The Pharaoh Downtown (Story #29)

There once lived an architect whose most famous building was a golden pyramid.  The Tomb, as The Locals called it, was no ordinary structure. It was massive and covered from tip to base in gold-leaf. A businessman had commissioned it years before. He was famous for his wealth and hired The Architect, who herself was famous for her sense of play and whimsy. The Businessman appreciated these qualities since he lacked them completely. He’d grown up poor and mistreated in the very same town years before, not far from where The Tomb stood. The mayor at the time took his parents’ home away to make room for a highway extension, and in revenge, The Businessman spent his fortune as an old man buying up a block at the center of town, hiring the best architect he could find, and building the most beautiful building imaginable. He did all of this to send a simple message: the cruel townspeople who once took his family home could look but they could never enter his golden pyramid.

As a result, The Architect did not include even one door in her design. But keeping with he nature, she included a secret way in that only she knew about.

The Locals soon came to believe the project was cursed.  The Businessman died just as the last section of the building went up. And within a year of that, The Architect started forgetting—not just about the secret entrance, but the facts of her life, as well.  The Tomb, of course, had nothing to do with The Architect’s disease. It was just bad luck as they say—just plain, bad luck, which isn’t to say that The Architect was completely unlucky.

She had a son, a writer of some repute, a seemingly good man, who took her into his house and gave her a room with a wonderful view of The Tomb. The Son knew it was the highpoint of his mother’s story, its stunning conclusion.  The Tomb also became a litmus test for the type of day she would have. Every morning, he would go into her room and find her looking out the window, taking in the details of her design. If she remembered she was the person responsible for its perfect symmetry and its grandeur, then The Son knew she would have a decent day and he could leave her alone. But on those days, most days as it turned out, when her forgetfulness was stronger than her ability to remember, then he knew he would have to start again, get out the photo albums he kept in a hallway closet, spend the day telling her the story of her life.

As with most stories, the hardest part was including the right details that were both important and necessary. He always had to be mindful not to give his mother too many memories that would take the story off-course, or worse, confuse her. Though he was dutiful, at some point, he became tired of telling the same old story. He was an artist.  He wanted to create something that wasn’t limited to the facts of his mother’s life.  So one day, he decided to make some revisions. He started with small changes, telling his mother that a picture of her taken in college was from high school instead.  As any story teller knows, changing even a small detail starts a chain reaction.  Soon, The Son started making other revisions. He told her she’d attended Yale instead of Harvard, that her first building was really her second, that she really had wanted to be a composer, but that her father had not allowed her to go to music school.

As the days passed, The Son kept pushing the story further, making it more dramatic.  He pushed the plot toward melodrama and tell her she had an estranged twin who was her greatest competition.  Another day, he told her that this same twin had died at birth. He told his mother that she’d always worked hard because she felt she was working for two.

The experience of coming up with these plot lines was exhilarating for The Son. His mother became an experiment for him—a living work of fiction. There were times when he felt a little guilty, but he came up with a story for that as well. A story in which his mother owed him, in which he’d given up his life to take care of her. And so with clear conscience, he decided to make his mother’s story more interesting, more daring.  He decided to go beyond the usual ending, beyond the time when his mother designed The Tomb all the way to the present.

His story that day included a part about her forgetting and about him using her like a guinea pig. The Architect, not surprisingly, didn’t take the story well. She cried and asked why he’d done this to her. The Son, not sure himself, said the first thing that came to mind. He told her she’d abandoned him for her career, and that he was angry.

At that point, she cried all the more, which broke The Son’s heart. He couldn’t bear the sadness of the story he’d told her and decided to end it happily. He told her that the next day, she would wake up cured, that all she needed to do was go to sleep. At this, she calmed down and The Son felt better.

He slept well that night—so well that when he woke up, he didn’t realize he was some place other than in his room. He didn’t know where he was, but next to him, pinned to his pillow was a large envelope with his name on it. In the envelope, he found a story about a son who took advantage of his mother and who paid for it by being buried alive in a golden pyramid in the middle of a city.  There were no entrances to the building, and hence no exits. The son would grow old there until he forgot who he was and what he’d done.


Tags: , , , , ,

Categories: fiction

Author:the circular runner

g. martinez cabrera currently lives in San Francisco with his lovely and talented wife. He holds degrees from Columbia and from the Harvard Divinity School where he spent three years thinking about lofty things. Since then, he tries to write some lofty and some not-so-lofty things down so others can see how lofty he sometimes is. When he’s not writing or spending time with said wife, he tortures young people with learning. He blogs at and Tumbls at

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4 Comments on “The Pharaoh Downtown (Story #29)”

  1. January 6, 2012 at 11:20 pm #

    Great post. I enjoyed reading your blog today.

    If you love to write we would love for you to join us!

    Writer Jobs

  2. January 28, 2012 at 11:20 am #

    what a great story. and creepy.

    • January 28, 2012 at 3:20 pm #

      Thanks. I like good and creepy–though I like my creepy to be mixed with a helping of whimsy. I digress. Thanks for reading and please come back! I have a new story coming tonight.


  3. February 13, 2012 at 11:14 am #

    Thank you

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