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n Egyptian folklore, it was known as the Forgotten Tomb, but everyone remembered it. They were simply too scared to speak of it. The tomb was cursed, so the legends said, and anyone who dared to disturb the lost resting place of the ancients was doomed to live a life tormented by the gods.

'Pile them up, nice and high, that's it...'

Fear kept the local population in line. Inhabitants of the nearby villages undoubtedly knew more about the history of their land than they let on, though they still refused to share their wisdom or enlighten the desperate adventurers who came knocking at their doors. Many went home, reluctantly admitting defeat, forced to respect the wishes of the dead.

'Prepare the fuse, and fetch the matches...'

Some, however, refused to give up so easily. Nothing was ever truly forgotten. Anything could be found if you looked hard enough. There were always traces left throughout history, a trail to follow to your goal, footprints in the sand.

'Strike it, and let the flame burn...'

Not even talk of terrible myths and dreadful curses was enough to deter the most resolute, or perhaps foolhardy, explorers. After all, the threat of gods ruining your life only worked if you had a life worth ruining.

For history professor and part-time adventurer Harold Cartwright, there was nothing left to lose. Everything that the world could take from him had already been stripped away. He did not fear the gods; he challenged them.

'Now... Light it up!'

Harold had recruited a small band of greedy and foolish Egyptian youngsters to accompany him on this expedition to where he believed the Forgotten Tomb was hidden. One of these poor, unfortunate souls had been tasked with blowing a hole in the side of the mountain, creating an entrance. Having been unable to locate the front door, Harold had decided to make his own way in.

He had placed stacks of dynamite against the rocks, with a single fuse ready and certainly able to detonate them when lit. What little money he had left had been spent on this expedition. For Harold, everything depended on it.

He watched, from a safe distance of course, as the Egyptian man who was being paid to put himself in danger held the lit match in his trembling hand. Harold whipped off his hat and lightly fanned himself, uselessly trying to fight back against the suffocating heat.

He watched with bated breath, knowing that any minute it was about to get a whole lot hotter.

But then, as the match was moved closer to the fuse, the strangest thing happened. Out of nowhere, a mighty gust of wind blew through the valley, extinguishing the flame mere moments before it could explode the mountainside.
 
The hireling turned to Harold, with fear in his eyes, desperate for guidance.

'Again,' Harold said firmly. He knew that a similar breeze could not inexplicably scupper his plans for a second time.

Well, he thought he knew...

Once again, at the last minute, the flame died.

'Again, again, again...' said Harold, with increasing desperation, as every single match in the entire box was extinguished one by one by a seemingly supernatural wind.

Harold marched over to the hireling in charge of the explosives, but the man hurried off into the distance at a considerable speed. When Harold looked around, he saw that the other recruited locals had fled, seemingly believing that the curses of the Forgotten Tomb were coming true. It certainly seemed as though higher powers were preventing its discovery, warning off the unwelcome travellers.

Now all alone in the middle of nowhere, he dropped to his knees and began to cry. He had come so close, having battled his way through ancient myths and desolate landscapes and irritating customs, and yet had been thwarted by the wind of all things. Perhaps, he considered, everyone he had ever known had been right to call him a failure, a walking disaster, a fool.

Harold took off his glasses and rubbed his eyes. Wiping the tears away, he wondered whether he might be able to use his spectacles to magnify the harsh sunlight and direct it onto the fuse. He had always hoped that his short sightedness might benefit him one day--but no, it seemed there was no way of doing it.

Harold then spent the rest of the day feeling sorry for himself, and he had almost given up hope entirely. It was only as he searched through his rucksack, hoping to find a few drops of water remaining in his flask, that he found his set of tent pegs. He wondered if that just might work, whether they could be enough to start a fire and ignite his dreams. With nothing else to lose, Harold thought it was worth a try.

Had he really been reduced to this, he wondered? Rubbing sticks together like a savage? He bemoaned his dreadful luck and how nothing ever went to plan. But then, for the first time ever, it did.

Sparks burst forth from between the two writhing sticks, erupting into a magnificent and glorious fire that burned stronger and brighter than the setting sun.

The flames lit up the fuse. Harold was delighted and jumped for joy, and it was only when he realised that he was about to be blown to smithereens did the smile fall away from his face. He ran for his life.

The explosives did their job and detonated with tremendous force, destroying a good chunk of the mountainside. Harold was knocked off his feet as he fled in the opposite direction, landing in the dirt. He covered his head, shielding himself as rocks and debris from the blast rained down.
 

Calmness and silence returned to the secluded corner of the Egyptian wasteland. Harold clambered to his feet and gazed in awe at the newly created hole in the mountainside. He caught a glimpse of what looked like something shiny in the darkness, and he allowed himself the biggest smile.

He had found it, finally; he had found the Forgotten Tomb.

Slipping through the crack in the rock, Harold found himself in what appeared to be the burial chamber. He had managed to create a narrow path that took him straight to the diamonds and jewels and treasures of the ancient world, lost for centuries, shrouded in myths and secrecy. Just one of these, Harold knew, would change his life.

Harold brushed the cobwebs aside, wiped dust from the sparkling jewels that had gone untouched for so long. Yes, there was no doubt about that. The place was so clearly undisturbed. He revealed in the knowledge that he had been the first man to stand in this chamber and look upon these treasures for centuries. But regardless of the priceless artefacts surrounding him, it was the sarcophagus in the centre of the chamber that demanded his attention. Overwhelmed by its beauty and magnificence, and by what it meant to him and his life, tears filled his eyes.

He had waited for this moment his whole life. He had shown everyone who ever doubted him that he was not sad or pathetic or mad.

He was definitely notmad.

That was what Harold told himself, repeatedly, despite what happened next. A ringing sound filled the air. Not expecting to hear such a noise in the Forgotten Tomb--which had not been disturbed in any way for thousands of years--it took Harold a few moments to realise that it was the ringing of a telephonethat he could hear.

And it was coming from inside the sarcophagus.

 

artwork by ANDY LAMBERT
used with permission
 
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