The storm clouds overhead appeared out of nowhere. The heavy drops came down almost instantaneously. Looking around for shelter, I realized I was just outside The Brooklyn Museum. I made it to the top of the stairs before the skies opened up. To my pleasure, there was an exhibit on Mummies, a subject to which I have an affinity.
The gallery emulated the inside of a tomb, displaying an impressive collection of jars, coins, shrines, masks, glassworks and more. I was enjoying myself immensely. As I approached a case of pottery shards, I smelled a familiar fragrance in the air, one that brought back memories from long ago. I felt lightheaded. The lights started to flicker, probably from the storm, and the room went dark.
“Lie down here,” a voice said from behind me. Someone guided me to another room and helped me onto a table. The room started spinning and I laid down.
An Egyptian Priest stood at the foot of the table. “Hello, my son,” he said as he removed my clothes. “The preparation will begin by washing you with scented palm wine.”
I hadn’t smelled anything like that since, when? I tried to remember. It had been so long ago. And yet, yes, it was the same fragrance that I had smelled earlier today in the museum’s Egyptian Gallery.
I tried to say something but the words didn’t come out. Four young women appeared. They rinsed my body and applied more fragrant oils. They left the room as two young boys brought in strips of fine linens and placed them at the foot of the table. The Priest picked up a one of the linens and started to wrap it around my head.
“What are you doing?” I asked.
“I’m preparing you for your journey to the afterlife,” he answered. “The Pharaoh has decided that you will replace his son in the tomb.”
“What? No. Wait!”
I don’t know how long it had been since I had passed out, but found myself lying on a cold metal table when I awoke. Quickly, I sat up and looked around. There was a man sitting at a desk furiously writing. The room was sterile, no pictures on the white walls, a bookcase stacked with books on Egyptian Antiquities, and more metal tables lined up next to mine.
“Excuse me,” I said to the man at the desk. “May I ask who you are and where I am?”
The man turned around and looked at me, beaming with pleasure and said, “My name is Dr. Mohammed Khan, curator of the Mummy Chamber at the Brooklyn Museum. You passed out in the Egyptian Gallery. The guard contacted me and I brought you here.”
Dr. Khan approached me, touched my leathery face and continued, “It is very fortunate for you that I was notified. Your bandages are getting brittle and I was able to pour some oils on them so they wouldn’t crack. Can you tell me what happened? If you had been taken to the hospital, I don’t know what they would have done with you being that you are …, um …, shall we say …, dead?”
“I came into the museum to get out of the rain. I decided to look around until it cleared up. I walked into the where you found me and smelled a familiar scent. That’s when I passed out.”
“I would love to hear your story,” said Dr. Khan.
“I would love to tell it,” I said. “I’m getting tired of hiding my identity.”
“May I ask if it is okay if I record you?” Dr. Khan asked.
“Sure. No problem.” I said. “I’m sure you’ll use your discretion on how you share what I’m going to tell you.”
“Of course, my good man,” the curator said, turning on the camera that was on the wall. He adjusted the focus and sound so he could see and hear me well.
I found the curator to be a very methodical man, ageless in his own way. His thin mustache and olive colored aging skin made him look older than I believe he actually was. His black, thinning hair was slicked back and came to a widow’s peak in the front. The wire frame glasses sat high on the bridge of his nose and gave him an all-business, serious appearance.
“We’re almost ready to start,” Dr. Khan said. “Would you mind if I interview you?”
“That would be fine.” I was a little nervous about this, so I hoped that having him ask questions would help.
“Ready,” he declared as he sat in front of me. “Just face the camera.”
I did as I was instructed. The curator stood in front of me, facing the camera and then turned it on.
“This is Dr. Mohammed Khan, curator of the Brooklyn Museum. I’m about to do an interview that will be very enlightening to the modern world.” He stepped away from the camera and sat across from me.
“What is your name?” Dr. Khan asked.
“My name is Asru,” I said.
“How old are you?” he asked.
“I was born in 420 BC.” I said. “I guess that means I am two thousand four hundred thirty-five years old.”
“And how old were you when you were abducted?”
“Seventeen, if memory serves correctly.”
“My, my. You must have seen a lot of changes in your life,” Dr. Khan said into the camera more than to Asru. “Can you tell us what happened when you were abducted?”
“Sure,” I said. “My whole family was killed because my father had stolen a gem from the Pharaoh’s son’s chambers. There was a fight and my father stabbed the boy. Unfortunately, the boy died. The Pharaoh ordered his execution as well as the rest of his family.”
“How unfair,” the curator responded.
Yes, it was,” I said. “My father was not a decent man. We were stoned by his guards, mummified, buried in a cave and sent to the underworld where our hearts were judged. My father and the rest of my family were found to be evil and sentenced to wander the underworld for eternity. I was found to be to be worthy to live for eternity in the beautiful Field of Reeds. As I separated from my family, someone grabbed me from behind, bandaged my eyes and mouth shut and whisked me away. I struggled, but I couldn’t get away. I woke up in the Pharaoh’s palace in a glorious bedroom.”
“Why was that?”
“The Pharaoh decided to fool the gods and switch his son’s body with someone already judged to be pure. The Priests prepared me to be buried in the Royal family’s Pyramid. His son was to be buried with my family.”
“What was the Field of Reeds like?” Dr. Khan asked as his eyes shimmered with excitement.
I was uncomfortable with Dr. Khan’s response and said, “I have no idea.”
“Pharaoh’s wife, the boy’s mother, walked in with the High Priestess just as I was being put in the first coffin. The mother did not want her son disgraced and had the High Priestess place a curse on me, invalidating my purity.”
“What was the curse?” Dr. Khan asked.
“I can still hear the incantation that damned me to live for eternity in the world of Living Man, never to attain eternal rest. At first I thought this was a blessing, but after years of wondering the earth and observing human behavior, I realized that I was doomed to watch humanity keep trying to destroy itself. It is heart-wrenching to see. Wars, plagues, and famine have made me miserable.”
“I’m sorry,” the curator said.
“But the gods led me to you, Dr. Khan. I have been looking for someone who will help me leave this world and continue on my journey to the afterlife.”
“What do you need from me, my son?”
“I need you to kill me again. To send me to a place of rest so I’m not wandering this world forever. My soul aches for peace.”
“I can’t do that. That would be murder.”
“But I’m already dead.”
“Why me?” he asked.
“I realized I have read your articles in the Smithsonian Magazine. You wrote about your desire to experience the mummification process and this is probably your only chance to fulfill your dream.”
He stopped the camera and asked, “How would you like to die?”
“Poison me so my soul will be able to find my body intact and I can go to the afterlife.”
I knew that the curator was eager to experience the ancient Egyptian burial process. That’s exactly why I had feigned my demise.
“I appreciate your gift, young man. I will begin after we finish this interview.”
The curator turned the camera back on.