MASKS OF NYARLATHOTEP – EGYPT PART SEVEN

Catch up with previous episodes elsewhere on the site.

Some rubbish cat pun goes here

Saturday 28th

Back on the steamer Bolan awoke with a start. He had been dozing while the other three had gone ashore to investigate the dig. His shoulder wound was painful and he was trying to rest assisted by some painkillers that were in a first aid kit, but something had disturbed his sleep. 

The cabin was warm with the afternoon sun blazing down on the side of the ship, but a breeze was blowing which helped keep the heat down to a tolerable level.

As his eyes adjusted to the dark of the room, Bolan made out a figure sitting in the chair opposite the bed. With a groan of apprehension, he raised himself up to his elbows and saw it was a lithe, attractive young woman who was watching him closely. Realising the woman matched the description of the woman that McTavish had spotted as they left Cairo docks to come up the Nile.

“Good afternoon.” She purred. “That looks like a nasty wound there. Good that you’re resting and not straining it.”

Bolan’s mind flashed back a few days to the incident in their first hotel when he had woken up alone with someone else in his room. He glanced around but the woman told him to relax.

“I’m not here to cause trouble, I just want my property back. Give them back to me and I’ll leave you alone.” She leaned back in the chair as Bolan struggled to think what it could be they had she wanted. They had taken so much stuff over the last couple of months that he couldn’t think what it was she wanted.

Realising she wouldn’t get anything from him now, the woman rose and headed towards the door of the cabin.

“I’ll be back later. Please reconsider my request and I’ll be keeping an eye on you.”

She turned the corner out of view and Bolan darted into the corridor but it was empty. Darting up on deck he found a few of the crew but none of them had seen a woman on the ship. Even Mahmoud, who was sitting on the bow, dangling his feet over the edge of the deck, hadn’t seen anyone else.

When Singh, McTavish and Constanza returned from the dig site, he told them about the visitor and they agreed to keep an eye out in case she returned.

Sunday 1st March

The next morning found the boat moored at a small dock near El Wasta. Knowing only the name Nuri, they had little to go on so gave Mahmoud all the information that they knew about her and sent him off into the town to try and find her.

While he was off exploring the town, Bolan thought he would try and do a reading on the jewellery that they had been given while at the mosque. He spent a little time opening his mind while holding the girdle before suddenly finding himself standing in the middle of what looked like a temple in ancient Egypt. He was surrounded by dozens of worshippers at the bottom of some steps. At the top of the steps, a ceremony of some sort was happening with a priestess chanting over an altar. As he looked closer, Bolan realised that there were three pieces of jewellery on the top of it, one of which looked a lot like the girdle they had. As the ceremony progressed, he noticed what he thought was a burning brazier was actually some form of fire creature. It would occasionally reach out with a tendril of fire and touch each of the delicate items on the stone surface before withdrawing back into itself. The glow from the heated jewellery blazed on the altar but didn’t seem to cause any discomfort to the woman or those around her. The vision faded and Bolan found himself sitting in the cabin of the steamship with the feeling of extreme heat on him even though it was cool in the room.

It wasn’t until late afternoon that Mahmoud reappeared with news he had found several women called Nuri but one of them may fit the description. She lived with her son out of the town a bit and had looked after a foreign man for a few months some years ago. 

Gathering themselves, the four followed the boy into the streets of El Wasta. He led them through winding alleyways until they arrived in a run-down area on the outskirts of the town. Asking around for directions to Nuri’s house took a little time until they finally reached a one-room hovel with a large man sitting outside just staring off into space.

Approaching the man, Bolan greeted him but just drew a blank look. Singh, translating into Arabic, asked to see Nuri. The man turned to look at them more closely and they all saw that park of his face had been gouged away and part of his right arm and shoulder had been mangled. Bolan realised the marks looked similar to the injuries he had so quickly unbuttoned his shirt and showed the man his bite mark on his shoulder. Something akin to realisation appeared in the man’s eyes. He slowly pulled himself to his feet and guided them into the hovel.

The inside was dark and stuffy, it took a few moments for their eyes to adjust to the gloom after the brightness of the afternoon. The room was packed with blankets, pots, pans, baskets, broken bits of pottery and other types of junk, it wasn’t until one of the piles of blankets moved that they realised someone else was in the room. The pile slowly shifted and sat up. From below the layers a wet rasping sound emanated and a pair of eyes peered out. 

Speaking to the bundle got no reply so Bolan hunched down and tried to get closer. The woman under the blanket had part of her lower face missing and Bolan recoiled in shock. The woman began to gurgle and pointing wildly with her arms which, to everyone’s horror, they realised were just stumps. Nuri was waving at the far end of the hovel and Singh went over to investigate what she was pointing at. In the corner was a basket, painted with a red symbol which she got more and more excited over as Singh got closer. As he lifted the basket she slumped back in a pile as if she was exhausted. Singh glanced inside the basket and saw a large chunk of white stone several inches thick. He lifted it out and saw it was carved with symbols and looked as if it was part of another piece that it was broken from.

Realising this was what she wanted them to have, Singh left her some more blankets as a thank you. After failing to get anything else out of the pair, the group left the hovel to head back to the boat.

As they worked their way back through the streets towards the docks, they realised the streets had been slowly filling with cats. Everywhere they looked cats lined the rooftops and darted between them in the street. The light was slowly fading away as they turned and entered a small courtyard where they stopped in shock. Every exit was full of cats. 

A polite cough behind them turned the group around to see the mysterious woman standing right where they had just come in.

“Well? Can I have the items you’ve taken please?” She asked.

After some brief discussion, she realised that she wasn’t getting anywhere so turned with a frown. 

“That’s disappointing.” she said as she walked away and disappeared into the shadows.

The four men turned back and tried to pick their way through the meowing masses of fur which swarmed around their feet. Bolan trod on one by mistake and it yowled at him and took a swipe at his leg, drawing blood. He swung his foot back and aimed a kick at the creature but it darted away from him. 

As if on cue, a bunch of the cats swarmed over each of them, biting, scratching and snarling. Blood flowed as several landed wicked scratches on the humans. Both Singh and McTavish found themselves wrestling with cats that had latched onto them before managing to dislodge them. Bolan pulled his pistol and fired wildly at the nearest ones blowing them to a bloody pulp.

As the sounds of the gunshots echoed around the courtyard, the cats bolted away into the night leaving the four men bloodied and with shredded clothes, to leave the area quickly as the shouts of locals started to come closer to investigate the noises of the fight.

From the shadows, many pairs of eyes watched them go before they melted away into the darkness of evening.