“Mr. Campbell…being stubborn won’t help you,” said assistant archaeologist Nuabis.

“Maybe, but I need to find out what happened to him,” Edward replied.

“You wanted to follow in your father’s footsteps; now the problem is…where will they lead you?” Nuabis said.

“In front of the well where he disappeared; his tracks stopped there. All they found was his hat,” Edward said, sadly looking at an Australian slouch hat.

Edward Campbell was the son of Robert Campbell, an archaeologist who, as soon as the Great War was over, had resumed directing the excavations in Egypt of a tomb he accidentally discovered.

“I’m sorry that the hat is the only remaining thing from your father,” said Nuabis.

“Well, not really…there’s this, too,” Edward said, showing an engraved tablet.

Nuabis looked at the object with curiosity and fear, and as Edward approached the lantern, the tablet began to shine by its own light, which seemed hypnotizing to the two men.

At that moment, a sudden gust of wind entered the tent, bringing Edward and Nuabis back to reality; looking around, they saw a shadow passing over the white walls.

An ever-increasing sense of fear took over Edward and Nuabis, as they watched, astonished at the movements of the mysterious shadow, but their fear reached its peak when the lantern revealed an almost animal-like profile!

Nuabis laid on the ground praying and covering his face with his hands while Edward shot with his Webley revolver towards the mysterious shadow.

Suddenly, the wind stopped, and an unnatural silence fell into the tent as the two men looked around incredulousy.

“Who fired?!” said Dr. Wesley as he suddenly entered.

“I did it!” Edward said.

“What happened? Did you catch some grave robbers?” asked Dr. Wesley.

“No…I don’t think so,” Edward said.

“God in Heaven… Edward, you’ve woken up half the camp, and there are four bullet holes in your tent. I’m sure you’ve had more than a valid reason to do so, and it wasn’t the lack of air!” said Dr. Wesley, looking at Edward.

Dr. Roland Wesley was in charge of the archaeological expedition and had been Edward’s friend for a long time.

Edward explained in detail everything that had happened since he and Nuabis began to examine the tablet.

He described the hypnotizing brilliance of the hieroglyphs, the sudden eruption of the wind and…the big and mysterious shadow.

“It’s all true…I’ve seen it, too,” said Nuabis.

“But you were on the ground with your face covered; how can you be sure to have seen that…thing?” asked Dr. Wesley.

“Roland…we’re sure of what we’ve seen!” Edward replied.

“It was something evil…it didn’t belong to our world!” said Nuabis.

Dr. Wesley looked thoughtfully at both of them and then said, “I’m sorry, I’m a doctor and it’s normal that I always look for the most rational explanation, and I’m also afraid that the reason why you’re here, Edward, is really obsessing over you.”

“Dr. Wesley is right…there are things that are beyond our understanding; the only real reason Mr. Campbell should go back there is to throw that tablet in the well,” said Nuabis.

“The tablet…yes. That tablet is the only key to solve the mystery. It is also depicted on a wall of the tomb along with other hieroglyphics, which I intend to translate,” said Edward.

“It seems as if some of those hieroglyphs had been broken, perhaps to prevent their translation,” said Nuabis.

“This whole thing is taking on unclear connotations. Nuabis is not wrong; get rid of that object as soon as possible. Send it to the British Museum with the next cargo,” said Dr. Wensley.

Edward was thoughtful for a moment; exploring that well was a real leap in the dark, but he couldn’t back down now.

There was definitely a connection between the tablet and his father’s disappearance; then there was the mysterious shadow and the sudden strong wind.

No…there was no reason to drop it!

“Well, my father must have had a good reason to bring it back. I’m just asking you to give me some time to translate it. The characters on the tablet will be the same as the one on the wall, so I can use it to interpret the missing ones,” Edward said.

“Fine…I admit that I am curious, too, but if you understand that you can’t get anything out of it, promise me that you will not hesitate to send it to England,” said Dr. Wesley.

“Deal!” Edward replied.

They took turns…Dr. Wesley, having other responsibilities as well, went to the tomb in his spare time, while Edward was in charge of the translation, assisted by Nuabis; the latter, however, almost always remained in the tent next to the telephone, so that they could always be in contact. Yes, to communicate in time the various discoveries or possible accidents during the excavations, was of fundamental importance. For this reason, the archaeological site was equipped with various telephone field devices whose wires unraveled like a web, starting from the tents and slipping into the various tunnels; and the one in Edward’s tent communicated with another telephone placed inside the tomb, close to the well.

The next day, Edward went to the excavation and began to examine the abraded part by approaching the lantern.

He looked at the engravings on the wall, copying the missing characters, trying to understand their meaning.

For hours, he worked his way through a translation where there was no logical link, creating on the floor a path of scribbled sheets, all thrown away nervously one after the other.

Now frustrated, Edward made one last attempt.

He placed the lantern near the engraving and began a delicate cleaning job, hoping to find some clue.

With calm and attention, he passed a brush over the entire engraving, thus freeing it from dust, when he realized that a part of the edge was obstructed by a hard and compact substance, then began to remove the obstruction using a small pointed nail, and moving it gently had almost succeeded, when unexpectedly, the scroll fell from the wall, shattering at his feet.

“No…damn it!” yelled Edward nervously throwing the nail to the ground.

He had destroyed a precious find! How would he justify himself to Dr. Wensley? Now he could forget about solving the mystery.

Edward looked at the pieces scattered at his feet…he wasn’t very convinced about what had happened.

He was an experienced archaeologist, had cleaned up much more damaged engravings and bas-reliefs, but it never happened a thing like that; then, he went back to examine the wall, and that’s when he had a surprise.

The lantern revealed a space the size of the tablet and four centimetres deep, where spaces had been excavated, which corresponded perfectly to the hieroglyphics to be translated.

Yes…it was like a tablet made backwards!

They had covered it with a fake tablet, which to those who saw it would give the idea of being original and partly ruined.

However many rational explanations Edward tried to give to the thing, the most likely, though difficult to accept, was an attempt at disguise made by the ancient Egyptians.

Now he had to find out the reason for this secrecy, but first, he had to inform Nuabis and Dr. Wensley about his discovery.

“Mr. Campbell, finally…you’ve been down there for hours,” said Nuabis, answering the phone.

“Listen…go find Dr. Wensley and then meet me down here,” Edward said.

“I’m looking for him immediately!” Nuabis said, rushing out of the tent to catch up with Dr. Wensley, who was cataloguing some of the exhibits.

Seeing him arrive all breathless, Dr. Wensley sensed something new from his friend, sò, looking at Nuabis, he said, “Don’t tell me he’s discovered something! ”

“I don’t know…he just said to join him,” Nuabis replied.

Dr. Wensley told an assistant to take care of the exhibits, and he followed Nuabis immediately. They entered with the anxiety to know painted on their faces…Edward looked at them with a smile, and pointing to the wall, he informed them about the events.

Dr. Wensley and Nuabis listened with great interest, examining with astonishment the fragments that Edward was showing them.

“But…if the whole masking matter is true, why would they do it?” asked Dr. Wensley.

“When the Egyptians wanted to delete a name or an indication from the memory of all, they broke the hieroglyphics with the chisel. This time, however, they kept them under camouflage. Yes, a fake tablet that was supposed to look ruined on purpose,” Edward said.

“So, the meaning had to be important, but let’s say that only a few chosen ones could know it. Dear Edward, it seems you’ve made a discovery that could hide a bigger one,” said Dr. Wensley.

Nuabis had closed himself in a sudden mutism, while his face expressed fear and concern.

“Now, the problem is how to find it; we only have a scroll engraved backwards, like the counterprint of a medal in relief,” said Dr. Wensley.

“In relief…? Wait a minute!” Edward said, looking at his father’s tablet

“The characters on the wall are the same as mine, with the difference that they are empty inside. Those who made them this way did it so that the scroll would be inserted, just like a hand inside a glove,” Edward said.

Dr. Wensley and Nuabis looked at each other in astonishment and, rising slowly, they approached the wall where Edward was preparing to insert the tablet. Immediately afterwards, the sound of the click of a mechanism confirmed Edward’s words.

On the opposite wall near the well, a cavity suddenly opened, in which was placed an object that the three men immediately recognized as the key of the life, known as the Ankh!

“Well, gentlemen, here’s the surprise in the surprise we were talking about earlier. I’m wondering why they took all those precautions to hide it,” Edward said.

“In fact, this symbol has been known and studied for a long time; many similar objects are now in several museums,” said Dr. Wensley.

“I don’t feel good about watching it!” said Nuabis.

“Gentlemen…we’re tired enough, we’re done here for today. Edward, you take the Ankh; we’ll examine it better in the morning,” said Dr. Wensley looking at the watch.

“Let me retrieve the tablet first.” Edward said.

The evening was falling when the three men went out in the open air; then, each of them, headed to their accommodation.

During the dinner, none of them was able to give a logical explanation to the find of the Ankh. Dr. Wensley wanted to catalogue it among the other finds and send it to England, Nuabis seemed to be afraid of it, while for Edward…it was a further clue to reveal the mystery that haunted him.

Around nine o’clock, they said goodbye and retired for the night.

Edward felt tired…the events of the day had exhausted him, and once into his tent, he jumped on the bed, falling asleep suddenly.

He was immersed in a sleep similar to a timeless oblivion…lost in a dreamlike dimension, consisting of an unreal desert landscape, where a river flowed as black as pitch.

On it’s banks, the ruins of an ancient city were laying, while in the distance, he saw some pyramids and giant statues.

A dark sky overlooked that kind of unknown abyss, while a gloomy moon appeared from behind the clouds, radiating with its diaphanous light the landscape below.

Edward began to wiggle in his sleep when a sudden ringing of a bell woke him up with a start. He lit the lantern up and sat on the cot waiting for the noise to be repeated, and after a few seconds, the ringing of a bell resounded in the tent; it was the phone!

Yes, the telephone system above his desk was ringing! It…it was simply absurd!

Who could be in the tomb at that time?!

Edward lifted the receiver, but what he heard froze him instantly.

“Edward…Edward, listen to me. Throw that damn scroll in the well and forget everything.”

It was his father’s voice…there was no doubt about it!

With his voice shaking, Edward said, “Dad…is that really you? ”

“Yes Edward, it’s me, unfortunately. Since I found that tablet, I’ve been obsessed with discovering its secrets. Don’t make the same mistake I did; don’t waste your life with the dead to the point of forgetting the living!  My obsession led me away from you, your mother and our world, relegating me to this dimension of darkness,” said the voice.

“Stay there! I’m coming to get you,” Edward said.

“No, wait! I can hear them…I can feel their presence! They are close…Edward, don’t come, get rid of that tablet!” said the voice in an anguished tone, after which…the silence came down.

Without saying anything, Edward took his backpack with the tablet and the Ankh, a long roll of rope, fastened his belt with the Webley revolver in the holster and, holding the lantern, came out of the tent.

Illuminating the path and following the telephone wire, Edward descended the stone staircase, and in a short time, he was back inside the tomb.


For all installments of “A Voice from the Past,” click here.