The sarcophagus lid cracked open above my body. Light seared my eyes. Not again. “Ra be damned! Shut the fucking lid.”
A bespectacled fool in a khaki shirt stood there with a slack jaw. I swore a scarab would wander into his piehole. Would serve the motherfucker right for disturbing my nap. Uninvited guests dropped by over the centuries leaving their shit all over my crypt. Nothing is sacred.
“Hey, brainiac. You deaf or something?”
His pointing finger trembled. “You … you spoke!”
“Way to call it, Admiral Observant. What do you want me to do next? An ethnically insulting dance to the Bangles?”
“How do you — ”
I threw an iPad out of my sarcophagus. He caught it. His mouth fell open at the sound of the device waking up. I held up the end of the charge cord connected to the solar powered generator. “You think you’re the first twit to find this place?”
“But, you know English?”
I sighed. “Alexandria.”
The iPad beeped.
“What is the most versatile word in the English language?”
A British voice, the accent I first heard over a century before, replied. “The word fuck… ” The device continued droning on about proper grammar use as the man stared at it.
“Look, there’s not much entertainment in a crypt. Even a corpse gets bored. For the eight-hundredth time, there is no treasure here. Just us priests trying to rest in a-cursed peace. Now scat, so I can resume my nap.”
“Wait! I’m not after the treasure. Well, not the tangible stuff, anyway. What I really want is your story. I’ve heard other archaeologists talk of your kind, but I never believed them.”
I sighed. The pest grabbed his nose and gagged. “At least that’s a new one. You sure you want to know? I won’t be held responsible for what happens. Yadda-yadda-yadda, curse of the tomb, and all that nonsense you living love to prattle about.”
This would take all millennia. “If I tell you, will close the lid again?”
His head bobbled.
“Fine.” I groaned as I leaned on the edge of the sarcophagus. My bones snapped and popped. Wrappings dangled down the carved stone facade, the strips dislodged from the last time I’d been rudely awakened by uninvited guests. I really had let myself go. My dried fingers peaked out as I traced the hieroglyphics on the box’s edge. The cartouche of my name.
He sat down on his backpack and sipped from a flask. Mostly hidden by his open-collared shirt, a small pendant decorated with lapis lazuli hung from his neck. It appeared to be quite old. I resisted the urge to grab it. After all, ancient bones are fragile, and the dead don’t heal.
“My name is Sabra. I was a priest of Anubis. Good job security. Life’s only guarantee is that one day you’re going to fucking die. That, and no one can complain if you screw up their service.” I shrugged. “Well, that’s what I thought anyway.”
He leaned forward, the pendant swung out. It flipped, I could not see the front. Just my fucking luck.
“Everything was sweet as honey until the pharaoh’s wife met a crocodile.”
His eyebrows raised. “A croc — ”
I slapped my wrapped palms together. “Yup. Chomped her ass into two halves. Course, had to be his favorite wife. Sobek’s kids don’t give anything back. Try explaining to the pharaoh that you can’t complete the mummification without half the fucking internal organs. That’s about the worst day in a priest’s life.” I smirked. “Or rather, his last.”
“Whoa, and I thought trying to land a grant sucked.”
“Hey buddy, you ever found a way to open the gates to the underworld?”
He cleaned his glasses. “Hrm, can’t say I have. Weren’t you a priest? Isn’t there some ritual?”
My fingers brushed the hieroglyphs cursing my ass to this fucking burial chamber. Yeah, we knew rituals. But pharaoh apparently thought of making sure we couldn’t so much as carve a magical trinket without consequence. The sentient dust hanging in the air was proof of what happened to the last priest who tried to carve his release. I suspected that fate must be worse.
The man took a deep breath and sneezed into his arm. A grayish blot appeared on his sleeve. Not the first time Amsu took a tour of a mortal’s nasal passages. I cringed; where else had he inadvertently been?
“Anyway, this is what happens when you tell a pharaoh no. He finds some jacked-up friends to tether your spirit to a dumpy chamber in some lost valley. It sucks. But at least it’s quiet, except when you dip-shit scholars drop in. Now, close the fucking lid.”
He stood. “Sorry for disturbing you.” The pendant spun. I snatched it. I had not seen this particular set of hieroglyphics in eons. Most of these spell-stones had been destroyed after some careless prick used it in a prank that triggered a war. Only Toth’s priests knew the trick of the stone’s creation, and they guarded it well.
“Where did you find this?” I ran my fingers over the hieroglyphes. The power within vibrated. I grinned, my ancient flesh crackled.
“Found it in a dig near some Nubian pyramids.”
“Do you have any idea what this is?” The expression on his face went blank as freshly cut stone.
I knew. This trinket was my fucking salvation. Before he could even breathe, I pressed the stone to his chest.
A tunnel of light stole my vision. When I opened my eyes I looked down at a mummified body. With my fleshy fingers I traced my name on the sarcophagus and smiled.
A muffled cry emerged from the desiccated corpse. “Sabra…help… ”
I held up the spirit-swapping stone and laughed. “Not on your afterlife, twit. By the way, thanks for the visit after all.” I shut the lid and for the first time in a millennia walked out into the desert sand in a mortal body.
Jennie Brass is a New England soul transplanted to the Upper Midwest. A born storyteller steeped in the rich folklore of the coast gave her a fondness for twisting history into dark fantasies. Her work has appeared in Bards and Sages Quarterly and Dragons Roost Press, among others. Follow her writing exploits on Facebook.