Ararat: New Excerpt

Ararat by Christopher Golden is the heart-pounding tale of an adventure that goes wrong—on a biblical scale (available April 18, 2017).

When an earthquake reveals a secret cave hidden inside Mount Ararat in Turkey, a daring, newly-engaged couple are determined to be the first ones inside … and what they discover will change everything.

The cave is actually an ancient, buried ship that many quickly come to believe is really Noah’s Ark. When a team of scholars, archaeologists, and filmmakers make it inside the ark, they discover an elaborate coffin in its recesses. Inside the coffin they find an ugly, misshapen cadaver—not the holy man they expected, but a hideous creature with horns. Shock and fear turn to horror when a massive blizzard blows in, trapping them thousands of meters up the side of a remote mountain. All they can do is pray for safety. But something wicked is listening to their prayers … and it wants to answer.

ONE

Just past eight o’clock on the last morning of November, the mountain began to shake.

Feyiz froze, breath catching in his throat as he put his hands out to steady himself, waiting for the tremor to end. Instead it worsened. His clients shouted at him in German, a language he did not speak. One of the men panicked and began to scream at the others as if the devil himself were burrowing up through the heart of the mountain to reach them. They stood on the summit, vivid blue sky rolling out forever before them, the frigid air crisp and pure. An idyllic morning on Mount Ararat, if the world had not begun to tear itself apart.

“Down!” Feyiz shouted. “Get down!”

He dropped his trekking poles and sank to his knees on the icy snowpack. Grabbing the pick that hung at his hip, he sank it into the ice and wondered if the six men and three women in this group could even hear him over the throaty roar of the rumbling mountain.

The Germans mimicked his actions.

On his knees, holding on and hoping that the snowpack did not give way, Feyiz tried not to count the seconds. The Germans shouted at one another. One woman wore a wide grin, her eyes alight with a manic glee as she reveled in the terror of the moment.

A man grabbed his arm. Thin face, prominent cheekbones, eyes like the sky. “How long will it last?” he demanded in his thick accent.

As if this sort of thing happened all the time. As if a mountain guide could live to be thirty-two years old on a mountain that shook itself apart with predictable regularity. Feyiz only stared at him, then pressed his eyes closed and prayed, not only for his wife and their four sons down in the village of Hakob, but for anyone waiting in Camp Two. Here at the summit, all was snow and ice, but the terrain at Camp Two was nothing but piles of massive volcanic rock, and he did not want to think what might happen if a slide began.

“Twenty seconds!” one woman shouted in English, staring at Feyiz. “How much longer?”

He held his breath as the mountain bucked beneath him, the roar filling the sky. Eyes open now, he stared at the peak of Little Ararat in the distance. His heart thumped inside his chest as if it were suffering a quake of its own.

The ice popped and a massive fissure opened, the sound like a cannon.

One of the Germans began to pray loudly, as if his god needed him to shout to hear him over the thunder of the quake.

It stopped as suddenly as it had begun. Feyiz glanced around at his clients, the roar of the mountain still echoing across the sky, and shot to his feet. He forced himself to steady his breathing—he could not afford to hyperventilate up here in the thin air of the summit—and bent to retrieve his trekking poles.

“Come. We must descend now.”

“No!” one client barked—the man who’d been praying. “What if there are aftershocks? Or … there may be a quake worse than this one. Another on the way!”

Feyiz stared at him, watched his breath mist in the morning air. These men and women were not friends but workmates, all executives for the same technology firm in Munich. They knew one another but did not love one another. All save one were inexperienced climbers, dressed for the weather and equipped with quiet determination, but their lives had not prepared them for this moment.

“Listen carefully,” Feyiz said, his lips brushing against the little bits of ice that had collected on the fringe of his mustache. “My wife and children are down the mountain. My cousins and their families are carrying packs and guiding horses even now, bringing climbers … bringing tourists … to this place. I must see to their safety. So how long will you wait here? If there are aftershocks, they may come in hours or even days. Will you climb down after nightfall? I am going now.”

He turned, the crampons attached to his boots scraping ice and digging in as he began to trek back along the path they’d used on their ascension.

“Stop!” the praying man barked. “You have been paid to guide us! You must—”

Feyiz turned to glare at him. “Must what? Put your welfare above my family’s? If you need a guide to get down, come along.”

As he worked his way off the summit, he thought of the many hours ahead—hours in which his family would be just as worried about him as he was about them. Behind him, he heard Deirdre, whom he thought the most senior of the executives, snapping at the praying man. When Feyiz glanced back, he saw that they were following.

He had marched only another dozen steps when he heard the mountain begin to roar again.

“I told you!” the praying man shouted.

But Feyiz did not drop this time. Ararat did not shake beneath his feet, not the way it had bucked before. This time the sky trembled with the noise and he felt the tremor, but the sound had heft and direction. He turned toward the southeast ridge, and he knew the roar he heard was thousands of tons of ice and volcanic strata giving way.

Avalanche.

This late in the year, no one would be climbing the southeast face, but his village was at the base of the mountain’s eastern edge, toward the sunrise. As he listened to the booming clamor of the ice and rock, he picked up speed, his clients forgotten. They would have to keep up or make their own way.

The mountain killed people. It always had.

Feyiz prayed that the mountain had not killed his people.

 

Copyright © 2017 Christopher Golden.

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Christopher Golden is the New York Times bestselling author of Snowblind, Dead Ringers, Tin Men, and Of Saints and Shadows, among many other novels. 

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