|Time Wars & other SciFi Tales|
by Gordon Rowlinson
|Read more John from Texas stories!|
Sometimes life doesn't give you the needed warning signs. It's like termites secretly eating and destroying a home or a beautiful piece of wood from within. One day you think you have something of value. The next day you have something that is rotted and disgusting. That's how it was when the unsuspecting doom fell on me and destroyed my life.
I'm from Euless, Texas—some call it Useless, Texas, and that is very accurate. The useless, simple, small town life was the perfect life for me. I had no big worries. I always had good friends I could kick back with. Sometimes a pretty girl would like me enough to go out with me. I did have long-term plans to grow up and get a real job in Dallas. However I figured I could go to college and delay the responsibility of the real world for a while. I had just started my first year of college.
As the books, beer and baseball games tended to chew up my savings, I took a part-time job south of the city at Safe Self Storage. At the time, it seemed like the perfect job. I was left alone a lot and could goof off. I could schedule my work hours around my classes. Now I wish I had never set foot in that hellish, repugnant place.
On my first day on the job, Paul, the pudgy son of the pompous, profit-hungry owner, asked me to re-input the new ID information of storage room 1913. Room 1913 was in the premium section of the areas and had temperature control and an extra rent charge.
While scarfing down a huge bacon and cheese Big Mac with fries, he said, "Mr. Smith died of a heart attack two months ago. The new owner who inherited all the stuff in the room is Tom Smith--his brother. This is his ID info."
I inputted the information and didn't think any more about it. A week later, Tom Smith made an appearance at Safe Self Storage. I'll never forget him. He was a little old guy—at least 40. He pulled up in his Ford pickup that had "Smith Brothers Antiques" on the side door. He was having trouble with the vehicle electronic gate at the entrance, so I went out of the office to manually lift the gate.
He seemed nervous and talked quickly as if he were on drugs and I was a suspicious cop who had just pulled him over. He babbled about how his brother "collected some crazy, dangerous shit." Then he thanked me for opening the gate.
After only a few minutes, Mr. Smith was back at the exit gate. He seemed to be in a hurry to leave and drove recklessly out of the parking lot spraying gravel on the sidewalk. This was the only time the mysterious Mr. Smith ever visited Safe Self Storage.
Six months later, I was going through the delinquent accounts, and I came across Tom Smith. The account was five months late. He had only made one payment in April on room 1913. I called the phone number to inquire when he could bring his account up to date.
"Hello, may I speak to Tom Smith?"
There was a pause on the line and then, "Who is this?"
"This is Safe Self Storage."
"Tom has been missing for several months. There was a break in at his home and there was blood around...but no one found the body. Please don't call again." Then the line went dead.
The call rattled me. I should have put all this new information into the computer, but I was distracted by Bernie. Bernie the burnout, who was a guy without a personality, came in and started talking on and on and on about the lunatic things he did last night. I made an excuse and left the office.
Two months later, I ran across the Smith account again when I got stuck with an extra job. Julie left work early and dumped on me the lengthy job of updating the records. Julie was great looking, but she was always too stuck on herself to talk to me or to anyone else. Another problem she had at work was she never did any work. The only reason she held her job was she wore tight clothes. Apparently, that was enough to impress Paul, the manager.
As I went through the long list of data input, I noticed Mr. Smith had not made his required rent payments to room 1913. Being dead can do that. Since the account was past due for seven months, legally Safe Self Storage was the new owner of the contents of Room 1913 and could sell the room contents at a public auction. I inputted the new room status into the computer.
"Let's check out that room." Paul's sudden voice directly behind me made me jump. I knew he was right as we were the new owners. It was time to investigate the situation, but I had no desire to find out what was in that room. There was something in that room that spooked the late Smith brothers.
When Paul opened the door, a musty odor like the smell of a tomb drifted out. Something very ancient and unnatural was stored here. When I turned on the cheap overhanging light, we saw that the room was full of large ordinary looking cardboard boxes. Paul opened the box closest to the door. As he pulled back the cardboard, we both saw the answer to the Smith mystery. Packed in the cardboard box and wrapped in yellow newspaper that was twenty years old, was what looked like Middle Eastern museum pieces. We went through the others and box after box had priceless gold goblets, headdresses and other artifacts.
"Maybe this was stolen from one of those looted museums in Iraq," said Paul. But I sensed what was cheaply stashed in this room was more valuable than that. One of the things I noticed carelessly stashed in a box was a piece of paper. I could barely make out the faded words, "Akhenhamun Main Chamber." It was an inventory of some kind.
"Oh my gosh," said Paul.
I turned around. Paul had just opened up a large wooden box. Inside with all the ancient gold inlays and ornate paint was the burial container of an ancient Egyptian mummy.
It was getting late. We were so spooked we didn't want to see anything more.
Paul quickly closed the boxes and we both left the storage room. When Paul locked the room, he told me not to tell anyone. At 5 o'clock, when I left Paul to close up, I could tell something was wrong. I just couldn't focus and put all the pieces together yet.
The next morning when I pulled into the parking lot, there was a convention of cop cars gathered at the entrance. A big beefy cop who looked as if he never ate anything but donuts told me, "There was a terrible accident last night, kid. The electronic gate malfunctioned and crushed the manager as he was walking through the entrance."
I found it hard to believe that a gate that usually didn't work when it's was supposed to and had safety features in it, had malfunctioned and killed Paul.
That afternoon, I skipped class and went into the library. The librarian was very helpful in helping me find information on Akhehamun—an ancient Egyptian pharaoh.
Akhehamun's tomb was found near the Valley of the Kings in 1956. Since the explorer who unearthed the tomb died from a stroke shortly after the discovery, an unfounded rumor was started that there was a curse on the treasures of the tomb. The French museum that exhibited the Akhehamun mummy and tomb treasures burned down in 1965. The ownership passed quickly from 1965-75 when it was donated to a museum in New York. That museum was also hit by a terrible fire. A museum in Boston took ownership in 1975. However before an exhibit was shown to the public, the organization suddenly changed its mind and sold the exhibit to an unknown collector. There was no information on the mummy from 1975 to current.
I couldn't sleep at all that night as I was afraid that if I fell asleep the mummy would sneak up on me and kill me.
I was supposed to open at Safe Self Storage that morning, but I was late. Bernie was scheduled to open with me and was late too. We met in the parking lot.
"Did you hear about Julie?" Bernie said as he got out of his beat-up Ford.
"No and don't tell me," I said even though I knew he was going to tell me anyway.
"She died last night. She was taking a bath and dropped a plugged-in hair dryer into the tub."
I instinctively knew then that it had started and that we all were in danger.
"Bernie—leave town today if you have a brain in your head. You may end up with some kind of accident too."
Burned out Bernie's brain was too slow to see the big picture. Without another word, I forgot about work and walked back to my car. I drove home and I took my father's extra credit card that was in the hall desk. I left a quick note attempting to explain. I stole my brother's Camaro as I needed something with a V-8. He'd always said he'd kill me if I touched his car, but I was more concerned with something that was already trying to kill me. I needed to put a lot of space between me and Euless, Texas. I grabbed my ID, a diet Coke and the morning newspaper on the way out the door.
I drove south at 70 miles an hour.
It didn't take me long to reach Houston, and I drove past the city without stopping. Fear can be a great motivator. The whole time I kept looking in the rear view mirror.
My improvised plan was to be on the run for the short term. I figured I was a target until a new owner or organization took ownership of the damned mummy exhibit. I speculated and hoped that the curse of the mummy would then be passed onto the new owner.
At midnight, I reached the Mexican border. I crossed into Mexico and reached some small town that I never heard of and didn't want to remember. I saw a sleazy-looking motel and pulled into the dirt parking lot. As I stumbled into the motel office—if you could call it an office—I realized how tired I was.
There was a creepy dude behind the counter who was missing half his teeth. Since the only Spanish phrase I remembered from my high school Spanish class was "Yo no hablo Espanol," it was fortunate that the guy without teeth was able to speak in broken English. I had only $55 on me so I used the credit card. The creepy dude behind the counter, asked me in broken English if I was hungry. I suddenly realized how hungry I was and ordered four tacos.
The creep quickly rustled up four Tacos on a cheap paper plate and charged me $4. I knew food from a dirty joint like this could make me sick, but I took a chance and took them back to my room.
The room was a joke. The walls were bare. In the corner was an old flea-bitten mattress. The only other bit of furniture was a chair that tipped over when you sat in it. I sat on the bed and read the newspaper from Euless. I dug through the back pages and found the local news story that I was looking for.
The mummy had been in a wild and vengeful mood last night—crazy to kill. There had been was a huge fire at the home of Paul's parents. Paul's parents, who were the owners of Safe Self Storage, died in the hellish inferno. I already knew that Julie was murdered last night. By now, Bernie the burnout might be bumped off too.
In disgust I threw the paper in a corner and wolfed down the tacos. I didn't realize at the time how tired I was and that I needed something in my stomach. But after eating the tacos, I somehow felt more tired. In fact, I felt drowsy. I lost balance and fell off the bed. As I was rolling on the dirty floor, I knew something was wrong.
The flimsy, unpainted wooden door suddenly burst open and the toothless office creep and this other Mexican guy walked in. They were laughing. I knew I was drugged and was being robbed, but I couldn't move. I realized then that all along they saw me as a young, easy mark and set me up. All the time as I watched the two creeps rifle through my stuff, I was more frightened of being unconscious when the mummy caught up with me than I was of the Mexican dudes. The last thing I remember before I passed out was the office dude taking my wallet and saying "Gringo dinero."
It was mid-day when and I came to and the drug wore off. The sun was streaming through the door and creating a blazing hot south of the border day. I wondered if the Nile river region of Egypt was this unbearable. I eventually managed to get to my feet. Being confused as to what had happened, I wandered over to the motel office.
There was blood all over the office and the place had been ransacked. Strangely the bodies of the two thieves were nowhere to be found. I assumed the mummy had found its way to the cheap motel. As these unlucky creeps had my wallet, ID, and anything else I had of value, it had killed them. It was a case of mistaken identity.
I thought of the historical information I had read in the library. Many times, the ancient Egyptians buried servants in the tombs with the pharaohs. Maybe here south of the border, the mummy can now find a final resting place for himself and his treasures. Perhaps he has buried himself with the two unlucky Mexican dudes.
The Camaro's car keys were on the counter. Picking them up and stepping over a pool of blood, I opened the cash register. I took $50 and like an emotionless zombie I walked out into the mid-day heat of the parking lot. I got into the Camaro and with a spray of dust headed back to the main road. As soon as I hit the main road, I headed north for home and hope. I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. All I wanted was to return to my former simple, mundane, small town life.
As I hit the Texas border, every five minutes or so I would glance in the rear-view mirror—just in case. Like ridding a home of termites, one can never be sure that the problem won't return. Can you ever be completely sure that the curse of the mummy's tomb is gone? I guess it's not so bad. Besides we all are slowly growing old and looking behind us wondering if the grim reaper is catching up. I guess I'll be looking behind me for the rest of my life.
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That was funny-- I loved it. An unusual mummy story.
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|Time Wars & other SciFi Tales|
by Gordon Rowlinson