A/N: Woah! Has it really been that long? (Eyes last update date). Oops. Sorry…though I can safely say that this was a Not-My-Fault™ case. Exams, dear readers! And I think we all agree that exams, while far less desirable, are more important than fanfiction, right? Please don't hurt me. Thanks to all of you who continue to provide incredible support for this story! Don't forget to leave a review – and as per usual, constructive criticism is much appreciated!
Disclaimer: …What?! How darest ye imply I do not own this! BLASPHEMY!
PISTOL: A Rendition
…Aaron held out his arm over the waters of Egypt, and the frogs came up and covered the land of Egypt…
תנ״ך תודה שמות
"What the fuck –?"
Rachael ploughed into Henderson's back. "Well don't stop, you idiot! Keep running –"
"We…we're safe in here," panted Daniels, his dark eyes furiously raking their dark surroundings. "Those…things – grasshoppers or whatever – can't get us…down here…"
"Locusts," Rachael murmured. "It was a plague of locusts."
"Yeah, I don't give a crap what they were, I just wanna get the fuck outta here –!"
"Oh, shut up, Henderson!" Rachael hissed, trying to peer through the inky darkness. "We all wanna get out of here!"
Burns was shaking his head, his fingers fumbling with a box of matches. "N-no," he stammered, looking terrified, the matches rattling violently in the box in time with his trembling hands before dropping them to the sandy floor. "The locusts. Wasn't Miss Carnahan talking about the ten plagues? Locusts – that's one of the plagues –"
Daniels smacked Burns on the back of his head. "Don't be a dick, Burns!" he snapped. "One of the local's told me they're generational. Every seven years or somethin' like that…"
Bending over, he scooped up the fallen box of matches from the floor, pulling out a match and striking it against the box. The sudden flare of a tiny flame did very little to make a difference in the darkness, instead only casting flickering and – even though Rachael would not admit it to herself – incredibly disturbing shadows everywhere. Someone managed to find a torch on the wall, but the eerie darkness made it impossible for Rachael to tell who. Shortly the wooden torch was alight, and as Rachael's eyes adjusted to the now not-so-dark labyrinthine passageway.
The five froze. Feeling sick to the stomach, Rachael heard another croak echoing down the narrow labyrinthine hallway, and as her eyes adjusted to the settings, she could see tens of hundreds of dark lumps littering the corridor, hopping in rapid succession like a mini tsunami.
She bit her lip and turned to face Daniels, whose eyes were wide with disbelief. "Are frogs generational too?"
Henderson grabbed her elbow and forced her around to face him. "Okay, now you're being stupid," he snarled, a bit of his saliva splashing on her face. "We've gotta keep going."
She pulled away from him, taking a few steps back – and trod on a frog.
Closing her eyes in disgust and trying not to throw up again, she blessed the shoes she was wearing.
"Jesus effing Christ, O'Connell, watch where you stand…!"
Daniels' voice trailed away as he stopped to listen to something, tilting his head comically to one side.
"What do you –?"
The five fell silent, but all they could hear where the disturbing croaks of the thousands of frogs. Beni frowned, and stated in his Hungarian accent, "I do not hear anything –"
Little tremors shook the ground. Shining the flickering torch around the corridor, a high-pitched whining, almost chatter, reached their ears. Rachael could barely hear the noise past her pounding heartbeat, but she could see through the dim light where the source was. The five stared in horror as a small hill boiled up from the sand.
Run, run, get the hell out of here! Just run!
Her body would not obey her terrified mind. It was almost as if her feet were cemented to the ground, her wrists shackled to her frozen companions.
It was Henderson.
Had the situation not been so dire, Rachael was sure she would have laughed at his girl-like squeal.
But the situation was that dire, and his screech of terror was only too correct.
Tens of hundreds of thousands of scarabs, scurrying towards them, mingling with the frogs that littered the sandy floor –
Run, run, run –
Finally, she screamed what her mind was ordering.
And finally, her feet obeyed.
"RUN, YOU SONAFABITCH, RUN –!" Henderson screamed, seemingly randomly, as the five and a couple of diggers erupted onto some sort of bridge.
Her eyes swept the small group and then behind her.
Three, including her.
Panic crashed into Rachael like a wave, making her feel like the breath was knocked out of her. She was the last in the line, and would soon lose the others if she didn't keep up.
Oh god oh god oh god –
There was no other thought on her mind. Blindly, she continued to run after the Americans and the diggers, only to be jolted into a halt as a hand wrapped around her elbow. She yelped.
"Let me go –"
"Rachael, please, I need your help, it's Evy, she's –"
She blinked and her eyes cleared, and Jonathan's sweaty, fearful face swum into view.
"– She fell through a trap door or something, you have to help me find her, please –"
She shook her head stupidly and tried to pry her arm out of his vice-like grip. "No, we need to get out of here – the scarabs –"
"You promised!" he snarled.
Rachael froze. "What?" she asked, her fear slowly melding in with confusion.
"You promised!" he repeated, his boyish face plagued with fury. "You promised you'd get us back to Cairo! When you ditched us for the Americans, you said –"
– I'll still get you back to Cairo safely.
She stared into his flushed face, unsure of what to say. She valued her life far more than she valued whatever promise she gave to the girl and the man whom she had spent more than one night with.
But Rachael didn't have time to answer. The eerie chatter and scurrying sound echoed around the chasm from behind her, and the group she was with was long gone, out of sight and hearing range. Tearing her gaze from Jonathan's, she wildly stared down the corridor.
SCARABS – RUN, YOU IDIOT, RUN – DON'T JUST STAND THERE, GET OUT, GET OUT –!
Her feet moved, and she grabbed Jonathan's hand and tugged, but he wouldn't move.
"What about Evy –?"
"We can't find her if we're dead!" Rachael screamed.
Together, they fled.
Evelyn Carnahan did not believe in the supernatural. Foolish stories, she believed, to frighten those of weak minds. The sort of thing uneducated people liked to talk about. She would only believe something was real if she could see it and touch it.
But staring into the bloodshot eyes of a decomposing talking walking mummy was enough to convert her in that instant.
Granted, she could only see it, and she didn't like the thought of touching it to confirm.
It took a step towards her.
She took a step away – and her back collided with the cold wall of the chamber.
She started to tremble. The Bembridge Scholars didn't mention anything about things like this.
Eyes wide and frightened, she glanced over at the eyeless, tongueless Mister Burns. "H-help me, please…" she whispered, feeling foolish for even trying to ask for help from the man. In response, Burns gurgled and moaned, and fell to his knees, clutching his face.
"KADEESH PHAROS ANCK-SU-NAMUN."
She yelped. The deep, grating voice – cruel, yet at the same time almost inquisitive, made her press her back against the wall further, as if some part of her was trying to find safety with it. The exotic ancient language didn't translate in her head – too terrified, she could barely think.
I'm just a librarian, I'm just a librarian –
No weapons, no ideas, no nothing. Just the cold wall and a dumb, blind American to protect her from a two thousand year old mummy.
A hand gripped her elbow with such force Evelyn felt for sure was going to bruise. A scream of terror froze in her throat as a female voice invaded what was becoming a staring competition between her and the corpse.
"Evelyn, we need to get out of h- WOAH!"
It was Miss O'Connell. Relief flooded in and started to wash away the terror – until she realised that Miss O'Connell was now staring at the corpse.
Its bloodshot eyes swivelled to stare at the newcomer, and its rotted lips parted, a fresh tongue lapping against the brown decay of two-thousand year old teeth.
Jonathan yelled in shock –
She reached out for her brother, not caring when or how he found her. "Jonathan –"
A gun went off and Evelyn screamed, covering her ears and ducking her head from pure reflex. Out the corner of her eye, she saw the corpse stumble backwards, bits of its fetid, decomposing chest flying off.
And before she knew it, she was being hauled away by two strong hands, working together in perfect, trusting synch.
She didn't care that she was slaughtering the Third Commandment again. She didn't care for the wind-blown sand that stung her face as she, Jonathan and the girl burst out of the crevice into cool, fresh air, thankfully locust-free. She didn't care that she had just seen a walking talking corpse – all that mattered was that she was out, and safe.
What she did care about was the fact that she was now facing at least twenty rifles and scimitars belonging to twenty tattooed, angry-looking nomads, and that Henderson, Daniels, Chamberlain, and the remaining diggers were on their knees in the sand and their hands on their heads.
Rachael O'Connell swore.
One man stepped forwards from the group – the handsome one. Ardeth. His dark eyes blazed in anger. "I told you to leave or die," he spoke, his accented voice low. "You refused, and now you may have killed us all."
His eyes swept the three.
"Which one of you read from the Book?"
Rachael's eyes travelled over to the trembling girl between herself and Jonathan. Evelyn's downcast eyes were enough to tell the warrior of her guilt.
"You have doomed us all, for you have unleased the Creature whom we have feared for more than two thousand years."
There was a hint of aggression – possibly fear – in his voice, but he was trying desperately hard to remain as calm as he could. Passive aggression – which was probably more frightening than him actually screaming, Rachael thought. She stood up straight. "That walking corpse?" she asked, sounding braver than she felt. "I shot it. Relax."
"No mortal weapons can kill this creature! He is not of this world!"
A heavily accented voice joined them. Everyone turned to the origin of the voice – it was Anzar, the man Rachael had held a pistol to and threatened to kill, supporting Burns.
Rachael recoiled, even though she was nowhere near the man. Staring with vacant eye sockets and gurgling, Anzar gently lowered him to the ground.
"What did you do to him?"
Henderson and Daniels, equally horrified and furious. They were by their friend's side a mere second, holding him up and glaring at the warriors. Anzar glared back at them. "I saved him," he said. "Saved him before the Creature could finish its work!"
"Now leave," Ardeth added, "all of you, before he finishes you all!"
He gestured behind him and the tattooed warriors let their weapons fall away, turning to mount their horses.
"You – you're not going to kill us?" Jonathan asked stupidly.
Evelyn jerked her elbow into his ribs.
Anzar shook his head, coming over to the three. "No. But you must leave." He locked eyes with Evelyn. "Especially you, for it was you who read from the Book."
His tone was not accusing but the intention was. Evelyn's eyes flashed, and her previous fear seemed to disappear. Rachael watched as she stood up straight and placed her hands on her hips haughtily and looking intimidating even though she was considerably shorter than the man.
"Well, I didn't know that reading from some book was going to make a – a – a two thousand year old mummy come back to life, did I?" she exclaimed, her cheeks tinged with pink from embarrassment. "It's not written down anywhere, and – and – it was just plain foolish of you people to never tell anyone the danger! If you'd known what could have happened then why didn't you take the Book for yourself so that no-one would read from it?"
The girl had a very valid point, Rachael thought, her eyebrows raised in light admiration. Anzar eyed the girl – woman, Rachael supposed for the first time – coolly, and turned away. "Arrogance," he muttered.
"Arrogance?" Evelyn exclaimed. "Excuse me! I am not arrogant –"
"No?" Anzar furiously interrupted. "You may try to deny it all you want, but the fact remains that all that you have learnt about Egypt is from the biased, arrogant teachings of conceited 'scholars' who believe themselves superior to the natural inhabitants of this land who have carried the true knowledge of Egypt's secrets, generation to generation!" He stepped in close to Evelyn. "You claim that we never told anyone the danger? We tried. But did your people believe in the 'folk tales' and 'curses' in our history, when we told them? They laughed, Miss…"
He trailed off.
"Carnahan," Evelyn supplied feebly.
"Miss Carnahan. They did not even stop to think for a moment that perhaps the stories were true. Because they believed themselves above such 'foolishness', above the supernatural – because they were not easily frightened, because they didn't have weak minds like the natives. Because people like you believed that such tales were for the natives, the non-European – the peasants, the commoners. The uneducated, if you will."
Evelyn visibly winced, his words striking true. His voice lowered.
"Because they could not see it, and could not touch it. Therefore it was not real. You say you are not arrogant, Miss Carnahan? Perhaps you should reconsider before you accuse us of not warning everyone of the danger."
The silence stretched out, and Anzar turned away.
Jonathan touched Evelyn's shoulder. "Evy?"
She refused to meet his concerned gaze. "It's fine, Jonathan."
She spoke meekly. Rachael knew Anzar's biting but truthful words had cut deep, shattering everything Evelyn knew and believed in.
You don't believe in curses, huh?
No, I don't. I believe if I can see it and I can touch it then it's real. That's what believe.
From a distance, she heard Ardeth speak to the Americans. "We must hunt him down, and try to find a way to kill him before he consumes the earth. Allah be with us."
The warriors, on their horses, started to leave.
"Can – can we do anything?" Evelyn spoke.
Anzar ignored her, but Ardeth looked back, and shook his head gravely. "There is nothing. But know this: the Creature will be coming for you. All of you. He must consummate the curse, and until he does, he will never eat, he will never sleep, and he will never stop."
He left swiftly, and his daunting words played over and over again in Rachael's mind like a broken jukebox.
The Creature will be coming for you. All of you.
He must consummate the curse.