Aylisha O'Connell wandered silently through the darkness of the British Museum. She had often spent her nights here, sleeping on the couch in her office. Since her recent promotion to Head of the Egyptology Department, she had liked to come and look at the artefacts without being surrounded by the bustling crowds. The ancient relics imprisoned in the glass cases were a reflection of her life. They no longer felt the scorching touch of the sun, or the rough caress of the desert wind. Also, though she could not truly explain it to herself; since she had left her beloved Egypt she felt most at home here, amongst the remnants of a dead culture.
Pausing before an exquisite relief on the wall, she allowed her mind to wander back. She had lived in Egypt till the age of sixteen, raised among the sands and ruins as her parents travelled from one dig to the next. Her father had led expeditions to various sites, while her mother had earned herself a great reputation in Egypt as a scholar. Uncle Jonathan had travelled straight back to England after Hamunaptra, where he proceeded to earn himself a vastly different kind of reputation. Luckily he had met Aunt Liz, who managed to curb some of his wilder excesses.
Her parents had then decided it would benefit her to move back to England rather than remain in the desert. She had known she would have to go, but it was a terrific wrench. For the first month her parents had feared she was going into a decline. Luckily her strength of mind had pulled her through.
She had eventually adjusted, though it was never her true home. Her bones ached for Egypt. She was content in England, and that was as far as it went. She had studied Egyptology at Bembridge, and with her mother's teaching behind her had graduated top of her class. She could read and speak Ancient Egyptian as well as, if not better than her own mother, which was great source of pride to Evie. With credentials such as these she had quickly found work in the British Museum, where she had risen quickly up the ranks. In the last six months she had been promoted to her current position.
As she came out of her reverie, she felt the chill around her; she rubbed her upper arms and continued through the building. That was another problem: the weather. She never felt completely warm here. It was also cloudy for most of the year. She missed the dry desert air and the endless expanses of sky filled with shimmering stars. You could barely see the stars in the harsh artificial light of London. Only in her dreams could she see them, glittering in a velvety blackness which seem almost to press down upon her. If indeed they were her dreams…
She stopped herself mid-thought. Well, who else's dreams would they be she asked herself sarcastically? It was a silly idea, but sometimes she couldn't help but wonder. Her nights were filled with visions of an Egypt at its peak. She heard the hubbub of street markets and the cries of the vendors; smells from temples filled with fragrant sacrifices and offerings; the ornate structure of the palace…she always felt a pang when she thought of the palace, thought she had no real memory of anything that happened there.
Then there was the man…
She paused again. She had never understood how he had appeared in her mind. Perhaps she had seen him somewhere back in Egypt, but she didn't think so. He was tall; well over six-feet in height, while smooth tanned skin covered a muscular frame. He wore the robes and pendant of a priest, which only served to emphasise the broad hairless chest and shoulders. The dream always moved in to focus on his face. It wore a warm smile as though he was amused, but his eyes…
His eyes were dark, and appeared to pin down her very soul. They seemed to burn with some inner light, and in her dream she felt herself warm again in the heat of his gaze. She always awoke from the dream covered with perspiration, while the covers would be very tousled. As a very proper young woman of twenty-three, with no experience of men, she had always regretted not being able to remember what happened next.
There had been times when she had associated him with Imhotep, the cursed priest her parents had battled all those years ago. When she had first heard the name, it seemed to fit the man of her dream. As a child, she had indeed feared Imhotep, but as time went on, this changed and was largely replaced by respect and pity for him. His single-minded devotion to one woman, and his dedication to the mission to resurrect her, inspired Aylisha with respect, although his methods did not (she would never forget the look of terror on her mother's face as she described her little adventure with the altar). The three thousand years of tortured suffering he had endured could not help but inspire her pity. He had risked all for a chance at a perfect love, and fate had punished such aspirations with unbridled cruelty.
She shook her head to clear it, the black of her hair picking up blue highlights from the moonlight streaming through the window. The exotic tints of her skin went unseen in the shadows, while her dark and expressive almond eyes picked a path through the cluttered exhibits. She made her way back to her office; and stretching her long lithe frame out on the couch, dreamt of home.