know if the flooring will collapse or not when ANYONE steps foot in there. Let alone-” He trailed off again but Abbot saw that look again. It wasn’t until he threatened to pull the funding, to turn around and trudge back through the sand that finally changed Andrews' mind.
“On the condition that you let me go first.” Andrews bargained. Abbot was happy to let Andrews be his canary in the mine shaft. As he descended, not a single person met Abbot’s gaze.
The floor held, in fact, it felt as if it had been built last month rather than centuries ago. The sweat turned clammy on his back and a chill rippled through his bulk. In front of him, Andrews tapped his palm against the casing of his flashlight to keep the beam bright. Abbot tried to keep track of what he saw on the walls. Even one of these great jewels would fetch a few thousand dollars. He would use his fingers if he had to, they looked like they were barely socked into the walls. He thought of how many he could fit in the canvass bag he wore and smiled.
At one point it felt like they were descending again. The floor beneath them tilted slightly but it was enough to make his rubber soles slide out from underneath him. As Abbot stood (ignoring the snickers behind him, one man gracelessly warbling “eyyyyy AAAAHHHBBOTT) he noticed the doorway ahead was lit by two torches. Andrews stood marvelling over them as if he’d discovered fire. He was blocking the door.
“Well get a move on Andrews. This looks important.” Abbot barked
“It does, but I didn’t light these.” Andrews spoke without looking up from the flames
“It's got to be part of this Raman fellow’s what did you call it? Precautions, some kind of motion-sensing ignition? Can we not marvel at the ancient’s ingenuity after we see whatever is in here?” Abbot didn’t wait for an answer, he wasn’t interested in the blubbering corrections of some bone collector. He grabbed a torch from it’s iron holder and pushed past Andrews, intuition telling him this is what he’d been waiting for.
What he saw beyond the torches made him stop dead. Andrew’s nattering turned to lifeless phonetics buzzing around his head like mosquitoes.
“You’re giving me a headache.” he breathed as he walked further into the chamber. He felt tugs on his sleeve and khakis but shooed them off as if he were dismissing waitstaff. The gleaming chest in the middle of the room bore the profile of a man. The surrounding walls almost hummed with the amber light of wealth. Finally, this was something Abbot could recognize, and he felt a compulsion to gaze on a man whose wealth projected through millennia. Against the muted screams of those around him Abbot pushed the great lid from the sarcophagus, his veiny forehead turning dark crimson.
He lost his footing when the lid finally fell to the side and stumbled face-first into that ghastly whiff of decay that would become so familiar to him. The bandages from the face had fallen away, eaten by time. As Abbot adjusted himself the impossibly tight skin around the skull snapped open at the eye sockets. He watched as a centipede carcass fell away into the gaping chasm that was the mouth. The whites of the eyes had turned a fevered yellow and black specs floated in them where the pupils should have been.
That was when Abbot Crenshaw felt his first slip on the grip of sanity. He refused to comprehend that the golden lid had triggered some kind of mechanism in the floor and the great catacombs around them were changing. He refused to see the beast in front of him impossibly rise. Even as the floor moved beneath him and the doorway behind him was sealed off, severing the woman who’d stared him down in two Abbot still felt offended by the input of his senses.
It wasn’t until the thing wrapped its hand around his wrist, the bones beneath the bandages snapping his, that Abbot accepted this new reality as if he were roused from a deep sleep. To his left a new doorway presented itself, and his screams echoed into the darkness.
As he sprinted through the darkness trying to find his way back, he’d lost track of anyone left alive. Seeing Andrews at the mouth of the tomb had been a relief. That was until Abbot saw his eyes and realised Andrews had made the jaunt from sanity into absolute madness, and as he raised the useless flashlight above his head Abbot could hear screams from above. Abbot thought of his earlier assumption that any booby traps were rendered useless, and reconsidered.
As the shambling creature he’d invoked rounded the corner behind him, Abbot felt the first strike from Andrews’ flashlight. He looked for salvation but found only the emotionless glyphs staring down at him wrapped in their wealth-strewn robes.
In the desert above, the wind picked up and dunes shifted onto the dig site. Bodies were covered and the tomb of Amis Rah was slowly sealed by the desert, Sealing both Asim Rah and Abbot Crenshaw for millennia to come.
Brain sat back and took a sip of water from his thermos. He bathed in the silence as the rest of the scouts took his story in. In his head, he silently praised himself for telling a better story than Brayden, for in fact telling the best story yet.
It was Brayden that broke the silence. “And you thought mine was bad.”
“You Jelly bro? You’re just butthurt because your story sucked compared to mine.” Brian fired back.
“Duh, you called it Entombed, you gave it away. And as if the rich old guy wasn’t gunna die, so predictable guy.”
“I liked it.” Derek spoke up “That mummy or whatever was creepy a.f”
“I liked it too.” Willy’s compliment was barely above a whisper but caught Brayden’s wrath.
“Shut it piglet you’d like anything your boyfriend said.”
“Man why don’t you just relax with that. Give it a rest” Brian waved his hand in front of his face to detour a billow of smoke.
The fire crackled and filled the silence that fell over the boys. A pine knot spit sparks with a loud pop and Willy swore he saw Brayden jump. He’s afraid. He thought, recognition dawning on him. Willy dismissed the thought just as fast. It couldn’t be. Brayden wasn’t afraid of anything. To Willy’s left Derek spoke again.
“I guess it’s my turn.” he couldn’t keep the grin from his face, this whupped the hell out of playing beat the devil. “This is a great story, a true story, you can ask any one of my brothers, they know. I can’t call it anything because it’s true, right?” This was met by boos from the rest of the boys and a pinecone thrown from Brian.
“Alright, alright fine. If I HAVE to call it anything-” Derek’s brows knit together and he left the rest of the troop in a few seconds of silence before saying “I’ll call it: When the Night Looks Back.”