I'd be amazed if any of this lot knew how to take photos without the flash on those fancy cameras of theirs, she thought. They spend all that money and leave them on automatic.
The tourists jostled one another into the exhibition. Bridget followed, smiling at their enthusiasm for fragments of dirty wood or tattered scraps of yellowed papyrus. An elderly woman engaged her in conversation about the faded sarcophagus in room 3. Bridget was amazed to discover Mrs Brown was a former academic, specialising in the Book of the Dead. They stood discussing the nobleman quietly decomposing in the display case.
The other tourists reached room 6. Various trinkets and broken pieces of pottery sat in the cases around the room, accompanied by photographs of the archaeologist that discovered them. A single display case occupied the end of the room. In it, the blackened remains of a priest leaned against an iron bar holding him upright. Fragments of cloth clung to the dark skin, and empty sockets stared out at the gawping tourists. A single crack ran the length of the case from the floor to the top.
"Mummy! Daddy! Look, a mummy!" exclaimed a blond child.
He tugged on his father's sleeve, pointing at the mummy. His mother knelt on the floor beside him, reading out the description from the information board. According to the museum's curators, the priest's remains were discovered in 1937, and he had toured museums ever since. The blond boy stared up at the dead priest in amazement.
A brand new Canon 550D hung around his father's neck. He flicked the camera on, ignoring the settings for aperture, white balance and ISO. Leslie Kinnock didn't even know what ISO meant, but he knew the 550D was an 18 mega-pixel beauty with several automatic shooting modes. A blue-haired girl stood near the case, snapping the mummy with an old manual camera. Leslie found its click and the whirr irritating. He smirked to think her film would be ruined.
Why, she's not even using a flash! he thought.
The blue-haired girl noticed him waiting and stepped aside to allow him to take his shot. He popped up the on-board flash. The girl opened her mouth to speak as he pressed the shutter button. The flash lit up the glass, the reflected white light filling his viewfinder.
"No!" shouted Bridget, entering room 6 with Mrs Brown.
Leslie turned to look at her. Bridget wore an expression halfway between fury and fear. The sound of breaking glass caught his attention before he could review his image. Twenty pairs of eyes swivelled towards him. A dried hand snaked out of a jagged hole in the case behind him. The blond boy screamed as blackened fingers fastened around the 550D. The mummy jerked its arm and Leslie lurched forwards, crashing into the case. The glass exploded. Leslie fell to the floor, his camera still gripped by the dead priest.
The tourists stared, frozen to the spot. The mummy heaved on the camera. The strap snapped, flapping across Leslie's chest. The mummy closed its fist, crushing in the camera into shards of plastic and glass. It opened its fist, dumping the remains of the 550D onto the floor. It bent towards Leslie and, after drawing fresh air across 4000 year old vocal chords, rasped in his ear.
"No flash photography!"
Bridget and Mrs Brown picked their way through the room. Mrs Brown helped the mummy back into his shattered case, while Bridget helped Leslie to his feet. She glared at the dead priest. He would end up costing them a fortune in insurance claims.
* * *
This flash was inspired by all of those people who insist on taking expensive cameras to museums, and then using the flash to photograph things in glass cases. I consider these people to be complete tools. So yes, that IS my photo accompanying the story and no, I didn't use the flash. A longer shutter speed and a wider aperture will do the hard work for you.