Dr. Edward Muller awaits a visitor in his study with only a glass of whiskey, a journal from a long dead colleague, and a loaded pistol.
Dr. Edward Muller sat in his study, a pistol in his hand. A fire burned low in the hearth, and the latched windows made the room warm. Tall bookshelves surrounded him. He’d spent his whole life filling them with research, histories, his own notes and findings. He sat in the large armchair in the center of the room, turned so his back was not to the window or the door. On the table beside him were three objects: a now empty glass of whiskey a journal, and small stone shaped like a lion. The stone was thousands of years old, old as the pyramids, and meant as a gift to his wife after his return from Egypt.
There was a sound against the window, and he tensed, drawing up his pistol. It clattered, and then silence. After a minute, he breathed out, reached for his whiskey, and frowned. The large clock against the far wall ticked towards one in the morning. His wife was being entertained tonight by some friends. He’d feigned exhaustion to remain at home, but he couldn’t tell her the truth. He couldn’t tell her what he was waiting for.
It’d been barely six months since he and his four colleagues had returned from the expedition. They’d thought hey’d found a new pyramid to unlock, every Egyptologists’ golden dream, but it’d been something even more ancient. The tomb was nearly buried to completion when they’d started digging. Three chambers was all they’d been able to access. The rest was so filled with sand, it’d take years of excavation to understand its full breadth and the Egyptian government was making it more and more difficult for an honest archeologists to do his work. Muller had carried a lantern down with him and raised it to the yellow stone walls. Paint still decorated them with ancient tableaus. When he closed his eyes he could see the grisly scene it depicted: a woman on the throne, wearing the pharaoh’s effects, swiftly followed by three men driving swords into her back, and then being laid into the tomb. No name was given to the mysterious queen, but they’d found the chamber below, what looked to be the first of many. He’d been the first to look upon the mummy. It was holding a copper dagger in its hand, the linens sunken into the moist black skin, wisps of hair remaining on the shriveled head. The dagger carried the face of Sekhmet on its hilt, her lion-headed expression grim, as though the knife knew its purpose.
His wife had been so excited about the mummy. She’d joked about having an unwrapping party, or possibly taking the foot as a desk ornament. Her ladies’ club had tittered about it as he’d arrived home, skin red and flush from the African sun, sand still pouring off him. He and his party had not rested as they began to catalog and examine what they’d been able to bring back with them. The potential for new discovery, a whole new chapter of Egyptian civilization, it had left them full of energy and excited. And then, a month after they’d returned, while the mummy was taken to be examined, the specimen had gone missing entirely. Dr. Trelawny had been the one to examine it, and it wouldn’t be for a few more weeks that they would find his body. His chest was an ugly cavity, the flesh pulled away by hand and the heart missing. The papers had decorated every front page with it, especially so soon after the murders. Muller had shaken his head at the question of a mummy’s curse.
And then Whemple was found. He was at the university, attempting to date artifacts, and they found him torn apart with a blade. His stomach was missing. The police had asked their questions, nervous at the thought of the murderer striking again. It wasn’t until later they noticed the dagger was missing. Muller was not one to believe in curses, but he had watched his friends and colleagues fall, one by one, each in the same gruesome way. The joke was no longer funny, and with a killer haunting the streets, the police were too overexerted to do anything about it. It was when they’d found Banning that Muller was sure. The night he had died, Banner had scribbled a message over his field notes. It was given to Muller, the journal stained red at the edges.
Muller picked it up now, looking again at the final pages. Banning’s writing was neat and tailored until his final message, where the neat letters became manic. Scrawled across the page were his final thoughts: if the dead should rise, if we have done some wrong, if we have brought their ire, then we are doomed. She is angry. She is judging. She is coming for each of us. She will not let you beg.
The warmth of the fire made the room unbearably hot. Eying the door as he stood, he went to the window to unlatch it. His legs creaked, his arm was sore, but he kept the pistol at his side. The streets were quiet and empty. The police had promised to offer what protection they could, but he didn’t see any figures standing on the street. His hands trembled, and he thought of pouring himself another glass of whiskey, when he heard the door click open behind him.
The fire cast a low light across the room, and night had won out. A figure stood, the shape half draped in darkness. He could see the dark skin, sunbaked and warm, and the rags wrapped around the body. The limbs were skinny, more bone than anything else, and the copper glinted in the light. Sekhmet stared at him, her lion face baring teeth. The face was shrouded, and he could not quite make out her features, except the eyes. They glowed in the firelight.
Muller raised the pistol. “No further, devil.”
Her head tilted, and then she took a step. He fired the pistol, and she did not move. He was certain he pierced her, certain enough that he fired again, and she took another step. His back to the window, he could not move away as she marched towards him, dagger raised. Another shot and another, and the bullets burst the linen and the bone, but she did not stop. He dropped the pistol onto the floor and raised his hands up.
“Please,” he said. “My wife–”
Her dry fingers wrapped around his throat and clamped down. Her skin sunk into exquisit bones, the hair returned like a halo around her face, and her eyes. They bore into him. She opened her mouth, taking a dry, rasping breath. Her grip tightened.
“Why did you take me?” she rasped. The voice echoed through hollow lungs, and her tongue was heavy with the new language.
Muller shook, squeezing his eyes shut. “It’s our job.”
“And this is mine.”
She drove the dagger into his belly, her gaze still holding on him, her grip still tight. Blood spilled out, his lungs filling with dark liquid. She blinked, and her expression changed. She let go of his throat and removed the dagger, stepping back as Muller slumped to the floor. He raised a bloody hand unable to stand, barely able to move at all. He held a hand to the table, and she bumped into it as she backed away.
“It was–” He gasped as he felt his lungs fill up with blood. “–stolen from you.”
Her hands found the stone lion. As she held it, she was no longer a monster, but a woman, her brown eyes wide. Fear, sadness, nostalgia, anger all colored her features. She looked down at him again, and determination strengthened her features. Her hands squeezed tight around the lion and leaned down to him, pressing a hand to his brow.
“A gift for a gift,” she murmured, smoothing back his hair. She raised her dagger to his throat, and everything for Dr. Muller went black.