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Long, hot, Summer

August 8, 2018

Well, hope everybody has survived the heat. I know I have been keeping the air turned up which keeps the electric bill high, lol. Not much to say this time around. I could get into politics, but then there would be a mass surge on my blog once people read it. I am not a republican. Some of their ideas are okay but the most are not. Nuff said.

As of late, I have been playing more music than writing. My first love is music since I have been playing since I was sixteen years old. Many bands have come and gone. A few good, some not so good. I am now trying to master the Mandolin which in itself is a job but sooner or later, I will get the hang of it.

Other things have kept me busy this summer. Mowing the grass once a week (which is about to end if we don’t get some rain) and other duties. I did got to the fair this year which I try to go every year. It has fallen off a lot since my younger days. Mostly rides now occupy the midway and games of  chance.

I can remember when there were a lot of sideshows there. Oddities one would pay to see if they were real or fake. Most were fake. There were others though that made a mind wonder. The most popular one around here was the sideshow where the bearded lady, the rubber band man and the snake charmer drew in the crowds. There was also one called  the missing link.

This one started off with a cage covered by a curtain. As the Barker (announcer of the show) talked, noises came from behind the curtain. He was good at building suspense, his talk revolving around the creatures capture and some who did not survive the hunt. You could tell it was getting near the end as the barker moved closer to the cage, gripped a rope and with is last words being loud and strong, yanked the cord and the curtain fell away.

In the cage was a dark figure. Brutish and glaring with eyes that burned bright. The creature rattled t he cage as the Barker spoke. Saying that if he ever escaped the cage, woe to the people in this tent. Suddenly, the creature howled loud and long, the cage rattling and shaking violently. Suddenly, the door broke free and, even in the dim light, the creature looked like something from the dim past.

It lunged from the cage, the people on the front row either turning and slamming through the crowd or screaming. Of course, all was fake. The beast was a man in an altered ape suit and the lights situated to give the beast an eerie appearance. All in all though, it was good fun.  Those days are gone but not forgotten.

Now, as promised, the second half of the story I posted a few weeks back. There will be more at a later date so just bear with me.

The Temple of Al-Amon; Part Two

As the night sky slowly turned gray with the dawn, Dixon and the group filled their canteens and water skins. He said he would take the first watch, while the others found places to sack out and get some rest. As the sun rose, the cold night began to heat up, Dixon shedding his coat and placing it under him to sit on, the rock was hard and not a good place to sit.
Soon the sun was rising high, a shimmer of heat rising from the desert floor. How the nomads withstood the heat he couldn’t fathom? They always dressed in heavy robes and wrapped their heads in layers of cloth, only their eyes sometimes showing. He would smother if he dressed like that.
A scorpion crawled across the sand below him. Suddenly the hard-packed sand opened and a spider darted out at it. The battle had begun, the two predators lashing in a circle, the spider rising and knocking the scorpion’s sting away.
Suddenly the spider lunged, the scorpion’s stinger missed and the spider delivered a fatal bite. Dixon grinned but that grin faded as the click of a rifle bolt sounded in the still air. Three horses stood in front of him. One man smiling at him while the two behind him aimed their rifles at his head. Dixon tensed, the gun at his side within reach, if he could draw and fire while bailing off the rock. He decided not to and smiled back at the man.
“Good morning,” the man said in flawless English, “my name is Joseph Hakeem. My father was English and my mother Tuareg. What is your name?”
“Conner Dixon,” Dixon replied.
“So, I must ask you, Conner Dixon, what are you doing in my desert?”
Dixon was about to reply when a squeal sounded behind him along with a couple of bellows. Looking over his shoulder, Dixon saw two men dragging Sara between them, Sara struggling, both men laughing. Following her were McFerrin and Sweet, rifles aimed at their heads.
Joseph frowned and slid from his saddle, walked toward the men and they stopped. He spoke to them in Arabic, the two men let Sara go and Hakeem slapped them both. He turned and walked over to Dixon, bowed, then said, “My apologies for my men. They rarely see a pale-skinned female and are brutish with them when they do.”
Hakeem looked at Dixon then at Sara, his eyes roving over her body, Sara getting closer to Dixon.
“Who does this one belong to? If none, maybe we can make a trade.”
Sara started to speak and Dixon cut her off.
“She belongs to me. She is my wife.” Sara started to speak again and Dixon dug an elbow into her side. She became quiet.
“Ah.” Hakeem nodded and grinned. “You are a lucky man Dixon. Very lucky. Now, as I asked, what is your purpose here?”
“We’re looking for Sara’s uncle.”
“I see, what is his name?”
“Carter,” Dixon answered.
Hakeem stood silent for a moment, his mind turning the name over in his head.
“This Carter, was he looking for the Temple of Al-Amon?”
His eyes watched Dixon for a moment. To say no would probably make them captives so Dixon told the truth.
“Yes, he and a man by the name of Jamar?”
Hakeem’s eyes narrowed and Dixon tensed. If there had been any trouble between Hakeem and Jamar, he would have to act fast to try to kill Hakeem which meant the end of them.
“I know this Jamar.” Hakeem spat on the sand. “He is a thief and a liar. He and this Carter had a map to the temple. I told them they best turn around and go back. The people there are very vicious, especially this time of the moon. They require a sacrifice to their blasted God. We were getting ready to meet them in the desert and drive them off to keep them from taking one of our young girls to sacrifice. Jamar slipped out of camp while we were gone and took my daughter with them, him and Carter. She is to be a bargaining tool for what they seek.”
“Allah’s Tears,” Sara whispered. Hakeem nodded.
“You say they took your daughter?” Dixon asked. Hakeem nodded, his face tense, softened.
“My only child. I had planned to take her to Cairo to see if I could get one of the missions to take her in, educate her so she could teach the young ones to read and write.”
Dixon nodded his mind racing, a plan forming.
“When is this ritual to take place?” Dixon asked.
“Three nights from now, when the moon is at its fullest.”
“Let’s talk Hakeem, I might be able to help you.” Dixon smiled and Hakeem gave him a puzzled look as they walked away from everyone to talk.
***
Richter had been right on with what he had seen. Dixon, Hakeem, McFerrin, and Sweet lay on a ridge above the small valley the temple sat in. In the dwindling light, a procession was gathering in the square before the temple. Only a few buildings sat around the temple. They were built of stone which had withered and crumbled over the years, the buildings looked as if they weren’t used.
The temple itself was showing its age. Carved out of the ridge, the front was set massive pillars that held the stone roof in place. Braziers sat on either side of the steps and burned with an orange, red light. Behind them stood two men, dressed in the garb of ancient Egyptian soldiers. Bronze shields and curved bronze blades reflecting the firelight.
Between them was an opening. Dark and forbidding. Dixon wondered how many young girls had passed through them to be slaughtered on whatever altar was inside. Hakeem spoke, his voice low and bringing Dixon out of his thoughts.
“They are evil people, some deformed from interbreeding. Their minds warped from the religion they practice,” Hakeem told Dixon as they looked down on the temple.
“I thought they worshiped Allah?” McFerrin asked.
“They did at one time. It is said that Allah came here before he ascended to his father. That he cried for his people and when he did, his tears fell to the ground and became stones. Red stones as he cried tears of blood, weeping for his children and the way they were headed. Over the years, they became corrupted. A priest told them Allah had abandoned them but a deity named Iblis, an arch-devil who refused to bow before Adam spoke to him, that he cared for them.
“All they had to do was fall down and worship him. That he cared more for them than Allah did. Some resisted and the priest,” Hakeem thought for a moment, shivered and said, “the priest forced them to bow down or die. The true believers were beheaded, those who feared death bowed. They only come out at night since Iblis is master of the night. It is said that they copulate with the Jinn at night, horrid beings born to the women to repopulate their numbers.”
“This priest,” McFerrin asked, “is he mortal?”
Dixon jerked his head around and McFerrin shrugged.
“Some say he is immortal, others say he dies and is reborn in the body of another. Who can say?” Hakeem answered.
Dixon looked down over the edge of the ridge at the buildings below them. He pointed and said, “If we can get down there, then we might be able to enter the temple once they are all inside.”
Hakeem shook his head. “As you can see, guards are posted at the entrance. To attack them would give a warning. There is a better way.”
He motioned for them to crawl down off the ridge and once on the ground, Hakeem told them what he had in mind. The moon had risen high above them and chased some the shadows from the path that led between the temple and the ridge. Hakeem suddenly stopped, muttered a prayer and pointed. Lashed to the wall of the ridge were two bodies. Dixon stepped closer and smiled.
“Jamar and Carter,” he said walking back, “I guess your daughter wasn’t enough to secure the Tears.”
Hakeem grunted and spit at the dead men. Then walked on and continued to tell them of his plan.
“Behind the temple is a passageway. Only the priests know of it. We can enter there. The rest of my men will stand by in case we run afoul of trouble. We will need more weapons, though.” Hakeem smiled and asked, “That box I saw on the camel, I suspect it is rifles you brought to bargain with?”
Dixon grinned and told Sweet to get the rifles. They went back. Once the box was open, Hakeem and his men grinned big. The rifles were German bolt actions, magazine fed. Dixon showed them how to load them and how they worked. Hakeem chuckled.
“Many will die tonight.” A wicked grin crossed his face as he aimed at the moon.
***
Dixon wanted to leave Sara with the camels but she wouldn’t have it.
“I can shoot just as good as any of these savages, even better. I’ll not be left behind!” Sara’s face was livid. The anger in her eyes flashed and Dixon grinned. She might not be much in the muscle department but she made up for it in spunk and nerve.
Dixon, Sara, Hakeem, McFerrin, and Sweet made their way toward the back of the temple again, the path, more visible in the moonlight than before. As they passed the two bodies lashed to the ridge, Dixon pointed.
“Your uncle and Jamar,” he said. Sara stared, shook her head and stepped closer, gasping and stepping back when she saw what had been done to them.
“That will be our fate if we are caught,” Hakeem whispered.
Hakeem pointed as they neared a small opening in the ridge.
“The door,” he said in a hiss, “there is a guard now. Usually, it is unguarded.”
Dixon drew his knife and started to move along the shadows. Hakeem stopped him, shook his head and drew a curved blade from under his robes and slipped into the darkness. As Dixon watched, he couldn’t see Hakeem until the flash of his blade showed in the moonlight. The guard gasped, blood, dark in the moonlight, jetted from his throat, the blade continuing until Hakeem held the man’s head in his hand.
Dixon moved forward, Sara beside him. She shivered and licked her lips as Hakeem set the head on the stone steps. The eyes glazed in terror. Dixon opened the door, the hinges creaking a little as it swung open. Torches lit the hallway every few feet, shadowed darkness between them. Hakeem darted forward, slipping from one pool of shadow to the other, his footsteps on the stone floor soft and silent.
Suddenly he stopped, his hand-held up in warning. All three pressed against the wall in the shadows. Dixon’s heart was thumping in his chest, the blood thundering in his head. Hakeem moved on, the sounds of a scuffle reaching Dixon’s ears. Everyone was silent for a few minutes then Hakeem appeared, his robe stained with blood and his blade dripping.
“This hallway leads to behind the main chamber. The infidels are massing in front of the altar. I can see my daughter. I will try to get close enough to snatch her from the altar before the infidel priest can kill her.”
“What about the jewels, do you see them?” Sweet hissed. Hakeem was in front of him in a heartbeat, his blade tickling the underside of his chin.
“They are behind the altar, thief. A warning, though. Many have tried to snatch the jewels from around the neck of the stone statue they hang around. None has lived to do it. Some say they die a hideous death. Consumed by fire. Their souls spending eternity in the hell they created for themselves.” Hakeem turned and started back toward the opening. Sweet growled and Dixon saw the glimmer of steel in his hand.
Dixon stepped in front of him, his knife out, Sweet skidding to a stop and giving him a leering smile.
“Cut me and I will yell. Then you and all the others will be at the mercy of the things in the temple.”
Dixon gritted his teeth. He might be able to slash Sweet’s throat before he could yell but the man was fast and Dixon needed to be closer to make the move work.
“McFerrin?” Sweet said over his shoulder.
“Down for the count.” It was Sara’s voice. She stepped up beside Sweet, her eyes flashing in the dim light.
“Cover him, I’ll get the jewels. Drop the knife,” Sweet growled, his growl accented with Sara jabbing the muzzle of her rifle in Dixon’s side. Dixon dropped the knife and Sara took her foot and kicked it behind her.
“So, tell me, was Carter really your uncle?” Sara chuckled and stepped back, the rifle pointed as Dixon’s middle.
“That old fool. No, he wasn’t my uncle. We just worked together for the university. We were here to find relics for the college museum. That was how he came upon the map. Some old, half-blind man who sold it to him for a pack of cigarettes. I told him it was a fake but Carter said he didn’t think so. He took it to another man he knew, Jamar. The scum took him to a curio shop and the owner told them that the map was not fake.
“So, Jamar was working for Carter?”
“He was. Jamar was the one who recommended he hire you to lead them through the desert. Jamar said you had been across the desert a few times and you would be perfect for the job.”
Dixon grunted a yes. Jamar was setting a trap. Assuring Carter that Dixon was the bad guy so Carter wouldn’t get too close.
“I should have killed Jamar the first time,” Dixon muttered and Sara laughed softly.
“As you can see, you don’t have to worry about Jamar anymore. He was with Richter when he went back to get his bearings on the temple the second time. He was wounded by one of the arrows these people shot at them. He had the original map on him and was guiding Richter to the spot. When they went down, he left Richter to die but, as we have seen, died himself.”
“So, the whole tale about Richter losing the map as he was flying was a lie.” Dixon let a small smile cross his face. Sara was about to say something when there was a scream outside the temple. Hakeem’s men were inside the temple, rifle shots echoing down the tunnel they stood in. Voices rose in the temple, shouts and screams then Hakeem bellowed out.
“Infidels, scum of the earth! Allah’s revenge is upon you!”
There were more screams, the sounds of a blade meeting blade and hacking flesh could be heard. The minute the screams were heard, Dixon tried to grab for Sara’s rifle. She was quick, stepping back and starting to pull the trigger. She didn’t. Her eyes went wide and she tried to speak, her voice froze in her throat. She fell forward, the rifle clattering to the floor. A knife was buried in the back of her neck. Behind her was McFerrin. Blood still oozing down the side of his head.
Dixon stepped forward and grabbed up the rifle, checked the load and looked at McFerrin.
“Go. Kill the bastard. I’ll be alright.” McFerrin leaned against the wall and touched his head. He winced and groaned. Dixon turned and started to run toward the main room of the temple. He came up short as a man came toward him, something moving on his body.
It was Sweet. Dark shapes withered and moved on him. As he passed through the light of a torch, Dixon saw what it was. Spiders. Hundreds of them crawled on his face and arms. He tried to scream and one darted into his mouth. Sweet snapped his mouth shut and there was a crunch, his eyes going wider. Dixon raised the rifle and fired twice. Once to his chest and once in his head. Sweet fell. Something in his hand skidded across the floor close to Dixon’s feet.
Red stones sparkled in the dim light. Dixon used the rifle barrel to hook them and drag them closer. He picked them up and stuffed them in his pocket, turned and ran back to McFerrin, grabbed his friend under the arm and sped back to the door to the outside. Behind him, the sounds of battle grew dim. Hakeem yelling, his yells mixing with the screams of the ones in the temple.
Once outside, he made sure McFerrin was alright then started to go back in. Hakeem suddenly appeared, his robes spattered with blood, his blade dripping.
“The temple guards fight like old women. All except two, they were a challenge but not much. I see the woman and the other man are dead.”
“All they were after were the jewels. McFerrin killed the woman, but Sweet died of spider bites.”
“Those black ones?”
Dixon nodded.
“I’ve seen those in the bazaar in Cairo. They say the bite of them shoots fire through your veins.”
“Sweet was covered in them.” Dixon shook his head.
“Then what they tell is true,” Hakeem said checking his robes, “Whoever tries to steal the jewels will die by fire.”
Hakeem grunted and flicked one of the spiders from his robes and stomped it, twice. The last stomp sounded with a crunch. Hakeem grabbed the door and slammed it shut, looking for something to block it with.
“Your daughter?” Dixon asked.
“I was too late, the priest had her on the altar and had plunged a knife in her. I gave him the same treatment.” Hakeem smiled as he darted past McFerrin and Dixon.
“We best get away quickly. Things are going to get very bad here in a few minutes.”
Hakeem darted past, Dixon and McFerrin following. They were almost to the top of the ridge when the ground rumbled, then the door they had come out of exploded from its hinges. Dixon stumbled and McFerrin caught him, Hakeem also grabbing his shirt.
“How….” Dixon started to say. Hakeem laughed.
“Your friend McFerrin, he gave me the means to destroy the evil that took my daughter.”
McFerrin grinned.
The ground shook again, this time a sound like thunder rolled across the sands and a flash of fire erupted into the night sky followed by thick, black smoke. Hakeem grinned and scrambled over the ridge to where the camels were shifting about. Grabbing the reins, they each mounted and took off in a lope, Hakeem’s men following, black smoke, and the shaking ground slowly fading away.
***
Dixon remembered the last time he was sitting here. No money, down to his last sip and not knowing where he was going to sleep that night. He smiled and finished off the bourbon in his glass then poured himself another from the bottle beside him. He was about to take another drink when a familiar hand dropped on his shoulder. He didn’t even look, just took a drink and motioned for the bartender to get him another glass.
McFerrin mounted the stool beside him, took the filled glass and drained it.
“How you doing Dixon, still in the chips?” McFerrin asked as he held out the glass. Dixon poured and stared at him.
“I’m doing good, how about you?”
“Doing okay. Listen…”
Here it comes Dixon thought as McFerrin drained the glass again.
“I met this fellow who says he knows where there is an unopened tomb out in the desert. He wants us to help him find it. He said he heard the story about the temple and….”
Dixon drained the glass and poured another. What the hell he thought, he might have sworn he would never go on a treasure hunt again but… He took his next to the last coin out of his pocket and flipped it on the bar then picked up the bottle and stood.
“Tell me about this tomb,” Dixon said waving McFerrin over to one of the back tables in the café.
End

 

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