Long mylar banners flapped wildly between the columns of the façade, their promotional messages bleached to illegibility by the sun. Snapping, snarling as the wind tore at them they were the only moving thing in sight. The Metropolitan Museum of Art stood high and alone in the mud of the Park, its massive doors wide open.

"I've got better things to do," Gary said out loud. Afraid to go in. Noseless and Faceless made no reply to his assertion. "I need to find the girl who shot me. I'm hungry, too." He didn't turn away, though. Too many questions stacked up in his head.


Gary lead Noseless and Faceless up the long flight of steps to the doors and peered in for a moment, wondering if he really wanted to do this. The massive lobby soared upwards to three filthy skylights that provided a trace of illumination. Enough to see that the place was empty. Gary stepped into the cool dead air of the Museum and stared up at its arched and vaulted ceiling, at the grand staircase that lead upward from the far end of the lobby, at the gates that lead to the various exhibit rooms. This was hardly his first visit but without crowds of living tourists and patrons, without the squealing of bored children or the weary shouting of tour guides it seemed that every step he took made the entire stone edifice of the museum reverberate like a tomb.

He had more than a sneaking suspicion of where he should look for the Benefactor, though it didn't make any sense. He turned to his right and headed through an abandoned security cordon. Noseless and Faceless followed behind, their feet shuffling on the flagstones. They passed through a long corridor lined with tomb paintings showing scenes of Egyptian daily life and then into a dark chamber lined with glass display cases.

One of the first things they came to was a case holding a mummy wrapped tight in linen bandages like an enormous cocoon. A golden mask stared up at them from the depths of the dark glass, its facial features composed in an expression of perfect serenity as it stared through Gary and into eternity. The enormous eyes seemed pools filled with placid understanding and a pleased acceptance of immortality. This couldn't be the Benefactor, Gary was sure of it. He placed a hand on the glass.

The mask came crashing up into the top of the case, the pale limbless body thrashing below, the pupal form of something horrible.

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Gary jumped back. This was impossible. Yet here it was, the mummy convulsing in its glass cage. Gary reached out across the frequency of death and felt the barest shadow of dark heat there - rage and anguish were the only things keeping the mummy going and even those were in short supply. Soon enough this creature was going to exhaust itself and succumb to entropy. Yet it was patently impossible for it to have any kind of afterlife at all. God! It wouldn't stop thrashing! The gold mask had dented and flattened from the forceful beating against the glass, smearing and distorting the features.

Gary might be undead himself but he couldn't look at the thing in the case. It forced him every time it bent in the middle or smashed its face against the glass to imagine what its existence must be like: blind, bound, hungry - forever, not knowing how you got where you are, wondering if you were even alive or dead - it would be hell. He turned to Faceless and tried to explain to her. "No, no, this isn't right - they used to dig out the brains with a, with a spoon or something when they mummified people!"

What you say is truth, the Benefactor said. As far as it goes.

Gary looked up in a panic. The words made his teeth hurt: as intimate as his own thoughts, as loud as sirens. "What do you mean?" he demanded.

They took the brains, yes - but only in some of the dynasties. Before the 18th dynasty the practice was unknown. After the Greeks conquered Egypt they outlawed excerebration altogether.

"How do you know that?" Gary spun around, trying to find where the Benefactor might be but it was impossible - the voice could be coming from anywhere.

I know many things, Gary. I have seen into your heart. I know things you've forgotten and things you'll never dream of. Come to me, Gary, and I will teach you everything. Come quickly - we haven't much time left.

Gary edged around the display case, not wanting to get near the undead thing in its grisly chrysalis in case it finally broke the glass. Not wanting to be near it at all. He lead Faceless and Noseless deeper into the Egyptian exhibit, through poorly-lit rooms full of hulking sarcophagi and broken statues and scarab jewelry and stained cerements. Every time he turned around he found more mummies thumping against their enclosures - everywhere he went he saw scarabs and white eyes staring at him from the walls. In one tiny alcove a blackened mummy surrounded by the skeletal horns of long-dead antelopes smeared itself across the glass - in another a wooden coffin intricately painted and inlaid with gold shook itself until splinters fell from it like dry rain. The sense of anger and fear and horror he read off the convulsing bodies made him cringe and press his hands against his temples, unable to bear their thwarted torment.

Finally they emerged into a wide open room with one whole wall made of glass that let in grey sunlight. On a raised platform stood the Temple of Dendur - a square structure carved with hieroglyphics, a massive monumental arch standing before it. A low bench ran before the arch and on this platform someone had laid out three of the writhing mummies. Their golden masks had been torn off and lay in a heap nearby, priceless artifacts just tossed away. Crouched above them a brown form worked with a feeble hand at picking apart the cloth that bound the dead. It was the Benefactor, Gary knew it at once. He raised his head and gestured for Gary to approach.

See me as I am, Gary. I am Mael Mag Och, and I need your eyes.

He was nothing like the apparition that had come to Gary in the megastore. His skin was hard leather, tanned to a uniform deep brown, hairless and wrinkled in some places, in others stretched smooth and tight over bones that stuck out from him like sharp points. His head lolled on his shoulder as if he could not lift it, and indeed, his neck was clearly broken, fragments of the uppermost vertebra of his spin exposed at his nape. He had only one arm and his legs were horribly mismatched. One looked strong and muscular, the other withered and skeletal. He wore no clothing except a rope tied tight around his neck - a noose, Gary saw now - and a band of matted fur around his arm.

"You're not... like them," Gary said, staring down at the twitching mummies.

Not half so old, nor as wise. Come, come here. No, I was never in Egypt, lad. I hail from an island off of what you would know as Scotland. Please, look here. This is one reason I called you, to help me see this.

Gary had no idea what the other meant - and then he saw. Mael Mag Och had no eyes in his head, just gaping sockets.

I can see what you see, through the eididh that makes us one. I had no idea how ugly I had become. Here.

Gary looked where Mael Mag Och pointed. "The eididh?" he asked.

What you call the network, though it is so much more than that. A thick wad of stained wrappings came away from the mummy and an arm was revealed, a thin arm terminating in five bony fingers. The hand snatched at Mael Mag Och's face but lacked the vitality to do any damage. The eyeless corpse reached for another strip of linen and started peeling it back, his fingers fumbling with the rotten cloth. We must get them free. They were promised paradise, Gary. These wretches believed they would wake in a field of reeds. I cannot bear their shock. Help me.

The gentleness, the compassion of the act moved Gary in a way he had no longer thought possible. He knelt down to help remove the bandages and called Faceless and Noseless to do the same. With so many hands they soon had the mummy free of her constraints. She rose slowly from the bench, a skeletal form shrouded in tatters of her linen. A glinting golden brooch sat just above her heart in the shape of a scarab beetle while other amulets and charms dangled from her side or hung from cords around her neck.

Her face remained hidden by the wrappings except for a ragged hole where her mouth had once been. Their final ritual made that - the wpt-r, the "Opening of the Mouth". It was done with a chisel and a hammer. The cloth around the wound was stained brown and yellow by long-dried fluids. Fucking barbarians, Mael Mag Och muttered. She moved on unsteady feet away from them, hobbling to the arch where she slouched against the weathered sandstone as if reading the hieroglyphs with her body. Gary would have crushed her, smashed her head to pieces if he had found her in a glass case still wrapped so tightly as she had been. Mael Mag Och had seen the animate creature, the humanity, below the bandages.

"What are you?" Gary asked.

A humble Draoidh. The way Mael Mag Och pronounced it sounded like "Druid".

"Well, okay, then who are you?" Gary asked.

Well, now, that's an easy one. I'm the fellow who turns off the lights when the world ends.

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