Moira had been woken up by the sound of skirmishing and gunfire. Before she could assess what was going on, Omar had quietly snuck in through the back of her tent. After he quieted her down, he explained the situation, or at least what he knew of it. The camp was being attacked by marauders! He instructed her to quickly get to Dirk’s tent and get his help. Omar was going to see to the safety of his men.
Moira rushed off swiftly and without even looking to see any of the violence for fear of being noticed. It wasn’t until she arrived that she realized that she was still in her pajamas! They were brand new. She had bought them before leaving Cairo as a little splurge. How could she say no to fine Egyptian cotton? It was as soft and comfortable as it is often heralded. When she saw the matching top and bottom in robin’s egg blue, she couldn’t resist making the purchase. Despite the tents, camels, and rowdy men around her, she was still a lady! For a moment, she considered that though her attire was not revealing at all, it was far too casual to wear in front of her boss. However, the sound of shouting reminded her that the situation was dire and unusual…
Dirk, however, was nowhere to be found! Where was he? Had he been captured? Where was the ring? All of these fears rushed through Moira’s mind like the waters of the Nile. The last question was answered to her great relief when she glanced at Dirk’s desk. Running over to grab the ring to keep it safe, she was very surprised that Dirk had parted with it. This was concerning. Something was not right.
“Dirk, where are you?! We need you right now!”
“Good morning, Moira!” said a small voice from below with an unmistakable lilting drawl.”
Moira looked around, both frantic and puzzled. Finally, she looked down. Her eyes grew wide and her mouth slowly gaped as she tried to comprehend what she saw the sight of her miniature boss standing on the desk, leaning against the ring itself. The combination of adrenaline and shock seemed to slow the seconds of time to a halt.
“D-D-Dirk? Wh-wh-what on earth? This can’t be…”
“Oh, it’s real,” he said, finishing her thought.
Moira slowly took a few steps closer to the desk until she was standing right in front of it. With each step, Dirk looked slightly bigger than from a distance, but even up close, she could see that he was no taller than an Egyptian piastre coin. From Dirk’s perspective, however, Moira only grew more and more titanic as she drew near. He had to take several steps back and crane his neck fully just to continue looking at her face. Seeing this, Moira carefully stooped down until they were at eye level. Behind the vast twin walls of framed glass, her dark brown eyes conveyed incredulousness.
Moira found herself with an inability to form a complete, coherent sentence at the moment, ekeing out only a befuddled “…h–h-how?”
“Four words: The curse is real.”
“The curse? That’s impossible! …isn’t it? I thought we agreed it was ‘mumbo jumbo.'”
Dirk spun around and waved his hands around his tiny body in demonstration. “Look, I can’t explain it, but maybe I don’t even want to know. All I do know is that I’m going to need your help. Is there anything in those books of yours that can help us? A book of anti-curses or something?”
“‘Anti-curses’?” Moira said quizzically, still beset by the dream-like present situation. “No, I’m afraid you are out of luck…”
“I’m Dirk Harrison. I don’t believe in luck!” Dirk was interrupted by the sound of automatic machine guns being fired into the air, ever closer to his tent. “Well…if I did, I might concede to be running low at this particular moment…but I am never out!”
The gunfire did much to snap Moira out of whatever daze she was in. “Look, sir, we don’t have much time. We’re under attack!”
“What?!” Dirk exclaimed.
Moira rapidly informed him of everything she knew, which was not much. Dirk had many questions for her that she could not answer. She did not know who was behind the attack, how many men they had, how armed they were, or the status of their own caravan.
Dirk paced quickly around the desk as he pondered their next course of action. “Our utmost priority is keeping the ring safe. They can take whatever they want, but if we lose this ring…well, you know the stakes. Do you understand, Moira? Obviously I’m at a disadvantage right now, so I need you to do whatever it takes to keep this damned ring out of their hands.”
Moira nodded. “Believe me, I understand.”
“Good. Nice jammies, by the way,” Dirk said flashing a sly smile. Moira instantly blushed in embarrassment.
The noises outside the tent had diminished to an eerie silence. It was highly unlikely that the assailants had simply left. The fighting was over, but the danger was not.
“Shit! I can’t be found like this. I have a reputation to uphold! And I don’t want to have to explain to some thugs why I’m an inch high…”
“What are we going to do, Dirk?”
“You’re going to have to hide both me and the ring. Do you have any pockets?”
“These are pajamas! They’re not exactly designed to be practical!”
“What about that one?” Dirk said, pointing to the breast pocket on Moira’s pajama top. It was small, but then again, so was he.
“I suppose so…”. Moira wasn’t so sure about the prudence of that idea, but also couldn’t think of any alternatives, especially considering their increasing lack of time.
“Quick! Pick me up!”
“Are you sure? I’ll be careful!” Moira didn’t like holding her sister’s baby because of how small and fragile she was, fearing that she would hurt her. She couldn’t imagine the gentleness needed to carry a shrunken man.
Dirk watched trepidatiously as the platform of Moira’s outstretched palm descended onto the wooden surface right in front of him. To his amazement, even as her hand lay flat, it stood as tall as he was. He actually had to work to clamber on top of it.
“Use my purlicue.”
“…excuse me?” Dirk said quizzically as he worked at boosting himself up.
“Sorry. It’s the flap of skin between my thumb and index finger. I thought perhaps you could use it if you were having trouble.”
“I’m fine, thank you very much,” he said, a little vexed.
Eventually without much more effort, Dirk was able to lift himself onto Moira’s palm. It was wide enough that he could pitch a tent on it or even build a little shanty! Her skin emanated a constant warmth. Even as she opened her hand taut, her flesh was quite soft and smooth beneath his feet, which sank slightly with each unsteady step like a down mattress. It would be even more so if she were to relax…though that was unlikely, as he could feel her hand tremble ever so slightly in anxiousness. An academic, her hands saw most of their work writing, typing, and flipping pages, unlike Dirk’s own rugged and calloused hands.
“Ready?” said Moira, soon thereafter slowly and carefully standing up and lifting her palm towards her pocket. With her other hand, she picked up Khaba’s ring from the desk and gently placed it in first. “I don’t want to hurt you by making you fall on the ring, so I’m going to let you climb in yourself.”
Even with the ring already in the small pajama pocket, Dirk saw there was plenty of room for his little self. Moira held it open and slightly tilted her palm towards the opening. Dirk dared not look beyond her hand to the far distant ground. Instead, he leapt to the other side and slid down the wall of cotton to his resting place below.
The pocket was surprisingly comfortable. The ring took up half the space, but he was not pressed up against it. Dawn was still breaking outside, but the light that did filter in had a light blue hue from the color of the fabric. It was warm up against Moira’s soft chest, which slowly heaved with each breath she took. Mere inches away, Moira’s heart beat steadily like a bass drum keeping a marching band in step. Dirk had to shrug away any false senses of security by reminding himself that they were still in danger.
Sure enough, voices were heard right outside the tent. Moira spun around and stared at the door fearfully. She had no idea what she was going to do. Would she try to run? Perhaps she would try to hide herself? She intended to make for the back of the tent and escape, but she could not. Anxiety crippled her and she was on the verge of tears. Dirk could hear her heart rate escalate significantly, sending rapid thumping vibrations through his body.
“You can do this, Moira. Don’t be afraid. I’m right here with you.”
Outside the tent, a gruff voice could be heard: “This is it. Harrison’s tent.”
“Excellent. Stay out here. I will handle this alone.” This second voice was much different from the first. It belonged to a woman. She sounded fairly young, but mature. Her voice was smooth and sultry, which was complemented by a slight French accent. Even without seeing her, Moira imagined her to be beautiful…though she was still fearful of her.
Dirk, however, didn’t need his imagination. He knew exactly who that voice belonged to. The sound of it caused his blood began to boil.
“Oh Dirky-wirky!” the woman said in a sing-songy voice as she entered the tent.
She was indeed quite attractive. She slinked her curvy frame as she walked, swaying her hips naturally with confidence. Her wavy ebony hair flawlessly cascaded from her head with luscious volume and sheen. Moira immediately felt inferior to this stranger, which put her on the judgmental defensive. She could not believe that here in the middle of the desert, this woman was wearing a dress like hers. How impractical! It was as black as her hair and went down to below her knees, a slit exposing far too much of her thigh. The neckline plunged like the Blue Nile Falls, revealing a modest cleavage. She would fit in more at a cocktail party than the Sahara. Moira immediately labeled her as a hussy.
The woman scanned the tent for a few seconds, seemingly ignoring Moira. She looked displeased when she finally addressed her, not even bothering to make eye contact as she spoke. “Well, this is disappointing. I suppose Dirk ran off at the first sign of trouble. He didn’t even take his girlfriend with him. Typical.”
“I am not his girlfriend,” Moira retorted defiantly.
“Oh, of course not. You’re his girl du jour. Probably his third one this week.”
“I’m his research assistant!” she corrected.
“Dear god, Dirk’s screwing his secretary now! What a typical man-whore.”
(From within Moira’s pocket, Dirk was taking great offense to all this.)
“Let’s cut to the chase. I’m here for Khaba. Where is the ring?”
“I don’t know,” Moira lied.
“Little girl, I have several big men with even bigger guns standing right outside this tent. Do I need to get them?”
“Then give me answers. Where’s Dirk Harrison and where’s Khaba’s ring?”
Moira remained silent.
“Karl, give her a warning.”
Outside the door, an AK-47 fired several rounds into the air, greatly startling Moira. Tears were trickling down her face.
“This will be over soon,” the woman said, “but you can decide whether it will be the hard way or the easy way.”
“Dirk’s gone,” Moira stammered. “He left last night. He just disappeared without notice. I think he took the ring with him.”
The woman took a few steps towards Moira until she was right in front of her. Their faces came close to touching. She stared silently and sternly for a few seconds before speaking. “While that is completely believable, you are a terrible liar. I’m running out of patience.”
Dirk felt powerless at the moment. He could hear every word, but could not respond. He was tempted to shout back, but knew it would be foolishness. He knew that if he were found, it would be disastrous. Moira knew this too. As such, the following words made both Moira and Dirk freeze:
“…what’s in your pocket?”
Moira gave no response other than a look of trembling terror.
“I can see that there’s something there. Give it to me.”
Moira didn’t know what to do. Her mind was in a fog. Part of her wanted to give up and let it all be over. She wasn’t a brave person. She wasn’t an adventurer. She wasn’t Dirk. In the moment, though, she knew that she needed to be strong, even if it meant being stupid.
“It’s nothing. It’s…it’s just…” Moira’s voice trailed off. She took a few steps backward. The woman followed. She took a few more, but was running out of room and running out of options. She started panicking. The woman could sense that and her suspicions ran high.
Moira bolted for the door. It was all she could do. Running at full speed, she shoved the woman as hard as she could, knocking her into the chair. She ran out of the tent, passing the armed guards. They immediately followed her in pursuit.
“Get her! She has the ring!”
Moira knew she wouldn’t be able to outrun them. She didn’t know where she was going. Zigging and zagging between tents, she was able to elude the men, but it was temporary. As she ran, she placed a protective hand over Dirk and the ring, but both were being jostled around. Finding refuge in a tent, the timid assistant had a few precious seconds before being found. She reached into her pocket.
“Dirk, what do I do?!” a weeping Moira asked the tiny man in her hand.
Dirk was quick to respond. “Look, I know this woman. She is ruthless and dangerous. But we cannot let her have this ring. It’s far too valuable.”
“But she’ll kill me!”
“I don’t think she will. She’s dangerous, but not that violent. She just wants to scare you. Protect the ring at all costs.”
“What? She has guns!” Moira cried. “You care more about this stupid ring than about my life!”
“Moira, you know that’s not true! But we don’t have time for this. As long as you have the ring, you have something she wants. She won’t risk letting any harm come to it. What we need to do right now is…”
It was too late. They had been found. The woman and five mercenaries stood outside the open tent they were hiding in.
“You chose the hard way. Bold and frankly unexpected…but stupid. Come out and hand it over. Now!”
“I’m sorry, Dirk…” Moira said softly. She placed him back in her pocket, but clutched the ring in her hand. Having nowhere else to go, she stepped outside. She raised her hand and opened it for everyone to see. The French woman’s eyes lit up as she set her sights on the ancient artifact at long last.
But the glimpse was fleeting. Before she could grab the ring, Moira snatched her hand away…and did the unthinkable. She placed it in her mouth, pushed it to the back of her throat, and swallowed the ring.
“Oh, darling,” the woman said in angry disbelief as she watched the large bulge descend Moira’s throat. “You should not have done that. You really should not have done that.”
Moira coughed hard, feeling the sting as the ring went down. It was almost too large and she nearly choked or gagged, but she was able to force it through a dry swallow. As she caught her breath, she looked up in time to see the butt of a rifle coming down upon her head.