CuriosityThe story that you think you know began, as most stories do, in the darkness. The dark of starlit night, which is to say, not as dark as you might think.
This is the part of the story that was forgotten.
The stars gave just enough light to throw shadows through the branches of the Tree. Black-on-black, shadow-grey; shifting hues that glistened a little when they fell on the apples hanging expectantly from every branch. Glorious fruit that might, under the sun's caress, have shone rosy-cheeked. Under a cloudless night sky, their colour was bleached and blackened, made mysterious and, perhaps, even more of a temptation.
How long the Tree had stood there, only the Maker knew. He had planted it to be the centre of His Garden, the pillar that would support the dome of sky whether rain or sun, day or night. The strongest gale would not have stirred one leaf on that Tree, but no gales ever blew in the Garden. The Tree stood as though carve
Smiling to herself, Lara closed the door. Snowflakes whirled briefly before settling on the polished floor, melting to form glistening puddles.
Excitedly, she set the surprisingly lightweight package down on the coffee table and read the note. She could almost hear the professor's exasperated sigh as he scribbled:
"Lady Croft. Please find enclosed the latest batch of tablets, as requested. Rafiq guesses about 2500 BC, but he wasn't exactly sober when the results came back from the lab. Any clues would be appreciated. Your servant, Prof' Muhammad Junaid."
The familiar tingle of discovery fluttered somewhere in her stomach. Here, in a slightly grubby courier envelope, beside her half-finished beans on toast, sat an example of one of the world's oldest writing systems. Impatiently her fingers caressed the wad-like bulges, like a child investigating their Christmas presents.
Snow was falling thickly behind the frosted windows as Lara padded her way
The Customer Justine staggered from the kitchen, balancing four plates at once, anxious not to trip over in front of everyone. Bernard, her uncle who also owned the café, had withheld her pay the last time it happened. He wasn't unkind out of habit, but mistakes were simply not tolerated. On nights like tonight, when business was in full swing, his mood always seemed cheerful. Only when they closed up for the evening would he line everyone up and point out any mistakes with much shouting and hand waving.
Weaving between tables in the bright little café, Justine smiled as she deposited each plate of steaming food in front of the customers. They appreciated her smile, which was wide and full of laughter and perfect teeth. Since her eighteenth birthday she had been permitted to wear makeup at work, and now, almost a year on, still loved to experiment. Tonight she had darkened her lashes with even more care than usual, for tonight was a Tuesday, and their r
An Angel in The Darkness: Part 9
Epilogue - Two years later
A thick drizzle dotted the windows as I lay in bed, contemplating the wonderful softness of my cotton sheets and the feeling of peace glowing deep inside me. There was a knock on my bedroom door. Winston appeared with a breakfast tray. The smell of freshly-made toast and coffee wafted towards me, mingling with the scent of the orchids on my nightstand.
“Thank you, Winston. You’re most kind.”
He dipped his head in his customary bow. The initial shock and subsequent fuss my reappearance had caused had long since worn off. I had almost collapsed from Winston’s bear-hug as I got off the plane, before he remembered himself and decorously led the way to a waiting car. Hordes of photographers from all the major newspapers were left standing in the rain as I climbed inside, ignoring their bribes and demands for interviews.
He handed me the morning paper. “Will you require an
An Angel in The Darkness: Part 8
I smelled smoke.
My eyes opened, and gazed up at the night sky. Stars were scattered like shards of crystal. An owl hooted softly.
I rolled over. Putai smiled back at me from across the campfire.
“How do you feel?”
I sat up. My ribs were unbroken, my tears dried.
“I feel… changed,” I whispered. “Softer… calmer.”
“He has drained the poison from your heart, Lara. You carried it for so long you had forgotten it was there. Please, try to eat something.”
I accepted the flask of water and bread – simple fare to welcome the spirit back into the body. Ahmak and the other camels stood nearby, lumpy shadows stoically chewing the cud.
When I had finished, Putai reverently took back the many amulets I had worn, placing each with care into its own little cloth bag. She offered me damp rags, and I gratefully wiped the sacred markings from my face and arms. My ski
An Angel in The Darkness: Pt 7
A little before first light, Putai and I set out across the desert.
I had arrived at the well to find her fully prepared and packed for a long trek. Ahmak was loaded down with supplies of food, water and fuel, and two more camels would be our primary transport. I donned the white turban and desert robe she offered; her own clothing was dyed a dark violet-blue that appeared almost black. I did not ask where we were headed, and she did not volunteer any information.
In silence, she led the way out through the village and into the emptiness beyond. Ahmak grumbled to himself the whole time, but fortunately my own mount proved to be docile, and far less inclined to casual violence.
After nearly two days of trekking across the sands, we crossed into the foothills of the mountains. Hot desert wind – the famous harmattan capable of scouring flesh from bone – howled up and down the narrow valleys, forcing our pace down to a crawl. I pulled
An Angel in The Darkness: Part 6
Although the eating area was crowded, no one else spoke or even looked at me – a small blessing, but a welcome one. The last thing I wanted was to fend off further conversation.
Once the meal was over, I was left pretty much to myself. Fields needed tending and animals had to be fed. No one noticed me slip casually behind the beehive-shaped bakery and along the south wall.
“Lara! Over here.” Salieah appeared from behind a stack of barrels and gestured for me to follow.
We worked our way down a narrow, half-blocked passageway, keeping the perimeter wall to our right. I kept my eyes focused on Salieah’s billowing headscarf. At last she halted, and drew my head close to hers as she whispered.
“Please stay quiet, or you’ll startle her.”
The mystery was solved when we rounded the next corner. We had come to a small cul-de-sac between the wall and one of the granaries, that was shaded from the midday