“Housekeeping!”

“Housekeeping!”

There’s a funny thing that happens to lips after a couple thousand years.

You ready for this? They fall off.

Gross, huh? Yeah, that’s death for you. Or undeath, I guess. Except I never really understood that term, because I did die. I died, and then came back. So if I had to pick a word to use, I think I’d say re-death. Or post-death. Something like that.

Then again, I’ve had no one to argue with over terminology for a couple thousand years, so forgive me for babbling on a bit. See, Tawhas was supposed to also resurrect, wander around with me inside the pyramid, but something must have gone wrong with the inscriptions, or she couldn’t move the sarcophagus, so…

Well, in any case, I’ve been alone for a while. So for most of my after-death existence, my lack of lips hasn’t really been too much of an issue. I figured that, should some hapless grave robbers come bursting in, the unearthly moans that I now make would be more than enough to send them running away, screaming and pissing themselves.

But I wasn’t exactly expecting a knock on the front door of my tomb. Or for someone to shout out, in what sounded like a very female voice, that word.

“Housekeeping?” I’m not sure that this translation spell is working right.

I stood in front of the door, trying to decide. Of course, when I say “door,” I really mean two-thousand-pound slab. It wasn’t actually designed to open, my priests telling me that my soul would diffuse out through it, or sink into the earth, or fly into the sky, or something like that. Didn’t quite work out, although it’s nice in here. Lots of little toy soldiers and ships to play with.

Housekeeping. The priests wrote a spell of translate-to-all-tongues on my mouth, but it fell off with my lips. Was it still working? Should I let this person in? What if this was salvation, finally arrived after taking a wrong turn for a couple millennia?

The knock came again. “Housekeeping!”

Oh, why not – it’s pretty dusty in here. I pushed at the huge slab, feeling my bandages straining, and felt it slide ever so slowly to one side.

And there, on the outside, bathed in brilliant white light, stood a woman.

Wow. Maybe it’s just that I’ve been locked up in a tomb for the last two thousand years, no one but Tawhas’s very stiff body for company, but this woman was very definitely female. The epitome of female, the kind of female that would make Sahashput, my royal sculptor, bite right through his prized brass chisel. Sorry, Tawhas, but you’ve got nothing on this woman.

She wore a stiff white robe that showed considerable amounts of tanned arm and leg, and smiled sweetly at me.

“Hi there,” she greeted me, beaming as she stepped forward. “Housekeeping, sorry for the delay, how are you enjoying your tomb experience so far?”

“Uurrrgh,” I answered, a little taken aback. Was I supposed to attack her? Rip her limb from limb? I felt a bit self-conscious, and wished that my first grave robber might instead have been a normal scar-faced man.

“Yes, I understand the delay, and we offer our deepest apologies,” the woman said, smiling up at me. Wow, her lips looked great. Nice and pink, not falling off at all. They’d need a lot of bandages for her, I considered, especially around the, er, chest area. And those thighs would need a bit of adjusting. Can’t have them wearing against each other for a couple thousand years of shuffling.

She stepped forward, moving in past me. “And to make up for it, we’re offering a free gem cleaning service as well,” she said brightly, looking around. She produced a feather duster from somewhere and began briskly tidying up, wiping down the various gold statues of my loyal subjects and farm animals. The animals were also loyal, or at least had been up until we ate them. Then they protested quite a bit. “We’ll just collect them, and have them back as soon as they’ve been polished.

“Raargghah,” I agreed, tottering after her. Gem cleaning. I did have to admit that some of my gems had lost a bit of luster. I didn’t remember my priests saying anything about a service for housekeeping, but it seemed like the decent sort of thing to do. After all, need to keep up appearances for the afterlife, all of that.

I trailed after the woman as she popped back and forth, easily dislodging gems from their settings and dropping them into a small satchel. I vaguely wondered about how she’d remember where they went, but even if she just dropped them off, I could easily replace them. Seemed simple enough.

“Looks like that’s most of them,” the woman said after completing a circuit around the tomb, turning to once again beam at me with those wonderful lips. So attached. “Now, you just close up after me, and keep an eye out for tomb robbers, won’t you?”

I nodded, not even having any words to respond to such cheer. A little bit of me wanted to ask if she had any plans for after she died. It wasn’t traditional, but Tawhas hadn’t risen, after all, and a pharaoh had to move on eventually, didn’t he?

The woman gave me one last smile, and then vanished back out into the brightness. I gazed after her for a while, but finally remembered to close the front slab before the bugs started creeping in. They really do a number on linen, bugs.

It wasn’t until several hours later that I sat bolt upright with a roar of anger, but it was far too late.

Man, tomb robbers were wily these days.

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