Sarah Hartwell

A few very short stories, exploring themes.

March 2007 (sometime) - Once More, With Spirit

It's a strange kind of life this. During the daytime, I'm loitering about my mortal remains watching people gawking at them. I'm not inside the bandages of course, that would be gross, I just like watching people's reactions. In times past, people sat for hours with pencil and paper and drew the exhibits. These days, it's all over in a flash - a digital picture taken in haste to be consumed at leisure.

Sometimes I just sit in my case and people-watch. They fascinate me - everything from idle curiosity to serious study and even, to my eternal dismay, disgust. The children leave greasy fingerprints on my glass case, which is annoying and rather spoils the view from the sarcophagus. Lately I've taken to sitting on top of the case, swinging my non-corporeal legs and flicking non-corporeal snot at the more irritating children - the ones that walk around with stiff legs and outstretched arms going "Look, I'm a mummy."

Once the visitors have gone, the museum is left to us and the night staff. I'm generally known as Atun, though I had a splendidly long name in dynastic days, befitting a priest and a prince of Egypt. On the next shelf is a lesser wife of a pharoah. She's a bit miffed that they've misidentified her family and is very fond of saying "he was the third, for goodness sake, the third - not the fifth!" and despite being only a couple of dynasties older than me, she far prefers the company over in Ancient Britain. It's a good job her husband is over in Cairo as I rely don't think he'd approve of the company she's been keeping lately - a bog body, for goodness sake!

Ram, whose display is a few rooms away, told me they'd brought in a chariot for the revamped Bronze Age exhibit - nice two-wheeler, beaten metal, leather and wood. That sounded like fun. There are a couple of Celtic ponies around from a ritual burial so we thought we'd hitch them up and race around the central hall. To our disappointment, it was a modern reconstruction so it didn't have a spirit. What we really need is a dead chariot, one from an ancient burial; one with spirit.

Please don't think we're just a couple of late dynastic/early Iron Age boy racers. There's a forlorn tiger wandering around the colonial India exhibit. Poor thing is only a motheaten rug and he's so tatty he's kept in the store room these days in a drawer labelled "Royal Bengal tiger, study skin and skull", so Ram and I thought we could brighten up his night with an old-fashioned chariot hunt. The most excitement he's had of late is ambushing the Roman senator's wife on her way from the Romans in Britain display to the 18th century French fashions.

What about the dinosaurs, I hear you ask, do they come alive at night? Silly, of course not. 65 million years of decay and even their spirits have fossilised. Never mind the disappointment of the chariot, there's a bit of a party in the snack bar. The caterers are chucking out a crate of chocolate brownies gone past their sell-by and we've found an amphora of wine over in Minoan crete with a bit of spirit left in it (not much though - that crowd over in Roman Britain are a right bunch of boozers). Life's too long not to enjoy yourself!


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