Chapter 34: All Paths Lead to

The silent man told Sangor the compound was unguarded at night. Sangor asked whether anyone had checked if the glass wall at the entrance to the compound was active.

“Sometimes it is and sometimes it isn’t,” one of the men said.

“How long is it inactive?” Sangor asked.

The man answered, “I don’t think anyone knows for sure.”

Sangor asked him, “Don’t you have any idea whether it’s inactive for a long time or a short time?”

“Not really,” he said. “Sometimes I walk by the entrance and see my reflection in the glass and sometimes I don’t. That’s when I realize it’s not active.”

“You should make a finger print or smudge of dirt on the glass,” Sangor suggested. “Then it might be easier to tell from a distance whether the glass is up or down.”

“Yeah, I thought so too,” the man answered, “but every time the glass comes together again, it’s clear as though it had never been touched.”

Sangor felt queasy in his stomach. “Any chance the glass might come together when somebody’s right where it’s supposed to be?”

The men looked around at each other. The silent man spoke up. “No one knows what would happen. Don’t make no difference though… We have to take our chance and make a dash to the river. And it will have to be tonight!”

“I’m not sure it’s such a good idea,” Sangor said, unsure of himself or the chances of their success.

“Then you shouldn’t have listened to our idea,” the silent man said threateningly. “I ain’t leaving anyone who’s heard our plan here to tell it to the Rats… It’s your decision. Either you go with us tonight or you go to your Maker. It’s up to you.”

The silent man told a couple of the men to keep an eye on Sangor. Sangor had a foreboding sense about the whole situation and a sinking feeling that maybe he should not have cast his lot in with his friends.

That night in the darkness one of the men went from one man to the next, covering his mouth with one hand and shaking his shoulder with the other hand. Silently they rose, one by one, and moved towards the entrance. Nobody went through until all of them were present and accounted for.

Sangor was standing between two burly men. He could feel the cool night breeze from outside the cave on his face.

The silent man gestured to one of the men to test the glass wall. The man raised his hand to the glass and it went through. He looked back at the silent man and waved his hand where the glass wall should have been.

The silent man made another gesture. The men started moving through the entrance into the night. The men at the front looked cautiously left and right for any sign of the Rats, but did not see any.

The men moved stealthily, single file, past the caves until they reached the path ascending to the cliff. The captives ran up the paths they remembered descending into the thick forests from which they’d come. Sangor ran between the two men. He had a knife-like pain in his side from running but his mind attempted to ignore the pain. Maybe he had been wrong. Maybe they’d make it to the river. Maybe they’d make it across.

After several days they reached a clearing. Looking through the clearing, they saw the fields of the Rats and the caves. The men realized with sinking hearts that they had come full circle.

The captives ran in another direction, this time following a new path, careful to run straight as an arrow flies. After two days and nights of running and scarcely resting, they arrived haggard at the same cliff overlooking the Rat fields and caves. Disheveled, disheartened, and weak with thirst and starvation, they descended the narrow path to their compound and gratefully wolfed down the food that had been set on the tables.

Mike Stone

Raanana Israel

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Filed under Prose, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Stories and Novels

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