I was watching a National Geographic special the other day about Caucasian-looking mummies found in the Tarim Basin in China. I couldn't help chuckling as one man, someone in charge of some of the mummies kept at a museum, waxed poetic about one particularly well-preserved body. "If I lived in her day, or if she were alive today, I would marry this woman. She is the most beautiful woman I've ever seen," he said.
"Wow, he needs to get out more," I thought to myself. True, she looked pretty good for someone who'd been dead for centuries. Most bodies don't look too great after a while in the ground. Anyway, that prompted me to write this silly, sappy short story. I posted it as a comment in my friend's blog, "Write Now Anyway," but had to do it anonymously, since I'm terrible with computers and couldn't get logged in. I decided to also post it here on my blog. Just a random bit of silliness for a random Tuesday. I like to call it:
Chen Loves His Mummy
XinJiang Region, China
“Good morning, my love,” he whispered. She did not respond. He knew she would not; yet, he couldn’t help it. His soft greeting must be the first sound to reach her each day.
He felt it right away; what he could only describe as a slight “shimmer” in the air. It wasn’t an audible sound, yet Chen had long ago learned to recognize it. She was letting him know that she heard him. And she was pleased.
Chen Hai smiled to himself as uncovered dusty glass cases. This room, her room, was in a far corner of the building. It was no more than a wooden addition tacked on when interest in the new acquisitions first brought attention to Chen’s insignificant museum. Surely no one outside of China, no, perhaps even no man outside his own province, had even heard of the town before. Then, Chen had found her. Now, his tiny town perched on the edge of the brutal Takla Makan desert was known to many. Scientists from the world over had come to visit. A crew from National Geographic had just packed up and left the day before.
He was glad that the foreigners had left. Signing in relief, Chen hit the switch to turn on the overhead lights. At first they buzzed like angry horseflies, but finally, the room was bathed with a soft, though inadequate glow. Now that they were gone, those lank Westerners with their cameras and questions and sun burnt flesh, he relished the silence. He turned to her.
“Did you enjoy your moment in the spotlight?” he asked, feeling a slight flush creep over his face. More than two years in her presence and he was still so shy!
While he waited for a response, Chen busied himself with his morning routine. First, he replaced the flowers in the vase beside her bed. Then, he dusted every imaginable surface. Grit got everywhere in this harsh, brown land, blowing in upon the interminable wind through the tiniest of cracks. Once Chen had gotten sick, and had not come for several days. Upon his return, he was shocked by the thick layers of dust. He knew it had hurt her very badly that he had neglected her comfort. She had not spoken to him for weeks.
She spoke now. Chen felt as though a tiny bird were beating its wings inside his chest.
“I am glad of it,” he said, hearing the tremor in his voice. He put his cloth away. “Now for your hair.”
She liked it plaited, with brightly colored wool threads woven throughout the long braids. Chen made certain that her hair was perfect each day.
She was pleased. The air crackled with electricity as she spoke to Chen, sharing her secrets. Telling him of her gratitude. Her love.
He arranged her cloak, his hands caressing the rough woven fibers. The colors were so bright. They suited his lady, with her flowing locks and her face like the carving of an ancient goddess. Her long, lean limbs. Chen sighed aloud.
“Will you permit me, my love?” he murmured. The assent came immediately. His heart would burst inside him! He leaned down, his lips searching for hers.
“Chen! What are you doing?”
Laughter burst from behind and echoed through the small chamber. The harsh sounds pummeled Chen all over his body; hard, painful jabs. Zhu Tan, the museum’s director, as well as his assistant, Ping, and several other workers crowded into the narrow doorway to stare, laughing so hard tears poured down their cheeks.
“He’s making out with the mummy again,” one of the younger assistants said, gasping for air. “You win, guys! I never would have believed it! Guess I owe you all a drink tonight after work!”
Chen shoved past them and fled. Their laughter remained in his head long after he reached his apartment. She called out for him, desperation and loneliness clear in her voice. Her voice reached him even there, blocks away. He would not leave her alone with them.
It was a simple matter to puncture a hole through the room’s thin wooden walls. The next morning, the museum director found the hole, as well as the empty bed. Nothing else had been disturbed.
Twenty Years Later:
Li Sheng stared at her newest find. She’d been excavating the cache of Caucasian mummies in the Takla Makan desert for quite some time. Now that China’s silly desire to preserve its long-cherished cultural beliefs about existing in a vacuum with no outside influence was finally waning somewhat, she and the others in her international team had made fascinating discoveries.
The cave held many surprises. But this one took her breath away. She did not understand.
The first mummy was that of a woman. Tall, with long braided hair and the distinctly Causcasian features of the other mummies of the Tarim Basin, she wore a colorful cloak. She was very old. Two or three thousand years, at least. She lay in a semi-reclined position, her arms folded upon her chest. Li Sheng frowned. This mummy was what she’d expected. But the other one was not.
The other mummy, sitting beside the woman, was clearly the remains of a Chinese man. Short of stature, his facial features were frozen in a look of peaceful complacency. And instead of the coarsely woven wool clothing of the other mummies, he wore a…cotton t-shirt! Li Sheng leaned closer and raised her flashlight. A National Geographic logo was on the front of the man’s shirt. Jeans covered his legs and his feet were clad in a dusty pair of Nikes.
Swallowing bile, Li Sheng backed away. She’d call the police. Someone must have used this cave to hide their murder victim.
As she turned to go, a strange feeling shot through the air, almost like a spark of electricity. Li Sheng’s hair stood on end. Slowly, she turned.
The Chinese man’s head now rested upon the shoulder of the tall woman, whose long, brown arms were wrapped possessively about her companion. Li Sheng blinked. Then, she cursed, and turned to run. She needed a drink.