The Ancient Desert Curse


Part the First

All signs and portents spoke of disaster befalling the project. Rumors abounded, warning of the ancient curse.

Easily disregarded was the curse as fictitious superstition if you were on the dig for money or fame. Both were promised in abundance if the early research proved to be well-founded. Not as easily dismissed was the curse if you were a knowledgeable local worker, recruited to help dig through the age-old ruins for the usual paltry wages and miserable working conditions. But other jobs were scarce and there were mouths to feed. You swallowed your foreboding so the young might swallow their ration of bread.

Me, I observe the scene with detachment, as is my wont.

Part the Second

The sun beat down incessantly; nonetheless the work continued in earnest. Conditions appeared more favorable than originally predicted. The workers made good progress removing the surface layers of soil. Then, on hands and knees, they sifted and probed through the dirt on their mesh screens. When the sun hit just right, the particles gleamed like facets of crystalline diamond, lush emerald, deepest blue sapphire. But there were no jewels waiting to be revealed now, assuming there were any jewels awaiting the diggers many depths below.

All of a sudden, a mighty wind arose. It stirred up layers of earth and, despite the fiery sun, sent chills down the spines of the workers. Successive waves shrieked and grew in ferocity and scoured the ground mercilessly. Time passed, and still the bewildering howling persisted.

Newly uprooted soil made its way through even the tightest woven fabric and rasped the skin. Freshly hatched worms of discontent forced themselves into every crevice, insinuating themselves between gritted teeth and disrupting every attempt at conversation.

The winds blew wild and ominous for a while still, and, then, as if on some unseen signal, instantly died. Several workers claimed this was the first salvo of the gods bellowing their displeasure at the disturbance of the ancient site. Those running the dig of course scoffed at this but, nonetheless, the effect of the winds was reflected in an unsettled general mood. That the winds had accelerated the erosion of earth layers, gaining ever closer to the inner chamber, should have been cause for elation, but instead, the atmosphere was anxious.

Under the stress of the unsettling weather, tempers flared easily, over both simple matters and, of course, big issues as well. The weightiest of them concerned the direction of the dig, its financial stability, and, most of all, the politics of authority. Who was really running the show?

Russell Maddox was the titular director – he bragged of this title, but it was no secret that the position was his solely by virtue of his uncle’s financial support of the project. Maddox had neither the brains nor the talent to act in an authoritative role. His appalling lack of knowledge and thoughtless decisions, combined with the threat of his snapping turtle temper, sowed serious apprehension among the rest of the crew. To their credit, the personnel had learned to appear to ingratiate themselves with him, even while resorting to sly tactics to keep the dig on course.

But now this cautious working arrangement, further burdened by the disquieting winds, grew precariously ever more unstable. The heat of the sun, coupled with the heat of disgruntlement, fomented the perfect environment for jeopardy.

And still, subtle echoes of the winds whispered through the atmosphere as the crew worked down closer and closer to the newly revealed inner chamber.

Now, will they find the curse to be true after all?

Me, I just observe the scene with detachment, as is my wont.

Part the Third

As the archeological invaders get ever closer to the tomb, I just observe the scene with detachment, as is my wont.

I know full well that the spirits of my ancestors from millennia ago wove a magical spell around my tomb, a spell guaranteed to wreak havoc on anyone who dared to come near.

It may be a curse to others, but it is a blessing to me – me, the great Queen Nefertiti, beauty of the Nile, stepmother to King Tut and beloved of many.

I observe detached, safe in my luxurious tomb, which has never been and never will be unearthed.

I rest in peace forever.

Marilyn Myerson, PhD Philosophy, has learned to take nothing for granted and to have fun. She retired from USF after 38 years of teaching, learning and kicking up her heels in Women’s and Gender Studies. Marilyn was the first outside hire in W(G)S, starting in 1973, when the department was just one year old. She was an administrator at various departmental and dean’s levels, including a stint as W(G)S Chair before her retirement as Emeritus faculty in 2010. She shepherded the Human Sexual Behavior class through its many incarnations, developed the original women’s health classes,and taught feminist research methodology. She is currently in three writing groups, and happily involved with OLLI-USF, taking art and writing classes.


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