(Content Warning: Blood, gore, some mild language.)
“Are you coming tonight?”
Kira lifted her soft green eyes in annoyance at Ben’s expected query. She knew that question was coming; it was only a matter of time. Ben always had a way of asking questions about things he already knew. Tonight, was a very special night: The Grand Auction of Lost Relics. Of course she was coming.
“I wouldn’t miss this night for anything,” Kira said, combing her golden locks. “Rumors are running rampant about a very special book. I’m sure that it will fetch a small fortune.”
Sucking in a deep breath, Ben adjusted his black suit jacket and exhaled. “Oh, yes, I’m sure it will cost me a pretty penny. I know how you love your books. The library is practically overflowing.”
Rising from her vanity mirror, Kira spun around and squealed, “Mind your sarcastic tone, Ben! I don’t ask for much in this lonely world, and those books are my only escape from this unbearable existence!”
Raising his right eyebrow, Ben mockingly replied, “Aren’t you exaggerating just a tad, my love?”
“Not in the least!” Kira snapped. “If your done chastising me, why don’t you go pull the car around. I don’t want to be late!”
“Yes dear, that’s why I’m here. Anything you say…”
The Grand Auction of Lost Relics is an event held every year in Egypt on the west bank of the Nile in the beautiful city of Giza. Home to many iconic Egyptian monuments including The Great Pyramid, which is King Khufu’s tomb, The Great Sphinx, and many ancient royal mausoleums. The auction brings in thousands of rich tourists hoping to buy a piece of history.
Arriving in their Rolls-Royce, Ben and Kira pulled into the entrance of the Grand Auction. The cream-colored two-story building, built in 1895, was decorated in lavish red banners that showcased the auctions name and logo of the great pharaoh himself, King Tut. Standing on a red-carpet hundreds of people were lined up underneath a big green canopy ready to enter the building.
Ben put the car in park and handed the keys to the valet. With a sense of urgency, he rushed over as quickly as he could and opened the door for Kira. She stepped out like a Hollywood superstar, wearing high black stilettos and a slim black dress that looked like it was painted on her voluptuous body. Around her neck, just above her cleavage, was a sparkling diamond necklace worth a million dollars. Ben paled compared to Kira’s magnificent beauty, wearing his plain black tuxedo. All eyes were on her as they entered the auction.
Bustling through the crowd they took their seats in the front row. Ben relaxed into his cushioned seat and pulled out his phone. He opened his banking app so he could keep an eye on their spending. Kira sat up straight and held her head high. She was on a mission to win that mysterious book. Her heart yearned for it.
Like a grizzly bear standing in the wild to show intimidation; she was sending a message to other potential buyers that she meant business.
Ben didn’t like these auctions, but he always had one fundamental rule in his marriage: A happy wife equals a happy life. He learned this the hard way. In his lifetime of running a successful oil company, he made a lot of money. A simple man by nature he lived a very low-profile life; at least he did until he met Kira at a company meeting.
She was a beauty unlike any other, and he fell madly in love with her. In less than six months they married, and Ben’s simple life was no more. Kira took over every aspect of his life, changing his home to suit her needs and spending his money like a reckless wench. If Kira wanted it, she had it.
Ben desperately tried to confront her about the irresponsible spending, but it was no use. She threatened to leave him every time he brought it up and made him feel guilty about it. He quickly learned to let Kira have her way, but this came at a high price, both literally and figuratively. He had to work longer hours and make bigger business deals just to make up for her bad spending habits. In the end, if Kira was happy, then he was happy.
Feeling Kira’s knee nudge him, Ben came back to his senses and saw the auctioneer step up to the podium. In his dismay, he didn’t really pay much attention to the wondrous stage until now. Red curtains with golden trim hung down in the backdrop of a bright wooden oak floor. It reminded him of when he was younger when his mother would take him to the theater to watch stage plays. A special memory indeed.
The auctioneer was an older man wearing a navy-blue suit with white trim. His white hair was slicked back like a classical composer from days long forgotten, and his round glasses sat on the bridge of his nose as he read his notes.
Clearing his throat, the auctioneer glanced up at the eager crowd awaiting his words. “Good evening ladies and gentlemen! We welcome you to this years annual Lost Relics auction!”
The audience clapped their hands together like a pack of hungry seals. “Tonight, we have some amazing artifacts up for sale. I want you all to remember the bidding rules, but most importantly… have fun!”
With another thunderous applause, the first item was brought out to the spectating crowd. A golden bust of King Tut’s head painted with blue trim. It was showcased in an air proof display case. Ben relaxed in his chair and took a deep breath because he knew Kira didn’t want this particular item. He could however feel her impatience. She didn’t like to wait, but wait, she would have to do. The bust sold for five million dollars to some older lady who was sitting in the back row.
Item after item came and went but the rumored book was nowhere to be seen. Kira clenched her toes in her stilettoes. The frustration was eating away at her insides like a vulture gnawing on a rotting carcass. Where is that damn book?
The auctioneer spoke loud and clear to emphasize the next item. “Up next is a very rare find. It was found in an empty canoe on the shores of the Nile River! Our appraisers have seen nothing like it in all their combined lifetimes.” He paused for dramatic effect, and continued, “I now present you with the lost tome, untouched by our hands to preserve the quality.”
The tome was displayed upright on a rolling table and instantly caught everyone’s attention. The dark leather-bound cover had no words or symbols and it was sealed shut with two black straps wrapped around silver gilded edges that seemed to sparkle underneath the stage spotlights.
At long last this was what Kira was waiting for. Fire ignited in her steely eyes and she was determined to fight till the last penny. Ben perked up in his seat with renewed interest as he heard the auctioneer shout above the gasping crowd. “The bid will start at five hundred thousand…”
In less than thirty seconds, the bid rose to a million dollars. Ben’s eyes darted around the room to see more and more people raising their numbered signs. He wished he could rip their arms off to stop the increasing bids, but that idea was quickly trashed because he didn’t have the spine for it.
After a minute the bid was up to three million dollars and climbing. With each new bid, Kira would immediately raise her sign right after the next person. She couldn’t let this magnificent find slip through her fingers. Beads of sweat were pooling on Ben’s forehead like condensation on a cool summer morning. He quickly reached into his inner vest pocket and pulled out a white handkerchief. Reaching up to wipe away the perspiration, he heard the next bid of five million dollars echo through the chamber. His hands quivered, and his heart sank into an endless chasm deep within his soul.
As the bid climbed to record breaking numbers, most people bowed out. No book was worth that kind of money. They planted their signs down in their laps and watched with bated breath to see who the unfortunate winner would be. All the while Kira had no intention of bowing out like a coward. Their love for saving money sickened her. She pressed on.
In the closing moments of the auction, it was now down to Kira and a young man wearing a white tuxedo, who sat on the other side of the auditorium. No doubt he was an heir to some family fortune, but Kira knew he would soon fall.
Standing up, the young man yelled out his next bid, “I bid eighteen million dollars!”
The bombastic audience grew silent and gasped in awe. Surely it was over now. The young man turned his head to look at Kira. He gave her a I’m better and richer than you are look. Kira felt her inner anger come to a boil. She couldn’t take it anymore and rose to her feet.
“I bid fifty million dollars, you little son-of-a-bitch!!”
The young man’s face grew bitter with disgust and he sat back down in his chair. Even he wasn’t foolish enough to place another bid. In the deafening silence that followed, the auctioneer declared, “Sold!! For fifty million dollars to the woman in black!!”
Kira looked at Ben with a million-dollar smile cemented on her face. “I told you I would win.” Ben rolled his eyes feeling ashamed at her ignorance. Fifty million dollars was not a small chunk of change even for the super-rich. He started to sweat again.
The auctioneer motioned for her to come on stage. “Please come up and claim your prize my dear!”
When Kira walked on stage the audience gave her a roaring applause. The attention was exhilarating and was just icing on the cake. She had won, and that was the only thing she cared about. The auctioneer gave her a quick hug and friendly peck on her cheek. He waved his hand and walked with her to the lost tome.
Kira reached down and grabbed the book. It was heavier than she expected, but that was ok. She unbuckled the straps and opened the worn cover. With the auctioneer looking over her shoulder, she noticed a red book mark stitched into the spine. She flipped through the first few dry rotted pages that were stained yellow and was shocked to see that they were all blank.
Panic grew in her eyes. Did she just spend fifty million dollars on a book that was empty? She had to know. She held the spine firmly in her right hand and flipped through the rest of the pages. They were all empty. This can’t be…
Kira shook her head in dismay and cried out, “The pages are all empty!”
The audience laughed.
It was a foolish purchase.
The lost tome was nothing more than an empty journal.
“She spent fifty million dollars on a worthless book!” yelled the auctioneer to the crowd.
Everyone started laughing harder almost to the point of hysteria.
Kira felt ashamed and embarrassed. Her heart was thumping a mile a minute in her chest and she could feel butterflies explode in her stomach. Watching the room spin, she wanted to run away. She whipped her head over to Ben who was hiding his face with his handkerchief. She wanted to rip his face off.
Erupting in a fit of rage, Kira closed the book and raised it high above her head. She threw it down with a mighty slam, but not before one buckle bit her finger. As the book hit the floor, a single drop of blood splattered on one of the empty pages. The tome glowed in a bright yellow light and red blood-soaked words appeared out of thin air.
Avarice and avidity prove to be thy weakness.
Choices aplenty, but thy can only choose one.
Forgiveness in thyself is divine.
But blood mixed in sand is bittersweet.
The auctioneer backed away from the floating words, and a hush fell over the crowd; perhaps they were trying to read the message. Kira snarled and swung her hand through the words. The blood-soaked letters smudged and disappeared like a puff of wispy smoke. Her choice was made.
A small black scarab beetle emerged from the book and crawled onto Kira’s leg. She could feel the scarab’s pointy legs against her skin as it crawled up her inner thigh. She screamed and pranced around to shake it off, but it was no use. The beetle made its way up to her belly button and dug in. Kira frantically smacked at the bug in a frenzied panic, but she wasn’t quick enough. The scarab was inside of her.
The shock of what had just happened was too much to comprehend. The crowd watched as Kira fell to her knees. Ben was so scared he couldn’t move from his seat.
Kira’s body convulsed and trembled like a devastating earthquake. Her arms and legs twisted and snapped with a loud crack revealing insectoid limbs. Her head snapped backwards, and her million-dollar diamond necklace broke off. Two large antennae sprouted up from her neck followed by a thick black bulbous head. Her back arched upwards and split apart. Two great wings emerged, and her transformation was complete. She was the scarab.
Gasps and screams exploded from the audience who were now running towards the exits. Ben fainted in his seat from the shear shock of seeing his wife transform into a bug. With a loud crackle sound, the scarab pounced through the air and started slicing people in half. There was nothing they could do. Kira was just to quick. This will teach them to laugh at me!!
The young man in the white tuxedo watched in horror as he witnessed the carnage. He frantically looked for a place to hide, but his time had come. The scarab lurched itself in an arch and saw the white coward. Staring into the creature's fearsome compounded six-sided eyes - a yellow stain trickled down his pants. The beetle snatched him in its mighty grip and took flight. In mid-air, he was torn to shreds and his blood rained down to the floor. The scarab landed down with a thud and continued its massacre.
Arms, limbs, and decapitated heads flew through the air as Kira destroyed everyone and everything. Suddenly, a military security guard arrived on stage with a bazooka. One could only guess as to how he had such a weapon on hand, but he did, and he was ready to use it.
Holding the weapon on his shoulder, he cried out, “Hey, bug face… come get some!”
The scarab that was once Kira turned to see this pitiful human and cackled. As his finger squeezed the trigger, the fearsome creature stabbed one of its forelegs down through his head; killing him instantly. With his body stuck on the insectoids leg, the scarab flung its appendage back and forth, but his lifeless corpse wasn’t going anywhere.
The bazooka flew from his grasp and landed next to Ben who was now waking up. As his eyes adjusted to the horrific scene, he saw the weapon and knew what he had to do. Did he have the spine to do what needed to be done?
With glassy eyes, Ben stood up and snatched the bazooka. He didn’t know how to hold it, so he tucked it under his arm and aimed at his beloved Kira. He closed his eyes. “I love you my dear!”
The shot knocked Ben back about ten feet, but the rocket hit its mark. On impact, the scarab exploded into a plum of dust and sand. Ben rose and saw the sand fall onto the blood-soaked floor. He was sad that his beloved wife was now dead. He could not explain what happened, but somehow, he felt relieved at her absence.
In the aftermath of the blood-soaked carnage, Ben stumbled on the stage and made his way over to the book. He stared at it for what seemed like an eternity. What to do with you?
As he reached down to grab the book it shook again. He raised his eyebrows in fascination and took a few steps backwards. The book rose in the air and opened itself like the maw of a hideous snapping dragon. Ben’s eyes lit up like firecrackers as the book lunged towards his head. The book snapped itself shut around his face and Ben’s head exploded like a cherry bomb. His limp body fell to the stage floor with an echoing thud. The lost tome landed safely off to the side just a few inches from the red stage curtains.
The book started trembling again almost as if it were excited. With an unseen force the tome reached out to Ben. His body lifted up and down like a convulsing balloon, and then a strange green light engulfed his corpse. The light turned into a translucent glowing green fog. It was Ben’s soul. The lost tome flipped itself open and sucked his soul in like a vacuum cleaner would suck up grains of sand. As the last remnants of Ben’s soul entered the book, it closed itself shut forever trapping his soul within the pages.
A few minutes later, a pair of old wrinkly hands reached out from behind the curtains and swiped the book like a thief in the night. The auctioneer smiled wearily as he looked at his prize. He placed the book in a brown satchel and quietly crept out of the building to a future unknown…
Daniel R. Hayes