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Authors: J. R. Rain,Aiden James

Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Action & Adventure, #Mystery; Thriller & Suspense, #Thriller & Suspense, #Romance, #Thrillers & Suspense, #Suspense, #Thriller

Pyramid of the Gods (8 page)

BOOK: Pyramid of the Gods
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Chapter Fourteen

 

 

If there had been plenty of reefer to go around, I might’ve tried harder to understand Akiiki’s delusion. Despite what we witnessed, it was a herculean leap to accept the existence of a five-thousand-year-old therianthrope, and an even bigger stretch to believe this creature happened to be an Egyptian goddess homesick for her alien world. A world located beyond our neck of the galaxy. According to Akiiki, Sehkmet’s planet circled a dead star in a much larger system than ours, near Orion’s Belt.

Bet he never read that one somewhere. This had
L. Ron Hubbard
written all over it. But what he said next was just as preposterous. And, it came in response to Ishi’s question about how old our Egyptian buddy was.


I’m not from her world. I come from an earthly age before the Valley of the Kings existed,” he told us, while we moved through a passageway much more modern in design than the tunnels we went through earlier. A fiery glow permeated the seams between the massive white marble blocks. Like something from mythical Mount Olympus. “I was an orphan in a village near Thebes, and I lost my parents during a raid. A tribe of priests who served Sekhmet took me in, though I was never treated as an equal. To this day, I don’t know why she favored me above anyone else. But in my thirty-sixth year, Sekhmet took me as her personal companion. I’ve served her ever since.”


How old does that make you?” I asked, hoping I could trip him up on a little math quiz.


I will be three-thousand, nine hundred and forty-eight years old next February,” he said, grinning as he stopped to study me. “That is according to your Judeo-Christian influence on calendars. Most of my birthdays have been calculated according to the customs of Thebes, and after my conversion to Sekhmet’s method of calculation, my existence is no longer marked by how many times the earth revolves around the sun. But you wonder why I seem so ordinary...no? I’m just a guide who happens to know a little something about the southwestern deserts. Right Nick?”

Not exactly the thoughts in my mind’s forefront, but admittedly pretty damned close. He motioned for us to pick up our pace, moving to a stairway.

“I can’t get over how I never guessed you were...
different
, like this,” said Marie.

She smiled shyly and looked away. Damn, she’s amazingly gorgeous when she’s vulnerable.

“Your father knew the truth about me,” said Akiiki. “He also knew your uncle would one day take his life.”


He did?” This was news to Marie, and she reached for a handrail that didn’t exist. I caught her. “When was that?”

Akiiki smiled compassionately, wrapping an arm around her shoulders to pull her close.

“Long ago, when your grandfather brought Michael and Leo to Cairo as young men,” said Akiiki. “Your uncle was always jealous of your father—even as a boy, according to Antonio. The two were in college when I met them, and both had passion for their father’s field of choice, archaeology.”


So you knew my grandfather, too?”


Yes, Marie...I knew him better than I knew your father.” He chuckled.

I said, “I didn’t know your grandfather’s name was Antonio?” The name sounded familiar to me, and I seemed to remember making a joke about some idiot named Antonio Da Vinci looking for Atlantis, back in my college days. A surge of guilt pricked my conscience.

“Yes, that’s his name,” said Marie. “He was disappointed I was born a girl, since he wanted a grandson very badly, according to my mother.”


And, yet, who’s to say a boy would’ve possessed the antiquities passion you have?” mused Akiiki.


Exactly,” she agreed. “My father told me how Granddad finally accepted ‘the girl’ as better suited for this than my cousin, Louis...”

A sudden rumbling beneath our feet distracted her. Hell, it brought us all back to the present.

“I wish we had more time to catch Nick and Ishi up on everything, but you all must leave now,” Akiiki advised. “Come, hurry with me!”

He moved to the nearest wall, and placed his palms faced out in front of him. After he closed his eyes and repeated a string of words similar in dialect to what we heard from Sekhmet earlier, the wall dissolved away. Behind it stood a steep staircase.

Another, stronger, quake soon followed. We ran up the stairs to keep up with Akiiki. The walls and ceiling were covered with pristine colorful pictograms, and the images shook as if the marble supporting them might collapse at any moment. Without a railing to hold onto, things were even more precarious. Ishi slipped and fell over the edge, and if Marie hadn’t grabbed his shirt and hung on long enough for me to help pull him back onto the staircase, we surely would’ve lost him. A darkened shaft below the stairs claimed the flashlight he’d been holding, and I expected to hear it explode into pieces against the unseen floor far below.

It never happened.

We reached the top, and the rumbling calmed long enough for Akiiki to give us an encore of his bizarre ritual. The ceiling dissolved away above us and we stepped into bright sunshine. The most recent cloud had disappeared, and the oppressive late morning heat was upon us.


So where do we go now?” asked Ishi, while I tried to get my bearings.

We stood atop a massive block from the pyramid’s façade, roughly ten feet tall and deep, and maybe twice that long. It appeared the most recent quakes removed more sand from below, and our location was nearly halfway up the structure’s three-hundred foot height.

“I don’t suppose you can fly?” I asked Akiiki, when he didn’t immediately answer my buddy’s question.

My ancient friend shook his head. “No, unfortunately I am not like Sekhmet, who can morph into any form she pleases. But, even though I can’t fly, the blocks are manageable if we help one another—”

“No one is going anywhere!”

What in the...Motumbo? How in the hell did he get out here?!

I assumed the sucker was dead. No doubt, we all did. Not that he looked like a man in the most vibrant health. Presently standing on the block next to ours, he staggered toward us, holding his bloody scarab in one hand and a Russian assault rifle in the other. Ready to do damage, and looking pissed enough to kill us all with no further questions.

We couldn’t run or hide from bullets at this range. Our best hope was to pray his aim would be hindered by the earlier attack from the swarm—a hope that vanished when Motumbo leapt to our limestone block with minimal effort.

“You thought you killed me the first time, and yet I stand before you very much alive,” said Akiiki. He casually stepped toward Motumbo. “Did you not expect the blood of Sekhmet’s servant to arouse her from her long sleep? More importantly, do you not see you’ve been given a chance to choose differently? The opportunity for mercy is there, despite your abhorrent deeds to others. Throw down your weapons, and I assure your forgiveness and safe travel with us.”

Motumbo snorted, and raised the rifle to Akiiki’s head.

“A knife wound didn’t kill you, no? Perhaps you are some kind of zombie or vampire!” he said, spitting the words laced with bitter anger. “You think I have anything left to live for—especially since your witch told me I will look like this forever? Would
you
want to live like this forever?!”

He had a point. His face was almost unrecognizable, with dozens of weeping welts. And if they never healed? Well, I’m not sure I’d wish that on anyone. Other than Motumbo.

Akiiki raised himself, his posture regally straight, and kept his hands at his sides. He would not defend himself.


Discard your hatred, my brother, before it’s too late!”


I am
not
your brother!”

Motumbo released the rifle’s safety. He intended to obliterate Akiiki’s head at any moment. I couldn’t stand by and allow the senseless killing of the man who had saved our lives.

“No, Nick—don’t do it!”

Marie’s cry came too late. I dove at Motumbo like a raging bull, and he sent me over the edge effortlessly, like a skilled matador. I landed hard on my back on the next stone block below.

It knocked the wind out of me. Everything almost turned black inside my head. Groggily, I staggered to my feet, while my lumbar throbbed in excruciating pain. Just in time to hear the bullet spray, I prepared myself for blood streaming over the edge. A slight echo from a scream drifted toward me, and I waited for the crimson signature of death. I mourned being too late...again. Worse, Motumbo had a clear shot at killing Marie and Ishi.

But the blood didn’t come, and then the annoyingly confident and peaceful countenance of Akiiki greeted me from above. The tremors from earlier resumed.

“There’s no time to waste, Nick. I’ll partner with Marie and you and Ishi will need to keep up! We have less than fifteen minutes to get you to safety.”

He joined me on the ledge, and I followed his lead in helping Marie and then Ishi join us. We set out in earnest to repeat the process again and again, while I ignored my back’s agony as much as possible. Dying to find out what happened to Motumbo, neither Akiiki nor the two witnesses to the bandit’s demise would tell me anything. Everyone’s focus was resolute on reaching the bottom before the volatile pyramid threw us off.

“We’re not going to make it down in time!” worried Marie, when debris from above began to fall and barely missed hitting us. “The pyramid is disintegrating!”


No, it’s not,” Akiiki assured her. “It’s being transformed. But, unless you want to be sitting where you are when it leaves the earth’s atmosphere, I suggest you stay focused. Look into my eyes, Marie, and think of nothing else.”

His eyes gleamed like amber fire, and as if responding to a beloved father figure, she quieted and let him catch her as she leaped down into his arms, and they repeated the process for each block as they quickly moved past Ishi and me toward the bottom.

“Nick, we better hurry, or we’ll be stranded up here!”

Ishi looked around anxiously. My buddy’s pretty damned brave, but for a moment he favored Marie in her panic.

“Don’t think I’ll be cradling you like Akiiki,” I teased. “Just get your ass moving and I’ll keep us on point. You got that?”


Yep...no kissing and holding hands either, Boss.” He winked.


Just frigging hurry!”

Obviously, we couldn’t compete with Akiiki and Marie’s smooth operation. But after enduring scraped elbows and knees, along with Marie’s impatient chiding from below, Ishi and I beat the collapse of the pyramid’s façade. We staggered onto unstable sand and ran to catch up with the others.

“Keep running, everyone!” shouted Akiiki, leading the way, and practically dragging Marie. Ishi and I picked up our pace, motivated by the loosened sand behind us being pulled down into an unseen chasm, caused by the pyramid shedding it’s outer skin.

The campsite was nearly gone by the time we reached it, and most of what remained hung over the rim of the massive hole that was spreading. Clawing to the top and trying to avoid tent poles and drooping canvas proved much more challenging than expected. Once out of the hole, Marie, Ishi, and I didn’t stop running until we were at least fifty feet away.

Akiiki called to us from behind. He stood at the edge of the rim.


You are safe, my friends! Be well.”


Wait! What are you doing? Hurry!”

But he didn’t hurry. He simply smiled at us warmly, then raised his hands heavenward. He disappeared in a cloud of rising dust from the hole. It was the last time any of us ever saw him.

 

 

 

Chapter Fifteen

 

 

I’ll admit I was tempted to move up to the hole’s edge and see if he’d slipped and fell. My mind craved logical order, and seeing what usually happens to people when they step off a cliff would be step one to end the craziness. Then again, I didn’t want to see harm come to Akiiki—a man who’d saved our lives twice. The decision was made for me when another powerful tremor seized the ground beneath our feet.


We’ve got to get the hell out of here! Look, there’s our Jeep!” Ishi yelled above the din, pointing to one of our trucks, parked where we left it several days ago. “We’ve still got time to reach it!”

Marie grabbed my arm to steady herself from shifting sand threatening to pull her down to her knees. She frantically called for Ishi to stay with us, after he veered to one of the soldier’s machine gun-carrying trucks.

“We will need more ammo to stay alive!” he replied. He picked up his pace.


Damn it, Ishi—forget about it! It’s far too dangerous, so get your ass back here!”

He ignored me, and Marie started to follow him until she fell, tripped by the churning sand.

“Nick, we have no guns and I saw Motumbo’s men go back and forth from this truck the most!” Ishi pulled a tarp off the truck’s back end. His mischievous grin turned into a smug smile as he pulled up the lid on a box of rifles. He must’ve found a small arsenal, but started rummaging through a pair of satchels resting next to the box. His mouth dropped open.


What in the hell’s keeping you, man? The hole’s getting closer, so quit screwing around!”


Boss, you’ve gotta see this!”


Maybe some other time, get your—”


It’s gold!”


What?!”

He lifted the satchel he unzipped. Even before he brought it chest level, the exposed contents glistened spectacularly in the noonday sun.

“Holy shit, Nick—we won’t need to leave here empty-handed after all!” Marie enthused, moving toward him and ignoring the volatile sand.

Are you frigging kidding me?! Ah, Damn it all to hell!

I couldn’t reason with either one. The promise of gold drew us to this place, almost got us killed, and gave us one hell of an adventure—which we were on the verge of surviving. Yet, here in the ninth hour, we were going to die after all.

But, seriously, could I leave behind the two most important people in my world? Why, of course not! I wouldn’t be true to my heart and twisted set of values if I did.

The gun truck lurched forward. It would be gone in the next minute or two. Likely with two foolhardy foreigners clinging to soon-to-be-worthless satchels wedged in the truck’s rear.

I stumbled through the sand, leaning towards dragging them empty-handed away from the truck. Unfortunately this brings us to Rule #34 from the
Nick Caine’s Practical Looters Handbook: “Never leave a treasure behind. Ever!
Unless you want to kick yourself hard in the ass for the rest of your earthly days.”

There would be no self-inflicted ass-kicking this day.

We grabbed four of the six satchels before the truck rolled forward and toppled into the growing abyss. As if realizing the grave danger they were in, Marie and Ishi scrambled away, yelling hysterically for me to get out of there—as if this idiotic exercise was my idea!


Nick, please tell me you have the keys!” worried Marie, when we reached the Jeep. The hole had devoured the rest of our camp and was less than twenty feet away, with precious inches of earth disappearing by the second.

I threw open the driver’s door. The keys were there in the ignition. Thank the good Lord. Or Sehkmet. Or frigging someone. I motioned for the others to jump in the other side. The back of the truck lurched.

“Here goes nothing!”

We started to slide backward, and my heart felt as if it tried to leap into my mouth. But the wheels gained enough grip to pull us out. I floored the accelerator, and didn’t let up until we reached the dusty thoroughfare that brought us to this desolate region in the first place. All the while, explosions filled the air in the distance behind us.

Impossible to say what the fireworks represented, but just before we reached the road taking us to the modern highway, a clap of powerful thunder rumbled toward us from whence we came.


No frigging way...”

That’s all I could get out...the rest was forever stuck in my throat. A brilliant light headed toward the sky. We slowed to watch it, and when the light became too faint to make out, we finally looked at each other. Our mouths collectively hung open.

I was certain I’d forced our earlier experience into what I believed I had just witnessed...until Ishi and Marie confirmed they’d witnessed the same thing.

The brilliant light that been racing through the earth’s atmosphere had been in the shape of a pyramid.

 

* * *

 


So, if the price of gold runs from thirteen hundred to fifteen hundred dollars per ounce, how much is forty to fifty pounds of it?”

Ishi’s question, as we headed north on the main highway from Aswan to Cairo. We had spent the past hour discussing the strange sight we witnessed in the sky, and slowly worked our way back to the unpleasant experiences that could take years to work through—especially for Marie. The haunted look in Ishi’s eyes said things were no picnic for him either. I imagine he’ll probably find himself briskly walking past an open fire or barbeque pit for years to come.

As for me, an extremely tender lower back and the throbbing wound in my cheek were enough motivation to allow Marie to take over driving us to the ministry’s office. Despite the bullshit and humiliation she endured, she was tougher than nails. And when it comes to a task needing to get done, she remained the best man among us for the job. Besides, Ishi scared the hell out of me when behind a wheel.


Low end would be eight hundred and thirty-two thousand US dollars,” said Marie, before I finished adding up the figures. “Per satchel.”


Basically a million American bucks, or half a million euros, give or take a hundred thousand,” I said. Hey, a nice ballpark figure always works best for me. “That’s what the three of us will likely split, after the Egyptian government collects their share.”


You’re okay with those bastards delivering it up our asses, eh Boss?”

I turned my head to where I could face Ishi from the front passenger seat. He smiled impishly, despite being buried in satchels to his neck. The weapons were stashed beneath the back seats. We planned to discard most of the guns before we reached Cairo...unless we wanted to experience Egypt’s version of a bubba sex slave.

“What, you don’t think it’s fair to give the bastards eighty percent of what we recovered? Or, do you think it will be tough to live off one third of what’s left?”


It depends on where we’re going next,” said Marie. “I think we should check out what’s under Stonehenge.” She turned away from the road to shoot Ishi a playful wink.


What’s that all about?” I asked her, when Ishi winked back. “Something you two wish to share with me?”


Depends,” she said, her eyes focused on the road as she chuckled. “Are you going to be a good boy and let us call the shots for once?”

Ouch!

“Why do I get the feeling the decision has already been made, regardless of whether or not I approve?” My smug smile was met by her own.


Well, at least two of us want to visit Stonehenge after we find a nice European bank allowing unimpeded access to our gold funds,” Marie advised. “Maybe a week or two exploring the sites in Greece, Italy, France...I’d love to share an umbrella and glass of wine with you on the Riviera.”

Those damned eyes were like lasers to the soul. How could I resist?

I laughed...nervously.


But that’s if the ministry’s corrupt jackasses allow us to take our twenty percent,” said Ishi, leaning forward in the back seat. “You’re the only one who trusts them, Nick. Marie and I don’t trust them, or anyone else. Who’s to say they won’t imprison or kill us on some trumped up charge when we arrive? I bet they’ll do it when they see the gold. Remember, most of them said we were nuts to go looking for it.”

This had all the trappings of a set up...by the only two people in the world whose opinions meant jack to me.

“Okay. So, what’s the new game plan?”


Well, Nick darling’, I’m glad you asked,” said Marie, chuckling with a little Bob Barker in there. “And, we’re just in time...Do you see the next exit coming up?”

I nodded, wondering where this was going.

“Do you remember the helicopter that dropped us off in Cairo?” Marie’s smile broadened. She didn’t wait for a response. “I called them when we were fueling in Anwar. They should be waiting for us a half mile from the highway.”


No shit?” I sat up in the seat to get a better view, ignoring my throbbing lumbar. “Are you insane—or, is it just a death wish?”


Would you rather take your chances in Cairo, hon?” She batted her eyes at me. What a frigging comic and tease.


Not necessarily,” I said, chuckling. “But you realize once we do this, we’ll never be able to come back here.”


Do you want to come back to Egypt, Boss?”

I pictured Mario and a dozen years of suffering horrific nightmares. Then I thought about almost losing Marie and Ishi these past four days. Lastly, I considered the incredible experience from that morning—one likely to never be topped. Surely, it would follow me to my grave in vivid color, hopefully many years from now.

“No. If I never see this god-forsaken country ever again, I can live with it.”


Then it’s settled!” enthused Marie. Ishi whispered something in Tawankan that I recognized as a prayer, and grinned at me. “So, go ahead and write this latest adventure in your journal before we board the helicopter, Nick. We’ll need to start planning our next trip on the way to Greece.”


Greece? I thought we were only thinking of going there?”


Hon, you need to trust me on this—it’s going to be so much
fun!”


Quit worrying and hurry up with your notes, Boss!” chided Ishi.

So, for now, I’ll wrap this up. Apparently, we’re moving on to another adventure when we haven’t quite resolved this one yet. But come to think of it...hasn’t that been our consistent M.O. since Honduras?

Two thoughts come to mind before signing off.

First, I hope our next excursion is the leisurely kind, without dire threats to life and limb. Something fun with a little archaeology would be nice, with a little looting on the side, of course.

My second thought is more immediate. Lately, as one can surmise, it has become increasingly difficult to discern between dreams and reality. Now that things have turned out in our favor, I pray this jovial moment is real. Otherwise, I suppose I’m putting the final touches on a journal entry that doesn’t exist. That would royally suck.

For now, very truly yours,

Nick

 

The End

BOOK: Pyramid of the Gods
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