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Mummy_(0)

“Death does not exist. This has never happened before and will never happen. There is only a stopped clock, loss, the end, darkness. Everything that happens before death is important.”

-Ray Bradbury, This Way Something Evil Comes

***

It was late and everyone else had already gone home. There was no one to keep Sharon company. Nobody but the dead.

Sometimes, when she was alone in the museum, she imagined the collection as something she could hear. After all, most artifacts were created as vessels for an ancient god or spirit, so the building must be filled with the sounds of ancient spirits and gods. If she had listened closely enough, would she have heard the ancient pharaohs and priests touching the things with which they were buried or caressing the outlines of their mummified bodies? Will she hear them ask what happened to their sacred graves? Will she answer their prayers?

She took off her glasses and raised her eyebrow. God, I've been working here too long, she thought. She drank her iced coffee and looked around the cluttered office. I have to go home. It's too late to be here. It's too late to be surrounded by all these dead people and their dead things.

It's not that she didn't like the collection. Larger museums offered her better-paying and more prestigious jobs, but she always turned them down. She stayed with Rosicrucian because she wanted to be part of the collection. The collection was the meaning of her life. But on nights like these, alone in the dark, it was too easy to think of this building as her own grave. She felt like one of the slaves buried with the ancient kings, caring for the dead forever.

Someone knocked on her office door. She jumped. “Dr. Hiller?” - said the voice on the other side. She moaned; Marcus. She had forgotten he was still in the building.

“Come in,” she said. He looked a little embarrassed as he stood in the doorway. He always did that.

"I ended up in the D-Gallery, just like you asked." He looked at the floor and not at her, lazily clicking the utility knife he used to remove the wire from the shipping boxes, opening and closing them. She always told him that if he continued like this he would lose his finger.

“Okay,” she said, mindlessly shuffling papers around on the table.

"Is there anything else?" he said.

She thought. “Re-inventory the new artifacts for the A Gallery. Then you can go. Make sure everything is in its place. But this time don’t touch anything.” She still didn’t look at him. If she hadn't looked at him, maybe he wouldn't have asked. He made it to the door before turning around. Damn, she thought.

“Dr. Hiller, I was wondering...”

“No,” she said.

He blinked. - I'm not even done yet?

“Do I want to go for a drink after work? That's what you wanted to ask, right?"

“Well, my friend is opening a new bar in San Francisco tonight and I thought we could stop by.”

"It's already late."

“Afterwards we can have a party.”

She sighed. “You are my assistant and it is inappropriate for us to meet.”

"A drink?"

“One is too many. Take stock. Now."

He closed the door very quietly behind him. Sharon pinched the bridge of her nose again. A headache started. Where was the rest of the coffee?

She was pouring herself a drink, wondering if falling asleep at the table so many times a week was a warning sign of something, when she heard Marcus scream. She took the time to place a full cup of coffee on the table without spilling a drop before running away.

She climbed the two steps to the A gallery and out of habit looked around the room, glancing at the entrance: directly in front of her the sarcophagus of Lady Mesehti, to the right the entrance to a tomb replica, to the right a collection of canopic jars and Mummified animals along the nearby wall and other relics from the tomb on the back wall of Userontu, vizier of Horemheb. Marcus stood next to Usermontu's sarcophagus; The display case was open, without a lid. “Marcus! What the hell are you doing?" She said.

He looked up. "There's something! There's something... My God, did you just curse? I never heard you—”

She grabbed his wrist and pulled him away from the screen. He almost fell.

"What are you doing? Have you opened the sarcophagus? After I specifically told you not to touch anything, you just go and pick up our brand new, incredibly old, incredibly valuable, INCREDIBLY fragile things–"

"Me thought I heard something moving there. I was worried a rat might have gotten in and damaged it, so I looked inside.”

“You should have caught me,” Sharon said. She felt her face turn red and found herself clenching her hands into fists. “Marcus, you really crossed the line this time. I can't let you continue–”

“There’s a mummy,” he said.

She stopped. "What?"

“In a coffin. There's a mummy.

She blinked, then shook her head. "NoNo.”

He nodded. “Yes, there is, I just saw it, I looked at it straight away. Damn, it was looking right at me. See for yourself."

Sharon went to the exhibition. "It's just Usermontu's sarcophagus, Marcus, Usermontu isn't in it. When there were no more remains–”

She looked inside and screamed. She pressed her hand to her chest and stepped back.

“I told you,” Marcus said.

“Shut up,” Sharon said.

She went over to view again. The mummy lay with his arms folded on his chest, his chin tilted up and down. Its skin was black with bitumen, and there were no coverings other than a few scraps of linen. Sharon exhaled hastily.

"Fine?" - said Marcus.

"Good, that?"

"This is real?"

"I don't know. Go to my office and find the seller number.”

“Why?”

"Oh, no reason, I just thought that the person who sold us this artifact would want to know that he lost a three thousand year old corpse . Nothing serious."

Marcus glanced at his watch. "The time difference is three hours?"

"People wake up to things like this."

She examined the mummy while Marcus was away. It was in excellent condition, especially considering it was unfolded, it still had nails, eyelids and some hair on its head, its mouth was slightly open and a dried, flat stub of tongue was sticking out of it. One of his kneecaps was missing, but otherwise appeared to be intact. This was an incredible find; but where the hell did it come from?

When she called the seller there was no answer. She left a message saying there was an urgent problem with the artifact and asked for a call back. He and Marcus stood in front of the mummy, looking at it, not knowing what to say. Marcus brought a heavy flashlight from her office and used it to illuminate the body. "For the record," she said after a moment, "I didn't forget you touched the screen."

“Got it,” Marcus said.

“I can still get you fired. I haven't decided yet."

"Understood," he said again. "Well, what's going on? Did the other museum seriously not know there was a mummy in this thing?”

“It’s not a museum, it was a private collection. And yeah, I guess they never knew. Most likely they never opened it. But that still doesn't explain how it got there.

Marcus circled him. “Maybe this is Userontu?”

“There’s no way,” Sharon said, “they would have checked it when they found the coffin.” Someone that brilliant doesn't just sit in a box for all these years and no one can find them. At some point, someone must have hidden the lost mummy and just... stuck it here. And in any case this style seems wholly unsuitable for Rammeside era embalming. I mean, this is just a guess, but pay attention to the quality–”

Marcus jumped back. "God!"

Sharon looked up. "What?"

"It moved!"

She frowned. “Don’t be stupid.”

"I just saw his hand move, look!" Marcus pointed. He turned pale and his voice trembled.

“It was a trick of the light,” Sharon said.

“But I heard something moving in the sarcophagus before it opened, and now it has done so again. I tell you, I know what I saw!”

Sharon sighed and looked up. "You see, ignoring the very obvious fact that he is dead, his body would turn to dust if there was even the slightest..." »

She stopped. Something touched her wrist. It was hard and dry. She tried to speak, but her voice broke. She swallowed hard and tried again. "Marcus?" She said.

He whimpered.

“Marcus, tell me what’s wrong with my hand.”

“Why don’t you take a look?” His eyes were as big as two hard-boiled eggs.

“Because I don’t want to look,” Sharon said. Her voice was shaking. Whatever it was, it tightened its grip on her wrist. Marcus hyperventilated. Sharon's blood ran cold. “I don’t want to look,” she thought. I don't want to watch.

But she still looked.

***

When she woke up, Sharon was lying at the feet of Osiris.

He wore a feathered crown, held a staff and a flail, and looked at her with a blank, mysterious expression. The walls were made of rough stone and the light was dim and yellow. “I am in a replica of the tomb,” she realized. Look, here are the pillars, here is the spiritual door, and here three lamps have burned out and you can stumble on the stairs.

She turned around and felt two hands support her under her arms and lift her to her feet. When she turned around, Marcus was there, smiling at the corner of his mouth. Sharon put her hand to her head. She had the mother of all migraines. She tried to blink away the sleepiness. "What happened?" She said.

“You’re unconscious,” Marcus said. He hadn't taken his hands off her yet and she hadn't even thought to tell him about it.

"Where...? Why are we here?

"We're hiding," Marcus said. He grinned even harder, as if he was trying not to laugh at a private joke.

"From what?" Sharon said, even though she was the one Already knew the answer.

“It held up,” said Marcus. “It's going there right now. In fact, he looks lost.

“It’s crazy,” Sharon said. She took half a step back and freed herself from his arms.

“Maybe,” Marcus said. “But it still happened. Did you see that. Well, anyway, like I said, you saw it move, and then it touched you, and then…”

“Shut up,” Sharon said in a loud voice from within the plaster grave. Marcus stared at her with blank eyes. “That didn’t happen,” she said more quietly. “That didn’t happen.”

“Then why did you faint?”

"Stress. Lack of sleep. Revision. Sexual frustration. She frowned. She didn't want to say the last part out loud.

“If you say so,” Marcus said.

Sharon put her hand to her head. “Marcus, why should we even come here to hide?”

"I thought maybe he was afraid of entering someone else's grave." He shrugged. “It sounds crazy, but it’s that kind of night. In any case, he didn't follow us.” His voice sounded strange, as if he didn't know what emphasis to put on each word.

“How long have I been gone?” - Sharon said.

"Just a couple of minutes."

She pressed herself closer to him, realizing he had closed the distance between them, and put his arm around her waist again. “Please let me go,” she said.

"Why?"

She looked at him. - Because I asked you to.

“But that’s not what you want.”

He pushed her against the wall. The uneven plaster rubbed against her blouse.

"What the hell are you doing?" She said.

"What do you want me to do." He reached for the buttons on her blouse. “I know you'll never take the step alone, so leave the hard part to me. Imagine saying no if it makes you feel better.”

“You can go to prison if you talk like that,” she said.

“But will it be like this?” - he said and pressed the button. Sharon hit him so hard she injured her wrist. He stepped back and pressed his hand to his face.

"Jesus!" he said. “Okay, okay, you don’t have to go that far. I was just playing around.

She clenched her fist to punch him, but stopped. "Do you play?"

He shrugged his shoulders. “I thought you’d like it,” he said, feigning nonchalance.

She began to hyperventilate. "You... are arrogant, selfish, arrogant, stupid, insensitive...!"

He burst out laughing. She had never heard him laugh like that. His voice sounded like he was going crazy. “Perhaps it is,” she realized. He told her that the mummy got up and left.

Mummy!

“Come on,” she said, “stop fooling around, we need to check the condition of this artifact and…”

"Sharon, don't go out there," Marcus said, chuckling to himself but more or less regaining his composure. “I really think it’s dangerous.”

She stopped at the entrance. The gallery outside was dark, but she could see that the mummy was no longer in the sarcophagus. Did Marcus postpone it? He walked behind her and whispered in her ear. “Come on, Sharon. Forget this dead thing for a second. I am alive and I am here.

“You must be drunk. Or crazy. I've never heard you talk like that before. She didn't turn around.

“Even in a dream?”

"Stop it." He massaged her shoulders. It was nice.

“I’m sorry about what happened earlier,” he said. “I really thought you liked it, but you know I wouldn't try to hurt you. I was an ass. Let me make amends.

He kissed her neck. She shuddered. “We have to call the owners,” she said. “And try calling the buyer again and…”

“Later,” he said. “It will stay. The damn thing will still be dead when we're done. His arms wrapped around her and his hands slid over the underside of her breasts. He kissed her neck again and something inside her clicked. He cupped her breasts through her blouse and she turned and looked at him. And then she grabbed him by his hair and pulled his mouth toward hers. To hell with it, she thought, there's a good chance we'll both lose our jobs tomorrow anyway. Why not make the move while I still can?

She kissed him deeply, pressed his chest and pushed him against the wall. She squeezed his shoulders and kissed him again, their tongues entwining as she pressed herself against him, feeling the line of their bodies.

He seemed confused and out of breath. His touch was urgent but clumsy, his kiss hesitant; it reminded her of kissing in middle school. Was Marcus really that inexperienced? Sharon took his wrists and guided them, showing him how to take his time. His hands stroked her back as she undid the buttons on her blouse and took it off. She tore his shirt off, touched her bare skin, and sent an electric current through her.

Marcus came up to get some air and looked at her with a strange expression on his face. "Where did that come from?" he said.

"What do you think?" She bit his neck.

“You're being pretty aggressive for someone who said no a few minutes ago.”

"Shut up," she said again, grabbing his wrists and pulling him down so he was on his back. The plaster floor of the grave was uneven and her bare back chafed. She awkwardly unclasped her bra for a few seconds and thenpressed Marcus' face into her bare chest; At first he seemed hesitant, but after a moment he sucked one of her nipples into his mouth, catching it between his teeth until she cried out in sudden pain, then soothing her with a flick of his tongue.

Sharon looked up at the low ceiling, tinted yellow by the dim emergency lighting, and clasped her hands behind her head to let Marcus have his way. "What the hell am I doing?" - She thought. Actually, she knew exactly what she was doing and she knew that it was actually only a matter of time, but why now? Any why is this the case? The grave was narrow and claustrophobic. She imagined being buried alive here, trapped forever, and then pushed the thought away.

She loosened her belt and stepped out of her pants, sliding them over her hips and wincing slightly as the floor scraped against the backs of her thighs. Her panties came down easily and she placed Marcus' hand between her legs. He looked into the distance, but now the reserve and confusion he had shown just a few minutes ago were gone. He stroked it with the tips of two fingers, teasing her outer lips and the tender flesh that separated them. She took a deep breath through her teeth.

He leaned forward and bit her neck once as the tip of a finger entered her for a second before pulling back. She moaned, squirmed, and ran her nails over his bare shoulders. “More,” she said.

He grinned. "What's the magic word?"

She dug her nails deeper into his back and he screamed. “Now,” she said.

He pushed a finger all the way in and she parted before him, becoming wet and hot from the invasion. She moaned deeply, clinging to him again and making it clear that she wanted more. A second finger joined the first and they began moving in and out of her, with quick, powerful strokes. Her body radiated. Sharon cocked her head to the side and rolled her eyes as Marcus' remaining fingers slid over her clit. Now she couldn't think and preferred to think this way; Don't think about your job, don't think about your future, don't even think about the man you're with, just feel what's happening right now, that's all.

Marcus twisted his wrist halfway and Sharon bit her lip, held it there for a second and then gave in and screamed, "Oh my god, you fucking bastard!" Marcus stood unsteadily, so she wrapped her legs around him and kicked hitting him in the calves with his heels to spur him on. He twisted his wrist the other way and intertwined his fingers with her, and she felt like she was pouring water over him.

It was getting tighter and hotter inside her. She covered her mouth with her hands and moaned through her fingers, "That's it, you fucking bastard, fuck me." He looked scared. She pulled his head back in.

“Come on, Marcus,” she said, “don’t you want to talk dirty to me?”

"I... don't know–" he said.

"Aren't you going to call me a dirty tramp?" she said.

He licked his lips. “Yes,” he said, although his voice sounded uncertain.

"What about a dirty whore?" she said. He didn't stop sticking his fingers inside her.

“Yes,” he said more confidently. She whimpered.

“Are you trying to call me a cock hungry slut?”

“Yes,” he said, biting his lip.

“Then fuck me,” Sharon said. “Fuck me like a little whore. Fuck me. Fuck me.”

It took Marcus a while to pull his pants down, and when he finally did, he was staring at his cock, seemingly stunned. What was wrong with him, she thought? He behaved like a man with a concussion. And it occurred to her that maybe he really was crazy and that she could somehow take advantage of him. But before she could think about it again, he grabbed himself by the base and pushed it between her legs, causing him to penetrate her sex and slip inside.

His performance was clumsy and she winced in pain. His eyes widened, his face was flushed and he looked like a schoolboy seeing his first pair of breasts. This is getting uncomfortable, she thought. But after a few more awkward minutes, Marcus found a hard, insistent rhythm that rocked her back and forth across the floor. She could feel the bruises on her shoulders and knew her back would kill her the next day, but she encouraged him anyway, continuing to kick him lightly with her heels and showing him when to pick up the pace. She made him move faster and faster, gradually increasing the pace. In the soft yellow light, she saw beads of sweat forming on his bare skin.

Sharon felt the pulsating length slide in and out. She felt the pain rising and coming out of her, getting stronger until it was pouring out of her mouth in a stream of moans and obscenities: "That's it, you fucking little shit, fuck me like the nasty little slut I am ." "Marcus looked shocked again, but she kept saying, "Put me on the floor, spread my legs and treat me the way I deserve. Keep it up; Make me your dirty little slave, Marcus.” .|Marcus tensed up and she didwatched as his body shook. It seemed like the dirty talk was too much of a turn on for him as she felt a hot trickle inside her. “That’s it,” she said in a whisper, her mouth close to his, “fill me. Fill me completely, Marcus. Marcus winced and squirmed and she moved her hips, grinding against him, pulling him closer and holding him as his muscles tensed and convulsed and he thrust into her again and again. She felt a burning sensation inside her and then a sudden feeling of cold emptiness as he finished, sliding out and leaning back, looking dazed. She lay there waiting for her heart to stop beating. She turned around and looked at the wall. A blush spread across her cheeks. Marcus said nothing. When her voice reached her, she said, “I’m so sorry. I don't know what came over me. I... wasn't myself.”

“Were you crazy?” - said Marcus. Then his voice got louder: “Were you crazy?” And he started laughing hysterically again. Sharon's face turned red. She got up. She turned her back on him and collected her clothes. She dressed in silence as he laughed. She wanted to hit him again. Instead, she took a few deep breaths and thought about what to say next.

“Marcus—” She said.

He interrupted: “It wasn’t what I expected at all,” he said.

She paused, took another deep breath and began again: “Marcus, what just happened was a mistake. In fact, much of what happened tonight was a mistake.

He leaned against the wall of the tomb with his eyes half closed. It was hard to tell if he was listening. She plowed on.

“Since it's at least partly my fault, I won't cause you any trouble, but I don't think we should work together anymore. Tomorrow I'll put you in someone else's project. Tonight let's just sort this whole mess out.

She crossed her arms and waited. He did not say anything. Finally she said:

"So?"

"So what?"

“Where is the mummy? How did you move it?”

He grinned. “I told you he went for a walk alone.”

She sighed. “We don’t have time for that.”

He shrugged his shoulders. “If you don’t believe me, just look away.”

“Marcus, that’s not funny.”

“No,” he said, “that’s not true.” And he turned it around. He stood at the entrance to the tomb, staring with empty eyes and not wanting to cross the threshold. There was a sound like the rustling of dry leaves and the creaking of old tree trunks as the mummy swayed, obviously in pain, trying to stay on its feet. But it survived. And it moved.

“Here we are,” said Marcus. His voice sounded strange again, like he was imitating an accent. "Satisfied? No, don't faint again, we don't have time. And you," he pointed to the mummy, "please return to the gallery and wait for us." Sharon and I need to discuss something.

The dead creature moved slowly, but eventually it swung toward the gallery. The rustling of his dried meat could be heard constantly.

Sharon fainted and Marcus caught her. She buried her face in his chest and sobbed once or twice. “Well, everything is fine,” he said.

"It's - it's alive!" she said.

“Not really,” Marcus said.

Sharon's whole body was shaking. “But it moved! It stood up and, and…” She searched for words.

“He's brought to life by something called an 'ah,' something like a ghost. A ritually preserved body is a vessel in which to hide. At least that's how the ancient priests explained it.

“Of course I can go too. An Akh hidden in a mummy can instead enter the body of a living person. Yes, he can do it if he's had thousands of years to plan such things."

His voice became cracked. Sharon froze, her heart beating faster and faster. "What are you talking about?" She said.

"Just a few fun facts for your research," he said, squeezing her tighter until she couldn't move anymore.

“Marcus,” she said, “what the hell are you doing?”

“Marcus?” - he said. , eyes light up. "No. I did enjoy being Marcus for a few hours, though. I suspect I got more out of it than he ever did."

Sharon pulled away, but Marcus (not Marcus, she realized in a panic) held her too tight. She knew she was stronger than him, but he had influence, size, and surprise in his favor. She tried to hit him again, but her hands were tied.

"Well," he said, as if when he addresses a child, “there’s no point in insulting me.” It's not even my body, so I don't care what happens to it, but Marcus probably does. If you want to help him, you must first behave well. He raised an eyebrow. She stopped resisting. “If I let you go,” he said, “will you promise not to run away?”

Sharon gritted her teeth but nodded and let go. She pulled away. He took two steps forward with his arms outstretched, but she raised a finger. “Stay here,” she said. “Don’t come to me.”

“Well, it’s a little late for that; I was already very close to you. But as you wish. He sat on a plaster sarcophagus. The minutes passed in silence. Sharon fought against panic. Every time she wanted to say itShe looked at him and felt bad. He was silent and waited.

Sharon took a deep breath and asked, without looking directly at him, “Who are you?”

“My name is Ta'Ava. "Nice to meet you." He actually wanted to shake her hand.

She hesitated before asking the next question. “Are you... a mom?”

He shrugged his shoulders. “Well, that's not entirely true, a mummy isn't a human being, it's just a vessel for the soul. But yes, the mummy was made from my body and I was in it for a long time. .” He moved his arms to the side. “Ta-da.”

Sharon shook her head. "How do you speak English?"

“The last owner of this mummy was an Englishman; I've been hearing this language for decades. In fact, I know many languages. You notice things, listen to people.”

-What about Marcus? What did you do with Marcus? Her voice rose an octave.

“Oh, not really, I just swapped places with him. Until I released him. I will do that in the near future. By the way, I regret pretending to hide in this room; I thought fear would help lift your spirits.

"In a mood? Wait a while!" Sharon said, straightening up. "If you're not Marcus, then why are you... I mean we... we...!" She bit her lip.

"Ah yes," Ta'Ava said, looking embarrassed for a moment. “I can explain it.”

Sharon waited. Taava said nothing. "So?" She said.

"Hm?"

"Explain!"

Ta'Awa shrugged. "Look, thousands of years have passed and I saw an opportunity, what did you want from me?" He examined his nails. "Besides, I thought this might be my only chance to see what it's like... to be a man."

He looked up. Sharon frowned, then realized what he meant. She gasped.

“You mean…?”

“Of course you understand that Ta’Ava is a girl’s name?” he said.

"Oh my God." Sharon had to sit down.

"God? Yes, you now have a strange idea about the gods. I have been a priestess of Sekhmet most of my life.

"That cannot be."

"I admit that the circumstances are a bit strange," said Ta'Awa, "but there's nothing really wrong with that."

Sharon turned and walked away. She heard Ta'Ava calling after her, but she ignored it and focused on the gallery entrance as if it were the only thing there World. She was almost there when a skeletal figure blocked her path. At first she panicked, but after thinking for a moment, she stopped and said, “Marcus! Marcus, are you okay?

The mummy's leathery face was expressionless and expressionless. She wanted to touch him, but was afraid of how fragile his body must be.

"Marcus?" She said. "Do you hear me? Marcus!”

"He can hear you," Ta'Ava said, emerging from the tomb behind them. “But he probably has no idea what’s going on.”

Sharon backed away. Ta'Ava pointed at the mummy and said, "Walk. Rest." The mummy turned and walked back to the sarcophagus, lay down inside and froze. Ta'Ava stood over the box and looked at the shriveled, skeletal creature. "It is strange," she said, "to look at him and think that it was me once."

"Look, are you going to help him or not?" - said Sharon.

“Of course,” Ta’Awa said. “It was fun to try, but I don’t feel like staying in Marcus’ body forever.”

- What then? What do you want? - said Sharon.

-Can't you guess? - said Ta'Ava. “I don’t need Marcus’ body, Sharon. I want yours."

Sharon was stunned. Half a minute passed before she managed to exhale: "What?"

Now Ta'Ava looked surprised. "You mean you haven't noticed? After all, there's only two corpses, and I don't need that."

"But why do you need a body at all? You died; you're too old to scream so loudly, why are you doing that?" Now they stood on opposite sides of the display case, the mummy stretched out between them.

“Because I woke up like I hadn’t woken up in centuries,” Ta’Awa said. “I slept for so long. I'm tired of living forever, I just want to live. Her voice became hoarse. “You understand, don’t you? You can't deny me this? Wouldn't you be so cruel?

“But what will happen to me?” Sharon asked.

Ta'Ava smiled and leaned forward. “Something wonderful is going to happen to you,” she said. “You will sleep forever.” Centuries, but you will have the most divine dreams and in your dreams you will realize everything that is happening around you. One day you will wake up, maybe in a hundred years, maybe in five hundred, maybe in thousands of years, and find a new world waiting for you. Doesn't that sound incredible?

Sharon said nothing. Ta'Ava leaned forward a little further.

“Don’t you want the promise of eternity? You can have it; I do not want that anymore. It's yours now, Sharon, so take it. And what are you giving up anyway? How happy are you here? How happy have you ever been?

Sharon felt dizzy. She was sure that she was incapable of making such a decision. But when will she really be ready for such a decision? And she knew that a chance like this would never come again...

Ta'Ava slid to anotherside of the display. “I know everything about you,” she said. “I know everything Marcus is thinking. In some ways you're just like me; I've spent my whole life caring for the same artifacts, the bodies of priests, images of gods. It's empty, isn't it? not true? I have never believed in the afterlife or the power of spirits more than you. We just live for icons, you and me, placeholders for things that never existed.

Sharon was afraid that if she said something she would cry, so she said nothing. Ta'Ava took her hand.

“So now you have a choice. You can accept my offer and live the life of a reincarnated goddess. Or you can choose to stay here, in your office, with your dead, and no one but naive little Marcus can stop you."

Marcus!

“No,” Sharon said, stepping back. Ta'Ava frowned.

"Sharon&mdash ;"

"I don't trust you," Sharon said, "and I don't want what you're offering me. Forget it." I just want you to... go. However, they do. Bring Marcus back and leave. Now.”

Ta'Awa stepped forward, silhouetted against the dim lights of the night. "Then I'll just take your body by force, like I did with Marcus."

“But what are you going to do with it then?” Sharon said. “He’ll find out what happened and won’t give you any peace. You have to kill him to silence him, and starting as a murderer will give you a clean slate in the new world.

"I..." - said Ta'Ava, but then stopped, confused.

“You didn't think this through very well, did you?” - said Sharon.

Ta'Awa looked at her carefully. Then she hit her so quickly that Sharon had no time to react, and the back of Ta'Ava's hand brushed against her chin. Sharon lost her balance and fell, and before she could get up, Ta'Ava was on top of her, leaning on her with the entire weight of Marcus' body. Sharon felt something pressing against her neck and realized it was Marcus' utility knife. She froze. Ta'Ava pressed down on her even more and she found it difficult to breathe.

“Are you going to figure out how to get out of this?” - said Ta'Ava. Sharon spat in her face. Ta'Ava moved the blade a little closer. “You’re right, I don’t know enough about the world to get away with murder yet, but I don’t have to kill you. I can just make you want it. I know how to do things that don't help." I won't even leave a mark, but I'll make you scream until you forget your name. Do you think you are like that–”

Sharon waited until Ta'Ava moved her leg ever so slightly and then brought her knee up to (Marcus') crotch. Ta'Ava's eyes bulged and Sharon grabbed her shoulders. , rolled them both over until Ta'Ava was underneath and stuck. The box cutter slipped from Ta'Ava's hand and Sharon grabbed it. She pressed the tip to Ta'Ava's throat. Ta'Awa exhaled heavily and groaned. “Wow,” she said, “that really hurts…”

She looked at the blade pointed at her. “What are you going to do about it? You know you can't hurt me, only Marcus."

Sharon gritted her teeth and slashed Ta'Awa's neck. Ta'Awa shuddered and gasped. "What the hell are you doing?" She said. “If you kill me, Marcus will be trapped forever!”

“Won’t he still be there? Or instead of me? You won't let either of us go, so what's the difference? You might as well be dead if one of us gets stuck, no. Of what.” Sharon stabbed the blade again; the wound was superficial, but it bled profusely. Ta'Ava tried to push her away, but this resulted in another blow, so she stood still.

“But you can’t kill anyone, you can’t get away with it!”

“I'll risk it. I think I can relate to the way I fought off my attacker after he cornered me at work, late at night, alone, when everyone knows how many times I fought him off have. I think my chances are good, at least they are fair. And with you?

They froze, looking at each other, Sharon holding her body tight, waiting for Ta'Awa to strike back. “You wouldn’t do that,” Ta’Awa said. “You’re bluffing.”

"May be."

“You’re not that crazy.”

"It's hard to say. I'm willing to take the risk, are you?"

They stayed like that for a long time. Finally, a grin appeared on Marcus' face and Ta'Ava said, "Okay. Then I'll just do it all again what it was like."

Sharon blinked. "What?"

"Did you hear me. I'll get everything back to normal and let you both go."

Sharon tried to speak but suddenly started breathing heavily and it took a while for her to calm down. “That’s it?”, she

“Are you just giving up?”

"What choice do I have?" Ta'Ava said.

Sharon shook her head. "I do not believe you".

Ta'Ava shrugged again. "Why not? Whatever? That's your problem, Sharon: for someone who has spent their whole life studying history and eternity, you don't have much perspective. I can go back because I can afford to wait. I still waiting for you and my beloved boy to crumble into dust in the ground. I don't want to wait another century, but I can. Maybe two. Maybe three. One day I'll find a way out. Remarks?You will be trapped here until you die, and unlike me, you will actually die. Don't feel too sorry for me, Sharon. I will dream about you while I sleep.

And then she left. Nothing special happened to mark this change; There wasn't even a change in Marcus' attitude or demeanor, just a subtle flicker in Ta's expression. "Ava's resigned anger at Marcus' painful confusion." He looked up, his eyes glassy, ​​and Sharon was embarrassed to see that she was still straddling his body. She rolled away and he sat up, wincing and wiping the blood from his neck. "What the hell?" he said.

Sharon put her hands on his shoulders and shook him. “Marcus,” she said, “is that you?”

He blinked. "Yes?"

"But is it really you, is it really you?" She shook him again.

“Yes, Sharon, it’s me, it really is”; - he said and freed himself from her. “Should I prove it? You drink six cups of coffee a day; you always wear red shoes on Tuesdays; You read cheesy romance novels on your break and think no one will notice if you cry about them; We first met on the bus from Daly City without even realizing we were working together. Her middle name is Ginsburg because her father wanted to be a beatnik; Your favorite song is 867–"

She put her hand over his mouth. "Shut up," she said. They looked at each other for some time. Then she added, “I don’t cry when I read these books.”

Marcus was about to laugh when he suddenly noticed the mummy again. In a panic, he grabbed a heavy flashlight, raised it and prepared to smash the mummy's skull into pieces, but Sharon stopped him. “Wait,” she said.

"Why?" - said Marcus. “She is dangerous.”

"Yes. But what if what you're about to do doesn't kill her?"

Marcus frowned and then put the flashlight away. “What do you mean?”

“She said the mummy was just a vessel for the soul. I don't want her soul to wander alone. I don't even know what she would do then."

Marcus frowned. “So what should we do with her?”

Sharon looked thoughtfully at the mummy. Then she said: “Nothing.”

"Nothing?" - said Marcus. “But what are we going to tell everyone about what happened tonight?”

-What happened tonight? - said Sharon. “We both went out early this evening to have drinks at your friend's bar in San Francisco. We just had a party.

Marcus blinked blankly. “This party ended a few hours ago,” he said.

"Really?" - said Sharon. “I don't even remember. I think we had a really good time.

She closed the coffin lid, turned off the lights and walked away hand in hand with Marcus. In the gallery, in the darkness, inside the sarcophagus, something moved, just a little, and then fell silent. Everything became dark and quiet again. Still like a grave.

***

The mummy of Usermontu (so called because more precise identification is not possible) is still in the Rosicrucian Museum. Sharon Hiller and Marcus Green abruptly resigned shortly after his arrival. They had a meeting with the owners of the museum, but no one except those present knows what was said.

When the previous owner of the sarcophagus was contacted, he said that he knew everything about the mummy and had in fact placed it there intentionally. He said it should be viewed as a gift and that he was “tired of dealing with it.” He didn't go into detail.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, given its mysterious arrival, the mummy has become the subject of various superstitions on the part of museum staff, some of them humorous and non-humorous. Many staff and visitors show a clear fascination with him, and more than one person has been observed staring raptly at him for several minutes, motionless and unresponsive. More than one employee left the museum after the incident, although few commented on the reasons.

Those who have seen the mummy note that it is so remarkably preserved and its face is so expressive that it sometimes seems as if it is not dead at all, but just sleeping. This idea unsettles many people because it goes without saying that everything that sleeps will one day wake up. But if the mummy knows how long a dead person's sleep can last, it keeps this knowledge to itself; It's always quiet, like a grave. If he knows the secrets then they are his and can be kept forever or ever.longer.

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