Chapter 1

Written by: Ant Gavin Smits

 

The man’s creased, white-bearded face was a palette of brown hues, as were his hands. They had seen uncountable summers. Everything about him had weathered, including his overalls; he could have blended into the rock face like a chameleon. But despite the sun’s glare, his jewel-bright, emerald eyes didn’t blink.

“How did you get to the cave before us?”

He smiled. “Did I surprise you? I’ve no students these days, but I like meeting those who matter. I’ve been waiting since you got to the island.” 

Goosebumps chilled her arms. How did he know her name? None of this made sense, yet it demanded resolution. Then the noise of Nick’s shoes sliding on the loose dust and pebbles distracted her. She turned to watch as he came through the cave opening.

“That guy who was sweeping is up here!” The words rushed out and she swung back to reconnect with the old man. 

“Where?” Nick pulled her close; his arm snaked around her shoulders. “Great view!” He looked over the valley toward the distant hazy-blue Aegean.

Michelle stepped away from his embrace. “There was a man here; he said he’d been waiting for me. How is that possible, Nick? How?” She stopped and took a breath, realising she’d been strident. “Sorry. It was the guy from below, the one who showed us the path.”

“And?” Nick sounded unconcerned. “I don’t see anyone. Did you imagine it?”

“Don’t you believe me?” Michelle pulled off her sunglasses. “I’m serious. There was an old man on the ledge. Like, 30 seconds ago.”

Nick shrugged. “I don’t see anyone. But let me take a picture of you. We’ll probably never climb here again.” He let his rucksack drop to the ledge and rummaged in it for their phone.

“Lean against the rock face at the side, babe. Look outwards.” 

Later, once they’d descended from the cave and returned to the village, mostly in silence as Michelle didn’t feel like talking, Nick suggested they get lunch.

She nodded. The taverna overlooked the rippling transparent sea.

“Give me the phone,” said Michelle, after they’d ordered a drink and pita gyros. She flicked at it until the pics from their walk came up, and sucked air in a gasp. “Nick, there was someone outside that cave!”

He laughed. “Getting ghosts to appear in photos is an old darkroom trick. You can’t fool a cell phone. Photoshop, that’s another matter.”

“Look for yourself,” she said, dully. “I don’t understand any of this. My dad might be an archaeology prof, and I know he was quite keen for us to visit this particular island, for reasons he was irritatingly mysterious about, but he’s shown me lots of dig photos from his younger days. They never lie, he told me. Even when memory plays tricks.”

Nick took the phone and brought the image back up. “What th—"

She looked triumphant. “Believe me now? That’s not my shadow. And it’s not your shadow. So whose is it?”

Comments

What can one say? Detail and good dialogue as characters move around the stage. This chapter goes forward and yet still has a slowly building mystery as the tale unfolds. And isn't it a refreshing change to have a story of ancient history from foreign parts. Great chapter, Ant. You should be writing the book yourself.
This is a fantastic chapter. It flowed and the couple interacted so naturally we could have been listening in.