Osiris, God of the Dead
The Mummy is invited to speak on the radio. He is driven from his apartment house through the autumn streets, toward the broadcasting studio. He looks through the limousine window at the street-cleaners sweeping the fallen leaves. The leaves are the color of old gold and rust. Of bronze and copper amulets. The limousine driver is drawn irresistibly to the face of the Mummy, which he studies in the rearview mirror with a mixture of curiosity and fear. He would like to ask the Mummy about the women of Ancient Egypt. He would like very much to satisfy his curiosity concerning sexual practices in the New Kingdom. He has become something of an amateur Egyptologist since the Mummy’s discovery. He and the night porter at the Commodore discuss life in the Eighteenth Dynasty during breakfast, which they take together on 42nd Street before going home to their rooms to sleep. Intellectually, the driver is prepared to assume a tolerant attitude toward his 3,500-year-old passenger, weeping now in the backseat for a reason he cannot guess. (The driver does not know how the leaves have moved him!) But because he saw The Mummy with Boris Karloff, he is afraid. So he keeps a wary eye on the rearview mirror as the limousine threads its way through the dusky streets toward the broadcast. And when the Mummy leans forward to speak, the driver feels the hairs rise on his neck and shivers as if with cold.
“Tell me, please – what is Chase and Sanborn?” the Mummy asks.
“Coffee,” the driver replies; and the ordinariness of the word comforts him. He no longer looks at the Mummy in the rearview mirror. Instead, he savors the moment when, in the morning during breakfast, he will tell the porter how he ferried the Mummy down the black Nile of the darkening streets.
“Like Osiris,” he will tell him. “God of the Dead.”
Clash of the Automatons
“Welcome to the Chase & Sanborn Hour!” announces Major Bowes, moistening the microphone with a little cloud of gin and aromatic bitters. While the studio orchestra lurches into the theme of the hour, the Major exhumes a handkerchief from a pocket and daubs at his lower lip where a seed pearl of spit has formed. “Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy are with us tonight,” he continues, “and a very special guest who is exciting curiosity from the Bowery to the Bronx. I refer to none other than the Mummy!”
“Let’s not confuse our radio audience!” Edgar Bergen chastens the little man sitting on his knee. “There’s only one Dummy on the program tonight, and that – my friend – is you!”
“I’d rather be a Dummy than a Mummy,” Charlie McCarthy sneers. “Here’s six-bits, Mummy; get yourself a tube of wrinkle cream on the way home.”
The Mummy despises the hateful little man, who is squinting down his nose at him, through a monocle glinting maliciously in the shadow of his high silk hat. Despises the insolence and cowardice of arrows dipped in acrimony and shot from the safety of his protector’s lap.
“A chambermaid at the Chelsea – a dish! – told me that the Mummy cut the sheets on his bed to ribbons. Jockey shorts aren’t smart enough for his nibs.”
The musicians guffaw.
“Now, now, Charlie!” Bergen scolds. “Remember he is from a different time.”
“He is our guest, Charlie,” says the Major hiding his mirth in his hand. “A guest of Chase & Sanborn Coffee.” (This last intoned reverentially.)
If he were once more a man of Pharaoh’s, the Mummy would dash the brains out of Charlie McCarthy’s head. But, of course, the Dummy hasn’t any brains, or heart, or any other organ. He, too, is an empty granary, a desert, a vacancy, an empty tomb. Even so, he would have the head off his shoulders with a sword for his insults. But the Mummy is sitting in a room overlooking a firmament of streetlights trembling in the blackness below. It is 1934. Pharaoh is quiet as dust; he and all his princes are embalmed and swathed in bandages – those, that is, who have not been shaken roughly out of their windings by vandals and thieves.
The Mummy thinks: I would pity him, this puppet whose will is not his own any more than mine is, if only he were not so certain of himself. His flippancy enrages me! How he pretends that he is self-sufficient and a man! Unless he believes himself to be. Perhaps he does not know that he is an emptiness, does not feel the god’s hand at his back. The Dummy is no more a sovereign man than I, who spoke the wishes of Pharaoh, whose hands were extensions of Pharaoh’s hands, whose dreams were his – even those! I wish I were in my apartment, sitting in the familiar dark. I wish I were in my funerary chamber, with the companionable cricket and the scuffling mice, with no more light than a shaft of sun or moon might make.
And for the second time that night, he weeps.
Falseness of a Chambermaid
“That Charlie McCarthy is so mean!” the chambermaid says. “I never said any such thing about the sheets!”
The chambermaid has brought the Mummy a sleeping powder. He cannot fall to sleep, because of the coffee he was given during the Chase & Sanborn Hour. He had never tasted coffee before and did not like it. It tasted like wormwood, he thought, like bitter aloe.
“Your face isn’t so bad,” she says, looking at him with an expression he recalls having seen, thousands of years before, in the eyes of a serving girl in the house of pharaoh. Her name he cannot remember, but her face was lovely – of this he is sure.
“Live steam hit my brother in the face once when he was working on a boiler; it left him with marks like those,” she says, touching his cheek with her fingertips.
The touch – light as it was – woke in him something unfelt since the elephant hunt in the swamps of Nei. A stirring in his loins. Surprised and pleased, he smiles at the girl in gratitude.
“I would like to tell you what I would have said on the radio, if they had not rung the gong.”
“Oh, that Major and his gong! It’s awful how he makes fun of people!”
The Mummy opens his mouth to speak, but already the sleeping draft is coursing through his veins with the speed of an asp’s venomous kiss. His eyes close, the congestion in his loins dissolves, and once more he sleeps the sleep of the dead.
The chambermaid takes a little scissors and pares the Mummy’s nails and snips several locks of his hair. A man has promised her $100.00 for them, and with it she will buy an evening gown for the New Year’s Eve party at the 21 Club.
Snip, snip, snip.
Where’s the harm? she says to herself.
The Mummy’s Dream
The Mummy Plays the Piano
The Mummy goes to a party on Fifth Avenue. He admires the bare shoulders of the women, who are moving searchingly – dreamily – from room to room. How bright their eyes, how musical their laughter! Their dusky shoulders are powdered with light. He admires also these men, who inhabit their evening clothes as if they wore no other. He feels graceless and unprepossessing in his, and leans on his stick as one would a prop to keep from falling – so heavy the weight of judgment in their eyes. But in this, he is mistaken; their frank gazes are not critical but curious. They are fascinated by anyone who is a sensation. The Mummy is that, as surely as if he had crossed the Atlantic in an airplane. But he has made a journey even more amazing: he has crossed an immeasurable gulf of time – has, in fact, arrived from the farthest shore where life’s fresh water is tainted by the brackishness of death.
The Mummy is drawn to the piano, where Noel Coward sits playing. Coward is also a sensation; but his is not so ethereal as the Mummy’s, and the glass wall between him and his admirers is made of sugar like the saloon windows through which cowboy-actors crash. The Mummy’s window is of an imperial hardness. Tempered by the occult, it admits light, looks, even handshakes (seldom, however, offered because of the unpleasant dryness of his hands) – but little to affirm, for him, life. Since his arrival in New York, he has come to understand the degree of his separation: it is for this, perhaps, that he weeps.
Coward, whose intuitions are quick, sees in the Mummy’s face a yearning, which he interprets as the wish to play; and he makes room for the Mummy on the bench. The Mummy sits and, without a word, begins to play Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” because of – who knows? – the women and the particles of light sown in their hair by the prisms of the chandelier.
The Mummy plays beautifully but with a burden of mournfulness Beethoven did not intend.
Now it is Coward’s turn to weep because of the depth of the Mummy’s accomplishment and for the anguish of a man whose cup is charged with sorrow. He takes the Mummy by the arm. (Both, after all, are estranged from the ordinary and can commingle, if only momentarily.) He leads him as he would an injured man or a blind one onto the terrace.
“Cigarette?” Coward asks, offering him a Gauloise from a silver case.
The Mummy smokes and finds the toasted taste and smell delicious.
“Now tell me how it is you can play Beethoven, on an instrument that did not exist in your time; and why, though your playing is excellent, the music is sterile and so very sad.”
The Mummy is grateful because it is this that he wished to say on the radio and, later, to the chambermaid. But gong and sleep prevented him.
“The dead are omniscient,” the Mummy tells him as they lean against the terrace wall and watch the automobiles sweep like fiery comets down the streets of light. “All is known to them in the place in which they live. One must not say ‘live,’ but it is a kind of living in which they dwell – not dwell – are. And in being, all knowledge is transmitted somehow through them as if they were each a radio receiving from the air everything that is able to pass from one man to another. So it was that I learned to speak the languages of men, understand their arts and subtleties – understand them without, however, feeling them; for I was, like all the dead, without emotion – that being an aspect of the human that does not survive into death. Why this should be so, I do not know, unless – feeling it – death would prove unendurable.”
“And do you now,” Coward asks, “feel anything at all?”
“Sadness mostly. Little else. Loneliness, which is for me the same as sorrow – is the reason for my sorrow. You cannot, being alive, know the loneliness I feel among the living.”
“I have been often alone,” Coward says softly, his gaze sliding from the Mummy’s eyes to hide from him the remnants of a desolation felt too often.
“Not like mine!” the Mummy says bitterly.
Coward tosses his cigarette into space. They watch its ardent ember fall into the street below, which seems now to the Mummy like the long wavering line of torches that lit his way to the doorway of his tomb.
Wrath and His Terrible Yearning for Egypt
Of all the pleasures available to him in the twentieth century, the Mummy finds cigarettes the most desirable. Its women are also desirable, but they are not for him. Women do not want a Mummy, he tells himself; and this realization – however bitter – is the truth. Women shrink from him. The chambermaid, who resurrected his desire, never again was kind. He watches her in the arms of a handsome man. The Mummy does not dance – would not dance the Lindy Hop! He considers the Lindy immodest although he claps like the others when the band concludes. He wants to be like the others – more precisely, he wants to be thought by others as if he were like them. Which he is not – he knows this! – nor can he ever be. He is alone on earth. In each and every corner of it, were he to go there, he would be alone with himself. He has tried more than once to kill himself – with drain cleaner, rat poison, a bullet through the place where his heart used to beat. Once he threw himself out a window. But he cannot die or even seriously injure himself – this being, this thing that is already dead and well past injury.
The band makes some other noise. Couples shamble in circles. A drunk wearing a conical hat slumps in his chair. One hour of the old year remains. The Mummy has been too steeped in time to be moved by its passing. Finishing his last Gauloise, he motions with the empty package to the cigarette girl. As she leans over her tray so that he can select another, he steals a glance at the tops of her breasts and sighs.
“Mister, we got only American cigarettes here,” she says, mistaking the meaning of his sigh.
He looks from the girl’s face (whose cruel and beleaguered beauty reminds him of a priestess he adored in the temple of Isis) to her tray, and his eyes fall on a package illustrated with a pyramid.
“What’s this?” he asks.
“Camels!” she snarls. “What’s it look like?”
He studies the package as she walks away on the daggers of her heels. He cannot understand why the iconography of his desert country should appear in a city of skyscrapers, taxis, and potted palms. And suddenly, he feels rise up in him a powerful nostalgia – a terrible yearning – for Egypt.
He puts money on the table, as he has seen other men do, and goes – wishing he were like Karloff’s mummy, possessed of an irresistible will, an unappeasable wrath so that he might slay them all – all who have humiliated him since he was waken, roughly, from his dream.
He leaves the club as the bells begin to toll the New Year – each quickly silenced peal falling to earth like a dying bird.
He steps into a white night of snow.
Transmissions from the World of the Dead
The snow, a labyrinth – its walls, winds that buffet him.
Steel needles tattoo his skin blue for the snow to bandage.
The sky is white as day, white the air, it might be day and not the middle of the night, he could be walking upside down – his feet in air, although his moving, when he moves, is something other than walking, is shuffling shambling lurching – is what a mummy does when, by invocation or profanation, it escapes the tomb. Whitely clad, the Mummy might be that mummy now. An unraveling monster for a Saturday matinee.
Once before, the Mummy lost himself within a seeming emptiness, inside a space without dimensions, bequeathed by a malevolent god as a curse to men. Crossing the deserts of Amora, the sand blew up suddenly in the face of the setting sun. Darkness settled over everything, but through its frayed pocket leaked a gleaming copper light. Enthralled, he looked at the swirling amber mist until he had to shut his eyes against the stinging sand and grope, (the camel having lain down at last in the lee of a dune). The Mummy – a man then – went with arms in front of him until he stepped into a river – hard and sharp against his shins, like an iron blade. There, after the storm had vanished in a seam of air, he met Tey, who kept her father’s house. She was comely and modest, and her slender hand in his solaced him. He stayed to woo and marry her, according to the customs of that place.
He oversaw the workers in her father’s field. She moved within his house, calm and elegantly wrought like the ibis. In the evening while the wind nuzzled the river, they would walk beneath the palms and listen to the boatmen’s songs. Their happiness was brief: she was brought to the house of the dead nearly three decades before he followed her there. The sparrow, which was her soul, never came to him, though he waited for it.
The snow slows. The wind is dropping, and he hears – not singing, but that humming heard in the silence between voices as the radio dial turns. Transmissions from the World of the Dead. He finds a door that opens and goes inside.
The Mummy is alone inside the Empire State Building – or nearly so, for the clinking of pails and the brief cataracts and freshets of gray water on marble or porphyry are proof of an otherwise invisible occupation. He has heard how this building towers above antiquity’s pyramids and obelisks, and he thinks that, perhaps, from the top of it he can see across the world – to Egypt!
He rides the elevator car up – a mechanical ascent toward Horus, son of Osiris and ruler of the heavens. Perhaps now – the Mummy thinks – I will find the sparrow and will know it to be Tey, her transmigrated soul. But the sparrows are asleep elsewhere; and the observation deck is, in its Tibetan isolation and cold, possessed of the enchantments of death. The Mummy stands as if in a bowl of milk and sees neither Egypt nor the ocean nor even the river where, two months before, he clung to a crate containing mortuary decorations prized from his tomb after the ship, which carried him into exile, had foundered.
In the white and luminous air, he gazes at the package of cigarettes while a gravel of snow clatters softly against the pyramid, the camel, and the palm.
A Telegram Arrives
The Mummy sleeps late and would have gone on sleeping if a knock at the door had not wakened him. Not for refreshment does a mummy sleep, for refreshment is impossible, but to relieve a while the tedium of incessant thought. He sits on the edge of the bed while shards of past and present circle his mind like pale vegetables in a soup stirred by a slow hand.
Sailboats at Aswan … Osiris’ floating coffin … burning water and a smugglers’ launch … an obelisk at Memphis in whose shadow the Mummy played with a leather ball … a skyscraper in an icy shroud … the chambermaid who was kind … the cigarette girl with eyes insolent and afraid … Tey, the Mummy’s wife, whose face he can no longer recall except as a radiant haze.
In the space between two knocks, he remembers his tomb and how he would rummage there among the tokens of his life: his sword and chariot, a gold cup and plate, a stuffed falcon and a mummified dog, a ball and stick, his library of papyrus scrolls, which he read by sunlight and moonlight entering through a shaft – alms scattered liberally by Ra and Thoth.
He opens the door and finds, standing in the hall, a Western Union boy.
“Telegram, mister,” he says, eyeing the Mummy with mistrust.
He gives the boy a coin and shuts the door. He opens the yellow envelope, removes the flimsy sheet of paper, and reads:
MAKING MOVIE OF YOUR LIFE = WANT YOU AS TECHNICAL ADVISER = GOLDEN WEST LTD LEAVES GRAND CENTRAL = TONIGHT AT 8 O’CLOCK.
TOM LAMAY, DIRECTOR
A Meditation on Time
The Mummy lies in the close dusk behind a curtain, while the train rushes toward the Land of the Dead. He does not sleep in the narrow berth in which he chooses to spend the three-day journey west. Nor can he be said to be awake. Rather, he is in a state of suspension – neither in time entirely nor wholly outside of it, for he cannot enter eternity any more than he can a mortal life.
If one remains housed in the body after death, one needs to vanquish time: the knowledge of its passing, which is, for a mummy as for any other undying thing, slow and harrowing, like the migration of a single grain of sand from one end of the desert to the other. And so the Mummy, who need none, takes his rest, longing only for Egypt and a cigarette. He lies on his back inside the coffin of his berth, feeling himself to be one with the train, hurtling toward a simulacrum of his life, hoping to put an end to his sorrow.
The Mummy knows what time is better than any living person, or dead one – better than Einstein, whose theories he has absorbed in the same way as Spengler’s economics or Cab Calloway’s “Minnie the Mooch.”
Time is a mummy’s tomb. Its weight and solidity are an amber from which he cannot escape, though he can see life passing like a shadow on the other side. Yet that estrangement is nothing next to this the Mummy must endure. Imagine the fly out of its amber and powerless to annoy men or please itself among its kind! To have escaped his time by the intervention of the grave-robbers’ impious hands, to be dead among the living and a joke – this is the Mummy’s bitter and melancholy exile. This is why the Mummy desires nothing more than to return to Egypt and his tomb where he can sink into a waking dream – a sensory twilight easier to endure.
He arrives in Los Angles the afternoon of the third day and is met by a man in a pearl-gray suit and straw hat, whose smile is full of white teeth, between two of which is lodged a sesame seed.
“Mr. Mummy,” he says. “Welcome to the Land of Make Believe!”
“Are you Tom LaMay?” the Mummy asks.
“Jack – his assistant and right-hand man!” His smile with its intrusive seed puts the Mummy in mind of a rat in a granary.
“You’ll be staying at the palace,” says Jack. “I’ll drive you there.”
“Pharaoh’s. It’s out on the desert. You’ll have a room all your own. Here’s the script. Mr. LaMay would like you to read it before filming begins tomorrow.”
And the right-hand man of Mr. LaMay presses a thick sheaf of papers into the Mummy’s hand.
The Mummy’s Return to Memphis
The sun is not so hot as that which shone above Egypt three-and-a-half millennia ago, when the Mummy walked the wide, palm-fringed avenues of Memphis. But in all other ways that he can see, the white-walled city that LaMay and his “artists” have caused to be here in the California desert is a perfect facsimile. How often in the distant past did the Mummy pause, here, in the broad late afternoon shadow cast by Akhenaten’s palace’s eastern wall over the reflecting pool, to feed the carp, which rose like gold and copper birds to his hand? How many times did he attend the pharaoh’s levee on the royal barge – just there, where the esplanade merges with the Nile’s reedy bank (which seems a painted picture)? Once a year, he journeyed from his home near the Nubian border to give an accounting of pharaoh’s subjects under his administration.
The Mummy turns and, shading his eyes with the flat of his hand, looks out across the desert at the Giza Plateau, where the Sphinx trembles in the heat and the three pyramids stand, companionable and golden in the falling light. He gazes at them as if only miles of sand separate him from the necropolis, not a chasm of time. Suddenly, he is afraid – this living corpse, this undying dead man whose fear the embalmers drained into an iron dish together with all other feeling. Clutching the movie script, he hurries into the palace to his room, which he hopes will be narrow and dim as the familiar and consoling tomb.
INTERIOR. A SHAFT INSIDE THE PYRAMID – NIGHT.
Reinhart, Krueger, and Dorfman make their way along a sloping shaft. They carry electric torches in whose yellow lights appear, on the stone walls, cartouches containing symbols of the Egyptian past.
INTERIOR. AT THE DOOR OF THE MUMMY’S TOMB – NIGHT.
Reinhart consults a letter, worn from repeated folding and unfolding. In extreme close-up, we see that the letter is written in German. The men are German and speak with an accent. Reinhart folds the letter and returns it to his pocket.
REINHART: Here is the tomb! We have only to force open the door and carry the sarcophagus outside to the boat. We’ll deliver it to the museum, and keep the Mummy’s treasure for ourselves!
KRUEGER: Is a sarcophagus heavy?[Reinhart shrugs his shoulders.]
DORFMAN: What will you do with your share of the money, Reinhart?
REINHART: I will buy a small Rhenish castle and invite many beautiful women to visit me there.
KRUEGER: I will buy a pig farm and raise pigs.[A noise is heard inside the tomb.]
REINHART: What was that noise?
KRUEGER (Nervously): Maybe it was a mouse.
DORFMAN (A laugh of exceptional viciousness): Or a mummy.
REINHART: Let’s get to work! We must be far away from here before sun up.[Reinhart opens a satchel and removes various tools.]
INTERIOR. THE MUMMY’S TOMB – NIGHT.
In the light of the electric torches, we see many fabulous treasures, which would have been buried with a man of importance during the 18th Dynasty. (See Properties List.)
KRUEGER: It looks heavy to me.
REINHART: Stop your whining, Krueger, or I’ll leave you here in place of the Mummy to keep the rats company![Dorfman laughs viciously.]
INTERIOR. THE SHAFT INSIDE THE PYRAMID – NIGHT.
Krueger and Dorfman carry the sarcophagus up the sloping passage that leads from the tomb. They labor beneath its weight. Reinhart follows with a sack stuffed with treasure.
KRUEGER (Sweating profusely): I knew it would be heavy.[Dorfman laughs with pleasure as if at a good joke. (Of the three, Dorfman is actually the most sensitive and amiable.)]
REINHART: Dorfman, did you remember to bring the sandwiches?
EXTERIOR. THE PYRAMID – NIGHT.
The men emerge from the entrance to the pyramid, concealed by a canvas flap painted in trompe l’oeil style to look like stone, which they brought with them for the purpose. The camera should dwell – even at the risk of exasperating the audience! – on various Egyptian splendors such as the Great Pyramid, the lesser pyramids, the enigmatic Sphinx, the ancient constellations wheeling through the firmament, the mysterious Nile, etc. In the distance, across a moonlit desert, lies Pharaoh’s palace, glowing with an eerie light (from who knows what source!).
REINHART: Where’s the elephant?
KRUEGER: She’s eating dates. I’ll go get it.[The inscrutable Dorfman laughs in a manner that is difficult, if not impossible, to interpret.]
EXTERIOR. THE ESPLANADE – NIGHT.
They sit inside a cabana-like affair on the elephant’s back, as it crosses the esplanade toward the river, clutching the sarcophagus with its trunk.
DORFMAN (Tenderly): The night is very beautiful. On such a night as this, Akhenaten held Nefertiti in his arms.
EXTERIOR. A BOAT ON THE RIVER NILE – NIGHT.
They sit on the sarcophagus while the boat moves down the Nile. There is no other sound than the soft purring of its motor. The camera lingers on the spreading wake (silvery), then the scene dissolves to the elephant standing forlornly on the river bank.
INTERIOR. THE MESS ABOARD A FREIGHTER – DAY.
Reinhart and Dorfman play cards at a mess table. Krueger lies in a hammock, sick. Through the portholes, we see the gray ocean rise and fall. Perhaps there is a whale.
DORFMAN: You owe me 1,000 marks, Reinhart.
REINHART: When we have delivered the sarcophagus to the museum, I will have a million marks!
DORFMAN (Sighs with human feeling): We are in the midst of a worldwide depression. I pity those without our resourcefulness.
REINHART: I will send a whole bag of marks to my mother in Dresden.
EXTERIOR. NEW YORK HARBOR – NIGHT.
The freighter enters the harbor, which is hidden by thick fog. We hear the sound of a foghorn – lonely and sad.
INTERIOR. PILOTHOUSE – NIGHT.
The Captain (a Turk or a Greek) is peering through the fog. Suddenly, we hear a fearful noise as the ship collides with a rock, or perhaps a Chinese junk bringing illegal aliens to China Town. The Captain blows the ship’s whistle while shouting in Turkish or Greek down the speaking-tube. A great storm begins with terrific thunder and lightning!
EXTERIOR. THE FREIGHTER – NIGHT.
The ship sinks. Fire is spreading on top of the ocean. Reinhart, Dorfman, and Krueger are seen in the act of drowning. Dorfman, who is the last to go under, laughs mysteriously. The Mummy floats into view. The fire has burned away its bandages. Suddenly, a lightning bolt strikes the water next to the Mummy and we see – in extreme close-up – its eyes open!!!
EXTERIOR. A BOOTLEGGERS’ LAUNCH – NIGHT.
Some Bootleggers also have been in the fog, in a motor-launch loaded with smuggled Canadian whiskey. Rico, the leader of the Bootleggers, sees the naked Mummy and throws it a rope. Helped by one or two other Bootleggers, the wet Mummy climbs aboard.
RICO (Ironically, to the Mummy): Lousy night to be outside without your pants![The other Bootleggers laugh and drink whiskey.]
THE MUMMY (With a British accent like Basil Rathbone’s): Are you the God of the Underworld?
RICO (Slapping the Mummy on the back): That’s me all right!
EXTERIOR. THE DOCK – NIGHT.
The Bootleggers load crates of whiskey into an ambulance.
RICO (To the Mummy): We’ll drop you at the hospital on the way to our gang’s warehouse. Medical science may be able to make your face look almost human.
INTERIOR. HOSPITAL EXAMINING ROOM – NIGHT.
Dressed in a hospital gown, the Mummy lies on an examining table. A perplexed Doctor is listening to its chest with a stethoscope. Bored, a buxom Nurse holds a tray of surgical instruments. The door is thrown open violently, and a Second Doctor rushes in with an X-Ray.
SECOND DOCTOR: He’s stuffed with old rags!
FIRST DOCTOR (Horrified): What’s that you say?!
NURSE (Drops the tray and screams): It’s a mummy!
The Mummy’s Second Renunciation
Those scenes of the Mummy’s entry into the world of living men, his rescue by bootleggers, and his consignment to the hospital where he was examined and declared a mummy are more or less correct. But all that preceded his return to sentience (the result, perhaps, of seawater galvanized by lightning as the movie suggests) is unknown to him. At that time, he was preoccupied by the memory of Tey’s breasts – their divine form and a mathematics to describe it. How he came to be naked and unhoused in a burning sea may well have followed the lines developed in the scenario. How else explain his arrival in Manhattan? But the ensuing scenes – the slaughter of the hospital staff, his wanderings in a labyrinth of sewers, the terrorizing of the corps de ballet, and his hideous revenge on the director of Antiquities for the Metropolitan Museum of Art – these are fantasies, which the Mummy repudiates with all his heart. His heart remains although it is a mummified one incapable of beating, or love.
Mortified, the Mummy goes to the window. Gazing wistfully at the distant Giza Plateau, he yearns for the obscurity of his tomb. He thinks in the morning he will strangle Mr. LaMay and all his company if he does not leave at once – this, the gentlest of men and mummies. He has had enough of life and all those who, for a time, inhabit it as if forever. He steals from the dark palace and, mounting an elephant drowsing under a papier-mâché palm tree, rides toward his pyramid.
On the rim of the world, the pyramids stand clotted with silver. The stone lion crouches warily, confronted by its constellation in the ancient night: each takes the other’s measure, each is a representation of the same magisterial instinct in a universe fashioned on a principle of absolute hegemony. The Mummy knows his place in it. He is one with the dead and hastens on his elephant to rejoin them – even if this tomb is a plaster replica. As he draws closer, his sempiternal weariness lightens. He will dream again of Tey – her loveliness lost in time to him – without distraction. As if sensing his rising exultancy, the elephant trumpets with a noise that shatters the lunar stillness.
The Mummy is standing before his pyramid, a somnambulist who once heard through thick walls Marc Antony weep with frustrated desire for Cleopatra and Napoleon rage against Josephine. In a moment, he will climb again onto his stone deathbed and wait for Osiris to raise him – or for the morning, when Reinhart, Krueger, and Dorfman break open the door of his tomb.
The story was first published in Cranky Literary Journal, and subsequently appeared in Lock’s newest short story collection, Love Among the Particles, published in May, 2013, by Bellevue Literary Press, New York City.