This is a work of fiction. Names, places and incidents are the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, names, places, businesses, trademarks, or events and incidents is purely coincidental.
Shakespir Edition Copyright © 2013-2016
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There was no way to explain the consuming feeling, the devouring desire to get through the solid stone wall at any cost and as quickly as possible. Doctor Alysse Summers, fresh from college and ready to make her mark on the world, was ready to take up a pick-ax herself. She was certain of her findings, and the idea of instant stardom in the archaeology world from her first expedition possessed her like an evil spirit. But she restrained her emotions, instead redirecting them into sterns words. “Get this mother fucker open!” They were a hundred feet into an old coal mine, twenty miles across the Wayne County, West Virginia border and knee deep in trouble. The mine had already caved in twice, injuring several, and every man with any sense at all had already walked away, fearing for his life.
The men working for her now, bums who lived under the Seventeenth Street bridge, poor, smelly cutthroats who would do, and had done, anything for money, were just putting up with her because she paid more than they could make collecting cans and scrap metal. The job was temporary, they knew that, but they could put up with her attitude for a few weeks, the time she said it would take to get through the cave wall and enter what she was calling the tomb. She had an old map and several books the men couldn’t read, and even though they didn’t trust her judgment they were inclined to trust she had enough money in the bank to pay for their labor.
“Hey, that last whack sounded different,” one of the workers said.
“What?!” she said, and knelt down quickly to look at the hole that was starting to form. But, it was a little too quickly and the man using the pick, Larry, wasn’t paying as much attention as he could have been and nailed the entire twelve inches of steel right through the back of the professor’s head.
“Fuck!” another yelled. “Now we’ll never get paid!”
They all bent over the body and one kicked her. She was definitely deceased.
“Well, I reckon we can just leave the body here and go home,” Jerry said. “Guess we’ll be heading to the food bank tonight if any y’all need a ride. My parole officer is picking me up.”
“I ain’t gonna leave her here like this,” Rich said. “That’s a prime piece a ass right there. If y’all don’t want her, I do.”
Everyone else stood up and backed away. “Okay, Rich gets the award for sickest bastard I’ve ever met,” Steve said.
Rich picked up the body, nodded to everyone and winked, then walked away. “Anybody else wants in on ‘is, just follow me.”
No one followed.
“Hey, you know, she were after somethin’ she said were a tomb behind this here wall,” Bob said. “There might be some sorta treasure or somethin’ in there she was after.”
Everyone thought for a moment. A couple of the men bent down and examined the wall more closely. There were signs they were nearly through; just a few more well-placed blows and they could at least see what was behind the area Doctor Summers had carefully marked out with chalk. Jerry held his lantern closer and it actually seemed the coal and stone wall was turning into plaster; there was definitely some sort of manmade room on the other side.
“Welp, they’s five of us left, counting sick-assed Rich, so I say we make a pact, then, even split of whatever we find in there,” Larry said. “Let me give it a couple more whacks.”
Everyone else stood well back. He was definitely hitting white plaster now, with each swing going completely through the wall with a cloud of dust. “That might be big enough,” Jerry said. “Step way back and put the ax down and I’ll take a look.” He was only half-joking.
He knelt down and put his face to the hole and then picked out a few more pieces of plaster with his fingers. “Well?” Bob said.
“Cain’t see shit,” he said. “What we need ta do is make the hole big enough to put one of the lanterns through.”
“Alright, stand back,” Larry said. But he didn’t need to tell them. He swung easier, now, trying to just chip around the edges.
“Gonna have to hit it harder,” Bob said.
“Woo!” Rich said as he walked back into the light, zipping up his pants. “There ain’t nothin’ like fuckin’ the dead!”
But just as he finished the sentence, Larry’s backswing nailed him right in the forehead. He felt the resistance as he tried to swing forward again, and looked over his shoulder as the tip of his pick slid out of the wound. “Son of a bitch!”
“Anybody wanna fuck Rich?” Bob said. Everyone shook their head.
“Y’all can thank me for that,” Larry said. “‘Cause we can split the treasure just four ways now.”
“Let’s see if we can’t drag his body outa the way for now,” Jerry said. “We’re gonna have to bury him and his girlfriend before we leave, though, ‘cause the cops has seen all of us with ‘em both.” Bob grabbed a foot and with Jerry on the other one, they dragged Rich’s body several yards away and walked back to where Larry and Steve were on their knees, using picks to knock bits off around the edge.
“I think the hole might be big enough to put a lantern through, now,” Steve said.
“I escaped outa prison once through a hole smaller than that,” Larry said.
“Then go ‘head and shimmy in there, then,” Bob said.
He sniffed and patted his belly. “Well, they’s been a hell of a lot a beer between then and now.”
“Here, see if that will go in there, now,” Bob said, as he handed a lantern to Larry.
Larry poked it through the hole then put his face close and looked in. He didn’t speak for several seconds until one of the guys kicked him. “Guys,” he said. He still didn’t move his head away from the hole. “We might be in some deep shit, here.” He raised himself up on his hands and knees, then sat back and fell on his butt. “They’s shit in there we weren’t never supposed to see.”
“What is it?” Steve said. “What…”
Larry pointed to the hole. “Take a look yourself.”
Steve knelt down and took a look. He was silent for a few seconds, and then raised himself up. “Well, I seen a lot a shit… seen two violent, senseless killings in the last fifteen minutes, but if that don’t beat all.”
“What is it?!” Bob said. “And more importantly, can we get some cash out of it?!”
Steve nodded. “Does the scrap yard take solid gold?”
“What?!” Bob took a look and came up with the same look on his face. “That’s gold, ain’t it? Them shapes in there, like big coffins, that’s solid gold.”
“Even if it’s just gold over wood or somethin’, we’re still talkin’ pounds of it,” Steve said.
Jerry had to see for himself. “I… there’s too much,” he said. “We cain’t get rid a that much gold. All of us got records, there ain’t no body gonna believe we just found it.”
“I think we can sure as hell try,” Larry said. “That guy at the Corner Three pawn shop might take it; I sold him some watches one time and I know what he’s buyin’ around the back door he’s shippin’ to Detroit. Come on, y’all stand back and me and Steve will take the picks to it again so we can get in there.” He swung and smiled. “See there, it’s chippin’ off easy, now.”
Steve took a swing and Larry followed quickly with another and with just a few more swings it was easily big enough for all of them to crawl through.
“Woohey! Hold up, you got it!” Jerry said. He dropped down on his knees and put both arms and his head through the hole. “See?” he said, his voice was muffled but seemed to reverberate like he was in a large room or hall. “This room is fuckin’ ginormous!”
“Get on in there,” Steve said, “so we can follow you in.”
He pulled himself in with his hands and stood up. “First one in! That means I get a bigger cut, right?” He lifted the lantern and took a quick look around. It was a well-made room, though crumbling and dilapidated now, plastered and painted white with red and blue decorations or perhaps writings, all over the walls. And portions, mostly pillars and corner ornaments, were either painted gold or were gold-plated. If the designs were writing, he had never seen the language before, and he knew what Egyptian and Greek looked like from working in the prison library for ten years; this was something different, more primitive and ancient.
“Ya still living?” someone yelled from outside.
“Yeah, y’all come on in,” Jerry said. “Plenty a room.”
Steve poked his head through, then wriggled the rest of the way and jumped up quickly. “Hey Larry, put me another lantern in here, will ya?” He knelt down and grabbed it through the hole and with two bright lights in the room, it came alive with color and reflections. “Holy…”
“Shit!” Larry said, as his gut got caught in the hole. “Y’all grab my arms and help pull me in!”
“Come on fat ass, suck in your gut!” Jerry said. And with another tug, they managed to birth him into the room, more accurately called a tomb now that they had taken a quick look around.
Bob, the smallest of the four, came through with no problems at all, and they all stood for a moment and looked around, speechless as four lanterns lit the place. It was a tomb, but not like anything any of them had ever seen, even in books or on television. Disregarding the presumed inscriptions, even the scrolls and decorations on the funerary furnishings, chairs, statues, jars and vases, even what seemed to be toys, seemed completely foreign, and not just foreign to the area, foreign to anything they could even imagine existing. Jerry took a closer look at one of the large inscriptions carved into the top of a marble table… animals, they seemed, birds, but oddly not birds, more like planes or spaceships. There were trees, or perhaps spindly arms with outstretched fingers. And occasionally in the script, a completely unrecognizable symbol dominated his attention, presumably a letter or hieroglyphic from some forgotten alphabet.
“What is that, like French or somethin’?” Larry said, as he looked over Jerry’s shoulder.
“It ain’t French, but hell if I know what it is,” he said. “Somebody took a long time carving that in, though, so they musta thought it were important to write down.”
“Plane tee berry tree plane bars,” Larry said, as he tried to make sense of it. “Maybe I just ordered tacos in Spanish or somethin’.”
“Or woke the dead what’s in them coffins,” Bob said. Everyone laughed.
“Hey, give me a hand here, I wanna pop the lid off this’un,” Steve said. He was tugging at the heavy lid of what appeared to be a sarcophagus, decorated as an effigy, but poorly done if the body was supposed to be human.
“I think that three year old boy a mine coulda sculptured a human face better’n that,” Bob said.
“You been sayin’ your boy was three year old for the last five years,” Larry said.
“Well, however the fuck old he is, he could do art better’n that.”
“Unless whatever is in there looks just like that,” Jerry said. They all chuckled, but it was a nervous laugh. A tomb buried so deeply into the ground and so full of weird and strange things, maybe it was something different. “Y’all ever read stories by that dude, Lovecraft?” Everyone else shook their heads. “Always talking about old gods and ancient horrors and stuff.” He looked up at everyone. “The stories never end good.”
“Well, this one here is gonna end good,” Bob said. “Just chop a bit a this here gold off, get me some cash money for it, and stay drunk for a month solid.” The other men allowed themselves the same dream for a moment and all smiled and sighed.
They all fitted their fingers around the bottom edge of the lid and leaned toward Steve so they could concentrate their energy on a smaller location, but no matter how hard they tried, they could only raise the lid slightly out of it’s groove. It was just too heavy.
“Down! Down!” Steve yelled, and they all let go.
“Shit-fire!” Bob yelled, and clapped his hands together. “It’s solid fuckin’ gold, ain’t it?! It must be, bein’ so heavy!”
Larry swung his pick into the lid as the others jumped back. “Warn us, dickhead!” They all got closer and looked into the hole he had just made. There was no wood showing; it was solid gold; the hole showed it was at least an inch thick.
They were all silent except for Bob who appeared to be crying. “Let’s just whack off a few big chunks and get outa here for now,” he said. “Even a hand-sized chunk’s gotta be worth, what, fifty dollars er more.”
“Way more, “Jerry said. “Tens of thousands of dollars.”
“So, even one a these here lids would be worth…”
“Millions,” Jerry said. He looked around and counted what he saw. “Four lids. Even split b’tween us, we’re all millionaires.”
“You missed one,” Steve said. He pointed to a smaller one in the corner that everyone had missed on their first examination of the room. It was leaned up instead of lying flat, and had a somewhat different design and ornamentation. It seemed a bit more ornate, more meticulously crafted, even the visage was more human-like… a little human girl. There were also more objects placed around the smaller casket, as if it had been venerated, as if someone had made offerings around it. There were wooden dolls, now mostly just cracked heads with rotted bodies and clothes. There were cups and bowls, jewelry and small gold items, even flint arrowheads.
“Hey!” Larry yelled. “Now there’s somethin’ more my size!”
“Weren’t that why you have to live under a bridge now?” Jerry said.
“I mean we can carry that shit way easier than these others,” he said. “Ain’t no body ever gonna find this place, so let’s grab the stuff we can carry, and we’ll come back when we need to with some crowbars and saws.”
Jerry squatted down in front of the small sarcophagus and touched it with his fingertips. “She looks like an angel or somethin’,” he said. Though gold, the face and body had been painted in places. “She even has wings.”
“I figure she’s just a box full a dust, now,” Larry said. “Anyways, that lid ‘ill be easier to take off since it’s smaller and leanin’ up.”
“Reckon, so,” Jerry said. “Almost seems wrong to disturb her, though.” He looked up at the other guys. “Don’t it?”
“All I’m seein’ is a bunch a old shit that needs to be converted to cash in my pocket,” Larry said. The other two nodded.
“Okay, okay,” Jerry said. “Let’s gather up this small stuff first.” He dropped down on his knees and started picking up the jewelry. He held a necklace up so the others could see.”
“You think that’s real jewels or just plastic?” Larry said.
“It’s gotta be real,” Bob said. “They didn’t have plastic back then.” He grabbed it as Jerry continued to dangle it in his face. “But I do know that’s a gold chain and shit. We can pawn that real easy.”
Everyone knelt down on the floor in front of the small coffin and started grabbing things. Some they showed to the rest, some were put quickly in a pocket before the others could see it. “We need a bag for these gold cups,” Steve said.
Larry stood up and stomped one. “Flat as a wallet, now,” he said, and picked it up and slipped into his back pocket. “Let’s pull that lid off so I can break it up for us.”
Everyone stood up and faced the little girl’s effigy. “Did that face change?” Jerry said.
“Change?” they all said together.
“It just looks different, now,” he said. “I thought she was smilin’ before.”
They all looked closer and shrugged. “Looks the same as always far as I can say.”
“She just looks angry, now,” Jerry said. “Must be the way the light is reflectin’ on it.” He ran his finger along the edge. “Bob, you and Larry get back on your knees and pull on the bottom edge and me and Steve will pull on the sides. I figure if we can break it loose on bottom, it’ll drop down off the coffin. Just watch your fingers.”
They all pulled, and the seal broke with a little wisp of smoke rising from the top, then the whole lid dropped to the floor just as he had said it would. They all grabbed the top edge and started to pull it forward, but two small hands suddenly reached out from the box and touched the backs of their hands. They all panicked and jerked back.
There was no resistance from the tiny hands, but the little fingernails scratched the backs of Larry’s as he pulled them free. Then the little ones disappeared back into the box. “What in the fuck?!” he yelled. “They’s something alive in there!” He looked at his hands, several scratches were deep enough to draw blood.
“Were it an animal of some kind?” Bob yelled. “Scared the shit outa me!”
Steve seemed to be the most afraid. He backed completely across the room, unable to speak, though he tried to string together swear words as he pointed.
“It musta been some sorta ancient trap or something,” Jerry said. “Some sorta mechanized thing ta scare people if they ever opened the lid, like in the movies where someone grabs a piece a gold and a big rock chases ‘em.”
“Good fuckin’ job!” Larry said. “They nailed ‘scary’ with a hammer!” He shook his hands and started stomping around the room. “Damn, dudes, my hands is achin’ somethin’ fierce!”
“Give me that pick-ax,” Bob said. “I’ll pull the lid over so we can check out the inside.”
“Guys, I just ain’t feelin’ good,” Larry said.
Steve bent over and picked up the pick-ax and handed it to Bob. He and Jerry then stepped back and Bob hooked the tip over the lid. “Ready?” They nodded.
The lid hadn’t even hit the floor before all three of the men stepped back, almost tripping over their own feet to get away. “It’s a doll,” Bob said. “Right?”
They all turned to look at Larry who was suddenly jumping, almost vibrating across the floor. His hands were oozing thick pus and blood and foam was coming out of his mouth. And as his eyes rolled back in his head, he seemed to be lifted off the floor a few inches by some unseen force, something arching his back backwards until it snapped like a toothpick. He then collapsed on the floor with the decay that started on his hands quickly running up his arms and across his neck.
“Holy fuck!” Jerry yelled. “Holy…”
“It’s not a fuckin’ doll!” Bob yelled. He pointed and the other men watched as the little girl’s eyes opened. They were solid, shiny jet-black. She raised both of her arms and jumped toward Bob, as fast as a cat, but he managed to avoid her. He backed up but tripped and fell on his butt, and the little girl jumped again as he buried the pick-ax into the top of her head. “What’s happening?!”
“Guys!” Jerry pointed, but Bob and Steve were already turned toward the large coffins as the lids began to vibrate, then literally flew off as if a powerful blast from inside had pushed them up. They stuck to the ceiling, not embedded, just stuck with some sort of magic or hidden power, like magnets.
“Not good!” Bob yelled. He pulled the pick from the little girl’s head and held it in front of him like a weapon. The little girl seemed to regain animation and literally wriggled across the floor like a huge leach or slug, then stood in front of the big coffins as four huge mummies slowly rose from their depths. They were hideously deformed with bloody faces, misshapen, perhaps once carved into that shape to represent something else, something other than human, but the rest of their bodies, apart from their unnaturally hulking size, was human. They moved slowly, ancient linen wrappings snapping or cutting into their dry flesh, but they were easily able to escape their coffins and get to their feet behind the girl in only seconds.
“Plan?” Steve said.
“Run like hell!” Jerry said.
But Bob had already figured that out and was on his belly trying to get out through the hole in the wall. But he failed. Even before he was halfway through, the little girl had jumped and landed on his back. And almost instantly, with incredible speed and strength, she rammed all of her fingers into his flesh. His screaming, though muffled, was almost deafening as the quick disease or curse flowed from her nails and into his flesh; and his back, even through his old t-shirt, began to bubble and boil before the wound swelled and popped through the thin cloth and oozed out and onto the floor.
She stepped off his body and pointed her bloody finger at Jerry and spoke, though the words were unknown to him, not human-sounding at all, more like the sound of volcanic stones or chunks of glass clanged together. But as he was trying to figure out his next move, the mummies had reached Bob’s body and yanked it back through the hole, the rotting flesh causing it to pull apart and string out along the floor. But even more sickening, they began devouring the rotting flesh. All the time, the little girl kept yelling at him.
“I don’t understand you!” he yelled. “Whatever you are, I cain’t figure out what you’re sayin!”
But it didn’t stop her.
“The shit we took!” Steve yelled. “Give it back to her!” He reached into his pockets and started throwing the jewelry and other things toward the little girl and Jerry caught on immediately and started doing the same until everything was on the floor in front of her.
“That’s everything!” Jerry said.
A couple of the mummies dropped to their knees and began picking up the things but the little girl was still pointing at them and talking.
“Did… did that do it?” Steve said.
“I don’t know,” Jerry said. “I don’t think so the way she’s still so pissed off.”
She suddenly turned and motioned two of the mummies toward her and it caused Steve and Jerry to back up until they were against the wall.
Jerry glanced down. “The pick-ax in the head seemed to slow her down,” he whispered.
“That’s right!” Steve said. And before Jerry could stop him, he reached down and grabbed the ax and ran toward the girl, ready to bury it in her head. But one of the mummies reached up quickly and grabbed his hand, stopping him immediately, then with a horrible crunching sound, ripped his arm off and at the same time another mummy grabbed Steve’s head with two hands, and twisted. His head came off in the mummy’s hands before he could even scream. They, too, began eating.
But the little girl then turned her attention back to Jerry. He figured it was just a matter of time, now, before it was his turn to die. But she started talking again and pointed to the marble table with the unknown writing on it. He understood she wanted him to walk to it. “I can’t read that,” he said. She pointed again and he walked across the room. “It’s some ancient language,” he said. “No one remembers it. No one remembers you! You’re forgotten, now.”
She didn’t understand him any more than he understood her, but she stood next to the table and put her hands on it. She said something and nodded her head. He put his hands on the table and as he did the small child sprouted dark, feathered wings and her black hair flew back as if she were standing in a strong wind, even though the room was stiflingly hot and still, apart from the horrible sound of the mummies. But he could understand her now.
“My name is Eranielle, the Plague Angel. You have unlocked the way and I am grateful,” she said. “After ten thousand years’ sleep, I shall once again take my place as the destroyer of mankind.”
“Does that mean I can…” He was unable to finish the sentence. She had pushed her fingernails into his throat.