Below, my friends is a sample excerpt from my stories midpoint. Originally, I was going to keep this scene in my new novella, but I decided to cut it—I think—and write something different. As always, I want to share my hard work with all of you. Enjoy!
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Ishaq ordered the diggers to work by moonlight, shovels scraped, hammers smashed, and picks stabbed stone. The work was difficult. The men were soaked; sweat and sand clung to their skin. Halfway up the northside of the tomb, above the crew’s silhouettes, Ishaq studied the valley. The night performed tricks; phantoms prowled the desert, lizards transformed into soldiers, and gusts became chariots. If pursued, he knew, the soldiers would stealth in the shadows until, at last, on top of his party. Four-vigilant hours passed, and by the time the men were spent, he heard rocks fall.
At the bottom, he found the diggers on the ground, their chests heaving, their eyes anxious. Bes was occupied with distributing each man his ration of water.
“It’s hollow there,” Bes said.
“We’re too exposed,” Ishaq replied. “We must hurry.”
Ishaq ordered the crew to build a fire and shield it with a thief’s chimney. Each man linked their sleeping blankets together and encircled the flames. Bes erected a fire inside the improvised wall. He warned if the faintest ember could be seen they risked discovery. Others retrieved the pots of water they carried from Thebes. They worked fast; one-by-one, the pots boiled, and then two diggers, juxtaposed on each side of a blanket, dragged the water. Ishaq helped them leverage each pot between two beams of cedar above the dig site and carefully tilt it over. The limestone absorbed each douse and hardened. They repeated the process until, at last, the stone cracked. One digger swinged his hammer in wide vertical arcs and smashed the stone where it split. His blows thundered across the desert before the wall collapsed, and a hole big enough for one man at-a-time to crawl through, appeared.
Ishaq ordered their cart and what supplies could not be carried into the tomb to be buried. They discovered soft ground west of the tomb, and there, beneath a sand dune, the crew hid their supplies and marked the spot with a pattern of rocks. One man started petitioning the Gods to not hide their marker before they had a chance to recover their belongings.
“Stop praying,” Ishaq said. “The attention of the Gods is the last thing we need.”
The diggers shared, between them, that rare conversation reduced to a glance which suggests each man is all the other one has left in the world. Ishaq knew that look well; he saw it often in the war.
“You won’t need the Gods or anyone else once we’re done. You will have servants to wait on your wives, horses for your sons, and hunger only a bad dream.”
Ishaq, as he spoke, wrestled with images of his father. The old man grew weaker with every sunrise, and, worst, the God’s his father loved, the very ones he faithfully fed their sacrifices, the ones he taught his children to fear, returned his faithfulness by removing his sight and with it, hope. He cursed how cruel the Gods were and vowed to hire a physician with his share.
They were ready to enter at the blue hour; that in-between time where it is no longer dark, but not yet morning, when the desert holds its breath. The crew paused, and their eyes leveled on the stars; each committed the heavens to memory in case they’ve seen it for the last. One-by-one the diggers crawled through the hole; Ishaq went last. He wouldn’t risk one of the men not entering and alerting a nearby patrol, so to collect an easy ransom.
To Be Continued
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