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MANDY HAGER

Resurrection: Blood of the Lamb Book Three (excerpt)

It was hot, the thick damp air trapped within the jungle’s protective dome of leaves. Already sweat dripped down between her breasts, plastering her grimy white shirt to her skin and running down her brow into her eyes. It blurred her sight, transforming the jungle into a rich mosaic of greens, silvers and yellows as the sunlight filtered down in tiny shafts of light. Brilliantly coloured birds, sporting feathers of the most lurid greens, intense sky-blues, flame-orange and stark berry-reds, fled through the upper canopy, protesting at her with ear-splitting taunts.

Somewhere ahead she could hear the sound of running water, and she worked her way towards it. The ground was rising now, growing ever more rocky as the thick ferns and shrubs that formed the undergrowth gave way to a tangle of creepers so densely woven that, despite the aid of the machete, she could not break through. She was forced to follow a more accessible route downhill, and to clamber over mossy rocks and fungus-laced tree trunks in what she guessed must be a gully leading to the coast. In a moment’s inattention she stepped onto an unstable rock that gave way beneath her, sending her skidding on a bumpy ride through loamy leaf-litter and over a sudden drop – right into space. She crashed down onto a shingle bank, followed seconds later by the machete landing only inches from her hand.

At first she thought she was dreaming as a cloud of butterflies welled up around her, winged creatures of every size and colour that flew in groups of three or four like tiny flocks of birds. The shingle bank on which she’d landed adjoined a deep circular pool fed by a small but ferocious waterfall. Around the water’s edge big waxy leaves of wild ginger hosted bright orange butterflies, the swirls on their wings resembling azure eyes; several velvety black moths with vibrant red underbellies hung underneath the leaves like flowers or exotic fruit. Maryam felt as though she’d landed in the Garden of Eden.

As she sat there, stunned, another of the tiny creatures – this one black, with flares of brightest yellow – alighted on her knee. She slowly drew it towards her, until she could examine it at closer range. As she moved, it used its wings to balance, as though adjusting sails, its delicate black legs flexing up and down to hold it firm. Amazed, she watched it unfurl a coiled tongue – or perhaps a feeler – from beneath its head to probe her skin as if searching for food. But when it found nothing to its liking it wafted back into the air and drifted off, gliding on the updraughts from the water’s noisy fall.

She stood now and slipped into the water, unable to resist its pull. It was as tepid as a cooling bath and she waded over to the waterfall to stand directly beneath its flow. Spray pummelled down on her head, stinging like tiny spears, and she burst out of it tingling all over, her skin aglow. How good to wash in fresh water again.

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