Tenzin woke up before the sun came up, his eyes snapping awake and his mind instantly alert. There was no drowsy snooze, no struggle to rouse emerge from the comfort of sleep. There never was, not on this day of the year.
He rolled over carefully, trying not to wake his wife Pema sleeping next to him. Tenzin stared out the window of the hut they had shared for the last ten years and watched as the light of dawn began to show through the mist outside. It would be cold today, but clear. That was good. He sat there for a moment, listening to the quiet. The village outside would wake up soon, but for now the world was Tenzin’s alone.
A petite hand gently squeezed his arm, and Tenzin looked over to see Pema smiling sadly at him. She was his sweetheart, his teammate for all time. She hated this day. Every year, she’d asked him to make this one the last, and he’d made up some excuse that justified making the climb year after year. It was true that they’d needed the money from selling the honey to tourists looking for a trip. The honey from these caves contained very unique properties and temporarily altered the minds of those who ingested it. It existed nowhere else in the world, and so people paid good money to join the exclusive ranks of people who’d tasted it. Most of the time, they experienced no serious side effects. A couple years ago, though, someone had eaten too much and stumbled off a steep rock face. Now, fewer people bought the honey. But he’d still climbed last year, though he’d made less off the harvest.
Then, this year, Tenzin’s outlook had changed completely. Tenzin kissed Pema’s hand and put his own on her belly, currently home to a growing baby. Now there were no more excuses for the danger of the trial. This would be the last climb, and the last dance. Tenzin smiled back at her and leaned over to kiss her on the forehead.
“Big day,” he whispered to her.
“Big day,” she agreed with a small nod. “Be safe. No risks today. Come home so you can stay on the ground with me. Promise?”
“Always. Promise. I won’t be long,” he assured her.
Tenzin got up with a groan. Tenzin was short and wiry, lean and strong. But the climbs had started to take more and more out of him each year. Now, thirty-six years old, his body was beginning to become a liability. There had been the broken leg two years ago, and an uncomfortably close call involving a faulty handhold last year. It was time for him to stop, but he needed to tell them in person. Climbers did not simply stop climbing without explanation, not unless they were prepared for swift reprisal from the denizens of the Stonewall. He tried not to think about the possibility that they’d punish him even with an explanation. The Guardians weren’t known to be particularly forgiving.
Tenzin put on the same clothes he did every year – climbing shoes, lightweight pants, and a vest with several pockets. Then he hung the wax pendant over his neck and kissed it for good luck, and left his hut.
He strode through the village to the trailhead at its northern edge. He’d told the others to meet him at the cliff face, as he needed this time to focus his thoughts and prepare for the trial ahead. Around him, greenery and flowering plants encroached on the small path. This had always been his favorite part. Once he was on the trail, he couldn’t see the power lines encroaching on their village from the south, and the swathes of Deadlands that Industry had left in its wake to the southeast.
When he reached the halfway mark a mile later, he paused at the wooden totem that stood watch. Roughly carved and hexagonal, it featured the visage of a solemn man with the eyes of an insect, hundreds of tiny facets making up the whole, each polished and smooth. He conducted the first dance slowly, regaining the feel for the movements after a year without:
Right-to-left-inside-leg-step-back-and-repeat-with-outside-leg-hop-forward-one-pace-pause. “I am the man who walks to meet them, guide my way.”
Tenzin always spoke as he danced. It wasn’t necessary, of course, but translating out loud helped him focus. This done, Tenzin kissed the wax pendant again and moved on down the trail, following the path of a small stream that cut its way through the mountains before widening into a more powerful river further below. He hopped across at the Shattered Tree and followed the path the rest of the way to the Stonewall, finally coming to face it a few moments later. Tenzin stood to catch his breath, and appraised the scene in front of him.
The Stonewall was a towering cliff face pockmarked with thousands of tiny cracks and crevices, small ledges and jutting overhangs. They all seemed to lead naturally to a small cave near the top of the cliff face. Above the cave, the stone was smooth, and beyond that stretched the highlands that Tenzin and his people would never see, because it simply wasn’t for them. And that was okay, as far as he was concerned. Man didn’t have to see everything, didn’t have to chart everything, or connect it to the grasping power lines of their Industry.
Then, Tenzin saw the two white men lounging at the base of the cliff and sighed. They were both wearing full rock climbing gear. Bulky and unnatural, with hooks and ropes hanging off of their belts made to force the Stonewall into letting them pass. Made to force the stone to accept them where they were not meant to go. But, this was the deal he had made. They’d come almost every year for the last five, asking to document his climb. Finally, the combination of Pema’s pregnancy and the staggering sum the men had offered made the offer too much to refuse. And so, here they were. Half of the sum upon agreement, half upon publication. Enough to ensure his child would grow up in comfort. There was no turning back now.
One of them, a lanky man wearing glasses connected to a cord around his neck, waved Tenzin and met him about twenty feet from the cliff. He held out his hand to shake, and Tenzin took it briefly before releasing and wiping his hand off on his pants. The man’s hand was sweaty, and his stiff smile betrayed his fear.
“I’m Jeremy Young, we’ve been corresponding? I’m the writer. It’s – it’s a pleasure to finally meet you,” Jeremy said by way of introduction.
“I know who you are, Mr. Young. I see you found the path well enough?” Tenzin glanced at the second man loitering by the base of the cliff and tinkering with a fancy camera. “Who is this? I was only told about you.”
Jeremy nudged his glasses up further on his nose, which they promptly began to slide down once more.
“Ah, yeah. I’m sorry about that. It’s just that I’m not exactly proficient in rock climbing. Mind you, I’ve done it before of course. Something of an amateur dabbler, but this,” Jeremy looked up Stonewall and stared at it for a moment. “I’ve never climbed anything quite like this.”
Then, the second man spoke: “What he’s saying is he can’t climb and handle the camera at the same time. I can.” With that, he walked over to Tenzin with quick, forceful steps. “Name’s Quinn, good to meet you Tensing.”
Tenzin disliked him immediately. He was brash and loud, and entirely too convinced of his own importance. He took the man’s hand and tried a mild smile: “Hello. My name is Tenzin, not Tensing. You’re thinking of the Sherpa.”
Quinn shrugged and ended the handshake. “Close but no cigar, eh? Both great climbers, I bet you get that a lot.”
Tenzin shook his head, maintaining the same mild smile. “No, I don’t.”
Jeremy stepped in, anxious to keep tension out of the encounter. “Quinn really is a great photographer. He’ll be climbing with us and documenting the trip, I’ll be along taking notes and asking you questions, if that’s alright with you.”
It wasn’t alright with Tenzin, but that hardly mattered anymore. If he backed out of the agreement, the entire sum – including the half he’d already started making plans for – would be forfeit. That was not an option.
Tenzin nodded, and began to walk to the cliff. As he walked forward, he performed the second dance, and the last before the climb:
Left-foot-slides-back-pushes-into-one-spin-clockwise-right-foot-forward-slide-left-foot-step-forward-crouch-pause. “I am the man who climbs to entreat them, steady my hands and feet.”
With that done, he turned back to the two men. Jeremy seemed even more nervous, and Quinn was looking at several shots he’d just taken of the dance. “I will repeat the ground rules once more for the photographer’s benefit,” Tenzin said firmly. “You are to follow as near to my path as possible, as the cliff face is not stable in all places. You are allowed to enter the first chamber of the cave system with me, but no further. Under no circumstances will you remove anything from the chamber. And at all times, you will follow my instructions immediately and precisely. Is this clear?”
Jeremy nodded emphatically, looking relieved at having rules and guidelines to follow. Quinn looked skeptical. “So what am I taking pictures of, then?”
“You will take pictures of the climb, the first chamber of the cave, and of whatever I leave the tunnels with. That will have to be enough.”
Quinn shrugged and seemed to lose interest in debating the issue further. Jeremy nodded again. Tenzin turned back to the Stonewall, found his first handhold, and began to climb up the sheer rock face.
Tenzin sat gingerly on a small rock outcropping, staring out at the valley that stretched out beneath him, down toward the village. He stretched his arms straight up above him, and then brought them down in a loose, shaking half circle. He flexed his fingers, closing and opening them to get the blood flow back.
A few feet below him, Jeremy and Quinn hung from metal hooks pounded into the cliff. It seemed they were covered in cords and clips, festooned like the rigging on a giant ship. Though, Tenzin had to admit that they were not altogether lost on these cliffs. Jeremy, in a move more daring than Tenzin would have expected, wrote in a small notebook as he hung. Quinn was a couple feet below him, snapping pictures of Tenzin incessantly.
Jeremy spoke up from below. “So,” he asked “you learned to make the climb from your father?”
Tenzin looked down and nodded. Jeremy wrote briefly in his notebook and waited for more, which Tenzin felt no need to provide.
“Erm. How was that?” Jeremy asked.
“It was difficult, much harder for me to reach the handholds and footholds when I was smaller. But,” Tenzin said as he motioned to the climbing gear covering the Americans, “you can reach further when the alternative is falling.”
“Of course, right. But I mean –“ Jeremy began, but Quinn cut in.
“He’s asking for a human interest answer, man. You know, something he can hook readers with at the beginning of the story? Christ, you’re a literal one, aren’t you?”
Tenzin stared coolly at Quinn for a moment, then returned his gaze to Jeremy and raised an eyebrow. Jeremy shot a glare down to the photographer, then rephrased his question.
“Was your father proud of you? Does he still live in the village?”
Tenzin sat still, cracking his knuckles one by one. The sound echoed off the cliff face. He wasn’t ignoring Jeremy. The question was not an easy one to answer.
“I don’t think,” he said, “that pride is the right word. I had to climb, just like he had to climb before me. This is how it works.”
“How what works, the tradition of scaling the cliffs? Collecting the honey?”
Tenzin nodded. That wasn’t entirely the full truth, but it was close enough. These men wouldn’t believe him if he told them all that went on in the caves above.
Jeremy followed up on his previous question. “And your father? Does he still live in the village?”
“My father is dead. He fell from this ledge when I was eighteen years old.”
Jeremy’s eyes bugged out a bit. He looked from the ledge down to the base of the cliff. No doubt, he was imagining the fall. It didn’t take much imagination. Falling from such a height onto the ground below only had one possible outcome.
Quinn whistled softly, the tone of the whistle descending a bit and culminating in his imitation of the sound of an explosion. Tenzin took note of that callous attitude, the sense of entitlement. This was a man of pride, and Tenzin knew exactly what happened to those.
Without another word, Tenzin stood carefully on the ledge and turned once again to face the wall. He kissed his hand and pressed it to the cliff face, the last place his father felt the rhythm of the world around him.
With a deep breath, he found his next handholds and continued upward toward the cave mouth another fifty feet above him. He heard the two men below him move to follow, but didn’t bother to look down. They’d either make it or they wouldn’t, and Tenzin would get his fee if the story was published regardless of whether one or two journalists were involved.
Tenzin took off his shoes in the mouth of a small chamber of stone – the entrance to a hive of pathways in the cliff currently blocked by a large boulder. Jeremy and Quinn hadn’t reached the lip of the cave yet, but they were near. Tenzin could hear Jeremy’s practiced and deliberate breathing – in through the nose, out through the mouth.
Tenzin stood staring into the passage in front of him. He shivered, and then performed a few steps.
Right-foot-slide-to-right-left-foot-slide-to-left-hop-hop-right-foot-forward-left-foot-forward-hop. “I am here to speak with those who would hear me. Bid me forward.”
Tenzin stood, tense. This was always the worst part, in his opinion. He was here at the appointed time, as always. But the Spirits who guarded the caves were fickle and prone to take offense. After several more seconds of silence, Tenzin heard the groan of rolling stone in front of him, and the boulder rolled away from the wall to reveal a passage leading deeper into the cave. Tenzin breathed a deep sigh of relief, then turned to help Jeremy over the lip of the cliff face. The journalist nodded in thanks and sat against the wall, taking deep breaths. Quinn followed close behind, and Tenzin helped him up despite the urge to let him struggle.
Quinn stood in the chamber and looked around. “So this is the cave system?”
“This is the entrance to the cave system,” he replied. “We don’t know how deep the tunnels go, and I don’t think we ever will.”
Jeremy rose with a deep breath and unclipped his climbing equipment. “Who discovered these caves?”
Tenzin shrugged. “We’ve always known about them, I think. There are no tales of discovery in our record, only of those who climb.”
Jeremy seemed surprised at that. “Really? Nothing?”
Tenzin shook his head at the man. “Does it matter more how someone finds a door, or what he does after he finds out what is beyond it?”
Jeremy wrote in his notebook. That sentence would surely find its way into the article he was writing, Tenzin thought. It had the poetic nonsense of wisdom to it.
Quinn took several pictures of the inside of the cave, then started walking forward toward the tunnel at the back of the cavern. Tenzin held out an arm and stopped the larger man in his tracks.
“As I told you before, you will go no further until I come back out to get you. I have to be sure it’s safe. Do you understand? These caves and the creatures in them are dangerous.”
Quinn glanced side eyed at him. Jeremy made a sound in his throat that Tenzin couldn’t identify. Something between a croak and a gulp. “Creatures?” the writer asked.
Tenzin nodded, but gave no more answer than that. He really shouldn’t have said that in the first place, but there was nothing for it now. Best to move on.
“Wait for me here,” Tenzin said to Jeremy. Then, he turned his eyes back to Quinn’s and held his gaze. “Do you understand?”
Quinn shot Jeremy a look, but nodded.
Tenzin lowered his arm and walked into the passageway beyond the boulder without another word. As he passed through and turned to the left along what by now was a very familiar route, he heard Quinn scoff in the chamber and Jeremy promptly shush him. Tenzin ignored them and continued on.
Though he was in these passages every year, Tenzin couldn’t help but feel that the angles and curves of the passageways before him always seemed different. As though they’d shifted over the course of the past year, portions here scratched away while others over there were built up to prevent passage.
As a result, Tenzin always navigated using his feet. Barefoot, the subtle vibrations and rhythms of the stone floor were just enough to register as a sort of homing signal. He slid his feet across the stone floor in front of him after reaching a crossroads, not daring to breathe lest it disrupt the sensation of the rock. There – the passage on the right hummed with more intensity than the one on the left. And so he went, slowly and deliberately, for the next thirty minutes or so. Walk, reach a fork in the passageway, and turn based on the thrum of the cave. As he went, the temperature in the cliff rose and the humidity increased. By the time Tenzin reached a large vaulted chamber, he was sweating.
Upon entering the chamber, the humming and vibrating in the stone floor ceased. Tenzin took a deep breath and looked around, relieved his navigation through the passageways was at an end.
Lit by multiple torches hung along the walls, the large stone room in which Tenzin now stood was familiar to him. Every year, the path through the caves led here to the Queen’s chamber. Angular patterns in the shapes of various polygons were carved into the walls, moving with the natural shape of the rock walls. There was not a single curved surface to be found. Smaller tunnels pockmarked the walls themselves, smaller passages the width of fireplaces leading back into the caverns beyond. Tenzin hadn’t been back there since . . . well, it had been a very long time since his father had sent him through one of those passages to meet the Guardians for the first time. It was not an experience he’d wish on anyone.
Tenzin shuddered slightly, but took a deep breath and stepped out into the center of the chamber. There, he danced the opening steps of his conversation.
Right-foot-forward-right-foot-back-right-foot-forward-left-foot-forward-sweep-right-foot-stomp-left-foot. “I am here to speak to the Queen, should she choose to receive me. And I am here to listen, should that be her wish.”
And then, he knelt on both knees, waited, and held his breath. The Queen had never refused to appear to him in years past, but what if she could sense the presence of the two foreigners in the entry chamber? He doubted she would look kindly on intruders, or on the man who led them to her home. But it was a necessary risk.
It was about a minute before Tenzin heard a faint multi-tonal scratching sound advancing toward him from the largest of the wall tunnels. He stood, but kept his head down. The scratching came closer and grew louder before stopping. Then, the voice he knew so well echoed in his mind, as scratching and stepping sounds moved along with the words.
“Welcome, Tenzin who Climbs. We are honored to receive you. Lift your eyes, young one, and be not afraid.”
Tenzin lifted his gaze then, and looked upon the Queen. As always, she was regal. Her legs were polished and gleaming like a knight’s armor, and her body was soft, amber locks of hair cresting in waves over her ovular body and hiding a stinger that could – and had – killed more men than Tenzin ever cared to count.
However, the Queen and her fellow Guardians had been good to Tenzin and his people. She had cared for the Village since it had existed, protecting it from Industry and outside influences. Many a Public Works project had encountered unforeseen catastrophes over the past decade as they’d approached the territory of Tenzin’s people. This, they had always known, was the Queen’s doing. And so they grew orchids each year, hundreds upon hundreds, and left them in a small, secluded cave carved out of another section of the cliff face. These sustained the Guardians, and re-sealed their contract with the Village each year.
The weight of this partnership was especially heavy in Tenzin’s heart this year. After another deep breath, Tenzin looked into the Queen’s eyes and kept himself from getting lost in their seemingly endless facets. Like diamonds, they shone and reflected the torchlight around the chamber. For all Tenzin knew, they could be diamonds. Black as pitch, the color so deep and complete that it almost hurt to look at them. But Tenzin did without losing himself. This, of course, is part of what had made him special – destined to succeed his father.
The Queen hummed warmly, dropping a bit of the formality that always accompanied the first greeting, scratching out her words in a shuffling dance as the static of her voice played in Tenzin’s mind.
“You look like you have aged five years in the last one, young Tenzin. Are you unwell?”
Tenzin smiled slightly at that and nodded, dancing along as he spoke his reply aloud to the Queen. “Only five? It feels like ten. It has been a long year. I cannot move as quickly as I used to.”
The Queen stretched out a gnarled and bristly arm, brushing it against Tenzin’s face. She paused when she reached a long scar down his right cheek, the result of an accident several months ago.
“Who did this to you?” the Queen asked, her voice thrumming a slow growl.
“Myself, Queen. A fall I would have been able to avoid in younger days. I consider it a sign,” Tenzin replied, sweeping and stepping his feet in concert with the words. After all this time communicating with people from the village, Tenzin was sure that she understood his words. But discarding the dance would be incredibly disrespectful.
The Queen withdrew her arm and took a step back. “A sign of what, Climber?” she spoke in his mind. There was a note of curiosity there, and a note of trepidation.
This brought Tenzin to the reason he was truly here. This was the core of his audience with the Queen today, and he knew he would need to speak very, very carefully. Hopefully, that would be enough to soothe her.
Slowly, he tapped out the words with his feet, careful to sweep his legs as smoothly as possible. Quick, sudden movements signified aggression or discomfort. The more languid the dance, the more trust was implied.
“A sign that my best years are behind me, Queen. A sign that I can no longer make the Climb each year. I will of course continue to grow the orchids and deposit them – “
The Queen stopped him with a buzzing hiss. Tenzin shut his mouth and looked down, waiting for her to speak again. The Queen rubbed her arms together nervously, anxiously. She scratched her feet on the ground, but they didn’t match any words that Tenzin knew. Seconds later, however, he heard a chorus of scuttling scratches.
Against his better judgment, Tenzin looked up and around him to see that smaller Warriors had climbed out of almost every smaller wall tunnel throughout the cavern. The Warriors were all much smaller and leaner than the Queen, but each of their arms culminated in pincers that doubled as stingers if need be. Currently, those stingers were extended. Tenzin looked slowly back to the Queen. Crouching as low as he could, he danced out a plea.
“If you’ll allow me to explain – “
The Queen slashed one of her legs across the floor, emitting a sharp sound like stone across glass.
“This is an evil turn, Climber. I do not – why do you wish to end our relationship?”
“I do not, Queen. I promise. I will continue to tend the orchids and deposit them for you. But I have a child on the way.”
The Queen hummed in surprise at this, some warmth returning to her tone. Tenzin relaxed ever so slightly, but remained on guard. The Queen was famously fickle, quick to affection and anger equally. One, of course, was far more dangerous than the other.
“A child, Tenzin! We celebrate for you.”
As she said this, the Warriors along the walls clicked their pincers against the walls as prompted, a hollow-sounding round of applause. Then, the Queen continued with a bit of anticipation creeping in, the tones she emitted quivering.
“You must stop climbing to teach the child, yes? The child must learn to climb? To speak with us?”
Tenzin’s stomach dropped, his whole body going numb. This was not going well. Tenzin swept his left foot behind him in wordlessly.
The Warriors’ applause stopped instantly, and the Queen danced out one word, the vocalization in Tenzin’s mind stretching out slowly, every second steeped in rebuke.
“It is not a life I want for the child, Queen. We love you, of course. And we treasure your protection, just as we will always treasure our duty to provide for and protect your home. But, the honey sells for less and less each year. We’ve needed to find other ways of sustaining ourselves.”
“We are not worth the Climb.”
“I did not say that, Queen. I only ask that you allow our relationship to change – to evolve – so I can remain present for my family.”
The Queen stood silently, still nervously rubbing her arms together. She looked around the cavern, seeming to imagine it empty the next year.
“I must think. We do not simply end relationships. Not without price. I – “
At that moment, a loud grunt of frustration echoed throughout the cavern. Tenzin whirled, horrified, to see Quinn stumble into the cavern, rubbing at his shin where he just smashed it against a low outcropping of rock.
“Son of a-“ Quinn began a curse, but stopped cold when he looked up. His eyes swept across the walls, from Warrior to Warrior and finally to the Queen.
“Jesus Christ, thought it was all stories. Giant shittin’ bees on the shittin’ walls,” Quinn blurted out. He stared at Tenzin, then whistled softly.
“I told you to wait in the entryway,” Tenzin said as calmly and firmly as he could.
“Uh-huh, I do remember something like that,” Quinn said as he continued to look around. “But an empty cave doesn’t make for great pictures, eh Tensing? You’ve been holdin’ out.”
Tenzin looked behind Quinn, but saw no further sign of movement.
“Where is Jeremy?” he asked.
“Eh, he stayed out there,” Quinn said. “Didn’t want to break the rules. Can’t piss off a single source, these guys. Scared of their own shadows.”
With that, Quinn started to raise his camera. Just as the camera flashed, however, a Warrior shot across the room. Quinn yelped in pain, and his camera fell to the ground and shattered. The Warrior returned to its perch, wiping its pincer on its body.
Quinn’s arm was a bloody mess, slashed by the Warrior’s pincer. Tenzin saw that a sickly blackness was creeping through Quinn’s veins, branching out along his arm up from the wrist. It moved slowly, but Tenzin knew exactly what it was. Poison. Quinn would never use the arm again, but the venom would go no further than the shoulder, if he was lucky.
“Who. Is. This?” the Queen asked, each word punctuated with a sharp hissing buzz.
Tenzin didn’t know how he could possibly explain. What were the concepts of financial security and accepting a buyout to a being like her? He switched to speaking to the Queen exclusively through dance steps. He certainly didn’t want Quinn interjecting.
“He is here to document my journey. He was not supposed to see the heart of the tunnels, you have my word.”
“Why does your journey need proving? Is it not real enough to you?”
“There are many people outside the valley who he thinks are interested in my life story,” Tenzin explained. This wasn’t entirely true, of course. The story was supposedly going to be exclusively about his life climbing, how he made the journey, and why. “His superiors have offered me much money, enough to live on.”
The Queen rubbed her arms together, then stopped suddenly as though coming to a realization.
“This is the man taking you from us? This man has bought you.”
“I suppose,” Tenzin sighed. “I suppose that’s true, in a way. Yes.”
Quinn gasped from behind Tenzin, a combination of pain and surprise at seeing that a trio of Warriors had climbed onto the walls behind he and Tenzin. They weren’t getting out of here without permission, Tenzin knew.
“Oy! The Hell are you dancing around for? Get us out of here!” Quinn said, exasperated and afraid. Tenzin ignored him, except for a harsh swipe of his hand – a signal to back away and shut up. Quinn failed to comprehend the inference of the signal and stayed right where he was, crossing his arms.
The Queen’s black diamond eyes shifted from Tenzin to Quinn and back several times. Finally, she seemed to smile and buzzed at a slightly higher and warmer pitch. She was pleased with herself, Tenzin realized.
“As you know,” the Queen danced and spoke in Tenzin’s mind, “only those ordained to climb are allowed to see and speak with us. I should punish you. I should kill you.”
Tenzin shuddered and started to say something, but the Queen cut him off, continuing.
“But I will not. I will, however, enforce the terms of our agreement with your people. Centuries of trust and goodwill cannot be so fundamentally altered so easily. We will still require lifeblood.”
“Queen, I beg of you. I have a child on the way. I – “
“The lifeblood does not have to be yours, boy. That choice is yours. We can take some of yours but leave you alive, a token of our love and affection. Or, we can take all of his.”
“How much of my blood would you require?” Tenzin asked. He still needed to climb back down the Stonewall. It would do his family no good for him to survive the meeting only to die on the return journey, like his father had.
“You must decide without that knowledge, Climber. This is not a negotiation.”
Tenzin felt like the air had been sucked out of the room. He glanced back at Quinn, whose arm now appeared to be almost entirely useless. Then, he stared at the Queen, who cocked her head at him. Then, seeing his distress, she once again reached out and stroked his face possessively.
“Take your time.”
About the Author
Andrew Bain has been reading and writing sci-fi and fantasy stories since he read The Lord of the Rings before he was old enough to. Since then, he’s worked for Netflix on LOCKE AND KEY, as well as for Ben Edlund and David Fury on THE TICK before becoming Writers’ Assistant on MAGIC: THE GATHERING for AGBO. Most recently, he was the Writers’ Assistant on DUNE: THE SISTERHOOD for HBOMax and Legendary Television. He’s published three short stories: “The Virginia Round-Leaf Birch” in Apricity Magazine, “Intrepid” in Daily Science Fiction, and “Dear Diary” in the Thrice Fiction Magazine.