“Death doesn’t exist. It never did.. Everything that happens before Death is what counts.” -Ray Bradbury, “Something Wicked This Way Comes” *** It was late, and everyone else had gone home. There was no one to keep Sharon company. No one but the dead. Sometimes, when she was alone in the museum like this, she thought of the collection as something she could hear. Most of the artifacts were made to be vessels for some ancient god or spirit, after all, so the building should be crawling with the sounds of old ghosts and gods. If she listened carefully enough, would she hear the ancient priests touching the possessions they were buried with or caressing the outlines of their own mummified bodies? Would she hear them ask what became of their sacred tombs? Would she hear their prayers? She took her glasses off and pinched the brow of her nose. God, I’ve been working here too long, she thought. She drank her cold coffee and looked around the cluttered office. I should go home. It’s too late to be here. Too late to be surrounded by all these dead people and their dead things. It wasn’t that she didn’t love the job; bigger museums had offered her jobs with better money and more prestige, but she always turned them down. She stayed because she wanted to be with the collection. But on nights like this, alone, in the dark, it was too easy to think of the building as her own tomb. She felt like one of the slaves buried with the old kings, tending the dead forever. Someone knocked on her office door. She jumped. “Dr. Hiller?” said a voice. She groaned; Marcus. She’d forgotten he was still in the building. “Come in,” she said. He looked slightly sheepish standing in her doorway. He always did. “I finished in D-Gallery like you asked.” He looked at the floor rather than at her, idly clicking the box cutter he used to remove the wire from the shipping crates. She always told him he’d lose a finger if he kept doing that. “Good,” she said, moving papers around her desk in a meaningless way. “Is there anything else?”. She thought. “Inventory the new artifacts for A-Gallery one more time. Then you can go. Make sure everything is in the right place. But don’t touch anything this time.” She still hadn’t looked at him. Maybe if she didn’t look at him he wouldn’t ask. He made it as far as the door before turning around. Damn, she thought. “Dr. Hiller, I was wondering—” “No.” He blinked. “I didn’t even finish?” “Would I like to join you for a drink after work? That’s what you were going to ask, right?” “My friend is opening a new bar in the city tonight. We could drive up.” “It’s late.” “We can still make the after-party.” “You’re my assistant, and it’s not appropriate for us to date.” “One drink?” “Is one too many. Go do inventory. Now.” He shut the door very quietly behind him. Sharon pinched the bridge of her nose again. A headache was coming on. Where was the rest of that coffee? She was in the middle of pouring and wondering whether falling asleep at your desk this many times per week was a warning sign of something or other when she heard Marcus screaming. She took the time to place the full coffee cup on her desk without spilling a drop before running out. She took the stairs to A-Gallery two at a time and, out of habit, inventoried the room with a sweep of her eyes as she entered: the sarcophagus of Lady Mesehti straight ahead, the entrance to the replica tomb to the right, the collection of canopic jars and mummified animals against the near wall. And against the back wall, the new relics from the tomb of Usermontu, vizier to Horemheb. Marcus was standing next to Usermontu’s sarcophagus; the display case was open, and was the lid off. “Marcus! What the fuck are you doing?” “There’s something in here! There’s something in—oh my God, did you just swear? I’ve never heard you—” She pulled him away from the display. He nearly fell over. ” Did you open the sarcophagus after I specifically told you not to touch anything? You put your hands on our brand-new, incredibly old, incredibly valuable, INCREDIBLY fragile—” “I thought Ankara bayan escort I heard something moving in there. I was afraid a rat or something might have gotten in and damaged it, so I peeked.” “You should have gotten me,” said Sharon. She felt her face go red and realized she was clenching her hands into fists. “You really crossed the line this time. I can’t cover for—” “There’s a mummy,” Marcus said. She stopped. “What?” “In the coffin. There’s a mummy in there.” Sharon blinked, then shook her head. “No there’s not.” “I just saw it, I was looking right at it. Hell, it was looking right at me. See for yourself.” “This is just Usermontu’s sarcophagus. Usermontu isn’t in it. There were no remains when—” She looked inside. She screamed. Putting a hand to her heart, she backed away. “Told you,” said Marcus. “Shut up” She looked again. The mummy lay with its arms folded. Its skin was black with bitumen, and there were no wrappings except for a few stray scraps of linen. Sharon exhaled in a rush. “Well?” said Marcus. “Well what?” “Is it real?” “Yes. …I don’t know. …yes. Go to my office and find the number for the seller.” “Why?” “No reason, I just thought that the man who sold us this artifact would want to know that he mislaid a 3,000-year-old dead body.” Marcus checked his watch. “It’s a three-hour time difference?” “People wake up for this kind of thing.” She examined the mummy while Marcus was gone. It was in excellent condition, especially considering it had been unwrapped. It had fingernails, eyelids, and what looked like a few hairs on its scalp. The mouth was slightly open and the dried, flat stump of a tongue peeked out. One of its kneecaps was gone, but other than that it looked intact. It was an incredible find; but where the hell had it come from? There was no answer when she called the seller. She left a message saying that there was an urgent problem with the artifact and to please call back. Marcus brought a heavy flashlight from her office and she shone it over the body. Its sudden appearance felt like a third wheel, and for a for a while neither knew what to say. “For the record,” Sharon said after a moment, “I haven’t forgotten that you touched the display.” “Got it.” “I may still get you fired. I haven’t decided yet.” “Got it,” he said again. “So did the other museum seriously not know they had a mummy in this thing?” “This came from a private collection, and yes, I would guess that they never knew. Very likely they never opened it. But that still doesn’t explain how it got in there.” Marcus circled it. “Maybe it’s Usermontu?” “Couldn’t be,” said Sharon. “They’d have checked when they first recovered the coffin. Someone must have had a stray mummy to stash at some point and just…stuck it in here. And this style looks all wrong for a Rammeside-era embalming anyway. I mean, that’s just a preliminary guess, but look at the quality of the—” Marcus jumped. “Jesus!” Sharon looked up. “What?” “It moved!” She frowned. “Don’t be silly.” “Its hand moved. Look!” Marcus pointed. He’d gone pale, and his voice trembled. “It’s your imagination. I do it all the time.” “But I heard something move in the sarcophagus before I opened it, and now it just did it again. I know what I saw!” Sharon sighed. “Ignoring the very obvious fact that he’s dead, his body would crumble to dust if there was so much as the slightest — ” She stopped. Something was touching her wrist. It felt leathery and dry. She tried to talk but her voice cracked. She swallowed hard and tried again. “Marcus?” she said. He whimpered. “What’s touching my hand?” “Why don’t you look?” His eyes were wide as two hard-boiled eggs. “Because I don’t want to look.” Whatever it was, it squeezed her wrist harder. Marcus was hyperventilating. Sharon’s blood froze. I don’t want to look, she thought. I don’t want to look. But she looked anyway. *** Sharon woke at the feet of Osiris. He wore the feathered crown, and he held the crook and the flail as he looked down at her with a blank, inscrutable Escort bayan Ankara expression. The walls were rough stone, and the light was dim and yellow. I’m in the tomb replica, she realized. There are the pillars, and there’s the spirit door, and there’s where three of the lights are burnt out and make a tripping hazard on the stairs. She rolled over and felt two hands pulling her to her feet. It was Marcus, smiling with just the corners of his mouth. Sharon had the mother of all migraines. “What happened?” she said. “You fainted,” said Marcus. He had not taken his hands off of her yet. “Why are we in here?” “We’re hiding,” said Marcus. He smirked more, as if trying very hard not to laugh at a private joke. “From what?” said Sharon, though she already knew the answer. “It’s out there walking around right now,” said Marcus. “It looks lost, actually.” “That’s insane.” “Maybe, but it still happened. You saw it.” “I didn’t,” she said, too loud and too fast. “I didn’t,” she said again, quieter. “Then why did you faint?” “Stress. Lack of sleep. Overwork.” “If you say so.” Sharon put a hand to her head. “Why would we come in here to hide anyway?” “I thought maybe it would be afraid, you know, to come into a tomb that isn’t its own.” He shrugged. “Sounds crazy, but it’s that kind of night. It didn’t follow us, at least.” His voice sounded strange, like he didn’t know what emphasis to put on each word. “How long was I out?” said Sharon. “A few minutes.” She shifted against him, realizing that he still had his arms around her waist. “Let me go please.” “Why?” She looked at him. “Because I asked you to.” “But it’s not what you want.” He backed her against the wall. The uneven plaster rubbed through her blouse. “What the hell are you doing?” she said. “What you want me to.” He reached for the buttons on her blouse. “You’ll never make a move on your own, so just let me do the hard part. Pretend you said no if it makes you feel better.” “That kind of talk can land you in prison.” “Can’t, but won’t.” He popped a button. Sharon slapped him so hard her wrist ached. He backed away, pressing a hand to his face. “Jesus!” he said. “You don’t have to take it that far. I was just playing around.” She balled up a fist to hit him, but checked herself. “Playing around?” “I thought you liked it that way,” he said, affecting casualness. She began hyperventilating. “You…arrogant, selfish, presumptuous, stupid—!” He burst into laughter. She’d never heard him laugh this way. He sounded like he’d lost his mind. Maybe he has, she realized. After all, he did tell her that the mummy got up and walked away. The mummy! “Quit fooling around,” she said. “We need to check on the condition of that artifact.” “Don’t go out there,” Marcus said, giggling under his breath but more or less regaining his composure. “I really think it’s dangerous.” She paused at the tomb entrance. The gallery outside was dark, but she could see that the mummy was no longer in its sarcophagus. Had Marcus moved it? He came up behind her and whispered in her ear. “Forget that dead thing for a second. I’m alive, and I’m right here.” “You must be drunk. Or insane. I’ve never heard you talk like this.” She didn’t turn around. “Not even in your dreams?” “Stop it.” He was massaging her shoulders. It really did feel good. “I’m sorry about a second ago,” he said. “You know I wouldn’t try to hurt you. I was an ass. Let me make it up to you.” He kissed the side of her neck. She shivered. “We have to call the owners,” she said. “And try to call the buyer again, and—” “Later. The damn thing will still be dead when we’re done.” His arms wrapped around her. When he kissed her neck agai something inside of her snapped. He cupped her breasts through her blouse and she turned, looking up at him…and then she grabbed him by the hair, pulling his mouth to hers. Hell with it, she thought, odds are we’re both going to lose our jobs tomorrow anyway. She kissed him hard while pushing on his chest, backing him against the wall. She pinned Bayan escort Ankara his shoulders and kissed him again, their tongues tangling as she ground into him, feeling the line of their bodies mesh. He seemed flustered and out of breath very quickly. His touch was insistent but clumsy, and his kiss uncertain; it reminded her of middle school make-out sessions. Was Marcus really this inexperienced? She guided his hands, showing him how to take his time. His fingers ran up and down her back as she pulled off her blouse then tore his shirt off. Their naked skin touched for the first time. “You’re pretty aggressive for someone who was saying no a few minutes ago.” “Shut up,” she said again, biting his neck and pulling him down with her. The tomb floor was uneven and her bare back chafed. She spent a few clumsy seconds unhooking her bra, then pressed Marcus’ face to her bare breasts; he seemed tentative at first, but after a moment he sucked one of her nipples, catching it between his teeth so that she cried out in sudden pain, then soothing it with the flicking of his tongue. She looked up at the low ceiling, tinged yellow by the dim emergency lights, and put her hands over her head to give Marcus free range. What the hell am I doing, she thought? Well, really, she knew perfectly well what she was doing, and knew that really it had only been a matter of time, but why now? And why like this? The tomb felt tight and claustrophobic. She imagined being buried alive in here and then pushed the thought away. She loosened her belt and wriggled out of her pants, pushing them down her hips and wincing as the floor scraped the backs of her thighs. Her panties came down easily and she stuck Marcus’ hand between her legs. He had a far-off look, but now the reluctance and confusion of a few minutes before had melted away. He stroked the length of her with two fingertips, teasing her outer lips and the delicate slit that parted them. She moaned, squirming, and ran her fingernails down his bare shoulders. “More,” she said. “What’s the magic word?” “Now,” she said, digging her nails in. He pushed one finger all the way.. She groaned deep and a second finger joined the first, pumping in and out with a quick, driving motion. Her body lit up. Sharon let her head loll to one side, eyes rolled back as Marcus’ other fingers glanced against her clit. Now she couldn’t think, and she preferred it that way. He turned his wrist over halfway and she bit her lip, held it for a second, and then gave in, screaming, “Ohhh my God, you fucking bastard!” He stopped, as if unsure, so she wrapped her legs around him and kicked the back of his calves with her heels, spurring him. He turned his wrist back the other way, twisting his fingers inside of her, and she felt herself drench him. The inside of her grew tighter and hotter. She put her hands over her mouth, groaning through her fingers “That’s it you fucking bastard, fuck me.” He looked startled. She pulled his head in again. “Come on Marcus,” she said, “don’t you want to talk dirty to me?” “I…don’t know—” “Don’t you want to call me a filthy tramp?” He licked his lips. “Yes.” “What about a dirty whore?” He had not stopped pushing his fingers up inside of her. “Yes.” “A cock-hungry slut?” “Yes,” he said, and bit her lip. “Then fuck me. Now.” Marcus took some time getting his pants down, and when he finally did he just stared at his cock, seemingly dumbfounded. What is wrong with him, she thought? He was acting like a man with a concussion, and it occurred to her that he really might not be in his right mind, that she might somehow be taking advantage of him. But before she could have any more second thoughts, he gripped himself by the base and pushed between her legs, finding the slippery wet entrance and gliding inside. He eased into a hard, persistent rhythm that rocked her against the floor. She knew her back would be killing her tomorrow, but she encouraged him anyway, continuing to give him little kicks with her heels to indicate when he should speed up. She had him going faster and faster, gradually. In the soft yellow light she saw beads of sweat standing out on his naked skin. Sharon felt the pulsing length sliding in and out. She felt it pushing the ache inside of her up and out, rising and rising until it spilled out of her mouth in a stream of moans and obscenities: “That’s it you fucking little shit.