(WP) Desert Secrets

(WP) Desert Secrets
               “Who knows if we’re even
gonna find anything?” A voice yells out, swallowed by the desert wind. “What’s
the point?”

               “Oh,
come on, dude. Where’s your sense of adventure?” Another voice joins the first,
tinged with laughter. “We’re in Egypt! Home of the ancient pharaohs and the
pyramids!”

               “Hurry
up, you two, or we’ll lose you!” A woman on a horse speaks from behind them,
having to shout over the wind.

               Both
the cameraman and the explorer hurry to catch up with their group; to be left
behind in this massive sandstorm would be disaster. Shelter had never seemed so
far away from Gage, and if his camera got fucked up because of all this sand,
he’d be pissed. Meanwhile, Fallon was smiling, her cheeks chapped and flushed
from the heat.

               Gage
thought she was crazy, but when she’d come to him, begging him to come along,
he hadn’t been able to say no. But now, he found himself regretting his
decision.

               Their
guide, Neith, turns back to the group, her long, dark braid fluttering like a banner
in the wind. Her lips are mashed into a thin, tight line, but her dark eyes are
sparkling with excitement.

               “You
guys have to see this.”

               **

               Gage catches
up with the rest of the group, breathing hard, his clothes stuck to his skin,
every inch of him coated with sand and grit. Everyone is walking into a
gigantic pyramid, and Gage stops, hesitating.

               “Come
on, Gage! Nothing’s going to bite you!” Fallon teases, and Gage scoffs. There
were plenty of animals in this region that bite, crawl, and slither. But more
than anything else, a sense of heaviness bombards him. He wants to say that something
felt wrong. Twisted. Evil. But he walks inside despite his misgivings.

               The
darkness is cool, a welcome refuge from the heat, and Neith is standing beside
one of the walls, one of her hands pointing to a picture etched into the stone.
“I’ve never seen this symbol before,” She says, frowning thoughtfully.

               Fallon
beckons him forward, her gesture impatient. “We need a record of this, Gage.”
She says, her voice hushed, even in the dark. “This—We can make history with
this. What does it mean, Neith?”

               Mutely,
the other woman shakes her head. “I wish I knew.”

               Gage brings
his camera up to the image, and he gasped. A flame, a field, and blood, so much
blood, and a woman floating aloft above it, a necklace made of jet glowing around
her throat, her hair as bright red as a flame.

               Just
what have they stumbled into? All thoughts of spiders and snakes flees his
mind, but he is rooted to the floor with another primal fear: the unknown. The
text under the image flickers, as if they were standing in front of a warm
blaze, and Fallon’s quick intake of breath tells him that she had seen it also.

               “There
are only a few documented female rulers of the Egyptian empire,” Neith says
thoughtfully, stroking her chin. “Perhaps this was one of them.”

               Gage
stares at the image, as poor as it was, even on his expensive camera. Filled
with a foreboding he could not understand, he watched Fallon reach for it,
something he couldn’t read in her eyes.

               **