How Many Candles?
A Mummy fanfic by Katie Sullivan, May 2001
You know the drill...I don't own Imhotep, Anck-su-Namun, et al. No profit being made, just a fanfic, yada yada yada.
***I don't know really when this is set, exactly. It's just some indeterminate time, in the 20th century, in Hamunaptra, when Imhotep and Anck-su-Namun are alive (or what passes for alive) and just hanging out in domestic bliss. Don't worry, nothing else in this fic makes any sense, either. Probably because it was like 1 AM when I wrote it... o_0 Oh, and no, Imhotep isn't a drunk...the Egyptians drank a lot of beer, okay? They didn't have soda back then, you know.
Anck-su-Namun looked up briefly from the weaving in her lap as Imhotep entered the room. He ignored her smile of greeting and flung the cupboard doors open. He stared inside for a few moments, then slammed them shut again. "We're out of beer!"
"Are we?" she said absently, picking at a stray stand of flax that was stuck in her fingernail. "Well, if you're going out to get some, kindly depart from someplace else. I just swept, and I don't want one of your sand vortices messing up the place again."
He made a disgusted noise and settled for a cup of goat's milk instead.
She raised an eyebrow, noting his scowl. "Get up on the wrong side of the sarcophagus this morning?" she teased.
He rolled his eyes. "Very funny." She grinned and shrugged, and his expression softened. "It's just...I realized something. Today's my birthday. I'm 3,264 today, give or take a few years."
She blinked. "Uh...will you be terribly disappointed if I don't put all those candles on your cake?"
It took a moment for him to remember the Western tradition, then smirked. "I think I'll live...er, sort of." He sat down on a stone bench across from her and squinted at her handiwork. Her project was still in the early stages, but it appeared to be a light robe of some sort.
"So what are you going to do for your birthday? You should treat yourself to something special."
He leaned over to kiss her. "I have you. That's enough."
She smiled appreciatively and lightly ran a hand along the side of his face. "Maybe so, but you should do something extra special. Not everyone can say they've had a 3,000-something-th birthday."
"What did you have in mind?"
"I don't know...a party?"
"We're out of beer and everyone we know has been dead for 30 centuries."
"I suppose I could resurrect a few old acquaintances, but--"
"I know!" Anck-su-Namun dropped her weaving and went to the altar where the two sacred books lay atop a golden cloth. She flipped through the pages of the Book of the Dead with reverence but familiarity. "Boils...sores...locust plagues...solar eclipses...how to avoid being eaten inside out by scarabs...ah, here it is!" He came up beside her and tried to read over her shoulder. He always found it difficult to decipher hieroglyphics with her standing so close. So soft, so beautiful, so sweet-smelling, so--
"Imhotep! Are you listening to me?"
He blinked. He hadn't been. "Er...or course, my love."
"Then what did I just say?"
She raised her eyes. "Oh, forget it..."
"What were you saying, darling?"
She gave a look that warned that buttering her up with pet names wasn't going to make her forget his inattention. "I was saying that there's an incantation here that allows one to travel anywhere, at any time, for five minutes at the time."
"This isn't going to turn into one of those annoying time paradoxes, is it? Where you kill your own grandfather and cease to exist?"
She smiled slyly. "You have been watching T.V., haven't you?"
He cleared his throat in embarrassment. "Perhaps a little. I still haven't figured out what in the name of Thoth makes that thing work."
Anck-su-Namun had adjusted to the drastic chronological displacement better than he had. She was adaptable, resilient, stubborn, charming, beautiful--
"Imhotep!" she snapped. "You're not listening to me, are you?" He stammered excuses, and she sighed. "I was saying, the Book doesn't allow us to actually change time, just view it. So...are you interested?"
He put his arms around her and let it be known that what he was interested in didn't involve time travel.
Some time later...
"You always do that," Anck-su-Namun said.
"Do what?" Imhotep asked, toying with a strand of her coal-black hair.
"Distract me just when I'm starting to get seriously annoyed with you."
"You're beautiful when you're annoyed. What can I say?"
She shook her head in fond exasperation and stood up, tossing a black robe in his face. "Now get dressed. We're going on a little trip."
"Are you still annoyed?"
"Just making sure."
Without further distractions, they returned to the Book of the Dead. As a High Priest of Osiris, Imhotep was one of the few people ever to have read the book from cover to foreboding cover. It was not light reading.
"So, where do you want to go, and when?" Anck-su-Namun asked.
He glanced back at the bed, only partly as a joke, and she slapped him on the shoulder. "Concentrate!"
He coughed lightly and skimmed the hieroglyphics, deciding. "I suppose New York might be interesting..."
"All right. When?"
"Now. It didn't exist back in our time."
"All right, New York, now. Let's go!" She hooked an arm around his waist, and for a moment he wondered if she had changed her mind about returning to bed, then remembered that for both of them to be affected by the incantation they had to be touching. Well, regardless of the reason, it was pleasant...
"Imhotep!" she scolded, snapping him out of his dreamy smile. "Read the spell, already!"
"Oh...right." He traced the columns of hieroglyphics and intoned the ancient words, using the same sepulchral tones he had once used to address worshippers at the temple of Osiris at Thebes, 3000-odd years ago. The foreign words "New York" sounded exceedingly odd in the midst of the Egyptian words.
The room began to shimmer and dance, like waves of heat in a desert afternoon. Slowly, it all changed and they were standing on a sidewalk in Times Square. Only Anck-su-Namun could identify it, since she watched far more television than Imhotep did.
He looked around, wide-eyed, and muttered a prayer to Osiris, the ancient Egyptian equivalent of crossing oneself. "What in the world--?"
Strangely-dressed people of all shapes, sizes and colors hurried past, paying them no notice. Cars whished by, heedless of traffic laws. The noise was overwhelming, and the air was smoggy and hot. A group of the homeless wandered by, their worldly goods in stolen shopping carts. A seven-foot-tall man in an African robe strode by, carrying a boombox that was blasting obnoxious rap music at a chest-thumping decibel level. A pair of teenagers raced past on Rollerblades. Cars were honking. Planes roared by overhead. Sun glared off the high windows of skyscrapers. It was, all in all, a typical June day in New York City, yet alarmingly unfamiliar to the two newcomers.
It was fortunate the spell rendered them invisible, for considering Anck-su-Namun's wardrobe--or lackthereof--someone might have mistaken her for a prostitute. Had a would-be john approached her and managed to make his intentions understood through the language barrier, he could have found himself strangled, devoured by scarabs, buried in a sudden sand avalanche, or whatever method of punishment sprang into Imhotep's mind. Once one has endured the Hom-Dai any of these is a mild chastisement.
Fortunately for all concerned, Imhotep and Anck-su-Namun were indeed invisible. They wasted at least two of their five minutes gawking at the vastly unfamiliar scenery, and the third commenting on it. The fourth and most of the fifth were spent staring at a car accident. It was a minor fender-bender between a taxi cab and a black convertible, but neither driver was exactly what could be called polite. Had Imhotep understood some of the insults being flung back and forth across the dented bumpers, he would have covered Anck-su-Namun's ears and gaped in disapproval. As it was, he could get a pretty good idea of what they meant.
They were both rooting for the taxi driver to win the argument, since, with his scraggly beard and checkered turban, he was the one who looked relatively normal to them. Before they could see if the Arab or the yuppie won, the shimmering waves descended and whisked them back home to Hamunaptra.
"Did you see how tall those buildings were?" Anck-su-Namun asked, her dark eyes huge with awe. "Taller even than the pyramids!"
"Yes," he said with a jealous pout, "but not nearly as aesthetically pleasing. Nor, I imagine, any more efficient at deterring grave robbers."
"Where shall we go next?" Anck-su-Namun asked.
"You wish to make another of those horrifying journeys?"
"Yes, don't you? It's fascinating!"
"I found it...disconcerting."
"So's waking up after being dead for a few thousand years, but you survived that...sort of."
"I'd rather go find some beer."
She put a hand on his chest and looked into his eyes with a pleading, pathetic look. "Pweeze, Imhoteppy, fo' meee?"
He shuddered. "All right, all right! Just stop looking at me like that! And never call me--" he grimaced "Imhoteppy!"
"But I get to pick the place."
He read the incantation again, but instead of listing a specific place or time requested a trip to someplace with good beer.
When they materialized in a parking lot, Anck-su-Namun was shaking her head in disgust. "Any place or time in history, and you take us to--where is this, anyway?" She looked up at the large brick building with confusion. Then, in a burst of lazy plotting, a wind-borne newspaper hit her in the face. She sputtered and brushed the paper away, then read the top, which, for some bizarre reason, was in hieroglyphics. "Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, United States of America, 1996 A.D. Leinenkugel's Brewery," she read aloud.
"Then why is this strange document in our language?" Imhotep asked.
"Lazy plotting, I guess. So they have good beer here, I take it?"
"The Book of the Dead is never wrong."
"Don't you find it just a little bit blasphemous to use the Book of the Dead to look for beer?"
"Not really. That Book has caused me--us--so many problems through the millennia, it owes us a favor."
He was about to say something else, but gasped and pointed. "What is that strange creature?"
It was a fat Swedish guy in a Cheesehead, but poor Imhotep had no way of knowing that, and took it to be some sort of hideously deformed creature. He summoned his powers over sand and blasted the poor man halfway across the parking lot. Anck-su-Namun merely blinked a few times, shrugged and led the way into the brewery. Taking advantage of their invisibility, they walked right in and procured a couple 24-packs before the shimmering waves of magic arrived to take them back.
"Now are you happy?" she asked as they materialized back in Hamunaptra.
"I suppose so. I'm not thirsty anymore."
"We still haven't gotten you a birthday cake, though."
"You're all the sweetness I need, thanks," he said, hoping the extravagant compliment would persuade her to stop this globetrotting nonsense.
"Aww..." She kissed him, but still returned to the Book. "Thanks, but I'd still like to try something with frosting on it..."
"Well..." He smirked a little, about to make a naughty suggestion.
"Oh, shush," she said with a disgusted frown. She laid a hand on the book. "I'll read it myself, this time. Are you coming or not?"
"Do I have to?"
She sighed. "No, I don't suppose you do. I'll be right back."
He opened a second can of beer. "Suit yourself."
She shook her head, muttered something mildly unkind, and began the incantation.
Precisely five minutes later, she returned with a chocolate cake bearing four candles. "One for each millenium, plus one for the next," she explained.
He thanked her with a kiss. "Where did you go to get it?"
"France. They're supposed to have really good pastry there. Although...did you know they eat snails?"
There was a knock at the door.
They looked up in surprise, since no one ever knocked on their door. Where was the door, anyway? Anyone who came visiting to Hamunaptra was usually an archaeologist--a very short-lived archaeologist--and few people would dream of the crumbling old place being inhabited.
Imhotep motioned for Anck-su-Namun to be quiet. Using his most silent, graceful strides, he left the chamber in the direction of the noise. The knock came again.
There was a skinny man in a Federal Express uniform standing in the remains of the courtyard, fidgeting with a slip of paper. He jumped and yelped when Imhotep rose out of the sand beside him.
"Uh...Mister Imm...hot-ep?" the Fed Ex guy read awkwardly from the slip of paper.
He nodded suspiciously.
Somehow he understood that the strange man was asking for his signature, so he carefully drew the three hieroglyphics for his name on the dotted line.
"Have a nice day." The Fed Ex guy shoved an envelope in Imhotep's hands and ran back to his camel, eager to be away from this creepy place.
Imhotep opened the envelope. The letter, oddly enough, was also in hieroglyphics.
"Imhotep," he read. "Happy Birthday." He raised an eyebrow. Who else knew it was his birthday? "Happy Birthday to you...you look like a bald, stinky camel, and you smell like one, too. Worst regards, the Med-Jai." Oddly enough, it even rhymed in ancient Egyptian. Imhotep growled in rage, crumpled up the paper, and tossed it over his shoulder.
Anck-su-Namun hurried out of the ruined temple at that exact moment, and the paper hit her in the face. "Ack!"
She uncrumpled the paper and read it, then looked as if she wasn't sure whether to be amused or angry. "That's...interesting," she said at last.
He snatched the paper back from her and tore it in two. "Rotten meddling desert rats..." he grumbled.
"Oh, don't let them get to you, darling. Besides...look what I have." She held up a jar of chocolate frosting.
He grinned, put an arm around her waist and followed her back into the ruins.
"Happy birthday, my love," she murmured.