Readers' novels no 8: The War for Rushina

Hands on bars
Image caption Kyros considered breaking out through the ventilation shaft. But what would be on the other side?

The Magazine previously published a story about people who attempt to write a novel in a month. Readers shared 350 word extracts or their novels. Here is Esther Harding's tale about Kyros and the Rushinians.

Kyros slowly surveyed every little detail in his prison, starting where he was at the second force field and working meticulously with his little light towards the first. That might work, Kyros craned his neck up towards the ceiling. The passage was waist high there and, straight above him, was a small shaft, perhaps for ventilation. He froze and listened.

"We've caught something," he heard one Rushinian with a deep voice.

A more average pitched voice replied, "Good. In a minute they'll be wishing they had their gas masks with them."

Gas! Kyros' stomach tightened. He looked again at the shaft above him. It certainly went the right direction—towards the surface—but it would be a squeeze to get his broad shoulders into the hole. And he had no idea what it was like at the other end.

"Right," the deep man's voice was muffled as if he had donned a gas mask.

The shaft was Kyros' only option. He unbuckled his dagger from his leg and quickly fastened it to his arm.

Kyros thrust his arms straight up into the tight space and found something to hold onto. He pulled and squeezed himself through. It felt like his heart was trying to break down the walls of his new prison; it pounded against his rib cage and against the walls of the shaft.

The smell of the air changed almost imperceptibly. Kyros wondered if he actually smelt the gas or if he was just imagining it. He pulled with his arms and pushed with his feet, gaining inches as he went. Kyros kept snagging his arm, shoulders, chest on different parts of the structure, tearing his shirt and his skin as he went. He had no choice but to ignore the hot, sticky blood starting to mingle with his sweat.

What was that? Kyros thought. There was a noise below, like lots of people speaking Rushinian, threatening, growing closer. He was already going as fast as possible, but now his movements became frantic instead of the controlled hurry he had held until then.

They were coming after him.