The Riddle of the Sphinx: Solved

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 stopping and turning to the camera once more. “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 I have uncovered in the past.”

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

“No,” Dr. Hawass replied, dabbing at his damp forehead with a handkerchief.” “The writing is quite legible but is unlike any writing in the ancient or modern world. There are no glyphs, but symbols over the doorway. The writing is not painted but etched onto the stone and glows quite visibly 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 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 through which they descended on the ceiling. 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 with hand-held jackhammers from which pneumatic lines snaked out and disappeared rising behind the ladder to the surface. 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 lights by pressing a switch on the line leading to the dual halogen work lights that had brightly illuminated the small room, and the symbols came alive with a 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 these dust masks and ear protectors,” Dr. Hawass told the cameraman, giving him a dust mask and two silicone hearing protectors, then placed two of these in his own ears while donning a mask of his own.  As he did so, he nodded to the workmen and signaled them to begin as they sported their own industrial, headphone-style noise suppressors.

Even with the hearing protectors, the noise in the stone chamber was loud enough to be painful, with  the vibration from the dual jackhammers rattling their teeth as the workmen applied their tools 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.

Five minutes later, as the camera captured the dense swirling dust of the jackhammers’ work and its deafening sounds as the ancient stone gave up its last efforts at resistance, a small hole was finally breached in the center of the door.  In an instant, the chamber was flooded by a bolt of plasma that filled the chamber and shot up through the well, instantaneously vaporizing the still smiling Egyptologist, the cameraman, and the jack hammer operators and 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.

The carved letters above the breached portal left by the victors of a galactic war whose final battle was fought on Sol millennia ago, and the remnants of whose vanquished hoards, forced to march through a portal to oblivion hidden below ground in an insignificant, life sustaining planet. The portal was then sealed and a guardian erected to mark the spot—using local materials and a magnificent predator from this planet to serve as a warning to the locals to stay away from this site marked by the gods.

With the passage of time and the rise of arrogant, foolish men who feared nothing but oblivion, the glorious lion’s head and flowing mane were ordered to be defaced and carved into the likeness of Khufu whose megalomania could not be satisfied by building the largest monument to himself that the world has ever known by way of the Great Pyramid at Giza. The result would become the iconic figure that would spawn mysterious controversies among historians and Egyptologists in the modern era with its too-small head in proportion to the lion’s body, the unavoidable result of having to fit a human face and headdress within the features of the original perfectly proportioned lion’s head. In time, Khufu’s face would itself be defaced by having its nose chiseled away as clearly evidenced by the chisel scars left behind by the ancient defacers of the defacer. Whether the deed was done as some argue as an act of vengeance by another pharaoh, by religious zealots attempting to eradicate a blasphemous idol, or for some other reason, it matters little. With the original warning unheeded, this now lonely symbol stands as a pointless monument to the boundless foolishness of a now dead race which loosed once more upon an unsuspecting galaxy evil that had been conquered at great cost before the ascent of humanity, a race which having learned nearly nothing since climbing down from the trees ignored a blazing warning in a forgotten tongue above a portal it blindly breached. The words originally written there would much later be echoed by Dante, inspired by the residual record of that prehistoric struggle between good and evil and which in the original tongue, as in its later Latin version, could be translated as “Abandon all hope all ye who enter.”

(C) June 2013 by Victor D. Lopez (All rights reserved.)

This short story will appear in the next edition of my short story collection. The current edition, Book of Dreams 2nd Edition: Science Fiction and Speculative Fiction Short Stories, is available for the Kindle and in paperback. Information about the current collection and an additional free preview are available at  http://www.amazon.com/Book-Dreams-2nd-Science-Speculative/dp/1480295914/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1372698226&sr=1-3

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