Sunday, March 15, 2015
io9 Concept Art Writing Prompt: October 30, 2014
The wind howled and whistled outside the cabin. She wan't sleeping now. She couldn't sleep now. Propped up by a waking charm, her eyes on her charge. It didn't sleep. According to the guide books, they never did.
"How old are you, girl?" The mummy asked. Its voice a whisper like dry leaves on frozen ground.
"How old are YOU?" Alice shot back. The guide books said they will try and engage, to be wary of charms and hexes, even after you had them.
I am Nine thousand, two hundred and seventy years old. I have seen empires crumble to dust, I have seen generations--
"Blah, blah, blah. Save me the cities fall to ash, systems of thought and government are forgotten, occult sciences lost to the sands of the hourglass, I've heard it all before. This is not my first rodeo."
It was, in fact, her second. Her first was at the tail end of her apprenticeship. Carraby had been there.
"Ah, a senior monster hunter, then." a coldly amused detachment shone through the scritch-scratch of his voice.
"I do ok. So, Ninety-two hundred years."
"Ninety two and seventy"
"Oh, well, ninety two and seventy. But, really, how many of those were good years? Sixty? Fifty? what was the life expectancy of the average man back in your day?" That the mummy, who had so far declined to give his name (she hoped it was one of the good ones,like Imhotep or Teth-Adam, though they would probably have put up more of a fight), didn't bother Alice as much as it seemed to bother the Federal Marshals to whom she'd been apprenticed for five years. Or polite society, which held that extending one's life beyond the generally agreed-upon century was tacky and wasteful and grounds to be hunted. What bothered Alice was that the man she was looking at could no longer be considered a man in any traditional sense. he was a corpse propped up by bandages and runes, as old as the pyramids and as crumbled. What bothered her, and why not tell the dry old zombie this, was what did he get out of it>?
"When was the last time you tasted food?" she asked. "When you kissed someone you loved. Do you even feel anymore?" The mummy remained silent. His eyes, smoldering cinders set in his skull, seemed to gaze past her to some indefinite point beyond the cabin. "I mean, if it were me, I'd kill myself."
A coughing, retching, scritch-scratch sound. It took Alice a moment to realize he was laughing. "My dear child," he breathed. "You never told me, how old you are. Twenty? Forty? So hard to tell now, in your birth skin. How fast it is gone,. How brief and fleeting are all your days. You would rather die than live as me? Truly? Because your life, so new, has never been confronted with the blackness that awaits you. One day, child, you will die, as sure as the turn of the Earth. And one day you will truly begin to understand that. Your strength will fade and your flesh will sag and your vision will blur and you will forget names and places and histories. Then the terror will be upon you. And you will do anything, anything to escape it."
The mummy relaxed his posture. He'd leaned close to Alice to further the urgency of his message. Now he was finished. Long ago, before trains and airships, before Rome and Carthage, before Aristophanes and Alexander, he had been a prince. Prince Nanefer-ka-ptah. In the bloom of his youth he imagined he would truly live forever. As did every young man and woman since the dawn of time. Reality eventually set in. He hurtled toward the end as though on an out-of-control chariot. He was going to die. He was going to die. He was going to die. He followed rumors of occult magicians in the west Let them bind him in runes. On his death bed let them change everything about who and what he was. The girl--so young, an eyeblink ago he'd been that young-was right, in part. It had been so long since he felt the touch of a lover, so long since a woman as lovely as this even moved his desire that it felt as a barely-remembered dream. There ware consolations. he felt the pull of the moon on the tides. The hum and drum of magic eddy and shift. And, foremost, he was alive. Coolly, he regarded his captor. Reconsidered his options. He began to form a plan.