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7
2 YEARS

FIRST READ: 'Unholy Night' by Seth Grahame-Smith

He rode his camel across the desert valley, kicking its sides like mad, his eyes the only things visible through the shemagh he wore to fight off the sun and the odor of the beast beneath him. Two overstuffed saddlebags hung off either side of his animal,and a saber hung from his belt, swinging wildly as they galloped along, kicking up the desert behind them. Balthazar turned back to see how close his pursuers were, but all he saw was the Cloud. The same, massive, relentless cloud that had been chasing him since Tel Arad.

The cloud that made it impossible to tell how many men were after him. Dozens? Hundreds? There was no way to know. It was, at present, a cloud of undetermined wrath.

 

From the direction of that cloud there came a faint whistling, almost like the movement of wind through a ravine. At first it was just a single note, its pitch bending steadily lower and growing louder with each second. This note was joined by another and another, until the air behind Balthazar’s head was a chorus of faint whistles—each of them starting soprano and tilting tenor as they grew louder, closer. Just as Balthazar realized what they were, the arrows began to strike the earth behind him.

 

They’re shooting from horseback, he thought.

 

None of the arrows had come close enough to cause concern. Balthazar wasn’t surprised. Any experienced archer knew that firing an arrow from a galloping horse was akin to saying a prayer with a bow. Even at twenty yards, you had little chance of hitting your target. From this distance, it was hopeless—a sign of either desperation or anger. Balthazar didn’t think the Judeans were desperate. They were furious, and they were going to take that fury out on his skull if they caught up to him. After all, the untold legions in that cloud weren’t just chasing the thief who’d made off with a fortune of stolen goods, and they weren’t after the murderer who’d killed a handful of their comrades...

 

They were trying to catch “the Antioch Ghost.”