This Weeks Prompt: 123. Dried-up man living for centuries in cataleptic state in ancient tomb.
The Prior Research:On Display
Fisk locked the museum door behind him. The curator had placed a notice outside, that do to a recent incident, the museum was closed for the day. The News reported an ongoing investigation into a robbery. Of course, to Fisks’s chagrin, they mentioned that the exact items stolen were not disclosed—meaning speculation ran rampant.
“Last thing this place needs, a new round of theorists.” Franklin said as Fisk passed him a coffee.
“To be fair, Frank, this is a new kind of problem.” Fisk said, as they walked back to the Lost Treasures exhibit. The two of them looked over the crime scene, such as it was. The case for the new exhibit was open, sarcophagus closed. There was another body, the mystery mummy, fallen on its back near the door.
Well, mummy was a bit much.
“Look, I hear cocaine rots you inside out. Maybe he’s on some new shit?” Fisk said, scratching his head as he walked around the body. The body was wearing a black t-shirt, a light jacket, some gloves to stay warm and a hankerchief. The baseball cap that was a foot away—knocked over when the body fell over—was probably his too. The problem was the body itself looked like someone freeze dried an entire person. The skin was stretched tight over bones and muscles were atrophied, eyes shut against the floor, hands crumpled where they’d hit the ground.
“Right okay.” Franklin said, walkinga round the body and up to the open exhibit case. He pointed at the carefully opened plexiglass latch. “So, this—this seems like someone tried to lift the thing out of here. Right? Opening the case at night, and cameras all bugged out.”
Fisk walked over to the rotating security cam. It was a cheap thing. Probably didn’t actually get good image anyway.
“That adds up.” Fisk said, waving at the security guard.
“So he breaks into the museum, comes in to lift some stuff and then…what? Suddenly paralysis?”
“Heart attack?” Fisk said, walking back to the body. “I mean he can’t have been in good health, looking like that. Here’s a cat or something, and bam!” Fisk clapped his hands together. “Drops dead. No exit wound, nothing.”
“…seems strange, just dropping dead like that.”
Not that there was much such gentlemen of the law could say. They took their notes, and had the body sent away to men who’s work was dealing with the dead instead of creting them. Morticians are well versed in the art of preservation and decay, to determine and ascertain the most probable cause of the end of their fellow man. And Douglas considered himself one of the finest in such a regard.
Which made the mystery of the exterior exceptionally frustrating. As the police had suspected, not a singular exit wound was left in place. Nor entrance wound. There were some scratches made by nails, but they seemed like the itches made by fidgeting not struggling. The fingers were brusied, and their tips were even smashed—but that was due to the other, frustrating fact that Douglas struggled to explain.
Douglas, before working as a coroner, had spent some time as a mortician. And he would never imagine such a well preserved body would exist outside such professional circumstances. The skin was dried, the insides had long lost their moisture as well. Which was unusual during a cold, wet winter season. Perhaps, Douglas considered, the man had taken some preparations for his demise. Or maybe it was the result of a freak diet.
It made the incision somewhat more difficult process—the skin being tough and leathery, instead of smooth and easy to cut. The mysteries of the surface could be solved by going underneath…he thought. Until he found the organs.
He almost admired the handy work. It took skill to preserve them this way. Perfectly still, resembling dried fruits stuffed into a leather bag. Even their flaws were there—the mar of regular smoking on the flattened lungs, the build up around the heart valves. It was like the entire body was filled with fermaldhyde.
That was one thing, however, that felt even more out of place. The smell. There was a certain smell corpses have. Rot, decay, even preservered they smelled disquieting. This one, this one smelled sweet. Almost like lavender or honey. Douglas did take a sample of a strange, light golden substance forming around the throat—perhaps a toxin—and wrote off the strange smell to that.
As he scraped the maerial into a vial, he felt the first twitch. The spiderweb of nervs around the neck twitched back—muscle long too stiff to respond to the pulsing attempt at movement. As Douglas sat upright, he saw it again. Another twitch, a flicker of light down into the arm. It wouldn’t be until the afternoon that he confirmed it—despite all odds and sense, there was something alive on his desk.
A museum at night is a particularly eerie place. A home has familiar shapes in the darkness—chairs, couches, moonlit windows. But a museum lives on the unusual silleuhette. On the strange shape that even a child can tell is not of this time. In a normal home. Finding such a compression of history would be alarming. In the halls of the Geogrestown museum, stepping through a doorway and finding yourself back a century is part of the appeal.
It isn’t exactly a hard to place to get into. You’ll see movies, with laser tripwires and pressure sensors and people rappelling down from the ceiling. Its all very fancy, very expensive to film, has room for tension and comedy all of that. And there’s some museums that can drop enough cash to actually install those things. Really, it’s a locked door—which exists to make things a modicum more difficult—a security guard—granted, they don’t let folks who signed up day of cover night shift—and a trip alarm. Maybe a motion sensor near the big exhibit. Some cameras for the guard at the control desk.
No, what stops most robberies at museums is probably the logistics. Its pretty hard to get an ancient bronze shield out of a building without anyone noticing—not because there’s tons of eyes on it, but because we sadly don’t live in an age where you can walk around with a giant bronze disk and not get asked strange questions.
The other added layer is what is actually on display. A lot of what you see these days are replicas—specifically to prevent people like me from reaching in, grabbing something, and ducking out. Which, well, sucks because your stuck with a cheap copy of something you can’t even really sell unless you find a dumb as hell pawn shop owner. Not that those are exactly in short supply but…
Luckily, the odds of the Georgestown Museum faking an entire mummy are rather low. I mean they could, but I’m pretty sure no part of town has enough money for that on a dime. I put my duffle bag on the floor and looked over the body. The security had, I admit, been a bit of a hassle to work around. A cruder sort would’ve just conked him hard on the head. A smarter sort might have hacked the cameras or something.
Me? I just dropped something in his drink, let it run its course. Walked in, turned off the cameras, walked out. Kept my mask on just in case I show up on the news.
It was cold, probably an extra layer of preservative or something. The sarcophagus looked small on the news—it wasn’t like any that I’d seen before. It was only about four feet long, two feet wide, looked like some sort of big egg. Unscrewing the top of the glass took some special tools—and that wasn’t accounting for clicking the motion alarm underneath.
I figured the thing was pretty solid, pretty heavy. I’d considered trying to pop it open and moving just the mummy—but probably that’d break in the bag. Still. I had to check, before I made off with it—if the sarcophagus was just an empty box, well. That would be bad for any follow up work or pay.
The lid was a thinner than I expected—but I got a good grip on the cold stone, and with some scratching managed to lift it up. And there he was—curled up like a babe, thin as a chicken. His hands were clasping…something close to his chest.
It was shiny, whatever it was. Looked like some sort of…emerald maybe. I leaned down to get a better look at it. That’s when I realized it was looking at me. Empty eyes, staring at me.
This story hit the actual drama towards the end. I realized too late that something like the Autopsy of Jane Doe—a film I forgot until writing this—would actual serve much better than a crime procedural. If or when I rewrite this, that’s probably the direction I’ll lean into more. Next time, we delve into secret gatherings seen at night—and what they might leave behind!