The Aeolian Master - Book One - Revival HTML version
paused and then continued.
"But if any of you are having second thoughts at this time, it is not too late. You only need step to the side
near the door that has the exit sign above it, and one of the guards will take you to a holding cell, where
eventually you will be taken to a transport and shipped to the crystal mine.
"As for you Mr. Higley, if you decide to continue, the first section of the run is one of the most difficult,
especially without the aid of your fellow runners. It is therefore my pleasure to inform you, if you make it
through to the first safety chamber you will not have to continue with the run. Rather you will be given your
freedom immediately—exiled to another planet, of course." There was a pause with more humming and
crackling and then, "Good luck to you all."
Perry surveyed the distance between him and the safety chamber - about two hundred yards. There was no
sign of life, no bushes, no trees, no grass, and no rocks nor boulders for something to hide behind. What the
hell, he thought. He walked onto the sand. He glanced from side to side, still he saw nothing, only the high
walls to keep the runners from escaping.
He was just about to start his trek when he heard Sam yelling from his cubicle. "Get the hell out of here."
His voice sounded muffled on the other side of the door. "Take the exit," he shouted.
Perry looked over at the door with the exit sign above it. "I wouldn't last more than four weeks in the crystal
pit, and it would be a slow and torturous death." He turned and looked at Sam. "I'd rather get it over with
Sam shrugged his shoulders. "Okay, Perry," he said resignedly. "I hope you make it."
Perry pulled the sword from the scabbard and held it high. He looked up at one of the TV cameras in the
rafters. "Hurd," he yelled. "Why don't you step down here for a moment?" There was tense laughter from the
stalls of the runners. "I'll be real easy on you as I teach you a few swording tricks." After a few moments the
laughter ceased and silence took its place. He looked back at the landscape, and took a couple of steps forward.
He knew there was something hiding in the sand waiting for him.
He gripped his sword as he surveyed the white expanse. Well, no reason to wait, he thought. Wherever this
monster is, he’s not going to come to me. He started off with a short slinking stride, sword raised high and
ready to strike.
He kept turning his head in all directions as he moved cautiously forward watching for the unknown
creature—probably some hideous monstrosity like a sand worm found on some of the desert planets of the
He was three quarters of the way to the safety station, with about fifty meters to go, when he suddenly felt
the firmness beneath his feet giving way. It was as if someone had pulled the rug out beneath him leaving
nothing but a hole in the floor. He tried to jump back, but the suction had caught him in an unreleasable grip
and was pulling him down in a turning and twisting motion, counter-clockwise like a maelstrom in the sand.
At first he was puzzled. Was this the mouth of some hideous beast hiding in the sand? Was it about to rear
its ugly head and swallow him like a snake swallows a frog?
And then he was up to his knees still struggling to pull himself free. Hysteria started to set in. He
desperately pulled, using his free hand to get his leg out and was almost successful, but the other leg went
deeper into the sucking sand. He tried again, but to no avail. He leaned forward trying to find firmness for his
hands to pull against, but the sucking sand had become like a large funnel. Finally, he reached out with both
hands and drove his sword into the sand up to the hilt trying to kill the monster, but he felt nothing.
He was up to his chest in the sand before he realized there was nothing trying to eat him. It was a dastardly
trick. There were no beasts, no invidious creatures to fight and die with sword in hand. Instead he had stepped
into a sink trap and it was quickly pulling him toward suffocation.
Hopelessly he tried again to pull himself free with his sword, but the sand kept pulling him down. He pulled
the sword out and laid it flat against the sand. This slowed his decent, but didn't stop it. He looked up. He
knew it was only a matter of moments before he would be breathing sand into his lungs. "Hurd, you bastard.
This wasn't even a fight. Give me a Toral!" He threw the sword into the air as if trying to kill Hurd. He started
yelling profanities at the number one councilman.
His chin was now resting on the barren surface; a glassy look replaced the sparkle of his eyes, and a moment
later there was a muffled sound as the top of his head sunk slowly out of sight. The sand boiled for half a
minute while he struggled against the inevitable death. Then it stopped.
Two minutes later the doors to the eight remaining chambers slid open and the runners stepped out.