© 2013 Clive Eaton
Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness . . .’ Genesis 1:2
Northeast Africa, 2350BC
They stood in an excited group, evaluating the task they had almost completed. Seven of them, no more, no less, gathered among the last rays of the sun. Silence descended upon the celebration when the leader raised his hand and wrapped a withered arm around his youngest prodigy. His eyes sparkled with warmth.
‘It has been decided that you will be given the honour of positioning the final component,’ he declared, squeezing the young man’s shoulders with pride. A broad smile swept across the youth’s face as his colleagues cheered.
The sunset painted their creation and its surrounding landscape with a warm orange glow. The leader lifted the corner of a large cloth, allowing the low sunlight to give life to a brightly coloured object trapped beneath. He studied the young man’s expression and read warm respect reflected in his prodigy’s eyes.
‘Carry out this task with the utmost care,’ advised the sage, patting the youth’s shoulder with a paternal touch. A glimmer of a smile and the slightest of nods gave the leader the response he sought.
Twenty minutes later the task was complete. All the equipment was cross-checked against the master inventory and securely packed away.
The leader faced his team and regarded each of them in turn, appreciating the pride in every familiar face. ‘You have all done outstanding work and deserve to be congratulated on your achievement.’
He gazed towards the heavens, watching as dusk drifted into nightfall. The last flicker of sunlight quietly retired beyond the horizon.
He returned his attention to his team and held out his arms, indicating what they had done. ‘Enjoy our creation for one final moment,’ he advised. ‘We may not return for some time.’
They stared, mesmerized until a blinding light shot suddenly from above, encapsulating the entire team. They each held up a hand to protect their eyes. Then they were gone.
A voice rose over the hum of a mobile air-conditioning unit, bright with excitement. ‘Khalfani! Mohammed! Come and see what we’ve found.’
The two men peered over their companion’s shoulder, their attention on his monitor. The trestle table on which it sat was in a small antechamber, deep within the bowels of the Great Pyramid of Giza. Images blinked on the screen, emanating from a camera which had reached a previously inaccessible chamber, and now revealed mysteries unseen by anyone in centuries.
Khalfani Rashid squinted, studying the screen. ‘It’s some form of engraving. What do you think it symbolises?’
‘I’ve no idea,’ replied Sa’eed, his voice still carrying the excitement of his discovery. ‘I’ll do some searches on the computer to see if I can establish exactly what it is. Give me a few minutes.’
Rashid glanced towards Mohammed Acbel. ‘Any ideas?’
Acbel shook his head and continued to stare at the screen. ‘Let’s sit down over there and leave Sa’eed to carry out his search.’
In less than ten minutes Sa’eed called to his colleagues, announcing he had a match. ‘Although the engraving in the chamber is actually the mirror image of what I have here, I can now tell you exactly what we are seeing.’ Sa’eed turned towards the other two, his face drawn with concern. ‘And believe me, you’re not going to like it.’
Rashid scrambled to his feet and made his way to where Sa’eed, perched on an upturned crate, operated both the computer and the remote camera. He glanced over Sa’eed’s shoulder, reading the description on the screen. It took a few moments before he realised the significance of what he was seeing. Then he paled and clung to the side of the table for support, mentally comparing the images he had just seen to what technology he knew had been available to his ancestors.
‘No, no, no,’ he muttered. ‘This is impossible. This can’t be right. There must be a—’ The ground beneath his feet seemed to lurch in that moment. Rashid’s legs buckled and he collapsed onto the floor.
‘Khalfani? Khalfani! What’s wrong with you?’ Acbel tugged at his colleague’s limp body, shifting him into a seated position and tucking his head between his legs. Within seconds, he showed signs of life. ‘Khalfani!’ Acbel repeated. ‘What’s the matter with you?’
Rashid, still disorientated, glanced up and blinked at the other man. ‘Look at the computer. Read the description.’ He shook his head slowly. ‘Please tell me I’m seeing things. It can’t be true. It’s not possible.’
Acbel examined the computer screen and suddenly made the same connection as had his colleague. He shook his head like a dog and placed a hand on the wall of the pyramid to steady himself.
‘It can’t be.’ He refocused on the screen and spun to study the other monitor, comparing the two. ‘How did that get there?’ he managed.
Rashid struggled back onto his feet. ‘More importantly, who did it? It couldn’t have been our predecessors.’ Groaning, he pressed his hands against the sides of his head. ‘This is catastrophic news. Do you realise this discovery puts a huge question mark over the entire origin of this pyramid? This could destroy everything we’ve ever known.’
Sa’eed and Acbel nodded, their expressions anxious. All three scrutinised the images on the screens for several minutes.
Sa’eed finally stood, breaking the silence. ‘Ben should be here by now. I’ll go get him and show him what we’ve found. He might know something we don’t.’
Rashid grabbed Sa’eed’s arm, eyes wide. ‘No! Anderson mustn’t see this under any circumstances. Nobody can see this.’
Sa’eed yanked his arm away, confused by Rashid’s behaviour. ‘Don’t be ridiculous. He’s part of this team. Without his robot we would never have made this discovery. He deserves to know what we’ve found.’
Rashid glanced at his watch. Sa’eed was right; Ben Anderson would be waiting for them outside the pyramid. Rashid shook his head, feeling his hands grow clammy with sweat. He couldn’t allow Sa’eed to share their find with anyone, least of all Anderson. If any of this got into the public eye, he, and everything he had ever worked for, would be ruined. He gripped Sa’eed’s arm tighter.
‘Sa’eed. Listen to me. You know as well as anyone that what we have discovered today has to remain secret from the outside world. Think of the consequences if it becomes public knowledge. The very foundation of our country’s proud history would crumble beneath our feet. It would affect the economy, and—’
Sa’eed pulled away his arm and shook his head. ‘You’re wrong. So wrong. I won’t be part of a cover up. I see it as my duty to present my findings in an accurate manner. If we can understand what the image symbolises, we can —’
‘Your findings?’ roared Rashid. ‘This is my project. Mine! And it would serve you well to remember that.’
‘Again, you’re totally wrong.’ Sa’eed swept his arm around the anti-chamber. ‘This doesn’t belong to you. This represents the history of our country, whatever that history may turn out to be. None of us owns the pyramids, but we can all learn from them. I, for one, want to understand why something which is clearly not the work of our forefathers has been engraved on the ceiling of a chamber. Especially here within this, the greatest of all the pyramids. Think about it! This is a four thousand year old mystery waiting to be solved.’ Sa’eed glared into Rashid’s eyes, daring him to disagree. ‘And I want to solve it. So if you’ll please excuse me, I’m going to get Ben.’
Sa’eed turned his back on the other two and headed for the exit.
Rashid stood paralysed for a moment, a sense of desperation sweeping through him. All he could think was that Sa’eed must be stopped. Immediately. He glanced at the toolkit lying on the ground next to the other equipment and picked up a lump-hammer.
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