Happy Halloween!!!! One of my favourite days of the year!
In honour of the day, I thought I would talk about the ‘Mummies’ in The Raveners.
Lexa had a terrible feeling. The most terrible feeling of her life. Slowly she tilted the phone up, and up and up. From the boots to the seat and up to the top of the uniform she knew so well. The German field grey with the stars. The ribbon bars. The decorations. It hung on dead, desiccated shoulders. Had she been hearing her name; had she heard him calling because her subconscious knew that he was here?
Somehow, his head was turned to face her. In fact, where his eyes should have been were what felt like two pinpoints of brilliant light. Two diamonds glittering above the beam of the LED. His face was leather, just like that of Major von Gravenreuth. His lips were pulled back and his face was that horrible rictus of a skull. The cheer of the dead. He seemed to be looking right at her. As if he had lifted his head from the desk and was waiting for her. His dark hair had fallen over his forehead. Always longer than the fashion. More like men’s hair from the twenties.
Lexa found herself sinking down into a kneeling position. Why was the body looking at her? How could he have frozen in such a position? Like he had been writing at his desk, and turned his head to see this little creature crawling on his carpet? What were the odds that he would die staring at carpet and that she would crawl in here on it. But most importantly, what gave his eye sockets that terrible, piercing sparkle?
“Alexandra!” Jubilant. Right in front of her. As if he had moved, but she was sure that the body was exactly as it was. “You found me at last.”
Her heart was pounding in her chest. “I swear to God that you just moved. Jesus! I am losing my mind.”
There was a terrible snapping and popping noise. It couldn’t have been her imagination. “No.” The mouth didn’t move, but the hands certainly did. “I am sorry you must see me this way.” Open and gesturing. Clawed hands in a welcoming position, palms up and the dry leather stretching tightly.
Lexa blinked and started to hyperventilate. “This is a nightmare and I am going to wake up in a moment where I will be in my bed in my tiny little house. It’s a postage stamp and all that I can afford but when I wake up, I will be there and I will be very happy.”
The head shook. It had the temerity to shake at her. “You are very much awake and we are very much together.”
That’s when she realised that he was speaking in German. Wasn’t that just peachy. She was losing her mind, and she was doing it in her second language. The one she didn’t speak very well. “I am going to close my eyes, and when I open them again, I am going to be in my bed. Or a straight jacket.”
Lexa thought it was very brave to actually close her eyes. It gave her a moment to focus on her breathing. But that horrible snapping and popping noise just filled the room. She clenched her eyes tight shut and was ashamed as two tears of pure terror squeezed their way out of her eyes. Oh dear God! Please let her wake up in her own room!
“There is nothing for you to be afraid of.” A whisper on the edge of her mind. Like a soft, gentle prayer. “I would never hurt you.”
“Stop talking,” Lexa whispered with her eyes still tightly shut. And there was silence. A lot of silence. Long moments of silence. In fact, enough time passed that she could feel the phone dim from inactivity against her eyelids. Then it went black. She was in the dark, on the carpet in a room with a corpse. Or, she was going to open her eyes and she would be staring up at the Edwardian light fixture that she bought on Ebay which hung over her bed.
After what felt like forever, after her heart had slowed enough that it no longer felt like it was pounding its way out of her chest, Lexa opened her eyes. Her vision was filled with the glitter of diamonds not centimetres from her own eyes. In fact, what she could see in the gloom was the reflection of those gems and the dead face they were inside. She was nose to nose with a corpse and it was nearly on top of her. She let out a terrified scream and started to shake uncontrollably. She couldn’t breathe. Nothing in her body was working. She was paralysed with fear.
“Breathe…” An almost sibilant, commanding hiss. She felt it putting an arm around her. Had it not been a corpse, she would have been thankful, because she was falling backwards in a faint. Was this a swoon? Could one swoon in 2016? And yet her head didn’t hit the carpet with a thud. Her skull was cupped by bones and leather which gently laid her down on the floor. Those deathly claws piercing through her hair and she could feel them on her skull.
Perhaps as a scene, it’s a bit of a cliche. Our beautiful heroine coming face to face with an undead monster. It pops up in the movies all the time. At the same time, it still rings the scary bells.
When I wrote about the mummies in the story, I spent a lot of time looking at mummies. Thinking about what they would look or sound like. Some mummies are quite normal looking and some are rather terrifying.
Tollund man, shown above, is almost perfect looking. Bog mummies are amazingly well preserved. I would say if our mummies looked this perfect (black skin aside) our heroine wouldn’t be quite so terrified.
I tend to think of The Raveners mummies as looking more like the Mummies of Guanajuato in Mexico.
Dried… yellowed and desiccated.
If you are the gruesome sort, you can see a LOT more pics of mummies over here at Historical Bodies on Flickr.
So when you read about the mummies, think along this line. This fellow is one of the Capuchin Mummies in Palermo, Sicily. Imagine the sparkly diamonds in the eyes, but still the remnants of the flesh.
This is one of the soldiers. A little more skeletal than in the book, but really gives the idea of the sagging look of the uniform.
So as much as I would like to say that they are the modern, terrifying, CGI version of a mummy… Really not to be.
But here is one for you!