Tourists

Tourists

by Lisa Goldstein

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781497673625
Publisher: Open Road Media
Publication date: 10/21/2014
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 232
Sales rank: 546,766
File size: 892 KB

About the Author

Lisa Goldstein has published ten novels and dozens of short stories under her own name and two fantasy novels under the pseudonym Isabel Glass. Her most recent novel is The Uncertain Places, which won the Mythopoeic Award. Goldstein received the National Book Award for The Red Magician and the Sidewise Award for her short story “Paradise Is a Walled Garden.” Her work has been nominated for the Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy Awards. Some of her stories appear in the collection Travellers in Magic.

Goldstein has worked as a proofreader, library aide, bookseller, and reviewer. She lives with her husband and their overexuberant Labrador retriever, Bonnie, in Oakland, California. Her website is www.brazenhussies.net/goldstein. 

Lisa Goldstein has published ten novels and dozens of short stories under her own name and two fantasy novels under the pseudonym Isabel Glass. Her most recent novel is The Uncertain Places, which won the Mythopoeic Award. Goldstein received the National Book Award for The Red Magician and the Sidewise Award for her short story “Paradise Is a Walled Garden.” Her work has been nominated for the Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy Awards. Some of her stories appear in the collection Travellers in Magic.

Goldstein has worked as a proofreader, library aide, bookseller, and reviewer. She lives with her husband and their overexuberant Labrador retriever, Bonnie, in Oakland, California. Her website is www.brazenhussies.net/goldstein. 

Read an Excerpt

Tourists


By Lisa Goldstein

OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA

Copyright © 1994 Lisa Goldstein
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4976-7362-5



CHAPTER 1

Dr. Tamir's House


Dr. Mitchell Parmenter stood in the middle of a room in Amaz and looked around him. Why in God's name was it so huge? Was it supposed to be a living room? Did Dr. Tamir, with whom he had arranged to trade houses for a year, do a lot of entertaining? If so he was going to be disappointed with the size of the Parmenters' living room, that was certain.

The big room was crowded. Tall oak bookshelves, some with glass fronts, stood straight against two walls, the shelves stuffed with books, manuscripts, geodes, carved and crudely painted animals, an African thumb piano, a nest with two perfect blue eggs. Mitchell recognized a double birdcage from Indonesia made of jackfruit; the two halves, originally intended for the male and female birds, were being used as bookends. Against the other two walls and in the center of the room were long wooden benches, and on the walls hung swords, silk-screen tapestries and wooden masks.

Mitchell ran his hand absently over the back of one of the benches. He was a tall, large man with the heavy grace of a sea mammal, with thick brown hair, gray eyes, a fleshy nose, heavy lips.

The young man who had brought Mitchell to the house moved a little, and the polished wooden floor creaked beneath him. Mitchell turned suddenly; he had forgotten the man was there. "Well," Mitchell said. The word echoed a little in the vaulted ceiling. "I didn't really expect—how many bedrooms did you say it has?"

"Three, Dr. Parmenter," the young man said.

Three, good. One for him and Claire, one for Casey and one for Angela. He wouldn't have to worry about Casey, but what would Angie make of this strange country, this strange house?

The young man led him through a door at the far end of the room and down a long corridor. "The bedrooms, Doctor," he said. In contrast to the living room the bedrooms were small and plain, the hardwood floor scuffed, the white paint peeling in places. And they were too close together, two right next to each other and one across the narrow corridor. Angie was always talking to herself or laughing or screaming, and it would be hard to concentrate. Maybe he could do his work at the college—he'd have to see what kind of office they'd give him. And Casey could have the room next to Angie's—she didn't seem to mind her as much as he did.

The young man showed him the kitchen and the bathroom—one bathroom for the four of them, but at least all the fixtures and appliances looked new—and they went back to the living room. Now he noticed that the walls were made of massive gray stones, fitted carefully one on top of the other. He went closer to examine them. No mortar, everything cut perfectly to match. "When was this house built?" he asked the young man.

"Oh, it would be impossible to say—approximately three hundred years ago. Perhaps more," the man said.

"Doesn't it get cold in the winter?" Mitchell asked.

"Ah," the young man said, "but it never gets cold here."

The young man let himself out. Belatedly Mitchell remembered his manners. "Thank you for showing me around," he called after him. "And thanks for the ride from the airport!" The young man nodded and closed the thick wooden door, bound in brass, behind him.

The silence settled over Mitchell immediately. Despite the sun, despite what the young man had said, he was starting to feel cold. He wished he could remember the young man's name, wished he knew what he did. Probably connected with the college in some way. There had been a hasty introduction in the car at the airport, but Mitchell hadn't been used to the man's accent yet and the words had mostly passed him by.

He paced back and forth across the floor, the polished wood creaking loudly beneath him. Come on, he told himself. This isn't like you. At home you're always yelling for quiet, you need perfect silence to work. Well, here it is—perfect silence. Get to work.

He stopped and looked at a small light fixture shaped like a candle set into the wall. There were eight of the fixtures, he noticed, two on each wall. At least there's electricity, he thought. It must have been added long after the house was built. If that ever goes, we're dead. There aren't any windows in this room. He shivered suddenly.

I can't get to work, he thought. I have to show Dr. Jara the manuscript and get him to tell me if he thinks it's authentic. There's not much point in starting to work if it's a fake.

He paced some more. Too bad Claire isn't here, he thought. Another month, and then Dr. Tamir gets back from his field trip and goes to the States and moves into our house. I hope he likes it. I hope the family likes it here. Maybe this'll get us out of the rut we've been in.


The next morning Mitchell left the gray stone house and stood blinking in the sun, holding his briefcase in one hand and Dr. Tamir's letter in the other. "Across the street," Dr. Tamir had written, "is a statue of a man holding an egg."

Mitchell raised his eyes from the letter. Sure enough, the bronze man across the street stood holding a bronze egg carefully cupped in his hand. His shoulders were thrown back heroically, and he seemed to be looking out both at the future and at his egg. Why on earth would the people of Amaz want to honor a man and his egg? There must be a story behind it, one of those pieces of folklore that some of his colleagues at the university loved to collect. He made a mental note to learn more.

To the left of the statue a small knot of people stood silently, doing nothing. No, they were looking at his house—Tamir's house. He scanned the letter to see if Tamir had had anything to say about them, but there was nothing. He frowned. The group swayed slightly, like a small tide. What on earth were they doing? They were all wearing turbans.

He ignored them and crossed the street, following Tamir's directions. As he got closer to them he saw that only the men were wearing turbans. The women wore bright clothes of blue and red. In the fierce light it hurt his eyes to look at them. Neither the men nor the women said anything to him as he passed.

"Most of the streets in the city have no names," Tamir's letter went on. "Additionally, there was a devastating fire a few years ago, and small earthquakes occur frequently. It may seem to you, before you become accustomed, that the city is moving, that it has a life of its own. But you will soon be able to find your way to the major landmarks. Though if you wish to go anywhere else—I confess I have lived in the city all my life and can still lose my way."

Mitchell reread the paragraph and frowned. It had seemed straightforward enough when he had read it in the United States, but under the different sky of Amaz it took on a new character, a mystical tone. Was this the man who was going to stay in the Parmenters' house for a year? Maybe he should have asked for more references.

A man drove a donkey leisurely across the street and traffic came to a standstill. Cars honked furiously, a man leaned out of his car window and shouted, another man got out of his car and slammed the door angrily, shaking his fist at the man with the donkey, who was taking no notice of anyone. The air had quickly taken on the smell of exhaust fumes, but there was a hint of cinnamon and of something else. The sea?

Mitchell walked on. "Turn left at the empty field," he read. He saw no empty field anywhere on the street, but to his left there were rows of red woven umbrellas, diminishing with distance. A loud raucous noise came from beneath the umbrellas, something like the noise of a carnival—but like that of no carnival he had ever heard. Curious, he went closer. It was an animal market.

A fat woman sat under her umbrella surrounded by cages of parrots wearing the strange colors of tropical flowers. Under the umbrella next to her cages of monkeys were piled one on top of the other, and over them all a monkey hung from the supports of the umbrella as if he were the proprietor. Snakes in terrariums. An ocelot, pacing alone in a cage under an umbrella. And tethered to a stake at the end of the row, all by itself, an elephant raised its trunk.

Mitchell smiled to himself. Casey would love this place. And Angie—would she even notice that she was in a different country? As always when he thought of Angie he felt uneasy. He began to walk faster.

The animal market had to be Tamir's empty field. Mitchell turned left, turned right at the old railroad tracks sinking slowly into the asphalt of the street, walked past what seemed to be miles of stores displaying nothing but bathroom fixtures. "Money?" a beggar asked. He held a bowl firmly between two bare feet, and Mitchell, looking at him quickly and then looking away, thought he might be missing an arm, or two. "Money?" the beggar said again. "Hungry?" Mitchell hurried past him. On his left, on a vacant storefront, someone had scrawled something in unreadable jagged graffiti, and over that, nearly covering it, another hand had drawn stylized, almost circular letters.

Down a street to his right was the marble building that had to be the university, endowed by the silver barons at the turn of the century and since then fallen on hard times. The short street even had a signpost with a name on it in Lurqazi and English: University Avenue. He hurried up to the university and found the anthropology building—low and made of wood, as they all were, once past the impressive auditorium and administration building. The directory gave him the number of Dr. Jara's office and he went down the hall and knocked on the door.

"Come in," a voice—a familiar voice—said.

Mitchell opened the door. Behind the desk, in a tan coat and a brown silk tie, sat the young man who had met him at the airport yesterday.

It was the coat and tie that saved Mitchell; otherwise he would have taken the man for a secretary, and that would have been unforgivable. He walked into the room and stretched out his hand.

"Good morning, Dr. Jara," he said. Should he mention the airport? No, better to pretend the whole thing never happened. Maybe Jara would assume jet lag. Damn, why did he have to be so goddamned preoccupied all the time?

"Ah, Dr. Parmenter," Jara said, standing to take his hand. "Have you brought the manuscript?" He had the same accent as Tamir, Mitchell noticed now, as all the intellectual class of Amaz, slightly British, with a tendency to use a longer word if one was available. Casey had gone through a stage like that, Mitchell thought, smiling as he nearly always did when thinking of his daughter. Thank God she was over it.

But Jara was looking at him. Preoccupied again, Mitchell thought. "Yes, yes I have," he said. He set the briefcase on the desk, thumbed the combination and opened it.

Jara lifted the transparent plastic bag containing the manuscript carefully out of the briefcase. "And you say you discovered this—where?" he said. He was already looking at the colored web of calligraphy, the old Lurqazi letters before the switch to the Roman alphabet.

"At the university," Mitchell said. "In a box labeled 'Arabic Studies.'" He still could not believe his luck.

"Yes," Jara said. He pointed to a colored wheel of letters that seemed to Mitchell to swirl like a kaleidoscope. "That is called The Sun Upon the Waters. But of course you have researched this before you came here."

Mitchell nodded. His impatience took over and he said, "Do you think it's genuine?"

The young man sat back in his chair and placed the tips of his fingers together. "It is too soon to tell, of course," he said. "I shall have to perform tests—"

"It's been tested," Mitchell said. "Judging by the materials it was made some time around the ninth century."

"Ah," Jara said. "But my own tests. But as a guess, examining it now, I think that it may be authentic. It may be." He ran his fingers up and down the plastic. "And it seems to be, as you said, directions—"

"Directions to the Jewel King's sword," Mitchell said. He was almost whispering. "It might be—it might be the Book of Stones itself, mentioned in the epics."

Dr. Jara was silent for a minute, staring at letters as bright as the Jewel King's robes. "You know," he said finally, "I wrote my thesis on the sword. I examined its archetypal aspects, the similarity between it and Excalibur, the sword in the Arthurian stories. And now here you are saying that this sword is a real thing, that it exists. You will turn us all on our heads, Dr. Parmenter."

"Well," Mitchell said, unsure of what answer to give to this, "get back to me as soon as possible. Please. I'm anxious to begin work."

"I should imagine. Yes," Dr. Jara said, nodding. The nod was a dismissal. Now that it came to it Mitchell was reluctant to leave, to hand over the manuscript. He stood for a moment, a big man looming over the small desk, the slight form of Dr. Jara—how embarrassing that he hadn't caught his name at the airport yesterday!—but Jara said nothing more, and Mitchell turned to leave.

He spent a few hours at the library and in his new office, ate lunch at the university cafeteria, but there was really nothing he could do until Jara got back to him. He took out Tamir's letter and followed the directions home.

The crowd of people on the corner across from the house was still there, had if anything grown larger. Looking at them Mitchell realized that he hadn't seen anyone else in turbans in the entire city. He passed the statue, wondering again why the man was carrying an egg. Or was it a woman? The long hair made it hard to tell, and he didn't want to linger near the crowd, as silent and ominous as the sea. He hurried across the street.

The living room was cold and dim as he entered, and he fumbled for the lights and turned them on. Masks and tapestries sprang into existence around him. He frowned. Had that bench always been against the wall like that? Hadn't it been in the center of the room? He walked past the bench and down the corridor toward his bedroom, still frowning, but he had already forgotten about it. He was used to things moving around on him: it was what happened when you didn't pay too much attention to your surroundings.

The room looked as if it had been the site of one of Dr. Tamir's small earthquakes. His mattress had been tossed to the floor and slit down the middle; his suitcases emptied and their contents spread over the room; the few suits he had hung up in the doorless closet were sprawled on the floor, still on their hangers, with their pockets turned inside out. He moved forward like a disaster victim, stood uncertainly in the room, and then with an abrupt gesture he lifted the mattress back onto the bed, feeling it buckle in his arms. He left the mattress half on, half off the bed, ran outside and crossed the street.

The band of people was still there. He looked at them, uncertain of who was the leader, where to start. "Did any of you see anyone go into my house?" he asked.

They seemed to shuffle, to shift like the changing patterns of leaves stirred by the wind. Long years of teaching had shown him that the best way to deal with crowds was to single out an individual. He picked out a young man, drawn by the fact that his turban was on a little crooked, and said, "Did anyone go into my house while I was gone?"

He thought the group was moving at the edges, forming new patterns, but the young man and the people around him stood still. The young man looked at him like an anthropology student doing his first year of fieldwork, as if he expected something from Mitchell. Finally he said something softly in Lurqazi.

"Do you speak English?" Mitchell asked. The dialect of Lurqazi he could read had changed radically in the fifteenth century, and anyway he had never tried to speak it. "Does anyone here speak English?" he asked, spinning so that he could see everyone in the crowd. He stopped, feeling off-balance and out of breath. "Did anyone see anybody go into my house while I was gone?" Silence. He had the feeling they were mocking him, that they could all speak English fluently. "Why are you standing here?" he asked. "Why are you all looking at my house?"

He looked around. Dusk was coming on, though the traffic was as heavy as ever. Car horns called to each other and were answered. No one spoke. "I'm going to call the cops," he said. The crowd stared back at him, mouths open, eyes wide, as though fascinated. "And when I do I'm going to ask them if you have a permit to stand here all day like this. Do you understand?" He turned and left, hoping he had salvaged something from the situation, fearing he had made a fool of himself. He resisted the impulse to look back at the people he felt massed behind him, watching him.

Back inside he walked slowly through the living room and the empty echoing bedrooms, making sure they were untouched. The cluttered front room seemed the same as he'd left it, but how would he know if anything was missing? Damn, now he'd have to write to Dr. Tamir on top of everything else. Then he went to his own bedroom, picked everything up off the floor, rehung his suits, checked to see if anything had been taken. His traveler's checks were still there, and so was the watch Claire had given him for their anniversary. He had taken his passport with him when he'd left.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Tourists by Lisa Goldstein. Copyright © 1994 Lisa Goldstein. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Contents

Dr. Tamir's House,
War in Borol and Marol,
Twenty-fifth November Street: 1,
In the City,
Casey and Rafiz,
Twenty-fifth November Street: 2,
The Jewel King's Palace,
Twenty-fifth November Street: 3,
The Jewel King's Tomb,
A Trip to the Ruins,
A Trip into the Mountains,
Twenty-fifth November Street: 4,
The Book of Stones,
One Way to Twenty-fifth November Street,
Casey and Mama,
Another Way to Twenty-fifth November Street,
The Jewel King's Sword,
Twenty-fifth November Street: 5,
Home,
About the Author,

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