Thursday, January 17, 2013

Body 32

   There are royal tombs underground in the city of Ur, a place just north of the Persian gulf. Within their gullets lie barren corpses, crushed flat with the imposing weight of earth above, and a man named Leonard Woolley liberated these tombs a little over a hundred years ago. There is plenty of documentation from the excavation, as it was well-known. In fact, Woolley even went as far as to number the bodies as he found them, wreathed in beaded jewelry.
   What never made it past the boundaries of ancient Ur was the truth surrounding the discovery of Body 32.
   It was in a north-eastern chamber that was named “The Great Death Pit”; a female corpse of slight stature, notwithstanding her crushed status, lying face up with slitted, hollow eyes. Usually, it was Woolley’s ritual to whisper blessings unto the dead and move on, simply taking account of them as he tip-toed down their rows. However, Body 32 caught his eye. There was an anomalous bulge between her withered breasts that seemed to have broken through her sternum, as there were petrified jags of rib which had punctured the skin there.
   Woolley, lamenting the disturbance of the dead, grudgingly called down a fellow archaeologist who happened to have spent many years as a medical student at Oxford. The man’s name was Emeritus Waldenston, and he stood wide-eyed at the sight that his former then alerted him to. Woolley asked him to incise the chest and biopsy the contents.
   A team of excavators assisted the two in dragging the corpse into Woolley’s personal tent, where Waldenston did just that. The procedure took two hours. Even though the skin had all but disintegrated at his first touch, what lay beneath was as hard as iron; an oblong, spherical thing, obsidian black and ice-cold to the touch. He labored at it with a pickaxe once subtler methods had failed, and many times, Woolley popped his head in to check on his progress as he had still to govern the dig, but after the first hour had passed, Woolley confided to himself that the impregnation of the object would take days.
   He found himself stunned when, an hour and a half after his latest check-in, he found Waldenston lying dead on the floor. Immediately rushing to his aid, Woolley saw no external signs of damage, and so assumed that something had gone on with the man’s heart. He almost called out to the workers for help, but his eyes wandered over to the corpse’s chest where he saw something that soon caused his own unconsciousness out of sheer shock:
   The thing betwixt the maiden’s ribs was not so unfamiliar as he first thought it might be. It was simply an egg, however strong, and within was an abomination, nestled around itself with many rigid, angled limbs. It was somewhat arachnoid, but its surface was a glossy shell. What disturbed Woolley the most, though, was what was unmistakably wreathed around it — White, feathered wings.
   The archaeologist weakened and fell to the floor, croaking out desperate pleas for help though he knew they were fruitless. You see, Woolley was well-versed in the stories of the Bible and one of his main motivations for exploring the then-sensational “Near-East” was the confirmation of his faith, which was vigorous and undying. He had gleaned details from a number of tomes which he had devoured in the decade prior to his arrival to Ur which made the creature within the woman’s bosom quite familiar.
   It was a winged harbinger, cast from the heavens and placed in a realm of torment; a sufferer of the fate of Lucifer, worshiped in Sumer as a god. Then it dawned on the poor man…
   He had found many places of long-gone grandeur, but never did he expect that he would find Hell.

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