Ararat

Ararat

by Christopher Golden

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Overview

Bram Stoker Award Winner for Superior Achievement in a Novel

"An extremely gripping story, with echoes of John Carpenter’s The Thing...It’s a creepy, chilling book." —Scott Smith, New York Times bestselling author of The Ruins and A Simple Plan

"Part psychological horror, part supernatural thriller, Ararat is a masterclass in supernatural suspense. Don't read it before bed!" —Sarah Pinborough, New York Times bestselling author of Behind Her Eyes

"Ararat is a rollicking and horrifying adventure...as relentless as it is addictive." —Paul Tremblay, author of A Head Full of Ghosts and Disappearance at Devil's Rock

New York Times
bestselling author Christopher Golden’s Ararat is a supernatural thriller about a mountain adventure that quickly turns into a horrific nightmare of biblical proportions.

Ararat is the heart-pounding tale of an adventure that goes wrong…on a biblical scale. 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 a buried ancient ship that many quickly come to believe is 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 something hideous. 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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781250117069
Publisher: St. Martin''s Publishing Group
Publication date: 04/18/2017
Sold by: Macmillan
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 619
File size: 3 MB

About the Author

CHRISTOPHER GOLDEN is the New York Times bestselling author of Snowblind, Dead Ringers, Tin Men, and Of Saints and Shadows, among many other novels. With Mike Mignola, he is the co-creator of two cult favorite comic book series, Baltimore and Joe Golem: Occult Detective. Golden is also the editor of such anthologies as Seize the Night, The New Dead, and Dark Cities, and the co-host of the popular podcast Three Guys with Beards. He lives in Massachusetts.
CHRISTOPHER GOLDEN is the award-winning, bestselling author of such novels as The Myth Hunters, The Boys Are Back in Town, Strangewood, and Of Saints and Shadows. He co-wrote the lavishly illustrated novel Baltimore, or, The Steadfast Tin Soldier and the Vampire with Mike Mignola, and the comic book series featuring the same character. His novel Ararat won the 2017 Bram Stoker Award for best horror novel.

Read an Excerpt

Ararat


By Christopher Golden

St. Martin's Press

Copyright © 2017 Christopher Golden
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-250-11706-9


CHAPTER 1

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.

CHAPTER 2

A light rain fell on the streets of London and nobody seemed to notice. Some of the people passing by on the King's Road had opened their umbrellas, but most just did up an additional button on their coats, unfussed about a bit of drizzle. Adam Holzer shoved his big hands deep into the pockets of his gray, woolen coat. Born and raised on Long Island in New York, Adam had spent plenty of gloomy November days cursing himself for not paying more attention to the weather forecast. Apparently, moving to London hadn't changed that about him any more than he expected the not-too-distant arrival of his thirtieth birthday would.

Thirty, he thought. Shit.

He'd climbed mountains all over the world — scaled Mount McKinley with his father at the age of seventeen — and now he would catch his death on the curb in front of his prospective venue because his fiancée was late again and he hadn't had the good sense to bring an umbrella.

He tugged his phone from his pocket and glanced at the time: 1:37 p.m. They'd been meant to meet at one o'clock. Granted, he'd made the appointment with the manager of the Bluebird for one thirty, anticipating that Meryam would be delayed as she always seemed to be of late, but soon he would have to go inside without her.

No texts from Meryam, either. He started to tap out another to her, saw the previous two he had sent, and changed his mind. She had either seen them and chosen to ignore them or she hadn't, and one more wasn't going to magically speed her arrival.

Adam glanced over at the front of the Bluebird, a low-slung white building completely out of place among the lovely brick and stone row houses around it. Most of them had shops on the first floor — he stared at the facade of the apothecary across the street. On a rainy day such places sold shitty umbrellas for five quid apiece.

But the manager of the Bluebird would be waiting. He tried to remember her name — Emily something — he'd written it down on a scrap of paper he kept in his wallet. The Bluebird had a wonderful reputation as a wedding venue, plenty of room inside for both the ceremony and reception. The pictures he had seen online showed a lot of silver and white and mirrored surfaces, happy people making toasts with fluted champagne glasses, and pretty little girls cascading flowers along a makeshift aisle. String quartets smiled in the pictures and the brides and grooms seemed very happy.

Perfectly lovely.

At this point, Adam would have gotten married at the statue of Admiral Nelson in Trafalgar Square with pigeon shit instead of rose petals, if only Meryam would agree to a venue. She wanted to be married in London, and he understood that. It was her hometown, after all. But a bit more guidance than just London would not have gone amiss.

Stuffing his phone back into his pocket, he started along the frontage fence, peering through the wrought iron, hoping Emily-something wouldn't be waiting for him at the door. A droplet of rain slid down inside his shirt and along his spine and he shivered, surrendering his mood to the gray of the day.

"Adam!"

He turned to see Meryam hustling toward him, her bright red umbrella bold as Lady Godiva out there in the mournful gray of that overcast day. The damp weather had turned her short brown hair into an unruly mop of curls and she wore a grin he knew all too well. It screamed a brand of mischievous glee that he found alternately terrifying and intoxicating.

"I started to think you weren't coming," he said.

Meryam tilted her head and the umbrella with it. "I wouldn't just leave you standing here, love."

"You mean like you did last Monday at Battersea Arts Centre?"

She swept up to him, sharing the cover of her red umbrella, and slid her right arm around him, yanking him in close for a kiss. Adam accepted the kiss, exhaling some of his annoyance, but he refused to let himself smile at her.

"I've apologized for that a dozen times," Meryam said. "You know what I'm like when I'm writing. I sit in Wilton's and lose all track of time."

The rain began to fall harder, fat drops whapping off the umbrella overhead. Its protection created an intimate space between them, as if the whole world had been shut out. The effect made it harder for him to maintain his gravitas, and after all, she was only ten minutes late.

Forty, he reminded himself. As far as she knows, she's forty minutes late. You told her one o'clock.

He had nearly forgiven her for last Monday, but only nearly. They were working on their third book together and taking it in turns, as they always did. Meryam certainly made a habit of losing herself in the work, so Adam could well imagine how easily she might have been sitting in the pub, drinking tea and tapping away on her laptop. Except it hadn't been the first time. He had proposed to her in Scotland at the beginning of May on the peak of Ben Nevis, which they'd climbed just to have a picnic. At first Meryam had seemed almost giddy with excitement, but ever since they had begun the actual planning of the wedding, that had changed. She'd been indecisive on everything from flowers to invitations to the venue and had been late for nearly every appointment.

Now she held him firmly against her. The umbrella swayed backward and a curtain of rain slid off the edge and splashed them.

"Stop it," she said.

"Stop what?"

"You know."

Adam kissed her forehead. They were equal in height — five foot ten — and sometimes she returned the gesture. Not today.

"Let's go inside," he said. "The manager will be waiting —"

"If she hasn't given up on us entirely," Meryam finished for him.

"Yes." Adam stared at her. "Look, I'm glad you're in such a splendid mood, but I haven't eaten anything but an apple today, so I'd like to get this over with. And we both know you don't have any patience for the whole process, so let's just move inside, out of the rain, and then you can reject this place like you have all the others and I'll go on looking while you try to figure out how to tell me you don't want to marry me after all."

Her grin faltered. Sadness flooded her eyes and she pushed him away, out into the rain, out of the intimate shelter of her red umbrella.

"That's not fair," she said quietly, words almost lost as a truck rumbled past. "And it's not true."

He exhaled, then shoved his hands into his jacket pockets again. "What am I supposed to think?"

"That I love you, and I've been distracted with this book and with organizing our adventures for next year, and I know you're going to say there's only one adventure that you're interested in right now, but one of us has to focus on how we make a living and right now that's me."

Adam felt his shoulders sag as he mentally surrendered. He couldn't argue the point. She might not have been paying enough attention to wedding planning, but he hadn't been focused enough on the long months they would spend in South America, rambling around the Andes and climbing Aconcagua, the highest mountain outside of Asia. Their explorations would form the basis of their fourth book.

"I'm standing in the rain," he said, finally allowing himself to smile, if a bit halfheartedly. "Can we go inside?"

Meryam's mischievous grin returned. "Afraid not, love. Appointment's canceled. In fact, all other appointments are canceled for the forseeable future."

"You just said —"

"I love you and I want you to be my husband, but could you shut up a moment?"

Adam pressed his lips together, asking the question with only his eyebrows.

Meryam nodded in satisfaction. "Excellent. Here's the thing. Cancel it all, because we're flying to Turkey tomorrow. I got a call from Feyiz. You remember him?"

Of course he did. The man had become a friend during their time on Mount Ararat, and he was the best guide they had ever worked with. Feyiz and Meryam had shared an instant rapport that might have made Adam jealous except for one vital fact.

"We're invited to Feyiz's wedding?" he said. "He's already married."

Meryam grabbed the lapel of his coat and pulled him toward her, back under the umbrella's protection, and he felt her hot breath on his cheek and saw the thrill in her eyes.

"Don't be daft. You saw the news about the earthquake a few days back. And the avalanche."

"Terrible," Adam said.

"It is that, but it's wonderful, too. The Turkish authorities won't let anyone up there, afraid of aftershocks and the like, but Feyiz and one of his cousins went up anyway. The guides need to know what damage has been done, scout the terrain, all of that."

Adam gave a skeptical sigh. "And I suppose they found Noah's ark."

Meryam gave that curious head tilt again. "They spotted a cavern up on the southeast face that wasn't there before. Big one. Geologically, it shouldn't exist."

He took his hands out of his pockets and matched her head tilt with his own, studying her eyes. Had it been anyone but Feyiz, he would have insisted on more information. Hell, con firmation.

"It's probably nothing," he said in a tone that wasn't convincing even to his own ears. "And you know damn well the elevation is too great for any flood to have risen that high."

"But."

He nodded slowly. "But what if it's something and we could be the first ones there? Feyiz loves us. Especially you. He could get all the gear we'd need, be point man for the team we'd need for this."

"I've already asked him. It's happening now."

Adam's grin matched Meryam's. "This is crazy. You said yourself the Turks aren't letting anyone up there. The Kurdish guides can scout around, sure, but we're foreigners. Even on an ordinary day, we'd have to go through the licensing process before we could climb."

Meryam held him close again, touched noses. "Let's just get there. Feyiz knows who to pay off. When they lift the ban, I want to be the first ones up the mountain."

"Aftershocks ..."

"Oh, please, Mr. Holzer. I've seen you do the stupidest, most dangerous things — most of which could have killed you — and you're worried about aftershocks? This is the stuff we live for, and let's not forget how badly you want that television show you're always going on about. I want to see what's inside that cave, and I want to get there first. You try to tell me that you don't want the same and I will know that you are lying through your bloody teeth."

Adam laughed and shook his head at the insanity of it all.

Then he took her hand and together they hurried along the sidewalk, red umbrella bobbing overhead. But Adam didn't care about the rain anymore. By the time they reached Turkey it would be the first of December, and a little bit of chilly drizzle would be nothing compared to what awaited them on Mount Ararat.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Ararat by Christopher Golden. Copyright © 2017 Christopher Golden. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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