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The Book of Breathings

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posted on May, 21 2005 @ 06:00 PM
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The following short story was written by me for an english class two years ago. I had been reading a bunch of stuff about Egyptian mythology at the time, which explains the topic. I got an A on the story too, the only criticisms my prof had were about the phrase 'with the joy of a child on Christmas morning' because it didn't fit the mood of the story, and the conclusion (which I rewrote at least a dozen times) because it left out some detail (due to the rewriting; I edited out stuff I thought I'd left in).

The Book of Breathings is an Egyptian funerary document. It is basically an edited version of the famous Book of the Dead. For the Egyptian names in the story, none are real, but all took syllables or portions of real names I found, so I did a mix and match to make a few that sounded good.

The story now appears as I handed it in, except for one grammatical change in one sentence to improve readability, something I should have caught before handing it in, lol.

The Book of Breathings

Simon Moore held aloft his torch, and the darkness retreated deeper into the bowels of the ancient pyramid, and held his breath. No one had walked this hall in more than three millennia. Hieroglyphics filled the walls, running down the immense corridor, telling the magical stories of Egypt in the days of its greatest splendor, on and on, until the shadows beyond the reach of the faint orange light swallowed them whole. Dried bones crumbled to white dust with every footstep. Desiccated skulls gazed sightlessly about, whispering forbidden secrets amongst themselves, and wearing frozen leers locked in the final rictus of death.

Sarcophagi lined the walls, dozens of them, engraved with runes depicting the lives of those whom they contained within. Moore crept up to them eagerly, and read aloud in a reverent whisper. "Ra-hotep, most favored among generals. Amen-Hor, greatest of architects. Khumen-ari, nephew of the Pharaoh." The names seemed to come alive as he uttered them, filled him with a sense of excitement and power like nothing else could. His breathing quickened, his pulse raced, as the magnificent history of Egypt's forgotten peoples beckoned him onwards like a moth to a flame.

Wielding the torch like a great mace, he smote at the gloom like at a living enemy, and with each advancing stride, it yielded up more and more treasures to Moore's wide-eyed astonishment. Shining golden figurines of deities worshipped long ago reached out their arms from the cracked stone floor, brushing against his legs as he passed, if they still stood, and those who did not lay as dead and lifeless as the artisans who had so skillfully crafted them. Withered papyri littered the ground like rubbish. With infinite care, Moore slowly lifted one of them from the cold stone. Gently, he breathed upon it, and a tiny swirl of dust lifted and gradually dissipated into the fetid air, revealing a time-faded image of the solar disk of Ra. The papyrus felt as weightless in his hand as the Feather of Truth that judged the souls in the underworld. Moore then replaced the fragile papyrus beside its fellows.

Into the next chamber Moore entered. Torchlight glittered and reflected off hundreds of precious gold artifacts in perfect preservation, surrounding an ornate sarcophagus, decorated with rare gems, the glorious tale of the deceased occupant scrawled upon its closed lid. Moore wiped away thirty centuries of grime and dirt with his free hand, and coughed heavily as he breathed in the dust of ages past.

With the joy of a child on Christmas morning, Moore opened the lid of the sarcophagus, and gazed adoringly upon the shriveled, grayed mummy contained therein. One partially decayed arm reached upwards towards Moore's light, as if trying to capture the elusive rays in its unclenched hand. Under its head rested a sheaf of bound papyri like a pillow. Moore removed and examined them. Atop it was a loose sheet, a hypocephalus. Inscribed within a perfect circle, it contained tiny caricatures portraying scenes from mythology, with hieroglyphic characters ringing the edges. The title read 'The Book of Breathings,' for Khuf-ramen. A book that gave instructions to allow the deceased to breathe like the gods, and thus gain immortality. A remarkable find; no copy had ever been found from such an early time period.

Visions of grandeur filled Moore's mind. He imagined himself being accorded a heroes welcome back home, remembered forever as the finder of the greatest Egyptian tomb in history, greater even than that of Howard Carter and Tutankhamen. He dreamed of himself as a professor of Egyptology, respected around the globe for his triumphs in academia, the author of countless scholarly papers and books on his discovery, unparalleled in the history of archaeology. 'Dr. Simon Moore,' he breathed aloud, testing the wondrous words upon his lips, a paean of self-worship.

Emotions rushed through Moore, and he took a step, intending to cross the chamber to see what lay beyond. His foot cllided with something, shattering it, the sharp sound magnified by the powerful silence and the acoustics of the pyramid. An ungodly, fetid stench reeked towards his nostrils, and he covered his mouth and nose to avoid breathing it in. Looking down, Moore saw shards of ruined pottery, and, from which the awful odor exuded, a disgusting blackened blob which had once been one of Khuf-ramen's internal organs, contained within the canopic jar he had carelessly kicked over.

Anxious to avoid any more mishaps, Moore glanced about to find the other three jars he knew would be there; they would contain more of the same. He raised his torch and saw two new halls to explore. Choosing randomly, he started down the one to his left. Fifty meters down the passage, it halted in a dead end. Cursing under his breath, Moore backtracked and chose the other way.

Moore traveled down that corridor until he reached a new area, the central chamber of the pyramid, he guessed, by its towering height. A colossal statue of the jackal-headed Anubis dominated the room. An empty sarcophagus, devoid of any writing, rested at its feet. Hieroglyphics covered every other surface like wallpaper, describing scenes in the afterlife. Yellowish stone slabs large enough to be chairs surrounded a larger one resembling a table or altar were nearby, and Moore, exhausted, sat down on one, and took a long breather.

Impatience and curiosity won out over fatigue, and soon Moore climbed to his aching feet again, and set off once more to explore. A passageway led from behind the enormous Anubis and deeper into the pyramid, and Moore followed it. Then, turning a corner, he abruptly bumped into someone. Startled, he dropped his torch and the pyramid was instantly plunged into total darkness. He shrieked like a banshee until he was out of breath, then began to gasp and heave for air.

Finally, Moore calmed down, and groped in front of him with both hands, and met something solid, not fleshy. Sheepishly, he realized that it was merely a statue he had blundered into, not a person. To steady his frayed nerves, Moore took several deep breaths, until he felt he was ready to continue. He pulled a flashlight from his knapsack, and switched it on, and discovered he had blundered into Osiris, guardian of the underworld. Stepping around the inanimate stone, he took half a dozen steps, and then the floor beneath his feet suddenly gave way. He fought to recover his balance, but failed. He fell into a crevasse, crashing and caroming into the sides all the way down, landing upon his left arm. There was an audible snapping of bone.

There was no way out. It was at least fifteen feet up and nearly a vertical ascent. Escape was impossible. No rescue would come; no one knew where he was. Taking his journal from his knapsack, Moore meticulously composed his final entry. When it was complete, he returned the journal to his knapsack, where it would be safe. The sere desert heat swiftly consumed his life, and it was not long before Simon Moore breathed his last.

Three weeks later, a team of archaeologists from Moore's team finally found the tomb, and his rotting corpse within. They recovered it using pulleys and ropes. When the body had been exhumed from the pit, his journal fell from his knapsack and landed at the team leader's feet. She picked it up, and beheld the title. It took her breath away.

'The Book of Breathings', for Simon Moore.




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