Welcome to Wednesday Briefs, where authors post free fiction of 1000 words or less each week.
I’m continuing with Sealed in Stone, M/M science fiction about Torrey and Willem, two human youths who love each other but must fight to stay together when Torrey becomes the Chosen of the alien Queen who rules over his people.
In this chapter, Torrey and Willem realize their situation is complicated and they must seek some answers.
This week I chose a visual prompt, a creepy beautiful cave. Just imagine it all black and glassy instead of calcium white.
Sealed in Stone #29
Music filled the shadows and moonlight trickled over wet walls, skimming mirror surfaces of water-filled hollows rising from the glassy floor. The cavern was beautiful, buried and still. Willem wrapped his arms around Torrey and tucked him close, pressing kisses to his hair, neck and quivering shoulders.
“We’ll be all right.”
“We have to believe that, don’t we?” Torrey sighed and pulled away. He twisted around until he sat with his back to the wall, looking across the chamber to where the two dead women lay in dark pools of blood. “The nomari don’t cut throats,” he said.
He smelled Torrey’s fear, felt it shaking in his bones. If Torrey, who knew the nomari so well, was afraid, then there was good reason. The bigger problem at the moment was the chamber’s chill. Stone held cold as inexorably as heat. Willem wondered if the abandoned human shelter and workshop had a few blankets at least, or maybe even an iron stove and some fuel.
“I don’t think the nomari killed them.” Torrey’s voice sounded small.
He meant Marda and Rue. Willem saw some sense in it. Humans were famously fond of slitting throats, and Lena and Shel were missing. There was also a newly carved exit to this chamber where none should have been. He pushed to his feet.
“Where are you going?” Torrey grabbed for his wrist.
“Over there. I don’t know about you, but it’s dark in here and I’m damn cold.” Neither of them had on a stitch of clothing. “There’s probably blankets there, or clothes or something.”
“I’m coming with you.”
They walked wide of the bodies, which thanks to the cold did not yet stink too badly. Torrey searched the stores while Willem rummaged through chests of personal belongings. They found several blankets and used two to cover the bodies. A pair of trousers from one of the women fit Torrey and another pair, while not long enough, served to clothe Willem. They shrugged into triple ply cotton sweaters. The one Willem wore had probably belonged to Rue.
Torrey handed him a ration cake of dried fruit, oats, and honey. “Food from home.”
They both ate quickly, devouring the chewy food. “This is crazy. They shouldn’t be dead. No one should be dead. Do you think Lena and Shel—”
“I don’t know. Maybe. Nuptial madness affects women, too, not just men. It’s worse for them really. Women’s bodies are different. They hyper ovulate and secrete more testosterone as well as estrogen. They get dangerous pregnancies and… and they get aggressive during the phase and depressed after, more than men do. It’s why older women are preferred for being sent to work in a nom.”
“Shel and Lena are older. But would they kill their kumbhwomen, their friends?”
“None of us know what we’ll do during a nuptial phase. You were ready to kill Hari.”
“He was never my friend.” Besides, Hari had tried to make a move on Torrey. Willem still wanted to kill him. “Let’s go. I don’t want to stay here, not with dead women.”
“If we stay the nomari will find us anyway.” Torrey leaned in, lifting his face until their lips touched. At least they had this, they had each other. If there was anyone or anything left alive in the nom, they had no way of telling. Even their kisses lacked heat now. “I think we should follow the new passage.”
Willem nodded. “We should try to find Lena and Shel. They could be in trouble. If nothing else, they can tell us what happened here.”
“Look for weapons.”
They found two knives that would be completely ineffective against nomari spears but would be better than nothing should trouble find them. Because they had no shoes, they took those of the dead women. Rue’s boots fit Torrey rather well but Marda’s sandals were too short for Willem, though he managed to get them on and they proved better for walking on rough stone than wearing nothing at all. More rummaging turned up a lantern filled with oil and a flint Willem was able to use to light it. The halo of light it provided would help them navigate the tunnel. Torrey filled a small pack with more of the grain cakes and two canteens of good water. Water collecting in cavern pools could be tainted with minerals and other poisons.
Stronger light filtered into the cavern as they left, telling them night had given way to day. Within the nom such things little mattered. Willem held the lantern in front of him as they ducked into the passage.
“Hold my sweater, and I mean hold it! You let go and I’ll stop. I’m not losing you, not ever again.” Willem caught Torrey’s hand and placed it at his waist and his garment’s loose hem.
“You never lost me.”
“That’s not what it felt like to me.” His heart beat a little faster when he felt Torrey’s fingers curl under his, grasping a fistful of fabric. He let go and put his hand out to feel the wall.
Very quickly they discerned the way had been hewed quickly. Even with the lantern to show the path, jagged stone walls caught at their clothes while the rough floor often caused them to stumble. The air within, however, was not stagnant. Willem detected how it flowed in the direction they traveled.
“There’s an exit somewhere ahead.” He kept his voice low.
“I don’t think this passage goes far, either. They cut it in just three, maybe four days.”
But had four women done it? Or just two? Light not cast by the lantern splashed the wall ahead of them. They’d found the exit. When they reached it, Torrey put his hand up to touch Willem’s cheek, a warm, human warning. Together they bent down to look out.
They were a short drop above a floor paved with golden glass, dead warriors, and blood.
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