Pharos the Egyptian (a.k.a. Ptahmes the Magician) was born 3,000 years ago. In his lifetime he witnessed the first Olympic games, the rise and fall of the Roman Empire, the birth of Lao-tse and the death of Cleopatra. Gee, maybe he even got to meet author Guy Boothby?
But, alas, eternal life always comes with a heavy burden. For his bad behavior and hubris, the Egyptian gods denied Pharos the endless sleep he sought for three millennia.
Not only did Pharos hold a grudge against the ancient Pharaoh who cursed him, but he also resented the gross lifestyle of contemporary European society. Wrote Boothby: “For such a man as Pharos to exist in the prosaic 19th century was absurd.”
Pharos was a disgruntled (and world-weary) mummy who had sworn vengeance on the human race. His plan was simple: kill everyone in Europe and hope Osiris would be pleased. For backup he enlisted the aid of a beautiful Hungarian violinist and a nominally famous painter from England.
Being a musician or an artist wasn’t important, however. Pharos simply needed two weak-willed individuals to exploit for his own selfish purposes. Fräulein Valerie de Vocxqal [sic] was a convenient medium for the will of the Egyptian gods and Cyril Forrester was simply a vessel to carry “The Egyptian Fever” across the continent. “The truth is,” cried Forrester when he finally figured everything out, “we are both in the hands of a remorseless fate, and are being dragged along by it, powerless to help ourselves.”
It wasn’t all vengeance and pestilence in Boothby’s novel. As with most Victorian fiction, there was also a fierce love story to grab onto. The ensuing courtship between de Vocxqal and Forrester was appropriately breathless and intense, but unfortunately the two young lovers were doomed by circumstances beyond their control.
It’s crazy ol’ Pharos, of course, who steals the show, and Boothby wastes no opportunity to describe his pet ghoul. “He had an expression of cunning malignity on his face,” said the author. “A more evil-looking figure could scarcely have been imagined by Victor Hugo.” Later, de Vocxqal wondered: “How was it possible that a man breathing the pure air of heaven could be so vile?” He was terror incarnate and an inhuman monster assessed Forrester. I have to admit Pharos had mad gaslighting skills as well.
By the end of the book, the plague had killed 159,838 people stretching from Constantinople to London (a strangely specific number, don’t you think?). Satisfied with his accomplishments, Pharos tapped de Vocxqal to petition a response from the elder gods.
Their reply was predictable. “Thou hast used the power vouchsafed thee by the gods for thine own purposes and to enrich thyself to the goods of the earth. Therefore thy doom is decreed and thy punishment awaits thee.”
Pharos’s death rattle was immediate. His skin fell from his bones and his skeletal fingers tore at his throat. He slumped to the floor dead, an inglorious 3,000-year-old pile of dust and bones. Good riddance.
[Pharos the Egyptian / By Guy Boothby / Wildside Press Edition: June 2002 / ISBN: 9781587158407]