THE ENIGMA OF THE DESERTNovel, first chapter:

April 7th, 2014, 11am

The smoke of my pipe slowly accumulated on the roof of my small office. The silence in that room was the highlight, because there was not a sad window in the basement, and the street noise did not reach these depths.

I emptied my pipe, cleaned and returned to fill. My lighter fuel needed new load, and I needed several tries to take the fire. I took a couple of sets and let out the smoke slowly, trying to enjoy the soft snuff.

I stood and I stared at the shelves full of books, the shelves filled with scrolls, paintings, small statues, and crates where protruding partially enclosed pieces of pottery and metal pieces, once, they were just something else, but that thousands of years later, were coveted treasures.


I was deliberating about all that, when behind the glass door of my office, it drew a silhouette known. The guest knuckles hit the wood gently and I went to open.

-Ricardo Caballero. - Said the man. - I see you are very busy. Should I be back later? –

-Julian, less jokes. - I said making a gesture to let.

Julian was an old friend, in his sixties, plump and rosy cheeks, he was a prominent bald hair left only on the sides of its head. He wore a thick rimmed glasses and old, who only took off to get the reading.

Despite not being a known type, within the archaeological circle would have been taken as an eminence, if he had not spent looking fanciful treasures only managed to undermine his reputation and over again, at the same time would reap failure.

-Sorry I cannot offer you a drink. I have only a few cans of iced tea, water and refreshments, although I have made coffee this morning. –

-Give me a soft drink, coffee is too hot. –

  • What brings you to my office? - I said while I opened the small refrigerator, similar to those of the hotels, and pulled out some cans of soda.

-There is making an excavation in Libya a few hundred kilometers east of Jalu. –

-I heard something. -I handed Julian a glass of bubbly soda. - You got it? –

-No. My friends just keep me informed slightly. You know, my specialty is focused on Central American cultures. –

  • Have they found anything? –

-Yes. - Julian got up and started walking around the room. - Not what they expected. –

-I don’t understand. –

-You will see … What do you know about that area? –

-At first, residents were used as mercenaries, is one of the African countries with higher life expectancy, its official language is Arabic, but also speak Berber and Italian, Islam are almost entirely. –

-Approved. - Said with a smile.

-Tell me … - I said puzzled. - What have they found? –

-Currently a dome, buried in the desert. –

-Can be of any mosque or any construction of a village buried by the sands. –

-It is not known. No evidence of any construction in that area. Neither mosques, nor towns, nor cities, nor even a fucking camp.–

  • So, what is that mystery?–

-The official version is that it is not known what was found. But I have called someone to investigate, which should know more or less what it is. –

-Not only have brought you the mystery, it brings the excavation already … - I sat in the chair with a glass of soda. I was not entirely sure, but thought there was something Julian wanted to tell me, or that he was afraid. - Who have they called? –

Julian hesitated, shook his thick fingers nervously over the armrests of the chair, a glass of soda almost trembling.

-Julian. - I said almost understanding. - Who have they called? –

-They called Laura. - Said looking down at last.

Laura. He gave no name, but seeing his attitude I knew who he meant. Laura Malto, the woman with whom I shared my college life, and who left me the day of our wedding to go to excavations near Bethlehem. It was almost eighteen years since I knew her, and the pronunciation of his name had fallen like a stone on me.

-Laura … - I said thoughtfully, almost felt like I had sunk into the chair as if a hole is involved. - But Laura is an expert on Christianity … it is impossible to have a church buried there. –

-For it is they’ve called her. And the people who run that excavation is not that make mistakes when calling someone. –

  • Is she still with…? –

-Yes. Since the excavation of Bethlehem they have not separated. –

-I understand … - All my past came to my mind, I have tried to forget, but had returned like a boomerang question.

-You could not compete, Ricardo. Neither with his passion for digging nor with … –

-I did not mean to compete. - I interrupted. -I only try to understand why. She knew that I would have gone to Bethlehem with her, even postponing the wedding. –

-That was not your destiny. –

I suddenly remembered my pipe. Turned off, and remained on the table. I picked it up and turned on.

-The pipe will bring you to the tomb. - Julian said leaving his empty glass on the table.

-If bacteria, pollution and all the poisonous particles that bring the mummies by the rarefied air in which they have been for millennia, didn’t kill me, I doubt that a pipe shouldn’t. –

-Your father also said the same. –

His voice was off and his flashing blue eyes had lost their luster.

-It was not what killed him snuff. An arrow that was found in the jungle, it still had curare.–

-I know. It is ironic … for three months he had stopped smoking for a prescription, and they gave him only a year old if still smoking … and what killed him was something else. –

-You were friends for more time than I was his son. I knew them since childhood. Thanks to you I dedicate myself to this. –

-And you honor the memory of your father. A young smoker with great intelligence and huge general knowledge. I remember when you gave your first history book on the Huns. You looked very seriously, almost suspiciously, but when you opened the first page, you could not detach it.–

-It was a litmus test, if I loved that book, I knew that everything in the story I would call attention. I still have the book. - I pointed my finger towards the bottom shelf of the office, there were piled several books, among them was they gave me. - I remember one year after I finish the book, my father took us to a trip to the Alps. It was wonderful. –

-Yes. I remember I had to take care of your plants for a month. - Julian said with a smile between pleased and complacent.

-And tell me … - I said absently, trying to look uninterested. - How long have they called Laura?–

Julian smiled knowing that uncertainty and curiosity was killing me from the first time I called his name.

-About two weeks. - Said at last. - I guess they still have not sent the ticket. –

  • How did you hear? –

-Rumors by the circles in which we operate are the order of the day. And when you have something, you half believe you, but when you have so many people, you start to take your questions. –

-Rumors, rumors always. - I said, getting up from the chair. And lay off the pipe on the table was overturned and some snuff filled the table. As always. - How to trust the rumors? –

  • Have I ever lied? –

I had serious doubts about whether what he told me was true, too strange, too coincidental, eighteen years later, just her, still the same person…

-No. - Answered decided. - You never have, but I find it so strange … –

-Just ten years ago, I know. –

-Ten years … never forget that funeral. That day everyone just told me how much I like him. The good person was, the great teacher who was the great archaeologist who became … but I, and only I could say, “All this does not matter, what matters is what a good father and husband who always was.” –

-Did you back to the cemetery? –

-No. A stone with two names and some dried flowers, is all there. No need to go there to remember them. –

-Sometimes is good to put the record straight. –

-Well. I guess. But for now I’d rather not go. No, I lost nothing there. –

-What are you doing now? - Said looking at the papers piled on my desk.

-I got some maps of Piri Reis, had long been looking for them and you know it. –

-Piri Reis, the Turkish admiral … Was not he who mapped South America and Antarctica with valleys and rivers in 1514? –

-Yes, that’s they say. –

Julian rose from his chair and flipped through the papers. Away some yellowed folios, and seemed not to pay attention to the maps, just picked up a book that was below that amalgam of data.

-The Critias and Timaeus. - Said watching his back. - Do you still hang out with that of Atlantis? –

-You know I never give up on it, in my efforts to find the continent. –

-It’s a myth. You know that. –

-The same is said of Troy, and see. Now is as real as we walk the city. –

-Of course Ricardo.- He said, shaking his head, tired of discussing the same with me every day. - You’re incorrigible. –

I watched him scrutinizing the pages of Plato’s dialogues with more curiosity than he was willing to admit. We all have shameful secrets, and passions that can lead to madness.

  • You know. - I said after a pause. - I think I could go on a journey to find some data. –

Julian looked at me questioningly, he knew what I was going to say, but he needed to hear it from my lips.

  • And where will you find such data? –

  • How about Libya? –

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Carlos Capella

Escritor desde el año 1994, 6 novelas terminadas, autor de la saga EL ENIGMA DEL DESIERTO. Writer since 1994, 6 completed novels, author of the saga THE ENIGMA OF THE DESERT.

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