This is a special preview prologue to my story “The Forever Door” in The Crux Anthology, a book of adventure science fiction and fantasy short stories by sixteen different authors.
Official Release Date: November 26th, 2018
Enjoy this prologue to my story!
History has seen its share of violence and the conquest of man. And now that same history has caught up with talented architect Owen McFadden when his archaeological-expert sister’s passion for the unimaginable unknown leaves him no choice other than to join her on the quest of the millennium … a dangerous hunt for the forbidden … deep in the cloud forests of Peru.
“The Forever Door”
Owen unhooked the safety harness and stepped back to take a long look at the skyscraping skeleton taking shape. Every aching muscle in his body reminded him of the hard work, blood, and sweat he’d put into its construction from the subbasement design on up.
If his uncle had told him this was where he’d be after childhood summers spent sweating over archaeological digs, he never would have believed it. But after the experiences of his youth, just designing architecture wouldn’t have been enough. He needed to have a hand in the history that would come from its realization, much in the way of visionary men like Brunelleschi with his Duomo in Florence.
“McFadden!” the foreman bellowed from the main trailer, his voice booming over a megaphone.
“Hey, golden-boy got a summons from the big boss,” one of the other construction workers jibed to his mates from where they rested on a fresh stack of i-beams while they ate their lunches.
Owen looked at the bunch and raised his chin, acknowledging them. The one who’d spoken saluted him, but even after months on the site, he couldn’t decide if the guys meant all the snide comments in good fun or if they really were that stupidly jealous.
He trod confidently over the uneven ground toward where the foreman continued to lean halfway out the trailer door. When Owen was less than ten feet away he spit and said, “Got an unauthorized dude at the main fence. Go take care of it.” With that, the foreman disappeared back into the portable tinderbox.
Owen came to a slow halt and faced where the main gate of the nine-foot fence opened only for authorized personnel. With a sigh, he pulled off his hard hat, set it on a bench near the trailer, and set off to find out about this ‘unauthorized dude.’
Drawing near, the person came into view leaning into the fence, his nose pressed between the chain links. Owen didn’t recognize the short, deeply tanned man wearing all shades of brown and crushing a grungy red baseball cap in his hands.
“Señor! Señor Mac-FAWH-den!” the stubby man hollered in what Owen guessed might be a Hispanic accent. The stranger waved his hat and sidestepped toward the flagger who stood guard at the open gate. “Oh, Señor! You I am so happy to see.”
“Do I know you?”
“Oh!” He slapped his forehead. “Forgive me, Señor McFadden. I am Jorge, Señora Julianna’s associate.”
“Is Jules here?” Owen asked, his curiosity piqued. His sister was known for her escapades across the globe as an archaeological antiquities expert and would often pop by between digs, but she also found herself the center of unwanted attention on more than one occasion, and Owen had always been there to keep her safe. Ever since he took a real job designing and constructing buildings instead of globe-trotting with her, though, he’d spent most days worried about how she was holding up. And now this strange guy showed up claiming to know her. He couldn’t quite tamp down the worry over her whereabouts.
“Eh … no, señor. This is what I come for to speak of wit’ you.”
Concern tempted his heart to speed up, but he worked to control it, taking a deep breath.
“Is she okay?”
“Eh … we talk de hombre a hombre?” Jorge motioned outside the fence, away from the watchful eyes of the flagger-guard.
“Hey, Brent, can you clock me out?” he asked the flagger.
Brent nodded and walked off, leaving the two near-strangers to talk without eavesdroppers. Owen stepped out through the gate and motioned down the street.
“C’mon. My car’s just down the way.” They strode at a pace Owen hoped seemed unhurried, and he tried not to think about what sort of trouble Julianna was in. Silence filled the space between them. “So talk.”
Jorge dug around in his mud-spattered satchel. Owen wondered if the airline made him check it instead of being a carry-on. After a few mumbled words, Jorge pulled out a finger-length, clear quartz crystal wrapped in wire and attached to a gold chain. He dangled it before Owen. The trinket swayed.
Owen’s hand went to his chest. It was bare of the twin crystal, which was safe in his apartment away from a construction site where it was way too easy to lose precious items. He snatched the matched crystal from Jorge and glared with furrowed brow before he grabbed Jorge’s arm and pulled him to a stop next to his vehicle.
“What’s going on? Where is Julianna?”
“She is o-kay! She is o-kay … mostly,” he added and raised a surrendering hand when Owen’s grip tightened on his arm. “She tell me bring this so you know she send me. She say, ‘you must come with the diary, and bring the twin stone.’”
Owen dropped his hold on Jorge and considered his open face. He unlocked the truck doors with his key fob and said, “Get in.” Worry rolled over him like the storm a weatherman promises won’t come but always does. “Tell me everything on the way to my place.”
Jorge scrambled into the passenger seat and whooped in pleasure as he rubbed his hands over the soft, comfortable interior. “Buen camión.”
Owen had no idea what Jorge said, so he nodded and started the pickup. On the drive, Jorge spoke in his heavily accented English about how Julianna had been hired to date certain objects at a dig in northern Peru, and how she’d discovered a connection to something else.
Jorge implied it was something she was working on privately. He hinted that she might be in some trouble but didn’t say what exactly. Maybe with the locals?
Julianna needed Owen to bring the journal she’d put in his reluctant care last time she’d been in town. While Owen believed Jules had certainly dug herself into a hole, he didn’t really understand the rest of it. Whatever danger she landed in—be it overzealous boys looking to make a conquest, or dangerous excursions, rabid dogs, foreigners who disliked women, or whatever it was—he’d always be there for her … just like she’d been there for him. One thing that would never change.
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