We stopped five or six feet from the sarcophagus, my feet still dangling above the floor. A slightly more mobile mummy stepped into view, bits of its exposed flesh a little lighter, a little less like leather, and the rags covering its chest stained red. The red of fresh blood. I closed my eyes for a moment. Fresh blood could only have come from one place.
They flew open again when something grabbed my foot. I kicked and squirmed even before I looked down to see the stained mummy grasping for the other. It straightened its arm, locking my knee while taught fingers snatched at air. The mummies were strong, but not very fast and I didn’t see any reason to make it easy for them. Pharaoh’s voice floated through space from somewhere behind me. “If you struggle, you will only add to your suffering. I leave the choice to you. Perhaps you may enjoy a few broken bones, though I doubt it.”
“Fuck you.” I kicked harder.
Something smashed the back of my head and the world went very dark for a moment. I didn’t lose consciousness, but I stopped struggling long enough that the newest arrival caught both of my feet and I felt something pressing them together. By the time I could open my eyes long enough to focus on anything, my legs had been wrapped in linen nearly to my crotch. Before I managed to pull one coherent word out of my head, they had me wrapped to the waist. After tilting me back, something braced me from below and the wrapping continued. Slow, but somehow their extreme age had only built their strength and the hands that held me still could have been carved from the same limestone as the coffin.
They bent my arms into the classic mummy pose and wrapped my chest so tight I had to work to draw breath. When only my face remained free of the bandage, the hands tilted me back further until I rested flat in the air. I hung suspended for several seconds before they shuffled to the side and lowered me directly into the sarcophagus. Even through my wrappings, the stone felt cool, cooler than I’d felt since coming to Egypt.
I tried to flex my arms, to move any muscle, but they’d wrapped me too well, too tightly. A slow suffocation instead of a quick knife to the heart. I wasn’t sure which would be worse. How long did Bruce’s death last from his perspective?
Pharaoh leaned over the edge of the sarcophagus and smiled. “I hope your discomfort is not too great.”
Not too great? Wrapped like a mummy and stuffed in a coffin? God, were they really going to leave me in a stone box to die? I wished I could come up with something clever to say, or just something, but my brain refused to cooperate. All I could manage was a weak glare.
“Your thoughts are plain enough, if simple. Sleep now, if you can, though when you wake, you will wish you had not.” With both hands, he lowered a mask over my face. I wondered what it looked like, if my features were worked into the surface. From my side, without holes or even slits for my eyes, it served only to block out the light, to leave me in darkness.
I felt as much as heard the thud of the limestone lid and then the low, steady grinding as it slid into place. After that, nothing but hollow sound of laboured breath and my own heartbeat. Would even loud noises come through the stone walls? The coffin was pretty thick so I doubted I’d hear anything. I didn’t think it could sealed completely, but I might easily use up the air faster than it could be replenished. Horrible as the thought was, I decided that would still be better than slowly starving to death.
No, don’t think about that. Focus on breathing and think about options. There had to be a way to survive, but how the hell could I get out? Unwrap myself from the ridiculously tight cloth, push the lid from the stone coffin, and fight my way through a horde of mummies into the streets of Cairo without my bodyguard.
My dead bodyguard.
I tried to wiggle my toes. Inside my shoes, the circulation to my feet hadn’t quite been cut off but they already felt a bit numb.
I wasn’t going anywhere.