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Authors: Ava Martell

First Man

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First Man

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Ava Martell

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This book is dedicated to my friends, readers and fellow authors who helped bring my dream to life. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your support!


here is no sensation quite like sand slipping through your fingers. Boulders, millennia old, worn down into a thousand thousand grains, sliding through your hands like water, like dust. Every grain has a story, trod upon by goat herders and spice traders, scholars and priests.

I don’t remember a time before the sand. Years after I left Cairo, I tried to reclaim the peace in beaches. Months on Santorini and Mykonos gave me nothing. I hid from the world behind the white domes of the church of Panagia Episkopi. I watched the daughters of fishermen with their eyes of driftwood and seaweed, laughing on the shores of Mykonos, feeding the famous pelican of Alefkantra, and I felt nothing but a longing for the blistering winds and the grit that never left my mouth.

There were two women, and neither of them were meant to be mine. Actaeon was torn to shreds for trespassing on a goddess. I didn’t fare much better.

They say time heals all wounds. It doesn’t. Some wounds can poison your blood and leave behind nothing but the memory of a man. That’s all I really am, a memory. I found myself in her arms, and when she was gone, I had nowhere else to look. I spent years losing myself in a thousand books, a hundred cities. I walked until my feet bled. I wanted to forgot my own name, but theirs never faded from my lips.

Most people have plans for their lives whether they realize it consciously or not. Everyone has things about their future that they accept as constants. Marriage, family, stable job. We just seem to expect them to fall into place around us. I know I didn’t expect my life to turn into what it has.

I’ve had more second chances than most. I’ve started over a dozen times, telling myself that this time will be different. This time I’ll be a person. I’ll settle down and stop running across the world. I’ll stop the endless searching and I’ll stop hearing the endless tap tap tap of the typewriter that follows me in my sleep.

I’m getting a bit ahead of myself though.

I was born in England to a man lost in the past and a woman lost in him. My father was a scholar and an archeologist, sifting through the sands of the ruins of the world’s great civilizations to free a shard of pottery. My earliest memories were at dig sites, watching from the sidelines as my father meticulously brushed dust away from the object with a reverence any zealot would understand.

Finally unearthed, he would begin his narrative for my benefit, spinning tales of Etruscans and Greeks, Spartans and Romans, whatever long dead civilization we were immersed in. The tales of heroes and battles enchanted my young mind. I learned of Hector and Achilles at his knee, staring in rapt attention at my father as he kept me occupied and kept my clumsy toddler fingers away from the priceless artifacts.

Somewhere in the background of those early days was my mother, golden-haired and with a fading smile stretched across her lips. As each year slipped away and I went from toddling across the sands to studying the books in my father’s collections, the smile grew fainter and fainter until it finally disappeared, taking her with it.

There was no argument, no adulterous affair. My home was not broken in that sense of the word. It seemed almost fitting, when I look back all these years later. The dissolution of my parent’s love was just as it had been with a hundred long dead civilizations. Instead of an eruption, their love simply crumbled slowly, brick by brick. Neither of them even noticed as the shifting sands buried it.

She simply walked away.

I never saw her again.

Looking back, I barely registered her absence. I was my father’s son, and I had followed his footsteps out into the desert from the first moment I could stand. In the months after she left, my father’s pace grew frantic. We travelled constantly, and my father’s colleagues had long since stopped mentioning that “the boy should be in school.”

My father hired a tutor everywhere we stayed longer than a week, usually eagerly over-educated graduate students more than happy to drill me on calculus or botany or whichever subject my father thought I should be learning that month.

I was thirteen when my mother left, that awkward age where your teenaged mind convinces yourself that you’re an adult, and I had never known a life with a stable address. My father called us English, but I’d never spent more than a few weeks at a time in that grey, rainy country.

Something had changed, and I didn’t need life experience to know it. My father, a man who had spent days unearthing a mosaic with a miniscule paintbrush, lost the ability to sit still. We’d flit from one site to another, never pausing, and in the background there was always the tap tap tap of the typewriter.

He never let me see the endless words that filled those pages. He never seemed to sleep in those last months, fueled by black coffee and the never pausing frenetic energy of a man trying to cram a lifetime’s worth of knowledge into a few scant months.

I knew.
We never talked about it. Never discussed what I was to do if he became to ill to continue on our quest, but I knew.
I was young but I was far from blind. My father generally treated me more as a colleague than a son, so this sudden urge to protect me surprised us both. He wanted the illusion, and that was the only thing I had to give him.

His sudden awareness of his mortality was written in every stroke of his pen and the endless tapping of typewriter keys.

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