Back in 2008 - 2009, I Co-Authored (with D.L. Snell) the DEMON DAYS Saga (Four Books / Over 1000 pages / 280,000 words).
When I first wrote the books, I decided to set several chapters of Book Three in the city of Aleppo, Syria. When I made my choice, there was no hint of any future war.
Now it's 2016 and the city of Aleppo has largely become decimated by a civil war.
Now it's 2016 and the city of Aleppo has largely become decimated by a civil war.
In re-reading the chapters from my book for the first time since publication, I was shocked by how much of what I originally wrote has ended up becoming sadly prophetic.
I wanted to share an excerpt from the DEMON DAYS Saga that takes place in Aleppo. My hope in sharing this excerpt is that readers discover how sometimes fiction (even a Book Series written in the paranormal genre) can end up echoing current events.
On the road out of the airport, Wolfenson’s team was delayed at a checkpoint. The Syrian military had formed an armed perimeter with roadblocks and hundreds of men.
Luckily one of the guards recognized the envoy from his talk show appearances. “You were funny, sir,” the guard said in plain English.
“Shukran,” Wolfenson replied. He had rolled down his window so he could talk.
The guard gestured into the other back seat next to Wolfenson. “What is that?”
“It is bread.”
The guard nodded again, as if in perfect understanding. He pointed to the far fields, where hundreds of lights flickered and flagged. “Be careful out there. Some of them are dangerous.”
“Are they refugees?” Reitz asked.
Before the guard could answer, Wolfenson said, “If you don’t mind me asking, soldier, do you have a wife and children?”
“Excellent. Do you have a picture?”
The soldier paused, surprised by the question. He dug a photograph out of his wallet and handed it to Wolfenson, who studied the image thoughtfully.
“Your little one,” he said. “What’s her name?”
Wolfenson nodded. “And is she safe?”
“Her name means ‘alive and well,’ sir,” the guard said with proud relief. Wolfenson laughed, and the soldier smiled at having entertained a great man. “My wife says her name’s a sign from Allah.”
Wolfenson nodded and handed back the picture. “Your wife is right. Mashallah, soldier. She’s beautiful.”
“Mashallah,” the guard said. “Fe Aman Allah.” He let them pass, let them out toward the flickers in the field.
Reitz’s vehicle, a Humvee, handled well over the roadway, which was as full of faults as the ancient earth.
“So, Reitz,” Fincher said as they travelled. “I haven’t had a chance to talk to Carl—how is he doing?”
“He appears to be fine, sir.”
“And his family?”
“I’m afraid I can’t say.” Ahead, road barrels reflected in Reitz’s headlights.
“Yes, I understand. Your relationship is strictly professional.”
“Not exactly,” Reitz replied. “Mr. Saracen is a private man, so I don’t know much about his family. But we’ve been through a lot together and he’s more than earned my undying loyalty. So things are more than professional between us.” He squinted at the road barrels ahead. “Overpass is out.”
Guided by GPS, Reitz took an off-ramp, and then an on-ramp, bypassing the whole mess. In a minute they were back on the main road. “Eyes sharp,” he said, pointing at the flickers in the field, which were fires.
Immediately, a loose squad of men spilled out of the night, waving. Some could have been mistaken for Westerners by dress, while others, Muslims, wore red-and-white checkered headdresses.
Reitz slowed and swerved around them, but Fincher told him to speed up.
“Don’t give them a chance to get in front of us.”
The men in the road had come from makeshift camps where children and women, veiled to the eyes, huddled around burning trashcans. Thousands of Syrians inhabited the dark farmland, naturally segregated by Muslims and minorities, like Christians, but also naturally brought together by the quake. They had migrated from the city knowing that aid would come by air.
“So where are we headed, sir?” Reitz asked.
“To the trade market in Khan al-Shouneh.”
Reitz glanced at him in the rearview mirror. “Sir, surely you’ve seen the satellite pictures of that area. It’s devastated.”
“Sadly, that is the case. But it’s the survivors we need to speak to, not the dead.”
“And I must warn you,” Dr. Fincher said to Reitz. “These people we’re going to see, they’ll be spooked by a U.S. soldier carrying a weapon.”
“I haven’t been a soldier since my tour in Baghdad, sir. I’m a private employee now, have been for years.”
“Just the same, we’ll need you to hold your position outside. Can we count on you to make that happen?”
Reitz addressed Wolfenson in the rearview, as if the envoy had asked the question and not Dr. Fincher. “Sir, that request makes me very uncomfortable. I’ve never lost a client. I refuse to start with you.”
Wolfenson unbuckled his seatbelt and leaned forward to squeeze Reitz’s shoulder. “That’s very commendable, soldier. I can see why Carl holds you in such high esteem. But trust me, behaving rashly is the one thing that could get us killed.”
Out of the darkness, a roadblock materialized, a building collapsed into the road. And in the desert directly before it, several eyes shined.
“What in the hell?” Reitz slowed down and looked through a pair of night vision binoculars. “Canines of some sort. Three of them, just standing there by the side of the road.” He zoomed in and then lowered his binoculars as the beasts resolved in the headlights. “I think they might be coyotes.”
Wolfenson leaned forward again to stare out the windshield.
“Impossible,” Fincher said, squinting. “There are no coyotes in Syria.”
“They could have escaped from the zoo,” Reitz suggested.
“Aleppo doesn’t have a zoo.”
“And yet,” Wolfenson interjected, “Reitz is correct. They are coyotes.”
The animals weren’t moving, even as the Humvee roared near and spewed its exhaust. They stood as monuments unshaken, even by the faults of the land.
Since he was a boy, the hairs at the nape of Fincher’s neck had been sensitive. He had always thought of the hairs as an extrasensory organ, feelers that bristled cold against a very specific stimulus. Out here, at the edge of catastrophe, his hairs should have been on end—he knew that. But they weren’t.
“Pull over,” the envoy said to Reitz.
“Yes, sir.” Reitz parked on the shoulder of the road, but kept the engine running. Wolfenson threw open his door and got out. With the confidence of an accomplished man, he strode toward the feral trinity.
“Sir!” Reitz shouted, scrambling for his submachine gun, an HK MP 5. He turned to Dr. Fincher and said, “What’s he doing?!”
Fincher, ignoring him, got out too.
“Damn it!” Reitz jumped out of the driver’s side and chased after them, breathing in the smoke and the night.
About two dozen yards from the canines, Wolfenson halted. Fincher and Reitz stopped with him. The coyotes’ six eyes shined like moons in the headlights, fixed solely on the envoy.
This close to the threat, Fincher still didn’t feel the chill down his neck, the one that told him which instinct to follow.
Slowly, calmly, Wolfenson took another step forward. The coyotes crouched in unison, moving as one beast with three heads. It growled, six eyes flashing.
Reitz stepped between Wolfenson and the predators, aiming his weapon. The eyes looked right past him to the envoy.
“Sir, if you would, please back up toward the Hummer. Slowly...”
“Yes,” Fincher said, and began to back up himself. “Excellent idea.”
A second later, Wolfenson backed up too, and the coyotes began to bark.
When they could talk privately near the rumble of the Humvee, Wolfenson leaned toward the doctor. “Where are we at with acquiring those pages?”
Fincher hesitated, embarrassed. “We’re working on it.”
The envoy didn’t react to the news. He was too fixated on the coyotes, which Reitz seemed to be holding back with his weapon. “Canis latrans,” Wolfenson finally remarked.
Fincher furrowed his brow. “Latin for... barking dog?”
“Yes, the coyote. They have a gift of making the howls of a few sound like the howls of the many.” He looked toward the roadblock of brick and mortar. “I believe that’s why the Landlord chose them as his messengers.”Fincher glanced at him and noticed that, for the first time, The Angel of Light’s look of fixed confidence had disappeared.
The doctor opened his mouth to say something—but then Reitz fired his submachine gun into the air. The coyotes no longer barked at Wolfenson. They growled.
“Should I shoot them?” Reitz asked.
“No, let them be!” the envoy shouted over the sound of the Hummer. “Time to move out! We need to find a way around!” He and Dr. Fincher got into the vehicle, and Reitz started to retreat slowly from the beasts.
Taking advantage of the brief privacy, Fincher turned to the envoy, who sat beside the bread. “Messengers. For what?”
Wolfenson stared out at the roadblock, resting his elbow on the door rest, resting his hand over his mouth. “To issue a warning,” he said. “A final caveat about my plan.”
With that, Reitz opened his door and climbed in. Behind him, the coyotes howled, and the hairs on the back of Dr. Fincher’s neck finally shivered on end.