Show me the Mummy
Ramses the First stared out the palace window, surveying the vast flat desert plain in the distance where his mausoleum was going to be. The sandy site was huge, stretching as far as the eye could see. It was awe-inspiring.
He couldn’t help a surge of pride and excitement. This would finally silence his critics, especially those toffee-nosed Romans. This would show he was truly divine – a living God on Earth.
The sepulchre was going to be so large, so tall, so elaborate and richly decorated that even Ra himself would be jealous.
‘Tell me again,’ he instructed his two newly acquired advisors. ‘Tell me how grand and magnificent my burial building will be.’
The first stroked his beard and held up his hand, as if painting a picture in the very air. ‘Mighty Pharaoh, it will be the most mind-blowing, wondrous, extraordinarily extravagant sight ever beheld by man’s eyes. It will make The Hanging Gardens of Babylon look like a window box…’
‘Compared to its majesty the Grand Library at Alexandria will seem a mere second-hand book stall…’ his companion added.
‘It will be so massive it will give the Colossus of Rhodes an inferiority complex and he’ll rush to change his name to Titch,’ they elaborated.
That’s wonderful, Ramses thought. Gosh, it’s going to be even better than I’d dreamt. I won’t be facing eternity in standard accommodation after all – I’m upgrading to an executive tomb!
‘It will take an army of slaves working round the clock some thirty years to complete it,’ the duo pressed on expansively. ‘It will use up every piece of stone in the land … extra chunks will have to be imported and shipped along the Nile.’
It would, they promised, still be drawing tourists in 3,000 year’s time – and reaping benefits for the hospitality and trinket trade.
‘Sounds amazing and just the sort of thing I‘m looking for,’ the Pharaoh conceded, but suddenly frowned, ‘just, isn’t it going to be a bit … expensive? The Royal treasury is a tad empty at the moment what with the famines and the plagues and the compensation claims for all the flooding from that nasty business with the Red Sea parting.’
The two exchanged a knowing look that Ramses couldn’t quite figure out.
‘We thought you might say that, oh Mighty Ruler,’ the lead advisor admitted, ‘so we’ve come up with a plan.’
‘To pay for it all – a fiscal strategy,’ advisor number 2 elucidated. ‘A sure-fire way for you to cover the cost of all the building work and materials, and turn in a tidy profit.’
A profit! Great! I need a way of raising some dosh, Ramses thought happily. I like these two.
‘We launch an investment opportunity – in the Royal household’s name – for ordinary Egyptians to put their cash into the construction project. We offer all investors a 10 per cent return on their cash,’ Beardy explained.
‘With interest rates like that money will pour in,’ his sidekick agreed. ‘Before you know it, you’ll be up to your regal eyeballs in gold.’
Wow! Brilliant! The Pharaoh was about to congratulate the geniuses when a thought struck him. ‘But how do we pay the interest to the investors – when we don’t have any cash to start with?’
‘Ah, that’s where the clever bit comes in,’ the wise men said, tapping the sides of their noses. ‘You use the cash that comes in from the second wave of investors to pay the original savers their interest. And money from the third wave to pay the second wave and so on…’
‘And is that legal?’ the Ruler asked.
‘Oh yes, quite legal. A collateralized debt package – reverse securitized in a credit default swap. Standard banking practice. And if anyone raises any questions, you can always refer them to us … in the Holy Lands, where we’ll be administering the whole operation for our normal 25% cut.’
Doubts banished, Ramses the First shook on it.
‘What’s this investment device called?’ he enquired, pouring them all a deal-sealing drink.
‘Some people call it a Persian Ponzie,’ they told him, ‘but in Jerusalem we prefer to think of it as a Sumerian shuffle.’
The Pharaoh breathed a sigh of relief. ‘That’s all right then,’ he said, beaming. ‘For a moment there I thought it might be one of those dreadful pyramid schemes …’
Iain Pattison from Bristol is a full-time author, creative writing tutor and competition judge. His short stories have been widely published in the UK and the United States and broadcast on BBC Radio 4. His book Cracking The Short Story Market (Writers Bureau Books) is a best seller. www.iainpattison.com