Normally, the museum was a quiet place at 5am. I mean, the cleaning staff usually cleaned after closing at night. So at the most, what you had was research fellows and maybe some conservation staff. The staff for opening the museum to the public didn’t start until closer to 7am. So, when there was a thunderous sound from one of the far wings, it seemed louder than it perhaps was.
That’s what I was telling James anyway, after we both caught each other peering out of our office doors, jaws agape, eyes huge. We had decided to head down the hall to investigate. We ran into Jessica and Regan at the next hall, apparently having the same talk.
“It wasn’t thunder. It was a crash. It’s not even cloudy out.” Jessica was fairly calm, and shoving her glasses up on top of her head. She only needed them for reading and she must have realized they were in her way.
“I’m telling you, it can’t’ve been a crash. That’s an active wing, conservatory staff and the janitors would’ve noticed if something was off balance last night and fixed it.” Regan’s voice was raspy, and sounded like she’d either not had enough sleep or her nicotine patches failed and she’d picked up the habit again.
“I dunno, I was thinking it was a crash.” James voted, quietly. “But Megan thinks it only sounded so loud ’cause hardly anyone’s here at this hour.”
I shrugged and nodded.
Regan stopped, blinked and nodded. “All right. I could maybe get behind that theory. Echoes in empty halls exaggerating the sound.”
Jessica rolled her eyes. “Well c’mon then, lets go see what fell.”
By the time we made it to the far end of the building, we realized we were near the mummies. A huge wooden box that normally stood vertically near the door had fallen so that it was now horizontal on the floor.
“Echoes on echoes.” Regan muttered. “Empty hall and empty box. ‘Course it made a god-awful racket.” She was rubbing her upper arm half out of habit and half out of irritation. So either out of patches, or at least recently quit of them.
James stood by the box, rubbing the back of his neck with the other hand on his hip. “I dunno if we can move this guys. I mean, it doesn’t look damaged at least? But it’s kinda heavy.”
Jessica had walked around to the other side of the box. “I thought they locked up the exhibition rooms over night?”
The door was standing cracked open. Or as if it hadn’t closed all the way. They were huge heavy things, designed to look like stone tomb movie sets. She was standing and craning her neck, trying to see inside.
“Uh, Jessica, if this was a burglary gone wrong, shouldn’t we just call security?” I was mostly just saying it because someone should. I was walking around the casket myself.
James bent over, messing with the corner of the wood. “Guys… I thought this thing was supposed to be empty all these years?” He stood up with a small leather journal in his hand, the leather strap wrapped around and tucked into itself to keep closed. It had a deep crease in it and was scratched.
Regan stepped up and took the book, unwinding the strap. “That’s not the right period. That’s modern. Must’ve belonged to whoever knocked it down.”
Jessica’s hand was resting on the door, but she was looking back at them. “What’s in it? Shopping list? Archaeology notes? Love letters?” She scoffed at the last, and Regan snorted lightly, smirking but then frowning.
“Buncha nonsense mostly, but some lists. Yeah. Maybe it’s a short-hand I don’t know?” She passed it over to me, only because my notes were classic for being illegible to anyone but me. Everyone accused me of doing it to prevent cheating, but to be honest, I mostly did it because it was fun. Sometimes it back-fired, and even I forgot what the lecture had been about. I flipped open the journal and frowned, leafing through it.
“Yeah, I dunno. Some of this might just be a language thing. It looks kind of Latin based though? I mean this list here is titled ‘Necessita’ and uh…” I frowned, then looked up at Jessica. “So maybe we should stop, and get security. Seriously?”
“Seriously? C’mon. What do they need, Megan?” She frowned at me. James and Regan didn’t help, chiming in with “yeah” and “c’mon?”
“A ‘mummia’ among some other words I don’t recognize? And before you ask again, yeah. Seriously.” I turned the book around to face the others and jabbed my finger at the word on the page.
“Well, crap.” James sighed and stepped around the casket toward the door.
Regan and I rolled our eyes at each other and I wrapped up the journal, offering it to her before shoving it in my back pocket when she waved it off. Jessica was already slipping in past the door with James close after. It was open enough that none of us had to push it any further into the room.
The lights were low: just the security exit lights and the exhibit illuminations were on at this hour. That of course meant it felt extra creepy. We bee-lined to the only mummy on display. It was supposed to be a hand-maiden for one of the priests, as far as the Egyptologists could tell, based on the pictographs of the tomb they’d found her in.
Regan mumbled quietly, “Why her though? Why this exhibit? I mean, there are a lot of mummies back in the conservation areas.”
I shrugged, “Maybe she’s still there. Maybe it’s all a coincidence.”
I didn’t believe me; and I felt validated when I heard James curse “damn it” softly a few steps ahead.
The glass door was open to the exhibit, and the sand and other staging was disarranged and tracked through. The mummy was gone.
Jessica, being a dark humorist, had to laugh. “The one time you actually want to find the dead body.”
James, not being a dark humorist, grumbled. “Not funny, Jess. Not just now.”
Regan, being much more common sense about things, was pointing at the tracks that lead out to the flat bed dolly in the far corner by the exit. “So if they carried her out that way, why was the door cracked, the box fallen as if bumped into, and the journal trapped underneath? It’s like things happened out of order or something.”
She had a point. And it looked like something was still on the dolly anyway. So off I went to examine whatever had been left.
Before I got far, I could hear a soft whimpering. That meant running was required. Obviously, the others agreed and we stopped abruptly together around the cart.
It was a bundle of linen rags, wrapped around and sticking to a tiny, wet baby.
Who was getting all worked up to cry. “Damn it.”
That did it. The baby was definitely crying, now. “Megan!” Jessica leaned in and picked it up, linens and all, to cuddle close. “Seriously?”
“To be fair, I didn’t intend to say it out loud. Sorry. But … um. Wet babies are either just bathed or just born, and I don’t smell baby shampoo.”
James was leaning over and carefully peeling cloth back. Since he had two daughters under the age of 4 at home, he was actually probably the most experienced when it came to small humans. “Uh, yeah, Jess? Megan’s got a point. Also, he’s a boy. With a fresh umbilical. Although it’s knotted, so small favors and all?”
Jessica was attempting to use her finger as a pacifier, but the baby was objecting to the lack of actual food being offered and only got fussier.
Regan backed into the exit, pushing at the release bar. “C’mon people. Let’s get out of here and after whoever took the mummy.” She paused to swallow what was probably a hysterical laugh. “Heh. Mummy. Bring the baby with.”
Shaking our heads, we trailed after her. It was a little brighter in the corridor as opposed to the exhibit hall, but not enough to be blinding. And it was just dark enough so that lights crossed across the floor from the offices that had them on. We could see a faint trail of debris leading off toward the conservation rooms. Regan obviously felt justified in her earlier comments and pointed, “See? What’d’I say?”
I nodded and we both stepped ahead of James, Jessica and the baby and went down the hall. Pushing slowly through the swinging doors, we saw a light on in the far back area, where the largest tables were set up.
After a quick, reassuring glance at each other, Regan and I snuck that way. Jessica and James weren’t too far behind, whispering furiously at each other. It sounded like it was something about the baby, but we weren’t listening. We were just bracing ourselves for whatever was around the other side of the shelves. Still, we weren’t prepared for what we saw.
I mean, technically, we found the mummy. And a young man from Italy, I remembered now had been auditing some courses. Pretty thing. He was standing down by her feet and was chattering away in a very excited fashion to the… uh, person up by her head. I mean, technically, she was sitting up and talking too. And wagging her finger. And looking not entirely happy with being mostly naked. Hard to tell though. Not sure anyone in the room, other than the… person by her head, spoke whatever language she was speaking. Although, the head tilt suggested he was listening fairly carefully. But then again, jackals do seem like they listen, and his head was certainly as jackal-like as they always say in the stories. Behind us, the baby let out a furious wail and the three in front of us whipped their heads around to look our direction. Anubis waved a hand toward us and murmured something in a reassuring tone. The Italian student stepped back and had a myriad of expressions race over his face: fear, guilt, sheepishness, relief, frustration, hope and excitement were all there. I mean, why not? The mummy, well she did what any new mom would do and got down off the table, wrapping the sheet around her and imperiously extending her arms and demanding her child. Because, obviously, that’s who he was.
Jessica whimpered, James transferred the baby, and Regan and I just looked at each other.
“I mean, everyone said New York had weird museums, but maybe the crack of dawn shift was a bad idea for quiet research?”
Fingers drift lightly over keys –
individual letters, black and white, or metal attached to levers to release air –
never pressing too hard, or too lightly, just enough.
Generous with time, speed, caresses, and
eager to find the exact combination that will
release the words, notes, music to
sooth and bring solace.
Someone and I were talking the other day about facial wrinkles. Actually, it was my massage therapist, and she was using a cupping technique on my face, around my sinuses and eyes and jaws. The goal of the technique is to loosen the various dermis layers and hopefully, the lymph paths below, in order to relieve sinus pressure. It actually did help, but she was laughing as she explained that various spas use the technique to temporarily erase tiny age lines. I said, “But, I like those! They show when people laugh and some of their life experience!” She agreed. In the process we got off an a tangent about how eyes can be the first thing one looks at when determining the attractiveness of another person. Someone’s eyes can tell so much about their character. And that’s very true for me.
But it’s also true that I look at hands and fingers.
I don’t have a particular type of hand or finger or other thing that I like, and it’s not as though I’m looking for clubbed thumbs or bent pinky finger final digits (although I remember from high school biology class that those are recessive gene traits – or were at the time, genes are going through a different sort of understanding now than then I think). I just like looking at hands. It’s interesting to me how the same set of hands can look different depending on what they’re doing. If I’ve had my nails professionally done with acrylic layered on top, and shaping and colors, my hands almost look graceful. They’re not long, but they are petite. With the nails, they have the illusion of being longer and the slight chubbiness is hidden. Close up, there are myriad tiny scars on the backs of my hands and fingers from kitten and cat claws and teeth, because I play with them. There are tiny white and shiny bits where bacon grease and cookie sheets burned the skin. My cuticles are almost always horrid because if I don’t have my nails done (which I often don’t), I pick at the loose bits.
I like seeing what jewelry people wear. What fingers they’ve graced with what rings. Often, it tells me something about their loves – someone I care about wears sterling silver rings adorned with cats and books. Someone else I love only wears her wedding ring. Another friend wears her wedding ring, a series of fidget rings to help her nerves and often a ring with a stone that matches her earrings or clothing for the day.
Some men who work in construction or warehouse industries have worn skin that might look very rough. The steel or dust or grime has worked so deep into the creases of their skin that they look permanently dirty, no matter how often they wash. What is interesting to me is to watch those same rough hands doing something very deft and careful: working on tech, holding a baby, or soothing and playing with an animal.
I do suppose I prefer longer fingers, although I’m equally interested in smaller hands that are closer to my own size. I like seeing the difference between blunt, flat squared fingers and long, slender pointed fingers. Tiny baby fingers with their fragile sharp nails are amazing in their strength and ability to tease things away that they want to explore.
Fingers and hands help us to explore. Some people use them as literal eyes. So in a way, I suppose it all circles around to the same thing.