Friday, 25 May 2012

#FridayFlash - Eyes That See


The swing band in the corner fought for attention over the din of chatter in the hall. Women in furs quaffed champagne as their menfolk told dreary jokes and ignored the exhibits. Gabriel scowled at them – no appreciation for history at all. He’d assembled the finest pieces ancient Egypt could offer, and they were more interested in society gossip.

Marie St John sashayed up to him, all shining eyes and pearl strings. Marie’s mother was one of Gabriel’s greatest supporters, although she might not invest as much if she found out about his tiny crush on her daughter.

“Gabriel, darling. Splendid show you’ve put on.” She kissed both of his cheeks, leaving scarlet imprints like plague posies beside his mouth.

“I’m glad you approve, Miss St John. Your mother had a lot to do with this. So sorry she couldn’t be here tonight,” replied Gabriel.

“She’ll come along and see it in a few weeks when she’s back from Paris, I expect.”

Gabriel nodded. Mrs St John’s other daughter lived in France, and felt obliged to help out now the war was over. Pity she wasn’t in Paris in 1940 – the Germans wouldn’t have stood a chance.

“So has anything in particular caught your eye?” asked Gabriel.

“The jewellery is fascinating.” Marie looked across the room at a large glass case. Women clustered around it, cooing over the ornate collars and gold bands.

“Very different from what you wear.” Gabriel nodded to the Lalique brooch on her dress.

“I daresay Mother would wear it!”

Gabriel laughed. Mrs St John was no shrinking violet, and it was easy to picture the mountain of a woman draped in white linen, and dripping with Egypt’s finest. Marie smiled and looked away, her eyes roving the crowd. Feeling his chance slip away, Gabriel laid a hand on Marie’s arm.

“Have you seen this piece?” asked Gabriel. He steered Marie through the crowd towards a glass case set on a plinth in the middle of the room. A wooden box lay inside the case. Scenes of Egyptian life were painted on three sides, with hieroglyphics adorning the lid. One side was blank, except for a pair of painted eyes.

“What is it?” asked Marie. She wrinkled her nose.

“A coffin.”

“I thought mummies came in things like that,” said Marie. She pointed across the room to a brightly painted sarcophagus. A young man lounged against the case containing the sarcophagus, a cigarette in one hand and a cocktail glass in the other. Gabriel frowned.

“Later ones did from around 1550 BC. Before that, coffins were rectangular. The mummy lay inside on its side, facing the east, and the eyes were painted on so it could ‘see’ out,” said Gabriel. He pointed to the eyes. Marie shuddered.

“That’s awful.”

“Why do you say that? It’s no different from burying a body in the hope it’ll be resurrected on Judgement Day.”

“Is there a body in there?” Marie stared at the box, her rosebud mouth turning down at the corners.

“I daresay there is. I don’t believe in opening them up.”

“So you brought me over here for a dead body in a box?”

“I thought you might be interested. It’s not every day you come this close to an ancient civilisation.”

“Indeed. If you’ll excuse me.”  Marie tossed her head and stalked away, heading for the throng of young men around the statue of a bare-breasted goddess.

Gabriel sighed. He thought Marie had the same fascination for history as her mother. Still, he’d been wrong about women before. Two ex-wives proved that.

“I despair of humanity sometimes. I’m so sorry you had to witness that,” said Gabriel, laying one hand on the glass case.

He looked down at the coffin. The eyes on the box blinked.

29 comments:

Fayne Riverdale said...

Very descriptive, felt like I was there :)

Peter Newman said...

Cool. I really liked the line: "She kissed both of his cheeks, leaving scarlet imprints like plague posies beside his mouth."

But now I want to know about Gabriel's relationship with the mummy. Tell me more!

P.S. No toenails I notice, although I'm guessing the mummy's ones are pretty grim.

E. L. Napier said...

Enjoyed this! Didn't expect the ending!

CharlotteC said...

Liked the last line, very clever

Katherine Hajer said...

This one definitely reads like there's more. I like how it's the hieroglyphics that are reacting, though, instead of the mummy inside. The "plague posies" line is great, and I like how it gets the idea of death in before the coffin shows up (not to mention what it says about society ladies).

Tony Noland said...

The goddess always knows her true disciples...

Great dialogue, Icy. I felt like I was listening to a transcript.

John Pender said...

Love the last line.

Larry Kollar said...

When you're writing mummies, it's always the best of #FridayFlash! I was expecting a darker twist, although that could easily be next. I like Gabriel's respect for the dead, and how he realizes Marie isn't the one for him. (But that's all for the best, Mom will continue to fund him without those kind of… complications.)

ganymeder said...

Nice, I really liked the part about her lipstick prints being 'plague posies.'

Monica Marier said...

Yummy. I want to learn more about Gabriel and the mummy. How fitting that "Gabriel" should be talking about the Resurrection.

John Wiswell said...

The last line was my favorite, too. A blinking box beats a mummy - neato!

Sulci Collective said...

you captured the social being seen scene rather than genuine interest in the exhibits really nicely. Loved how you described the lipstick.

Good stuff

marc nash

Aidan Fritz said...

I like the hinted at aspects of the world that it's a little bit larger than our own with the ability of Marie's mother to intimidate the Germans and the blinking box. The plague posies leaves a nice visual.

Nerine Dorman said...

I absolutely ADORE this story, Icy.

Michael Tate said...

You painted a really great scene there. I was wondering where you were going with the whole mummy thing and eyes, and as the remaining lines ticked down I started to actually feel a sense of anticipation. And that last line didn't disappoint.

daniellelapaglia said...

Great description as always. I loved this particular line: "She kissed both of his cheeks, leaving scarlet imprints like plague posies beside his mouth." The contrast of the kiss and the plague is fantastic. And I love the blink at the end. :)

Tim VanSant Writes said...

Let me cast another vote for the plague posies and blinking eyes as the two best lines in the piece. I enjoyed this one all the way through.

Steve Green said...

Oh Icy, I was torn between laughter and terror at that last line.

afullnessinbrevity said...

Love your interplay with history. Always brings up unexpected ideas. Fantastic.
Adam B @revhappiness

Richard Bon said...

Like some others who've commented, I liked the plague posies line in particular. Unlike some others here, I think the ending actually detracted from the story. You painted the social scene, included a touch of history, expressed Gabriel's hesitant desire for Marie so well, I don't think you needed the twist at the end.

Jen Brubacher said...

Ha! Creepy but so very fun.

storytreasury said...

The mummy just might restore his faith in humanity.

jackkholt said...

Very nice! No poltergeists, but I'm still happy. :-)

Helen said...

Lots of good lines in here Icy! I loved the closing one.

Carrie Clevenger said...

Very cool story! :)

modernscheherzade said...

Marie needs some stain resistant lipstick doesn't she - I thought the plague posy was funny. Gabriel is the very picture of the mad Egyptologist/archaeologist - probably better off without Marie. The end was very cool.

Magaly Guerrero said...

I love your voice, always have. There is something about the your authorial voice comes through every story, even when the tone and themes are so different.

And this story was yummy. I hope the young lady gets a visitor later when she goes home. Someone to watch her while she sleeps :)

Icy Sedgwick said...

I'm glad everyone's enjoyed this, and I can see that one of these characters will be making a return. But which one...?

Stephen said...

Hi there Icy -- did rather like the other daughters potential to dissuade the German advance. lol. And the mother's ability to carry off large+ Egyptian jewellery.

Not into Egyptian funerary rites and coffins? What's up with the girl -- football, football, football, it's all they talk about.

St.

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