Excerpt from The Genetrix Stone…Brynna in the tunnels of Prima Feminary!
An escape route! I smiled. If Trill were here, she’d have done a little dance.
From the valley, I noted several outside entrances to Prima Feminary. I stared at the map, attempting to memorize the layout. My plan was to re-enter the feminary at night and locate Mother. First, however, I had to get to the valley and hope the passages hadn’t been blocked by rock falls.
Determined to execute my plan as quickly as possible, I pressed my hand against the falcon carving, exited the artifact room, and stepped through the quiver into the tunnel. This time I ran, eager to reach the valley.
It had been impossible to judge distances on the drawing. I turned a curve, hoping I was nearing my objective, when a rumbling boom shook the rock. A whoosh of air belched dusty particles through the tunnel. Holding my sleeve over my nose and mouth, I increased my pace. The closer I got to my destination, the louder the thunderous noise became. A deafening crash threw me to the ground.
The lights flickered to black
In the darkness, I defied feelings of vulnerability and started to sing. Seconds later, two dim lights blinked on overhead. As far as I could see, the passageway was clear. I had to find the valley opening tonight. I scrambled to my feet and started to run. In my haste, my toe caught and I tumbled head over heels.
The scratches on my arms were minor. The egg-sized bump on my forehead and the throbbing ache in my wrist were more serious. I hummed softly until the pain eased, then inspected my surroundings to see what had tripped me. Rocks of every size were strewn across the passage. Six feet beyond where I sat, a mound of boulders reached the roof of the tunnel. I was trapped.
Frustrated, I picked up a stone and awkwardly threw it against the obstruction. The stone bounced and clattered down the rock pile. Silence followed, then I heard the flutter of wings. In the faint light, I spied a young owl perched high up.
Hope resurfaced. There might be a way out.
“How did you get in here, little one?” I ignored the residual pain in my wrist and clambered up the rocks.
The owl flapped, then disappeared in the darkness above me.
Tuning my ear, I followed the sound. As I climbed, bright flashes from outside revealed an opening in the rock. Could I get through the narrow gap?
Holding my breath, I squirmed on my stomach. Inch by inch, my toes pushed me forward until a rush of coolness streamed over me. I crawled onto a ledge protected by overhanging rock and filled my lungs with fresh air. I’d made it to the outside, but beyond my sheltered nook, wind howled as a raging storm roared through the valley.
I cringed when the sky exploded in a terrifying show unlike anything I’d seen before. The ground shook as giant green and red fingers probed the indigo sky. Snapping whips of lightning pierced the colored bands before stabbing the earth with glistening forks. The hits appeared random, until I noticed repeated zapping at specific points around the mountainous rim, as if there was a strategic pattern to the strikes.
The air crackled with electricity. I was certain this strange storm was connected with the solar threat; a violent reminder of the sun’s ferocious power, and the coronal mass ejections that would soon destroy our planet.
Time was my enemy.
I leaned forward to glance left beyond my rocky niche only to be slammed back by a slap of wind. I remembered the village on the map and peered to my right. In the distance, a cloud of lights— bobbing like a swarm of fireflies—headed toward me. During a lull in the storm, I heard screams coming from the same direction. Minutes later, forms emerged from the darkness. People ran, carrying lanterns.
Where were they going? Was there another entrance nearby?
I couldn’t risk being discovered and imprisoned again. I crawled back into the tunnel. My best option was to retrace my steps. Perhaps I could consult the map in the artifact room and find another escape route.
I fumbled down the rubble to the tunnel floor. The lights remained dark. I brushed my hands along the walls, quickening my pace when rock exploded behind me. I’d almost given up on finding an exit when my nails caught on familiar grooves.
I slammed my hand against the falcon.
Certain I’d be safe, I charged through the quiver.