The Curse of the Silver Pharaoh

Something ancient and evil is awakening under the sands of Egypt

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7. Chapter 6

The Doctor reined in Arthur behind the crumbling wall of the ancient temple. He was just sliding out of the saddle, when his ears picked up an almost imperceptible slithering sound from within the walls. Holding his body as still as possible, he slowly moved his arm towards the camel's head. Arthur shuddered and was about to let out a fearful moan, when the Doctor surreptitiously slid his hand over the animal's muzzle.

Whatever the thing was, it was drawing nearer to the wall where the Doctor was standing. Something was whispering in the dark. Dragging itself along the ground. Those weren't human footsteps, thought the Doctor. At least, not a living human.

Though the noise was constant, the Doctor could not clearly make out the words. It seemed like a cross between some sort of religious chant, and the sound of sands sifting over desert dunes.

Unexpectedly, a man called out from somewhere near the main entrance to the temple complex. The suddenness of it made both the Doctor and Arthur jump.

"Havensworth? Is that you, old chap?" A stern voice shouted impatiently. The Doctor saw the brief, yellowish glare of a torch being swept across the temple's sandstone columns."I've been out here in this godforsaken backwater half the night. Looking for you! They said in town that you were here. It's me! Sir Edward! Havensworth? Can you hear me?"

Using the distraction to cover his own actions, the Doctor slapped Arthur on the rump. Not missing the hint, the camel went pacing swiftly back towards town. It wisely didn't look back. Taking a chance on not being noticed, the Doctor stood on a discarded block of stone and peered over a low portion of the wall. He saw where a distinguished looking old man was stood just inside the entrance of the temple. The man was there under the pale desert moon, waving his torch about, looking very angry.

He was immaculately attired in a crisp white shirt, school tie, tweed jacket, jodhpurs, tall brown riding boots and, incongruously, a pith helmet. The old man was presently shining his torch on one particular column in the temple's courtyard. He stared intently at it. Oddly, the torch beam didn't illuminate part of the shadow from the column, which the moonlight cast on the sandy floor. It was as if that patch of darkness was completely absorbing the light.

"What the blazes is going on? Now look. It's been a long journey, and I'm far too tired for this nonsense." The elderly man grumbled. "Why are you are whispering that gibberish? Speak up, man! The university didn't send me all the way out here to play some childish party game. One of the members of my club told me you'd gone a bit doo-lally. I'm beginning to think he may have been right. I'm not in the least bit amused by this, Professor. I got you your funding for this dig. I can just as easily take it away. Havensworth? D'you hear me—what the? You're not the professor. Who the hell are you? Stay back! I'm warning you, I'm armed."

The Doctor became aware that the strange, whispering chant had ceased. In sharp contrast to Sir Edward's loud complaints, the temple complex was abruptly submerged into an unearthly silence. Strangely, it made an icy chill of unreasoning fear climb up the the Doctor's spine. An experience he seldom had. It held him immobile for a split second. Then, taking a deep breath, he forced down a shudder reflex. Ignoring his feelings, the Doctor pointedly focused his all of his attention on the scene unfolding inside the temple.

"What the—my God! It's him! But...that's impossible! I must be going mad. Sunstroke or something. You can't possibly be real." Just then, Sir Edward's torch winked out. The old man let loose an explosive shriek of pure terror. There were twin muzzle flashes as two gunshots ripped apart the night. "No! No! Please, don—"

The man who called himself Sir Edward never got to speak another word. Not in this world, anyway. The feeble thread of his frightened voice was severed clean. Replaced by a long, hideous scream, as the darkness fell away, lit by a bright flare of crimson light. It was so intense, the Doctor had to shield his eyes. All of the sudden, the light went out. Sir Edward's scream stopped as abruptly as it began. And the night once more hid the world in its Stygian shadows.

Donna was not a happy camper. She'd only been in Ahmed's shed a few minutes, when she'd heard someone outside. Peering through a crack in the door, she'd glimpsed Havensworth skulking about behind the house.

Looking around, the only place she could see worth hiding, was behind a large burlap sack containing seeds. Quickly dousing the light she crouched down, her back against the back wall. Trying not to grunt with the exertion, Donna managed to pull the sack in front of her. Seconds later, Havensworth opened the door to the shed.

Though she remained hidden, Donna still winced involuntarily, as the light of Havensworth's torch passed directly over her head. Breathing a sigh of relief as the man walked back out the door, she decided to follow him. Havensworth was looking for someone or something. And Donna was determined to find out what. If it was Ahmed, she could at least warn the young man. He seemed like a nice boy. It would be a terrible tragedy if the emotionally unbalanced professor hurt him.

A woman's voice called out from within the house It was Ahmed's mother. Then, a light came on. Poking her head though an open window, the woman queried the darkness, probably asking if someone was there. All of the sudden, it occurred to Donna that the TARDIS wasn't automatically translating Arabic into English for her.

That thought fled, however, when she saw the professor's hand slide into his jacket pocket. She was about to yell a warning, when Ahmed shouted something to his mother. The light went out, and the window's wooden shutter abruptly slammed closed.

Following as close as she dared in the darkness, Donna shadowed Havensworth, as he stalked off into the night. Muttering something she couldn't make out, the man walked off into the nearby desert. Presumably heading back to the temple site.

For over an hour, Donna quietly trailed behind Havensworth. He'd been following a narrow dirt road for quite a while. But then suddenly, the man had abruptly veered off into the barren desert. Hoping that all the snakes and scorpions were sleeping, Donna decided to stay with the man.

Now she hurried, trying to close up the gap between them. Desperately she was trying to keep the dark outline of Havensworth's body in sight. But then, as she breathlessly topped yet another sand dune...she gasped in dismay. Havensworth had vanished. Donna looked and listened into the dark. There was nothing to see. And the wind had been slowly picking up, enough so that she couldn't hear anything like footsteps.

Worse still, the moon was setting. She could barely see her hand in front of her face. Before her, as far as she knew, stretched away miles and miles of empty desert. But, Donna wasn't one to give up in despair. Her common sense told her that all she had to do was turn around, and follow her own footsteps back to the road.

Only, she couldn't see her footsteps. The wind had blown the drifting sands over them. There was no longer any trace of even the slightest indentation. "Ah. Not good Donna. Not good at all." She whispered, heaving a sigh dismay. She was lost in the desert. "I know I promised never to swear Doctor, but needs must." Looking at the stars overhead, she said into the night, "Oh, BUGGER me!"

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