"Houarner, always a maestro of the “smart” horror tale, further hones his art in this scary provocative nod to The Thousand and One Nights and other ancient traditions of phantasmal story-telling. Chock full the macabre and populated by the arabesque horrors of a culture far older than ours, this great new work by Houarner is a Must Read for all venturers into weird fiction.”
— Edward Lee, author of White Trash Gothic and City Infernal
Once and now, a little girl who plays with ghosts and spirits is lost in the desert…
No family, no friends, just memories of an old life in a world of cities and cars, and a head full of visions and dreams that don’t belong in the world.
She likes to tell stories.
She stinks of camel.
Once, she will say, “The scorpion was not always a creature of pain, just as each of us was not always what we have become.”
Many times, she wonders what she is worth to the living who sell her, buy and steal her, to the spirits and ghosts and djinn and ghuls she plays with, to the Caravan of the Dead she comes to belong to, to the dead who wake her and are awakened by her.
Once and now, she wonders what others are willing to pay for her stories…
“A redemptive story of the saving magic of story itself. Lose yourself, and find yourself, in the tale of Aini, a virgin storyteller cast adrift by selfish parents to the whims of the desert to make her way in the world…maybe all the way to the Caravan of Dreams. In this short novel, Houarner has crafted a fantastic, beautifully dark journey to the center of the secret heart!”
— John Everson, Bram Stoker Award-winning author of Covenant and NightWhere
Houarner (Dark City) employs beautiful storytelling without much of a story in this short work. By the time Aini was eight years old, she and her parents had long since left the world of skyscrapers and televisions behind to wander through a vast trackless desert on a quest for the group called the Caravan of Dreams. After her parents give her to a passing caravan as part of their quest, Aini discovers that her storytelling enthralls the living and the dead, animals and djinn, in a starkly unforgiving and otherworldly land where the Caravan of War, the Caravan of Healing, and the Caravan of Death all trade. Aini's journey is dreamlike, wrapped in prose as ethereal as her stories ("their laughter danced over the sand like lost scarves in the wind"), but also languid; little happens or changes except the details and scope of her tales, which have more substance than the surrounding reality. Readers who enjoy stories in which the telling of the journey is more important than the destination may appreciate this one.