Adam Swan is engaged in humanitarian efforts to bring water to a
small, isolated village in the Congo, he is kidnapped by rebel thugs
and thrown into a makeshift prison. He is left to die—or worse—if
his ransom is not paid. In a surprising series of events, Adam
escapes his brutal captors into an underground labyrinth where
reality and sanity no longer rule.
amount of magic which he does not understand, he survives by
employing it boldly, recklessly, desperate to return to the village
above, homesick for Minnesota and normal life with his wife and
extreme limits of his endurance, Adam navigates the labyrinth with
only the company of his past behavior, the baffling magic, and the
seductive temptation to succumb to the mysterious and merciless gods
of the underworld. The consequences of his actions, past present, and
future, take him to the brink of death—and beyond.
thrilling ride by veteran author Elizabeth Engstrom, inspired
by Matthew Lowes’ Dungeon Solitaire: Labyrinth of Souls card
Adam Swan struggled up through dark, painful layers of consciousness. Way in the back of his awareness, he knew that full consciousness would mean full pain. He resisted, wishing desperately to sink into blissful sleep, but he didn’t think his sleep had been all that blissful, and he couldn’t find anything to cling to in order to help him get there.
His head pounded so hard it actually moved with each heartbeat. He not only saw the red pulses behind his closed eyes, but he heard each heart beat thundering through what surely must be a broken skull.
He brought his knees to his chest and cradled his arms over his exploding head.
He was lying on his side. He tried to imagine where he was, how he got there, but he had no room for anything but the pounding, the thundering hammering in his head. There was a very real possibility that the top of his head could blow off with the pressure of each raging beat of his pulse.
He grabbed his head with both hands and squeezed. The dirt beneath him moved, too.
What the hell?
He cracked an eye open, bringing with it harsh, jagged waves of pain. Although there was very little light, he saw walls.
At least he was alive.
Gritting his teeth against the pain, he moved around to assess the damage. His arms worked. His hands worked. They didn’t seem to be injured. He flexed his shoulders.
It was just his head.
He reached around with a tentative touch and picked off crusty dried blood above his ear. Probing fingers found a lump the size of a lemon.
Slowly, carefully testing, he moved his feet, then his legs. One knee gave him some grief, but nothing like his head.
He squinted his eyes, then opened them just a tiny bit, adjusted his glasses, and looked around.
A dark room. Dirt floor. Indistinct light coming from above. He pushed on his temples, trying to arrest the pain, scooted to a wall and pushed himself up to a sitting position, leaning against the wall. Wooden wall.
He stopped moving and closed his eyes again, seeing red and yellow starbursts of pain emanate from his cracked skull until they seemed to fill the room. The pounding lessened when he was still, quiet, not moving.
After a long moment, he carefully opened his eyes again and looked around, gently moving his head, assessing any damage that might have been done to his neck, trying desperately not to start the shattering waves of pain that threatened to shoot his eyeballs right out of their sockets.
Dirt floor. Small, square room. Door at one end. Vent in the roof, the source of the light. Hot. Steamy. Jungle. Still in the jungle. Still in Congo. Stench of urine. Bucket in the corner, perhaps the source of the stench.
Small table next to the wall.
He closed his eyes and tried to relax. Tried to remember.
stories, articles, and essays in print. She is a sought-after teacher
and keynote speaker at writing conferences, conventions, and seminars
around the world. She has a BA in Literature/Creative Writing, and
an MA in Applied
most recent nonfiction book is How to Write a Sizzling Sex
Scene, and her most recent novel is Baggage Check, a thriller.
She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her fisherman-husband and
their dog where she is on the board of directors for Wordcrafters in
Eugene. She teaches the occasional writing class, puts her pen to use
for social justice, and is always working on her next book.
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