TURNED TO STONE

Prologue

(Giza, Egypt, 1933)

"Ah, the Pyramids," Rick O'Connell said as he and his wife, Evie, passed by them on camel. "One of the wonders of the ancient world."

"And now it's a pile of stones," Jonathon said as he followed them on another camel. "Shame it wasn't made out of gold."

"Actually, that's a good thing since we would have to tie you down to your camel so you don't steal it," Rick said over his shoulder.

"Yeah, yeah," Jonathon muttered. "I don't steal everything in my path, you know. I was just thinking it would be more magnificent if everything was gold."

"I think it's magnificent just the way it is," Evie said, trying to look up to the top of the Great Pyramid.

They reached the end of the pyramid and spurred their camels to go around the corner. The camels let out a groaning sound and turned. By now Rick and Evie were right alongside it, looking up at the limestone blocks that remained in the structure.

"What I wouldn't give to see the pyramids in their heyday," Rick said.

"Unfortunately, we'd have to have a time machine for that," Evie replied.

"Yeah, know where we could find one, offhand?" Rick teased his wife.

"Jonathon might know, he probably tried to sell one on the black market," Evie teased back.

She looked back to see if her brother heard that. Instead, she saw him off his camel and climbing up the blocks. Evie sighed and stopped her camel.

"Jonathon, get down from there," she said while Rick stopped and looked behind him.

"Only having a look," Jonathon said as he climbed up.

"He just never listens, does he?" Rick said to his wife as he and Evie got off their camels. "And how many times has he been arrested so far?"

"Only once and that was a misunderstanding," Jonathon said to him.

Rick snorted.

"Come on, Jonathon, get down from there before you end up in an Egyptian prison," Rick said as he and Evie walked towards him.

"Oh, alright, I'm coming," Jonathon said with an angry sigh.

He turned around to come back down and his left foot stepped on what he thought was a fragment of rock lying on the limestone block. Instead, the "fragment" depressed down into the block like a button and Rick and Evie spun around when they heard a groaning sound. They watched in astonishment as several blocks shifted to the left and right of their positions revealing a gaping hole in the pyramid. Rick walked over to it, studying it for a moment before walking back to his camel. He reached into a pack on the camel's back and pulled out three flashlights, a gunbelt, his holster and pistols and a canteen of water. He slipped the belt containing his holsters around his waist and fastened it. He checked his pistols and put one in each holster at his side. He put the gunbelt on so it was crisscrossing his chest. He handed a flashlight to Jonathon and Evie and also gave Evie the canteen. Then they cautiously entered the pyramid.

Once inside they found a narrow passageway with limestone walls on either side of it. Everyone switched on their flashlights and Rick took the lead, followed by Evie and Jonathon. They walked along the corridor for about fifty feet and then the passageway began sloping down.

"What the hell is this?" Rick said to Evie as they walked downwards. "Is this the passageway that led to the burial chamber?"

"Perhaps," Evie said. "According to archaeological accounts, the Egyptians built a burial chamber under the pyramid but then they changed their minds and built it up and in the center. This must be the unused burial chamber then."

"I guess that explains why there are no decorations on the walls," Rick said, glancing at the unadorned limestone blocks around him. "But would they have made an entrance like that where the stone slid apart?"

"No, I've never heard of the Egyptians doing anything like that before," Evie said, shaking her head.

They reached the end of the incline and the floor evened out into a short passageway that led to a pair of stone doors. Rick shined his flashlight on them but the doors were also unadorned. He walked over to it and examined the door but couldn't find any locks or anything barring the door from entry. He glanced at his wife and brother-in-law and nodded at the door before he put his shoulder against it and tried to open it. Evie and Jonathon walked over and helped him and the doors slowly opened. Evie covered her mouth and nose when dust rained down on them from above as they opened the doors.

When the door was finally opened, Rick used his flashlight, shining it into the interior. He couldn't see anything at first, just a small, empty limestone room. He cautiously stepped inside while he swung his flashlight around, looking for anything besides the room. At first he couldn't see anything and figured Evie was right about it being an abandoned tomb. But then the light from his flashlight landed on something in the far right corner and Rick held it there. To his surprise, there was a stone statue of three people sitting there. Evie and Jonathon came up beside him and shone their lights on it.

The statue had two people sitting side by side on stone high-back chairs, a man and a woman dressed as Egyptians with a child sitting sideways in the woman's lap. The man was wearing a cloth headdress similar to the ones Pharaoh's wore and he had on a linen loincloth and leather sandals. The woman and child had nothing on except simple linen dresses and leather sandals. What struck Rick as peculiar was none of them looked Egyptian and the woman and child weren't wearing heavy wigs. He couldn't tell what color their hair was but he could tell it was their own natural hair. The child had her arms around the mother's neck and had her face buried in her bosom while the woman kissed the top of her head in a comforting gesture. The woman wasn't holding her child because her arms were resting on the stone arms of the chair, as was the man's. The man looked angry, even defiant as he stared out ahead of him. The three explorers swung their flashlights around the room but the rest of the room was bare.

"Okay," Rick said. "Why would someone leave a weird statue in an unfinished tomb that was never meant to be used in the first place? And why don't these people look Egyptian?"

"You're right, they look more European than Egyptian," Evie said, touching the stone arm of the man.

"Did Europeans visit Ancient Egypt?" Rick said.

Evie shrugged.

"As far as I know they didn't but that doesn't mean someone hasn't found a record of it yet," she said. "What's odd to me is the child. There are family statues like this that have been found but the children aren't cowering in the mother's lap like something bad is happening. Besides, the statues were usually stylized representations of people; they didn't sculpt real life so why would someone sculpt a child being fearful."

"Maybe we can find someone who knows about this," Rick said. "But right now we better scram before the police finds us in here and arrest us."

Evie nodded. The three of them took one last look at the statue before turning and exiting the room.

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