Good Morning, Everyone!
I’m getting excited! The final countdown has begun for the release of my book, Beggars in the Streets of Time. It’s a dark fantasy (not the sword and sorcery kind) with mystery and horror elements. It’s been a fun ride to get here. Fun and exhausting.
This week, for both today and Thursdays post, I’m sharing a sneak peek of the prologue. I hope you folks enjoy! The book will be out September 9th, so far everything is on track.
More details as the day draws near. Feel free to comment, and thanks for stopping by!
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Beggars in the Streets of Time – Prologue
An endless blue sky spread above the equally expansive sand dunes. No clouds or dusty haze marred its horizon spanning scope. The sun sat low on the eastern horizon sending long shadows stretching over the desert. A lone man slowly stirred beneath an oasis of yoobri trees, the broad green fronds shading his milky-hazel eyes. His bare skin was heavily sun-browned and weathered, with thick oily splotches from head to toe like ink spilled across a page. If only the shiny pitch were tattooed the man, known simply as Haha, might be counted lucky. But he was marked. Haha was the sole survivor of the Bone Man’s touch. The black stains a grim reminder of the man with ink-tar tears.
Haha’s smooth, bald scalp glistened with beading sweat at the early hour as he sat up and leaned his naked back against a tree. Looking up into the low hanging fronds he saw that birds and sand rats had ravaged what little fruit was left. There would be no breakfast this morning. He stood, barefoot, and could feel the sands had already grown warm. The light breeze tugged gently at his pale blue sarong as he looked to the west across the dunes. For those, like Haha, who knew how to read the desert the signs of an approaching storm could be seen. It was time to return to the city.
It was close to mid-day as Haha climbed to the top of a dune; the smells of cooking, incense burning, coffee and tea drifting on the breezes. And sounds of people too. Talking, shouting, singing, horns and flutes and strings and drums, and the laughter of children. This was the time Haha enjoyed most, it always began well. But Haha knew that soon it would all change. Before the storms there would be blood staining the sands. He let loose a quiet sigh that was instantly lost in the breeze as if it had never existed. But the sadness of it was heavy and sank through the air to roll down the dune like the prized possession of a dung beetle.
Haha half-walked, half-slid down the dune and came into the city at last. He knew every street that trailed through the disjointed, mismatched collection of structures. He remembered them all from each and every beginning in this place. Every endless repetitive cycle of the Streets of Time. He imagined what it might be like to be free of this curse of knowledge, free from the knowing. To be able to go on without a glimmer of the endgame. But Haha wasn’t the only one who knew where it all led to. There was another, like him yet vastly different. The Bone Man, the hunter; and poor Haha the prey, the escaped. The uncatchable…
Haha shook his head as if that would be enough to clear his mind of the inevitability. He paused briefly in the shade of a vacant alley near an adobe house with palm woven shutters. Inside whispered the quiet slumber of a family. He glanced around the corner, looking down the street. He knew Van would be waking there as he always did, tucked against the wall of a side street just like so many yesterdays. He was a mountain of a man with near black skin and a wild mound of thick woolen hair. The glint of bright white stones embedded in the mans face was unmistakable. Haha blinked down the street and stood beside the man in a quick blur, he was like wind. Van slowly stretched and started as he saw Haha.
“Out of nowhere, every time,” said Van. “One day if you ever speak, I wish you would share how you move so fast.”
Haha only smiled. Van shrugged it off and made his way down the road. He stowed a small copper cup within the bulk of the unbound linen robes he wore. The few coins it held he tucked into the pocket of his loose fitting gauze trousers. Haha fell silently in step beside him. Van took a loaf of bread from an unattended table, tossing a coin down as payment. He tore a large hunk from it and passed it to Haha. The two ate as they walked. Haha quickly moved to Van’s right side and waited as a man stepped from his cob home to splash a chamber pot into the gutter, splashing where Haha had walked. Van jumped back with a look at Haha.
“How do you always know what happens before it happens?”
Haha only smiled.
Van trailed his way through the streets, which became more and more crowded with each new corner they turned. Haha followed quiet as ever wearing his ever present crooked smile. He floated back and forth on the street avoiding little things that would have caused issue had he continued in the same line. Van shook his head each time, amazed. Haha’s eyes passed along each face in the crowd, searching out any signs of the game that no one was aware of. A game that was entirely a life and death struggle much more severe than merely living a day to day existence could ever hope to be.
Van motioned towards a group of bearded men, their heads skillfully wrapped in bright colored turbans that covered long flowing hair carefully held in place with carved wooden combs so that not a strand was exposed. Each also carried a curved blade of varied length tucked through their belts and their polished steel bracelets shined in the sunlight. They smiled politely in turn, each with a slight bow as Van and Haha approached.
“Good morning, Van,” said Khaleed. “This must be Haha, a curious name. Tell me, in your quite way, why you would choose such a cheerful name and be so unhappy?”
Haha did his best to hold the Sikh’s gaze. It was difficult, Khaleed saw through the facade of Haha’s outward joy, his forced smile. Van joined the other men at a low table, seating himself and accepting the small cup of tea he was offered.
Khaleed gently rested a hand on Haha’s shoulder, “Please join us for some tea, everyone is welcome here.”
Haha only smiled. He bowed as the Sikh had before, and with a wave left them. As he walked into the crowded street he leaned down beside a green canvas tent, his arms out. At that moment a boy tripped and fell into Haha’s waiting arms. Haha smiled and stood the boy up, tussling his hair and walking away. Haha wove through the crowds with the ease of a leaf floating down a stream. As though he knew where each and every person around him was going to move. He did know, it was always the same and had happened so many times before.
He walked into the markets, the great bazaar. A merchant was going to drop a tray full of dates and the people around would scramble to pocket as many as they could. That was when Haha would have to stop another man from grabbing a handful of money from that same merchant, the loss of money causing the family to starve and lose their home.
Then came the crash of the tray, the crowd of people. Haha stepped into the stall and grabbed the thief by his wrist, shaking his head disapprovingly. The thief yanked his arm free and ran. Haha continued through the tented stalls and white washed mud-brick shops. Each filled with various foods, spices, rugs, blankets, clothing, knick-knacks, cutlery and dishes, oil lamps and candles. The heavy smells of incense, teas, coffee, cooking meats and breads filled the dusty lanes. Perfume soaked clothing masking the musky scents of sweat from the crowded shoppers milling about. It was a most peaceful chaos.
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To be continued on Thursday…