After Ilium

A young man fresh from college meets a mysterious older woman while on his way to the site of ancient Troy. What could possibly go wrong?

Four years of college has not taught Alex as much as he will learn in a couple of weeks on the Turkish coast!

Three thousand years ago Greeks fought Trojans before the fortress of Ilium. 

Now it is 1993 and Alex Parris, fresh from college graduation, cruises to Istanbul, seeking his own adventure at Ilium.  On the way, he meets Elena, a mysterious older woman who draws him into an affair---then forces him to embark on his own Odyssey!

It is a journey that tests his moral strength and his will to survive, and makes him question everything he has been taught about life, love, and the way the world really works! 

All that matters for Alex is what happens AFTER ILIUM.

[Read about the history and hassle of changing book covers here.]

Available as ebook at Amazon (Kindle); paperback (with new cover) coming soon!

READ A SAMPLE.............

Chapter 1

Rage, O Goddess, sing the rage of Achilles, murderous, doomed, that cost the Achaeans so many losses, who sent down to the House of Death so many sturdy souls, the souls of great warriors, made their bodies carrion, food for dogs and birds, while the will of Zeus pushes ever to its end....”
The meaning of rage was becoming clear to the young man, his lips dry and cracked as he mumbled, mouth tasting of dust. And yet he was more concerned with his own fate than with those of ancient heroes, or remembering the opening words of Homer’s epic poem.
Was he meant to be carrion, food for dogs and birds? Under the hot sun he soon could be. He just wanted to go home, see his mother and father again, one last time before he died. He did not want it all to end on a deserted coastal road in northwest Turkey. He did not want his broken body buried a few steps from where he would let go his final breath, only a short drive from the ruins of Ilium.
With eyes closed tightly against the gritty dirt, he saw mostly darkness. At the edges, bronze light tried to sneak inside. A cloud of dust hovered around him, collected by the tepid air and assigned guard duty. He felt his body pressed against the tire tracks in the dirt. The surface beneath him was warm, wet with his perspiration. And his blood, he suspected.
At that moment, a vibration rose under him, the ground shaking, growing stronger. He suddenly realized what was happening. He broke through his stupor and, at the last moment, summoned what energy remained in him and thrust his weakened body over onto his side.
His eyes popped open, immediately fell shut against the bright sunshine. The sun was hot on his face as the vibration continued. A rough noise grew in his ears. He knew he must go further. One more time, he urged himself, and rolled over again. Then again—and found himself dropping into a shallow ditch filled with the same beige dust that covered everything in this dry Mediterranean landscape.
A vehicle rumbled past him, seemed to halt. Its loud, banging engine gave him hope. He guessed it must be a bus, one of the regular routes that wound along the coastline. The bus waited a short distance away, its engine sputtering then settling into a harmonious rumble. He heard the door creak open and some people bound out, chattering. They ran to him, kicking up dust but blocking the sun with their bodies.
The men’s voices were gruff, thickly accented, their breaths heavy as they pulled his body out of its spontaneous grave. They were careful as they laid him on the dirt road. He could no longer open his eyes because of the blinding sun overhead. He felt someone searching his pockets. Another person dripped water on his face and wiped it away with a gnarled hand. A thick finger with rough skin and a wart forced his mouth open and water followed—a warm, awful liquid he could not swallow.
Then he was floating, as though angels had gathered him in their arms to take him home. He kept his eyes shut, feeling the sun burning his face. Several hands lifted him into the air. He levitated over the dirt road—up the slope he had been about to mount before he collapsed—and into the welcome shadow of the bus. Voices, curious cackles, shot at him from the bus windows, words he could not recognize. He was taken aboard after some anxious discussion in the strange language, and the bus lurched into gear, backfiring as it pulled away.
Perhaps, with some good fortune, he might return home, even if it took years. If the gods would allow it. Just knowing he was on his way made his heart warm with hope. As his body fell limp against the floor of the bus, his lips, cracked and bleeding, twisted uncontrollably into a soft, thankful grin, a silly mask he could not control.

+     +     +

“Your name?” spoke a male voice outside the bandages.
He wasn’t asleep, but he didn’t know exactly where he was either. He felt bandages over his face, blocking his view of the world he awoke to. Feeling a bed beneath him and sniffing the medicinal scents around him, he guessed he was in a hospital or clinic. He took a deep breath, pulling himself into alertness, and tried to clear his head. Things did not feel right.
His first act was to see if his jaw would move. It wouldn’t.
“It is wired,” said the same voice. “You can speak, yes?”
He tried again. He could move his jaw a little, he discovered, but the bolt of pain he felt warned him not to do it again. Concerned, he raised his head off the pillow and felt all of the blood rush out of his brain, and fell back.
“It’s on this side, under your ear,” the man explained, and a fingertip tapped lightly on his jaw. “It will heal.”
He wanted to say something, something profound, like “Thanks,” but he feared the pain of opening his mouth.
“What’s your name?” the man repeated.
“A—lex,” he managed after some time testing how much pain he could endure. The name sounded familiar.
A chuckle followed. “Aleksa? Like El-Xandar, the Macedon, yes?”
He didn’t know what the man was talking about at first. Gradually he understood that the man recognized he shared his name with Alexander the Great, who had in 334 B.C. conquered this region of the world, leading an army of 10,000 at the age of twenty. He wondered for a moment how he knew those facts. It had been part of his Senior Seminar, only a few weeks past, his third course on ancient Greek history. With all his reading, all his studies, he was becoming an expert on the subject. So he should have known better, he decided. He should have been out conquering something, instead of only writing about it in well-researched papers for college courses. He was out in the real world now, a world that did not care about him. He was lost in Turkey, he recalled as if waking from a dream, and instead of standing tall among heroes and gods, the land seemed to have conquered him.
“, place, here...Edremit Hospital,” said the man. “You…American?”
Alex could not answer, being too afraid and in too much pain. He did not know of any town named Edremit. He waited for another punch to his gut, a slap to his face, or a knife cutting his belly. That’s all he remembered.
“You a lucky boy.” The man almost seemed to snicker.
Alex sure didn’t feel so lucky. Why was this man asking him such stupid questions? He started to go off on the litany of his lucky breaks: the cool summer jobs at CyberAmerica, being high school salutatorian, getting into a good college, the Webber scholarship, vice-president of his fraternity, getting a first date with Suzie Meyer, their sexual episodes—well, that one time he got to third base, anyway. None of them were due to luck, he argued, hearing the echo of his proud parents’ voices. It was his hard work, his dedication that—
“You alive, yes?” asked the man.
Alex wasn’t sure about that but he would take the stranger’s word for it. He felt too much pain to think for himself. He could not even see who he was speaking to, but he assured himself the man must be the doctor who bandaged his wounds. He tried to smile, not with his mouth and sore jaw, his cracked lips and straight teeth, but with his mind and spirit, hidden beneath the bandage that covered his eyes. From inside his gauzy fortress he could regroup and prepare to continue the campaign.
He listened to the man exit, detecting amusement in his voice.
Campaign? Alex wondered why the man had mentioned Alexander the Great. His head felt heavy, as though one of the Macedon’s huge siege elephants was standing on him. But he was not on any campaign. He had already finished college. He was free. No more homework, no more tests. His head was about to explode. Stop all this history stuff. School is finished. It was one thing to be interested enough in something to study it and achieve a degree in the subject, to be called an expert, but it was very different to infuse one’s daily life with everything one learned in four years of college. Now, with graduation almost two months behind him, what was he supposed to do with his life? No-one who might hear him would understand anyway.
He suddenly felt a vague memory forming around the edges of his mind. He had been touring the site of ancient Troy, what historians call Ilium, when he lost his way. Yes, that seemed right. He was at Ilium. Now where was he? He felt as though he was in a dream: he had entered a classroom prepared to take the final exam and suddenly realized he’d read the wrong books and did not get enough sleep the previous night. And the test was written in Turkish.
A degree in ancient history? What good is that?
Alex tried to sit up, wanting to get some assurance from the medical staff that he was not dreaming. A sharp stab of pain shot through his cheeks. Yet pain could be felt in a dream. The dull ache behind his eyes exploded into a sharp retort that rattled down his neck to the small of his back. He froze. Then screamed—using a mouth which could only mutter a moment before. He was not dreaming.
The doctor rushed in, touching his arm. He had a nurse give Alex an injection which left his head swimming and his body numb.
“You a bad boy, yes?” the doctor grilled him, almost with a chuckle.
Alex wondered what he meant.
“You have bad fall?” the doctor asked him and burst into laughter, which made Alex feel very uneasy, even as he slipped into a relaxed stupor.
If by ‘fall’ the doctor meant physically, like down a well, then no. He was not that clumsy. But a fall from grace, perhaps? That was not out of the question. If only he could speak to the doctor—to anybody.
Alex was still conscious enough to fear his present circumstances. He wanted to speak whole paragraphs to them, not just one or two grunted responses. There was a lot more he needed to tell them, even if they did not understand English very well. If he could just make them understand what had happened to him, maybe someone could do something. He did not belong here. It was all a mistake. What seemed like the next great thing in his life was a very bad mistake. He knew that now. In his pain and fear and confusion, he simply wanted to go home.
He was not some clumsy oaf. He had not fallen down a well, as the doctor had surmised. He had not tripped over a small stone and land face-first into a ditch. He was certainly smart enough to not walk in front of a bus. Filled with anger, Alex could not relax, and that made his pain continue. The drug was weak, he decided. He still felt pain, lots of pain. But even as he tested the threshold, he understood that much of the pain he felt was not from his body, not from his head or his jaw, but from the wounds to his spirit.
Immobilized in the sweat-soaked hospital bed in a stale room without air conditioning, Alex suddenly believed he was not going to survive. He had a feeling in his gut that if he closed his eyes to sleep again that he might not awaken. His ears sharpened, listening to the noises around him, and outside the room—out the windows, people were plotting against him on the streets. Someone was after him, someone who wished to harm him. And he could not even see anyone who might come up to attack him. He would have to listen carefully for footsteps, for breathing, and notice that person’s scent.
The near-sickening perfume of the medicines and ointments merged with the spicy, greasy Turkish food being served to each patient, made him conjure an eerie world where gods and heroes continued playing their mythic games without any concern for the world. The ho-hum attitude of the staff, and the unnerving chuckles of his doctor, whom he was forced to rely on for any treatment and communication, made him think he was soon to be on his way down to Hades to mingle with its zombie hordes. The doctors and nurses who came and went seemed like denizens of the Underworld to him, faceless voices, touching him at random. In his mind, they condensed from opaque gray curtains, as though stepping on stage, and after making their case for his injuries, arguing that he deserved everything he got, they just as fluidly coalesced into the background.
His mind was spinning out of control, the drugs taking effect. When they wore off, they were injected again. How many days had it been since he’d set out to visit Ilium, the site of the ten-year siege of Troy? It was three thousand years earlier, yet this dusty, dried-out, strangely fragrant land with its exotic charms and hidden dangers was the same—strangely the same.
And what alarmed him most about his situation was his realization that, in both cases, they had begun with a woman named Helen.

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