Archive | May, 2013

Former Special Agent Blackwell

16 May

The following chapter is a dream sequence that was deleted from my forthcoming book, http://www.terminalrage.com. My editor and I agreed that it slowed the otherwise fast-paced and adrenaline-laced plot of the book. I wanted to share it because it stands well on it’s own two feet, even though it was not edited. A rough, first cut if you will.

wardan

Giza, Egypt

“What’s your name?” Blackwell asked.

“You can call me Wardan.” The old man had a good accent. It must have been all the years of hustling tourists. He wore a sky blue kaftan and a white turban. His one good eye was youthful and crystal blue. It looked stunning against his brown, wrinkled skin. The other one must have been taken out in an accident and looked repulsive.

“How much to go in, Wardan? It’s just me and two others—” Blackwell turned around to look for the French couple. They had been walking with him to the entrance of the Great Pyramid of Giza. But they were no longer there. They must have had a change of heart and walked back to their taxi. The wife had seemed excited about the adventure. She was elegant in an old worldly flair, and smelled like a grandmother in a nostalgic way. The husband was mute and slightly breathless, or perhaps just puffing in disapproval. He had a full head of silver, shiny hair that was slicked back, and wore dark sunglasses even though there was hardly any light yet. He was clutching an ornately engraved ivory walking stick in his right hand. Blackwell’s French was passable so he had engaged in some chit chat with the wife.

He was surprised they left so quickly. When he had first seen them, they were about two hundred yards ahead of him and it didn’t take him long to catch up with them. They were turtling their way towards the Pyramid, either to relish in the experience or because of their frailty. He had down-shifted his pace so they could keep up with him. He must have walked with them for at least five minutes before he spotted Wardan’s figure hovering around the entrance of the Pyramid. He suggested he’d walk ahead of them to speak to Wardan and see if he could take them inside. It was early in the morning and there was no one else around to speak to.

The wife had purred approvingly, “C’est une merveilleuse idée Monsieur! Merci.” So what changed their mind? Perhaps her husband had talked her out of it during Blackwell’s short reconnaissance.

Blackwell turned his gaze again to the Egyptian. “I guess it’s just me then. How much?”

“For you my American friend, fifty pounds. East Coast right? New York? Boston?”

“Close. Easton, Maryland. How about I give you twenty?”

“No problem. Any heart conditions, high pressure in the blood, or breathing asthma?”

“None of that.”

“Clos-ta-phobia?”

Blackwell hesitated a little. “How narrow is it in there?”

“No worry. You okay my friend.” The old man held out his shriveled hands revealing long, filthy fingernails.

Blackwell gave him a twenty pound note as agreed. What an enterprising man, he thought. Wardan had positioned himself at the entrance of the Pyramid to profiteer from the twilight tourists, well before the Ministry of Antiquities worker reported to the official ticket office.

“I will show you way in. No much to see. But when you go home you tell your friends you walk on footsteps of Egyptian Gods.” Wardan took Blackwell by the arm like a father leading a toddler. He showed him the entrance of the behemoth structure. There was a small flight of steps before a dark crevice at the north side of the Pyramid.

“Watch steps when you go down. There is a good light. Stay only where you see light, okay? Don’t go to dark passage on the sides, please. People get lost there, believe me. It will take you twenty minute to walk to end, so forty minute to go and come. If you feel something touch you, no be ‘fraid. There are baby insect who fly in your face. Or sometimes—what you call it—air currents. Follow lights Americano and don’t be stupid man who want stupid adventure and you be okay.”

Blackwell took small hesitant steps inside for about a minute before realizing that either the old man was lying or it was a while since he had actually been inside. There was just one flickering makeshift light bulb at the entrance that dutifully died mere seconds after he walked in.

“Hey!” Blackwell called out, his voice echoing. “There’s no light down here.”

He walked back to the entrance and up the steps to speak to Wardan, who had of course disappeared. It was colder out now and darker. A storm was brewing. In the horizon driving away on the paved road, he could see a black and white taxi with the French couple sitting in the back. The women was looking out of the window at him, but had no expression on her face. She was motionless.

He pulled out his phone from his shirt pocket and switched on the torch ap. There was enough battery juice to last for more than forty minutes. Blackwell caught himself wondering why he had decided to embark on this endeavor in the first place, but it was too late to question the genesis of his venture. He was in it now and would finish the walk regardless.

The light from his phone was barely bright enough to guide his steps. He held it up against the walls of the passageway hoping to see something interesting. But Wardan hadn’t lied about that part. There really wasn’t much to see. Just plain limestone walls with occasional uninspired graffiti. Pure vandalism devoid of any art or meaning. The narrow ceiling and tight passageway was making him feel slightly apprehensive. But not enough to panic and end his walk prematurely.

Five minutes of pacing steadily in a straight line later, he felt something like a hand brush against his face and startle him. He took a deep breath and composed himself, remembering what the old man Wardan had told him. Although whatever had touched him sure as hell didn’t feel like an insect or an air current. Blackwell stopped and took another deep breath and thought about it again, allowing logic to factor in the equation. If the insects moved in synchronized swarms, it may have that effect he concluded.

He continued walking hoping to regain his confidence. Behind him, the small sliver of light that was at the entrance of the Pyramid was now long gone. He switched his phone off to discern how dark it really was. But the instant he did it, he immediately wished he hadn’t. It was a level of pitch darkness he had never before experienced. And because his senses of smell and touch were on overdrive to compensate for sight and sound, the stench of fermented urine wasn’t helping. And there was another smell that was really creeping him out: totally out of place, cool white musk.

He was about to switch the light of his phone back on when he felt something brushing against his face again. This time it was much stronger and more indisputably hand-like. He shrieked and ducked instinctively and in the process lost his grip on the phone. He tried to compose himself, but the involuntary darkness and the touching hand had released an intractable rush of fear hormones in his blood stream.

Blackwell wanted to crouch on the ground to search for the phone but was too scared to lose his bearings. He had been walking on a straight trajectory with the help of his phone. Now that it was gone, one wrong move and he wouldn’t know which way to walk back and get out of this miserable place.

He stretched his arms out sideways and took three steps to his left hoping to touch the wall. Nothing. He took four more steps, but his left hand was still unencumbered. He tried to recall if in the confusion of dropping his phone he may have inadvertently changed his position. He traced seven steps back to the right, and then put his hands in front of him and took seven steps forward, once again hoping to touch a wall. And once again, nothing. His heart raced wildly. Either he had completely lost his spatial orientation, or something was terribly wrong.

There was only one option left for him now. He cautiously turned himself one-hundred-and-eighty degrees and started walking back to where the entrance should have been if indeed he had not moved from his last position, right before he lost his phone. He extended his hands in front of him for protection from any oncoming obstacles. He started counting the seconds in his mind to keep a mental note of the time. It had taken him about ten minutes so far, it would theoretically take him another ten minutes to walk back.

More than six hundred mental seconds later and there was still no trace of light. Blackwell’s head was light and his mouth was dry. He stopped to catch his breath and to gain some advantage on his nerves, but he knew it was a lost cause. He wasn’t just having a panic attack, he was descending into terror. He sucked the air and held his breath.

Then it happened.

He felt and heard something that clutched his heart and stopped it.

There was someone else a few feet away from him. Breathing.

“Who’s there?” His voice was meek and trembling. It didn’t sound like him. “I have a gun,” he lied.

Whoever grabbed him by the head was clearly experienced in immobilizing a human body. It was quick and effective. Blackwell was forced to his knees with his head pulled back by his hair. He wanted to scream his heart out, but there was something pressing hard on his mouth. His head was pounding and the force of life was quickly deflating from his body. Any second now and he knew he would pass out. Or at least that was what he was hoping for.

There was a momentary flash of light that lasted for about three seconds, during which Blackwell could see he was still inside the Pyramid.

But what stood before him was horrific.

A creature in the body of a man, with a jackal-like head holding a Scepter and looking him straight in the eye.

Kheper Ee! Set Ee!” the creature bellowed in a deep, wrathful voice.

The optimist

14 May

I can’t help hoping that the bloodiest wars have already been fought, the greatest injustices have already been doled out, and the most brazen crimes have already been committed.

And likewise, that the most ingenious human inventions are yet to be created, the greatest books yet to be written, the sweetest music yet to be composed, and that the true zenith of human compassion and civility is yet to be reached.

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