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One Thousand and One Dark Nights

 

Once upon a time, in the future…

 

I was a student fascinated with stories and learning.

I studied philosophy, poetry, history, the occult, and

the art and science of love and magic. I had a vast

library at my father’s home and collected thousands

of volumes of fantastic tales.

 

I learned all about ancient races and bygone

times. About myths and legends and dreams of all

people through the millennium. And the more I read

the stronger my imagination grew until I discovered

that I was able to travel into the stories... to actually

become part of them.

 

I wish I could say that I listened to my teacher

and respected my gift, as I ought to have. If I had, I

would not be telling you this tale now.

But I was foolhardy and confused, showing off

with bravery.

 

One afternoon, curious about the myth of the

Arabian Nights, I traveled back to ancient Persia to

see for myself if it was true that every day Shahryar

(Persian: شهريار, “king”) married a new virgin, and then

sent yesterday's wife to be beheaded. It was written

and I had read, that by the time he met Scheherazade,

the vizier's daughter, he’d killed one thousand

women.

 

Something went wrong with my efforts. I arrived

in the midst of the story and somehow exchanged

places with Scheherazade – a phenomena that had

never occurred before and that still to this day, I

cannot explain.

 

Now I am trapped in that ancient past. I have

taken on Scheherazade’s life and the only way I can

protect myself and stay alive is to do what she did to

protect herself and stay alive.

 

Every night the King calls for me and listens as I spin tales.

And when the evening ends and dawn breaks, I stop at a

point that leaves him breathless and yearning for more.

And so the King spares my life for one more day, so that

he might hear the rest of my dark tale.

 

As soon as I finish a story... I begin a new

one... like the one that you, dear reader, have before

you now.

 

 

Chapter One

 

Maggie

 

“Fifth bar of the night!” Jeremy’s speech was slurred but his eyes were filled with an unholy glee.

“Personal best,” Peter agreed with a snort, holding up a hand for a high five that Jeremy attempted to oblige him with but failed, swinging wildly and almost toppling off his chair.

Excellent.

I rolled my eyes and sipped my vodka soda, glancing out of the corner of my eye to see Sam’s expression. He wasn’t drunk like his other two friends—he was too responsible to let himself get trashed in public. Either way, though, I knew at least two of them were only sips away from tearfully telling me how much our collective friendship meant to them, and I so did not want to stick around for that.

“Maybe we ought to hit the road,” I murmured to Sam, jerking a thumb over my shoulder toward our drunken companions. “These two can grab a ride, right?”

“Wait, wait, wait.” Jeremy held up a hand and then dropped it back in his lap with a smack. “We didn’t get to the main event.”

“Yeah,” Peter agreed, clicking his beer against Jeremy’s.

“Maybe we better talk about it another night,” Sam said with a patient smile.

I shook my head and sighed. This ought to be good. “What’s the main event?”

Sam rolled his eyes. “It’s what my genius friends have taken to calling our big snowboarding trip.”

“Not exactly.” Jeremy eyed Sam, then turned to me. “The main event for tonight was going to be us convincing you to go. Peter and I figured if we got enough booze in you, you might reconsider.”

I swirled my drink with its tiny red straw and frowned. “And how do you think your plan is going so far?”

“You tell me.” Jeremy waggled his eyebrows comically. “Don’t you want to spend more time with us on the snow-topped mountains of Colorado?”

“Appealing as that sounds, no,” I shot back with a grin.

“Come on. You have no idea how it feels to slice through the powder on your snowboard,” Peter protested. “It’s like heaven on earth.”

“I also have no idea what it feels like to break my leg, but I don’t want to find that out either,” I countered easily, taking another long pull from my drink. “Did you know that more than forty people died snowboarding last year alone? A snowboarder who gets on a mountain twenty times a year is likely to be injured once every seven years. You can’t argue statistics like that.”

“It could be fun…” Sam hedged with a shrug.

“Breaking my femur after wildly careening down the side of a mountain? I think not.”

Sam gave me a dead-eyed stare. “Not that part, scaredy cat. The trip, I mean. These guys aren’t right about much but you should come along. We’re doing New Year’s in style. Hot tubs and hot toddies in a winter wonderland.”

“Did you not get the stats I sent you the last time you tried to convince me to go snowboarding?” I demanded.

“Some of us don’t live our whole lives by the numbers,” Sam said, a teasing light making his dark blue eyes sparkle.

Stop it, idiot.

Best friends weren’t supposed to notice things like that about each other. It was just weird.

“I fail to see what’s wrong with it.” I shrugged, feeling suddenly warm despite the relative chilliness of the room, and sucked down the rest of my drink.

“Come on, Mags. Take a risk.” Those eyes searched mine and, despite myself, I could sense my resolve weakening. I hated saying no to him, even when his daredevil lifestyle threatened my cocoon of safety. We were as different as night and day, but for some reason, we clicked and I felt more comfortable around him than pretty much anyone else.

A stab of guilt shot through me and I cleared my throat.

“I really can’t. Trevor and I probably have plans, I just can’t remember what they are.” I pulled out that feeble old excuse and Sam glanced at his other friends before turning his attention back to me.

 
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