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Authors: Sharon; Hawes

The Matriarch

BOOK: The Matriarch
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This novel is a work of fiction. Any references to real people, events, establishments, organizations, or locales are intended only to give the fiction a sense of reality and authenticity, and are used fictitiously. All other names and places and all dialogue and incidents portrayed in ths book are the product of the author’s imagination.

THE MATRIARCH. Copyright © 2016 by Sharon Hawes

All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews. For information, address Cliff-Hanger Publications, 1239 Monroe Avenue, San Diego, California 92116.

Book Design by GKS Creative, Nashville

Printed in the United States of America

FIRST EDITION

ISBN: 978-0-9972652-2-4 (trade paperback)
ISBN: 978-0-9972652-0-0 (ePub)
ISBN: 978-0-9972652-1-7 (mobi)

Cliff-Hanger Publications

1239 Monroe Avenue

San Diego, California 92116

www.Cliff-HangerPublications.com

To my sons, Will, Andy and Pete

PROLOGUE

It is a day in the spring of 1524. The humidity is fierce, but this population is used to it. Almost two hundred strong, the natives gather at the base of the temple, patiently waiting. It will be a ritual sacrifice to the gods of the Warenkia tribe, an event to be respected and cherished by all. The tribe hopes that the sacrifice of the young virgin they have chosen will be acceptable to the gods, and that they will bless the Warenkias with a substantial crop of corn and barley for the natives as well as grass for their goats.

The crowd roars with excitement as at last the girl is led from the adobe enclosure at the peak of the temple by four natives. She is clothed in a white, gauze-like gown, her feet and arms bare. Her hands are shackled in thick, leather thongs. The five descend on clay stairs to an area about halfway down the temple to a stone alter, where four additional natives and a naked, brightly painted man with a heavily beaded head-dress stand waiting. The shackles are removed and the crowd cheers.

Completely willing—almost eagerly—the young girl sheds her gown and lies down on the flat surface of the alter which is adorned at the head and foot with bright yellow daisies. Her hair is a glowing blue-black against the yellow of the flowers, and she is smiling, so proud to have been selected for sacrifice. Four natives attend her. One at each arm and one at each foot, they hold her limbs loosely in their hands.

The painted native approaches her, in his hands a sharp stone blade, painted red. He holds it out in front of him. He stops behind her midsection and speaks to the crowd and to the sky. He calls the gods by name, and pleads with them to accept this virgin, to enjoy her presence in their midst, and to bless the Warenkias in the coming season. Raising the blade high, out over her breast, he pauses, and the crowd quiets, becoming absolutely silent. The girl looks up at the painted native and his blade.

Suddenly realizing that blade will soon take her life, she cries out, struggling and raising her arms and legs against the natives. They tighten their hold on her limbs and she is helpless against them. The executioner plunges his blade into the chest of the girl while the four natives hold her down. A shattering scream comes as he circles her heart and goes beneath it with his blade, severing it from her body. Her scream is now an eerie, fading cry as he thrusts his other hand into her chest, grasps the heart and pulls it up and out of her chest. He holds it high and the natives see it is still beating in his hand—proof of a successful sacrifice.

The crowd cheers its approval, its joy, its belief that the gods will now smile on this tribe. The painted man respectfully places the heart onto several green leafs that rest on a raised stone near the altar. The natives then lift the girl’s bloody body from the altar and lay it gently into a nearby stone trough, where it quickly slides down the stone passage. It drops into a deep limestone sink hole where it joins the rotting remains of the many previous sacrifices. The girl’s blood and tissue mingle with that of the others. These decaying bodies rest there as if waiting.

Centuries later … in July of 2002 … on a Wednesday at 5:08 in the morning …

Movement—sudden and powerful. Deep within the earth, a mass of molten rock that has been smoldering for hundreds of years bursts into chaotic motion. Heat and pressure grow and gather momentum. With a furious rending of stone, a rough conduit is formed and liquid rock rushes through this virgin channel, blasting it’s way upward toward the surface of the earth. This conduit soon shatters and splits into branches that swiftly fill with ascendant energy. Awesome in its strength, it merges with an unstable tectonic plate, where a violent coalescence takes place. An earthquake is born.

Just east of San Diego, California, on the cusp of the desert, this quake shudders into life.

A boulder, not yet liquid, shoots up into one of the newly formed channels and slams into the wall of a subterranean chamber that has been gradually rising for centuries, and is now some ninety-two feet below the ground surface. A sharp edge penetrates this wall and makes a hole as it gouges its way into the chamber where the rotted bodies of the sacrifice victims are resting in contaminated water. Tiny veins of air weave down through the earth, and for eons have allowed the water there to breathe. Though tainted, it lives.

The hole the boulder has made creates a vacuum that sucks this water into a widening hole and upward, where it bursts into the twenty-first century, reaching another chamber that lies just fifteen feet beneath the surface of a horse pasture.

The quake begins to wane, but the rushing water is still warm and percolates about, as if celebrating its escape from the depths, and its journey upward through rock and time.

Above this new chamber, growing down through the dirt, is a complex root system, a network almost thirty feet across. This is unusual because the fig tree this root system supports is not large at all. It’s a spindly thing, close to fruitless, and stands only six feet tall. In an effort to reach sustenance, the tree has created a plethora of slender roots that stretch downward, their delicate tendrils reaching, searching for nourishment. Until this quake, that search has been nearly futile.

Now, these starving roots bathe in liquid born in sleepy depths centuries ago. They waft back and forth, grateful for this unexpected tonic. At long last, the tree begins to thrive …

“Honey?”

Where is she anyway?

His Lindee, his love—where the hell is she? He walks through the living room, the dining room, and then into the doorway of the kitchen. And there she is. At least Arty
thinks
it’s her.

She stands in the open doorway to the back yard, the fading sunlight making a dark silhouette of her body. What does she have on? Oh Christ, she’s wearing that silly
Kiss the Cook
apron of hers. And apparently … nothing else. And her hair! She’s lost her mind and dyed it some sort of glitzy red. Sweet Christ, what’s she done to herself … his love, his beauty?

“Lin-dee-hon-ee, ice me up a drink, will you?”

She doesn’t move, just stares at him. Arty’s eyes go to her feet and work their way up, trying to find his lady somewhere in this apparition. Lindee’s bare feet are one feature of his beloved’s body that he doesn’t find appealing. They’re big, flat, and ever-so wide. The rest, though, is lovely as always, marred only by the fussy frills of that stupid apron.

Lindee’s face and hair are an unholy sight. As he peers at her, he actually staggers, off balance and dizzy. Teased to an unnatural height, the pale lemon of her hair is gone, changed—no, corrupted—into an oily, rusted red. And her face! She looks like someone from another planet with her eyes so heavily outlined in shiny black. Brows too. What is she thinking? Her lips are the color of her hair—dark and garish—and she has smeared some reddish stuff onto her cheeks.

She stands ramrod straight, hands behind her back. Her appearance and demeanor are decidedly unpleasant and unnerving. Arty is actually … well, yeah, maybe … just a little … scared.

There’s a large bowl of fresh figs on the counter giving the room an odd scent … cloying and sweet.

BOOK: The Matriarch
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