Seventeen-year-old Alana Richardson was an Egyptology geek. She could read and write hieroglyphics and had a good knowledge of Egyptian mythology and history.
Even though she was a suburban kid from Denver, she looked like she was from Egypt. As a joke, she went to a styling salon one afternoon and had her hair cut like an Egyptian queen. The hairdresser loved the idea, and Lana’s hair, thick and jet-black, held the blunt cut perfectly.
When an assortment of Egyptian historical artifacts comes to the Denver Museum of Natural History, Lana eagerly signs up as a volunteer. To her, this month-long exhibit was like the World Cup, Comiket and Mardi Gras all rolled into one. She couldn’t have wished for a better time.
But as we all know, you should always be careful what you wish for. On the first day of the exhibit, Lana found herself in a room with a pair of ornate sarcophagi. She immediately felt the weight of 6,000 years of ancient history. “The room was filled with silence that stretched back thousands of years,” wrote Barbara Steiner ominously. “The silence of a tomb. The silence of death.”
Like all mummy stories from the past (and into perpetuity no doubt), there was a curse surrounding the two stone coffins. There’s a burial shroud with the body of Prince Nefra in one coffin, but the body of Urbena, his fiancée, was missing from the other.
The museum curator explained it this way: “The coffin is empty,” he said, “because someone robbed the grave of the would-be-princess and took her body. Legend tells us there is a curse on the tomb that will be broken only when the mummy of Urbena is found and returned.”
Before the first day of the exhibit ends, poor Lana becomes the target of intense harassment from a variety of sources. Nefra and Urbena speak to her from beyond the grave, someone is tossing scorpions and mummified cats through her bedroom window and everyone at the museum is being hostile. There’s even a “musty-smelling” mummy stalking her at night.
It’s bewildering at first, but Lana eventually figures out the underlying cause of her predicament. With her Egyptian countenance and hairdo, she looked as if she stepped right out of Cleopatra’s court. It was enough to make one believe in reincarnation. “You definitely look like Urbena,” joked a museum colleague, “Maybe you have come back, Princess. Isn’t that funny?”
To save herself, Lana needed to solve a 6,000-year-old mystery. Why was Prince Nefra killed the night before his wedding? Did Urbena commit suicide, was she murdered or was she buried alive? If Lana doesn’t do something quickly, she might find herself wrapped in gauze, stuffed into a sarcophagus and shipped back to Egypt.
Lana wasn’t some silly schoolgirl who could be intimidated by theater tricks, but the curse of Urbena kept her dizzy. She had to admit, it was real to many people. “The curse will go on and on unless Urbena’s mummy is returned,” said a visiting archaeologist. “You’d be perfect Lana. You would satisfy the gods and Nefra would be pleased.”
[The Mummy / By Barbara Steiner / First Printing: May 1995 / ISBN: 9780590203531]