Check back every week for a new instalment of the online exclusive by Richard Cozicar The Ice Racer
Crowds of people flood the streets as we walk the final blocks. Echoes of footsteps and muffled conversations are heard on the main street before the masses of people appear. Still a block away from the palace steps the people begin converge forcing us to slow down. I take the opportunity to look around.
What started out as a few scattered people only blocks ago quickly transforms into clusters as other individuals join them in the walk toward the palace. The clusters rapidly grow in size until they finally meld with the already waiting crowd.
Our own arrival is easily masked as we blend in with the throngs of townsfolk. Standing in the middle of the growing mass of onlookers, I watch over the heads of the crowd waiting silently. Each of us is painfully aware of the impossibility of the task ahead. Being surrounded by all of these people our small group feels even more diminutive.
I scan the crowd and try to read the faces. Will any of these bystanders rise up to help us once we make our move or will they turn in protection of the Prophets? I search for a way to disrupt the trial until Marcus returns, if he returns. Our hastily rushed plan contains many hazards and even if everything goes in our favour what chance do we really have against the trained military guards?
A hush falls over the crowd. I turn my attention to the palace doors. A line of guards marches through the open doors closely followed by four colourfully robed Prophets. The procession of guards parts at a dais set up at the edge of the palace steps, the Prophets stop a few steps behind.
The murmuring and jostling from the growing crowd falls silent. I feel my heart start to race as I continue watching the open door in anticipation. I can’t help but think if it weren’t for me Annaliese would not be in this position.
Surprised gasps are heard as the people react and hushed comments of disapproval rise up from the crowd as Annaliese walks through the door, her head held high; her hooded face a blank mask as she looks beyond the dais at the crowds.
Close on her heels walks another Prophet, this one adorned in robes of a more intricate design and bolder colours. I assume he must the high Prophet but I refrain from asking the people around me for fear of drawing attention to myself.
The crowd starts to become restless; the subdued whispers rise in pitch. Looking around the fringes of the gathering I can see men in military robes searching for the more boisterous of the city folk.
My attention once again returns to the scene on the front steps. The High Prophet’s voice is barely heard above the din of noise from the onlookers. Although I cannot make out his words, I can see when the Prophet pauses a moment to allow the noise to from the crowd to subside.
"It is with great displeasure that we gather here today." He announces. “The treachery of one so close to me bears heavy on my heart.” The Prophet makes a show of staring disappointedly at his daughter before he delves back into his speech.
“We, the Prophets of Adams Mountain, have given our lives for the protection and well being of the citizens of this city only to be blindsided by one we thought of as a true believer of our faith.”
The Prophet gains momentum lamenting the unselfish sacrifices of the ruling class all for the good of the city. He speaks of how the city was settled by his ancestors as a refuge to avoid prosecution from the outside world. How the blame was unfairly placed on the Prophets for installation of the billions upon billions of energy producing turbines.
The disbelievers falsely claiming that the over abundance of the large metal towers caused the earth’s core to tremble and eventually triggered the mass eruptions of the earth’s volcanoes. Volcanoes worldwide that continuously spewed ash clouds high into the skies blocking the life-sustaining rays of the sun from reaching the planets surface.
While the Prophet droned on about how grateful the people of Adams Mountain should be, I scanned the streets and alleys leading to the steps of the palace. When will Marcus appear and with how many others? The military guards that are interspersed throughout the crowd along the streets are many compared to the small band of Marcus’ men who ventured into the crowd with me.
The long-winded speech from the steps sounds like it is about to end. Then what? The Prophet is telling the people of Adams Mountain about savage people from the outside world and how the city is in constant danger from rival cities.
This statement garners my attention. I have traveled the surface above this hidden city for years and never once came across any other city poised to attack. In fact, I have rarely ever noticed tracks from movement aside from our own and knew damn well the people of the New Capital had no intention of ever attacking anyone.
Hell. We had no idea this place even existed. The Prophets obviously relied on fear caused the spreading of erroneous misinformation maintain their grasp of power over their citizens. Combined with the promise of a life toiling in the oil mine for anybody who dares challenge their authority appears to grant them godlike authority.
The High Prophet ends his propaganda filled speech amidst a smattering of applause. The anger that had changed his face during his rant is replaced by a look of sadness and disappointment. He pauses dramatically then reads the charges against Annaliese.
“With a heavy heart the council finds my daughter, Annaliese Sento, guilty of treachery and colluding with the enemy against the people of Adams Mountain city. A second charge is raised against her in the aiding and abetting of a known enemy while helping him spy on our cities defenses.” The High Prophet lowers his head in a show of sorrow as he lets his words settle over the milling bystanders. “Obviously her betrayal against our city was meant to do only one thing. To assist our enemies in their advances to conquer this city and the enslave its people.”
The mood of the crowd changes from the sympathy they first showed when Annaliese appeared on the palace steps to rumblings of disbelief and even shock and anger that she would dare conspire against the very people she had lived among all her life.
My anger rises at the flood of lies that Annaliese’s own father apparently had little or no remorse in fabricating. The thought that this man was more than willing to sacrifice his own daughter so easily for power made my blood boil.
“The punishment for such treachery will be dealt with harshly and quickly. After hours of soul searching the council has decided that the punishment must set an example to others who think of threatening Adams Mountain.” The Prophet faces Annaliese. “For your dreadful act of betrayal daughter, you will be placed upon the surface where you will be left to your own devices for survival.” He announces. “This sentence is to be carried out immediately.” The High Prophet takes a few steps away from Annaliese and motions for the guards to size her.
The reading of the charges and then the outrageous sentence catch me off guard. She will not last an hour on the deadly surface and I can’t let the Prophets get away with the trumped up charges just because she risked her life for kindness.
I grip the rifle by my side and then pat the reading paper hidden under my robe. I need to somehow convince the inhabitants of Adams City that they are being lied to and manipulated by these phony Prophets.
My time is short. In a panic I desperately cast about for signs of Marcus and the extra help he promised. I have never considered my self a hero but damned if I was going to stand by while Annaliese was punished for the Prophets propaganda purposes.
I have no idea of what type of delay I can provide but that doesn’t stop me. I grip my rifle tighter. I feel a hand fleetingly grip my robe. Glancing at the man beside me I see the hand quickly retract, one of Marcus’s men trying to caution me. I ignore the warning. With a shove I start to shoulder my way through the anxious crowd toward the steps and Annaliese.
Damned if I will let anyone banish her to the surface.
Check back every week for a new instalment of the online exclusive by Richard Cozicar The Ice Racer
I am running out of darkness. I have wasted too much time between sneaking into the city and tracking the guards. I am at the point of no return so I forge onward deciphering the directions I had been given.
The city is so foreign to me slowing my progress so I hasten my footsteps. Caution is traded for distance. Sticking to alleys and shadows I skirt the main streets in search of the High Prophet’s house.
Annaliese had briefly described it to me when we first met so as I came to every cross street I would stop and look up and down the streets. She told me it was the biggest house in the city. House she had told me, not building, that coupled with the guard’s directions eliminated a lot of what I continue to pass on my journey.
At one such street crossing I look one way then the other. The street runs for a couple of blocks and behind the buildings at the end I spot a roof and upper windows that can only belong to a large house.
My excitement gives me a renewed energy and I advance hastily and step out of the mouth of the alley. Something strikes across my face and sends me flying back. Shaking my head to clear it I watch through blurred eyes as a group of men walk into the alley after me.
One of the men squats down beside me and raises his arm to remove my hood. The man’s words penetrate the ringing in my head.
“Sorry.” Marcus apologizes. “You startled us when you stepped around the corner.” “We were notified when you entered the city but then you disappeared so we set out to find you.”
I rub my jaw staring into Marcus’ face. My own eyes still tearing from the blow.
“I don’t understand.” I start. “We were certain you had been captured when you diverted the guards from us back at the mine wall.”
Marcus shakes his head. “It’s a long story, one for another time. I can only presume that if you are foolish enough to return to the city you must have a good reason.”
“Annaliese. I came back to help her.” I explain.
Marcus shakes his head. “When I heard you had returned I figured she was the reason that’s why we were in this part of the city searching for you.”
“What are your plans?” He asked.
I shrug my shoulders. “I hoped to sneak into to her father’s house and slip her out without any one knowing.”
Marcus looked at me thoughtfully. “That is not much of a plan.” He stands up and offers me his hand. Getting to my feet I dust my self off, I stall still not knowing how to react.
Changing the subject I look past him at the men with him. All of the men including Marcus are dressed in guard’s uniforms. Something must be going on for a group this size to be roaming the streets during curfew.
“What’s happening?” I motion to his men. “Why risk being discovered?”
His face darkens and he lowers his head. “Annaliese is to be tried tomorrow for helping you escape. Nobody expects the trial to last long and then they will sentence her to work the mines.” He explains. “We are going to try to stop the trial.”
“How?” I ask puzzled. “You don’t have very many men.”
“More than you think.” He raises his head. “Annaliese is very well liked in the city. She has spent her time roaming the city helping out those in trouble.” He smiles at the thought. “She has become very popular and a lot of the people are shocked that her own father would punish her.”
I struggle with my own thoughts in search of a response. I am wracked with guilt because the trouble she is in is because of me.
“I will turn myself in, trade my freedom for hers.” I decide out loud. “I can make a deal with the Prophets.”
“That won’t happen. The Prophets won’t bargain. Their control over the city is fragile at best. If they appear to soften their stand it would bring their authority into question.”
I kick at the dirt in frustration. “Then we will have to storm the palace and release her, what other option do we have?”
“We will never get close. The palace is under heavy guard by the Prophet’s men. Several of the guards are sympathetic to her plight but the ones guarding the palace are the most trusted. They are selected for their loyalty and are rewarded well.”
“Then what do we do?” My voice rising as panic sets in. I worry that the hour is late and the lights of the city will surely be brightening soon, people will leave their homes to start of the new day. How will we have any chance with so many more obstacles in the way of our already impossible task?
“Where will her trial be held and how many guards will be there?” I ask Marcus searching for some sliver of hope. An idea worms its way into my head that seems crazy even to me but under the circumstances crazy may be what we need.
"The trial will be held on the palace steps.” Marcus eyes me suspiciously. “A set of palace guards accompany the Prophets during these fiascos with several more squads standing ready in the street watching over the crowds.” Squatting down he draws a rough layout in the dust of the street and palace to demonstrate. Twisting his head he peers back up at me.
“Why. What are you thinking?”
Standing amongst the group of men I grasp at straws struggling to string random thoughts together in the form of a plan. The words tumble out of my mouth as I think out loud. The variables are many and the time is short. Marcus picks up on my train of thought and together we arrive at possible plan of attack.
Marcus informs me that there are more insurgents he can call on to assist. We decide that I will lead a small mob to the trial and try to delay the proceedings. He has his own preparations to complete but will send others to aid in our task.
“The trial will take place on the steps of the palace at first light. Wait here until the crowds gather. That should give me time to alert other sympathisers and have them meet you here before you leave for the palace.” Marcus instructs as he selects a few of the men in the group to stay with me, the remainder will leave with him.
He takes me aside to talk. “The resentment factor in this city is running high right now. A lot of the city people object to the Prophets and Annaliese’s trial. Although most will be sympathetic, others even if they have come to despise the Prophets are too afraid to act and out of fear will rail against us.” He warns. “Careful of who you turn your back on in trust.” He pats my shoulder and walks out of the alley.
Four men stay with me. We crouch in the shadows of the alley and bide our time. The last remaining hours of dark pass as we wait for the city lights to brighten. Stragglers sent by Marcus appear out of the darkened streets to bolster our small band.
By the time the city is about to wake our little gathering is a mere fifteen people strong. A few of us have military robes and rifles, the rest are simply garbed in their normal robes.
The city is bathed in daylight. A bell sounds throughout the streets. One of Marcus’ men interrupts my thoughts and nods toward the palace.
I search the faces of the small group assembled around me. Faces are scared and nervous. I step in front as we leave the sanctuary of the alley toward the palace steps.
Annaliese’s trial is about to start.
Check back every week for a new instalment of the online exclusive by Richard Cozicar The Ice Racer
I feel the adrenaline seep through my blood, my hunger and thirst forgotten for the moment. Running my eyes over the length of the wall in front of me I desperately search for a path of hand and foot holds that will allow me to climb away from the heat of the river.
I cling to the jagged wall of rock and work my way upward. The climb is not really that far but the state I am in from the strain of my multiday trek, forces me to creep along so slowly that it takes me hours to crest the side. Finally I reach the top, I tell myself that I just need a moment to rest and I take a second to pause and catch my breath before I crest the lip of the cliff. I peer over, from what I can see of my surroundings I think I am about half way between where I was first discovered and the city itself.
Raising my body over the top I spend a bit more time to study the area around me to make sure there are no scouts out this way. Turning away from the city I make sure to keep my body low, I can use the cover of the rock outcroppings as I move away from the city in search of the spot where I hope my pack must be.
The surroundings begin to look familiar, man, that seems like an eternity ago. I search a large area until I spot my pack right where I left it so many days ago when I had gone in search of water. I snatch it up and quickly move away from the lava river toward the ice that has accumulated far from the heat.
The closer to the city I get the more diligently I have to watch my surroundings. I carefully work my way along the path making sure to keep myself hidden from plain sight. I touch the walls around me, never have I been this happy to see ice and feel the cold radiate off of it.
Ripping off my visor I chip ice into a cup from my pack and set a heat pod under it. My mouth is parched as I wait for the cool relief the water will bring. Setting the ice aside to melt, I pull a food pack out and prepare one of the best meals I have had in my life.
The water burns as it passes down my constricted throat. I allow myself only small swallows of water at first as I struggle to swallow, my throat swollen and raw from the dehydration over the last few days.
Mixing sips of water with small bites of food I lay back and for the first time in my life I thoroughly enjoy the coolness of the ice.
Another whole day goes by as I recover and formulate a plan to break Annaliese out of the city. Near the end of the second day I grab a few supplies and stuff them in different compartments in my suit and stash my pack out of sight. I carefully weave my way back toward the city of Adam’s Mountain.
The easiest way in is straight down the path I had first walked. The closer I get to city, the more I think about my plan the more I figure a less direct route in. Walls of volcanic debris line both sides of the trail leading into the city.
A safe distance from the city I climb up to my right and into a field strewn with boulders. The path I have decided on will take me over and around mounds and large boulders but it will provide me with the best cover. I have to move slowly and carefully because if I miss my footing I can look forward to a body’s worth of broken bones.
I stop short of the city hiding behind a cluster of rock. The lights of the city are dim. I was sure there would be some sort of perimeter guards but I haven’t noticed any so far. From my earlier visit, I’m sure the citizens of the city are too afraid of the Prophets to challenge the curfew, at least most of them are so thankfully there is no one else around to spot me.
I creep in on the far end of the city, several blocks north of the building I was held captive in. My plan is more random than well thought out. The start of it is easy. Find a military guard, subdue him and then have him tell me where Annaliese is being held.
I stick to the shadows of the streets until I spot a pair of unsuspecting military guards. I have spotted a few pairs of them since entering the city and decide to follow these two, slipping from shadow to shadow waiting for an opportunity to trap them.
Staying low I maintain my pursuit of the guards waiting for them to stop and give me an opening that I can take advantage of. I soon become aware that these two don’t venture far in their travel, we travel in circles for a while as I wait for the perfect oportunity.
Eventually they stop at the end of an alley. I creep behind a pile of bins stacked against an adjacent building and wait. I watch as one of the guard turns away from his partner and retraces his steps back down the alley. His walk brings him right by hiding spot.
Pressing tight to the bins I watch him pass by me and stop at a break in the buildings behind me. His back is to me as he stops and relieves himself. I carefully check back in the direction of the other guard. He is still facing away from his partner. The bins I am behind stand in between the guards sheltering them from each other.
Seizing the opportunity I raise the butt of the rifle and creep silently along the wall toward the guard. Within a few steps of the occupied guard I raise myself to my full height, the rifle raised above my head. I am almost directly behind the man when he starts to turn.
With all my might I drive the stock of the gun into his face. He releases a startled gasp as the rifle smashes into the side of his face. Bones crunch under the force. The guard crumples to the ground. I strike him again and hastily grab at his robe as I try to remove it. My mind screams at me to hurry before his partner comes to investigate.
Rolling and tugging at the man I remove his military robe and swap it with mine. Taking a second to regain my breath I compose myself and with a shaky confidence I stride back toward the mouth of the alley closing the distance to the other guard.
The man at the mouth of the alley moves his head slightly at the sounds of my footsteps. He asks me a question. I mumble back a reply and cough to disguise my voice pulling the hood of the robe lower over my face.
My heart races, as I get closer. The second guard spins around and looks directly at me. I am still yards away from him. I can see his eyes studying me. While he hesitates I raise my rifle, the barrel pointing at his head and motion him back into the alley.
“Drop your gun.” I bark.
His gun clatters to the street, his eyes narrow as he obeys. Stepping behind him I stick the barrel of the rifle in his back to prod him along. I scoop up his discarded rifle and follow silently behind him. At the break in the building where I left his unconscious partner I call for him to stop.
“Grab his feet and drag him behind those bins.” I command again using the gun to point to the stacks against the wall. Watching closely I wait until the three of us are hidden deep behind the stacks of bins.
“Where is Annaliese?” I ask. The guard looks at me dumbfounded.
“Annaliese.” I repeat. “The High Prophets daughter.” Still the man stares at me like I speak a different language. I’m not sure what to do; I have never had to question anyone before. The guard ignores my question.
My hand goes under the hood on the robe as I scratch my head. The guard grows braver at my indecisiveness and takes a step toward me. I hesitate. He rushes and grabs for the gun. With both hands I hold on tight as he tries to wrestle it from me.
He lifts his foot to kick me. I turn and take the blow on the side of my leg. My adrenaline surges. I jerk the gun closer to my body bringing the guard with it. His head jerks forward. I twist the gun across and drive my elbow into the side of his face.
He staggers from the blow. With the momentum in my favour I keep him off balance driving him straight back into the bins. The air rushes out of his mouth and he eases his grasp on the rifle. I pull hard on it again and release it from his grip while at the same time I sweep my foot around tripping him.
He falls into the building. I rush on top of him and smash the butt of the gun down on his shoulder. The third time I do this he lays crumpled on the ground panting for breath.
“Where is Annaliese?” I ask again in an anger filled voice.
“Locked in her room in the Prophets house.” He answers through smashed teeth.
“How do I find this house?” The guard pauses for a minute, his eyes filled with fear then in a shaky voice he gives me directions. “I hope you’re successful.” He mumbles as my rifle crashes into his head.
The guard’s words ring in my head as I cut strips from his robe and tie the two men up.
Check back every week for a new instalment of the online exclusive by Richard Cozicar The Ice Racer
With my back against the wall, standing in the darkest shadows of the tunnel I breathlessly listening to the sounds from the cave. People shuffling, running feet and then shouts from what I can only presume belong to the guards.
Other voices are raised, some in pleading, others in resignation then a woman’s voice. Annaliese. Her voice is raised in struggle. I put my hand to the rifle slung over my shoulder and clench my fist. My first thoughts are to barge back into the cave and help her. I am frozen with indecision.
Louder voices drift through the opening of the tunnel, slowly moving closer to where I am hidden. Pivoting, I proceed deeper into the darkness, never forgetting the need to move cautiously to prevent any noise that will betray my position.
Volcano fumes thicken as I move away from the voices and further into the unknown. My lungs fight against the noxious fumes when I stop to catch my breath, and my eyes strain to seek out safe footing in the darkness.
In all the excitement I had forgotten that Annaliese had returned my visor. With shaking hands I pull it out from under the robe and slide it over my head, I fasten it tightly then turn on the air scrubber. In seconds the air clears and my burning lungs get relief.
Playing with the light amplifier I adjust the screen, the shadows of the tunnel recede. Directly ahead of me the tunnel shrinks. Bending low I move onward. The man who brought us to the cave had said the tunnels would lead to the lava river. Whether this one goes directly to the river or how far I had to go I did not have a chance to ask.
I work my way forward, I run my hand along the wall to my left to ensure that I remain strictly to the one tunnel. Along the way I had passed several others that branch in different directions. My thinking is that if all else fails I can return to the cave by this same trail.
I pause and listen for sounds of others chasing me. Nothing. The only sound is my own laboured breathing. In a small alcove I sit down and try to think ahead. What are my plans, what are my options?
At first I convince myself to wait and then return to the oil mine and try to find the air chute to the surface. Thinking that through I decide against it. Even if I wasn’t caught in the mines how long could I reasonably last on the surface? I didn’t have any food, my backpack with my shovel and heat pods remained behind where I was first discovered.
And what about Annaliese? She and Marcus risked their standing in the city to free me from the cages. Could I leave them to their fate? Was it my problem? All I wanted at the moment was to return home.
Feeling the need to move I wander aimlessly while my mind fights to come up with a decision. With my mind preoccupied I don’t notice the heat in the tunnel increasing. Suddenly I become aware of the sweat soaking my body, I must be close to an opening to the lava river so I rush ahead.
I move quickly over the jagged rocky trail, around a sharp bend then I run into a dead end. My way blocked with a wall of craggy solidified lava. The rocks blocking my way are hot to the touch so I must be close but I will have to find another tunnel to get me there. After backtracking several hundred feet the tunnel branches off.
Decision time. If I stray from the tunnel I have been following will I be able to find it again and return to the oil mine? That option would, with luck, get me back to the surface and I could leave all this behind.
I struggle with indecision once again then the sounds of Annaliese’s voice as she struggled against the Prophets men cuts through the fog in my mind. I realize that my choice is already made.
I will not leave Annaliese. I will find a way to help her.
My options are not good. If I return to the cave I am certain that I will be recaptured. These people know the mines a lot better than I do so I wouldn’t stand much of a chance. No. I will have to try these tunnels and find my way to the river of red. The river runs not to far from the Adam’s City.
Easy. I fool myself. All I have to do is navigate these tunnels, walk along the river without getting cooked and then sneak into an armed city and free Annaliese. What could be easier? Besides, no matter which course I choose I figure the outcome is bound to be the same.
It was my life to do with what I needed and at the present I didn’t picture myself living to old age. So, back to the city it was then. With the last shred of doubt cast away I take the new tunnel with renewed determination.
Several hours pass and then another dead end. The tunnels are hot, but I keep pushing on. My breathing is laboured as I try tunnel after tunnel. Sometime, hours later I sit with my back against a wall and rest.
The exhaustion over takes me and I doze off. I am not sure how long I sleep for, but in my dreams screams from Annaliese as she is tossed off the edge of the cliff into oil mine startle me awake. I sit straight up with a jolt and look around. It’s too dark to see. My body is soaked inside my thermal suit. Fumbling with my visor I power up the light amplifier. It was a dream.
My stomach rumbles letting me know that it has been a while since I last ate. Groggily I stand up, the determination to find the lava river starting to burn in my mind again.
For the next two days I scramble in and out the tunnels searching for an opening to the river. Some tunnels were stifling with heat, others almost freezing cold.
Thirsty and starving I stumble through yet another endless tunnel. The heat increases as I move forward but I don’t get too excited. I have been down this path of hope before. The floor is treacherous as I make my way around another bend.
Light. A glow of red rises in the distance ahead of me. With renewed vigour I half walk half stagger forward. The heat increases as I approach the end of my search.
Slowly I creep close to the tunnels end wary to not stumble. Loose rocks litter the mouth of the tunnel as I stop at the edge. Leaning over I put my hands on my knees and peer out over the river of red, the screen on my visor dripping with water.
There in front of me, about twenty feet below, is a thin stream of liquefied red rock as it flows by. The heat is intense, my body is worn out but not far from here I hope lays the shiny city. A short drop from the lip of the tunnel is a ledge that juts out running parallel to the flowing river of molten rock.
I turn and lower my legs over the tunnels edge. Easing myself nervously over the edge until I am holding on with only my fingers I take a deep breath and with a little prayer I let go. The drop is farther than it looks.
I land awkwardly and as I clamber to gain my balance my foot slips over the crumbly side of the ledge. I land hard on my knees and the jagged rocks tear into my suit. Instinctively I roll onto my backside dragging my foot back onto the precarious shelf only feet above the heat and the certain death the passing river brings.
My heart beats rapidly in my chest, through my open mouth I gulp in the stale air inside my visor. I don’t pause long, the heat from the river is almost unbearable and my dehydrated, fatigued body does not need much of an excuse to surrender.
Swinging my head from side to side to check my surroundings I try to orient myself in the direction of the city. A wrong guess and my chances diminish. Left, I decide, the city has to be left. Don’t ask me how I know, but years guiding the ice sled across the frozen surface of this planet have instilled a sense of direction that I have learned to trust.
Standing precariously I cling to the uneven cliff wall and foot-by-foot I move. The enhanced lighting provided by my visor along with the glow of the heated lava provides plenty of light for me to see my way. At times this is almost a bad thing as the ledge gets smaller and then widens, dips closer to the river then suddenly climbs high above it.
Everywhere I look I see towering walls formed of age old solidified lava. The river is nothing more than a trickle in a vast tunnel that has been worn and formed over hundreds of years of volcanic activity.
My strength and hope are dwindling as I robotically slide one foot after the other. I feel like I am being cooked alive inside my suit but surely without the suit and my visor I would have been long dead from the excruciating heat and the deadly fumes drifting up from below.
One more step, one more bend to climb around I keep telling myself. I slide up to a protrusion blocking my path; the ledge I am on is almost non-existent now. With my hand I feel for anything to hold on to as I edge very hesitantly around the protrusion.
A few times I lose my footing as I gingerly place my feet. With a death grip I cling to the wall for fear of falling into the heated river below. Nearing the end of the bend the ledge again widens and with quickened steps I scramble to a more secure space.
Once again I am left gasping as I collect myself, my body supported by my hands on my knees. I rest, probably longer than I think and with a last shove of determination I straighten up. The outcropping I am standing on is wide enough for me to turn around.
Tearing my gaze away from the tunnel behind me I look past the protrusion. Up above me the shadows in the cavern are lighter. Almost like…like the glow from artificial lights are warding them off. I chance a smile and my hopes lift…the city is not far off.
A new Canadian Author with too many ideas in his head. Surprising even himself with where his stories go.