Passage to Queen Mesentia – chapter excerpt – Ben’s Story
The memories of what had happened in the park faded a little more with each passing minute. Now that they sat in a normal setting—no darkness, no guns being pointed at them, and their lives no longer in danger—thinking Ben an actual vampire seemed absurd. Wade had no doubt that Ben believed it; he had the fake accent, the long dark coat, he only went places at night, and he went around biting people… Wade couldn’t believe he’d bought into what this lunatic had said. Worse, since the beginning of the crazy conversation, Wade had watched Lilly’s reactions. Obviously, she thought Ben was the best thing since King Tut.
Ben appeared larger than normal in the tiny booth. He leaned forward, his bent arms the length of the table, holding eye contact with Lilly. “I realize what this must sound like,” Ben said.
“He’s delusional,” Wade said. “He’s probably some mental patient who—” he stopped because Ben had his knife. He hadn’t seen him take it. “Hey, watch it there!” Wade instinctively put his arm in front of Lilly.
Ben paid no mind, but proceeded to open the knife and then slice his own wrist. Both Wade and Lilly gasped and sat back in the seat. Wade waited for the blood to pour out of the large open wound but none came, and it completely healed in less than five seconds.
“Whoa,” Wade said. “Let’s go… now!” He grabbed Lilly’s arm and started moving out of the booth, but she sat firm.
Ben said, “I apologize for having to use such crude measures to demonstrate my truth. It is important to me that you believe what I have said. I assure you, Lillian, you are not in any danger from me.” He closed the knife and slid it across the table to Wade.
Wade hesitated for a second but then grabbed the knife and put it in his pants pocket before Ben got any more bright ideas. “Why should we think that, you blood-sucker?”
“I am not a vampire. I do not need blood to survive.”
“So that guy in woods?” Wade asked. “Just for fun?”
“I am cursed. I do not feed on human blood. I do grow sharp teeth like a serpent, and I can deliver a deadly poison straight to the blood stream. I did not drink that man’s blood. I only poisoned it. I need nothing to exist. I am not so simple that I can stop feeding and die. If so, I would have ended this torture centuries ago. My curse is immortality, and therefore I can not die.”
“Well what about the sunlight and going everywhere at night?” Wade asked. “If you want to die so bad, how come you don’t just step out into the sun and get it over with.”
“I am extremely nocturnal. During the day, I lose all energy and then consciousness. However, I won’t burst into flames.”
“What if I chopped you up into little pieces? Would that do it?”
“Wade!” Lilly looked at him with her mouth wide open.
“I’m sorry! He’s really freaking me out! I’ll tell you what, Ben, give me your address, and I’ll write down what was on that letter and mail it to you.” Wade grabbed Lilly by the arm. “Come on, I’ve heard and seen enough for a lifetime… a normal person’s lifetime.”
Lilly pulled her arm out of Wade’s grip. “I want to know the rest,” she whispered to Wade. “If you want to go on, I’ll understand.
Wade shook his head at her casualness. Why didn’t she feel the danger, too?
“What happened next?” Lilly asked Ben. “Did you go back to Egypt?”
“I did. By that time, the Hikau Khausut had invaded and war spread from Memphis to the sea. For years, I did my best to search for Mesentia’s tomb. However, in my younger years, I proved careless and rumors had begun to spread about me. I refused to be chained again. Reluctantly, I had to leave without finding her, but vowed I would return.”
Wade said, “All right, fine. Tell me what all this grandeur has to do with us? Why should we give a shit if you get this thing back or not? Lilly’s parents already found that queen you had an affair with.”
“The fate of the world depends on it.”
“The fate of the world…” Wade mocked. “Really? Are you serious? I’m willing to bet that this thing is worth a pretty penny and you conned her parents into believing this ridiculous story.”
“You’re right,” Lilly said. “My parents did believe him. I want to know why. Wade, can we please let him finish?”
Wade said, “For the record, this is against my better judgment. All right, Mr. Sneaky Snake, what happened next? You and Cleopatra get it on, too?” Wade caught anger in Ben’s eyes as he slowly turned from Lilly and glanced his way. He also could have sworn he glimpsed the corner of one of his canines. Right… harmless.
“I lived in West Germany in the 1950’s,” Ben said, his expression mellowing as he talked only to Lilly. “I met a man named Roland Schelsteder. We worked together for many years, and over the hours we began to talk. I trusted him and thought of him as my friend. I would go to his house for dinners with his family; he had two sons.
“One day I shared my story with him. He sympathized with me and kept my secret. So I thought. He was killed some months later. His wife blamed me and called me a monster.”
“At least she got it right,” Wade said.
“I had to flee,” Ben said. “She had threatened to turn me in as a spy. I left Germany and came here to the States. All remained quiet until years later; one of Roland’s sons arrived at my doorstep. Roland had told his wife about me, and then she had told their sons. He wanted answers. I felt a little hesitant, but for his father’s memory, I told him completely about myself and about what happened to his father. He believed me. ”
“We kept in touch; I knew he had made his fortune there in New York with some good investments, until one day—nothing. Years later, he came to call again. He told me he had a proposition and thought perhaps we could retrieve the statuette. I immediately noticed something different. Something in his eyes had changed. When you’ve existed as long as I have, you learn to read people. I knew what he wanted, he wanted to become an immortal like me. When I called him on it, acting interested, I learned his intentions were worse than I had thought. Not only did he want to become like me, he wanted to make others. He wanted to produce an army of immortals.”
“That Pyramidion Statuette can do that?” Lilly asked.
“It is the source of my immortality,” Ben said.
Wade hated that he began to consider all of what Ben had said as possible. He found himself wondering if he actually held the information in his head that could ultimately save the world from doom. He smacked his lips and exhaled before saying, “So… So how did the Stewards end up with it and not Schelsteder?”
Both Lilly and Ben snapped their attention toward Wade. He didn’t want to acknowledge the satisfaction in Ben’s eyes nor the gleam on Lilly’s face, so he looked out into the dining room, like he hadn’t asked.
“I told Schelsteder I wanted no part in his plans. My curse is personal, not a weapon. In the year 2000 I read of Schelsteder’s investments in Egypt. I knew then he searched for Mesentia. I followed him there and learned he had found someone to dig for him in Saqqara, your parents’ university. I met with your parents and told them my story, as I have told you. They assured me that they would return the statuette to me.
“I was so pleased when they found Mesentia, nevertheless, apprehensive at the same time. When your parents found the Pyramidion Statuette in the canopic jar, exactly like I had told them it would be, it erased any doubt they may have had about me.”
Lilly said, “So they didn’t put the statuette with the rest of the find. They put it back for you?” Her eyes grew with excitement. “Schelsteder knew it was supposed to be there, so when it wasn’t…”
“He will stop at nothing to build this army of invincible men. Time is of the utmost importance. I must find it, before he does.”
Lilly turned to Wade. “Will you tell us now? Will you tell us what was in that letter? Did it say where it was?”
“Yeah,” Wade growled. He knew Lilly wouldn’t say goodbye to Ben and let him be on his way to find the little pyramid statue all by his lonesome. She would go off alone with this freak with no one to protect her. “Yeah, it said.” He sighed. “Looks like we’re all going to Egypt.”
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