Mal pulled a face as he took a swig of bitterly brewed tea.
“Here, look, I’ll spoon some sugar in or summat,” said Vaj, pushing one of the many strangely shaped buttons on his newly acquired multi-purpose tool. It glowed a dull orange every time an instrument flicked out.
“S’ like a Swiss Army knife, innit? How many doohickeys that thing have?” asked Mal.
Vaj shrugged bony brown shoulders. “Dunno, do I? I ‘aven’t pushed all the buttons yet, yeah?”
Vaj and Mal were professional grave robbers. Well, as professional as you can be when there’s no guild or union to join to make it official-like. They’d made up business cards, painstakingly cutting out uneven cardboard squares, hand-lettering each one in blocky print: Don’t Let Them Take It To Their Graves. It was amazing, really, the number of disgruntled family members who hung about cemeteries, whining. “I can’t believe Aunt Mildred was buried with that diamond brooch” or “Really, how greedy for Uncle Harold to wear that emerald stick pin in his coffin!”.
It was one such group, clustered away from other mourners, that had scored Vaj his new gadget. Five men, dressed in mourning grey, hats pulled low over pallid faces, murmuring in undertones carrying sparks of anger. Overhearing a random snippet of conversation, “it was OURS, it wasn’t HIS”, Mal had sidled over and pulled a card out from under his crushed cap with his version of a poncy flourish, tucking it into one of their breast pockets. Before he had the chance to execute what he liked to call his exit swagger, one of the men called him back.
“Oy, you, c’mere then!” The man beckoned with a talon-like hand. Surprised but pleased, Mal instead used his swagger to return to the huddle.
The man who had called to him gestured towards a large mausoleum, spotlighted in a beam of watery sunshine in the northeast corner of the grounds. “Your, uh, expertise. Does it extend beyond digging up dirt? What we need retrieved, it’s in there, not in the ground.”
Mal nodded. “Sure sure, just trade shovels out for crowbars, yeah?” Not that they’d ever done it before but he wasn’t about to admit that in front of these gentleman, who gave him a case of the heebie-jeebies. “Wot you need outta there, then?”
They had drawn Mal into their circle, whispering at and to each other, epithets directed at the dead man, and finally instructions. “You will find a number of strange looking devices within Branson’s coffin. We only wish to have one of them returned. The rest, should you be able to figure out their usage, belong to you and your partner. They will be your payment.”
Mal held his hands up. “Sounds a bit like Jack and his magic beans, mate. My partner and I deal in currency. You know, real payment for services rendered. Yer tryina tell me we might just end up with bits of junk that we can’t even figure out? How are we supposed to be able to turn that into profit?”
“Ah, but did not Jack end up with the Golden Goose?” It was a different man who spoke this time, although he looked much like the first man, and seemed rather pleased with his rejoinder.
In the end, Mal was swayed, and although Vaj did more than his fair share of complaining, they had duly gone to work with their crowbars. Once inside the mausoleum, they had discovered only one coffin inside; a large varnished box with intricately carved flourishes, set in the center of a marble dais. To their delight, there were no locks or seals to fight with and the lid opened smoothly on well oiled hinges.
Tucked in around the dead man there were indeed a ridiculous number of odd looking widgets and gizmos, like someone had upended a robot’s toy box in along with the body. Vaj reached for the only one that was even remotely recognizable.
“Look, this ones got a corkscrew on, and a little spoon, ha. What’s this one for though?” He punched at a button with a rectangular pictograph, but nothing happened. He shrugged. “C’mon, let’s just scoop up the lot of ’em, figure out how to make ’em work at home.”
Many miles away, in Amesbury, a startled group of tourists stumbled backwards as a slow, grinding sound rose from the ground. A swirling whirlpool of earth opened up, and a girl screamed.
“Stonehenge just fell down!”
I admit that I had a hard time finding inspiration from the prompts for Grammar Ghoul challenge #9- which is the entire point, of course, of having writing CHALLENGES. So kudos, Ghouls, this one stumped me, and I’m not sure how well I did 😉
The prompt word this week was ‘spoon’, and the visual prompt was a really adorable (because camels) short film that you can watch here, called The Egyptian Pyramids: