The Riddle of the Sphinx: Solved! (SF Short Story)

 

The midday sun blazed in blinding glory directly over the Great Sphinx of Giza as Dr. Zahi Hawass, the famous Egyptologist whose love of Egyptian antiquity seems rivaled only by his love of the camera, faced the score of reporters with his well worn Indiana Jones hat and best cat-who-swallowed-the-canary-smile.

“Ladies and gentlemen, welcome. This is a great day for Egypt and the world,” he began with an enthusiastic smile and eyes sparkling like a sleepy child’s on Christmas morning. “Our efforts over the past year to excavate the recently found chamber under the right paw of the Sphinx is complete and we are ready to reveal its content for the first time. Please, come with me that we may share this moment together.”

Without further ado and in an uncharacteristically brief fashion, Dr. Hawass turned to his left, gesturing for the cameras to follow. As he walked, he continued, turning to the cameras and beaming contentedly. “We have uncovered a portal but have not yet broken the seal as we wish to share this moment with the world.”

“Zahi,” a reporter following closely to his right called out, “Can you tell us what you expect to find?” The Egyptologist stopped and turned to the reporter, with a patient, avuncular smile, and stopped, facing the cameras directly.

“I have no idea, but I expect it will be wonderful things.” He then turned and took several steps before once again stopping and turning to the camera. “You will see that there are no artifacts in the small antechamber we have uncovered, nor any artwork or extensive writing. There is, in fact, no traditional writing of any kind but for a line of undecipherable writing above a sealed doorway that is unlike anything that has been uncovered in the past.”

“You mean the writing is illegible?” the reporter interrupted.

“No,” Dr. Hawass replied, dabbing at his damp forehead with a large, white handkerchief.” “The writing is quite legible but is unlike any writing in the ancient or modern world. There are no glyphs, but previously unseen symbols over the doorway. The writing is not painted but etched onto the stone and glows quite visibly even in low light. I expect it will take us quite some time to decipher its meaning and the means utilized to achieve the bright glow, though we suspect it is some type of radioactive material similar to that used in instruments and watches in the recent past, though no trace of radiation has been picked up by our instruments.” He then resumed walking again towards the excavation, still some fifty feet away. “It is all part of the mystery, and it augers well for whatever archeological treasures may be secreted beyond the sealed wall, don’t you think?” His statement ended right on cue at the foot of the vertical tunnel that resembled more a well than the traditional entrance to a burial chamber.

“You must be careful descending the wooden ladder. There is only room for a few people down there as the antechamber is only approximately two meters by two meters and we already have two workmen down there ready to breach the sealed door. I can only take a camera operator down with me and will be happy to hold an extensive news conference later, once what lies beyond the seal is uncovered.”

Dismissing the numerous questions shot at him by members of the media present with a wave of the hand, he pointed to the closest Egyptian camera operator and said “You can accompany me. Careful, though. The workmen will steady the ladder below, but it is a long way down and the ladder will be unsteady.” He then stepped onto the ladder protruding above the meter-wide circular hole with the camera operator first filming his descent, and then following carefully, holding onto the ladder with his left hand as he balanced his the light but awkward camera on his shoulder harness with his right hand, filming nothing but his handhold on the ladder as he descended, not wanting to break the suspense.

Approximately three stories down, he finally hit solid ground, finding a chamber that appeared dug out of bedrock, with perfectly smooth walls everywhere but for the circular hole on the ceiling through which they had descended. The cameraman immediately swept his camera around the tiny room panning back to the limits of his camera’s wide angle view. Two workmen could be seen to each side of a wall directly opposite the ladder, covered in sweat to which clung rock granules and dust from their intense chiseling into the rock. The cameraman focused on the recessed symbols that arched above the perfect outlines of a rectangular door approximately a meter in width and two meters in height.

“Keep the camera on the writing,” the Egyptologist commanded and wait to be amazed.” He then turned off the intense halogen lights lights by pressing a switch on the line leading to the dual work lights that had brightly illuminated the small room, and the symbols came alive with a blood-red glow from within the carved stone. The symbols themselves were reminiscent of geometric figures and mathematical symbols, but were neither glyphs nor words in an unknown alphabet but a sort of combination of the two that was disorienting to the mind.

“We are about to begin. Please wear this dust mask,” Dr. Hawass told the cameraman, handing him a surgeon’s mask and donning one himself.  As he did so, he nodded to the workmen and signaled them to begin again as they sported their own dust-stained masks, and began chiseling at the rock in unison.

The simple hammer and chisel sounds in the small chamber was loud enough to force a twitch from the cameraman with each strike of the hammer. The workmen continued the jarring hammering to the center of the door which had no visible means of opening from this side of the chamber and, apparently, had not yielded to prior efforts at pushing, prodding or otherwise forcing it open. The fit of the door was so perfect as to leave only a hairline crack to distinguish the outline of where the door met the rest of the wall on polished rock that was incredibly smooth and free of imperfections.

Five minutes later, as the camera captured the faint swirling dust produced by the rhythmic strikes of hammer on steel chisels, the ancient stone gave up its last efforts at resistance, leaving a small hole the size of a sharpened chisel end on the stone which had yielded a concave depression several inches deep as a result of the repeated blows with hammers on chisels. An instant after the chisel had broken through, a bolt of plasma flashed through with the intensity at the center of the sun, filling the chamber and shooting up through the well-like opening to the outside, instantaneously vaporizing the still smiling Egyptologist, the cameraman, and the chisel-wielding workmen continuing upwards through the circular opening to the surface like a coronal emission radiating outward beyond the orbit of Mars. Blackest shadows followed, flowing outwards like a billion bats exploding from a cave in which dynamite had been detonated, evil personified shrieking outward freed from the restrictive seal placed by the protectors of what would subsequently become a primordial cradle of civilization.

[****End of Preview — but complete short story is available free of charge at one of my blogs by clicking here.****]

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