The Mysterious Mummy

mummy

Stephen Voss – Smithsonian Magazine

The Tenth Story in the Adventures of the Ambrosial Dragon: A Children’s Fantasy Series

Landon had been bored and sleepy until the plane began its final descent toward Cairo International Airport. Then his face was glued to the window taking in every detail of a city that was over a thousand years old. Grandpa was sitting next to him, enjoying his eight-year-old grandson’s enthusiasm.

They had planned this vacation for months, ever since Grandpa read Landon the “Goosebumps” book Return of the Mummy by R.L. Stine. Grandpa actually had a friend in Egypt named Issa Salib who was an archaeologist, a person who studies history by digging at ancient sites like the pyramids, examining what they find…

…like mummies.

Now all Landon could think of was seeing a real-life mummy. Grandpa said it would be more like a real-dead mummy because they’re all about 5,000 years old. Grandpa’s friend said he’d meet them at the airport and, after staying the night at a hotel, they’d go to see the pyramids.

It had been hard for Landon to say good-bye to Daddy, his little sister Dani, and to his best friend Buddy the Dragon. He got to bring his stuffed toy giraffe Baby with him, but he had to leave the rest of his stuffed animals at home.

Baby and the rest of the animals had become alive due to magic, and Baby promised to just be a normal stuffed toy when anyone but Landon and Grandpa were around.

What Grandpa and Landon didn’t know is that Buddy wanted to see Egypt, too.

As their aircraft was about to land, the pilot lowered the landing gear. He didn’t know that sleeping on the front wheel of the plane was Buddy the Ambrosial Dragon. He had decided to tag along and had placed a spell on Daddy and Dani so that they’d still think Buddy was at home. The dragon didn’t want Daddy to phone Grandpa to say Buddy went missing. It would have taken Grandpa only a second or two to figure out where Buddy had gone.

After the plane landed, it took forever for the plane to get to the airport terminal. Landon was still fascinated when the flight attendants made announcements both in English and in Arabic, the language spoken in Egypt and the other Arabic countries.

Grandpa explained that even though it was only a little after 10 in the morning back home in Idaho, here, halfway around the world, it was a quarter past 7 at night. He said that after they ate, they’d have to go to bed so their bodies would get used to the change in time faster.

Landon wanted to see the pyramids right away, and he didn’t think he could go to bed so soon.

It took another forever just for the people in the front of the plane to get their carry-on luggage and get out so it could be Grandpa’s and Landon’s turn.

Finally, finally they could get off the plane. A pretty flight attendant told Landon to have a nice stay in Cairo and to make sure to ride a camel. Landon liked her but he was also kind of embarrassed.

They walked down the long jetway and got to their gate. The airport seemed just as big and crowded as the one in New York.

“Hold onto my hand, Landon. I don’t want you getting lost in this place.”

“Okay, Grandpa.” With all the magic Landon had learned, he didn’t think he was in any danger, but Grandpa wanted to protect him anyway.

Landon touched the tiny railroad lamp he wore on a chain around his neck. It had magically appeared on his night stand after his last adventure when he had to fight his adversary, which turned out to be a meaner version of himself. Landon still didn’t know what it did, if it did anything at all, but Buddy told him to always wear it.

They went in the first bathroom they could find, and after that, went to where they could get their luggage. Landon kept Baby in his carry-on, along with other toys to play with on the trip, but everything else had to go into suitcases.

“Good thing the signs are in both Arabic and English.”

“Where do all these people come from, Grandpa?” All around the little boy, there seemed to be so many different types of people, almost like the New York airport.

“Everywhere on Earth just about, Landon. Cairo is a really big city and there are a lot of reasons for people to come here.”

They finally got past through what Grandpa said was Customs, where everyone coming into Egypt from another country had to stop and answer questions. Then, even above the noise of everyone else talking in all those other languages, Landon could hear a man’s loud voice.

“James, my friend! Over here!”

Landon saw a man about Grandpa’s age, dark skin, white hair with a little black in it covered by a some sort of round hat, a pure white beard, and with a chest as big around as a barrel.

“Issa!”

Grandpa pulled Landon behind him, set down his own carry-on, and the two men hugged.

“It’s been a long time, James. I am so glad to see you.”

“At least 20 years, Issa.”

“Issa, this is my grandson Landon. Say hi to Dr. Salib, Landon.”

“Hi.” Landon was surprised to find how shy he felt around Grandpa’s friend. Landon knew he wasn’t a doctor like the one he saw when he was sick, but that he was called doctor because he went to school and knew a lot about archaeology.

“Good to meet you, Landon.” Dr. Salib extended his right hand which looked as big as a catcher’s mitt.

Landon stuck his hand out and it was all but swallowed up as they shook.

“We’d better go get your luggage, my friends. The crowds are only going to get worse.”

It took a really long time to get to the hotel, a really big and fancy place, get their stuff into their hotel room, and get the hotel’s restaurant. Landon was afraid they’d only have Egyptian food, but the menu had items on it for just about everyone, and Landon got to eat salmon, one of his favorites.

“I’m sorry I can’t offer you the hospitality of my home James, but my wife’s cousin and his family have descended upon us, and there’s, as you say, no room left at the inn. I promise to take you to see my wife Nila and my family after our stay among the pyramids.”

The archeologist turned to Landon. “My grandchildren Adjo and Nuri are about your age and you might have fun playing with them.”

Landon nodded as he chewed a bite of his meal, trying to figure out if those were the names of boys or girls.

“I understand, Issa. I’m sure things will work out.”

The two men talked about their families and what they were doing, and then Dr. Salib was saying good-night to them at the door of their hotel room.

“I’ll be by at six in the morning so we can get out to the dig. Have to beat rush hour traffic.”

The two men hugged again and then once more, Dr. Salib shook Landon’s hand.

“We’ll be ready, Issa.”

Grandpa and Landon got ready for bed not knowing that Buddy was on the hotel’s roof. He could sense that his two human friends were in no danger, but he missed being able to sleep with Landon. He found a cozy corner of the roof (if hotel roofs could be considered cozy), and fell asleep, still savoring the taste of the steak he had snuck out of the kitchen.

*****

Dr. Salib was right about the traffic. Landon had never seen so many cars on one road in his life, and roads so wide. Cairo was a lot bigger than Boise. It seemed to go on forever and ever.

Grandpa was also right about needing to get to bed as soon as possible. He didn’t sleep very well and for the first time in his life, wished he could drink coffee like Grandpa and Daddy.

High above, only a speck in the sky, Buddy flew and watched.

“And here we are. The site of a newly discovered adjunct chamber to the Great Pyramid, an archeological treasure that has been studied for nearly a century.”

Dr. Salib spoke to a guard in Arabic so they could get inside.

“Have you broken the seal to the burial chamber?” In the book Grandpa read him, the archeologist in the story had to break the seals on two doors before he could find the mummy’s treasure.”

Dr. Salib laughed a big booming laugh in response as he brought the Jeep to a halt.

“We’ve been exploring and cataloging the new chamber for weeks, young Landon. In fact, we are almost ready to transfer the contents, including the mummy’s sarcophagus, back to the Institute for further study. I thought you’d enjoy seeing our mysterious mummy in his natural habitat before moving him to new quarters.

The Egyptian Archeological Institute was associated with the famous museum of the same name. Dr. Salib was the Institute’s Director and was in charge of studying all artifacts that would eventually go on display.

“Mysterious, Issa?”

They got out of the Jeep and started to follow Dr. Salib. They’d checked out of the hotel and the doctor told them their luggage would be safe in his vehicle. Unfortunately, this meant leaving Baby behind. He was sad to leave his friend in a hot suitcase. He couldn’t have known that Buddy was soaring high above keeping guard over everyone.

“Yes. One of my teams stumbled across this find almost by accident. A reporter interviewed a Bedouin for a story in 1924, and the old man’s family had been passing down the location of this burial-place, father to son, supposedly for centuries, though the reason why had been lost.

“One of my younger staff came upon the interview recently re-printed in an obscure local magazine while doing other research in a library. The story had probably been neglected and ignored since then, but on a hunch, I sent a team here to investigate. Imagine our surprise when we found this legend to be true.”

They stopped under a large canopy. There was a square hole dug out of the ground, and looking into the hole, Landon saw stone steps leading downward.

“These are the original steps. They’ll take us down to the burial chamber, although who we’ve found and what the significance is of hiding this tomb remains unknown.”

They put on hard hats with built-in flashlights, turned the lights on, and Dr. Salib led them down.

Even though it was only mid-morning, the day was already getting hot, but once they started down the steps, it got cold.

There were electric lamps placed every so many feet, but Landon felt better wearing his own light. He remembered in the mummy book that scary things could happen in the dark.

They reached the bottom of the stairs and were looking at the tomb’s entrance directly ahead.

“It is strange that access to the chamber is so straight forward. Usually the way into these ancient burial chambers is far more intricate, like a maze.”

“You’re the expert, Issa. We’re just along for the ride.”

“I hope you and Landon think the ride is worth it.” Dr. Salib smiled first at Grandpa and then down at Landon. “Let’s go in.”

There were flood lamps everywhere, so they got a really good view of everything in the large room.

“This is just how we found it. Workers will begin to carefully pack all of the artifacts starting tomorrow. We expected to find more wealth here. It was the Egyptian belief that a Prince or King would need to be provided with all of their wealth, clothing, even food needed in the afterlife. By comparison, this fellow must have been minor royalty or not even royalty at all.”

“But only royalty was mummified, right Issa?”

“Quite right, James. Which is why none of this makes sense. Besides the mummy itself and some rather modest artifacts, there are a few hieroglyphics on the door and the far wall warning of a curse and forbidding entry. Of course we tend to ignore those since they were the last line of defense against looters. Unlike the movies, no cursed mummies have ever come to life to menace people.”

While the two adults were talking, Landon went over to the sarcophagus. Dr. Salib said there wasn’t a lot of treasure here, but the container for the mummy was made of what looked like gold and jewels.

“Excuse me, Dr. Salib. Can you open the lid so I can look at the Mummy?”

“I’m sorry to disappoint you, but it hasn’t been opened in 5,000 years. We used X-ray equipment to get a look inside, and then drilled a tiny hole in the lid to insert a miniature camera and light to see a bit more. If the mummy is suddenly exposed to air, it could very well turn to dust.”

“How are you ever going to study the mummy then, Dr. Salib?”

“We only very slowly expose the remains to air and light, Landon. We have to make sure the mummified remains are able to tolerate such changes after so many centuries in their dark, airless environment.”

“Oh.” So the book Grandpa read to him was wrong.

Landon was the closest to the sarcophagus, so he was the only one to hear. He could hear a sound coming from inside. But the mummy had been dead for 5,000 years. He’s dead. He can’t make any noise.

He listened closer and the sounds seemed like scratching, as if the mummy inside was trying to get out. Landon put his hand on the lid and could feel vibrations accompanying the scratching noise. Then he heard a voice. He didn’t understand what it was saying because it wasn’t English, but he heard a voice and it was getting louder.

“Grandpa! Dr. Salib! The mummy’s alive! He’s alive! I can hear him!”

The boy staggered backward, and then he turned and ran to Grandpa and hugged him.

“Easy, young boy.” Dr. Salib patted Landon on the shoulder, and then walked over to the mummy’s case. “I’m sorry but I can’t hear anything. What did you hear?”

“Scratches, like he was trying to get out. I heard him talk, but it must have been Arabic. I couldn’t understand.”

“I hear nothing Landon.” Dr. Salib turned and walked back to his friend and the boy. “I think maybe your imagination has run away with you. These old tombs sometimes have that effect.”

Landon didn’t say anything, but he was sure of what he heard. Maybe he heard it because Buddy had been teaching him magic. Both Landon and Grandpa had seen plenty of magic since the dragon had some to live with them.

Landon had been too scared to notice that while he was hearing those sounds coming from the sarcophagus, the small old-fashioned lamp he wore around his neck had been glowing under his shirt. Still hugging Grandpa, it was yet giving off a small light.

*****

Far overhead in the clear blue Egyptian sky, Buddy the Dragon was scowling down at the big tent covering the entrance to the tomb. Even from thousands of feet above, he had heard the scratching and the voice. Unlike Landon, the dragon could magically understand the ancient Egyptian words.

“At last I will be set free from my doom and those responsible will horribly perish.”

Landon, Grandpa, and Dr. Salib were in terrible danger and Buddy wasn’t sure even his powers could save them.

I really am in the process of reading Return of the Mummy to my grandson Landon.

This is the tenth submission of a series of stories I’m writing for my grandson. It started out with The Day a Dragon Came to Live with Us. The most recent tale in the series before this one is The Adversary. If you want to read the entire series in order, start with “The Day a Dragon Came to Live with Us. At the bottom of each story is a link to the next. Keep reading and clicking and eventually you’ll get back here.

This story concludes with The Curse of the Rising Mummy.

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