The Sleeping Magician
A faint cracking sound can be heard echoing throughout the dark, empty cave. The limestone wall it came from starts to break away, something wants to come in uninvited. As the cracking continues, light pours in as a hole emerges. The sound of falling rubble reverberating throughout its interior. Another crack. Then another. Suddenly, an avalanche of rubble falls as the broken wall gives way to the light, blinding the cave’s would-be inhabitants. But of course, the cave is empty, it hadn’t seen any signs of life for what must have been a few millennia. At least that’s what Doctor Valentina Menendez thinks.
“Huh… Would you look at that, I was right,” The young researcher chimes. There’s nothing quite like an unexplored cave system, especially one like this. “I don’t think this cave was formed naturally.”
“Can we save that for later miss,” A large, muscular man holding a pickaxe leans against the opening he made. “I’ve got a lotta things to do and this road trip of yours ain’t paying much.” He gives a mean scowl. The young doctor only hired him to dig a hole, not to listen to a science lecture.
Valentina sighs, “Fine, but keep your phone close by, I might need your help later.”
The man scoffs, “Yeah, whatever you say, miss.” He leaves through the opening and turns to a young man waiting on the other side, “Your turn to babysit.”
The young man chuckles, “See you around, Trevor.” He enters the cave and looks around to witness its lacklustre interior. “This is by far the most boring cave you’ve dragged me into.” He brushes the dust off of his short, slicked hair and gives a mocking smile to Valentina, “You’d think Trevor would put a restraining order on you by now. You’ve probably asked for his help twelve times this month!”
She ignores the man, instead her focus is directed at the cave’s featureless walls. “Look at this place, not a single sign of water, no sign of erosion anywhere!” She faces him with wide eyes, “How was this place made? It doesn’t look manmade, but it definitely isn’t natural either,” She turns back and inspects the walls further. “This is it Alfie, I can feel it.”
“Yeah, ok…” His shoulder slump when he gets no reaction. His jokes go over her head when she’s like this so there wouldn’t be any point in trying. He looks around the massive interior of the cave, “Are you sure this isn’t a goblin cave or anything? I don’t exactly have the muscle to fight back the goat-eyed ones.”
Valentina looks back, “Oh don’t worry, mountain goblins live far higher up, and green goblins live further down.” She looks back at the cave, “Besides, this cave doesn’t look like its built by goblins.”
“Forgive me for not being reassured.” He tightens fidgets with the strap on his sling bag, “So, does that mean that this is the place or what?” He looks around but nothing stands out to him, “Doesn’t look like much.” Alfonso isn’t the type that understands what his sister thinks, yet he can’t help the feeling of curiosity that wells up whenever she drags him to one of her expeditions. Plus, if what she says is true, then the article he’ll be writing would definitely be bringing in a nice amount of attention. “The sarcophagus of an ancient king… If it really is here then the guy must’ve been a cruddy king, I would’ve expected something with a bit more pizzaz, know what I mean?”
“We’ll see once we actually find it,” Valentina adjusts her glasses and takes a flashlight out from her sling bag and points it further down the cave. The cave curves to one side, blocking the siblings’ vision, meaning in order to find what they’re looking for, they must do some spelunking. “Come, brother. Adventure awaits.” She points towards the unknown.
Alfonso chuckles as he puts on a mining helmet hanging from his own sling bag, “And hopefully some buried treasure along the way.” He pulls out a video camera out of his bag as well and starts recording. If the glorified grave really was in the cave, he needs to document every second of it. If it isn’t, then at least he has something to torment his sister with.
As they descend further into the darkness, Valentina’s glasses light up, revealing the heads-up display. She can’t buy much with junior researcher’s salary, but she had enough to buy a second-hand GR-1 Visor. It even had her prescription, so she didn’t even need to get new lenses for them. With it, she takes pictures of everything she looks at, all the while writing into a small, notepad about every aspect of the cave. Its smooth, grey walls form an uneven cylindrical shape, looking like what a person inexperienced in caves would imagine it would look like. Its size was quite big as well, probably able to fit an elephant and still leave room to spare. As Alfonso had observed, it’s completely devoid of anything that stands out, no water, no stalagmites nor stalactites, no sign of any life. The shape of it moves in an almost perfect spiral downwards. Despite this, it doesn’t look manmade either, the floors are very uneven, making it hard for them to stand straight. There isn’t a single light source either, making the hazardous terrain much more difficult to navigate. All the while Alfonso points his camera to whatever his sister thinks is interesting, he may not know much, but he does know to listen to the professionals when they’re talking.
Valentina tries to take more pictures with her visor, but its starts to glitch. “Ah, come on!” The visor’s display suddenly had horrible artifacting, her vision almost completely blocked by a pixelated mess of what used to be a camera feature. “Ugh, what a waste of money.” Undeterred, the two adventurers pressed on.
Just when they think that the spiral has no end, the cave levels out, and they feel something strange hit their skin. A soft purple glow is emanating from the end of a long tunnel, its light revealing the strange architecture of its’ surroundings.
“Now this, looks VERY interesting.” Betraying his lacklustre response, Alfonso is actually surprised that they had actually found his sister’s theoretical king. For the longest time he was considering forcing her to seek therapy after many failed attempts at its discovery, and yet here he is, thoroughly proven wrong. He would’ve thought that he is the one most awestruck at this discovery but one quick look at Valentina says otherwise.
To say that she’s ecstatic would be an understatement.
Her jaw drops to the floor, she can’t believe her eyes. Years of ridicule from her peers and pressure from her superiors to present results was nearly too much to handle, to think she almost gave up the search. She is genuinely speechless at her discovery, but it’s far too early to celebrate. She must make sure that it’s the ancient king. She almost sprints to the end of the cave, completely ignoring Alfonso’s shouts to be careful, all the while taking in as much of its architecture as possible.
There are pillars by the walls this time, placed evenly across the entire hallway. The floor is even, convenient for walking through, but it also has strange patterns etched into it, ones that she didn’t recognise. She looks ahead and notices that the glow is coming from the floor at the end of the hallway. That must be where the casket is buried.
By the time she reaches the end, she can no longer control her giddiness. She is smiling from ear to ear, “Finally…” She whispered to herself. The floor she walks on seems pristine, far too clean for an ancient burial ground, but she doesn’t care right now, all she wants to see is the face of a dead king. The purple light forms a rectangular shape on the ground, virtually screaming at her, ‘It’s here!’ She crouches down and starts feeling for an edge to grab onto, “Bingo”. She reaches into her bag and grabs a spade and starts using it as a crowbar to lift the floor. It’s heavy, very heavy, but she isn’t going to let up, not now, not when she’s so close. A promising grinding noise echoes through the halls as she pushes down further, she can almost see the source of the glow now. She pushes down on the spade as hard as she can until a gap big enough to slip her fingers in forms. She sticks them in and lifts the stone slab with all her might.
This is it!
Every muscle in her arms are in incredible pain but her will won’t allow them to falter. She barely manages to flip the slab over, and it falls onto the floor with a mighty thud. Adrenaline pumping through her veins as she gasps for air, not realising she wasn’t breathing the entire time, and collapses on all fours. Just then, Alfonso finally catches up to her.
“Hey…!” He gasps for air as well, “You don’t get to do that to me you li’l…” He falls to the floor. “You know I barely exercise!” He’s as exhausted as she is, and he only ran down a hallway! At the very least, he wasn’t tired enough to let go of his camera while stumbling over to her.
Valentina pushes aside her brother’s comments and looks back at the casket she uncovered. There it is. A humanoid shaped pile of linen bandages lies in the ground, a mummy, so to speak. The inside of its coffin etched with even more strange symbols, similar to the ones she saw on the floor. So does the bandages, each strip etched with a dark red ink with those same symbols. But what stood out the most, is the source of the purple light, the mummy itself. Between each strip of linen, a bright purple light spills out onto the walls of the cavern. Whatever the source of the light is, it would be blindingly bright without the wrappings, which begs the all-important question, what on earth is under those bandages.
“Welp!” Valentina exclaimed, “I’ve already threw procedure out the window, might as well finish the job!” Her curiosity and the need for closure still overriding her decision making. Alfonso on the other hand, thought otherwise.
“Hold up man!” He grabs her wrist, “What if…” He’s still catching his breath before locking eyes with Valentina. “What if it’s cursed?”
For a moment there Valentina thought he was going to be rational and stop her, good to know he’s still the same as ever. “Oh, it’ll be fine, you’re a big boy you can take a zombie or two.” Valentina pinched his cheeks before reaching for the bandages.
His protests fall on deaf ears, as Valentina starts to tear away at the decomposing linen from the mummy’s face. Alfonso wants to stop her is far too tired to try. “Get out your camera Alfie, we’re about to change the world!” He does just that, but she notes that he also pulls out a taser too. “Really?”
Alfonso shrugs, “Hey, I ain’t here to get cursed alright? First sign of the undead and I’m zapping it.”
She rolls her eyes before focusing back to the mummy. Her heart is beating at an incredible rate, from carrying the slab and from excitement. She makes quick work of the wrappings, reaching the final layer. Not once wondering if the king was buried this deep underground for a reason.
As she tears apart the final layer, the purple glow lights up the hallway, forcing the siblings to cover their eyes while backing away from the casket. The mummy unleashes a strong wind as well, blowing them back even further and knocking them to the ground. As the light shines across their skin, the siblings feel something strange welling up within them. They feel like a fire is about to burst out of their hearts and engulf their whole being, yet it doesn’t burn. No, instead, it feels warm. It feels arcane, yet familiar. It feels new, yet ancient. Overwhelming, yet calming. It feels like…
The light slowly dissipates, and the siblings regain their composure, unprepared for what they might see next. They get on their feet and slowly open their eyes to see what they had unleashed, and they see…
An old man, seemingly from an ancient era. The glow from his bandages had stopped, but a light from his crypt continues to highlight his pale, weathered frame. His clothes are old, bizarre, and tattered, fluttering about from the passing storm. The hair on his head and face, grown long from eons of being underground, flutters as well, revealing the unrecognizable tattoos on his face. The tattoos go beyond his face though, as upon further inspection one of his arms are plastered with more strange symbols. Similar to the ones around the tunnel, but they weren’t the same. The other arm, meanwhile, is still wrapped in some linen bandages, which seems stuck to his skin like tape. It has similar markings as the pillars, though the markings seem to glow somehow. He floats above his old grave, standing upright with his eyes shut, as if unaware to his own resurrection.
The siblings are awestruck. An unbelievable occurrence just happened right in front of them, and they could do nothing but stand in stunned silence. Valentina felt a huge mixture of emotions, wonder, excitement, fear. But what takes hold of her right now, is curiosity, as she slowly approaches the being. She draws closer, the man doesn’t react. Is he still dead? What just happened? What are you? So many questions rush through her mind. She reaches to touch the body.
His eyes open. Valentina freezes up as she looks up at the figure’s face. One of his eyes is completely white and is staring back right into Valentina’s.
Alfonso wakes up from his state of shock. “Val!”
His words shake Valentina awake and backs away from the being, but his shouts draw the attention of the old man as well. His face shows anger, eyebrows furrowed, and a scowl as mean as Trevor’s. He floats down onto solid earth, staring at the intruders the entire time. He starts to take in his surroundings, looking around the tomb where he once slumbered. He makes sure not to miss a single detail, before finally redirecting his focus back on the graverobbers. He stares at them for a while before tilting his head, as if he’s trying to remember something.
All the while the siblings simply stand in place, not knowing what to expect. Valentina’s head is so full of questions she can almost feel her head explode from them all. Alfonso, however, doesn’t want to know why he came back from the dead, all he knows is that the last thing he wants to do today is to fight a zombie. He points his taser at the man, “What the heck is that thing?!” He shouts at Valentina, not wanting to talk to the undead.
“How the heck should I know! Why don’t you ask him?” She retorts before doing the deed herself, “What the heck are you? You better not be some sort of twisted prank again or I’m gonna make you wish you stayed in that box!” She taunts the old man; she’s going to get some answers whether the creep likes it or not.