Bert Carmody can’t catch a break. As a hieroglyph translator he’s actually quite good - but being pudgy, bald and awkward, he’s always in the shadow of his charismatic, much younger coworkers.
Disillusioned and bitter, Bert spends his free time scouring the markets of Cairo looking for a native stupid enough to sell him a genuine artifact for the pittance a scholar can afford. His latest find is another piece of rubbish, just another animal mummy - one of literally millions of votive offerings from the ancients to one god or another.
Or is it?
Suddenly, remarkably, things start looking up for Bert. But as he starts to get the recognition he deserves, there are deadly consequences for his coworkers. Will Bert finally be set for life or will the lure of the mummy destroy him?
The heat of the day was at its worst. Bert seldom spent any daylight hours in the flat and he always forgot how hellishly hot it could become. He staggered around, still sober enough to realize how much he was staggering, opening the windows to their widest and turning on fans, even though neither really helped all that much.
Then he noticed the fallout of dried linen on the floor. Maybe the fans were more powerful than he thought, to be able to scatter wrappings off a mummy…
The mummy was lying facedown on the desk, its body covering the center of his workspace. It was surrounded with a drift of linen dust.
Carefully avoiding the painful claws and teeth, Bert set the mummy upright, then jumped backward in shock as the mummy looked back at him. The glass toppled over, spilling the precious scotch onto the desktop where it puddled before the mummy as if it were an offering.
The last few wrappings over the head had gone and the indisputably feline skull was now almost bare. The crown was clean bone, but a film of leathery skin surrounded the empty eye sockets and the closed mouth that, combined with a tilt of the skull, gave the remains a quizzical expression.
It was chilling, Bert thought.
Worse still, from the depths of the empty eye sockets came a gleam of triumph.