The Detmold Child

They had hit the sweet spot in scheduling their museum visit. The heavily hyped exhibition of ancient mummies had been up and running for a little over three months, but had about five weeks before shutting its doors. The crowd remained thick, shuffling past the boxed-in figures of the long-dead like customers in the lunchtime bank line. But the first two times they had tried to come, the woman with frizzy hair at the ticket counter had handed Steve tickets time-stamped for a five hour wait. Marie had pouted, disappointed, and pleaded that they had to come back. The fact they could even get in — he knew this was the best it was going to get.

Ten feet ahead of them, a group of kids, maybe fifteen at the oldest, clustered together. They guffawed and loudly called out anything that they could think of: butts, boobs, gnarled facial features. Their alleged chaperone looked over them with a bemused smirk under his reflective sunglasses. Marie glared at that guy as much as she looked at the exhibits.

“I didn’t know they did mummies in Hungary,” Steve said, hoping to pull her attention back by seeming interested.

She snarled her lip up; he didn’t know if that was in response to him or the other customers. “Well,” she said, “this isn’t called ‘Mummies of One Particular Region.’”

A fair point. He tried reading the description of a nearby couple, but only got so far as to find out they were the Baron and Baroness von whatever. Looking around the wall, he tried to find a clock. Taking his cell phone out to check would cause much more trouble than — what is this place, a casino?

“Mummy tits!” Looking over, he saw the one in the garish Kobe t-shirt pointing and snickering, his words echoing above the muffled din of hushed museum mumbles. Everyone around him joined in, including the chaperone. Actually, three of them had ugly Kobe shirts on. That kid was just the shortest one.

“It’s just disrespectful,” Marie said, trying to be loud enough that the man could hear without making it seem obvious she wanted the man to hear. Steve could only nod and shrug. She might have wanted him to do more, but, well.

The biggest cluster of people gathered around a small case in the middle of the largest rooms. The warm lights broke through the corners onto the tiny brown shape with arms folded and legs hunched.

Steve finally got in close to look at the face, wrinkled like a sloppy clay sculpture. Leaning into Marie’s ear, he said “It looks like Kuato.”

“What?”

“You know, the chest-baby from Total Recall. Kuato.”

She didn’t turn to look at him before walking away, so he didn’t see what she did with her eyes. Another burst of laughter shot out from the obnoxious group ahead. He grabbed at his phone, but didn’t take it out of his jacket. He was trying.

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