The alarm screeched to life, snapping me from slumber and back into the reality I usually sought to escape. I hated everyday life, as it usually
brought me more questions than answers in my search for historical truths. Today was different though. Today was a day of importance. Today was the
day many of us had waited a long time for.
Shaking my head to clear the cobwebs, I thought back, going over my lessons in Egyptian history. Though my vision was a bit blurred from a nasty
headache, I managed to pull together enough working brain cells to get some coherent thoughts going, even through the jet lag.
It had been three hundred years since anyone outside of the Egyptian Society for Cultural Preservation had been allowed to set foot on the Giza
plateau. Ever since those crazy vandals used dynamite to blow open a hole between the paws of the Great Sphinx back in the early 21st century, the
Egyptians had closed the whole area. All because of some nonsense about an Atlantean Hall of Records being hidden under the Sphinx.
Everyone knows now that the Egyptians themselves built the thing from the ground up. They’d debunked all the old theories about watermarks and
erosion, theories about older civilizations, and other crazy talk. All that remained was the accepted chronology of the dynasties that led to the
creation of the Sphinx and the Great Pyramid. This was the stuff we had proof of. Everything else was outlawed after the Desecration of 2011, as they
referred to it. Lame name, but maybe it sounded better before it was translated. Had to inspire something somehow, I guess. Nobody wanted to be lumped
in with those idiots who damaged a global cultural treasure anyway, which was what happened to anyone who espoused the more radical beliefs out there.
A knock at the door snapped me from my daydreams and memories. The door swung open and Leah, my usual study partner, popped her head in, blonde hair
flowing like she’d just come from a salon. How she managed to look so good, even with the time change on a trip to Cairo, I can’t figure out.
“Wake up sleepy-head! You don’t want to miss out on our date with destiny now, do you?” She always had that grin, like the cat that ate the
canary. It was like she was somehow always one step ahead of me, even when I was supposedly giving her information from a class she’d missed.
I didn’t bother trying to figure it out today. No time to do anything but run a comb through my short red locks and brush my teeth before grabbing
coffee on the way to the mag-rail platform across the street. By the time I got downstairs, Leah had coffee and was waiting for me. Once again, she
was one step ahead of me. I shook my head as I saw her there in her mandatory white exam uniform. She looked like she was ready to hit a runway in
Paris, and I was barely conscious. Go figure.
We made small talk on the train, and eventually the talk turned to the day’s events. We were two of the lucky 16 student archaeologists allowed to
tour the Giza plateau this week. To say we were like giddy school kids would be an understatement. This was a dream come true for anyone who studied
“You know, Matt, I haven’t seen you this happy since that night you and Bethany sneaked off after campus curfew,” Leah teased.
With a groan, I replied “Yeah hopefully there won’t be any embarrassing holo-pics of me falling down a flight of steps on the way out this time
With a hum and gentle chime to alert us of our destination, the car came to a stop at the restricted Giza Station of the Cairo Mag-Line. This was it.
No foreigners, and for that matter not many Egyptians, had been allowed to set foot on the sandy plain of the plateau in three centuries. We were now
among the few.
We stepped out onto the platform and were greeted by Dr. Thomas Henry Cain, our professor and a close friend of the current chairman of the ESCP, Dr.
Ali Muhammad. Dr. Cain was obviously just as thrilled as we were, his white beard barely concealing his expression of utter joy at the sight before
us. It gave me chills to look out and see the Pyramid of Khufu and the Great Sphinx beyond that.
“Marvelous, isn’t it Mr. McCormack?” he queried softly in his thick, British accent. “Let’s see what Ali has to show us today. Shall we?”
He gestured for Leah and I step into an elevator off to the side and followed us in.
The silence was deafening, as all three of us seemed afraid to make too much noise, in fear of waking up from the dream we were obviously sharing.
The tour was nothing short of amazing, as Dr. Muhammad led us, along with the other 20 students and professors, around to see the Great Sphinx and the
road from the Great Pyramid. It was a miraculous day, confirming every lesson we’d ever had about the state of disrepair the monuments could fall
into if not for their strict preservation. Everything had been restored to perfection. It was a glorious site for us all.
As we reached the Sphinx, Dr. Muhammad informed us that he had a very rare treat in store for us. We were going to be able to walk along the outside
of the giant monument itself. My heart and breathing stopped for a few moments, I swear, and I believe that even Leah was speechless for once. Once
the hovercraft reached our destination alongside the paws, we were allowed to disembark, getting the closest to the Great Sphinx that anyone had even
dreamed of in nearly three hundred years.
I moved my hand up to the side of one paw, holding it a few inches away before Dr. Muhammad gave me a smiling nod of approval. My fingers grazed the
surface ever-so-slightly before my hand came to rest along the side. It was breathtaking. I was touching a piece of the ancient world. My hand rested
where Pharaohs and Kings had gazed for centuries. A hand on my shoulder soon brought me back to the present
“Mr. McCormack,” said Dr. Cain in a hushed tone, “I suggest you take a step back, lest anything happen to you when the real show begins.”
A puzzled look crossed my face as he led me away to the front of the limestone monument where the others had congregated. “The real… wait… Dr.
Cain, what are you talking about?”
He simply smiled as if I had just asked for extra homework or something. “You’ll see, my boy. You’ll see.” He clapped his hand on my shoulder
and walked around with me to Leah.
“Miss Perkins, would you be so kind as to fetch my camera bag from the hovercraft?” The gentle old man pleasantly asked Leah.
Leah returned a few moments later, handing him the black nylon bag we’d seen him carrying on all of our trips together. “Here you go, Colonel,”
she laughed. They had some strange inside joke about him resembling a 20th century restaurant owner. I wished they’d let me in on the joke, but that
was part of their shared obsession with the 20th, I suppose. In yet another way, Leah was one step ahead of me.
With that, the professor excused himself to examine part of the surface with his camera, part of a deal he had made with Dr. Muhammad, I suppose.
We spent the better part of an hour there at the Sphinx before we were informed that it was time for us to return. Our first day was nearly finished,
and Dr. Muhammad informed us that the plateau would be closed completely once the sun set.
As we made our way back to the hovercraft, I noticed that Dr. Cain’s ever-present camera bag was missing once more. “Ah yes, the bag,” he said,
acting the part of an absent-minded professor as he patted himself down and looked around. “I’m sure it will turn up.”
“Miss Perkins, would you be so kind as to tell me the time, my dear?” The kindly old man looked to Leah with a smile.
She glanced at her watch, replying, “Yes sir, the time is now….”
Her words were drowned out by the deafening roar of explosives breaking away at limestone, as we all turned and ducked down in shock.
All except Dr. Cain.
“I’d say it’s about 16:45, right?” We all just looked at him, dumbfounded, as he laughed, “Show time it is then! Bloody good thing I left
the camera bag back there. Might have been messy otherwise….” His words trailed off as he turned and walked calmly back in the direction of the
Sphinx, seemingly oblivious to the carnage around us as security teams and ESCP workers swarmed the area.
Leah and I dashed after him once we realized what he’d done. And that was when we saw his handiwork.
There was an opening between the paws. The Sphinx itself seemed to have a doorway of sorts right between the paws. I was speechless. Leah grabbed my
arm and led me closer to the opening with that same smile she always had. We could just see Dr. Cain disappearing down into the opening, dust still
floating through the air.
“Did… did you know?” I managed to ask as she all but dragged me down the freshly-uncovered steps. I tripped and stumbled as always, happy that
the only camera we had was apparently lost in the blast.
“I know lots of things, Matt."
As my eyes adjusted I began to see that we were in a large chamber of some kind. It looked like it was carved straight from the bedrock itself,
decorated in a strange mix of columns and other architectural features seemingly taken from a variety of ancient worlds.
“What is this?” I asked, completely dumbfounded.
“Mr. McCormack, this would be the fabled Atlantean Hall of Records, stripped of all records it would appear though.” Dr. Cain looked around the
room, flashlight in hand. “Quite marvelous though, and well worth the trouble we’re in.”
That’s when I heard voices behind us, and turned to see who was coming. It was Dr. Muhammad, and from the looks of things, he wasn’t happy.
“Thomas, what have you done?” asked the distraught head of the ESCP. “Do you know the trouble you’ve stirred up? Do you know the position
you’ve put me in?”
At that point I noticed the other men following him in, dressed in the sandy fatigues of the ESCP Security Force. With their weapons drawn, I knew
things weren’t going very well, but still Dr. Cain seemed unimpressed.
“Ali,” he said, placing his hand on the larger man’s shoulder, “don’t you see that this is the truth I’ve been seeking all my life?” He
urged Dr. Muhammad, “Now we can get historical facts straight and end all this nonsense of Egyptian supremacy that we’ve both known was a farce,
old friend. Let the truth be known and….”
“Thomas, it’s not my decision to make, my friend.” Dr. Muhammad seemed visibly hurt by his old friend’s actions. “I’m sorry,” he said,
turning away for the doorway to the outside as a tear ran down his cheek.
Dr. Cain was gunned down by the ESCP Security team, his frail and lifeless body falling to the floor in front of a marble altar. Leah and I were both
led away for questioning, as the ESCP wanted to determine who else was involved in this fiasco. Leah wasn’t smiling the only time I saw her after
I was eventually able to convince them that I had no prior knowledge of Dr. Cain’s plans but because I had “seen too much” I was still sentenced
to death as a terrorist and co-conspirator in the Desecration of 2311.
Maybe I should have been more curious all my life. Maybe I should have asked more questions. Sometimes I think it might have kept me being on the
trip, but then I realize that I would have wanted to have a shot at being on equal terms with Leah finally. Now neither one of us is smiling, as I
wait for my death.
I have to wonder if hers was first though, and if I’ll die, still a step behind her as always.