Desert’s Shadow


By: Martin Linson

The Sun was beating down on the scorching sand.  It was all that could be seen in every direction, as Lindsey glanced around.  Sand, all she saw was sand, and the waves of heat emanating off of the baking ground.  She wondered again why she was so excited to come out here and try to find something that she wasn’t sure was even there.  “What the hell was I thinking?!”

“Pardon?” Her guide asked rather confused.  He didn’t really understand her and didn’t have a language implant common to more civilized areas, so she had to work with him to try to understand what she was saying. 

“Nothing,” she shook her head and waved the cloth covering her face to let some air in, gasping to the stale hot air, but air none the less.  She was fortunate enough that she found someone willing to take her out to practically the middle of the Sahara. She found him in a very small village on the outskirts of Ubari in Libya.  She couldn’t pronounce anything and most of those she ran into didn’t have an implant.  It was a very frustrating experience as she’d never encountered it herself. 

She’d been traveling on camel back for a day already and they were about halfway through the second day.  She was also getting the occasional verbal jabs from Jeff, the archeologist she was working for. He was anxious about what she might find and would randomly chime in on the implants direct call feature. He was almost like an older brother teasing constantly, yet bordering on maddening.  Each night she’d go over her journal, making sure to keep it updated and add more detailed notes and comments from her small entries during the day.  One other frustrating thing was the lack of landmarks in the barren dunes, mapping her trail was going to be neigh impossible if she did in fact find something out here.

She was however slightly still hopeful.  Mostly in part because of how hard it was to find someone to take her out here.  As she’d asked around finding desert traveling guides, one by one they’d either close immediately or tell her very rudely to leave and never return again.  There was almost a palpable fear in these people when she’d mention the direction she’d wanted to go.  Almost like they knew something they weren’t telling her. This alone only fueled her interest even more than it was already, now knowing something may have at least been seen out there.

The hours blended together, she never knew what time it was beyond day and night.  Night was when she’d get to bundle up in her warm sleeping bag in the sealing tent she got so no other critters would greet her in the morning or middle of the night.  The guide would wake her an hour before dawn each morning to start once again. Fear had started to creep in as well, seeing as they’d past the point of no return with their food and water, yet the guide continued. She was thinking perhaps there was an oasis out here he knew about, or was it more dire than that, and he already knew this was a one way trip.

As night approached on what she thought was the fifth or sixth day perhaps?  She wasn’t entirely sure, as they stopped to set up camp as the Sun was setting on the horizon.  Taking a few minutes to enjoy the cascading colors, the new patterns she hadn’t ever seen near London as the light was reflecting off of the sand as well.  The combination created a breathtaking spectacle and almost wondered how she hadn’t actually seen this before, being out here so long.  They ate a quiet evening meal and then her guide turned in, while she sat out bundled up and watched the stars.  Matching the constellations she knew, and thinking of the stories behind them, which always made her feel comfortable. 

“You see Aries right there don’t you?”

“Yes, there it is,” She pointed to the spot in the sky it was.  “There’s Pegasus too!”  Almost feeling like a little girl again in her back yard with her father. 

“There’s Cassiopeia.”

Her gaze shifted up to see the constellation.  “Yes there it is.  It’s so beautiful out here, no light pollution what so ever.  The sky is so clear, the clearest sky I’ve ever seen.”  She tightened her thick blanket over her as she got a cold chill.  It prompted her to look around, then realizing… “Is someone there?” 


“IS SOMEONE OUT HERE?!”  Her heart started to flutter a bit, a panic attack which she hadn’t had since she was in school started as she franticly looked around for the voice that was talking to her just seconds ago.  Jumping up and out of her blanket she began to search their camp to see where the person was hiding.  Looking in her tent and then peeking in her guide’s tent to find him fast asleep and snoring loudly.  “What the hell?! Who is that?!”  Pondering still, now something creeping up her spine, she reached back and felt nothing.  Then she realized it was fear, crawling up her spine with a chill.  “Is this why no one else wanted to come out here?  Is there some sort of boogey man?  Or maybe I’m just starting to hallucinate from heat stroke or dehydration?”

She engaged her implant to do a self-analysis of her bodily functions to make sure she wasn’t suffering from some illness or neglect due to timelessness she’d been feeling.  The results popped up in her Heads Up Display shortly after it started and everything was in the green range.  Her heart rate was a bit elevated but she figured that was going to be the case with the minor panic attack. 

“You’re almost there…” a whisper of a voice came over the breeze that lightly blew through the camp. 

“What the hell?  Who’s there?”  However there was no answer yet again. 

“Soon…” the whisper was heard behind her.

“What the fuck?!”  She spun around so quickly she almost lost her balance on the sand.  “Where the fuck are you?  Show yourself now damn it!”  There was nothing around, nothing she could see as far as her eyes would let her.  The feeling of fear seemed to be crawling further up her spine, now causing goose bumps to crawl down her arms.  Closing her eyes, she began to breathe deeply and slowly as she felt her heart trying to race once again.  Slowing it to a relatively better pace she opened her eyes again.  Seeing… something?  Was that… was there something out there?  The moon was waning crescent leaving just enough light to give her sight beyond the camp.  At the edge of the light, there seemed to be a structure, or figure she couldn’t tell.  Squinting her eyes to focus better, and then remembering she had binoculars, sprinting to her tent to grab them as she zeroed in where she saw something brining the area into focus. 

“There is something there!”  Focusing the lenses beyond the camp she could see what looked like some sort of black wall peeking out of the sand.  “No way… is that?  Did I find it?!”  Now her heart began to race from excitement rather than fear, which began melting away to the warmth growing in her from a new discovery, one that could possibly be the oldest find ever.

“Yes… come…” the whisper was no longer on the wind, but now in her mind. 

“Yes, I need,” looking around the camp bordering on a panic, shuffling through her bag.

“Now… come… see…”

“Yes!  I know!  I need my…” grabbing her journal finally and yanking it out of her bag, “THERE!  Ok let’s do this!”  Jumping up she instantly began sprinting towards the black object, towards… the voice.

As she approached she could make out that it seemed to be the bottom portion of a wall that had been eroded from the sand and time.  When she was about twenty feet away the sand beneath her feet became suddenly more stable and solid, stopping she brushed the sand with her foot and saw black stone under it. 

“I FOUND IT!!  OH MY GOD I FOUND IT!!”  Her heart was pounding with excitement so hard she could hear it in her ears. 

“Down…” the voice whispered in him mind. 

“Down?  I don’t… know.”  Looking around she saw a small rock by the black wall.  Reaching down and turning it she found a character on it that matched those found at all the other temples.  “NO WAY!  Is this… is this the first city?!  Where this language originated from?  Yes… that would make sense.  Why it’s hidden, why no one speaks of it, why it was always dismissed.  What does this mean?”  She pocketed the stone and immediately started jotting down some notes. 

“Down… find…”

She began to sweep her feet across the floor, brushing the sand away and seeing if she could find any creases in the stone.  She was surprised to see how flawless the stone was laid.  There wasn’t a crease in it anywhere.  Almost like the entire floor was one giant piece of stone.  She noticed the portion of wall that was still there was the same.  Almost like a black marble yet solid black. 


She tripped over an uneven piece of floor as she had returned to sweeping the sand off with her foot.  “Shit!”  Catching her balance she steadied herself and turned to look at what her foot hit.  There appeared to be an opening, a piece of floor that was jutted up and out of place.  Keeling down beside it she grabbed the sides of it, finding some grip on each side her fingers were able to slip into.  Then using her legs to pull up, she tried to move the stone, and to her amazement the stone slid up falling open and revealing a staircase under it.  She was knocked back by a burst of trapped air from under the floor as it escaped releasing the pressure of the tomb below. 


Grabbing the LED tube from her back pocket and lighting it causing a burst of light so bright she had to shield her eyes at first to let them adjust.  Shining it at the hole she saw more of the odd black stone, almost appearing polished yet not reflecting her light at all.  It was stairs that led downward, seemed to spiral down along the wall of a cylindrical entrance. 

“Well,” looking around the horizon and not seeing a thing except the camp in the distance.  “I’ll let Jeff know in the morning when I have more information.  He’s probably sleeping at this time anyway.  Time to see what this is all about.”  She stepped down gingerly to test the first step.  Pressing on it lightly then adding weight to her step while finding it to be stable.  “Here we go,” continuing down the stairs using her right hand to glide along the wall, more to feel safe than anything since there was no railing on the left side of the stairs.


The voice was heard although it wasn’t acknowledged consciously anymore.  It was speaking now to her subconscious which was guiding her actions.  She peeked over the left side once only to see sheer blackness.  Not seeing any end to the pit in sight and fell back against the wall, almost seeing what she though was a mouth waiting for her to fall into it from the stairs.  Taking a few breaths to steady herself, she slowly began to descend once again.  Being nudged by some, force it seemed, like an invisible hand guiding her by the small of her back. 

“Find… dark…”

Stumbling a bit on the stairs and immediately hugging the wall stopping again.  “Shit!  I should’ve waited and brought more equipment.”  Looking up she couldn’t see the entrance to the chamber any more, and looking down it was still just solid black.  Her light not extending as far as it had before, almost like the dark was slowly closing in on her, ignoring her light source and eating it as it closed in. 

“Lindsey what are you doing?” She heard the voice of her father coming from what seemed to be the creeping darkness. 

“Father?  What… what are you doing?”

“Lindsey, I’m down here.” There was a slight panic in his voice, almost a hint of pleading.  “Save me Lindsey.  Save me…!”  The voice sounded as though it had been silenced before finishing. 

“FATHER!” She began sprinting down the stairs, having no concept of time any longer.  Not knowing how long she’d been descending the steps, however the muscles in her legs beginning to burn, and her calves starting to cramp.  She ignored the pain and continued down, her mind blinded by the voice of her father calling out to her. 

“Yes… down… dark… find…” the deep monotone voice echoing in her subconscious, guiding her down the stairs.  She felt her footfalls landing solidly regardless of her legs beginning to feel rubbery from the burning and cramping.  Something seemed to be helping her in her descent to the bottom. 

“I’m coming father!  I’ll help you!”  She cried blindly running down the stairs, her light swinging in her hand.  Her feet landing on each step lower and lower, the stairs guiding her way down now, helping her reach her father. 

“LINDSEY!!” Her father cried out, a strain of pain behind the scream, followed by the brief sound of gurgling at the end of his piercing shriek. 

“FATHER NO!!!”  Increasing her pace, now sprinting two steps at a time. Her mind a blaze with fear, it was once again crawling up her spine, this time up the nape of her neck.  Caressing the back of her head, almost like fingers of fear massaging under her hair, and reaching into her skull and caressing the back of her mind. 


She ignored everything, the darkness, the feeling in her legs, the fear seemingly groping her brain.  Continuing to fleeing down the stairs as the feeling of darkness at the edges of her mind continued close in; she noticed that her light was only illuminating up roughly a foot in front of her, but continuing none the less.  “FATHER!  Are you still there!  Call to me!  FATHER!!!”  There was no reply to her frantic cries, and then she stumbled as her feet got caught up under her, she began to roll head over heels down the stairs.  Attempting to stop the roll she reached out, only to feel an intense immediate pain and a loud crack as her left arm snapped in half.  Reflexively crying out from the pain and reeling her arm close to her chest as she bounced off the stairs and began to free fall down the pit. 

Feeling as the fall was in slow motion, thinking of her regrets, not contacting Jeff.  He would’ve convinced her to wait.  Wait for help, more equipment, and safety measures to traverse the stairs slowly and safely.  But she had to help her father, and now, now she wasn’t going to help anyone.  Jeff would find her, dead and crippled at the bottom of this pit, if there in fact was a bottom she began to wonder as it felt like she was falling for what seemed to be minutes, even hours. 

“Find…” the fear seemed to knead her brain like a hand massaging her head, speaking directly to her subconscious still. 

Suddenly she hit the ground hard, slamming the back of her head, and impacting hard on her left side, hearing several cracks echo through the room, and feeling a ringing in her head from the impact.  She laid, crumpled on the floor as the darkness overcame her sight and welcomed her in. 


Gasping a sudden deep breath she awoke.  For a split second she thought she was in her tent, and then the pain seeped through her illusion of comfort; feeling her ribs pricking against her insides and feeling warmth on her left thigh along with her arm, now beginning to finally feel numb.  She opened her eyes to see the light lying next to her, glowing what seemed dimly yet it was at full brightness.  It was the room, the darkness, not allowing it to encompass the room she was in. 

“How… in… the… bloody hell did I not die?”  Attempting to sit up, it was extremely painful.  She tried to engage her implant but there was nothing.  “Shit!  Did I hit my head that hard?  Fuck!”  It appeared her implant had corrupted or shorted from the impact of her head.  Rolling onto her right side and up onto her right knee she reached for the light, grabbing it with her good hand and holding it up.  There was still not enough light to really see anything as the darkness surrounded her almost like a tangible substance.  Bringing the light down to her left leg she gagged then vomited on the floor in front of her.  Her femur had pierced the skin, sticking a jagged thick bone through her pants.  The blood was caked around it and the pants stuck to her leg.  “How long was I out for?”

Using the wall she hopped along the side of the room, keeping her hand against the wall with the light.  Each hop taking a bit out of her, as her chest panged with pain, her cracked and broken ribs throbbing with each breath and hop. As she made her way from the stairs she saw what she thought was sand.  “Oh please…” she pleaded with the pain, seeing the sand and hoping it was really there, hoping to be able to just lie on the soft surface of the sand and die in as much peace as she could attempt.  Hopping on her good leg she finally made it and let herself just fall on her right side to the sand.  Crying out as she landed as her ribs prodded her organs.  “Fuck, I don’t have long I don’t think.  The guide has no clue I’m here, and I can’t contact Jeff.  I’m a fucking idiot!”  She reached into her pocket and pulled out her journal.  Writing down the last events of what happened, in the off chance that Jeff would find her he’d at least know what happened and could tell her family.  Finishing with her journal she flung it away in spite, her last potential contact with the world above. 

“I really didn’t think I’d go out like this.  At least have someone with me.  Not alone, not by myself…” she trailed off, tears forming in her eyes as they started to stream down the outer corners of her eyes.  “I just wanted to say goodbye.”  

She slowly closed her eyes, welcoming the cold darkness now beginning to embrace her.  The pain began to slip away, the relief near, tears still falling from her eyes as she reflected on her life and her regrets.  Suddenly hearing a silence piercing crack, almost like ice over a frozen lake breaking open.  The sound originated under her, under the sand.

“What in the bloody hell?!  Is there ice down here?  It can’t be?  Just let me die…” trailing off as she closed her eyes to try and ignore what was happening around her.  The fear previously overcome by her pain blazed to life in her mind.  Almost like a black fire catching her brain, and sending her eyes open as she felt a fear she’d never felt before.  Worse even than her previous fear of death, it enveloped her, paralyzed her.  She could only lay there eyes locked open nearly popping out of her skull. 

The cracking got louder and she could feel it vibrating the sand beneath her.  She could only lay there on the sand, feeling it quiver as whatever was under it was breaking away.  Paralyzed with an inhuman otherworldly fear, tears began to streak down her face once again.  Instead of regret, it was fear this time, gripping her like never before.  As she lay there, completely motionless she could start to feel the sand funnel under her. As if it was being drained, spiraling down like the top of an hour glass counting down.  She wanted to close her eyes however the fear that was squeezing her mind wouldn’t allow her to do so.  She just starred up, terrified, feeling herself sink as the sand under her left.  Spiraling under her the speed of the swirling sand began to increase as more drained through whatever hole was in the floor.  She began to sink into the sand, feeling it engulfing her arms and legs, starting to creep around the back of her head, seeing it from her peripheral vision as it started to envelope her head.  Finally able to close her eyes she snapped them shut tight just as she felt the sand roll over her face and the rest of her body.  Holding her breath she felt herself continue to sink, unable to move, breathe or see.  Thinking to herself, of course it had to be worse, instead of falling into a sleep and passing, she was going to drown in sand. 

Just as she was feeling her lungs burn, the muscle spasms in her esophagus and mouth, she felt herself pass through what felt like a barrier, a membrane of sorts.  She passed through it and the sand was gone.  She gasped and felt air enter her lungs, thin and hard to breathe as it seemed to sting and burn, but it was air.  It seemed thin; very thin almost unbreathable but enough that she wasn’t dead.  She also felt weightless; opening her eyes she saw… nothing.  It was palpable darkness, there was nothing around her, yet she could feel it, almost as if it was a blanket of darkness.  Looking around there was nothing, nothing to be seen… then… then there it was her light!  She reached out towards it with her good right hand and snagging it.  Shining it around she still could see nothing but the blackness that seemed to not diminish to the light she held.  The terror suddenly beginning to grip her once again as she felt her stomach turn, a terrible pain within her stomach and a stench unlike anything she’d ever smelt in her life.  Feeling something else was there, not able to pin point it and feeling the fear surround her as her heart began to thump in her chest hard.  Her pain now fading to the immense that overtook her, as it wrapped itself around her mind.

Her nerves where all on fire, burning with terror screaming in her mind and she couldn’t stand it, unable to think or focus except on the ringing of her brain itself.  Grabbing her head with her one good hand still holding on to her light somehow, she landed on some surface.  The surface had some give to it, almost like it was rubbery.  Peeking her eyes open the surface she was on, yet again was black yet this one had a slight shine to it as the light in her hand dimly reflected off of it.  Climbing up on one knee, she grimaced at the pain, and the screaming that seemed to be emanating in her head.  She opened her eyes again, trying to look at her surroundings, at the floor she was on.  Holding up her light as high as she could reach, all she could see was the black floor as far as the light allowed.  As she looked to the edge of the light she began to see the light expanding, almost as if the darkness was letting her see further.  The light continued to reach out as all she saw was the black glinting floor continuing as far as she could see in every direction. 

As she flung her head back and forth trying to find some wall or entrance to this terrifying darkness she saw something moving on the floor from one direction.  It seemed to be encompassing the entire floor as well, something gliding over the floor and gliding towards her at incredible speed.  Panic filled her, as the fleshy looking worm like object sped towards her.  She locked in position, unable to move once again all her joints locked and frozen stiff.  When finally the worm wasn’t that, it was almost like a second floor sliding along the one she was standing on, yet had some odd flesh like appearance.  As it hit her it was soft yet the speed at which it came make it hard, snapping her right leg in half at the knee and knocking her off the surface and into what she thought was the air. 

Screaming in pain as her lower leg flailed around from the impact, she could feel the lower part twisting and turning only being held to her body by the skin below her thigh.  Wincing as she felt the skin stretching taunt at her previously solid knee almost like the dark was weighing on it.  There was a large gust or movement of something, something near her, almost like the world itself had recoiled away from her.  Snapping back to the pain as she felt the skin stretching as the lower leg spun in the weightlessness and tore open, gushing blood and gore out of her leg as it continued until it completely removed itself from her body; almost like it was trying to escape itself. 

Shrieking an ear piercing scream from sheer terror and pain shooting up her leg, beginning to feel weak from the torment she’d been through and the loss of blood.  All of it being too much, as she felt the darkness quiver around her in reaction to her screams.  There was a rumble around her one she not only heard, but felt as well.  She closed her eyes tight, tired and exhausted, wanting to just let go, and die, be done with everything.  Her entire body went cold, as if she’d been dipped in subzero water, and the previous stench compounded and overwhelmed her as she spilled the last contents of her stomach again.  The sheer and utter shock to her system jolting her eyes open once again.  Opening her mouth to scream but nothing escaped her vocal cords silenced by the terror gripping her.  The floor that was previously behind her now gone, in its place lit her mind up on every nerve ending.  Her body freezing from the unearthly fear griping her so horrible that her extremities were going numb and feeling her mind trying to crawl itself out of her head.  Blood began to stream down her cheeks, emanating from her eyes.  She could feel the warmth oozing out of her ears and down the sides of her neck, her eyes beginning to slide forward, trying to escape the sockets that held them in place.  Before they finally popped forth leaving her body behind and snapping free of the optic nerves the final image burned into what was left of her bleeding brain.  The darkness peeling back, as something slipped through the drawing curtain of darkness.  A colossal opening, larger than anything she’d seen in her life or even imagined.  It was everywhere and moving towards her, all she could see, everywhere, was a circular cone of what seemed to be a horrific mouth. Jagged, bloody brownish black teeth shinning back at her.  The fleshy, undulating gums encasing the teeth pulsing with what looked like bodies holding onto the teeth, speared by the teeth and seeming to be writhing under the flesh of the mouth; encased and suffocating.  Reaching for her, moving around, it was everything, the only thing… then, blackness…

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