MUMMY MANIA Can an ancient Egyptian mummy really have walked out of the museum? Read about Jake and Amber's hilarious and hair-raising adventures as they give chase!
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by Emma Laybourn

Chapter One

Nothing but dust and echoes: and a long, glass case.

That was all that was left of our little museum. It made me miserable to see the room so desolate. It looked much smaller now that everything had been cleared out. There were just the five of us left: our hollow voices ringing through the empty spaces as we argued.

Or rather, as four of us argued. One of us didn't say a word - because one of us was dead.

Very dead. Four thousand year-old dead. A mummy.

I don't mean my mum, of course, or Jake's mum, although they were both there, glowering at each other. I mean a mummy - Ancient Egyptian style - wrapped from head to toe in shabby, brownish bandages. It lay serenely in its glass case with its arms crossed on its chest, while Mum and Mrs Foxe quarrelled over its coffin.

Mrs Foxe was winning. My mum was being far too polite.

"I want it out, now!" snapped Mrs Foxe. Her tanned face was screwed up in annoyance like an old tea-bag. "It shouldn't still be here! I bought this building on the understanding it would be empty by today! This is going to be a fitness centre - a gym full of lithe young bodies pumping iron. I can't have ancient corpses cluttering up the place!"

"It's not that easy-" began Mum, but Mrs Foxe just stormed straight through her words.

"I'm warning you. That thing has got to go. Right now!"

"Or even sooner," added her son Jake, smirking at me.

Jake was in my class at school, unfortunately. I knew he didn't like me; partly because I was a girl, but mostly because he was a snob. He wore brand-new designer gear - just like his mum - and eyed my filthy, torn old jeans with a contemptuous sneer.

I glared back defiantly. So what if my jeans were held together with safety-pins? I'd been working. I'd spent all day on my knees, helping Mum clear out the museum.

Together, we'd carefully packed up all the broken pots, clay beads and rusty knives. We'd loaded them lovingly into boxes and carried them out. The room had slowly emptied. Now everything had gone... except the mummy.

"I'd have thrown the whole lot on the rubbish heap," sniffed Mrs Foxe.

"Not much of a museum, is it?" jeered Jake. "A few bits of cracked pot and a crummy old mummy. The mummy's not even anyone important. You'd think it was Tutankhamun the way you go on about it. But it's nobody!"

I couldn't deny it. The mummy was nobody.

If you peered closely through the glass case, you could see a name written in hieroglyphs on the side of its coffin - at least, Mum said it was a name, but it was too faded for her to read. Apart from those hieroglyphs, the coffin was plain and undecorated. So it wasn't a king's, or even a priest's. It was a nobody's coffin.

All the same, the mummy had lain there for as long as I could remember, and I'd played games around its glass case every Saturday while Mum was working in the museum. It was like part of the furniture.

I was going to miss those Saturdays, playing marbles and hopscotch on the museum floor... No-one had ever complained. There had been nobody to complain. Hardly anyone visited our little museum. That was why it was closing down.

Mrs Foxe began hectoring Mum in a voice like a dentist's drill.

"This building's got to be transformed by November! I'm bringing in state-of-the-art equipment. Treadmills, power rowers, electronic bench presses!" She jabbed a taloned finger around the room as if pinning them into place. "People can't exercise on their turbo-ski muscle-chargers with that gruesome old relic rotting away in the corner!"

"I've already told you," said Mum between gritted teeth. "I can't move the mummy. It's been donated to the university. They'll come and pick it up next week."

"I expect they'll unwrap it," said Jake with relish. "They'll peel off all those bandages, and find out what's underneath. I'd like to do that."

"No, you wouldn't, dear!" said his mother sharply. "Germs!"

She turned back to Mum, her eyes narrowing. "I'm not waiting till next week. If that mummy's not gone by tomorrow, I'll throw the horrible thing out!"

"You can't do that!" I said indignantly.

But Mum evidently thought she could. Looking fraught and worried, she ran her hands through her hair until it stuck out like a toothbrush.

"I'll have to go and make some phone calls," she sighed. "We might persuade the new museum to take it. Mrs Foxe - you'd better come with me and speak to them yourself. Amber, you stay here. We won't be long."

Mum left with Mrs Foxe. I was alone with Jake. He stared at me loftily, and I gazed coolly back.

When Jake started at our school, our headmistress got me to show him round. She seemed to think we should be friends, just because neither of us had a Dad who lived at home.

But Jake soon made it very clear he didn't want me for a friend. He got in with the trendy set - the ones with their own laptops and the latest mobile phones and parents swooshing round in big flash cars.

His mum was rich. She owned half a dozen gyms, all called Eternal Youth - the sort of places where people pay buckets of cash to go and puff and pant on weird machines that look like instruments of torture.

Jake was always bragging about the wonderful things his mum had bought him: a new camera one week, an MP3 player the next. Now that she'd bought our museum as well, he was going to be unbearable.

He started being unbearable straight away.

"Your mum's soft in the head," he announced.

"No, she's not!"

"She is! She'd have to be stupid to work in this dump. Couldn't she get a proper job?"

"It is a proper job," I said. "She's the curator."

His lip curled. "I bet my Mum earns ten times as much money as yours."


Jake glanced around in contempt. "It's a rotten little museum. Boring. Who cares about stupid old pots and a mouldy old mummy?"

He kicked at the glass case, and then picked up Mum's bunch of keys, lying on top of it. He rattled them carelessly.

"Put those down!" I said. I was starting to lose my cool.

Jake's eyes glinted. "I bet you daren't open the mummy's case."

I caught my breath. "It's not allowed."

"Why not? It'll get opened anyway, once the university get hold of it. Why not have a look now? You'll never get another chance."

This was true. I felt a pang as I realised I would probably never see the mummy again. And from time to time, I had wondered what would happen if I raised that lid...

But then I thought of what Mum would say, and shook my head.

Jake glanced at me sidelong and laughed. "Coward. You're scared of that old bundle of rags!"

"No, I'm not!" I was so annoyed that I instantly changed my mind.

I grabbed the keys off him, found the only one small enough to fit the case, and turned it in the lock. I put my hands on the lid.

Then I paused, looking down at the mummy in its stained and tattered bandages, lying so peacefully in its open coffin. I felt I shouldn't disturb it.

"Scaredy-cat!" mocked Jake.

"Don't be stupid! I've known this mummy all my life," I said. And I lifted the lid.

A faint scent rose though the air, dry and sweet as an open spice jar. It made the back of my throat prickle. For a panicky moment I wondered if Mrs Foxe could be right. Suppose there were Ancient Egyptian germs in there? I told myself firmly that no germ could live for thousands of years.

"Bet you daren't touch it," whispered Jake.

"You bet wrong," I said. I wasn't going to back down now. Anyway, I wasn't scared of this mummy... was I?

So I put my hand into the coffin, and touched the mummy's arm.

And it moved.

"Waa!" I jerked back with a cry. Then I heard Jake laughing.

"Don't be so soft! It slipped, that's all!"

He was right. I could have kicked myself. The mummy's arm had simply fallen to one side as I touched it.

Where it had lain, the bandages on its chest were paler than elsewhere - except for something small and dark, half-hidden, tucked in amongst the layers of cloth...

My heart was beating violently. I told myself that of course I wasn't scared; but somehow I didn't want to touch it again.

Jake reached into the coffin.

"You can't leave it like that!" he said. Carelessly he picked up the mummy's bandaged arm, shifting it to and fro until he found a position where it would stay put. As he settled it in place, I thought I saw his fingers close round something.

"What's that?" I asked.

"What's what?" said Jake. "Ssh! They're back." Quickly he slammed down the glass lid, just before our mothers came back into the room.

Mum eyed us suspiciously. "Amber? Jake? You haven't touched that coffin, have you?"

Mrs Foxe looked horrified. "Oh, Jake! Germs!"

"We haven't touched a thing," said Jake, looking about as innocent as a crocodile. His hand crept stealthily into his pocket.

But Mrs Foxe chose to believe him.

"Come along, then, darling! Time to go," she said. "The new museum has agreed to pick that horrible object up tomorrow, and store it for the University. Though they seemed to think it was hardly worth the trouble; not a good specimen at all." She glanced at Mum triumphantly. "We'll be back in the morning, to make sure that it's gone!"

Jake gave me a piranha grin, and ran out after his mother.

I was fuming.

"I hate them!" I told Mum fiercely. "They're stealing our museum! They're stealing your job!" And I was sure Jake had stolen something out of the coffin - although I couldn't imagine what. Probably a scrap of wood that he'd taken to show off and laugh at with his snooty friends.

Mum gave me a hug and ruffled my hair.

"Come on, Amber! You mustn't feel like that. The museum had to close down anyway. It's not Mrs Foxe's fault. And I have got a new job, after all. I'm sure I'll enjoy working at the Museum of the Future." But she sounded glum.

"Huh!" I said. "I've been there with school." The Museum of the Future was on the other side of town. It was brand-new, and looked like a giant vacuum cleaner made of chrome and glass and rubber, just waiting to suck people in.

No mummies there. It was full of videos and holograms, with buttons to press and things going beep and WHOOSH and PING. On our school visit, I'd had to queue ages for every single button.

"I won't want to go there on Saturdays!" I said. "I like it here."

I gazed round sadly. A blue dusk crept through the windows. Shadows began to fill the empty corners. I dropped my eyes to the mummy... and I shivered.

Although the mummy looked the same as ever, it felt different. Since I'd touched it, it didn't feel like part of the furniture any more. It seemed alien and sinister - and scary. I wished I'd never opened that glass case.

I felt as though my world was changing all around me. Nothing was safe any more. Nothing would ever be the same.

Chapter Two

I think Mum knew I felt bad, because next morning she cooked my favourite breakfast: bacon and beans and big black mushrooms. I'd just taken my first huge mouthful when the phone rang, with a peculiar, muffled ring.

"Oh, no!" said Mum, looking around frantically. "Where is it?"

This happens all the time. Our house is a tip. It looks as if all our cupboards have exploded, and burst everything out onto the floor.

It's not my fault - it's hers. I'm quite tidy, but Mum isn't. She's hopeless. She never puts anything away, including the phone.

"Honestly, Mum! Where did you last use it?"

"I don't know!" She was scrabbling under the newspaper and behind the toaster.

"It's not ringing in here!" I told her. "It's in the living-room."

Running through, I began to search the shelves, where she often leaves the phone amongst her precious lumps of rock. Mum says they're stone axes and arrowheads, but you could have fooled me.

Jake was right, I thought, as I hunted. Mum was soft in the head about old things.

The phone wasn't on the shelves, and it was still ringing. I scooped up Magpie, our cat, but she wasn't sitting on it.

So I rummaged in the mountain of books and paint pots on the floor, and spotted the phone at last under a roll of wallpaper. Mum's always meaning to decorate, but she never gets it finished. Our walls were blotchy plaster where she'd peeled off the old paper and got no further.

"Here!" I handed her the phone.

"Hallo? Why, Mrs Foxe!" Mum pulled a face. "How nice! What can I do for- What? What do you mean? But that's impossible!"

"What is it, Mum?" I hissed.

Mum's face bore a look of horror. Her voice rose as she spoke into the phone. "It simply can't have... That's terrible news! Yes, I'll come round straight away."

"Mum? Mum? What is it?"

Mum turned a dazed face towards me, and let the phone fall into the cat basket.

"The museum," she said. "Our museum. There's been a break-in. A burglary. Get that breakfast down, Amber: we've got to hurry."

"A burglary? Are you sure?" I frowned, puzzled. "But I remember you locking up! And anyway, there was nothing there to take. We cleared everything out!"

"Everything except the mummy," she said grimly. "And it's the mummy that's been stolen."

* * *

When we arrived at the Museum, a gleaming lime-green Jaguar was already parked outside it.

"Puke," I muttered. Nice car, horrible colour. It had Eternal Youth written on its sides in whirly silver letters, and made Mum's car look like a rusty biscuit-tin. We pulled up behind it, and hurried through the open fire door.

When we got inside, Mrs Foxe was tapping her feet impatiently on the empty floorboards, with Jake looking bored and haughty beside her. They both wore identical green tracksuits with the silver Eternal Youth logo swirling across them.

"Double puke," I thought. Mrs Foxe's long fingernails were painted green to match - but her fingers were bent into rigid claws.

She was furious. Straight away, she began to rave at Mum about security and insurance and stuff, so that Mum couldn't get a word in.

Jake mouthed something at me. I didn't know what he wanted to tell me, and I didn't care. I stared at the mummy's case.

It was true: some-one had stolen the mummy. The lid of the glass case stood open.

With a tingle of guilt, I remembered that I'd never locked the case after opening it yesterday. Now the coffin was empty.

At least, it was almost empty. As I moved closer, I saw a few shreds of dirty brownish cloth inside. More shreds and scraps were scattered on the floor nearby.

Kneeling to pick one up, I rubbed it between my fingers. It felt so dry it seemed to suck the moisture from my skin. I shivered.

Jake squatted beside me.

"Bits of bandage," he muttered. "There are more outside, on the pavement. Didn't you see them? They must have fallen off the mummy when your mum dragged it out."

"My mum?" I gawped at him. "Are you crazy?"

"She stole it," hissed Jake. "She must have. Who else would want it?"

"She couldn't have! She's been at home since yesterday!"

"How do you know? Maybe she crept out while you were asleep. She'd do anything to keep that mummy, and stop it being sliced up by the University!"

I felt faintly sick. Could Jake be right? Then, seeing the smirk on his face, I squared my shoulders, and retorted,

"I bet you stole it yourself - just like you nicked something out of its coffin!"

"I never did! I don't know what you're talking about. What would I want with that rotten old mummy, anyway?"

"Well, I bet your mother's taken it, then!" I muttered. "She's the one who wanted to chuck it out with the rubbish. I bet that's exactly what she's done!"

That shook him, I could tell. He glanced over at Mrs Foxe just as she bawled at Mum:

"I want that empty coffin out of here within an hour. It's junk. If you don't shift it, I'll take it to the tip myself!"

"See?" I hissed at Jake.

"I'll try and get the coffin moved," said Mum. She shook her head, looking totally dazed. "I just don't understand it. I locked up carefully."

"The burglars broke in through the fire door!" snapped Mrs Foxe.

"But there's no sign of damage," protested Mum. "It's almost as if it was opened from the inside... as if the mummy just got up and walked away."

Jake groaned and rolled his eyes. Mrs Foxe laughed, as harsh as a parakeet.

"Ha! If it had, I'd be the first to hunt it down! A walking mummy? That really would have the secret of eternal youth! It'd be worth a fortune," she declared. "But this is real life, not a horror movie."

I whispered to Jake, "You can tell my mum didn't steal it. Look how shocked she is!"

"She's pretending," muttered Jake. "All that stuff about the mummy getting up and walking away... what a load of rubbish! I'm telling you, she stole it. She's batty about old things."

I bit my lip, because it was true. Mum's most precious possession is a scrap of manky old leather that looks like something the cat's chewed. She says it's a thousand year-old shoe. So I knew she'd jump at the chance of owning a mummy.

Jake stooped and picked up a shred of crumbling cloth.

"We can soon find out," he said. "All we need to do is follow the trail. We'll see where these lead!"

I jumped up. "All right! We'll find out where your mum's dumped the mummy!"

"Or where yours has hidden it," muttered Jake, glaring at me.

"Fine! Let's go."

Mum called over to me, sounding distracted. "Amber - I'll have to stay on here to sort things out. Do you want to go to Auntie Pam's?"

I thought quickly. "Can I go down the shops with Jake instead?"

"Oh, yes!" put in Jake. He caught on fast, I'll give him that. Suddenly he was all smiles. "I'd like my pocket money, Mum. And then Amber can come round to play at our house, can't she?"

Mrs Foxe didn't look too pleased. But I guessed she was used to giving Jake anything he wanted. She pulled a wodge of notes from her purse, peeled a couple off and handed them to Jake.

"Here you are. Don't be long. Take care crossing the roads, and don't get dirty." I saw a flash of annoyance sweep over Jake's face, and felt smug. My mum never told me not to get dirty.

"Pocket money, please Mum?" I said.

Mum was looking perplexed. Not surprising, when only yesterday, I'd told her I hated Jake! Then she shrugged, fished in her pocket and gave me everything she had - 65p and a button.

Jake snorted. But I said brightly, "Thanks, Mum!" and headed for the door.

Once we were outside, Jake pointed to the pavement. "See?"

I saw. Shreds of frayed, brown bandage lay thinly scattered along the street, like sad, dirty snowflakes. We began to follow them.

The trail was hard to pick out. Some of the scraps were no more than a few threads, and we had to go down on our knees to hunt for them. Luckily it was still early in the morning; there weren't many people about to see us crawling on the pavement.

At this hour most of the shops weren't even open yet, apart from the newsagent. As we crept beneath its window, following the trail, the shop-keeper looked down at us, startled. He was busy arranging Halloween masks in a display.

I gave him a little wave and he waved back, bemused. Then he carefully placed a plastic mummy mask between a warty witch and a blood-stained Frankenstein. If he only knew!

Jake nudged me. "Come on! We can't hang around here. The trail keeps going down the road. Your mother took the mummy a long way!"

"Your mother," I retorted.

But I was puzzled. Why would anyone lug the mummy all this distance? It wouldn't have been easy to carry, or even drag along the pavement. If someone had stolen it, why hadn't they just used a car?

Jake was already loping down the road in search of scraps of bandage. As I caught him up, he suddenly halted, swearing.

"I've lost it! It's gone- vanished into thin air."

He was right. The trail had ended.

I scanned our surroundings. Across the road the cobbled market-place was busy with traders setting up stalls. Nowhere there to hide a mummy, I thought...

But to our right, a narrow, gloomy alley twined between the closed shops and disappeared in shadow.

I pointed. "That way!"

Cautiously we crept down the alley. It led us round a corner and opened out in a gloomy yard at the back of the shops.

"Yuck," I said. The yard was in a disgusting state. It was piled high with rubbish - cardboard boxes, milk crates, black bin-bags with their contents spilling out, overturned wheelie-bins... and I even recognised a broken chair from the museum.

I pounced on it with triumph. "I knew it! Your mum's been here! She must have thrown this out!"

Jake was about to reply when a noise at the far end of the yard halted him. There was a rustle, and then a crash as a wheelie-bin overturned. A cloud of dust and plastic bags filled the air.

Through it, we glimpsed someone digging in the rubbish. They were making an awful mess.

"Oy!" shouted Jake. "Can you tell us if you've seen a-"

His voice trailed away as the dust cleared. The plastic bags drifted aside, and the figure straightened up, clutching something in its hand.

But its hand was as yellowed and shabby as the faded newspapers billowing around it. So was its body. The face that turned towards us was not a face at all. It was blank and bandaged, with a dark gap where the eyes should be.

My heart seemed to stop. For a moment, I felt as frozen as a snowman. I heard Jake cry out wordlessly.

Then we both turned, and ran.

* * *

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the cover of the funny childrens' ebook Mummy Mania by Emma Laybourn, about an Egyptian mummy in a museum that
 comes to life

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Mummy Mania (revised edition) is Copyright 2012 Emma Laybourn

Download the free ebook of MUMMY MANIA:
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the cover of the childrens' ebook Mummy Mania by Emma Laybourn

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