THE EXHIBITION

This week, I showcase a tale from the lovely Caroline Knight. And here is her blurb.

I am a very amateur dabbler in writing, silver-smithing and painting all of which I started once I retired after 35 years working in the NHS. I also did an English degree as a mature student at Southampton University where the creative writing modules sparked my interest.

I have four children and four grandchildren who keep me busy. I live with my husband, a son, two dogs, two cats, four chickens and a tortoise.

This little story was a challenge by our class tutor to weave 6 randomly allocated words/phrases into a story. There is a list of my words at the end of the piece.

The Exhibition by Caroline Knight

‘’I always imagined that Tutankhamen would have had a pyramid.”

Ally was very excited as she and Joe waited in the queue to enter the exhibition.

“Nope he was in an underground chamber which is why the grave robbers never found him. That’s why there were so many treasures in there, it’s why he became so famous.” Joe was thinking back to what he had learnt in primary school.

There were four queues and Ally was keeping a keen eye on which one was moving the fastest.

“Why is that one going in before us? I’m sure that we were here first.” As she spoke she saw the waving hand of the burly security guard beckoning their line forward. She squeezed Joe’s hand in excitement as the line moved toward the entrance. She had been looking forward to this ever since her lovely husband had surprised her with the tickets.

“I need to search your bag?” Another burly guard opened her bag and began a, rather cursory, in Ally’s opinion, rifle through her rucksack. She thought to herself that if she had any plans to cause mayhem she would not have left the necessary tools to be so easily found. The guard removed a book from the bag, Ally never travelled anywhere without one because you never knew when the opportunity to read a few pages might occur. He flipped through the pages. That’s a bit better she thought. Satisfied they were not a threat they were allowed to shuffle into the foyer of the building where they were offered the chance to have a photo taken, against a desert background and a figure of the pharaoh, which they declined. They couldn’t understand why anyone would, for £10, but people were.

The foyer was very crowded and it was a relief when they were ushered into a large dark room with a huge screen which eventually flickered to life and treated them to a flight through the barren land where the burial chambers were discovered. Ally felt a bit sick as the view weaved and swooped across sand dunes and through crevasses between rocks.

Finally, they were released into the rooms housing the treasures of the burial chambers. Ally was mesmerised by the beauty of the objects. It was almost beyond belief that the intricate and delicate items had been made so many thousands of years ago by craftsmen who didn’t have modern tools.

“Joe come here look at this.”

It was a beautiful little chair inlaid with marquetry and gold. It was a child’s chair made for Tutankhamen because he was only eight years old when he became a pharaoh. Joe and Ally went from case to case dazzled by what they contained, 150 precious objects, stunning gold jewellery, furniture that wouldn’t look out of place in a house today, life size statues and everyday domestic objects: all things that the Egyptians believed that the young pharaoh would need in the after-life. Ally was peering closely at a little figure worked in gold with a headpiece of brilliant cobalt blue. She was so absorbed that at first she didn’t spot Joe’s smiley face looking at her from the other side of the cabinet.

“You are like a child in a sweet shop.” he said as they went together to the next case. This one contained some of the requirements of an older king: shields, arrows, swords and daggers: objects of violence but still fashioned with exquisite craftsmanship.

They went from room to room marvelling at everything until they came to the room that just contained sadness. The young pharaoh died aged only eighteen, a life cut far too short and even though this took place 3300 years ago it still seemed tragic to Ally. A question mark still hangs over the cause of his death. They read in the information that he had a broken leg and some experts theorise that it was an infection from that wound which proved fatal. Other scientists have analysed DNA, obtained from his mummified corpse, and found evidence of malaria and that equally could have killed him.

The thing that touched Ally’s heart most was the mummified bodies of two baby girls that were thought to be Tutankhamen’s daughters. This resonated with her as she and Joe had recently found out that she was carrying their first child and her eyes filled with tears as she thought of those young parents losing their babies. Separated by thousands of years Ally was aware of a common human bond. Joe saw the misery on her face and hugged her to him. That she was such a sensitive soul just made her all the more lovable.

As all galleries and museums do, this one delivered them from reverential darkness into the bright lights of the gift shop where Ally’s mood was lifted and she and Joe were reduced to giggles as a Japanese girl was taking a selfie beside a replica of the iconic death mask that, curiously, hadn’t been included in this exhibition.

“Do you think that she knows that isn’t the real one?” said Joe.

They exited the building both of them surprised to find that it was still daylight outside. They felt they had been inside forever.

Joe turned to Ally and said “I suppose in a way that young lad has had an afterlife. Not quite what they thought it would be but here we are three hundred thousand or so years later fascinated by him and all the stuff they buried with him.”

“A man is not dead while someone still speaks his name… or something like that, I think Terry Pratchett said it,” said Ally.

“Are you sure? I think that’s what the ancient Egyptians believed.” Joe laughed.

‘Or was it Banksie?” asked Ally.

‘Let’s just get a cup of coffee and we can Google it.”

The words are:

Pyramid

Waving hand

Book

Smiley face

Arrow

Question mark

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