When three whole days passed without word from Callahan, Nisa’s worry turned from stress to a full on anxiety attack. All day, she’d been pacing in her tent, fiddling with more artifacts brought up from the pyramid, trying to do anything to get her mind off of it and nothing worked.
“You’re going to drive yourself crazy sitting here waiting for him.” Oliver’s hands stayed in his pockets as he stood near her tent’s entrance, staring at her. “How’s your research on it coming?”
Nisa glanced at her desk and the scattered pile of books and papers mixed with her hand scribbled notes. The search engines had been no help, but she had found a few books from a local library and decided to deep delve in them. “Well, nothing so far, but there is one—“
Oliver’s walkie-talkie crackling interrupted her. “Sir, there’s a group of locals protesting at the west perimeter. What do you want me to do?”
Oliver rolled his eyes. It wasn’t as if protestors were anything new, but it was a problem for his security team to handle. As Nisa’s head of security, dealing with these things—or anything else that might be a risk to her and their entire team—was still his job. He held up a hand to her and grabbed the walkie to reply as he headed out of the tent.
As soon as he left, Bea rushed in and slammed a laptop down on top of one of Nisa’s many papers scribbled with notes. “I finally figured out what the statue’s upper half is!”
“What?” Nisa glanced up at her. Bea often got excited about new discoveries, especially when it came to ancient species, but this was more elation than Nisa had expected.
“It’s a combination of a bunch of different animals.” Bea grinned at her from ear-to-ear, as if the news was supposed to good. Nisa rubbed her eyes and glanced at the images on Bea’s laptop, which had been taken of the statue in detail and each one zoomed in to focus in on one specific part of the statue itself. Bea sighed, probably at Nisa’s lack of excitement and then pointed to the computer screen. “Its eyes are set on either side of its head, like a bird. If this creature was real, that means it probably had 180 degree vision like a bird. But it doesn’t have feathers. Those scales aren’t like crocodile scales. They’re more closely to the design of a lizard—but none that is native here to Egypt, which is the weird part. From the artwork, it seems more like a few lizard species from Mexico.”
Nisa frowned at the images with a quiet “mmm.” “Why in the world would the Egyptians have designed something like that?” she asked.
Bea shook her head. “No idea. You could argue that this creature could just be the artwork out of one of the Egyptians’ imaginations but most of the statues were combinations of real animals from around Egypt and, of course, human. We haven’t gotten the other half yet, but I’d bet you a hundred bucks that it isn’t human.”
Nisa glanced up at the woman. “What makes you say that?”
Bea pointed to the screen as she clicked her mouse, bringing another image up. “Because of the torso. Typically, most statues give it a human torso that leads down to human legs or something similar—like statues of Anubis. But look at this torso…”
Nisa gazed at the image on the computer intently and the image made her heart pound. The statue’s torso was rounded, but the hips were wider in the back, with a narrower front. “What the—“
Bea nodded. “I know, right? The torso is similarly structured to any other mammal’s, but it’s an odd shape I’ve never seen before. Nisa, this torso doesn’t exist on earth and it never has.”
“What about some sort of dinosaur?”
Bea shook her head. “Not any that we’ve discovered.”
Nisa stared at the computer screen until her eyes started watering. “The pottery with it. That language has to have some information. So far, it isn’t recognizable to earth, either. Keep up the work and see what else you can find out. Hopefully, we can finish getting the second half of the statue out in the next couple days.”
Bea nodded. “You got it.” She grabbed her laptop and marched out of the tent.
Thoughts and mind whirling, Nisa adjusted herself so that she sat in the chair more comfortably and began scanning the book where she left off. It was about Ancient Egyptian stories, fortunately translated into English since it had been written by an English professor years ago.
Most of the stories had been found in old tombs or in excavations somewhere. There were a few he had listed in the back that had never been released to the public, and publishing them in the book had gotten him banned from museums and other archaeology work.
There have been several stories found on Egyptian dig sites, however, not written in hieroglyphics. The language has not been translated at the present moment. Scholars and historians have studied these stories for years without being able to successfully translate—or decipher—the language. Knowledge of these discovered stories was purposefully kept hidden from the public due to the lack of solid information about them. However, information does tend to leak and a few conspiracy theorists attribute this mysterious language to the presence of aliens in ancient cultures.
Other scholars believe it to be a sort of ancient code among Egyptians, probably for military use, but my personal discoveries lead me to believe it to be too advanced a written language for the Egyptians. Hieroglyphics are made by a symbol that stands for a word or sometimes an entire phrase. My studies on this unknown language is that it’s more alphabetic in style—more advanced than even Mandarin, which is one of the hardest languages known to man to learn. “
Nisa’s cell phone’s loud ringtone blared Mongolian throat-singing—all her friends and workers thought she was a bit crazy but it was one of her favorite music genres—and interrupted her reading. She answered it and tried to focus on the voice on the other end, rather than the book in front of her.
“Hello?” she said.
“Nisa! There you are! I’ve been trying to get a hold of you for weeks now!” Even without being told who it was, Nisa already knew. Her sister’s voice could be heard a thousand miles away—at least, that’s what Nisa always said about Millie, as loud as she was.
“Sorry, Millie. We’re in the middle of the Egyptian desert, so service isn’t exactly—“
“—isn’t exactly working well,” she finished in a higher-pitched, mocking tone. How many times had Nisa said that to Millie? She didn’t think she’d said it enough to be worth mocking it—or her. “Yeah, I know. That’s what you always say. Look, Irene’s having her fifth birthday party. You do remember your only niece, right?” Millie’s sarcastic tone reached Nisa and she tried to fight her irritation and annoyance.
The two sisters had been talking on the phone for less than a minute and both were already starting to get heated. How long had it been since Nisa had been able to talk to Millie about anything in her life? Certainly not her work. Any time Nisa even implied she was going to speak about her work, Millie would flip her lid—probably literal lids somewhere in her house, knowing her bad temper.
“Yes, Millie. Of course, I remember Irene.” What Nisa didn’t want to remind Millie was that she had only seen Irene three times, the last of which she had only been two years old. One? Nisa couldn’t actually remember.
Millie growled. “Right, well another year passed by and you still haven’t seen your family. Uncle Trevor had a car accident. Thinks he’s going to be in a wheelchair. Gracie filed for bankruptcy. Oh, and Eric and Leah are divorced.”
The news about her uncle’s car accident disturbed her. As a kid, he would sometimes travel with her and her father and meet them on digs. Of course, he wasn’t a historian or an archaeologist. He was the adventuring type who traveled the world. He had even hiked Mount Everest once, at least according to her dad. If he had to live in a wheelchair for the rest of his life, Nisa had no doubt he would go stir crazy.
Then there was the thought that her younger sister, Gracie, had to file for bankruptcy. She had already gotten herself in loads of debt since her degree hadn’t given her a well enough job. At least not in Nisa’s opinion. But Gracie had gotten herself there, so she felt slightly less sorry about her situation.
Eric and Leah’s divorce did take her by total surprise, though. Eric was her stepbrother—her father traveled too much and it took a toll on he and her mom’s marriage. They’d divorced when Nisa was in middle school but she spent most of her years after her graduation traveling the world with him. She never saw much of the new man her mom had married, except for her stepbrother Eric. He was her age, so in high school, she hung out with all his friends and had even gone to prom with one of them. Leah had been Nisa’s best friend in high school and she and Eric had met through her.
“What? You’re kidding.”
Millie gasped. “Oh, so you mean you actually care? Wow! What a surprise. And yes, I was kidding. They actually have their fourth baby on the way.”
Nisa stood up from her chair, clutching her phone so tightly it might have broken. “Listen, Millie. I’m sorry I haven’t been around the family much, alright? But I’m doing important work out here. At least I have a job and it pays very well. Not to mention I’m doing what I love.”
“Yeah. You and Dad have that in common.” With that, Millie hung up on her.
Nisa stared at the blank screen on her phone for several long minutes before she hurled it across the room.
Oliver walked into the tent and caught it smoothly in his hand. “Whoa, whoa… Whatever you’re mad at, don’t take it out on your phone. I bought it for you for your last birthday, remember?”