There are fates worse than death…
Hello, this is the third chapter in my serialisation of my latest novel, Accidental Immortal, on my blog. While for the first week it will be published every day, after the first seven posts they will be published four times a week so that the serialisation will be completed at the same time as on Wattpad, if not a little sooner!
If you would like to start from the beginning, please head over to chapter one. There is also a contents list at the bottom of each post.
Chapter 3 – LYNSEY ON DUAT
Lynsey woke groaning with a splitting headache. It felt like her brain was trying to escape the confines of her skull. Smiling at the mental image she placed her hand on the cool, was that marble? …floor and rose slowly on to one elbow, wincing at every movement. Suddenly she started sneezing uncontrollably. She reached into her jeans and pulled out an old tissue, cursing the fact she’s forgotten to put a new pack in her bag before she left again. Each sneeze made her head feel like it would fall off until she squeezed her nose tightly and the attack subsided. Tentatively she pressed her temples with her hand and massaged where it hurt the most. What had happened? Her vision, never the best was very blurry and she had to blink several times to try and make it clearer. This was not home and definitely not a hospital. The image of the shops obliterated by a blue-white light flashed in her memory as she looked around.
“What the…?” She breathed, craning her head around. She was in a large hall with walls shaped like a pyramid. Where was she?
She rose stumbling on to her feet, nearly tripping on her bag strap. She righted herself and grabbed the offending strap with relief, At least she had her mobile. Every part of her ached and her head pounded with renewed vigour. Feeling woozy, she stumbled forward a few steps until she came up to a cabinet where she could steady herself. She closed her eyes for a moment and when she opened them again her vision cleared a little in the gloom. Where was the light coming from? Every detail was murky and she could just make out windows high up near the top of the apex. Am I dead? She thought. The pain belied that course of thinking.
Lynsey pulled out her phone from one of the front pockets and swore as it showed no phone or Wi-Fi signal. She sighed and let her hand drop. Well that was no use, she could be anywhere then! She sagged against the cabinet, wallowing in confusion. She couldn’t stay here all day. Still unsteady, she straightened her back and moved towards a set of huge ornate bronze doors at the far side of the hall. Her eyes were getting used to the dark and she could make out that the floor beneath her changed from bronze to black granite shot with dark green. She glanced back and saw the bronze where she had woken up had a circle with a motif similar to the door.
A hundred thoughts jostled in her mind. Where was she? What was this place? What if whoever had brought her here was behind that door? She twirled her hair between her fingers with unconscious unease as she crept forward. Her sneakers squeaked on the floor, making her jump with the sound. Suddenly, it was almost too funny and she began to chuckle to herself until she burst out laughing at how absurd the situation was. This was so surreal. “A minute ago I was standing at a bus stop in Enfield, now I’m in some sort of pyramid? How does that even happen!” Come to think of it, her feet weren’t hurting anymore. She experimentally twisted her foot in a small circle. No pain! Well at least that was something.
As she reached the doors she was able to better make out the relief etched in the bronze in the gloom. There was an Egyptian king standing with bandages around his leg, carrying some sort of whip. Lynsey racked her brain for the documentary she’d seen last week. That was it! Osiris. But he was a God, not a Pharaoh. She traced the outline of the whip and dust caked her fingers. Either they weren’t into cleaning or this door hadn’t been opened in a while. She pressed the door and it creaked open to reveal a long corridor. As she pondered the even gloomier corridor, every horror film she had ever seen flitted through her mind but as she imagined flesh eating mummies shuffling towards her, the passage began to light up with a soft glow emanating from lights fashioned to look like torches hung high on the walls. Numerous doors were revealed on each side of the hallway.
Before she stepped through she spotted some shelving just to the left of the doors. On the dark wooden shelves, she noticed a dull gleam near the bottom. She stooped closer and bent down to have a better look. There was a small yellow bracelet in the far corner at the bottom as if it had been forgotten. She paused and reached forward to pick it up. It was beautiful. Lynsey held the delicate bracelet in her palm, testing its weight. It had to be gold. Its faint lustre called to her. Lynsey ran her finger along the two tiny symbols of a crook and flail on the outside face. That was the same symbol that had been on the floor and door. On impulse she slid the jewellery over her wrist and twisted her arm to admire it.
Ow! She jerked her arm and scrambled to pull the bracelet off. It moved an inch but it was stuck. She pushed gently but it didn’t hurt anymore, then harder until she pushed with all her strength but it still wouldn’t come off. She didn’t want it there! She began to sob and was about to smash the metal against the floor when she stopped to look closer at where the bracelet had hurt her. Where she had first put the bracelet on her wrist, there were five bloody pinpricks in a circle. Did it inject her with something?
Rising to her feet, a loud squeal suddenly filled Lynsey’s hearing, bringing her to her knees again. She clasped her hands around her ears in pain but the sound lowered in frequency until she was able to bring them down again, wiping tears from her eyes with her sleeve in the same movement. A smooth voice emanated from all around her.
Lynsey whirled but the room was empty. She let her hands drop to her sides.
“I am your personal guide to Duat. How may I be of assistance?”
“Where are you?”
“I am the sum of billions of piconites which are coursing through your physiology as we speak. My mistake, we are now in control. I am in your body Lynsey.”
“Control?” Lynsey squeaked. Panic began to thunder inside Lynsey’s thoughts as she picked up on the one word that stood out. “You have control over my body?”
“Indeed, how are we to repair your body or advise if we cannot control?” The voice said calmly. “I believe we should move out of the reception hall now. There appears to be no welcoming party to greet you. They must have forgotten your arrival.”
“Who must have forgotten? Do you know where we are?”
“Of course. We are in Duat. I was created to be the guide for priests who enter this realm. Clearly this did not happen but I was programmed to serve the person who wears the bracelet. That would be you.”
Relieved to finally get an answer, Lynsey homed in on the place name. “Where is Duat? Is it in Scotland? I haven’t heard of it but then my geography was never that good.”
“Duat is the world ruled by Osiris. The senior high priest has named himself Osiris and ruler of this land.”
“Osiris? As in Ancient Egypt?”
There was a brief pause and then the voice replied. “Indeed.“
“You are telling me we are in Ancient Egypt?” Her voice was rising in pitch again.
“No, I said we are in Duat which is ruled by Osiris.”
This conversation was going nowhere, Lynsey tried a different tack. “How do I get out of here?”
“I thought you would never ask.” The voice was accompanied by overtones of warm orange and pinks swirling in her mind. The cadence soothed Lynsey’s nerves.
“Are you doing something to calm me down?”
“Of course, stress is not a good thing for your health.”
Strangely enough Lynsey found she didn’t mind. She followed its directions passing through passage after passage with low ceilings. Featureless brick walls followed others until she reached an open archway filled with light. Lynsey shaded her eyes and blinked rapidly but even so it took her about half a minute before her eyes adjusted to the harsh desert light.
It was the heat that hit her first. A suffocating wall of dry air enveloped her. She hastily retreated, taking her jumper off to tie it around her waist. Her long cotton shirt should protect her from the sun she reasoned. She went outside again and slowly shapes began to form. There were mountains in the far distance topped with a few trees and behind her, she gasped as she turned. Five pyramids filled her vision.
“It took four attempts to complete the procedure before they managed to send only the contents of the pyramids not the pyramids as well.” Came the voice from inside her head. “In the fourth attempt they were able to calibrate the measurements so that all incoming goods and visitors would be sent to the one pyramid. The fifth pyramid was built here.”
“Where is everyone?” Asked Lynsey. “If the Ancient Egyptians were able to send people and goods to here wherever here is, what happened to them?”
The voice went quiet for a moment. “There is nothing in my programming to suggest what might have happened. The culture was thriving when I was created. I would have been assigned to a high priest and they would have been expecting a new pyramid of goods and slaves or I would not exist.”
“They had slaves?”
“Of course, when the priests designed this new world they needed engineers for building, farmers for crops and of course slave labourers to build. No priest could be expected to do this work themselves. There were slaves from across what you call Europe, Asia and Africa.”
“Helllooooo.” Shouted Lynsey, losing interest in what he was saying. There had to be someone around!
There was no reply.
“There is no one here.”
“It would appear so.” replied the voice.
“No shit Sherlock.” That voice was starting to get annoying. “Do you have a name?” asked Lynsey suddenly realising that she didn’t know what to call the thing.
“I can be anything you want me to be.” came the reply.
Lynsey thought for a moment, looking at the desolate ground around her. The voice was soothing but she couldn’t tell if it was meant to be a man or woman. “Are you a man or women?” Then she laughed at the ridiculous question. Knowing what he would say before he even said it. Why would it matter? It’s not as if she was going to date the voice in her head!
“I am whatever you want me to be.”
“How about Pico?”
“That is acceptable to me.”
She nodded and then felt silly. There was no one to see her here. Lynsey swallowed and realized her throat was starting to get dry. “I’m getting thirsty. Do you know where they might keep some food or drink?”
“Indeed, I have a full knowledge of working practices but given the lack of people, we do not know how long this place has been uninhabited. Any food will have gone long ago, but the end pyramid was converted to catch water. If there has been a recent rainy season then there should be water underneath it.”
Lynsey balked, “What if there hasn’t been. I will need to drink soon.”
“There is an oasis nearby, about a few hours walk away. We can pick up some travel provisions and we should go there. From your memories, there have been no Pharaohs for hundreds of years. This place has obviously been abandoned.”
“Yes, I think so too. Wait, what. Did you just say you could read my memories?”
“Of course, I have now added everything from your memories into my data banks for analysis. It is part of my programming so that I won’t break protocol. There wasn’t much communication with Earth and these things change over time. It wouldn’t do to offend new arrivals until their status and purpose were fully known.”
“I don’t want you reading my memories.” Lynsey said bluntly,
“Unfortunately that cannot be undone now. I can discontinue access to your current thoughts and only listen to your voice and thoughts directed at me? This can be reversed at any point.”
“Look, I appreciate your help but I don’t want you in my mind. Can you get this bracelet off?”
‘Sorry Lynsey, I am working independently from the bracelet now. Even if you removed it, I would still be here. I am, in conjunction with that bracelet your universal translator.”
“I can’t get rid of you?”
“No, the only way that you would be free of me is if I choose to go. That would mean my death. As we are in my previous master’s otherworld and it is very doubtful from your memories and what we’ve seen that even if we could get back to your world, I could be removed without killing me. I must conclude to stay alive with you is the best thing for me.”
“I thought you were my guide for my well-being.”
“Your good health leads to my survival. You can be sure that I will do my very best to make sure that you stay alive and healthy. Your memories and attitudes are very interesting to me. Since I was programmed to emulate who I assimilate with I now have the same set of attitudes. You have a particularly strong will to live. Did you know that?”
The next few hours Lynsey roamed around the pyramids looking for anything that could be used to keep her alive. Pico was strangely silent during this time but he was probably analysing her memories, Lynsey thought bitterly. The rooms that had branched off the corridor in the first pyramid were large empty rooms. She had tried to ask Pico what it was for but she got no response so she shrugged and carried on looking for anything that she could take with her.
The second pyramid was smaller than the first. This one was built of limestone like the Ancient Pyramids. This must have been one of the original pyramids. She shuddered at what she might find. The bones of ancient slaves? Mummies wrapped in shrouds? She took a step forward and forced herself to walk in.
It was cooler inside the corridor. She sighed. Why couldn’t they have relocated the pyramids in lush fields with a nice lake for water? Oh no, that might actually have been sensible. She imagined that this was like where the real pyramids were, stifling heat and sand everywhere. Was that a coincidence or did they mean to relocate here?
A blessed relief after the unbearable heat of outside, she moved further down the corridor and the same lights that glowed in the previous pyramid began to light the way ahead here. They must have upgraded it from the real pyramids, she joked to herself. I think I would have heard if the Ancient Egyptians had electricity.
She passed a large empty room and noticed a small door that looked like it had been concealed in the past. Broken masonry lay strewn at its base. She pushed in and saw a room full of well-preserved tiny artefacts. Inside she had a better view. Was that a cart? A small conveyance about the size of a wheel barrow was nestled among similar sized objects. Lynsey laughed at that. Everything was tiny! The Egyptians probably thought that they would be symbols and they would be grown to their needs in the afterlife. This world was a little more literal than that! You send toy tools and they remain a toy tool. It was probably why they were still here. No one could make use of these.
The third pyramid held a few jugs and jars in rooms filled with otherwise empty shelves. Lynsey roamed the rooms, feeling like a spirit in a deserted city, looking for any food that may have been left behind but only found some hard amber sludge at the bottom of a few jars. Forgoing a taste test, Lynsey picked up a couple of the smaller empty jugs and stowed them in her bag. She worked quickly but even so it was getting dark before she had everything to her satisfaction.
Another room in a different pyramid was an Aladdin’s cave of precious items, filled with gold and jewels. She sorted through, looking for small objects. She packed a couple of exquisite brooches, necklaces and bracelets in her pockets and then filled her bag with any other jewellery that caught her attention. If she ever made her way back, she was going to be rich! Forget the lottery, she would have as much money as a small country! She stood still, jewels dripping from her hands like rain, allowing herself just a few moments to dream of the houses and cars she would buy. She began to hum as she worked. Even if she couldn’t get back, people everywhere always prized beautiful things.
Hours later, Lynsey stepped out of the third pyramid and halted mid-step. The sun hung low in the horizon but it was the twin moons that made her gasp. It was so beautiful and so … alien. She could kid herself that she was on Earth before, but this broke down all her barriers. She stared in disbelief, pushing a stray lock of hair behind her ears. She felt a breeze against her cheek and watched as clouds began to form overhead.
Lynsey kept inside the entranceway and watched the approaching storm. She swallowed convulsively and realised again she was thirsty. Pico had said the final pyramid could hold water but then she remembered the bottle she’d bought in London. There was still some water! She drained the bottle and carefully put it back in her bag jostling the hardback which was still in it. She picked it up and reluctantly set it aside in the entrance to the pyramid behind her. If she was going to survive she needed to have space for things that would keep her alive and War and Peace, although long enough to keep her attention wouldn’t cut it in a life and death situation. She would need more water if she was going to go into the desert but that could wait until the morning.
In the second pyramid she remembered there was some strange platforms that could be beds which were higher at one end than the other. They didn’t look very comfortable but they would do. Pico was still quiet so she decided to stop the night there. It would be better to find the oasis in the dark. Pico mentioned he could direct her and he probably would do that by navigating by the stars. It would be too hot to go searching by day and that storm looked ominous.
It was black by the time she stumbled back into the bed pyramid, as she thought of it. The stars were out in force but the dark clouds had quickly covered them. Lynsey stood in the shadow of the second pyramid contemplating the storm. She hadn’t recognized any of the star formations but then she’d only seen the stars as bright as this in the Planetarium. No light pollution here, she mused.
Stifling a yawn she moved into the building and chose a bed. She lay staring at the low ceiling wondering what she was going to do next. Sleepily she tried to contact Pico again.
“Is there a way back to my world?”
“I don’t know Lynsey. Does it matter? You are alive, there should be people here somewhere. Osiris ordered that settlements be created throughout the land. Some of them must have survived. You could make a life here. I know you hated your life on Earth. Here you can make a fresh new life. No one knows you. You can reinvent yourself. Wherever you go, I can translate for you. With a bit of effort you should be able to fit in anywhere here.”
“We don’t know what to expect.” Lynsey said sleepily, punching her jumper under her head to make it more comfy.”
“You didn’t on Earth.” Pico reminded her, his thoughts were mellowing to soft purples in her mind. “It’s time to sleep now. Tomorrow is another day.”