This is the first Chapter of Necropolis by Moonlight, the first novel I finished. It was set in modern day. The heroine is a graduate student in Egyptology at the University of Chicago.
It came in a dream. Shadows twisted like wraiths along the painted stone. Alex pressed her hands against the masonry wall. The pale rock-work discolored in a pattern reminiscent of hand prints seared through mud and stone from the other side. Her fingers scratched and dug in the soft material, leaving patchy traces of blood on the dusty surface. Her throat dried ragged-raw from the sound that welled up from her lungs.
She sat up, blinking. The room was dark and the cat formed a pleasantly warm weight on her feet. After a moment, the world slid into place. The shadows on the wall came from the featureless city-shapes outside her window and swayed over curling posters and shabby book shelves with the passing of every car. She threw back quilts made of patchwork cotton in various Egyptian prints.
Mertseger growled and resettled herself on the blankets. Her tawny fur glowed where the street light fell across the bed. She yawned, stretching whiskers and pale, intricate facial stripes. Alex reached down to pet her and jerked her hand back. A tiny drop of blood beaded on her palm. The cat gave her an imperious look.
Just a dream. What was it, really? She paused. The memory of it slipped from her mind like shards of mirror turned to quicksilver. She nudged the cat off of the foot of the bed and stretched out under the bed clothes. She was asleep almost before she closed her eyes.
Alex slowly opened one eye and peered at her tall, red-haired roommate. Shocking Pink. She closed it again. Does she have to wear pajamas in precisely that shade of shocking pink? Alex could become ill by just looking at her. It was a pity that Kendra knew that, because she capitalized on it.
“Alex,” Kendra began again in more soothing tones. “Alex, your cousin is on the phone from Egypt.”
Psychology majors. She moaned and reopened one eye.
“Alex, it’s your cousin Paul,” she continued.
With a frustrated a sigh she opened the other eye and sat up. Never trust anyone who begins all of her sentences with your first name.
“Alex,” she lost her patience, “do you want to talk to Paul or not?”
She slid out of bed and picked up her phone, trying to ignore Kendra, whose bright pink pajamas clashed with the one place on her walls where a particularly annoying shade of soothing green paint managed to show from behind her posters.
“Alex? Are you okay? I’ve been to see Hassan. I couldn’t get back to you, but I want you to know that I’m here if you need some one to talk to.”
She had to strain to hear him, because of the static on the line. “I’m fine,” she said. “It was all over years ago. Uncle over-reacted, that’s all. I do have good news. I defended my dissertation last month.”
“Another Dr. Tregaron in the family?” She could hear him beaming all the way from the other side of the Atlantic.
“Signed and sealed. I just have to finish twelve more credits in the spring. You’re still working in the valley?”
“You don’t know the half of it. Alex?”
“Are you still planning to join Hiram’s tour group this winter?”
“In a few weeks actually. Kendra is getting married in Alexandria at Christmastime and I was hoping to get to Egypt in time to sneak off and attend the wedding. Why?”
“Nothing important, really. I was just thinking that perhaps you should stay home this year.” She heard an odd tone in his voice. She had a feeling that it had nothing to do with last month.
“Paul, what is this about?”
“Alex, I think I’ve found it,” he said. There was only one possible it.
“The tomb? Hat–,” she began in a gasp.
“Don’t say it. Not over the phone.”
“But the whole world has been talking about him for years…”
“Something has gone seriously wrong.”
“Paul, you’re in trouble? What’s happened?” Her fingers curled around the receiver, almost as if she could grab his sleeve through the phone line.
“Nothing that a little time and then a lot of media exposure won’t cure,” he assured her. “But, Alex, you’re holding all the cards here and the wrong people know about it. I need to know that you will be on your guard.”
“What cards? What are you talking about?” she demanded.
He laughed suddenly. “You showed me where to dig–was it really sixteen years ago? You and Billy Ramsey. You don’t remember?”
“Gods, Paul. You’re not making any sense. Let me help you. I’ll be in Cairo in two weeks. Flight 54-40 from Athens. Meet me at the airport,” she said.
“Don’t do this, Alex,” his voice raised.
She ignored his tone. “I’ll argue this with you when Dr. Melbourne and I arrive in Cairo.” She paused, rubbing her right temple with her thumb. The pulse point thudded with a sharp pain that built behind her eyes. “Look, this is nonsense. Nothing is going to happen to either of us.”
“Alex, there are some very dangerous people involved…”
“Don’t forget who you’re talking to,” she warned.
“I could never do that, Iskandarah,” Paul’s laughter was forced.
“Good. Then I’m coming to Egypt. You will meet me at the airport on Friday, two weeks from today?”
“I’ll try, but I can’t guarantee it. Alex, I wish you would reconsider. I would move heaven and earth to get you here for this excavation, but I think your life would be in danger. That’s why I don’t want you here.”
“Paul, I think you’re exaggerating. Just a little bit maybe? You’re beginning to sound like one of my nightmares.”
“You’re still having those nightmares? That used to bug the hell out of me when you were younger.”
She shrugged, aware even as she did so that he could not see her, “You get used to it and it’s been a while. I’m worried about you right now. I’ll see you in Egypt, all right?”
A few minutes passed after Paul hung up. She grabbed the pair of jeans folded over the ladder backed chair by her computer desk.
“You’re going out?” Kendra took the telephone back.
Silly question. “The lab. I won’t be able to sleep after that and I want to look at some of the simulations.”