Indie approached the tomb cautiously, he felt strangely nervous and didn’t know what to expect. He wished he had his dog, Trouble, at his side. The tomb was situated right by the camp, separated by a small chain-link fence. Indie was surprised, he had assumed it was a generator or storage building. The rusted fence groaned as he swung it back, but it moved easily and there was no lock. As he entered the building, he jumped! There was someone in there. Thankfully, it was just another explorer and she seemed friendly enough.
‘I’m happy to be getting out of here, to be honest,’ she said, thrusting loose notes into his hands, ‘this is one of the most boring tombs I’ve been assigned to, there doesn’t seem to be much to discover here.’
‘I’m only here to collect some papers for Shadia Rashid, are these the ones?’ Indie gestured to the crumpled notes.
The woman shook her head, ‘No, those are just some health and safety guidelines telling you to watch out for falling bits of rock, that sort of thing. I haven’t seen her papers, I don’t even think she left them here. There are only a couple of rooms downstairs so it won’t take you long to look around.’
Indie was disappointed, he didn’t know what he’d been expecting, but it felt like he’d been fobbed off.
‘Look on the bright side,’ she laughed as she turned to leave, ‘you get to spend time with Frank. He’s downstairs.’
‘Frank’ turned out to be an old skeleton. Nice. Indie wondered why they hadn’t bothered to bag him and tag him. Maybe Shadia had been messing with him when she’d said he could keep whatever he found. He didn’t want Frank, but he felt bad that the guy had been left down there. The main chamber wasn’t much more impressive. There were some empty barrels against one wall, it appeared the tomb had been used as storage after all. However, there were some old coins on the ground that were too common for anyone else to have bothered with, and Indie pocketed these as he thought they’d be interesting for his students to handle back home.
There was also a chest, but all it contained was the keystone to the next room. Indie felt a tingling sensation as he lifted the stone into place, what would he find on the other side of the door…?
An empty room.
Indie sighed and sat down to rest against the cool stone. So Shadia really had given him a dud tomb. He had the impression that she didn’t quite trust him. Frustrated, he was about to leave when he noticed an oddly shaped slab on the ground. On closer inspection he could make out the imprint of two foot-shaped marks in the stone. Curiously, he positioned his own feet in the grooves. The stone moved. Indie stumbled back as the ground before him rumbled and fell back, revealing a staircase leading down into a gaping black hole.
Had nobody discovered this before? Indie thought to himself as he carefully descended and lit the torches in the room below. It was some kind of entrance hall, with black stone heads guarding another door.
And there was another Frank.
‘Well you managed to find your way down here,’ he said to Frank Two, ‘but I guess you couldn’t get back out.’
Indie looked worriedly back at the staircase, he was scared it would close behind him. Looking around he spotted another weird symbol etched into the stone floor and curiosity overruled his better judgement.
I’ll be fine, he told himself, Kara knows I’m here, and she’ll hear me shout if the steps close behind me.
Amazingly, his phone still had a weak signal too. He thought about calling Kara, or even Shadia, but he wanted to explore a bit more first. He was irked by how Shadia seemed to not trust him, and he felt like he had something to prove. He’d wait till he had a little more information first. Indie stood on the etched stone like he did before but nothing happened. Maybe it needed something heavier? There was a statue placed conspicuously in the centre of the room, maybe he could push it? He could!
Indie grunted as he dragged and pushed the statue over to the stone panel. If he was going to be doing this regularly he’d need to start working out again! Finally, he got the heavy statue into place and the stone depressed with a clunk.
Indie groaned, the next room contained… more statues!
After much sweating and panting, he’d dragged the statues into the right positions and he discovered a large room that must have once been a burial chamber. There was another chest! Inside there was… a folder. It was Shadia’s papers!
So, Shadia had known about the hidden rooms all along, but she hadn’t told the other explorer about them.
Was this some sort of test? Indie wondered, scratching the back of his head thoughtfully.
Indie was about to make his way back to the surface when he noticed some odd markings on the wall. He banged on the stone bricks, a hollow sound echoed back to him. There was a hidden room! He explored the wall with the tips of his fingers and traced a cracked outline that must be some sort of door. Exhausted from heaving the statues about, he threw what little strength he had left against the wall. Little by little it began to move. He pushed harder. Rock dust made him cough, and gravel fell against his head and arms as the wall groaned on it’s axis, eventually he’d pushed it back enough to reveal a tiny treasure room beyond.
Indie could have scooped up the treasure for himself, but he was no thief! He was an academic first and foremost. Excitedly, he called his wife and gave her directions to the tomb.
‘Watch out for Frank One and Frank Two,’ he teased.
Kara rushed down to the tomb and jumped into his arms, ‘I was so worried about you!’
Indie explained that he wanted her to photograph and sketch the hidden treasure room before he touched anything, and Kara excitedly obliged. While he waited, Indie continued to explore the tomb and found an alternate entrance, an easier way to get back to the surface. There were some copper ingots in a chest, not worth much, but Indie collected them anyway.
‘Ok,’ Kara called, ‘I’m done. It’s all yours!’
Indie raced back to the room and eagerly gathered up the ancient coins that littered the floor. Inside the chest he found an impressive-looking stone sculpture which he would be pleased to claim as a prize for all his hard work! He hoped Shadia meant what she’d said about him keeping whatever he found.
As they walked back to the surface, Kara glanced at one of the skeletons and felt a wave of panic. Suddenly she felt trapped, like she couldn’t breathe, and she raced back out into the cool night air. Indie ran after her, he’d never seen her look so frightened. He caught up with her behind the notice board at the campsite.
Kara spun around and grasped him tightly. ‘I’m sorry’ she cried, ‘I just saw that skeleton and thought how scared he must have felt when he got trapped. How lonely he must have been when he died, wondering if anyone would ever find him. And he was just left down there. Did he have a family? They must never have known what had happened to him. He just… disappeared. I don’t want that to happen to you!’
Indie felt terrible. He’d been so caught up in his urge for adventure that he hadn’t thought of the impact it would have on his wife. The strain she must have felt every time he would enter a tomb. Those skeletons served as a warning for what could so easily happen to him.
‘Look,’ he said pragmatically, ‘if you tell me to stop, I’ll stop. You mean more to me than anything else in the world. But my work here is important. People need to know where they came from, what their ancestor’s thought and how they lived. Things are different now than they were when the Franks went down into that tomb. We have cell phones now. And… better excavation equipment if I ever do get stuck! Plus, I will always, always, always tell you before I enter a tomb so you know where to find me. I know you will always have my back.’
‘You silly man,’ Kara whispered as she drew him closer for a kiss. ‘I don’t want to ever change you, or stop you doing what you love. And yes… I will always have your back.’