“Many a man’s nose was broken by his mouth.”
The Irish proverb is quite famous, and being Irish, I, Sean Keane, am very well aware of it.
I’m an Egyptologist, and a fairly new one. My siblings Richard and Caroline are also Egyptologists, but they’ve been in Alexandria before. This was my first visit. The last I remember of it was standing on the Pasadena, looking out to sea and thinking of how famous I’d be soon.
Dr. Khan was a co-passenger on the Pasadena. He was well known in Alexandria, having been here numerous times. He was a cheerful chap, always willing to share his knowledge, and help those new on the field like me. So it was a delight and an honor that I had felt when I found out he was going to be in the adjoining cabin. On the cruise, he would come into my cabin and we’d talk through the night at times; of stories from that land I was going to be seeing soon, those that he had experienced, and also what I had heard from Rich and Lina. We didn’t part company till two days back when, after the ship had docked in sunny Alexandria, he had gone off on an expedition and not returned till the previous night.
When I had gone to his cabin that morning, I was surprised to see he was still asleep. I didn’t want to disturb him, but he and I had made plans to have breakfast in Alexandria. The ship had docked and the sun was streaming through the porthole but he was fast asleep. His camera was there on his dressing table, and for I moment, I had been tempted. As carefully as I could, I had gone near it and checked it out. Sadly, there was no film, he had removed it. I knew I was halfway to hell, and I had thought to myself, “Now no looking back. I’ll go all the way to hell. Here’s an opportunity that wasn’t to be missed.”
Keeping an eye on him, I gently tried the closet. It was locked. “If it was meant to be that easy, the key would be waiting for me on a silver platter.” I looked around the cabin. In the sunlight, I saw a glint of silver. The key was around his neck in a simple black thread. I didn’t think twice. Taking my pocket knife, I cut the thread and retrieved the key to my fortunes. The closet was neatly arranged, and his camera kit was on the bottom first shelf from the bottom. I bent down to retrieve it and I saw on the shelf above it, the rolls of film. “Ah! What luck! The old codger hasn’t had time to lock it in his kit!” I had nearly shouted in elation. After retrieving the rolls, I had closed the closet and made my way out of his room. In the safety of my own cabin, I had checked the negatives in the light, and sure enough, they were valuable. I had smiled. Hearing the commotion outside, I had quickly hidden the film safely and made my way back out.
“Ali, what’s going on?” I ask a deckhand when he had come running toward me.
“Dr. Khan has been killed,” he had replied, and I had sunk to the ground in shock.
Later, I had stood on deck, watching the water. “There is bound to be an inquiry. The film is safe, but my fingerprints are on the camera, on the key, on that goddamn closet shelf. My career is over before it has even begun,” I had thought. Someone had tapped me on the shoulder, and when I had turned around, Ali stood there holding an envelope in his hand.
“This was on my dressing table, sir,” he had said.
I had opened it to find these words.
“Dear boy, I know you since only a few days, but I can understand the way you think. So I know you’ll try to take the film from my camera. For your own good, I pray you do not try to go further and retrieve the film. I had come by your cabin last night, but you were in bed, and I could tell by the sounds that you weren’t alone. So I leave this letter with Ali, hoping he finds you first before you find the film. God bless you. And I hope He saves you too.”
“The old man has such an avid imagination,” I had said to Ali. “Stick around with me, and I shall make you rich. I have with me, the films to make us famous. Just don’t tell anyone about this letter.”
When I had turned around, a strong fist had met my nose and I’d lost balance, only to be caught by another pair of strong hands. And the darkness had embraced me at noon.
“May you never reach the land where secrets lie hidden never to be unearthed,” a voice chants, and another follows suit. In the blurred background, I had seen a match being struck, and put to the film I thought I had hidden well.
“But it can’t be. No one is holding the matchstick,” I manage to say, before I lose consciousness for good.
As the musty odour of the sea comes through the darkness, my nose does feel broken, and as I wake up groggily to the rocking motion of the turbulent waters, I realize that I am no longer in my cabin on the cruise ship Pasadena. In all probability, I am not even in Alexandria anymore. I try to sit up, only to hit my head on the wood just above me. I realize I’m wet, and naked. My wrists are also secured behind my back and I can feel the wood now biting into my knuckles biting into it. I strain my ears to catch any voices, but I can hear only silence. I’ve been buried alive at sea, in a coffin at the mercy of the currents and the wind.
For the IndieInk Writing Challenge this week, Tara Roberts challenged me with “‘Many a man’s nose was broken by his mouth.’ – Irish proverb” and I challenged k~ with “And the veil was lifted to welcome the darkness…”
(March 8th, 2012)