|From THE IBIS APOCALYPSE (Amazon Kindle)|
Ibis catacomb, el-Ashmunein, Egypt
“SORRY, ANSON. Your search for the stela ends here!”
The voice of the young woman funneled down the underground passage, the echoes fluttering off the stone like startled bats.
Anson Hunter, alternative Egyptologist and theorist, felt a chill as the words reached his ears. It was caused as much by the emotional separation in her voice as by its distance. Her voice was startlingly removed. It was also hard and cold. A few minutes earlier she had been a companionable presence at his shoulder. Now this. She had deserted him, stealing back up the ramp of the passage.
A rumble of thunder came to deepen his puzzlement and then a screech, the sound of stone moving over stone, grinding, scouring. He felt a tremble under his feet. He spun his flashlight. The abrasion grew to a roar that made his eardrums cower.
A slab of darkness surged out of deeper darkness. His beam flared on a block of granite in a humanoid shape. A man mountain. It was a stone block with a carved head on top… a colossal block-statue of a High Priest of Thoth, weighing tons.
The cubic man, with head, feet and hands protruding, squatted on a base with his knees raised and arms folded across them under a cloak to form a crushing volume in stone.
In the turmoil, the passage trembled and so did Anson.
The wigged and bearded face on top of the block wore a
smile that belied the missile’s crushing intent as the statue shuddered over the floor. Hieroglyphs on the front of the block leapt into Anson’s vision like an execration hurled at him, a spell to obliterate an intruder.
The attack of the granite rock slide turned him to stone.
He had seen the block statue earlier, bulking at the head of the passage, and, fearing a trap, had urged his female companion to step over a granite flagstone in the floor, fearing it might trigger disaster.
But she had slipped back and deliberately set it off.
Now he understood the reason for the vast corridor and the ramped floor that plunged into the earth. It was built to speed the massive plug on its rush down the passage.
The cubic man gathered momentum and the sound of tortured stone assaulted his ears as he felt a blast of arriving air hit his body. It felt like a train coming down a tunnel.
He could never outrun it.
A glance told him there was no room in the passage to jump clear. That left one option. Jump on board the block statue before it gathered more speed. Go along for the ride.
Instead of fleeing, he went to meet his fate and the stony smile on the face seemed to spread.
Jump! Hold on to the head.
The throaty roar of the slab filled his ears and sparks showered from its base.
He sprang like a suicide throwing his body into the path of a train.
The stone mass slammed into his body. He lost his torch and his wind in the impact. The polished surface tried to repel him and he felt his body skidding. He threw his arms out and hooked them around the pyramidal bulge of the block-priest’s wig, clamped on tight.
He rode the human slab in darkness broken by sparks showering upwards to illuminate sliding passage walls. The flicker revealed the statue’s brutal face and stone ears curved like bowls against the wig. The grind and screech of the block’s descent sent shock waves through the core of the colossus and it seemed to be shaking underneath him as if in a rage.
The slab thundered on. It was as if the priestly defender of the tomb were trying to sweep him off by speed alone.
Down, down Anson slid, riding a rock fall on a journey through the darkness of an underworld.
He had clung to ancient Egypt all of his life and now he was hanging on to it for his very life, not to its mystery or allure or its esoteric beliefs, but to its concrete monumentality.
He never imagined it would end like this in the hell of screaming, spark-showering stone, betrayed by a woman he trusted. Yet this was where his journey had always been going.
His obsession to find a stone book called the Destiny Stela, inscribed with the most dangerous texts ever composed, was carrying him to destruction.