Authors: P.K. Tyler
Shadow on the Wall
Book One Of The Sandstorm Chronicles
Pavarti K Tyler
FIGHTING MONKEY PRESS
Shadow on the Wall - Copyright @2012 Fighting Monkey Productions
Kindle Edition, License Notes
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This book is a work of fiction. With the exception of recognized historical figures, the characters in this novel are fictional. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
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Editing by Jessica Swift Eldridge
Interior Layout by Malory Rock
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For the truth-sayers and the trouble-makers who speak the words we can't leave unsaid and take up the battles we can't leave unfought
The Prophet (saaws) said
"Whenever a man is alone with a woman the Devil makes a third."
Al-Tirmidhi 3118, narrated Umar ibn al-Khattab, Tirmidhi transmitted it
Recai Osman awoke slowly, flickering in and out of consciousness, the sun scorching his bruised and exhausted body.
Where am I?
His foggy mind struggled to remember the last twenty-four hours.
Gritty particles shifted in sympathy as he rolled to his side. Sunlight assaulted his closed lids shooting pain through his head. Sand clung to his long lashes and hair. When the disorientation passed, Recai wiped his eyes with sand-infested hands, only adding to what clung to his fingers, pressing the grains deeper into his dry eyes, abrading them. Recai was covered in particles so fine they filled his shoes and ground into his scalp between each follicle of hair.
Recai pushed his hands into the warm sand, lifting himself to a sitting position to look around. The night before was still a blur. He remembered the bar at Bozoogullari Hotel and sharing a drink with a Kurdish woman who reminded him of his mother. Women who lived in Elih knew better than to be seen in a public bar, but the hotel staff looked the other way; money could buy many freedoms. Her deep-set eyes were so dark they may have genuinely been black. Their mischievous glint and the sound of his mother's language had drawn him in. A thin veil was tight around her hairline; she'd caught his attention with the modern style of having it pulled back and away from her shoulders, allowing him to clearly see the neckline of her dress.
His head spun from last night's drink and a dull throb built within his skull. Recai swallowed, his dry tongue thick from dehydration. Usually a soft bed and a forgiving shower greeted him upon waking. How had he gotten out here, in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by nothing but sand? He hoped the dunes he saw were the ones that resided to the south of the city and not a feature of some farther, larger wasteland.
He didn't remember leaving the bar or traveling anywhere. How much had he drunk? Surely not more than any other night out, but his memory was hazy as he attempted to peer into the past. There were rumors of nomads kidnapping, robbing, and abandoning the bodies of affluent Turks in the desert. But he would remember if he'd been kidnapped, wouldn't he? Instead, all he remembered was drinking bourbon while admiring the curve of the mysterious woman's collarbone peeking seductively above her blouse.
The dunes just outside of Elih, Turkey, were not large. The expanse of emptiness made it easy to become disoriented and lost amongst the shifting terrain. If he'd been lucky, he'd have awoken at night and followed the light of the city toward home. But now, with the sun blazing above him, luck was something he simply didn't have.
Men didn't last long in the dunes without water and supplies. Recai was resourceful; his conscription in the Turkish military had been short but very educational. If he'd had a canteen and some salt tablets he'd be able to survive without food or shelter for a few days. But not like this . . .
He shook his head and streams of sand fell to the ground around him. Negativity wasn't going to help him get home.
Recai blinked back the encroaching fog in his mind. The sun and lack of water already affected his focus, and the temperature was still rising. Recai took off his shoes and socks, knowing that despite the burning sand this terrain was best traversed the way his ancestors had. He needed to feel the earth below him, to listen to the sand as it fell away from his steps.
He undid his belt and jacket and made them into a satchel to carry what few possessions he had. Searching his pockets he found them empty. He was as penniless as a wandering Roma seeking his next fortune. Soon he had his designer button-up shirt tied around his head like a Shik turban, and his worldly possessions hung from his belt over his shoulder.
The scruff of his untrimmed beard protected his face from the sun, and the turban kept him somewhat shaded. Recai took in his surroundings and the placement of the sun and set off in the direction he hoped was north.
Recai walked for what seemed like miles, resisting the instinct to second-guess his direction. The sand moved between his toes but soon he found his footing and his body responded to the landscape as if from some genetic memory. He remembered his father's words from a trip he took to the Oman desert as a child:
Never take your shoes off; the sand will eat away at your feet.
Recai had done it anyway, then and now, feeling more in control with that connection to the ground, its movements speaking to his flesh directly.
His father had always been full of surprises: one moment the strict disciplinarian, the next, he would wake Recai in the middle of the night to see a falling star. Recai had never had the chance to get to know him as an adult. Instead, he lived with the enigmatic memory of a great man lost.
Recai stood in the middle of the desert—every direction would eventually lead to Elih or one of the smaller villages scattered around the city. But who would take in a stranger? A stranger with a Hugo Boss turban and a bruised and bloodied face? In'shallah, he would be delivered to safety.
The sun hung high overhead, beating down so no living thing dared venture into the desert. If Recai had a tarp or blanket, or anything at all, he would have dug himself a hole and conserved his strength until night. Instead, at the crest of the next dune he sat on his bundle to keep his body away from the sand, refusing to allow it to siphon the remaining moisture from his system. He stared out at the expanse of desert before him. Emptiness had never been so tangible to him, nor solitude so deafening.
From his vantage point he saw the crescent shape of the wind-carved dune. Recai's face was wind-burned, his shoulders screamed from the assault of the sun's rays. The city remained out of range; all human life seemed to lie well beyond the line of the horizon.
As he stood, the ground shifted softly beneath him. It reminded Recai of when he'd been a child on his father's yacht. He used to love going out on the water, taking the helm when they reached the open sea. The city of Elih was landlocked. It was the place where his father had made his fortune and helped establish a sophisticated Arab beacon for the rest of the Middle East, a place where Turks and Kurds co-existed peacefully. But, when his family needed to escape from the day to day running of the Osman Corporation, a private jet would fly him and his parents out to Iskandarun where they docked the boat.
Recai walked on with his thoughts. He hadn't been to Iskandarun in years. Not since he'd witnessed his mother jump without warning from the helm of the yacht. Her thin hijab blew in the evening breeze before she leapt. It had been blue and Recai remembered the way it seemed to float in the air when she took that final step. Not long after her suicide his father disappeared, leaving paperwork that named Recai the heir to the multi-billion-dollar empire he ran. Recai had been only eight years old. Since then, Elih had fallen into the hands of Mayor Mahmet Yilmaz and his RTK—Reformation of Turkish Kurdistan—henchmen who were really terrorists who hid behind a thin veil of faith. Recai was sick to his stomach at the way the city was falling apart, devolving into crime and ignorance, but there was nothing he could do. He simply was not his father.
Walking along the crest of the dune, hoping to find a way to the flat area below that didn't involve sliding down the great sand wall, Recai felt a rumble in his chest. A vibration surrounded him, calling to him from the air itself. A deep roar rose from the earth. The pitch rose as the noise intensified, becoming a screaming growl like the djinn's song.
The dunes were collapsing.
Recai ran, hoping to keep ahead of the avalanche. The awesome physics of the phenomenon would have been breathtaking were it not so deadly. Dropping the satchel that held the last remnants of his modern life, Recai scrambled across the crest, unable to get ahead of the avalanche. The dune song reached a crescendo and Recai screamed back at the spectacle of Mother Nature's power. He lost his balance and fell to his hands and knees just as the top of the dune, which swept out from beneath him. He rolled, swimming in the sea of sand that enveloped him then whisked him away.
A hand twitched in the sand before Hasad Sofaer. He looked down at it from his perch atop the camel without much concern, assuming the movement was probably a trick of the mind. Unfortunately, it wasn't unusual to find body parts out here in the dead lands of the dunes, but one never quite got used to it.
had taken to leaving bodies, both alive and dead, to disappear into the sand. No one survived long out here alone. The RTK, Hasad spat at the ground, wasting precious moisture to solidify his curse. Once again, the desert's beauty had been defiled by those bastards.
The hand, however, was curious enough to garner the interest of the great beast Hasad rode.
Hasad's camel twitched, cocking its head and lowering its nose to the disembodied hand. The fingers closed around the beast's muzzle, startling the animal and Hasad.
The old man cushed the camel, commanding it to kneel so he could slide from his perch. He stared at the wiggling hand, wondering what kind of devil had animated a dead thing. Was this how the world would end? Was this the day the Golems would rise to avenge their wrongs? Hasad was not a superstitious man, but he had been raised in a tight community of Baghdadi Jews. When the impossible appeared before him, the stories of his youth had more credibility than ever before.
The hand began clawing at the sand, trying to push it away. It twisted, effectively pulling more sand on top of it. The sight pulled Hasad out of his thoughts and spurred him to action. Kneeling down next to the hand, he dug, his camel snorting and spitting behind him as if sensing a rising evil.
This might be a man, a man left to die
. Hasad could not sit back and allow such a thing to happen if he had the power to stop it; God and his own morality demanded action. Too many had died out here already.
Digging along the hand's arm, he found another finger, then another, until he uncovered another complete hand. The fingers reached out, startling Hasad with their strength as they grasped his forearm. Leaning back against his heels, he pulled against the collapsing sand. Hasad strained and his old joints protested until his feet slipped out from under him in one final burst of strength. A gasping man emerged from the sand.
The face looking up at Hasad from the desert grave was sun-burnt and bruised. Sand fell away to reveal blood-matted hair and features covered with bruises and scabs.
Hasad lay on his stomach and reached his hand out to the man who was taking ragged, shallow breaths.
"Beyefendi?" Hasad called, crawling toward him, trying to disturb as little sand as possible while getting an upsetting amount down the front of his own shirt.
"Yarmetî," the man whispered before his head slumped forward, his neck gone limp. The stubble of a red beard and a familiar yet utterly foreign language set off alarms within Hasad. The old man knew that for a Kurd to end up out here alone, he was either very dangerous or very stupid.
Cursing under his breath, the old Jew slid away from the man and retrieved a rope from his camel, tying one end to the harness the beast wore. He tied the other end into a noose, which he looped as low as possible around the man's arms. Then he tightened it so his arms came together at an angry angle above the strange man's head. Hasad sighed and shook his head.
Better a dislocated shoulder or two than dying out here alone.
With that, he slapped the camel on the backside and set to pulling Recai Osman out of the sand.