TITLE: Desert Awakening
GENRE: Adult Fantasy
Conflict photographer, Ella finds an ancient statue in Syria and becomes guardian to a celestial gate, which will unleash 5000 years of war if it opens.
Ella’s hand shook as she slid her most precious possession—a tiny padded envelope—across the splintered countertop. A small man with sinewy arms and thin mustache took it. Dark, rust colored dirt embedded under his fingernails. Everyone had dirty hands here.
It coated everything.
The roofs of buildings, the peoples’ faces, the faded blood that stained the streets.
His dark eyes peered up at her under thick brows. “Only the one?” he said.
“Yeah,” Ella said, nodding.
“That’ll be fifty.”
Ella rolled her eyes and sighed. “Fifty?” she scoffed. “Last week it was thirty.”
She had no choice but to pay it. They’d barricaded the East Highway, and the Southern route has been closed after that chopper but pulled a crumpled bill from her back jean pocket. This was to be expected. Everyday more roads were being either barricaded or unsafe for travel. Her livelihood depended on that little memory card. Containing hundreds of photos, she’d pay almost any price to ensure it arrived safely in the states. She handed the money to him.
“Thank you,” he said with a heavy Arabic accent. He grinned, displaying a set of crooked, stained teeth.
Ella grumbled. “And my mail?”
The man gave a quick nod, and stuffing the fifty into his shirt pocket, he disappeared into a back storage room. Ella turned around, and rested her elbows against the edge of the rough wood. Two dark-skinned men entered. She eyed them warily. With thick forearms and broad shoulders, their shirts had several faded red stains on them.