Check back every week for a new instalment of the online exclusive by Richard Cozicar The Ice Racer
I let out my breath then gave the cage door a shove. It moves ever so slightly and the hinges squeal that horrid noise only metal on metal can make. If this is a trap I am fool enough to bite. I pull the hood of the robe over my visor and stand in the opening while I study the crudely drawn map.
The first line of the map directs me straight down the long dark hallway of the building, the way Annaliese came and went. I am only feet from the front door of the building and a short run back into the rocky landscape that I had crossed coming to the city. I debate the door then without further hesitation I turn to my left and as quietly as possible I move in the direction drawn on the map. The sounds of my footsteps ring in the still darkness.
I pass a long row of cages similar to the one I had left. The hallway seems endless as the darkness gives way to the enhanced light of my visor. I feel so anxious. I keep expecting to hear the sounds of running feet at any second as my escape is discovered.
A grey metal door appears at the outer limits of my view. A sliver of light outlines the slightly open door. Creeping closer I strain to detect sounds of movement from the other side. As gently as I can I slowly push the door open ahead of me, still tense, still waiting for some kind of alarm announcing my escape?
The lights in this section burn a little brighter, another long building with shelves and lockers. Half way down the map shows a door. With a little bit more urgency I hurry, ignoring the clap, clap of my boots on the hard floor. The next door is also sitting ajar. I stand tight to the door again listening for unseen activity. The hum of the city generators is the only sound.
Overhead lights greet me as I step outside the building, brighter than the prison I was in but not awash in light like during the daytime when I arrived. I stop and look around. The long building blocks my view of the streets that I had walked entering the building. I’m in an alley of sorts, the map points in the opposite direction of the city entrance. Most of the alley is cast in long shadows.
For the next hour I follow the maps direction, away from the openness of the craggy volcano rocks and deeper into the heart of the city. The farther way from the cage I get the less I think this was a setup and the more I am hoping that Annaliese had somehow set this in action.
The place is quiet, eerily quiet other than the constant hum of the machinery powering the city. I start jogging wanting to bring an end to this journey. Coming up to a break in the alley I am about to round the corner when I see beams of light coming from the around the corner.
Stopping short, my heart pounding in my chest I cast my eyes about for a place to hide. A few steps behind me there is a cluster of crates and a large metal bin. I squeeze into a small opening between the crates and the bin. I press my back against a wall as I fight the pounding in my chest and wait.
Seconds, maybe minutes pass. The distinct sound of footsteps approaches quickly followed by voices. Twin beams of light travel across the ground at my feet. Searching but not whole-heartedly. My pulse pounds in my head almost deafening me. I find that I am holding my breath scared that the sound of my breathing will betray my hiding spot.
The beams of light pass over again and the footsteps signal the lights carriers moving away from where I wait. When I can no longer hear the footfalls in the alley I gradually peer around the bin. The beams of light are faint and moving much further away, the people holding the lights are wearing the same type of military outfits as the guards who had marched me to the cage after my capture.
Once again I release my breath and slip from my hiding space and head for the exit on the opposite side of the alley. Warily I look around the corner and find to my relief that it is deserted allowing me to continue following the route that was mapped out for me.
I walk and then run almost the length of the hand drawn trail. I must be miles from the entrance now, from my calculations, the taller metal buildings completely block any view of the way I have come.
In the final alley of my trek through the deserted, unfamiliar environment I stop and study the map one last time. Somewhere close to me should be a door? I search the shadowed walls in the dark lane. I spot other crates and bins stacked against walls on both sides of me.
Moving with deliberation I study the walls up close, searching through the dark shadows for some type of opening, any break indicating a door. My concentration is totally focused on finding the opening.
A hand grasps my shoulder. I freeze, afraid to turn around. Then accepting that I’m caught I work my hand under my robe and finger the bent spoon in my suit. It’s the only weapon I have but with the element of surprise I am determined to fight my way free.
I turn quickly, the spoon in my hand shooting upwards. A grunt as my weapon hits flesh. Then just as quickly the spoon is knocked from my grasp and I am thrown back into the wall. My head jars as it contacts the wall. Bright lights buzz in my brain obscuring my sight. I shake my head to clear my eyes. Standing in front of me is a small group all dressed in the same robes as the guards?
I am prepared to launch myself off the wall into the group when the guy I stabbed holds up his hand to silence me and then motions me to follow. His other hand over the hole in his shoulder he received from my bent spoon, a wet dark patch under his hand.
As one the group turns their backs to me moving toward a metal bin and a pile of crates. The group walks toward an opening between the two objects and then through an open door not discernable unless one is looking for it. The last one to cross turns and motions me to hurry up. I take a couple long strides and cross the threshold; the door is closed behind me.
Once again I am motioned to remain silent as I am led deeper into the building and into a small room. On the floor a hatch is pulled open revealing a set of stairs in a weakly lit opening. I follow the robed people down two flights of hastily constructed stairs, slightly sturdier than a ladder. From the stairs into tunnels built beneath the city. I pause to look around at the tunnels, which look more like natural openings in the lava rock than man made.
This journey down and under the city lasts another half-hour at best, the trial ending in a room sized, softly lit cavern. Standing across the room I spot Annaliese. She looks up as I enter behind my guides and as our eyes meet she smiles, a sad, timid, sorrowful smile.
I stand at the entrance trying to figure out what was going on. Why would she be hiding with military guards and why bring me here? She crosses the floor and stands in front of me. Then raising her hand she passes my reading paper back. I look at her trying to understand.
Again she smiles her sad smile, as she looks me in the eye. “I told you not to give up hope.” She says but in her eyes and smile I read something else.
A new Canadian Author with too many ideas in his head. Surprising even himself with where his stories go.