Ifeoma Isabella Okeke
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The hot sun beat down upon she, relentless and merciless,sweat beading upon her brow and dripping down her nose,but Lera did not notice. It was here,she knew it was here.
She’d studied old maps,the paintings, deciphered their hidden secrets, and now she was going to find it. It didn’t matter that they hadn’t had enough money to send her to school, that she worked as a common cleaner just as her mother had.
One day she was going to be a great archaeologist, starting right here, with her very first find.
Wiping her brow, Lera surveyed the pit she’d dug with some measure of pride. It had taken a lot of hard work,but she had to find the temple before the sands changed and hid it once more.
She’d been digging since before sunrise,and so far the pit she stood in was all she had to show for it. But soon, very soon she’d find the temple, and then-
A faint rumble was the only warning she got before the earth suddenly dropped out beneath Lera’s feet. She yelped as she fell, a rush of sand and stale air around her, then just as quickly as it had begun her fall ended with a rather bruising landing on hard stone.
For a moment she simply lay there. Catching her breath, then slowly she got to her feet and looked around.
It was dark, the only light coming from a small hole high above, but what little light there was revealed strong stone walls embellished with elaborate murals.
A few paces away she could make out a pillar with an old torch sitting in a worn sconce. In the area where she’d fallen, there was sand and a few chunks of rocks on the floor by her pack, but further away the floor was bare, untouched by the elements.
Lera felt elation rising in her throat. She’d found it. She’d actually found the temple. She will be famous, and finally be able to go to school to become a real archaeologist.
The air was stale, closed inside for so many centuries. The hole Lera had fallen through was allowing fresh air in,but from the smells of things,it was the only hole to the outside. If she didn’t find a way to climb back out again, then there was a good chance that she would die here in her temple.
For the first time, she felt a shiver of fear.
Swallowing it down, Lera picked up her pack and fished out her torch, switching it on. A rush of relief sped through her as the beam of light appeared in the darkness; it had not been damaged in the fall.
The light revealed more of the temple, elaborate carvings interspersed with paintings, and not too far away she saw a doorway. Perhaps there would be something deeper in the temple that she could use, something to help her escape.
She could only hope.
Shouldering her bag, Lera made her way to the doorway and beyond looking for anything that might be useful. She passed from a large room into a smaller one, then another smaller still.
This once actually had tapestries hanging,still vibrant in the torchlight,and she was careful not to touch them as she edged around them to find out what was behind. Gold glinted,and she very nearly dropped the torch as she suddenly found herself facing a man-sized statue with the head of a jackal. It had been painted from head to toe, making it seem almost lifelike,an illusion only emphasized by the very real jewelry it wore. Gold of course, from the hands of skilled artisans at wrist, arm, neck, and head.
Lera frowned. One of them looked out of place amongest the rest. This was an Egyptian temple but the small golden pendant hanging from a cord around the statue’s neck looked more Greek than Egyptian, and the craftsmanship was not the same.
Curious, she reached out to lift the pendant. It was heavy in her hand, cool to touch, and that sense of wrongness pervaded. When she gave an experimental tug, the brittle cord snapped and she stumbled backwards with the pendant in hand.
Somewhat wryly, Lera tucked the pendants into a pocket and looked up at the statue. It looked better now.
She made her way out of the inner chamber, past the tapestries and took a different doorway then the one leading back to the chamber she’d first found herself in. She still hadn’t found anything useful. She was about ready to give up and return to the first chamber when she came around a corner and drew up short at the sight of a man.
He was taller than Lera at least, with skin so dark that the minimal light from the torch made it appear jet black. Yet his features were not African, and his hair fell perfectly straight to his collar. He was also, Lera noted in mild confusion, wearing nothing more than a white line kilt and sandals
“Er hello?” Lera greeted, uneasy. How had the man gotten down here? Was there another way into the temple that she had yet to find?
The dark man regarded Lera curiously,holding himself in utter stillness for a long moment before gracefully holding up one hand.
He spoke, though the words were not any that Lera had heard before.
To be continued…
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