Source: ALEXANDRE LALLEMAND on Unsplash 

The pale disc of the moon hung above the cloudless sky, shedding its light upon the silvery dunes as I trudged through determined to find my friend. It was a windless night & the sands sloped upward and downward akin to a frozen sea. I was miles from civilization, alone in the Sahara with nothing but the stars and the pallid moon for company. I had come here to the uncharted sands of Lower Egypt with my friend & Egyptologist Mark Watson in search of the Tomb of the Black Pharaoh, which is rumoured to have been built upon the lonely dunes of the Southern Sahara.

We had arrived about four days before, by boat at Memphis. From there we had travelled many miles south and had reached The Nethernese two days after. The locals had warned us against an expedition into the sands, muttering about Daemons who walked the shifting sands, wailing in their eternal hunger. I was unsettled, but Mark had scoffed at them and had attributed the wails to Coyotes who prowled the desert for prey. The locals had refused to accompany us but they had furnished us with camels and food. We had set out at dawn yesterday and journeyed south many miles and had set up camp on the approach of night.

I woke to find my friend missing, there had been no sign of him nor the camels, not a footprint, almost as if they had never existed. I had immediately set out looking for him of course, but as the sky reddened and dusk came I had given up all hope. Now here I was plodding on through the desert sands aimlessly, searching for a hint of humanity, but I found none. I was lost, cold and alone in the dark, the light of my torch flickering feebly. I was at the point of giving up when the ground beneath me suddenly gave away, it was as if the ground had been wrenched from beneath my feet & I was falling into the abyss below. I remember sliding down a chute of polished stone that seemed to lead me into the very bowels of the Earth.

I was frightened but I could do nothing to stop my descent, the stone was much too smooth. It seemed as if I had been sliding for aeons but I soon came to a stop. I was in a passageway carved out of basalt, but that did not seem right, I was miles from the Nile, how had this come to be? The feeble light of my torch illuminated the walls revealing hieroglyphs carved upon them. They were old & crude & in a language, I did not recognize. The air was stale and musty and a monstrous stench was in the air, it repelled me. Yet my curiosity won and I walked on through. I could see only a few feet ahead of me, as if the darkness were sentient, alive with malice, smothering the light of my torch.

The passageway soon widened into a hall with a floor of black marble which seemed to glitter with a fell light. A chill went down my spine, this place was not meant for human eyes. I looked up, the darkness seemed to stretch, I could see no ceiling, a vague sense of horror gripped me and I felt dizzy. What manner of men had erected this in those ancient days?

I had turned back when I heard a familiar voice call out my name, ‘Robert’. ‘Mark’, I said as I spun around. The sputtering light of my torch fell upon a man whose hair was dishevelled and whose glasses were askew. ‘We must leave’, he moaned, moving closer to me. ‘My fault…shouldn’t have…must leave…blackness..’ he sputtered. ‘Yes’ I said half-relieved and half-concerned, I was eager to leave and I had found Mark, but yet he seemed terrified of something, kept glancing over his shoulder as if something might fly out of the darkness. ‘Come’ I said and as I turned I heard a dull clang behind me. I turned around trembling. The light of my torch fell upon a gleaming dagger a few feet away, it gleamed and glittered in the dark. I stepped back sweating profusely, I could not see what was holding it even though the light of my torch fell fully upon it, it was as if a black wall had been erected at that spot hindering the light. I was dimly aware of Mark walking toward it as if stupefied. ‘Mark’ I cried moving forward and I saw a blackened finger upon the hilt of the blade.

A primal terror gripped me, I dropped my torch and ran, ran from that eldritch abomination, from that faceless horror, that thing in the dark, with no thought for my friend. It seemed as if I had run forever through this accursed eldritch hall beneath the cursed sands but I soon reached the narrow passageway. I stumbled over to the stone slide when..‘Robert, it’s all right.’ I heard Mark say. A light shone behind me, Mark was approaching with my torch. ‘It was but a statue.’ ‘But..’ I protested feebly. ‘It’s all right’ Mark gesticulated forcibly. Something nagged at my mind, Mark looked almost jubilant and he was no longer stuttering. I dismissed this and turned to leave one foot upon the smooth stone slide when I saw a glint of silver behind Mark. My heart skipped a beat, the dagger had sunk into Mark’s upper back, I could see it, a red ruby in its pommel, yet there was no blood, no sign that it had sunk into living flesh. ‘Ah’, Mark said calmly and tried in vain to grasp it, it was much too far out of his reach. ‘I had forgotten about that’. He grinned at me and I saw a shadow cross his eyes. I remember crawling and running, hollering at the top of my voice, uttering prayers to every god I could think of. A passing caravan spotted me and heard my pleas. I told them what I had seen but they refused to believe me, yet some of their faces looked horrified as if they knew what that was.

As we approached the Nile, I saw his face. I saw the face of the entity who was once my friend Mark, now skull-like grinning sardonically at me from a cleft in the hills. I do not know what that place was hidden beneath the sands, whether it had been built to contain that evil or whether it had been a refuge for that entity, waiting for someone to stumble upon it in the dark, so that it may no longer be nameless nor faceless, free to torment our world.

I now live in constant fear, fear that I will one day see that familiar face staring back at me. 

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