and the Grave
When the next
morning finally rolled around, MacGyver was one of the
first to arrive at the dig site. Only two others had beat
him to the punch. Dr. Anbar was already meticulously dusting
a clay figure with delicate brushes, and Nick—occupied
by a Walkman’s headphones—seemed to be patrolling
the excavation site. The head of security offered MacGyver
a slight half-wave as the troubleshooter approached. Half-waving
back, Mac made a beeline for the Egyptologist.
Doctor,” MacGyver called with a smile.
the smile as he looked up. “You’re early,
I see! Very good. Are you ready to take a look at the
antechamber of the tomb?”
You must help me with this first.” Anbar laughed
and waved MacGyver over to his workspace, which was essentially
a wooden crate beneath a sturdy tent.
I work on this shabti, I need you to take these brushes
and start working on cleaning up those pottery shards.
And be gentle.”
worry, I will,” MacGyver promised, picking up the
brushes and carefully wiping away centuries of encrusted
sand and dirt from the reddish pottery. “What exactly
are these things, anyway? They don’t look like any
pot I’ve ever seen.”
up from the shabti to smile at his new friend again. “They’re
called execration texts. They’re common enough,
but it’s a very uniquely Egyptian custom.”
MacGyver asked, always curious about other people and
believed that names held great power. A name defines who
you are, and so they could be used to bless or to curse.
One of the things that the Egyptians of this time period
would do is write down the names of evil things or enemies
onto clay tablets or pottery, and then they would smash
it. Can you guess why?”
it over for a moment before answering, “To get rid
of the evil?”
By then, other
workers had begun to fall in and start up the daily activities
of excavation. MacGyver glanced at them periodically as
he worked alongside Dr. Anbar. Everyone seemed to be wrapped
up in their work, totally carried away by the excitement
of unearthing new pieces of history. …Except for
Nick, who was still just as surly-looking as he had been
the day before. Mac shrugged. History isn’t quite
with me,” Anbar said, dusting off his hands. “It’s
time that I show you what we’ve uncovered so far
of Vizier Inpuhotep’s tomb.”
set down his brushes and pottery shards and followed the
had unearthed a large rectangular pit beneath the ground.
Months of painstaking work had uncovered a significant
portion of a medium-sized, flat-roofed stone structure
buried beneath the earth. A short stepladder descended
into the pit, and as he followed Anbar, MacGyver could
see a narrow sandstone entryway that led into the actual
tomb. MacGyver couldn’t help unleashing his inner
anthropologist a bit; he loved seeing how other people,
even far back in history, lived their lives. And the idea
of seeing this monument from the inside, having the chance
to step where people from thousands of years ago had once
stood, was just plain exciting.
The inside of
the stone tomb was cool and dry, quite a bit cooler than
the desert outside, which was already starting to bake
in the morning sun. The subterranean room that he’d
stepped into was square with beautifully decorated walls.
Frescoes and paintings, preserved by the dry air, brought
to life various scenes depicting the Egyptian gods. The
floor seemed to be made of some type of brick, and each
brick was carved with hieroglyphs. Two sarcophagi rested
side by side in the center of the room. Most of the artifacts
were shattered, and the sparse furnishings made it obvious
that grave robbers had beaten the archaeologists to the
tomb, likely by centuries.
his train of thought when he realized that Dr. Anbar was
speaking to him.
both are empty, of course. We checked those first. It’s
likely that the robbers looted the bodies along with everything
else. But MacGyver, if my research is correct, then they
would have been mere servants anyway, or less important
relatives. The real vizier and his wife are likely buried
in a chamber deeper inside the tomb. I’m telling
you, this must be just the antechamber, set up to fool
the robbers. Just an antechamber! It must be!”
believe it, then I believe you,” MacGyver replied.
“What can you tell me about these wall paintings?
Maybe they can give us a hint.”
at MacGyver’s question. “Well, naturally,
the largest of them is an admonition against grave robbers.
Actually, the scribes seem to have written out a very
lengthy and elaborate curse describing all the blood that
will be shed if anyone enters the tomb. But most of the
paintings are just about the vizier and his life... Although
several of them depict him with Wepwawet and Anubis, too.”
I’ve never heard of that one.”
“He was a wolf god, worshipped primarily in the
Upper Kingdom, and he was often called ‘the opener
of the ways.’ In fact, Asyut was once named Lycopolis
by the Greeks in his honor. In the murals, you can distinguish
him from his father Anubis by the colors. Anubis is painted
in black, and Wepwawet is white or gray.”
the floor, looking at all of the murals. One on the back
wall, above the vizier’s sarcophagus, depicted a
man traveling down a staircase while the gray-headed wolf
god looked down from above. “Opener of the ways,
huh?” He knelt and tapped one of the bricks on the
floor. “And all these hieroglyphs inscribed on the
floor—what are these?”
of the gods, mostly. It’s quite an unusual feature.
None of us have seen names inscribed on the floors before
in burial chambers. It’s very exciting.”
one with your wolf god’s name on it?”
I believe there is. One moment—I saw it here not
long ago. I think it was—yes, here it is!”
Wincing a bit from a pain in his knee, the Egyptologist
stooped down and ran his hands over an inscribed brick
in the far right corner of the antechamber. Someone had
touched this brick recently; all the sand and dust surrounding
it had been swept away, leaving the inscription clearly
visible. But MacGyver doubted that the last person to
come along had done what he was about to do.
beside Anbar and pressed down firmly on the brick with
his palms, trying to apply as much pressure as he could.
His efforts were rewarded when the brick sank into the
floor with a loud scrape. A rumble echoed within the walls
as ancient mechanisms moved and a small circular section
of the wall behind the sarcophagi rolled to the side,
revealing a trapdoor. MacGyver released a breath that
he didn’t know he’d been holding. “My
guess is that putting pressure on this brick shifted a
pole or a stone or something underneath us, and that must
have shifted something else inside the walls that allowed
that panel to slide away.”
is—this is astounding! I-I can’t believe that
we actually found it!” Dr. Anbar cried. “Thank
you for uncovering this for me, MacGyver. For all of us,
really. I should’ve seen it sooner! It seems so
simple now. I had gotten so convinced that sand was the
key to it all that I had blinded myself to other solutions.”
“Don’t worry about that right now, Doctor.
Right now, we’ve got a tomb to explore! Do you have
a flashlight handy?”
have to get the others. Terrence! Terrence! Jennifer!
Come quickly! Come! MacGyver found it! He found the door!
I told you there would be a door! I told you!”
While Anbar was
rallying the other excavation personnel, MacGyver peered
into the new entrance, trying to get a glimpse into the
darkness. Now that he looked at it, he realized that it
wasn't a trapdoor so much as a very small hatch. He could
definitely see the first two steps of a narrow stone staircase,
but apart from that, all was darkness. He glanced up when
he heard the running footsteps flying towards the unearthed
mastaba. Every archaeologist, along with Nick the security
chief, flooded into the antechamber with the troubleshooter
and the Egyptologist.
got a torch,” Terrence said, face splitting into
a huge grin when he saw the door beside MacGyver. “I
can’t wait to go in there and look around!”
should be the first to enter,” Dr. Anbar said solemnly.
“He discovered the entryway, so he should get the
honor of being the first man inside.”
as he shone his flashlight around in the opening. “I
doubt if there’s anything in there.”
Nick. Don’t tell me you’re not at least a
little excited by this,” MacGyver said.
be excited when everybody makes it out of this excavation
thing with no accidents so I can go home to Santa Barbara
and get paid,” Nick replied. “But I guess
the whole hidden tunnel thing is kinda neat.”
go in with us, Nick,” piped up Jennifer from behind
Dr. Anbar. “Maybe it’ll give you a better
appreciation for what we archaeologists actually do.”
“I doubt it, but…well, I guess somebody’s
gotta hold the flashlight, right?”
He recognized a guy feigning indifference when he saw
one, and he knew that the entire group—including
the security guard—had to be just as excited about
exploring as he was.
talking. Let’s go in and check it out!” Terrence
said, passing his flashlight to MacGyver. “You first,
like the good doctor said.”
“Good thing I don’t believe in ancient curses.”
Shining the light down the narrow stairs, he took the
first step into the darkness of the tomb.
And he screamed.
banging his head on the stone ceiling and cursing loudly.
The others gasped and looked on with expressions of shock—until
MacGyver flashed them a grin.
Mac said with a laugh, “I couldn’t resist.
A little tomb-exploring humor.”
“Next time, keep the humor to yourself. You nearly
gave the old man a heart attack!” Nick complained.
Dr. Anbar replied indignantly. “You looked like
you’d seen a ghost!”
just the security guard, all right? They didn’t
teach me how to deal with mummies and ancient curses at
the police academy.”
fine,” MacGyver assured them. “It was just
a joke, that’s all. All right, here I go.”
He stepped down the stairs to the mud-brick floor and
looked around, shining the yellow-white beam of the flashlight
in all directions. Nick, the only other person with a
light, stood beside him and helped illuminate the area.
They had emerged from the staircase into a large room,
empty except for some kind of stone altar and a large
stone slab decorated with a painting and several hieroglyphs.
must be the chapel,” Anbar said from his place in
the middle of the staircase, frozen in his tracks as he
looked on into the room with wonder, oblivious to the
impatient horde of archaeologists waiting on the steps
behind him. “This is where the funeral ceremonies
would have been held, and the stela on that altar represents
Inpuhotep and his family in the afterlife.”
check this out,” Nick said, shining his flashlight
on the wall near the altar. “It’s a fake door,
just painted on.”
meant to allow the spirits of the deceased to move in
and out of the room,” Terrence explained, reaching
out to touch the painted doorframe.
forward for a closer look, and he smiled as he heard Anbar’s
eager footsteps shuffling behind them—slowly shuffling,
but as fast as the elderly Egyptologist could go. He had
just turned to face the staircase and was about to offer
to help when abruptly, a stone slab dropped down from
a hidden slot in the ceiling, landing at the bottom of
the staircase with a loud crash and blocking the rest
of the group from view.
MacGyver jumped towards the stone, with Terrence and Nick
hot on his heels. “Dr. Anbar!” he called.
“Can you hear us? Is everything all right?”
Anbar shouted back, the voices of the others audible in
the background. “We can hear you fine, and all of
us are unharmed. Is everyone all right on your side?”
but I’m not sure how to get back to you. Is there
another way out?”
but you’ll have to find it. There’s no way
to know where it could be—if another route even
exists at all. I’m so sorry, MacGyver! We must have
somehow activated the trap, but I have no idea what we
could have done to set it off!”
reflexively, forgetting for a moment that the Egyptologist
couldn’t see the gesture. “There’s no
telling. Everything in here is centuries old. It’s
possible that the trap just triggered spontaneously at
exactly the wrong moment.” A sort of lingering burn
twitched in the back of MacGyver's mind; he sensed danger.
What were the odds that a stone which had remained in
place for hundreds of years would suddenly fall into the
doorway at the exact moment of the tomb's rediscovery?
How could that possibly be an accident?
But then again,
his rational mind argued, what else could it be?
worry, Doctor,” Terrence added, “we’ll
find a way out!”
then, we’ll work to find a way to move this stone,”
said Anbar. “Good luck to you!”
MacGyver replied as he surveyed the room with his flashlight
again. “We’re probably going to need it.”
God, it's the curse. The curse is real,” Nick whispered,
breath coming in shallow gasps that echoed off the brick
walls. “Oh, my God, I’m gonna die in here.
I should never have taken this job. I only wanted a little
extra cash because I’m still paying off my loans,
but I never expected that I was gonna die in some dead
guy’s tomb in Egypt. Oh, my God.”
calm down, Nick. We’ll be fine,” Terrence
won’t. There are probably all kinds of snakes and
scorpions and God only knows what else in here, and if
that big rock thing that closed off the door just triggered
on its own just because it’s old, then what else
in here could go off at any moment? Huh? Huh? Answer that!
And what about oxygen? Are we gonna run out of air in
chance!” MacGyver answered, hoping that he sounded
reassuring. “The ancient Egyptians always built
air shafts into their tombs. That way, the builders and
artisans could work on the inside without dying. Now,
Terrence is right—we’re going to be fine and
we’re going to make it out of here, but only if
we stay calm. Take deep breaths, okay?”
Nick said, his nodding made visible by the glow of his
flashlight. “Deep breaths. Right. I can do that.
I’m a cop. I can do that.”
the nod encouragingly. “Very good, Nick, you’re
doing great. Now, let’s just think about this for
a second. This mastaba isn’t very big, right?”
and most mastabas of this type wouldn’t have very
many rooms,” Terrence replied.
good,” Mac said. “That should make it easier
for us to find the exit. We’ll find the door that
leads out of this room—the one for people, not spirits—and
we’ll check each area until we find our way out.”
“You make it sound so simple.”
in the near-darkness. “Most problems are simple
if you just take the time to think them through.”
well, I hate to rain on everybody’s parade, but
how exactly are we going to keep track of where we’ve
been?” Nick said. “Our visibility is less
than great, and didn’t these guys build false exits
and stuff? What if we get lost and end up going in circles?”
a point,” Terrence admitted.
on. I’ve got an idea,” MacGyver said, tugging
off one of his shoelaces.
he doing?” Terrence asked. “His torch is going
all over the place. I can’t tell what’s going
his eyes shut as Nick shone a light right into his face.
“I’m taking off my shoelace.”
in confusion. “What for?”
us a way to mark where we’ve been going. I’ll
cut the shoelace into pieces with my knife, and I’ll
tape them down to the floor every few feet as we travel.
That way, we’ll have a trail of breadcrumbs to lead
us back here if anything goes wrong. Even if our flashlights
run out of battery along the way, we’ll still be
able feel for the shoelaces to find our way around.”
an eyebrow. “You have tape?”
MacGyver pulled a flattened roll of duct tape from his
back pocket. “Looks like I’ve still got about
half a roll left.” He grinned. “Never leave
home without it.”
you?” Nick said. “Seriously, who are you?”
a troubleshooter, that’s all.” With a shrug,
he cut off the first section of shoelace and taped it
to the floor. “C’mon, let’s get going.
Maybe we can make it out of here in time for dinner.”
Finding the doorway
was easy, but deciding which way to go after that was
“Right or left?” Nick asked, aiming his light
first in one direction, then the other. Either way, the
beam illuminated nothing; the light merely trailed off
into fuzzy darkness.
a coin?” Terrence suggested. “Or maybe we
should split up.”
his head slowly. “Splitting up in here is a bad
idea. If we’re separated and one of us gets hurt,
we might never find each other.”
we go right,” Nick said.
“That settles it. We’re going left.”
Nick protested. “Don’t think that you can
push me around just because I’m not some Oxford-graduate
bone-digger like you! I’m only here to keep you
really need you,” Terrence pointed out. “There’s
nothing that we need protection from. You’re just
a precaution that the Phoenix Foundation wanted to have.
It’s nice to have you along, but completely unnecessary.”
his head. “Listen, I understand both sides of this
argument, I really do. But now is not the time. We need
to get going if we want to get out of here.”
then, Troubleshooter,” Terrence said. “Which
way are we going?”
Mac sighed and
looked down both dark passages, pitch black in either
direction, with no hints as to where they should go. “Pick
a number between one and seven.”
at the security guard next. “Nick?”
The guard blinked.
at the hallway. “The number was six. We’re
he stepped forward into the shadows, his two companions
close behind. After a few moments, they reached a brick
wall. “Dead end.”
do we do now?” Nick whispered. “Turn around
and go back?”
In the dim light,
Terrence rolled his eyes. “Of course we go back.
We can’t very well go forward, can we? I told you
we should’ve gone left. And why are you whispering?”
know, but I can’t stop,” Nick replied, voice
a bad thing,” MacGyver said. “Now we know
which way not to go. We’ve eliminated a possibility,
and that’s good. When we get back to the spot where
we turned right, I’ll mark the floor with an X so
we’ll know not to come back this way.”
idea,” Terrence said. “Here, Nick, lemme see
the light. I’ll get started down the left side while
MacGyver marks the spot.”
passed the flashlight to Terrence, watching as the tall
man stepped down the corridor.
up at the security guard while he taped an X onto the
bricks. “You don’t have to stand so close
to me, you know. I’m not going anywhere without
kidding me? You’re the best chance I have of getting
out of here in one piece. I’m not letting you out
of my sight.”
The two of them
walked side by side as they began to catch up with Terrence.
Mac shook his head slightly. “That’s not necessarily
true. Besides, this is just an old mausoleum, essentially.
There may be a few more booby traps in here, but the odds
are that nothing’s going to happen as long as we
don’t panic and we keep our eyes open.”
the curse? Anbar said there was a curse. H-he said so
from the beginning, when they first opened up that entryway.
The curse says that blood will be spilled, Anbar said
so. They laughed about it, but... I don't know."
no such thing as curses," MacGyver insisted. "Everything
in here is man-made, and we'll find out way out of it.
I’ve found another door!” Terrence called
from a few yards away.
great!” MacGyver said. “Wait for us!”
He could see the beam of the archaeologist’s light
up ahead as they grew closer.
out, opened a well-preserved wooden door, and stepped
A split second later, his body dropped to the floor, the
flashlight rolling lazily over the bricks from his limp