Life and the Grave

By Sanguine

Episode 9.7

Part Three

 

“Terrence!” Nick cried, sprinting forward. He came to an abrupt halt just in front of the archaeologist—or rather, the corpse. “Oh, no. Oh, my—” On the brink of hyperventilating, Nick staggered backwards as MacGyver came closer.

The tall, bulky man was lying in a pool of his own blood, a deep red puddle that was widening by the second. His bald head was unnaturally tilted backwards on the uneven bricks, the white bone of his neck visible through the torn-away flesh and the blood bubbling out of his lacerated throat.

MacGyver fought off a wave of sickness and grief. "I can't believe that this is happening." Head reeling, he stepped away and braced himself against the cool brick wall. "Nick, are you all right?"

"I-it's the curse. It's got to be. We're gonna die."

"There's no such thing as curses," MacGyver whispered half to himself, eyes squeezed shut. "It's my fault. I said that we shouldn't split up, and then I went right ahead and let him do it. I should've stopped him."

"It's the curse. The curse got him. Nothing you coulda done," Nick replied in a shaky voice.

MacGyver shook his head vehemently. "There isn't a curse! It's my fault! Oh, man. Terrence. No, this shouldn't have happened. I shouldn't have let it happen. I'm so sorry. I'm so, so sorry."

"We gotta get out of here," Nick insisted quietly. "Gotta get out before the curse gets us too." He started shining the light around the area, flicking the beam around the hall and the room. "But this room looks like a dead end. It's just full of stuff. I don't see a way out. We—we can’t get out of here. We’re trapped! The curse!"

As the light shone around the doorframe, MacGyver caught sight of something gleaming and shiny, right at neck-height.

“A head wire,” MacGyver managed to choke out. “Terrence wasn't killed by any curse. That’s impossible. This was a booby trap. I’ve heard of these before. A razor-sharp wire, strong enough and sharp enough to almost decapitate someone.”

“Y-you mean those things could be anywhere?” Nick stammered.

MacGyver nodded grimly. “I’m afraid so. Maybe it would be better for us to look around on our hands and knees from now on.”

Immediately, Nick dropped to his knees. “Good idea. Very good idea.” His face was pale and he rubbed his eyes with one clammy hand. “I can’t believe this. My God. What a way to die.”

“I’m sorry,” MacGyver said quietly. “I wish I could take all of this back. Terrence should still be with us right now. I'm so sorry, Nick, but we're going to make it out of here together, all right? Nobody else is going to die. Our only choice is to keep moving.”

Trembling, Nick reached into his pocket and wrapped a rosary around his hand. “Yeah. Okay. Let’s get out of here. And fast.”

MacGyver grabbed the flashlight that had rolled to a stop against the opposite wall and dropped to his knees himself, handing one of the lights to Nick. Though his stomach was twisting in knots and his heart felt heavy, he needed to get his remaining companion to safety, and the only way to do that was to take his own advice: don't panic, and think the problem through. “The room that Terrence opened looks like a storage room of some kind. You were right. It's definitely not an exit, so our only option is to keep moving forward. Just stay close to me so we don’t get separated or lost.”

As they shuffled forward, awkwardly trying to keep a hold on the flashlights as they crawled, Nick replied, “I already told you, I’m not letting you out of my sight. I’ve got to get home. I have my family and my career to get back to. …Hey, man, do you, uh—do you think that the whole cursed-tomb thing is real? Be honest with me. You keep saying that there isn't a curse, but after what happened with Terrence, I need you to level with me. Do you think it's even a possibility? Even a little bit?”

“Not at all,” MacGyver said. “No such thing as curses.”

“C’mon, man, I just saw a man die right in front of our eyes, and you’re telling me that this place isn’t cursed?”

“That’s exactly what I’m saying. This tomb isn’t under a curse. It’s just protected. The Egyptians were smart people, and they had a lot of strong beliefs about the afterlife. All these traps and things—they’re just the product of that.”

Nick shuddered. “Well, I hate it. I just want to go home. I can’t stand all these paintings on the walls—all those eyes looking down at me. It’s freaking me out.”

“Hey, don’t panic. We’ll make it out just fine as long as we stay calm, okay?”
Slowly, Nick nodded. “Okay.”

“Good.” Then MacGyver froze, and the security guard nearly stumbled over him.

“What is it?”

“Shhhhhh. Stay quiet and turn off your flashlight for a second,” Mac whispered. In silence, Nick obeyed and MacGyver switched off his own light, holding his breath. There, at the other end of the passageway, a faint yellowish orb of light bobbed up and down. The orb quickly disappeared, but the rays emanating from it remained for several seconds afterward.

“What was that?” Nick whispered, switching on his flashlight again. “Please tell me it’s not going to kill us.”

“I can’t say for sure what it was, but I have a suspicion,” MacGyver said. “I can tell you one thing for sure: we’re not alone in here.”

After crawling through the corridor in silence for several minutes, MacGyver’s flashlight shone on another door. “Look at that.”

“Do you think it’s another storage room, or a way out? Is it safe to go in?”

“I don’t know. But there’s only one way to find out. Stay back. I’ll crawl over and open it. If we’re lucky, this one will only be guarded by a head wire, same as the last one.”

“No, I’ll do it,” Nick said, shuffling forward until he was in front of MacGyver. “I’ll open the door.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yeah. I’m the security guy, so—so I guess this is my job.” He took a deep breath and pushed the door open with his hand, squeezing his eyes shut. Slowly, he cracked one eye open. “Hey, it didn’t blow up.”

MacGyver nodded. “That's always a good thing.” He shone his flashlight around the doorframe. “I don’t see any wires, but be careful when you stand up.”

Nick nodded and rose slowly to his feet, waving his hand around the top of the door arch. “I haven’t gotten any body parts cut off yet, so I guess we’re good.”

“And a good thing, too, because it looks like the only other hallway that we haven’t explored leads to a dead end.”

Nick took a single step inside the room, just enough for Mac to get a look, and shone his flashlight around. “Hey, check it out. There’s a door on the other side of the room, but what’s all this red stuff on the floor? There’s gotta be at least six inches of it all over the place.”

“Nick, don’t move!” MacGyver half-shouted.

The security guard froze in place. “What? What is it?”

“That stuff’s hematite powder. It’s another booby trap.”

Nick squinted, still motionless. “How do you know all this stuff?”

“I did my homework, that’s all. It’s not smart to come to a place like this without knowing at least the basics of what you’re supposed to be investigating. Besides, this isn’t my first time dealing with tomb traps.” MacGyver sighed and added, “And it probably won’t be the last.”

“Comforting,” Nick replied in a sarcastic drawl. “So what does this magic tomb dust even do? Is it bad juju or something?”

“It’s nothing supernatural. If the article I read is accurate at all, then when a grave robber—”

“That’s us, right?”

“Close enough. If we were to walk through that powder, our movements would stir it up into the air.”

“And we’d breathe it in and it would kill us?”

MacGyver nodded. “Eventually, yeah.”

“So it’s poisonous?”

“Not quite. It’s not toxic and it’s harmless on the ground like that, but each particle is sharp enough to shred your lungs when you breathe it in. Over time, if you breathe in a big amount of the particles…”

Nick winced. “It cuts you apart from the inside out? Ouch. Well, how do we get around it?”

MacGyver shook his head. “We don’t. Not without hazmat suits. Going all the way across would stir too much of it up, and I don’t want to risk it. We’ll have to find another way around.”

“But I thought you said the only other way was a dead end!”

“I did, but maybe we missed something.”

Without warning, a light flashed on behind them and a voice intoned: “Oh, yes. You missed something. You missed something indeed.”

Holding his breath, MacGyver slowly turned to face the speaker. He was surprised to see a young Egyptian man, probably in his early 20s, holding a bright yellow flashlight. The young man’s brown eyes were narrowed as he stared at the two intruders.

“My name’s MacGyver. This is Nick. We’re lost,” MacGyver said slowly, eyeing the person who’d probably been following them this entire time. The man didn’t seem to be armed; maybe he could be reasoned with. “Do you know a way out?”

“Of course I know a way out,” the young man snapped. “This is my family’s tomb.”
MacGyver raised an eyebrow; he hadn’t seen that one coming. “This tomb is at least three thousand years old.”

“Of course it is, but they’re still my family! The vizier and the others buried inside this crypt are my ancestors, and now you outsiders think you have the right to come and take whatever you want! No. None of you are touching my family. No one!”

“Just calm down,” MacGyver said, holding up his hands in a gesture of peace. “The archaeologists didn’t know that the vizier had any living relatives left. If they had, they wouldn’t have started excavating without permission. We can work this out together. What’s your name?”

“Call me Fadil,” he said flatly, jutting his chin upward in defiance. “I’m sick and tired of all of you. I spoke to the archaeologists already. They wouldn’t leave unless I had evidence of my kinship, but what kind of evidence am I supposed to have after thousands of years? All I have to go on is my father’s word, and I’ll never doubt it.”

“Wait a second!” Nick interjected. “I remember you. I’ve seen you around before. You’re the one who kept messing with the equipment and stuff a couple weeks ago. I kicked you out!”

“That’s right, I did mess with your tools,” Fadil snapped. “And you still wouldn’t pack up and go. Even when I snuck in and started stealing things, you didn't leave!”

“Is that why you followed us in here?” MacGyver asked.

Fadil nodded. “And that’s also why I sealed off the entrance to the tomb. No one else is getting inside here! It was bad enough that they broke through into the first chamber. I couldn’t believe that you actually managed to find the secret entrance into the rest of the mastaba. I was hoping that you’d all just give up once you thought you’d hit a dead end, but no! You had to keep digging, didn’t you?” Accompanying his words with an aggressive jab with the flashlight, he repeated, “Didn’t you?!”

MacGyver spread his upheld hands wider. If he weren’t in such a serious situation, he might have found it funny that he was being held up with nothing but a flashlight, but the stirring fear that Fadil might push one or both of the Americans backward into the hematite powder cast a grim light on the moment. “Hey, take it easy, okay? We didn’t mean any harm. We didn’t know. If you don’t want anyone disturbing the tomb, I can make sure that the excavation comes to a halt. I’m friends with the director of the Phoenix Foundation, the ones who are funding the dig. I can guarantee you that the archaeologists will leave. But first, we’ve got to get out of here.”

The young Egyptian squinted at MacGyver suspiciously. “Why should I believe anything you say? How do I know you aren’t trying to deceive me just so I’ll let you out?”

“Look, all you have to go on is my word. But if you think about it, I have no reason to lie to you. I don’t have anything personal invested in this excavation, and even if you don’t help us find a way out, those archeologists will find a way around that stone blocking the entrance eventually. And when they do, you’ll just be right back where you started—unless you let me help.”

“Why would you help me? For years, the Americans and the British have been taking Egyptian artifacts back to your museums—artifacts that rightfully belong here in Egypt. Why would you consider helping me when no one else will listen?”

“Because it’s the right thing to do,” MacGyver said simply.

Fadil scoffed. “And you really expect me to believe that?”

MacGyver shrugged. “Yeah, actually. I do.”

“He’s right,” Nick ventured. “We’ve got nothing to lose either way… And at this point, neither do you.” He reached out with his right hand. “What do you say? We’ll stop the digging if you show us the way out. Do we have a deal?”

Fadil stared at the security guard’s outstretched hand for a moment before clasping it with his own. “All right. Deal.”

MacGyver grinned. “Great! Let’s get moving.”

The Egyptian nodded and took a step down the hallway. “You missed the hidden tunnel to the burial chambers—it’s back this way, and that’ll take us to the other exit. Also, you don’t have to crawl the whole way. The wire traps are only found on the doors to the three storage rooms.”

“Three?” Nick exclaimed. “But we only found one!”

Fadil flashed an impish smirk over his shoulder. “This mastaba has many secrets that you Americans will never find.”

MacGyver shook his head with a smile and set off after Fadil, glancing behind him with his flashlight to be sure that Nick was following.

He saw the loose brick just a second too late to call out a warning.

 

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