by Aimee Laine
The ground swelled from beneath sizzling, lava-coated earth. A keening moan silenced the chanting and sent a chill down my spine.
One hand—dirt-stained, blackened and tattered—pushed through the surface, clenching and releasing as if gasping for breath.
A scream built at the back of my throat, the stench of death and soaring temperatures burning the sensitive skin within.
Buzzing hums filled the space again, thousands singing out all at once.
My heart pounded in my chest. A harried screech of “No!” left blistered lips, the masses pressing me forward toward the bubbling hole.
With each step, death drew closer.
Perspiration snaked its way down my neck as a flame shot into the sky.
“I am not your sacrifice!” I pivoted left, racing down the length of the pulsing crowd, seeking even the most remote escape. Hands grappled for me, tearing at the last remnants of draping silk.
Scrambling backward, I slipped through the first wall of people.
That layer netted another.
A third pushed me forward in reverse.
At the fourth, I fell to my knees.
Hooves rumbled the earth, a white stallion breaking through the crowd. The rider’s hand reached for me and I him. Our connection made, I yanked him from the saddle.
Dazed blue eyes stared back at me from the ground. “But I’m the—here to save—”
My horse pawed the ground, whinnying as I mounted him.
“They only need one. This time, it’s your turn.”