Monday, February 4, 2008

Chapter 3: A splitting headache

        Sam beat the dough with her spoon. "How could you do that?"

        "I know," Caden said. "I'll apologize to her in the morning."
        "Apologize to who?"
        "Keilee, I shouldn't have just left her like that."
        Sam cracked the spoon against the table. Splinters flew at Caden. He turned away, the splinters stuck into his hair. "That's not what I'm talking about."
        "What are you talking about?"
        "You are so clueless."
        "Caden!" cried Keilee. "Caden! Come back."
        "Keilee!" Caden ran out the kitchen door, and was standing in the middle of the town social. Some of the splinters in his hair caught fire. He brushed them away. "Keilee!"
        Caden saw Keilee, sitting on the bench where he left her. She was crying. The fire remained in his hair. The heat was getting hotter, but it wasn't spreading, it was shrinking, growing more intense. Caden walked to Keilee. He pushed past the people in his way. "Keilee!"
        Keilee was picked up and drawn away. "Caden!"
        The fire got hotter, and thinner. Like a knife pressing into his skull. "Keilee!" The crowd disappeared, the town fell away. Leaving only Caden and Keilee. Yet Keilee was being pulled farther and farther away. Caden ran, but couldn't keep up. A bright light blinded him.

        When he opened his eyes, he was looking straight up the circular stair case. His vision was blurry and doubled. The fire from his dream was still in his hair. He touched his head. The blood was matted into his hair. It was sticky and clotted.
        He pushed against the stairs with his feet until he was lying flat on the floor. He heard his shirt rip. He looked straight up at a lit torch above his head. He grabbed at the wall and pulled himself up. He stood as the tunnel spun until the floor came up to meet his face.
        He laid on the floor, just breathing. He waited for his vision to clear, everything return to one image, and his heart slow back down. Then he pushed himself up with his arms. He was sweating. He waited for the wave of nausea to pass. Then he slid his knees under himself and lifted his head. He leaned against the stone wall. The cool stone felt good against his burning face.

        He didn't know how long he was unconscious. He didn't know how long he sat there, waiting to be able to walk again. But he was able to walk, and he followed the corridor. The corridor was long, and every twenty feet, there was a burning torch in a bracket. There were turn offs, multiple passages, but only the main one was lit. So he followed the light.
        Caden looked at his tunic. It was ripped, stained with blood and dirt. He looked at where it shredded against the stone, and the bruises and scrapes underneath. Every part of his body ached and cried with each step.
        Next to every torch bracket were two statues of Dragon Knights. They were huge, each was carved and fitted stone, and held a stone sword taller then Caden.
        He stopped. He couldn't see where the next torch was. The path split into three tunnels, but none of them showed any light. He looked back the way he came. It'd be a long walk, and he didn't want to climb the stairs, but what choice did he have? He turned around and walked back. The tunnel ahead looked darker then before. 
        Then he saw it. The torch 200 feet ahead went out. Then the next one, and the next. Caden stood there and watched the darkness approach. He backed up till he got to the last lit torch.
        One by one, the torches went out, bringing the darkness closer. They weren't burning out, they weren't dimming. The flames turned blue, then stopped. 
        Caden could hear his own heart beating. The torch only sixty feet away flashed blue and went out. With every beat of his heart, Caden heard another footstep. The torch forty feet away went out. Something was coming, and Caden didn't know what to do. The torch twenty feet away went out. He stood between two giant statues of Dragon Knights and spoke a prayer for protection.
        The torch next to Caden flashed blue and went out. Shnick... Caden heard the slow sound. It sounded like when the barber drew his razors across his leather strip to keep them sharp. "Max?" Caden called. "Is that you?" Caden heard two more people following the first one.
        Shnick... Shnick...