NEFERTITI GAZED DOWN at her husband. Then she sat on the bed beside him, gently running her hand across his shaved head. She traced a lone finger down to his chest. Then she stroked his face, memorizing every detail.
These would be their last moments together, and she wanted to remember him as the powerful man he had once been, not the weak and whimsical pharaoh he had become. Nefertiti shuddered to think what would soon happen to this body she had known so well.
She placed her index finger atop the bridge of his nose. The royal mummifiers would start here, slipping a long wire up the nostrils into that marvelous and eccentric brain. They would spin the wire until the brain’s gelatinous tissue broke down and revealed itself as gray snot running out of the nose.
They would then turn the body over, positioning the head at the edge of an alabaster table to let the brain pour into a bucket glazed with gold.
Nefertiti now placed her hand low on her husband’s groin, anticipating the spot where they would slice him open, shove a hand up inside, and yank out the internal organs.
Who would do this task? Would it be some vile little man with a filthy beard and dirt under his fingernails? Or a professor, a stately academic chosen to mummify the king because he was more knowledgeable about the ways of the afterworld?
She smiled as she placed her hand atop his sternum, the spot where she had laid her head so many times and felt the beating of his heart. At least they would leave his heart intact. Like her people, she believed the heart was the source of all knowledge and wisdom. Akhenaten would need its greatness to cast the spells that would reanimate his corpse.
Seventy days, she thought. That was how long it took to finalize the mummification process.
Seventy days until her husband’s body would reach the afterworld.
Seventy days until they placed her husband in his tomb six and a half miles from where she now sat.
Let the other pharaohs entomb themselves in the Valley of the Kings—Akhenaten had chosen a spot just outside his beloved Amarna, a glorious valley all his own, bathed in sunlight so that he might delight in the wondrous majesty of Aten forevermore.
“I will join you there someday,” said Nefertiti, leaning down and kissing the lips that had traveled up and down every inch of her body.
She gazed down at him one last time and then left the room. Her husband was dead. Their oldest son had predeceased him, and of his remaining children, just one was a boy.
It was now her duty to rule alongside the child until he became a man. She beckoned for her lady-in-waiting, a tall girl whose beauty compared favorably with her own.
“Bring me Tutankhamen.”