“Adventure, dear sister,” Abigail sighed. “Adventure is what fills me with wonder, not being a secretary, not being married. It is in the unventured journeys through green forests and across powerful oceans. The sheer wonder, the discovery of oneself, the thrill of danger and the ecstasy of the unknown. I won’t find that here, it simply isn’t who I am.”
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Beatrice listened to her younger sister, annoyed, but not without sympathy. She has always known her sister to be the curious type, preferring the company of strangers to the company of predictable friends. Yet, had she known that Abigail was so intent on leaving home, to see another land other than the one she grew up on, Beatrice would have never pleaded with her employer to give her sister work.
“I...suppose you will need money for the journey?” Beatrice murmured, but Abigail only shook her head.
“I have all I need, except your blessing.”
“You don’t need it.”
“Well, then I want it, Beatrice. I can’t well leave without your...moral support.”
“Then you have it, just return.”
Abigail laughed, but the seriousness that clouded her sister’s face silenced her laughter in moments. With a small smile, she embraced her only sibling and they discussed dinner together, as a final goodbye. The next day, Beatrice watched her sister board a large ship, wearing pants and boots, with the largest smile she had seen on her sister in a long time.
Three years later.
Abigail sat in a dusty bar, enjoying the shade as much as she could. Sweat poured off her face, but she barely noticed. There was hardly a breeze to cool her, so she drank. That was when the elderly man wandered in, skin as tan as leather and nary a drop of sweat in sight. He simply smoked a large cigar, a roguish grin on his face.
Upon seeing his expedition partner, he made to join Abigail, his daughter and her husband following close behind.
“We leave soon,” Abigail told him before he asked. “How are you, Reginald?”
“Anxious, scared, excited,” Reginald listed off, sitting down with a big smile on his face. “I feel better than I have in years. I won’t go into detail, but the last time I felt so energetic was in the war.”
“That’s good to hear. Daisy, Simon, do you share his enthusiasm?”
“Only half as much, I’d say, but that should be enough,” Daisy replied with a polite smile.
“Plenty,” Simon agreed. “The plane ready?”
“I told you, we won’t be taking a plane,” Abigail replied, her frustration with Simon’s careless questions starting to show. Their expedition’s important details were to remain unspoken and yet Simon managed to let an important detail slip three times in crowded areas. Once more, Abigail said the same lie for any curious ears listening. “We will take a boat upriver, from there we will go east, on foot. It will be a much easier journey for all of us.”
Daisy elbowed her husband, who bashfully submitted to the painful nudge. The three drank, waiting until Abigail read off the time. Collecting their bags, the four adventurers left the humid bar and walked out onto the Egyptian desert. The four stood in an oasis, which despite its beauty, contained all manner of seedy individuals, mercenaries and British soldiers.
The soldiers mistreated the people, but could hardly be blamed when only 1 in 5 was innocent of any crime. Many were thieves, many were dangerous thieves, which only made Abigail more cautious on their way to the airstrip. Taking various corners, walking in the opposite direction and making quick cuts through crowded streets, the four adventures soon reached the airstrip.
Despite the others feeling safe from watchful eyes and alert ears, Abigail took the precaution of stowing away in the hanger with the others. While they stayed out of sight, Abigail spied through holes in the wall, checking everything in sight.
“Abigail, I do believe you are taking this too far,” Simon muttered. “We are unknowns, we have no business with anyone and I’m sure not one of these people have heard of...Santiago Cortez.”
Simon spoke in the lowest whisper to avoid another painful nudge from his wife. He found Daisy and his father-in-law agreeing in silence. After scanning the last street for the second time, Abigail sighed and looked at the odd, but brilliant family.
“We have had troubles all across South America,” Abigail reminded them. “We know who these people are, their reach, their intentions. We were lucky the hunt brought us to Egypt, but who’s to say they didn’t follow? That they don’t have friends looking out for us?”
“I think my distinct lack of paranoia told me,” Simon replied condescendingly.
“Paranoia...maybe I am paranoid, but that saved our necks at the dig site and it will save them now. Now, you might be happy to hear, my paranoia is satisfied. Let’s go.”
Once in the plane, everyone felt a lot calmer. Abigail slept in the back of the plane, to the disbelief of Daisy. The small plane still had a loud, old engine. Its noise was enough to make her teeth shake in her skull, but it didn’t seem to phase her friend, not even slightly.
Daisy looked down at the desert below, feeling a sense of wonder that Abigail often talked about. The sands below reminded her so much of the ocean, their shadows waving beautifully, the sand flying off their peaks like the white spray of seafoam. Its beauty was enough to distract her from all the difficulties they had on the journey, giving Simon an opportunity he had been waiting for.
The knife shook at first in his cruel hands, but Simon soon steadied himself as he plunged the steel into his wife’s neck. With a tight hand on her mouth, Simon ensured her death was silent and quick. Daisy’s form slumping over in her seat.
Simon stared at her, somewhat sadly, but the moment was short. A black heart is only touched by emotion but never gripped by it. He focused his eyes on the pilot and co-pilot seats. Reginald handled the controls happily, while Abigail’s sleep was undisturbed. Simon exchanged the knife between his hands, plotting, considering every option. To him, he needed to maintain control over Abigail, as she knew the most, but only Reginald could fly the plane.
Simon made a mistake in his calculations but didn’t notice. Retrieving a revolver from his satchel, he checked the bullets and he waited for their arrival.
“Almost there!” Reginald yelled over the engine’s noise.
Reginald’s voice surprised Simon and roused Abigail from her sleep. Yawning and stretching her arms as much as she could, Abigail stared out at the desert ahead of them and then scanned the plane. She saw Reginald, she saw Daisy’s slumped and bloody form, she saw the gun pointed straight at her.
Abigail was unable to contain her horror, her scream catching Reginald’s attention. Everyone’s shouts filled the plane, the anger, the sorrow. Simon calmed the shouts with his threats, pointing a gun at Abigail placing his knife close to Reginald’s throats. As the plane bobbed here and there, the knife threatened to break the skin, giving Reginald all the reason to remain silent.
Yet, Simon’s eyes were focused on Abigail, as she was the most dangerous one in the plane to him.
Simon could see the anger in her eyes, he could see Abigail waiting for a chance to take control and kill him, but he made sure it didn’t happen.
“Land the plane!” Simon ordered, a twisted smile spreading on his lips.
Reginald looked over at Abigail as the descent began. He could see the anger in his eyes, the killer instinct within her, the desire to bring Simon to justice. In his last moments, he rested all his hopes on her shoulders. With a meaningful look, he warned her of what was going to happen next.
The plane didn’t fall far, but the twists and tumbles scattered scraps of weak metal across the dunes. The sand swept over them, the shreds slowly sinking into the desert. From the wreckage, an injured Abigail limped, making her way towards the ancient tomb.
Abigail didn’t slow, she didn’t look back. Adrenaline made her mind rush, urging her onwards. As she walked, flashes of Reginald’s murder played in her mind, as Simon attacked in anger when Reginald wrenched the controls. The old man’s strength was enough to doom the flight, a faint chance that she would live and Simon would die.
Remembering the sinister man, Abigail looked back at the wreckage. Fire waved, small bangs here and there, the destruction assuring her somewhat, but not completely. Her caution, once more, was well-founded, as from the wreckage Simon crawled. With several burn marks and a look of fury, he held the loaded revolver. His last eye darted as it searched for Abigail.
Abigail had already limped onward, with each step finding her strength again. There was a greater pain in her heart, a deep sorrow. For her, Reginald and Daisy were always a joy and inspiration to be around. Often she felt that in her old age she would like to be Reginald, teaching the same passion to a son or daughter.
The thought of legacy in adventure kept her spirits as high as they could be in that moment.
Upon reaching the tomb, Abigail searched the entranceway for the right symbol and placed as much pressure as she could on it. When it felt like her fingers were going to break, the sound of sand grating between stones comforted her. The symbol slipped into the wall and pressure was released. A few seconds later, a gust of air moved all around the entranceway, puffing dust and blinding Abigail for a moment.
A gunshot and sound of ricochet.
The bullet didn’t hit her, but it was close. Simon had missed, and in pained delirium, wobbled on his feet. Abigail was already wrenching the door open and slipping into the darkness. Cursing his lack of luck and her abundance; Simon followed, breathing red mist. Abigail would not escape death again, as she had done all that he needed for her to do.
Stopping for a moment at the entranceway, he stared at the symbol she had pushed. The carvings were Spanish in origin, that much he could see. It depicted a great man, standing above a mass of corpses, holding the head of a dog. The power that they sought, it had to have been inside. With renewed vigour of his own, Simon grinned maliciously as he stumbled inside.
The altar awaited him, as did Abigail, who stood with a strange dagger in her hand, scanning the carvings on the walls with narrowed eyes.
“It’s not too late to beg,” Simon yelled at her, centring her in his sights. “Drop the dagger, Abbie, I’m feeling nice.”
Simon felt confident until Abigail raised the dagger. With a swift motion, she cut her palm deep, blood dripping onto the altar. She hoped in her heart that it would be enough to complete Cortez’s ritual, that she didn’t need to spill it all. There was another bang, but this one she heard after the surging pain.
Falling to her knees, Abigail felt the blood seep through her clothes, she felt the momentary pain, but she didn’t feel Death’s cold embrace. Turning to face Simon, she simply walked towards him. With wide eyes, he fired again, missing as she climbed down the altar. Once more, he fired, the bullet lodging itself in her shoulder. Abigail didn’t feel any pain this time. Another shot, the bullet flying through Abigail’s throat, but she didn’t bleed.
Simon fell to the ground in shock. Abigail was whispering something, repeating the same phrase, but Simon couldn’t make any of it out until she stopped in front of him. Simon watched her observe him with wide eyes as if she were seeing a human for the first time and then she nodded.
“You will have to do,” Abigail murmured. Upon saying these words, she blinked, resuming control of herself. With haste, Abigail made her way towards the exit.
Simon would have pursued, but fear and pain seized him. The top of the altar on which she stood slowly raised from its stand. It was not an altar above the tomb, as he first thought, but the tomb itself. The engraved stone flew across the room. Simon could hear the sound of the tomb doors closing, but he could not do anything.
Simon only stared at the tomb, watching a decrepit hand, rotten and shaking, stretch out of the tomb. Empty eyes, deathly form, old, Spanish armour barely secured to the decomposed form of Cortez, then darkness as the doors were closed shut.
Abigail could not hear the screams, but she felt them. Her heart pounded within her chest, feeling a strange, ethereal grip on it. It was as if something held her heart and mind in their cruel grasp, and when they released, the marks from their fingers still ached. Abigail had seen enough, experienced enough, to know that this journey had come to an end and she would not pursue it any further.
Abigail looked back at the tomb, hoping it wouldn’t pursue her either.