The golden crescent rose above Giza as a sand storm headed down, towards the plateau. Women were singing in their broken wail, praising the god arrived. The sky, crimson and blue, clouds like wisps of cream, spread thin, wide and cool. The sand, still cool after the night; countless grains, streaming down the hill ‘neath my feet.
Priests walked forth, towards the tomb, swinging from one side to another. They smiled at each other, nodding in agreement.
“The white, long-limbed slut had such a sweet taste”, said a priest with a beard, extending all the way to his chest. His eyes were glazed and locked at a non-existant scene before his eyes. “The water that trickled down from her womb, sweeter than the best of Syrian wines”, moistening his lips with a thick tongue.
“Aye, and she had a way with her voice as she twisted under my belly. Like a mouse in a trap.” The other let out a heartful laughter and the fat hanging around his mouth shook violently. Others joined his joy in a discordant choir. All but one.
He was a young man with old eyes; his mouth, a narrow line beneath his frail, high nose. A new addition to the brotherhood, even if highly recommended by the school of a city afar, he was an outsider to the sect. He said not a word, staring intensively at the massive tomb, now burying them under its massive shade.
The other was a jester with his colorful, yet faded garments. A life of laughter had given him crow’s feet. Slender, thin, wearing a perpetual smirk. A nose, sharp as a dagger.
Next to him, the knight lay on the hay. A deep divide between his eyes told of a poison, brewing under the bone. He wore a chainmail and constantly shifted from side to side. The sword by his side had rust on it, but so it had blood as well.
The sun was at the end of its race across the sky and shadows grow long and wide. The great tomb of Burbahar threw its black finger at them, pointing at them: “There they are! Stop them before its too late!” But no one listened.
“‘Tis time, jester”, the knight groweled and rose slowly, stretching his limbs. The chainmail shuffled with a thousand tiny voices. For a moment, the smirk on the jester deepened and was replaced by a more sinister, but still elated expression. It disappeared before the knight met his eyes.
“It is time!” he replied with a strained, high-pitched squeal.
In a chamber of stone, the priests set down their load and sat down. The walls were lit by two oil lamps, their tiny flames wavering and keeping the shadows alive, dancing and jumping behind every nook and crevice of the countless surfaces.
All were quiet. The tomb was pristine, completed only last month. From time to time, they could hear the stone above them move, growling in a deep, merciless bass. In those moments, a primal fear of being buried alive overcame them all. Except for one.
He knew these walls and the countless tons of stone above them. He had placed each of them with love and care as a thousand slaves, slain and ground into fine paste, used in the glue binding the monolithic tomb together. He felt the friction between blocks that moved above them, pushed into place by the wind, slamming against the falls time after time. It was setting. Every rock, every stone and every bone was finding its final resting place in the monument that would outlast every human child born that day.
The fat, oily faced priests sat and drank wine from their clay goblets. Panting. Then drinking some more. Exhausted like over-fed hogs, he thought as he eyed them, his stony expression unflinching. But he said nothing. Eventually, they would climb onto their thick feet and continue down, deeper into the darkness. “Longing back to the embrace of their precious whore”, he thought and spat.
The seal broke easily enough. The knight holstered his sword and turned to face the jester, shrugging and stepped to the side. Darkness lay all around them; deep, unwavering and eternal. The day was but a memory and was no more.
“If you may, fair paladin”, said the joker and handed over a tiny LED light. His nimble, long fingers worked in the pale white light, squeezed out by the dirty, thick fingers of the warrior. The fingers packed the crevice between the huge stone doors with several hundred grams of high-explosives, plastic like wet clay.
“Exp-losives, exp-losives”, he sang like a crow, his shoulders swinging from side to side.
“Quiet, you!” the knight whispered with a raspy voice. The other merely lowered his voice.
As he finished, he planted the detonator and led a wire from the doors to the other side of the monolith. Then the knight relieved himself of a heavy load and planted the sandbags firmly against the crevice where the putty lay.
“We go ’round the corner now”, the other sang.
“Aye, we go.”
The explosion shook the wall they leaned against and its roar echoed in the valley for a moment. It lit up the night for a moment and was gone. Birds in the trees fled, beating the air with their wings and complaining about the broken peace. But no human voices, no ringing alarms or beams of light, searching for the culprits of the crime.
A gaping, enormous opening lay before them where the doors had once stood.
“After you, jester”, said the other and spat.
The holiest of the holy lay before them, placed in his sarcophacus for his night eternal. Each bowed down and went through the required ritual, not pausing for a moment, never losing the lustful, glazed stare in his eyes. All but the one, who stared at the oily manes from the back of the hall. A current of air blew from somewhere, high above. He knew where it came from; a narrow airway left between the marble blocks, leading all the way to the crown of the room, hidden behind an impenetrable veil of darkness. The floor was cold to touch and covered with a fine layer of dust, once shot out from the chisels of master masons. They had left the tomb with beautiful, carefully crafted ornaments and scriptures, carved into the stone walls rising around them. Likewise, the snakes and insects of stone twisted around the thick pillars, supporting the roof above. And he knew them all by heart, for it was his hand, guiding each hit against the soft rock.
“The ritual is complete and the holiest of the holy can begin his journey to where we all may once rest”, proclaimed the largest of the priests, raising his palms towards the darkness above. “Let us return to the land of the living, for our time is yet to come.” That moment, a sandal scratched stone and they all turned around. All except one. Further steps led away from them, becoming softer by each moment. In a wordless consensus, they all raced after him, suddenly aware of the weight above their necks.
Several mummified corpses leaned against the warm walls, not far from the entrance. The fact that they were not sprawled along the floor, but sitting upright gave them an air of surrender. The swordman was still squeezing the light out, darting it on the oppressive surfaces around them. “Buried alive and waiting to die”, the joker proclaimed with a hard voice and burst out with a sharp laughter that rang in the darkness.
The other eyed him, the wrinkle deepening, and continued deeper. “Poor bastards”, he said, shaking his head. His boots scratched sand against the stony floor, littered with fragments of clay pots and bones of small animals. A current of air swept against them from the depths of the tomb, the breath of an icy dragon, buried there long ago. It was cold and dank, but carried a fragrance of something old and noble. Fragrance.
At last, the descent came to its end and an enormous chamber spread all around, before them. It was pitch dark, except for the pilot light, flitting nervously from surface to surface. It was not a matter of seeing the chamber, but feeling its presence and scope: its breath, and its scope.
With careful steps of the blind, they ventured forth, careful not to turn their backs away from the entrance.
“This is where the holiest of the holy was buried over six thousand years ago”, the knights said aloud. “All glory be onto him.” The jester snickered, keeping up the pace.
“The corpses at the entrance were his priests, buried here by a treacherous man. He defiled the holy one with their mortal presence.”
“And you are here to rob his grave, o noble one!”
“NO!” the other shrieked, his face twisting as if a cover for a nest of maggots. The light fell from his twisting arms, now transforming into new, inhuman shapes. It stuck to the sand before his feet and lit the grim display: the man was no more, replaced by a beast with tentacles for hands, roaring with insane rage.
Having let out a tiny, sharp shriek, the jester fled, scrambling the best he could towards the entrance somewhere in the midst of the pressing darkness, the roar following his each stride.
The day awaited behind his shoulders, a silhouette broken by the bald head. The priests were panting and doubled over, some sitting down. Their backs smeared sweat on the cold walls as they broke out vases of wine.
“What is the matter, holy men?” They glanced at each other, waiting for one to answer. There had been no words, but mere terror of death. The fear of being buried alive in the cold tomb, forever barred from the embrace of their virginal priestesses. One by one, they began to laugh, the sweet wine relieving them of the tension.
“We .. I thought you would leave us here”, answered the biggest and laughed, others nodding in smiling agreement. A breath of air blew from the depths of the tomb without a sound.
“And so you ran all the way here”, the silhouette said, standing still, frozen.
The priest tried to see his face, squinting against the blinding glare of the day. He shuffled the goblet from one hand to another. The others drank with long sips and slapped each other on the back, boasting of their plans with the virgins later that day.
“Panting, sweaty pigs”, the silhouette proclaimed with a sharp, disgusted voice. The priests turned, quiet.
“Sinners, filthy hogs, unholy puddles of lard!” The men tried to get up, but one by one fell back down. As fast as they could raise their arms, they would fall back down again.
“Seal the tomb!” came a command from outside, which dozens of hard, low voices joined in a choir. The enormous doors of granite began to growl, grinding against the ground.
And the fattest of the priests tried to grasp the silhouette, leaning with his thick arm. As the pillar of light between the doors narrowed, he crawled the floor, paralyzed and struck empty of power. And as the last rays of light entered the tomb, he reached to grasp the man’s ankle. And there was nothing to touch. Nothing but cold, dusty-covered slab of stone.
Weak wails filled the corridor. Some cried, some tried to curse. But they all were tainted by lethargy and slow death.
And they lived for several weeks more, withering away little by little. The mountains of fat grow smaller, revealing bony structures underneath. The lethargy in the air kept each of them in place, unable to draw a dagger hanging by his belt, to open his wrists and end the groaning miseries of his belly. And when death finally came to each of them, it rode the soft whisp of air from the depths of The Tomb.