Time became superfluous as Gem tossed and turned. Her dream was miserable! Around her was volcanic ash, lava, and eruptions! It made the planet red, but part of it was black and gold as well. It was too fucking hot! She was almost sweltering in the heat. Gem’s eyes barely opened, then closed again, because they seemed to burn. But, she was still hot, and sweating so hard, she was completely drenched. Her hair was so wet, it was like she’d stepped out of a shower, but it was plastered to her head and neck. She might as well have just been dumped by salt water! Hot salt water! Her body was stiff as if she had been laying in the same position for hours if not days.
“This is just not right!” she said to herself. “This dream is not real, so wake the hell up, Gem!”
Forcing her eyes to open, they were matted with a lot of gunk. It’s the only description of it at the moment. She rubbed her eyes trying to remove it, before looking around her. Well, for one thing, she hadn’t dreamed about the heat. Wherever she was, it was horribly hot! Squinting, she realized that her focus was off due to the heat, but she managed to catch large features. Overhead was rock. She tilted her head to the right to see – rock. Then, she tilted it to her left knowing, but hoping, it wouldn’t be what she thought.
“Nope, that’s rock, too,” she muttered. She remembered being kidnapped by a gigantic bird, and it took her into the air!
Rubbing her head, again, she asked the rocks, “Exactly, where is it written that the captive has to be put in a jail of rock? Oh, right. The villain would find the best place where she could not be tracked. Well, this qualifies!”
In all the books she had ever read, this was the norm. The heroine was kidnapped, and put somewhere that would ultimately lead her to her doom.
And, beneath her? Rock, what else? Confused, Gem knew it was far too hot, and any physical exertion just made her sweat even more. What she wouldn’t give for a cold shower and a monster bottle of water right now! She licked her dried, cracked lips, remembering the giant bird that had swooped down out of nowhere! The wings had knocked out Jaxx as if he were a puff of wind, and then, grabbed her neck by its talons. That reminded her. The back of her neck was hurting, and she reached up behind her only to draw her hands away covered with sticky, drying blood. Her blood.
“Well, there’s a ‘not’ surprise!” she muttered, again.
OK…no matter what, she had to at least force herself to sit, and take her bearings. Try to figure out where she was. Slowly, she maneuvered her sore body into an upright position. Wincing with each move, Gem glanced around, while frequently wiping off the salty sweat that was burning her eyes, so she could at least see. The room couldn’t have been bigger than a small bathroom, and it hurt like hell to turn around. But, she managed, and to her surprise, there were iron bars that “barred” her exit. She broke into loud gulps of scared laughter at her pun. Oh, hell! She was becoming hysterical as if she needed that in addition to everything else at the moment!
“Fucking get a hold of yourself, Gem!” she ordered.
After her laughter died down, she was surprised at other senses. She smelled…sniffed a couple of times…smoke? Smoke? No. Not exactly smoke. More like steam with a horrible stench. It reminded her of chemistry class in school, because it was so nauseous. She tried to remember why, but her mind wasn’t working well, yet. But of one thing she was certain. She was in a cave. She looked closer at the rocks, and noticed it was catacombed with jagged holes, and in the dim light, the color looked dark rust except for the floor, which looked as if had been polished smooth. And, there was light! But, where was the light coming fromat the moment? As she looked around, Gem noticed that the reason she could see the rust color was that there seemed to be something behind the rocks that was making the glow! That made no sense whatsoever! Whatever that big bird was, how did it drop her into this God-forsaken place? She rubbed her back as she tried to slowly stand, failing miserably as her feet slipped out from behind her, falling to the rock floor.
“Ouch! Well, that’s just great! The rock is slippery!” she whined, feeling more blood on her back. She turned, and looked at that stone floor. A small pool of her blood was laying underneath where her head and back had been, and it was bubbling as if it were beginning to boil! That was enough for her to jump up quickly – a bit too quickly, which caused her head to whirl.
Slowly, trying not to keep her head from falling off of her neck, she grabbed the wall to keep from falling down. Her hand drew back at the intense heat that met her palm. She held it out in front of her seeing the seared red palm, and fear gripped her. Feeling like an inchworm who could only move a quarter of an inch, Gem reached out to touch the rock wall, again, drawing her hand back fast for a second time as she felt the heat coming from it.
“Bloody hell!” she yelled hoarsely, shaking her reddened and burned hand. “Where the fuck am I? It can’t possibly get any worse than this!”
And, as always, the very minute you ask that question…well, we all know that is exactly when the shit hits the proverbial fan!
“Of course, I shouldn’t have said those fucking cursed words!”
She looked around, again, this time without touching the walls. She noticed a tiny hole in the wall at floor level was glowing a brighter orange. In seconds, she saw something that made her scream, but with no sound. The terror and shock that consumed her was so strong, she backed up against the nearest wall regardless of the heat! Was this the way her life was going to end? If so, just the thought of how she was going to die made her gag, and she begin to throw up.
Dry heaving after emptying her stomach’s contents, she wiped her mouth, then her eyes fixed on the tiny, thickened, orange rivulet that was flowing toward her. It was just a thin ribbon at the moment, but it was just a matter of time that the slow moving stream of orange would grow as it melted the rock around the tiny hole.
“Why?” Gem breathed softly the one word you should never ask, because you usually never received an answer. Or, if you did, it was never what you thought it would be.
The rivulet of brilliant, glowing orange with tiny flames erupting now and then had Gem’s eyes growing larger by the moment, especially when she realized what was lighting up the cave around her.
“Lava?” she whispered in shock. Louder, “I’m inside a volcano? I’m in a volcanic cave with iron bars? In a cave of lava? I’m in a volcanic prison? Ah! Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!”
The cave reminded her of a dead, Jabba the Hut hollowed out fossil! It certainly looked wrinkled enough. Why the hell was she even imagining that right now? Really, Gem? That’s all you have?
Reality grabbed hold of her as she continued to stare at the rivulet of orange. OK. So, she couldn’t ignore it any longer! Terror gripped her as she saw the tiny rivulet growing as it melted the rocks around her! It had already doubled in size, and was slowly headed for the iron bars! At the moment, she could keep out of its way, but she was certain that it wouldn’t stay this way for long! Her life had just been cut short by lava! In minutes, she knew that the entire back side of the cave would be eaten through by the monstrously hot lava, and fill the cave! Looking beyond the bars, she realized that the cave that she was in wasn’t actually a cave, but it must be part of even more tubes that had been carved by lava as it flowed through it in the past! Lava tubes were what they were! For the Creator’s sake! Gem’s heart pounded hard within her chest, and not only the roar of the lava behind her met her ears, but the roar of her blood vibrated within her body as well! Terrified of what would happen to her, she felt her “fight or flight” instinct arrive – only it would be flight! She sure couldn’t fight lava! What should she do? Only one answer.
“Oh, God! I have to get out of here!”