First Place winner for August’s Writing Contest!
Nate Capener is the First Place winner for the writing contest in August! Here is his story:
The Golden Tomb
By Nate Capener
I stopped in front of the large, oak-wood over polished door and hesitated before knocking. Written in gold letters was a name.
Alfred D. Anderson
Alfred Anderson was an Archaeological employer, and a good one. Mr. Anderson hired the best Archaeologists, and I do consider myself to be… pretty much the best.
I lifted my hand and knocked three times on the door. From inside I could hear the scraping of a chair and then footsteps making their way towards me.
The door swung open and I found myself face-to-face with Alfred Anderson. He was slightly larger and taller than me, with a completely shaven baby face and beady brown eyes that looked down at me with a small greedy glint. His wispy brown hair was matted to the right.
“Mr. Nathan Turner, at last you show up at my doorstep!” He boomed and slapped my shoulder so hard that I had to re-set my footing to avoid falling to the floor.
“That’s me”- I started, but he cut me off. “Well, we don’t have all day Mr. Turner, please, sit down.”
I did as he requested.
“Very good, now before we start talking Archeology, Mr. Turner, we must talk contract!”
“Mr. Anderson,”- I started.
“Please, call me Alfred.”
“Of course, Alfred,” I began again, “I never talk contract before I talk Archeology,” I stated.
Alfred frowned as the paper contract crumpled to the ground.
“Very well,” He started slowly. “Let us talk… Archeology.”
1 Year Later
A sweltering heat blasted my face as I stepped out of the cramped white plane. My eyes adjusted to the brightness and I looked around the small airfield. Several small planes were scattered around the asphalt, and yellow stripes painted the center of the runways. I looked up at the sun and shaded my eyes with my hands.
I searched for the person who I was supposed to be meeting. According to Anderson, his name was Pedro. Pedro would lead me to the tomb, where I would collect all the treasures that I could. I would then pay Pedro his modest share, get paid handsomely for my efforts, and then continue on with my rich, happy, life.
My eyes finally caught onto two figures on camels riding towards the plane. The Camel’s hooves kicked up sand sending a billowing trail of brown out behind them that glinted gold when it reached a certain point from the sun. I smiled as I thought of the riches I would be holding in my hands in just a day or two and began to walk quickly towards the two riders.
I raised both my arms in the air and waved. Both riders waved back and I began to jog towards them excitedly.
Making a living as an Archaeologist isn’t the easiest thing, so when Anderson told me about this dig, I was all for it.
“Trust me, Mr. Turner, nothing will go awry, and by the end of the job I- excuse me- we, will be millionaires,” he said.
I knew that he was planning on taking most of the dough for himself, that he thought he was just using me, but the truth was, I was the one getting the gold. I was the one going into the tomb. The only reason I needed that greedy slime was because of flight payments and guide arrangements.
I made it to the camels and slowed down, breathing hard.
To my right was an Egyptian man, who looked skittish and nervous from his body posture, but his face showed nothing but kindness and warmth. I reached up and shook his hand firmly.
“You must be Pedro, my guide?” I asked.
“Oh, yes hai am yor guide, but my name is Puebloto,” he smiled.
I finally managed to get my hand out of Pueblos, or whatever his name was, iron grip and turn to the rider on my left.
“Who are you?”
The rider on my left quickly pulled off her white hood and mask revealing that the rider was a blond haired girl. For a moment I was taken by surprise, but distracted by her looks. Her face was sunburned and tan with dark lines under her eyes; she had slender eye brows and shoulder length hair.
“Hi, I’m Nathan Turner,” I started, and then reached out my hand.
She nodded and replied, “Amanda. Mr. Anderson told me a lot about you.”
I shook her hand politely, but frowned.
“Mr. Anderson never mentioned another… are you an Archaeologist?” I asked, a little frustrated. This girl might be here to spy on me for Anderson, and would most likely be getting in the way of everything.
I turned back to my guide and said, “When do we start.”
“Now-eh- would be preefered please,” He replied.
“Look, Pesoto”- I started.
“Whatever, listen Puebloto,” I said, “I just got off a plane ride across the Atlantic Ocean, didn’t either of you arrange a place to stay?” I begged.
“No, tonight we sleep outside in ta desert!” Puebloto answered.
I sighed and looked past them to the dull sea of glinting brown and gold, which matched perfectly with the bright blue sky and small whispy clouds behind it. Sand flew upward occasionally from random spots, flying high into the sky then disappearing.
I thought about sleeping out there in the dark without another soul in sight for miles and shook my head.
“Your crazy, Pueblo,” I muttered.
“toh,” he replied.
“What?” I squinted up at him.
“Puebloto, my name… it is Puebloto,” He explained.
I was about to say something smart, about how I was pretty sure Puebloto probably isn’t a real name but was interrupted by Amanda, who I had nearly forgotten about.
“So!” She exclaimed loudly. Both Puebloto and I looked over at her.
“Nathan, your camel is back there.” She turned in her camel-saddle and indicated towards the third camel of the bunch. His head was hung, and when I looked closer I thought he might be asleep, but then he started to slowly shuffle backwards until he was yanking on his ropes.
“His name is Amun, after the god of mystery,” she continued. “Have you ever ridden a camel, Nathan?” She asked.
“Uh, yeah, Once,” I replied, and walked over to the camel. In truth, my first camel ride left me with a bruise on my back the size of my hand.
“What’s eating you?” Amanda asked. I just waved her off and walked up next to Amun.
“Hey, Amun,” I began. The camel looked up at me for a second with dull eyes.
“You’re my camel now, we’re gonna have some fu”- I was cut off as Amun spit right onto my white shirt, then went back to trying to escape.
“Hey!” I exclaimed, but when I looked back at Amanda and Puabloto, they were both hunched over laughing in their saddles.
I fumed silently and wiped the spit off of my shirt, then pulled myself into the saddle.
From the time I had set foot in Egypt, nothing had gone my way. The girl, the annoying guide, and now a camel that hates me. Great. Couldn’t get any worse.
“Let’s get out of this airport,” I grumbled and, to Amun’s delight, turned around back to the desert.
Two hours later
Middle of the Desert.
The sun beat down on us in wave after wave. I reached into my saddle bag and pulled out some water. After two hours I had drunken almost one whole canteen. I only had five. Also inside the saddle bag was my small pistol that I had brought along just to be cautious, and my archaeological tools like a brush, a chisel, that kind of stuff.
I looked up from my water then and nearly spit it all out. Directly ahead of us was a billowing cloud of… sand.
“What is that!” I already knew the answer.
Amanda had been writing inside some journal about Egyptian artifacts or something, but now she looked up.
“Oh, that?” she answered, “that is a sand storm.” Then, calmly went back to writing in her book.
“Oh yeah?” I was starting to freak out a little bit now.
“Do not worry, they are not doo bad,” Puabloto reassured me, though Amun didn’t look sure. He was trying to turn around again- away from the storm- but I held him in place with the reign.
I stepped down from the saddle and turned to the other two.
“We should make camp here for tonight,” I said, “Publo, how long do we have until the storm reaches us?” I asked.
“Perhaps, er, tirty minutes, perhaps less,” He replied.
“Alright, we can set up the tent in that time,” I said.
I walked over to Puebloto’s camel and opened the large saddle bag. Inside were the supplies for one small white tent. I took out the supplies and placed them on the ground.
One large white cloth and six wooden poles laid before me. I was about to begin setting the tent up, when something caught the corner of my eye, opposite to the sand storm. I turned and squinted beneath the sun’s glare. From the direction that we had just came, I could just barely make out four camels, coming directly for my group.
I turned and sprinted to my archeology bag attached to Amun. The bag was a beige brown color and had one large flap and a long strap to throw around your head onto your shoulder. I flipped open the flap and reached my hand inside, feeling around until I found the binoculars I had brought on the trip.
“Um… Nathan, are you alright?” I shut out Amanda’s voice and ignored her question, then turned back to where I had seen the camels. I put the binoculars up to my eyes and scanned the horizon back and forth until I saw them. As I had thought, four camels were walking straight towards us, and I could just make out four riders on them. On one of the rider’s backs, sticking out just behind his shoulder, I thought I could make out the long muzzle of a gun. A big gun.
I turned back around to Amanda and Puebloto, kicking up the soft sand that I had been standing on.
“We’re being followed,” I stated as I returned the binoculars to my bag on my camel. Amanda squinted towards the mysterious riders.
“Are you sure?” She asked nervously. “They could just be travelers.”
“Always prepare for the worst and you’ll get the best possible outcome,” I replied. I usually didn’t like to use that term, one that my old man had practically lived by, but now seemed like a really good time. Besides, I could just feel it in my gut. Some sort of sixth sense. We were being followed, and honestly, I was scared.
“What are we going to do?” asked Puebloto.
I thought about it for a moment, then said, “Unless we want a fight, we’re going to have to lose them, but how….” I trailed off. We thought for a second, then, simultaneously, we all turned our heads towards the oncoming sand storm.
I turned back to the others and swallowed.
“We can lose them in there, cant we Pedroso?” I asked.
“Well, tee storm weel cover our tracks, and we will be out of sight, so I believe so,” He replied.
“How will we be able to stick together if we can’t see anything?” Amanda asked.
I thought about that for a moment, then came up with an answer that I thought was pretty genius.
“We can tie the camels together with a rope!”
“Do we have any rope?” Amanda asked again
“Yeah, I got some in my pack,” I replied.
“Do you have everything in that pack!” Amanda exclaimed
“Everything we need,” I hoped that was true.
I looked back towards our pursuers.
“We have to hurry!” I found myself yelling now. The wind had begun to pick up making it hard to hear, and it was throwing sand into my eyes. I pulled my shirt over my mouth so that I could breath properly. Then I grabbed the rope from my bag and handed it to Amanda.
“You tie the camels together, I’ll be right back!” I yelled. The wind kicked up sand in one huge gust and made a loud hissing as it was thrown onto us.
Then I ran, with my binoculars in my hands, towards the oncoming riders.
After I ran for about a minute, I knelt down and put the binoculars to my eyes and inspected the group once more.
Their camels looked tired, walking slowly with their heads down, which was good. There were four riders, the one on the far left was wearing thin white puffy clothing with a scarf to cover his mouth from sand. The man in the back was the one with the rifle, I was sure it was a rifle now, and dressed similarly to the other man to the left. The third was just about the same as the other two, and he had just taken a drink of water from a small brown cylinder. The last rider was different. He was wearing brown archeology clothing, with a bag similar to mine, and a wide brimmed hat and a white scarf. By now I estimated that they were maybe three hundred and fifty yards away, maybe more.
I watched them for another few seconds before returning to my group. When I got back the camels had all been tied together, and Amanda walked over to meet me.
“Who are they?” She asked, frowning towards the group.
“I don’t know, but they don’t look friendly, and I think one of them might be looking for our tomb and treasure,” I replied.
“Well, the camels are all ready to go when we are, I tied them with a double fisherman’s knot, invented by”- I cut her off by saying,
“That’s fine, let’s get going,” Then hopped up onto Amun.
Ten minutes later, all I could hear was white noise. Sand flew up everywhere getting into my eyes, down my shirt, filling my bag, and when I tried to talk, into my mouth.
I looked next to me and could vaguely make out Puebloto shielding his eyes from the sand. I covered my mouth with my shirt and gestured for him to come closer. He nodded and turned his camel towards me.
“Do you still know where we are going!” I yelled into his ear as hard as I could and felt sand in my mouth.
“I think so!” he screamed back.
“How long will this storm last?!”
He was about to answer when suddenly, a large rock blasted past both of our heads and bounced on the ground where it rolled to a stop, then was blasted off again and I lost sight of it.
“We have to stop. We can use the camels as shelter, dey are well used to these storms!” He yelled. “Otherwise we may die out here!”
I looked behind me. There was no sign of our pursuers, but I knew they were still going as we were. When someone is hired to follow another, they don’t stop while the other keeps going.
“No, we keep going!” I yelled back.
“Alright, but we should get to some high ground, it will help!” Amanda’s voice nearly made me fall off of my saddle. I looked to my left and saw her not ten inches away.
“Uh, good idea!” I replied. The only problem was that I couldn’t really see anything, let alone a specific mound of tall sand.
“This way!” Puebloto gestured and I looked at Amanda.
“Well, what are you waiting for?!” She yelled, “That way!”
I turned and followed the rope that attached me to Puebloto. I hoped he knew what he was doing.
The storm ended about two hours later. I sat breathing hard in my saddle, hunched over the camel’s head. All of us were. I slowly twisted around in my saddle and smiled at what I saw. Nothing but sand hills and blue sky. Perfect.
“We might av gone off course, Mr. Turner, but I will figure it out,” Puebloto breathed.
I was just happy we had survived.
“Hey, over there!” Amanda jerked up in her saddle as she yelled, “What is that?”
I followed her eyes and saw it. To our left was a huge sand-colored tower, reaching most likely as high as the great sphinx and as wide as… maybe the plane I had arrived in. It was a giant box.
“The tomb,” Confirmed Puebloto.
“That’s it?” I said with disbelief, “We actually found it?”
“You doubted me?” Puebloto teased.
“Not for a moment, Publoso,” I replied, then led Amun towards the Tomb.
“Puebloto,” He mumbled in return. Amanda followed behind me, smiling, though it was clear she was exhausted.
“Once we reach the tomb, I must stop,” Puebloto said sadly. “You two will be fine as long as you don’t do anyting stupid.”
“Oh, alright, are you sure?” Amanda asked.
“Yes, yes, quite,” he reassured.
“Well, thanks for leading us, I’m sure Mr. Anderson will”-
A echoing bang rang out suddenly. I ducked instinctively and looked around, just as Puebloto was thrown from his saddle and hit the ground causing sand to erupt around him.
“Pueblo!” I yelled. The bang must have been a gun shot. Another shot echoed around and this time, sand exploded to my left. “Get down!” I screamed and rolled off my saddle. Amanda jumped down and crawled over to me.
“What was that!” She hissed.
“Someone is shooting at us,” I replied. I pulled on Amun’s reigns, who grumbled and looked at me, his eyes were no longer dull but excited, darting around nervously. I pulled him down and took shelter next to his belly. Amanda did the same and looked at me nervously.
“What now?” She whispered, panic rising in her voice.
I slowly turned around and peeked over Amun’s belly. In the distance, I could make out four figures, one knelt on the ground aiming a rifle. I took shelter again and glanced at Puebloto who groaned and began to stir.
“Puebloto, stay still!” I hissed to him. He did not show acknowledgment, but stopped moving. I hoped he was just following my orders, not….
“If we wait until he takes another shot, then it will give us time to run to the tomb, where we can take shelter inside because he has to re-load,” I said hurriedly, “We just have to get him to shoot.”
“Let’s do it,” She said.
“We can’t just leave Pesblono there,” I replied, looking accusingly at her.
“Well, I don’t want to die!” she raised her voice.
Anger built up inside of me, from exhaustion, fear and hope, I retorted, “Ugh! I knew you would get in my way!”
“I get in your way?” she yelled. “I’m trying to be reasonable, how long is he going to live if we save him, heck it might get us killed!”
“I”- I was cut off again as another shot fired, hitting the ground next to us. Amun started to rise, I turned and calmed him, making shh ing noises softly. He slowly relaxed and spit in my eye.
“Ugh!” I exclaimed.
“We just missed our chance!” Amanda hissed.
“I told you, I’m not leaving without”- another loud shot erupted. It sounded closer now. I looked at Puebloto, then back at Amanda, and nodded.
“Alright, lets go!” I screamed. We both scrambled to our feet and bolted, not looking anywhere but the large opening to the tomb. We were almost there when a part of the wall to the tomb exploded next to me. I hadn’t even heard the shot, my ears were plugged and for some reason I felt weak. Then I dove into the entrance and slid to a stop on what felt like marble floor. A moment later, Amanda slid into me and we both crashed into a solid wall where we laid, breathing hard side by side. I slowly turned my head towards her. Her skin was pale and her eyes fluttered open and closed before she looked at me too. Then I kissed her. I don’t know why, she had just stopped me from saving a man’s life, but then again, she did just save mine. We kissed for just a few seconds before I pulled away and blinked. She looked surprised, but happy. Then I felt it. In my left arm, pain erupted, rippling through my arm until it reached the rest of my body. It felt lik e I was on fire, or maybe I was freezing, I couldn’t tell and I didn’t care. I cried out and fell onto my back.
“Oh god, what’s wrong?” She exclaimed, “are you hit?”
I nodded and pointed with my good arm to the wound.
“OK, just lie there, the people are still outside, we need to move,” she was looking around frantically for another exit, another route, a door, something.
My vision was going dark and for a second I lost sight of her running around and banging on walls desperately. Then I noticed something. Just above me was a small lever, just big enough to fit my hand around.
“Here,” I groaned weakly, and pointed to it with my right hand.
“Yes!” She exclaimed, and ran over to me then yanked down the lever. For a second, nothing happened. Then, I felt the floor begin to shake, slowly at first, vibrating just a little, then getting bigger and bigger until the floor was actually swinging and I realized we were moving downwards. The floor was sinking lower and lower, leaving the door, the armed men, Puebloto, and Amun behind.
“Alright,” Amanda sighed with relief and sat down next to me. “How does it feel?” She asked.
“It burns, but I think I can get up, if there’s any trouble,” I replied, and pushed myself into a sitting position with my good arm. We kept sinking lower and lower, and the room kept on getting darker.
“What now?” She asked, pulling her legs against her chest and glancing around.
“We wait, I guess,” I replied.
“Alright… Nathan, there’s something I have to tell you”- she stopped and gasped suddenly.
I opened my eyes and saw what she had been so excited about. The floor was sinking slower and had just lowered into a larger room, lit by hundreds of small holes reaching all the way up to the surface. All over the side of the chamber were Hieroglyphs, seeming to glow from the light. An inside the room was gold: tons of it, piled on top of itself, gleaming off the sunlight from outside. Gold coins, gold cups, and gold necklaces all circled around one large coffin.
I couldn’t help but laugh excitedly and slowly stood up and looked around, despite my injury. “It’s Amazing!” I yelled, “We did it!” I turned back to Amanda who was not as happy as I was. She stood as the floor jerked to a stop and walked closer to me. She looked sad, and angry, and maybe a little disappointed.
“Nathan, I’m sorry,” She sobbed.
“What – for what? we made it!” I exclaimed excitedly. “I don’t know how to get back up, but we can figure that out later!” I spread my good arm out and sighed contently.
“No… Nathan…,” She trailed off, then her gaze shot towards the ceiling. I heard it to. It sounded like ropes bouncing off a wall or something. I frowned.
“Amanda, what is it?” I said.
“No,” she breathed. Just then, the end of four heavy ropes fell to the ground and hung there. Amanda looked conflicted now.
“Amanda, it’s the gunners, run!” I yelled.
She didn’t move.
“Amanda?” I frowned.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t want”- Suddenly, four men dropped down to the floor with one solid thud that reverberated all throughout the chamber, guns all pointed at me. The three wearing white all had long black beards and carried pistols, except the one with the rifle. The man in the middle had buzz cut blond hair, a bag like mine, and a pistol aimed at my heart. He had familiar eyes that gleamed with a small greedy glint.
“Excellent work, Amanda,” He turned to her and lifted her chin. She glared him, her arms at her side helplessly. I immediately realized what I had been coming to realize for the last minute.
“Your with them!” I yelled furiously.
The Buzz cut guy raised his arm and pointed it at me without taking his eyes off Amanda.
“Hands in the air, Turner,” His voice was cold and smooth, and it scared me. I slowly raised my right arm into the air. One of the men in white gestured with his gun to my other arm, the one that had been hit by his bullet, and then gestured skywards.
“I can’t lift it, you shot it you idiot!” I yelled at him. He scowled but did nothing else.
“Why did you do this?” I turned my fury back to Amanda, “Who set me up with you!”
She shook the other man’s hand off her chin.
“You fool, she was sent to kill you if we didn’t,” he said as he turned back to me.
“By who?” I growled.
“Well, Mr. Anderson of course,” He explained, “When you took control of his deal, setting yourself up with most of the money, he got angry and sent me, his son, Andy Anderson, and his daughter, Amanda Anderson, to stop you and get the gold for the family,” Andy chuckled, “And it seems to me, you fell for her act more than we suspected.”
I thought my situation over carefully. Four men with guns pointed at me, most likely they are going to kill me and take all the gold, then rip open the coffin and the mummy inside.
I glared at Amanda. She gingerly met my eyes.
“You’re going to regret this,” I muttered. She had just got me killed, well, pretty much killed. I closed my eyes and calmed down. There is no such thing as a no-win situation. There is always a way that this could turn my way. Of course, it could also turn their way… a lot easier.
Andy Anderson holstered his weapon and smiled.
“Now, Mr. Turner, I think I will take your gold, which is now my gold, and then replace the mummy within that coffin with your live body, and seal it so that you cant get out,” he said. He took a step forward towards me.
I glanced down at his gun holster and noticed it. Nothing. Andy’s gun was missing. I frowned and looked around. I was sure he had just put it in there….
“Any last words?” He asked.
Suddenly, a gun shot went off from right behind Andy, and he was blasted forward, his hands jerking to the left as the bullet hit him in the right shoulder, landing in a pile of gold and spraying coins everywhere. The three guards turned to see where the shot had come from, and something told me to act. I reached into my pack and found my gun. I stretched out my arm and fired, hitting the man with the rifle on his right arm.
“That’s for shooting a hole in my arm,” I muttered. One of the men was closing in on Amanda, who had fired. I shot the other just as he was turning around and he spun once in a full circle before slamming into the wall behind him. I then ran forward. The last man had realized the threat of two enemies against one and dove to the side as Amanda fired another shot. I was about to shoot him when my pistol was ripped from my hand by another bullet. I looked back in surprise and saw Andy, struggling to stand, with his gun outstretched. I dove into the gold and rolled, the bullet missing my head by inches. I sprang up and dove onto him, not really able to throw a punch with just one arm. We were on the ground now, rolling in gold as we struggled for control of the gun. Another shot fired and the bullet bounced off of the wall next to me, ripping hieroglyphs to chunks. I let go of his gun arm and elbowed his face. He cried out, and I finally knocked the gun away fr om him. I struggled, slipping, to my feet and kicked him down a pile of treasure. I looked back at Amanda, who had been cornered once more by a man with a black beard.
“No, wait!” I yelled, and then, just as the man was about to fire his gun, another shot went off. I looked around. My eyes were then drawn upward as the man fell to the ground. Leaning over the edge of the top of the tomb, was Puebloto and Amun, who spit loudly and hit me in the eye.
“You made it!” I yelled up.
“Yes!” He smiled, the cringed in pain from his wound.
I looked back at Andy. He was laying in a small pile of golden coins, unconscious, one tooth missing from his mouth and his head resting on a small golden pillow. I looked at Amanda and, despite my efforts to still stay mad, I smiled.
“Lets get this gold back home,” I breathed.
She nodded again and looked at the ground.
“I’m so sorry,” she sobbed and put her hands over her face and began to cry. “I killed all these people, and I almost killed poor Puebloto and Amun!”
“Hey,” I said, “It’s over now, lets just go home,” I looked back up at the two figures watching with interest.
“We’re ready to go,” I said.