The wind whispered through the dark tunnel, bringing a chill to Nisa Acker’s entire body. For a moment, she froze where she knelt by a collapsed statue. Half of it was still buried in the ground beneath her and the upper half was cracked. The thing had to be at least two thousand years old but she handled it with care, as if she was tending to an infant.
The wind whistled and Nisa swallowed deeply. “Chris? Susie? That you guys?”
Cautiously, she stood up and pursed her lips, bending over to grab a lantern and held it up toward the doorway. It led to a maze of hallways in the pyramid they excavated and it was easy for anyone, even an archaeologist like Nisa, to get themselves lost down here.
Down here. She had to remind herself that she was hundreds of feet below ground and what was more terrifying was that she remembered Chris and Susie had gone up to the surface to grab more tools. They had found several tombs in here and each one had to be properly documented before they could clean them up and haul them out. As soon as these artifacts came out into the air, they would immediately start to decay. Some of them wouldn’t last but a few weeks, so they had to do their job down here with as little interference to the pyramid as possible.
The wind picked up again but Nisa brushed it off and knelt down back in front of the statue. From what she could make out of its cracked face, she expected it to be a statue of Anubis. He was often found in tombs like this one, considering the Egyptians believed he was a god of death. That, and they also believed that when they died, these tombs would become their home, so many times the Egyptians placed things that would make the tomb more enjoyable for the dead to live in.
As she continued working away the dirt, being careful not to chip any more of the statue for fear the entire upper half would completely shatter, she started to make out some odd features. Whatever creature the top-half was modeled off of, it didn’t look like anything from earth.
Pursing her lips, she sank back on her knees and ran through a list of Egyptian gods and goddesses and what animals they were often presented as. The closest creature this one seemed to be like was a hawk or crocodile, perhaps, but even then, some of the features on it were still different. Hawks, or any types of birds, always had feathers but this one had what looked to be scales. But it couldn’t have been a crocodile, because its face wasn’t elongated. It had a bulkier shape to it.
“What in the world…?” Nisa muttered. She would have sent a picture via text message to Bea, given the woman was an expert on creatures both alive and living, but there was definitely no service down here. Bea had a Master’s degree in Paleontology and Biology, as well as one in History. It made Nisa’s Master’s in History and Archaeology seem pale in comparison.
Nisa stood and twisted to pop her back and then carefully laid her tools back in the box. She didn’t want to leave them down here, but she would have to go and fetch Bea herself, unless she ran into one of the other workers. The good thing about being in charge was that she could order the workers to do all the tedious jobs she didn’t want to do.
Like winding through the maze of corridors in this pyramid and then climbing hundreds of steps back to the surface.
A horrible screech echoed through the walls.
Nisa’s blood froze.
It grew louder and made her ears ring, so she groaned and clasped her hands over them. The lantern fell to the ground but fortunately stayed upright. Trembling, she fumbled for one of her sharper tools and held it out in front of her.
The screeching turned into a high-pitched moan and fear coursed through Nisa’s entire body. “Wh—what’s going on? What—what is that? Chris? Susie? Oliver?” Her best friend’s name came to mind and even though he stayed up at the main dig with the other workers, she found herself hoping he had decided to come here, that he would swoop in and save her from whatever horror was coming for her.
Suddenly, the screeching cut off.
Nisa’s frozen body stared at the entrance to the room she was working in, expecting mummies, zombies, or some other freakish creature to jump out at her.
Instead, Kyle jumped out from the doorway, holding up his phone as he gwaffed at her. “Y—yo—you should have seen the look on your face!” His own face reddened as his laughter continued so much Nisa feared he would pass out from lack of air.
Fury heated up her body and she clenched her fists but couldn’t stop the embarrassment flooding over her. If only there was room to hide behind the statue or bury herself in one of the tombs down here. “Kyle! Wh—what was that? How did you…?”
Kyle wiggled his phone again with another laugh and shook his head. “You should know me by now Nisa!”
In truth, she didn’t. She only knew his name because the other day at the work camp, she had gotten it wrong and about a dozen people corrected her. Then again, they were used to her only remembering important names, and everyone else, unfortunately, was forgotten. Oliver constantly teased her by saying that her head was filled with too much historical information which was why she forgot so many things about the present—like the names of the workers at the dig with them.
“I’m not sure what you mean,” Nisa said, hoping to cover over the fact that she actually barely remembered anything about him. Was he one of the maintenance men?
Kyle scoffed at her. “Horror movies are like my thing. I have about a dozen downloaded to my phone. I picked one that seemed appropriate for the area and voila…”
Nisa grimaced and knelt down to return the sharp tool to her bag. “It seemed so loud.”
“Yep. Gotta love my new upgrade.” He continued talking to her, but she grabbed her tool bag and brushed passed him. There was no way she would trust him to go fetch Bea for her, so it looked like she would have to do that herself. Unfortunately, Kyle started to follow her.
She sighed. This was going to be a longer trip than she originally thought.