Chapter 1 Excerpt
~ Who Is It? ~
Two new moons. They were the same size, sharp and glowing in the green early-evening sky. Their light shone on a desert. The wind howled pleasantly as it flowed over the soft dunes of sand. Every now and again a boulder or scraggly bush would appear as the sand gently shifted; otherwise all was smooth and serene.
With a sigh, a woman lying comfortably on the warm sand woke up. She shifted her bent arm on the sand and winced in pain. Her head had been resting on it, and now it was asleep. From the dunes, a small ruby-colored bug zipped past her ear, startling her enough to cut herself off in mid-yawn and causing her to swat the air vaguely with her hand. She opened her eyes. After a moment she sat up. She had just realized that she had no idea where she was.
She had been on the last leg of her dinner break at work. The busy part of the evening shift was about to begin, and she was the only waitress who knew what the regulars ordered. It was why she was always scheduled late; it helped speed things along if she could write down exactly what the customers wanted before they even ordered it.
She had been actually enjoying her extra side of mashed potatoes, when…
When what? When she had just fallen asleep on a sand dune?
Her uniform had ridden up over her hips and was crumpled around her waist. She got to her feet and tugged it back down, wiping away the sand stuck to her legs. Her half-apron was twisted around to the side. As she swung it around, she was relieved to find her order pad and pencil still in the deep pocket. This was somehow proof that she had been somewhere else only a moment ago. Or was it only a moment? Her dress was pretty wrinkled; clothes only got that way after you slept in them a while. She glanced at her wristwatch: 6:50. Her dinner break had been over at 5:00.
On the other hand, the sky - just beginning to dot with sparkling stars - was so lovely she was sure she had always taken naps on the sand beneath it.
It was clearly a desert, but her scanning showed her nothing else. No stereotypical groupings of palm trees in the distance. She suddenly recalled all those Twilight Zone-ish tales of people simply fading from sight and never being found again, all that really scary crop circle stuff. Was she one of these people? Had she faded from sight, and would she never be seen again?
She shivered in the warm evening and pulled her oatmeal-colored sweater closer around her. Looking around her despairingly, she tried to decide where to go now. Every direction looked the same. She called out.
“Hello?” She looked around and called in every direction. Her voice was lost immediately in the thick air. Not even the closest dune had heard it.
Perhaps it was due to all the fantasy space sagas she had seen in her life, but it took a second look to make her realize that something that had initially seemed quite familiar was anything but. There were two moons in the sky. A pang of fear hit her. Alien abduction? Was that what this was? If that was the case, was she in some sort of holding habitat awaiting her captor’s inevitable probing? She thought again. No. That was stupid. She felt too safe here, and she was sure she wouldn’t be feeling this safe aboard a spaceship.
Having thought too much, she knew she couldn’t stay in one place forever. So she chose a direction - oddly, the direction away from the setting sun - and began walking.
She was glad she was wearing comfortable shoes. The first thing her mother had taught her was, “Make sure your shoes are comfy; you’ll be hatin’ life pretty quick if they’re not.”
Her goal was to find a place to stay before it got completely dark. A random tent of a traveling sultan? Yeah, right. Like any sultan would want to ravish her. Oh, come to me my pale, mud-brown-braided beauty! How your enticingly flat figure tempts me from beneath your fitted pink polyester frock! She laughed out loud at her self-derisive cleverness.
Her pace was strong. She was used to walking; it was what she did all day. “You’re not being paid to sit down,” was her boss’ constant maxim.
As she walked she hummed. She had taken her Walkman to work and had been listening to an old tape of music she had recorded from the radio when she was in high school; some songs were still stuck in her head. She hoped the Walkman was still in her locker in the back room. She hoped she still had a job when she got back.
The terrain was flat, so she was able to keep a good pace for a while, but she finally decided to rest. She simply plunked herself down in the sand and caught her breath. She suspected there was no oasis conveniently located just over the next dune, so she wisely decided to pace herself. Having heard it was a good idea to walk in a desert at night when it was cooler, she took her apron off, folded it over her face, and took a nap.
An hour later it was dark. The two moons were higher in the sky, bright enough to see by. Brighter than she thought, she being used to only one moon.
After thirty minutes of only slightly-refreshed trudging she spied something. It looked like a toppled building of some sort. Making her way to it, she saw that was exactly what it was: a small building almost on its side. It looked like one of those Greek marble buildings with a couple of half-buried columns lying beside it. She slogged toward it, her calves (well-muscled as they were) hurting from the deep sand; she was glad to find shelter, even if it was a bit dilapidated.
She stopped, startled, when someone stood up from behind a column.
Entire contents Copyright 2008 by Melynda Kiring.
No part of this may be used in any way without written permission from the author.
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