TITLE: Valley of Thracians
GENRE: Adult Literary
“Is this your first visit to Bulgaria?” asked the clerk at Sofia International Airport passport control.
“Yes,” he replied, staring at her through the smudged glass. The woman’s jet black hair was pulled back tightly behind a pale, gaunt face, secured with a thin red ribbon that failed to brighten her complexion. Her dark, somewhat slanted eyes, veterans of scrutinizing a thousand arrivals, regarded him impatiently and then returned to the document she was scanning. She stifled a yawn as she riffled through the pages, but whether it was out of exhaustion from long hours on the job or indifference to the arrivals passing by her booth he couldn’t tell.
“Yes,” he said again, making an effort to be polite.
He watched as she worked her way through the passport a second time, gazing up at him once more to compare the weary, gray-haired person standing in front of her with the much younger version that smiled reservedly from the faded photograph. Today he had little in common with that self-assured academic who had willingly traveled the world, giving lectures and attending international conferences. It was almost if they weren’t even related.
“Welcome,” she said, stamping his passport with Sofia Airport’s inky signature before handing it back under the glass.
He offered a weary grin in reply. He was exhausted, not only from the long, monotonous flight but also from preparing for the challenges that lay ahead. Dealing with his mission in a foreign country would not be easy.