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Selena strained against the weight of the boxes piled high on shelves in the cramped research quarters under the main lecture hall of ARCE (American Research Center in Egypt, more precisely the Emory Briarcliff Campus, Building A, Atlanta, Georgia). She reached to close her tiny hand around the smallest box, precariously balanced at the very top, in which a few papyrus scrolls were rolled.  Old vegetable paper housing clues that would gain her passage to the dig, of that much she was certain. More determined than ever, she pushed a bit more – aha, success! Pulling the box forward, she brought it low and placed it on the lighted table in the corner of the closet-like space.

Though the scope of programs and activities conducted or supported by ARCE and its U.S. chapters included seminars, public lectures, surveys, conservation projects, publications, and the operation of a magnificent research library, ARCE’s main focus (though it was kept quiet) was unusual archaeological excavations. The excavations no one else wanted, ARCE made its quest – the more myth involved the better, the more enshrouded in hopelessness the more hope it brought. ARCE had long maintained a cornerstone Fellowship Program with the goal of promoting a fresh and more profound knowledge of Egypt. This was the fact Selena was most proud of.  Cursed objects to her were a blessing.  In these papyrus sheets she knew now was a secret beyond secrets.

Back in April an Egyptian-German team of archaeologists unearthed two colossi, King Amenhotep II and an unidentified queen, at Kom Al-Hitan, on the west bank of the Nile opposite Luxor. Legend had it that their reign was both mystical and so far reaching that spirits moved at their command. Selena was determined not only to translate, but also to press her way into Egypt and perhaps back into the arms of … Erikarl Von Staedlmann.

What a delicious man, how she had ever let him get away was beyond her. Many were the nights Selena kicked herself for not journeying with him. Worse, to add to her agony was that this man knew her secret – that she, a scientist, was also a sneeze fetishist.

Erikarl’s sneeze, to be specific, was once a great study of her own. He had the kind of sneeze that caused heat in her abdomen to uncoil its serpentine lust and radiate its glittering iridescence through her skin.  Couple his ruggedly handsome good looks and a body of which Adonis would assuredly be jealous and it had been a near lethal combination.

Alas, her career had taken precedence at that point.  The social gatherings, the parties, the fundraisers and breaking the ‘glass ceiling’ in a male dominated world became her focus. Forget that she could have devoted her life to marking the entrances and exists of his impressive form, Selena pushed herself beyond all boundaries and worked herself right where she thought she always wanted to be. Yet now that Selena had everything she thought she wanted, all she could seem to do was to think of Erikarl. She could see him more than memory, clear as he tilted his head back, holding the enormous white handkerchief before his face.

“Hurrraaasshhhoooo! Ah please to excuse, meine liebe, the dust plays havoc upon my poor nose.”

At which point she kissed him deeply and made love to him upon the floor of her office. Many were the times she had taken him, daring were the places. When ARCE heard of the possibility of the Colossi, Erikarl begged Selena to come with him, but she was too close to her beloved goal and bid him farewell.

That had been nine months ago and now she wished to be delivered.

Pulling the scrolls open in the light, she began to translate aloud, “Amenhotep III built a mortuary temple in Thebes guarded by two gigantic statues on the outer gates. The southern of the two statues called ‘Ruler of Rulers’.  Constructed from carved blocks of quartzite quarried at Gebel es-Silsileh. The Northern statue depicts Amenhotep III with his mother, Mutemwia, while the southern statue is of Amenhotep II with his wife, Tiy and one of his daughters. On the sides of the statues are reliefs depicting Nile gods joining together symbolizing Upper and Lower Egypt.  Under the right conditions, these statues create a bell-like tone occurring only in the morning and in-between the figure of Memnon, the son of Aurora who's mother, Eos, the goddess of dawn will appear. To be granted a song means very much in favour of the gods. To hear the tone means riches beyond measure. Amenhotep had taken great pains to build caverns below this area.”

Pondering for a moment, Selena knew she had in her hands the key. Behind the Colossi an enormous temple had once been raised which the words said would reappear when the conditions were precisely correct. Tucking the ancient papyrus sheets into her valise, Selena headed to the director’s office.


Erikarl stretched his long legs out in front of him, noting the amount of dust gathering in the fibers of his pant cuffs. He had been crouched next to the Colossi Amenhotep II and felt a sneeze coming on. Rather than continue dusting and scraping the surface of the fabulous oracle, without the mask he knew he should be wearing, he stopped and eased himself onto the earth. Removing his handkerchief, he felt the tickle subside. Oh bother; it was just not the same without Selena.  Just when his allergies seemed to be less of a plague upon him and he had actually found some good there, the girl was gone from his life. The only woman who gave his life spice was in Georgia at ARCE. Drawing in a deep breath he sighed and then sneezed,

“Haaaarrrsh! Haaashooooo, Hatchoooo huh, huh Atshhhishhhh!”

Wearily he wiped his nose and decided ‘enough for today’, heading to the tents. Perhaps taking a makeshift shower before the evening meal and washing the dust away would rid him of some of the pain in his aching heart as well as the itching in his nose.

One would think he would be used to the constant sneezing and sniffling by now, and there had been a point where he had truly not noticed it.  It was then he met Selena who had a way about her of bringing everything into the foreground for study, for life.  She had been intrigued by his work and they had corresponded for a time.  ARCE was funding many of his projects before he had ever met the girl in the flesh.  He was intrigued by her intellect and her understanding of Egyptology and the need to excavate the past in order to not repeat its mistakes.  Selena was so full of passion about life and the mysteries thereof. Then there was her fetish, the passionate nights shared as a result of not just his allergies, but a chemistry that seemed to run soul deep.

“Hah Ahh, hurashhh,Atachhhoooo!” he sneezed again as the water ran down his chest, “Not the same…” he muttered to himself.

Toweling off, he wrapped the terry round his waist and made his way to the platformed tent. Thoughts of Selena were enveloping his mind. Erikarl decided to skip dinner and just go to bed.

The plane landed and Selena soon found herself through customs and on her way to the dig. Her stomach jumped; her heart fluttered. What would he say to her? What would he think about her discovery? Would she be able to control herself long enough to tell him? Thoughts racing, plaguing her. “Oh and dear God help me please, the desert, the dust, his sneezing,” she breathed to herself as the jeep neared the site.

The camp seemed silent as darkness enveloped the land suddenly. Once the sun sank into the desert horizon, night closed in, pitch black, thick, tangible, close.  As suddenly as the sun set, torches were lit and workers cast curious glances toward the girl. Her thick curling hair peeked out from under the long white scarf and she reached into the back of the jeep to grab her bags.

Erikarl was nowhere in sight. She allowed her gaze to travel, sweeping the entire length of the camp, and then she heard him,

“Huurrasshh, ashhhhh, ashhhh – verdammen!”

Smiling wickedly, Selena made her way to the tent from which the exasperated sneezing and epithet had come. Placing her hand upon the tent flap, she cleared her throat, “Not feeling well love? Must be horrid for you with all this dust.” Her voice trailed off, as she took in his form in the dim light of the lantern.

Erikarl’s hands folded behind his head, face poised in a pre-sneeze expression, he sat bolt upright all sneezes surprised away at her words, “Sella? Come here Süsse Schönheit (sweet beauty), tell me I am not dreaming…”