Novel #20

Beneath The Desert Sands, clocking in at 41,000 words, was one of three long works I wrote or finished in 2009. It has never been submitted anywhere for publication, but I still like the work.

This was written as a sort of homage to H.Rider Haggard’s She, one of my favourite books of all time. In my rather odd attempt to make things more relevent to me, I took the concept of the story, and wrote a non-linear narrative with basically the same set-up but placed in the middle of Outback Australia. A trio of young men go searching for the mythical Lassiter’s Reef (a gold vein that no one has ever found), but instead find the underground domain of a She-like queen. They have Diprotodons and Megalania, they have slaves and they have completely out-of-place temples. And the story does not end well for our intrepid trio.

It was a fun bit of writing, but I don’t think there is really a market for it.

 

EXCERPT

XL

The water splashed down on their heads was ice cold, jolting them into life immediately. One of the dozen or so men holding the heavy stone buckets indicated for the twenty-one laying on the stone floor to stand. They all obeyed with groans and pained expressions.

Kyle collapsed immediately, clutching his wounded leg and screaming in pain. It could not even support his weight for a moment.

Mark was by his side immediately. “You okay, mate?” he whispered.

All Kyle could do was whimper and grasp his thigh with both hands. He turned a bit and Mark winced at the amount of blood that had stained through his pants. Then hands were on him, dragging him roughly away.

He fought back. “Get off!” he screamed. “My friend is hurt! Get off! Get… oof.” The fist that buried itself in his stomach was solid and carried a lot of force, doubling him over and bringing some of the water that he had had before going to sleep the previous night out through his mouth and nose. He was hurled back into line and the spear thrust against his stomach kept him at bay. “You bastards!” he cried. “He’s injured! Can’t you see that?”

As though understanding what Mark was screaming, the man in charge of the soldiers standing over them all snapped his fingers and barked a few orders. Kyle was grabbed and held face down against the stony ground with two men at each of his limbs. A ninth man – the largest one here – held his head still and then the leader ripped his pants away. They were stuck to the skin above the wound, and the sound they made as they came away sent shudders through all those bound in their chains.

Mark had to turn his face. Though relatively small, the injury to his leg had started to ooze a thick greenish pus from around the edges and the expressions that were not well hidden on the faces of the nearby soldiers told him just how bad the small was rising from it. The leader grunted and disappeared down a nearby tunnel. He emerged a few moments later carrying a burning torch which he handed to yet another soldier.

He then knelt down and used his knife to open the wound a little more. Kyle tried to struggle, but was held fast. Then the leader squeezed, allowing the pus to ooze forth in a continual stream of putrescence along with, eventually, blood. Kyle’s head was held firmly but his body shook and quivered with the pain. Only when blood alone came from the wound did the man working on him stop. And he took the torch back.

He said something to Kyle, and then pressed the burning brand down onto the wound.

It took the combined strength of all the men to keep him still until the leader had finished. A bucket of water was then poured slowly over the burn mark and he barked another order. Four of the soldiers carried the whimpering man away, leaving the rest of them to watch in stunned fear as their comrade was removed.

 

Rejection total: 95

 

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