Arid Rider

Excerpt from Arid Rider

Mei and Kunnan crawled along the darkened corridor. Their hands grated on the rough stone. Mei kept her face low to the ground. Light radiated from her cheeks across the marbled slabs.

Small shadows lengthened and contracted across the polished stones as Mei passed over them. Impeccably aligned. But they’d have to be perfect. Otherwise the craftsmen would forfeit their lives.

Yet as she scuttled down the interminable passageway, occasionally her knees knocked against a block that had settled slightly. Mei’s hand tingled when she rapped her knuckle against another irregular slab. She winced. A red streak stained the rock. Now I’m leaving a blood trail. The marble shifted underneath her.

Mei froze. “Lianyi! The stone below me is moving! Is it a trap?”

Lianyi stopped crawling. “No. There’s nothing below us.”

“The block’s getting warm,” Mei said. A tremor shot down her spine. A metallic sheen crept across the polished stone. Tiny shafts of light sparked around the slab’s chiseled edges. They flared with such brilliance Mei was blinded.

“Get back!” Kunnan’s next words were lost in the thundering in her ears. Mei shut her eyes and willed the fiery light away. She tried to force her body forward as the stone sank further. Help me! The desperate cry stayed locked in her mind. I can’t talk. I can’t move my arms. Kunnan!

Blasts of steam erupted around the sinking slab. The lights sputtered out. The rocky surface melted away beneath Mei and left her suspended like a dangling spider over a darkened vault. Thousands of hopeless faces stared up at her, watching her mutely from the confines of the pit. A sea of grimy fingers stretched toward her, rippling in eerie silence.

Something struck her hard from behind. Mei spun away from the forlorn masses pleading without words. The scene vanished.

“Mei.” Kunnan cradled her head in his arms. “Open your eyes.” His fingers caressed her temples. He stroked her tangled hair..

“Did you just knock me over?” Mei sat up abruptly. Her eyes fluttered. She turned her face to Kunnan’s grey voice. He was a bony shadow crouched on the polished tiles.

“They’re coming for you,” Kunnan shifted away. “Better get moving.”

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