© Copyright 2007 - Wrappers Delight - Used by permission
Storycodes: M+/fff; mum; bandages; resin; encased; nc; XX
The great pillars of black rock jutting up from the desert resembled a long-abandoned city or some sort of Stonehenge-like monument. Although not believed to be anything other than naturally occurring formations caused by the eroding forces of wind and sand, the circle of giant rocks - called simply enough the Ring of Stones - looked foreboding and eerily manmade.
"This is it, Ms. Davies," said Inspector Alhazred, tapping the windshield of the Jeep with his finger. "This is where your friends were last seen."
Lydia Davies shifted uncomfortably in the seat of the blazing-hot jeep as it jostled along the bumpy unpaved path toward the stones, which towered dozens of feet high. "Hopefully, we'll be able to find something there. I don't intend to leave Egypt without answers about what happened to my people," she said, using her bandana to wipe sweat and sand from her brow and her shoulder-length black hair.
After becoming one of the leading young curators of ancient Egyptian artifacts during her two-year tenure as curator of antiquities at London's Welsley Museum, Lydia was now faced with the most daunting challenge of her career. She was now in Egypt to clear up the disappearance of two employees who she had sent to here to gather artifacts for the museum's growing collection. While some at the museum had warned her against sending the two women to Egypt alone, Lydia had no problem doing so. Sofia Dowson and Ranu Mehta were among the best curators on her staff and both had traveled Egypt exhaustively. There was no reason to suspect they would end up disappearing for several weeks without a trace.
Their main goal seemed simple enough: to meet with a wealthy industrialist named Abdul Fir'aun, who had promised the museum first crack at some important pieces he was selling from his private collection. Davies' friends, she found out in an interview yesterday with Fir'aun - a wizened old man who's skin looked withered as a mummy's - had held their preliminary meeting with him, which went rather uneventfully. The two women told him they would come back for further discussions but never returned, he said. However, he did recall them saying they planned to visit a small archaeological dig at the Ring of Stones formation, the bizarre outcropping of rocks that now loomed menacingly in the front window of the Jeep.
"I do hope we find some answers about your friends here," Alhazred said as the Jeep coasted to the edge of the rocks and he killed the engine. Lydia grabbed her backpack from the seat, throwing it over one of her sleek but muscled shoulders. She and Alhazred then made their way into the circle of stones through a gate-like formation created by two rocks leaning into each other. Down a twisted path through more of the towering stones, they arrived at a cave-like hole dug into the rocky desert floor. Its mouth was buttressed with timbers like the entrance to an old mineshaft. Lydia could tell the excavation was freshly dug.
"This may have been why the came here," Alhazred said, pointing at the cave mouth. "The excavation was started some months ago by a team of American archaeologists but for some reason was abandoned. My men and I have already searched it and found nothing, but you are welcome to look."
Although the sun was blazing overhead, Lydia felt a chill looking at the open pit. She pulled a flashlight from her backpack and took a few steps toward it, noticing Alhazred was hanging back.
"You coming with me?" she asked over her shoulder as she strode toward the cave entrance.
"Yes, I will be right behind you, Ms. Davies."
She flicked on the beam of her light and entered tunnel opening. The tunnel, only about 6 feet wide, seemed to burrow about 30 feet into the rock and terminate there. There was no apparent sign of any ancient tomb or chamber. And as she scanned the walls, floor and ceiling, she saw no sign of a struggle or any evidence that people had been there recently.
Was this even the right place?
She turned around to see Alhazred still standing in the mouth of the cave, his pistol drawn.
"This is where your investigation ends, Ms. Davies," he said, leveling the barrel with her head. He slowly advanced into the cave, reaching for the handcuffs dangling from his belt. Lydia felt panic set in as she wondered what Alhazred's intentions were. Was she to be thrown in a squalid Egyptian prison never to be heard from again? Was Alhazred going to rape her and leave her dead among the rocks? She wasn't planning to find out.
Lydia hastily glanced around and noticed that two wooden beams set into the wall supported an enormous slab of stone that made up much of the ceiling where Alhazred stood. The one beam to her right looked somewhat unstable, leaning at an awkward angle. Hoping that she was far back enough in the cave to avoid the falling slab, Lydia mustered all her strength and drove a hard kick into the beam. The slab lurched, sending dust and pebbles raining down on Alhazred's head. She saw a look of panic in his face and he quickly stepped back, trying to get out from under the massive rock. Lydia kicked again, this time feeling her boot connect so solidly with the beam that the entire ceiling near the mouth of the cave began to give way in a rumble of falling stone and billowing dust.
As she crouched by the cave wall, covering her face with her bandana to keep the dust at bay, Lydia waited for any potential aftershocks of the cave-in. She'd cut herself off from Alhazred, most likely killed him. But she realized she now had another problem to deal with: she was unsure whether she'd be able to dig herself out of the blocked-in tunnel. After waiting for dust to clear and for any potential shifting of rock to pass, Lydia picked up her flashlight and began examining the aftermath of the cave-in. The boulders now blocking the cave entrance were too large for her to lift or even push out of the way using one of the fallen beams as a fulcrum.
What had seemed like a great plan for dispatching Alhazred in the split-second she'd concocted it now seemed stupid. Unless she could find another way out, she would die in the cave. Without wasting and instant, she began to feel for cracks in the cave wall and for breezes or sources of fresh air. There was a slim chance that the cave-in had opened up a passage to the surface somewhere else in the cave. As she ran her hands along the wall toward the back of the excavation, she realized a large plate of rock had sheared off the wall there, exposing a three-foot square plug of stone set into the wall. The plug was obviously man-made but had been covered by the rock.
She chuckled to herself. If the American team had dug one more day they
would have found it, she mused. Just like Americans though, giving up on
something if there's not an immediate payoff. Lydia dug her fingers into
the narrow groove around the stone plug, attempting to see if she could
pull it. To her surprise, she was able to jiggle it slightly. After feverishly
clawing at the block for at least half an hour and slitting a few nails
in the process, she managed to work the plug out of the wall and let it
fall to the floor. She could see it obscured a long, narrow crawlspace
leading deep into the rock. She shone her flashlight into the hole but
couldn't see how far it led.
It would be a tight fit but it was the only way out.
Lydia whipped her Swiss Army knife out of her backpack and slashed her fatigue pants down to cutoffs. She stripped her upper torso down to her tank top and pulled back her hair into a tight ponytail. After putting her backpack on and grasping her flashlight between her teeth, she hoisted herself into the narrow passageway. The stone passageway was remarkably smooth, Lydia noticed, and it began to narrow somewhat as she continued down it. Although such a narrow pathway would make many people claustrophobic, being in confined spaces had never bothered her. Lydia actually relished the feeling of confinement. She enjoyed it when her boyfriend, Trevor, the buyer for the museum gift shop, would tie her up during sex. And she loved going out to nightclubs when she'd had a chance to slide into her pair of skin-tight leather jeans.
The confinement of the narrow passageway wasn't so different, she thought, as she brought her arms up to her chest so she could keep wiggling through the passageway. Soon, she found herself sliding out of her backpack so she could continue traversing the tiny corridor. She kept only her knife from the bag, tucking it into her pocket. After what seemed like an eternity of crawling, the corridor seemed to slope upward and she could see dim light at the end. She accelerated her pace, inching as quickly as she could toward the faint flicker of light. Lydia reached the end of the tunnel, poking her head through another hole in a wall, this one some three or four feet off the floor. The crawlspace seemed to empty out into a large chamber lit by torches sunk into brackets on the wall. The torches blazed brightly, casting a warm yellow glow, so she knew there was a source of air in the room.
From her position in the crawlspace, Lydia examined the room, seeing an open doorway on the wall to her left. Through that doorway, she could see the pink and deep blue hues of a desert sunset. She'd arrived back at the surface and potential freedom. The big question now, she thought, is where the hell am I? Carefully pulling herself through the hole cut in the wall; Lydia lowered herself to the ground and began examining the walls of the room, which were painted with scenes from ancient Egyptian mythology. While they were done in the style of ancient temple decorations, their bright colors and unmarred surfaces indicated they were new, not thousands of years old. The paintings depicted the Anubis, the jackal-headed god of the dead, supervising blue-robed priests preparing mummies for burial.
Intrigued by the paintings, Lydia spent several minutes examining them,
wondering what they meant or who could have painted them. However, deciding
that she needed to find her way back to the jeep before nightfall, she
ended her investigation of the paintings and walked to the doorway. She
could see that it opened out onto a narrow wooden catwalk attached to the
side of one of the giant rocks making up the formation she and Alhazred
had originally investigated.
The room she was in apparently was hewn into one of the rocks.
Good, Lydia thought, she was still somewhere in the center of the formation, but it was difficult to tell where. Pillars of black stone jutted up everywhere like a fairytale-enchanted forest and dusk was settling over the desert. She stepped carefully onto the wooden catwalk, which was at least 30 feet from the ground. It was made of new wood and appeared quite steady. Gripping the side of the rock as she went, Lydia began following it as it wound around the side of the giant stone pillar into which the room was burrowed.
As she slithered along, she heard chanting in the distance. She listened to the deep, eerie and almost unworldly incantation and tried to figure out language it was - definitely not Arabic. The hair now standing on the back of her neck, Lydia carefully rounded the corner of the rock. As she did, she saw that the catwalk now ran above a valley tightly circled by more of the black stone monoliths. Within the valley, there appeared to be a stone structure similar in design to an ancient Egyptian temple with throng of blue-robed men lying prostrate in front of it. They were the ones chanting.
A massive, black stone statue of the jackal-headed god Anubis towered in front of the temple with three low altars arranged before it. Lydia, now consumed by both curiosity and terror, lowered herself to her belly and began crawling along the catwalk, hoping for a closer look. The religion of the ancient Egyptians had died thousands of years ago, Lydia thought to herself. There was no evidence that there were modern-day practitioners of it, yet dozens of men now were bowing in front of a massive statue of Anubis and chanting in a language she couldn't understand.
As she peeked over the side of the catwalk from her closer vantage point, Lydia saw a cluster of blue-robed men and another man, this one bare-chested and wearing an elaborate black and gold jackal mask, emerge from the temple entrance and stand around the cluster of altars. Lydia's jaw dropped as she saw who followed them. Sofia and Ranu walked behind them, nude and with hands tied. A quartet of loin-clothed men with spears goaded them forward. Lydia was paralyzed with fear as she saw her friends - the tall redheaded Sofia, and svelte, dark Ranu - led up to two of the altars. Was she about to witness a human sacrifice?
Blue-robed men stepped forward and grabbed the women by their wrists
and ankles, hoisting them onto the altars. Both were screaming in shock.
Lydia began scanning the scene, hoping she could find something that would
allow her to create a diversion and.
Lydia felt her stomach sink as she realized there was no way she could single-handedly swing down to the ground and rescue Sofia and Ranu from the midst of dozens of men, some armed with spears. This was real life, not a Cecil B. Demille movie, she reminded herself. She watched in helpless horror as she saw several more of the blue-robed men set upon her friends. She expected to see the flash of knives any second now. Instead, the men produced rolls of white linen bandages from behind the altars and began winding them around her friends as they struggled to break free - Sofia cursing and spitting, and Ranu screaming at the top of her lungs. Lydia fought the urge to cry out for the men to stop, knowing that would only give her away.
The blue-robed men made fast work of the bandaging, producing more rolls of cloth from behind the altars when they had expended their first spools. Although Sofia and Ranu had struggled nobly, Lydia could see that they were now both almost completely swathed in white wrappings from the neck down. The men first bandaged their arms and legs separately, then thrust legs their legs together and folded their arms across their chests and began wrapping them that way as well. Their struggling subsided as the men in blue tightly bound their arms to their chests and their legs together in more layers of bandages.
The two were now bound from the neck down, looking like Indian papooses
swaddled heavily in their clean, white bundling.
Lydia began scurrying backwards down the catwalk as quietly as she could. She had to find a way out of this place and get help. They hadn't killed her friends so if she was able to leave in Alhazred's jeep and fetch the police they could still be alive when they came back, she told herself. As she crawled backward toward the stone structure from which she emerged, Lydia noticed a lone blue-robed figure standing to the back of the crowd was now pointing up at her and shouting to the others. The chanting stopped and the men rose from their prone positions.
"Shit," she cursed under her breath, now rising to run down the catwalk at full speed.
Lydia heard a growing commotion on the ground behind her. With pulse racing, she clattered along the wooden path. As she rounded the corner to get back to the room from which she'd emerged, she saw a handful of men in loincloths with spears running directly toward her. No exit that way, she thought, whirling back around. As she did, she saw more men with spears coming toward her from the direction from which she'd run. She looked down at the rocky floor dozens of feet below and for a second contemplated a jump. Instead, she raised her hands in surrender.
Lydia felt in a daze as the men set upon her, pinning her arms behind her back and hustling her briskly down the catwalk and waiting stairs to the temple floor. She'd found her friends, but what kind of horrid fate awaited the three of them now, she wondered in dread. The loin-clothed men jostled her roughly onto the dais under the massive statue. As they did, Lydia saw Ranu and Sofie, wrapped completely from the neck down, laying on two of the altars. They called her name as she was shoved toward them. Before Lydia could acknowledge, the jackal-masked man who'd been leading the ceremony stepped before her and threw back the mask. It was Alhazred. His forehead bore several bruises and scrapes, but he'd obviously been able to backpedal quickly enough to escape the cave-in unharmed.
"So, Ms. Davies, we lost you, but now you have found us," he said, smiling. "We're glad you can now join the ceremony. We were just showing your friends what happens to those who disturb the resting places of the dead."
Lydia felt the spear-holding men press the tips of their weapons into her back.
"I'd suggest you not move," Alhazred said, clapping his hands.
Two blue-robed men emerged and began stripping Lydia of her clothes. She at first resisted, but then felt the spears' tips nudge at her back. After she was disrobed, one of the men in blue produced a beaten brass pitcher of water, which he proceeded to pour over her. Another of the men began wiping her body down with a cloth. She could smell perfume in the water and it felt good to have the sand and grit wiped away from her body. Lydia heard Ranu and Sofie yelling to Alhazred to let her go, a request at which Alhazred only laughed.
"Alhazred," Lydia urged as she was being wiped down. "You can't get away with this. When I turn up missing also, there's liable to be a big investigation and it's going to come back to you. There will be an international incident over this."
"In this country, a few well-scattered bribes can shut down any investigation," the inspector said, touching Lydia's chin with his index finger. She tossed her head to end the physical contact.
"I will be above suspicion, Ms. Davies. We may drag a few thieves in and try them for the disappearance and convict them. That will be enough to satisfy your government. Besides, who said anything about you disappearing? You'll be returning to your beloved England."
With that, he clapped his hands again and several blue-robed men surrounded Lydia, holding her arms and legs and lifting her in the air. She struggled, occasionally landing a kick or elbow, as the cluster of men spirited her to the third and empty altar.
"Fight them, Lydia!" she heard Ranu call.
"Don't worry, I will," she cried back, writhing in the men's hands.
But Lydia found her struggling to be in vain as she was held down on the cold stone altar and several more men bearing rolls of bandages began wrapping her arms and legs. Too many hands now held her for her to effectively resist. She felt the yards and yards of cloth being tightened around her and as they began encircling her torso as well, she found herself being strangely aroused by the process, just like when Trevor tied her hands during lovemaking.
Disturbed by her own arousal, Lydia cursed loudly at the men, demanding
they stop. Wordlessly, they continued mummifying her, folding her now linen-swathed
arms across her chest and binding them there tightly with more bandages.
She felt her legs being pulled together and bandaged into one unit. As
the men stepped back after several more minutes of intense wrapping, Lydia
could feel that she was held fast in bandages from her neck to the soles
of her feet. She raised her head, looking down at her body, which was as
neatly wrapped and motionless as any mummy she'd seen in a museum.
She tried to move but layers and layers of bandages held her motionless.
Alhazred appeared in her field of vision, now holding a thin golden
needle, the tip of which glistened with a viscous, blue-green liquid.
"Now, it becomes even more interesting," he said grabbing Lydia's bandaged shoulder and pricking her neck with the needle. She could feel a mild tingle immediately spread from the spot through the rest of her body.
Alhazred handed the needle to another blue-robed man. "Do the same to the other two," he ordered.
"What are you doing to us?" Lydia spat. "What the fuck are you doing?"
"You've been injected with a poison used in ancient times by our ancestors but now unknown to the rest of the world. It's made of the venom of the asp and blessed by priests of Anubis. It is very strong magic that even so-called modern science would be at a loss to explain.
"Don't worry, it will not kill you. Instead, it will slow your metabolism to virtually nothing, much in the way a cold-blooded creature can during freezing temperature or some animals do during hibernation. It lasts indefinitely.
"You will still be conscious, still be able to feel, see and hear. And if you were free of these bandages, you would be able to move. But you will no longer need any outside nutrients, no longer need to pass waste from your body and your circulation will slow to almost nothing."
The idea of such a toxin seemed impossible to Lydia, but the sensation that had spread through her body had convinced her that there some type of physical change had resulted from the injection.
"Please," Lydia now pleaded, feeling herself choking back a sob. "Please let us go."
"Shhh," Alhazred said, patting Lydia on her lips. "We're not done. We still must add another interesting touch. A special resin, also unknown since antiquity, which will seal and protect these sacred wrappings and harden them so your escape is impossible."
Lydia saw a blue-robed man come forward with a beaten brass pan in one hand and several brushes in the other. Other men dipped the brushes in the pan and began painting sticky, clear resin on Lydia's bandages. As they did, she could feel the linen tighten, further constricting her, then become hard, like a body cast. She turned her head to see the same thing being done to Sofia and Ranu as they lay prone on their altars and begged the men to stop. Once the men in blue were done painting their encasement with resin, which smelled vaguely of herbs and spices, Alhazred knelt beside Lydia, his face looming large in hers. She fought the urge to cry, refusing to give the bastard the satisfaction of seeing her break down.
"Ms. Davies, we are almost done, I'm sure you'll be glad to know," he said; now smiling cruelly. " Any final words?"
Lydia ignored Alhazred, instead yelling to her friends: "Don't give up! We're going to escape!"
She immediately wondered how that could even happen, given their impenetrable encasement.
"How touching a speech," Alhazred said in a mocking tone. "A wonderful final speech."
He clapped his hands yet again, this time bringing forward a blue-robed
man with a single roll of bandages. The man with the bandages sliced off
a three-foot length and wadded it into a ball while another grasped Lydia's
upper and bottom jaws, attempting to pry them open. She snapped at his
fingers, taking a bite out of one.
She laughed as the man recoiled, shaking his bleeding finger.
"Fuck you," Lydia spat at Alhazred. "I'm not done fighting."
As she completed her sentence, she felt a wad of gauze being shoved into her mouth. Again she managed to bite fingers as one of the men stuffed it in. She laughed again, the chuckle muffled by the wad in her mouth. Lydia now felt strong hands hold her head still and could tell that bandages now were being wrapped around her face. She felt them being drawn tightly under her chin and wrapped to the top of her head, immobilizing her jaw and preventing her from spitting the wad of padding from her mouth. The bandaging continued until her head was wrapped in bandages just as thickly as the rest of her body. Only a narrow strip over her eyes remained uncovered, through which she could see only the statue of Anubis towering menacingly over her. Lydia could feel the resin now was being painted on the bandages over her face, tightening them so they clung like a second skin. She tried in vain to open her jaw, realizing she couldn't budge it.
She could sense that she now was being picked up and carried somewhere, but she couldn't tell where. In her narrow field of vision she occasionally caught a glimpse of stone corridors, torches mounted in the walls or the flash of one of her captor's blue robes. Eventually, Lydia felt herself being brought into a standing position, and from there she could see that she was in a vast stone room lit by torches. It appeared to be a catacombs, outfitted with dozens of stone sarcophagi carved into the walls. Inside most of them were perfectly wrapped mummies in standing positions. Lydia felt a chill sweep through her as she noticed that the mummies' wrappings were new like hers. They were wrapped from head to toe, arms sealed to their chests, legs bandaged together, and she could see their eyes peering through small slits in their face bandages.
She again could feel she was being picked up by her captors and saw the dark, mysterious eyes of the mummies follow her as she was carried through the room and placed in a standing position in one of the sarcophagi. Blue-robed men carried the mummified Ranu and Sofia in as well, placing both of them in sarcophagi cut into the wall directly across from her. The men then silently left the room.
Lydia had no way of telling how long she remained in the catacombs, staring blankly forward into the green eyes of Sofie and Ranu's dark brown ones. She wondered if the two of them it was she that was directly across from her and pondered if there were any way to communicate with them. If she knew Morse code, she could blink messages. But, alas, she'd long forgotten how to do anything but S-O-S.
After what could have been days or weeks, men in blue robes again came
into the catacombs, lifting she and her two immobilized friends up and
carrying them out of the room. When they were put down again, Lydia could
see she'd been placed in a standing position in the temple area with a
crowd of the chanting priests gathered before them. Lydia was again lowered
onto the altar she'd originally been wrapped on. She was placed on her
side, propped up by several of the sets of hands, giving her a view of
the altars on which her two friends lay. She could see Alhazred and the
blue-robed figures were busy wrapping additional layers of pristine white
bandages over the slightly shiny, resined cocoons of Sofia and Ranu. The
bandaging continued, forming intricate patterns around their bodies, and
this time it also covered their eyes.
She forced herself not to cry as she saw a final bandage lowered across Ranu's dark, emotive and terrified eyes.
Lydia strained to scream as she saw her heavily bandaged friends lifted into a pair of colorfully decorated mummy cases. However, the chrysalis now covering her face and the rest of the body prevented it. All that emerged was faint, muffled whimper. The men in blue shut the mummy cases and lifted them into a pair of large, heavily padded wooden crates, which they proceeded to nail shut. She watched as one of the men painted "Destination: Museum of Science and Natural History, Birmingham, England" on the side of the crate nearest to her. Before she could see what was painted on the other, she felt herself being lowered to her back on the altar and Alhazred again appeared in her field of vision.
"You outsiders need to learn a lesson about robbing the graves of our ancestors," Alhazred said, shaking his finger a few inches before her bandaged face. "Now, perhaps you can learn what it feels like to be stolen from your resting place and put on display for curiosity seekers."
Lydia felt herself being lifted slightly so the final rolls of cloth bandages could be wrapped around her. She again felt the urge to cry out, scream, but knew it was impossible.
"Don't worry, we will cover your eyes with a just a few thin layers of gauze because we want you to still be able to see through them. We want to make sure you enjoy this as much as we do."
Lydia saw her field of vision grow hazy as gauze covered her eyes. She could still make out Alhazred's face, now a few inches from hers.
"You'll be back in London soon," she heard him say as she was lifted
into a mummy case and its cover was snapped shut.
From her vantage point atop a display dais in the Welsley's Ancient Egypt room, Lydia could make out a huge banner stretched from wall to wall reading "Welsley Museum presents Treasures of Antiquity: New discoveries in Egypt." Display cases full of ancient artifacts dotted the room. She was positioned upright on a special display stand and in her peripheral vision could make out the mummy case she'd been placed in weeks earlier.
Below, she saw a group of people fade into view being led by a uniformed museum guide.
"Here we have one of the most important finds now in our collection,"
the woman in the guide's outfit told the cluster of visitors. "One of the
best-preserved mummies ever unearthed in Egypt. Although her wrappings
appear to be new and freshly applied, this mummy is actually 3,000 years
"Like all of the mummies found in the tomb she's from, her identity is unknown," the guide added.
Lydia, perfectly still beneath her layers of wrappings, watched silently as the visitors circled the display dais, oohing, ahing and snapping photos. She saw a young boy roll his eyes back, bring his legs together and fold his arms across his chest, emulating her stance. So, this was her fate, she thought. To spend the rest of her days as a living museum exhibit. Perfectly capable of thinking, still feeling the desire to ambulate, to interact with people, but unable to communicate or move a muscle.
Her weeks in confinement as she traveled to the museum and was prepped for the exhibit had taught her the futility of doing anything to remedy her situation. The hardened cocoon covering her body prevented any motion and what little noise she could force from her sealed mouth was muffled in the wad of linen in her inside it and the layer after layer of bandages swathing her face.
As the group of visitors passed out of her field of vision, she saw Trevor and Dr. Peters, the museum's director, walk in front of her display area.
"What a splendid exhibit, Trevor," Peters said, apparently bristling with pride. "It was certainly a blessing that a wealthy collector such as Abdul Fir'aun was willing to donate so much of his collection to our museum and others. These are amazing pieces, especially this mummy."
"I only wish Lydia could be hear to see this," Trevor said, looking down at the floor. "It's a bloody shame the investigation never turned up what happened to she, Sofie and Ranu."
"I know it doesn't make it any easier on you losing her," Peters said, resting his hand on Trevor's shoulder. "But we should think of this exhibit as a memorial to her and her love of Egypt.
"After all," he continued, "pieces like this mummy here are going to be with the museum for a long, long time."