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Robert Davies

Hiram Grange & The Ghosts of Marrakech A

bloodied and exhausted Hiram Grange ran through the crowded souks, and the dessicates pursued him with a dogged patience learned from long centuries spent dreaming beneath the desert sands.

The four ghostly dessicates, cursed guardians of an ancient treasure, were as invisible as the wind until they chose to appear as whirling clouds of sand that continually morphed between wild men and feral beasts with shining eyes of virulent red. Hiram had left the Range Rover miles behind him at the city gates, steam jetting from the crushed radiator, green fluid gurgling from split lines. The windshield shattered, the tires flayed, the very paint scoured from the body. The SUV had carried Hiram from the desert city of Ourzazate over the Atlas Mountains. He had hoped the dessicates could not travel far from their ancient resting place, but as the pink walls of Marrakech arose before him they had appeared out of nothingness on the road and proceeded to wreck the vehicle in a ferocious storm of sand. Hiram had barely escaped with his life. The dessicates were maddeningly insubstantial; despite all his best efforts, Hiram could not hurt them or halt their pursuit. Bullets from his Webley were wasted. His fists met only warm air. His ribald taunts fell on deaf, uncaring ears. But whenever Hiram paused to catch his breath and prevent his hammering heart from bursting, the Shroud Digital Edition • Version 1.02

dessicates would surround him and turn solid to viciously strike before fading to dust again. In those hellish moments, their clawed, flinty hands threatened to shatter his bones. They had shredded his father’s ill-fitting black suit and gouged bleeding runnels across his face, back, and chest. Hiram Grange ran as, crimson-eyed, silent and starving, the dessicates came. They wanted the key back. Hiram emerged from the narrow alley into bright sunshine. He tried to get his bearings. Across the wide square of the Jemaa al Fna, the rectangular pink-stoned Koutobia Mosque loomed. Cautiously, Hiram moved past vendors selling the juice of blood oranges and wheeled carts weighted down with piles of dates, walnuts and figs. Off to his left, slothful black cobras lazed on a filthy blanket guarded by elderly sun-browned men in while djellabas. The crowds seemed to take no notice of the dessicates. Most saw only suggestions of a dirt-laden breeze, where Hiram saw whirlwind beasts born of ageless malice. The dessicates ignored everyone else in the square, so intent was their focus on Hiram. They moved as patiently as predators. They were content to bide

their time and wear him down. If they caught up to him again, Hiram would die. They would force themselves into his nostrils and down his throat and shred his insides with the ferocious heat of the sharqi wind. They had done as much to Addi, the Berber guide that had led Hiram to the desert ruins outside Ourzazate, that had led him to that damned chamber beneath the sands. Hiram pushed himself into the crowds, keeping an eye out for the glowing red eyes of the dessicates. A distant cry caused him to turn his head and, distracted, Hiram stumbled against a young man who spent the day tossing dirty, clinging monkeys onto tourists and demanding fistfuls of dirham for their removal. He took Hiram for a tourist and lost his livelihood as Hiram nimbly ducked beneath the screeching airborne menace and darted between two startled onlookers. The monkey hit the ground and darted away into the crowd trailing its leash, clearly intent on simian malice. Hiram pushed into the crowds again, his eyes scanning. Gnarled old women kindly offered to mark his wrists with intricate henna designs and then cursed him to hell when he passed them by. The 11

Shroud DE V 1.02  

Shroud, the Journal of Dark Fiction and Art presents the Shroud Digital Edition--the sister publication to the nationally-distributed print...

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