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The Curse of Cleopatra
Author's note: Along with being a novelist, I've always wanted to be an Archaeologist. I was inspired to write this piece after my trip to the Franklin Institute to see the Cleopatra exhibit there. I hope people will see the mystery and wonder behind the ancient Pharaoh Cleopatra.
I, Cleopatra, stand in a cave surrounded by torches with burning orange flames. They cast waving shadows on the barren walls. My most prized possessions lay around me. The pendant that hangs around my neck will carry the clues needed to find me after my death. I had ordered one of my most trusted guards to throw it into the Nile, in hopes that it would find its way to good hands. My ring on my finger, which had belonged to Mark, I laid a curse and told my guard to also throw it into the Nile, hoping one day it would raise me again from the dead. In a basket next to me holds a Black Asp. My plan for death will cause me no pain. It will lull me into a deep sleep, from which I will never awake from. I mutter a prayer to Isis, "Oh Goddess Isis, protect me on my journey through the underworld." Then, I mutter a prayer to Hades, "Oh great Hades, God of the Underworld, protect and grant me safe passage and safety beyond."
I quickly arrange all of my belongings as if it were a sacred tomb built for me as Pharaoh. There would be no sacred mummifying of my body. I would not be the Eternal, like my ancestors. I could only hope Isis or Hades would grant me safe passage. After the death of my husband all I could do was grieve. It was obvious that I wouldn't get out of this alive, so I sent my children away hoping to carry on into a new generation.
I turn to the basket next to me. The Asp should be angry by now. Its venom already pooling behind its fangs. My hands do not shake as I lift the lid of the basket. I reach my hand inside grasping behind the head. I lift it carefully, it squirming trying to break free of my grasp. I lift it towards my neck, feeling for my major blood-way. This will make my death come faster. It bits. There is a sharp pain as the fangs enter my flesh, but only for a few moments.
I lay on the ground. My thick black hair spread around my head like a fan. I shut my deep, blue eyes and recall my life. From as far back as I could remember to the current position I was in. My last thoughts before dying were, I would finally be with Mark again.
The crystal water of the Mediterranean splashed against the side of the Eye of Horus. The Eye of Horus was the name of the boat my boyfriend, Mark Bridges, owned. Mark had dark brown hair and emerald eyes. I always said someone had inserted the gem into his eyes. In my opinion he was handsome. I had ashy, black hair and deep, fathomless blue eyes. He said that I was a lost Egyptian princess, maybe even Cleopatra. We, and a team of others, were searching the parts of the Mediterranean closest to the mouth of the Nile for any lost Egyptian artifacts. The boat was small, only holding thirteen people comfortably. We would be out here a month, searching the sea's bed for a scarp of something worthwhile. Your probably wondering how old I am. I am only fourteen but have been granted permission to leave school for a month if I came back with something of value to archaeologists and historians alike.
"Cleo!" Mark shouted. "It's time to dive!"
"You don't need to shout. The boats so small I could here talking if I was bellow deck," I said slipping on my wet suit. Everyone around us was wishing us good luck. We step up to the diving board Mark had installed. "Good luck, my little Cleo," Mark said
"You to," I said back. The co-captain gave us the signal to dive and we dove. I did not know why we needed the wet suits because the water was so warm. Looking around for Mark I saw him dive towards the floor, his metal detector already out.
I took my metal detector out and swam down to the bottom. There were cool rock formations and beautiful marine life all around me. If I were not on a mission of discovery than I definitely would have explored the natural aspects of the area some more. Running my metal detector over the sand slowly, waiting for the green light to show me I had found something.
I had dreamed about going on digs and adventures like this for as long as I can remember. I think it started when I first saw The Mummy with Brendan Fraser. The thought of discovering a long lost tomb or city would be like entering one of my greatest dreams. No one believed I would ever do something great, that is until I met Mark. The instant I laid my eyes on him, I knew we were destined to do great things. Together.
Staring at the red light I willed it to turn green. Sweeping it back and forth, I covered a few feet in ten minutes. After a half hour I looked at my oxygen gauge to see I was almost out. I was prepared to surface when the light turned green. I pulled one of the yellow flags wedged in my tool belt and stuck it in the sandy bottom.
I kicked up towards the surface, the excitement making me swim harder and faster. I paused for a moment searching for Mark. He was no where in my sight, which was pretty far considering the clearness of the water. I scanned the floor looking for him or any sign of his being there. There was none. I was prepared to dive down to search for him when a giant weight struck me in the back. If it was possible to jump underwater, I would have jumped ten feet into the air.
I turn around to see what had struck me to see Mark silently laughing. I poked him and pointed at my gauge and them to the surface. He gave me a thumbs up, the universal sign for okay or I understand. Together we swam to the surface. I looked down one last time to see my little yellow flag waving gently with the current.
We broke thee surface next to the boat. We swam up to the little rope ladder suspended on the side. I ascended first, followed by Mark. Other members of the crew waited, ready to help us climb aboard. I pulled my mask off and turned to Mark who had just gotten on deck, "You nearly scared me half to death down there!"
He pulled his mask off, "I was only playing with you. Besides, I found something."
"You found something!" I exclaimed, "I found something too!"
He turned to the nearest person, "We need to refill these as soon as possible. We are diving again as soon as these are filled. Understood?"
"Yes sir," came the chorus of voices. Everyone scuttled off to do their own thing. Mark and I descended bellow deck to change out of our wetsuits. Bellow deck was much more crowded than above deck. There was barely room for everyone to sleep let alone everyone to put their belongings someplace. I must have stepped over a million gum wrappers, since gum was the only food allowed to be eaten freely without it being meal time.
"How long did it take you to find something?" Mark asked me.
"Right before I had almost given up for the day," I replied. "How bout' you?"
"As soon as I got to the sea's floor the light went green. I placed a flag down there and kept searching. I wonder if what we found is just garbage thrown out by the locals," he said.
I walked up to him, "Maybe. Even if we don't find anything I still will have enjoyed spending this time with you." He leaned in to kiss me. We had kissed thousands of times before this but for some reason this one felt different. I had a feeling something big was about to happen that would change everything. He must have felt it to because he pulled back sooner than he normally does.
Footsteps descended the stairs. We turned to see the co-captain coming down. "Sorry to interrupt but you said you wanted to dive as soon as the tanks were refilled," he said.
"Don't worry about it, Stanley. We'll be up in a sec. Get everytheing ready in the mean time," I said.
"Aye aye captain!" he turned and ran back up the stairs.
"I really wish he'd stop doing that," I said. Mark just laughed and slipped back into his wetsuit.
We climbed up the stairs and was handed our masks and oxygen tanks, now fully filled. I pulled my tool belt around me securing it around my waist and letting it fall down and hang around my hips. I was always a hipster kind of girl. I never did get why everything was meant to be pulled up to the waist.
"Alright," I said, "We'll dig your's first then we'll dig mine."
"Fine by me," Mark replied pulling his mask over his face. We looked at the co-captain waiting for his signal. He waved his hand down signaling us to dive. We dove.
Submersed in the waters of the Mediterranean is a feeling one can never get tired of. The beautiful marine life never gets old because of all the variations of color and shape. I thought Mark never really appreciated the natural life, but then again I have always found things like this amazing.
I followed Mark towards his yellow flag, which I didn't see the first time. We arrived at the bottom shovels already out. We had practiced this a million times. The key was not to stir up the silty bottom and create a cloud we could not see through.
Giving Mark the thumbs up, I plunged my plastic shovel into the sand. The shovels were kids toys purchased cheap at the dollar store. We didn't see why we needed anything professional for this part of the excavation. The grueling process took twenty minutes before we found what the metal detector had picked up. It was a ring topped with a ruby that shone even this far underwater. The band was engraved with ancient Greek and Egyptian writing. Mark picked it up and slipped it into one of our artifact bags.
We made our way over to my flag and started the process all over again. My heart pounded, hoping that I had found something or I would never live it down. Muttering in my head, "Please don't be garbage. Please don't be garbage," I continued to dig. It took longer this time, since it was buried much deeper. When we had finally reached it, I looked down into the small hole. I gasped as much as I could when scuba diving. I was a gold pendant with a beautiful emerald stone set in shining, untarnished gold. It was also engraved with ancient Greek and Egyptian writing. I pulled out an artifact bag and slipped it inside, sealing the bag.
Mark gave me the thumbs up and we swam back to the surface. The pendant pulsed in the pouch I had placed it in. I placed my hand on it. It was like it was calling to me, like I was meant to have it. As we swam to the surface, I saw Mark place his hand on his own pouch, as though he was trying to protect it. Or maybe he was just checking to make sure it was still there.
Climbing aboard the ship again, I had the slightest feeling of lightheadedness. I was overworking myself. I pulled my mask off and pulled out the pendant, "Take this to the lab. I'm tired so I'm going to go take a nap."
Mark took the pendant from me, "I'll take it to the lab for you. I'm taking the ring there anyway."
"Thanks," I said weakly.
"No problem. What are boyfriends for?" He said. I just laughed and headed down to my cot.
I stripped out of my wetsuit and hung it up to dry. I lay down on my cot closing my eyes. Just before I drifted off I remembered my mother telling me if I overworked myself I would fall on the floor with exhaustion. At first my rest was peaceful, but then I had one of the most vivid dreams I have ever had.
I stood in a cave. Torches hung on the walls casting strange shadows. I looked around at the sparkling items around me. Some were gold, some were wood, and some were other metals of much value. Priceless gems were strewn across the uneven floor. I looked down at my clothing. It was thin and creamy. It flowed around my perfectly sculpted body. Around my neck hung the emerald pendant and on my finger was the ruby ring. Something in the back of my mind told me that it had belonged to Mark Antony. I unclasped the pendant and handed it to the guard, who I had not noticed before. Then I slipped off the ring and handed to him. He turned and left, pushing a giant boulder in front of the entrance, sealing me in.
I turn to the basket at my side. I lifted the lid and reached my hand inside. I pulled out a black snake. My memories telling me it was a Black Asp. I bring it up to my neck, holding it there waiting for it to strike. I wanted to move it away but my hand would not respond. It bit my neck and I felt its fangs enter my skin. They struck my artery causing the venom to run into my veins. I lay down and closed my eyes. On the back of my eyelids there was a picture. It was a picture of Mark's head in my lap, a hand clutched to his chest where blood poured from his body. He was dressed in the clothes of the ancient Romans. "Cleopatra," he muttered with his last breath. Then his body went limp.
My breath became short. I couldn't grab enough air. It was supposed to be painless, my subconscious told me. My muscles began to spasm and there was a sharp pain in my head. I was covered from head to toe in sweat. I felt my heart stop, but my body kept the pain going until I took my last breath.
"Cloe! Cleo!" Mark shouted shaking me. Someone was screaming, but I hadn't realized it was me.
"Mark," I panted, "you're alive. And you're dressed in jeans."
He pulled me against his body, "Of course I am. It was just a nightmare. Don't worry I'm here." He stroked my hair soothingly. I was shivering. I still felt the pain in my head that I had felt in the dream. I tried to focus only on Mark's arms around me, but my mind kept drifting off to the cave where I died.