Egyptian Desert, November 1995
The air that Dr Samuel Clayton breathed was dry and heavy, as though death had devoured all around him and time had ceased. With careful precision, he swept the soft brush over the brittle clay and hard-packed sand outline. The entrance becoming more visible as small chips of ancient plaster fell to the sandy floor beneath his feet.
Stepping back, his left foot came to rest on the bottom step. Samuel had never seen markings like it. For five long years, he’d thought and dreamt of nothing else, and now he stood on the threshold of conclusion.
Swapping the brush to his free hand, he placed the other on the stone door before him and closed his eyes. He could feel the intricate pattern beneath his fingers, and what he’d expected to be cold was — in fact — warm considering its shelter from the setting sun. The unusual radiance penetrated through the palm of his hand and climbed his arm to disperse through him with familiarity.
‘Who are you?’ he asked aloud to himself with a hint of smile and anticipation.
Opening his eyes, he got back to the painstaking task before him. Ignoring the shrinking sunlight overhead, he shouted up for some light. Samuel took little notice of time. He would work until he was hungry or tired, often beyond, and wake naturally. The solitude of the night comforted him and long warm sunny days were restorative. Egypt’s relaxed attitude to time suited him nicely and many expeditions over fifteen years had preoccupied his hours, but none had been like this. This mystery was his obsession.
The light failed to come on. Instead, Samuel heard his mentor’s faint voice calling him back up into the world of the living; reminding him he was part of that team. He ignored him, continuing to work.
Until recently, Samuel’s expedition had shown little for the generosity of their sponsor. The minor, almost non-existent, red tape already had him questioning the veracity of their sponsor — Globe-tech, and for that matter the loyalty of his friend, colleague and mentor Professor James Foster. Although, the moment he discovered the intact door, all that preoccupied and frustrated him was swept away, as if a giant brush had cleared a path before him.
Happy in his world, ordinary daily existence paled into insignificance. But Foster continued to call him, and Samuel grew impatient with the interruption and lack of helpful light. Reluctant, he turned his back on the patterned door and ascended the thirty steep steps to the living world above.
As he emerged from the mouth, he caught sight of the spectacle before him. Golden red light shimmered across the rippling desert floor as far as he could see. Such beauty always caught his breath. Sunrises also caused him to marvel for those few moments at something living rather than dead. He stood gazing at the wondrous sight before him, his dusty fingers clasped around the black leather pouch that hung heavy around his neck, the hard oblong-shaped object inside reassuring. Drinking in the evening’s majesty, he allowed his thoughts to drift back to the events that had so far lead to this moment in time.