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Missing Sunrise

By @greek-geek

Dieing in the Desert

     Her heart pounded to the rhythm of the dark mare’s hooves as it sprinted across the hem of a massive dune. The desert horizon had begun to bruise pink as the sun rose, the shadowed faces of the mounds of sand deepening. Frigid breezes from the passing night whipped up shallow waves of gold dust, giving breath to the Egyptian sea of land spreading to the edge of the earth. 

     Andra spared a glance at the men which pursued her. Their massive steeds had continued on through the night, steadily advancing as her farm beast gradually lost its drive. 

     Whipping around, she dug her heels fiercely into the stolen horses’ sides. The linen gown she wore flattened against her drenched chest in the wind. 

     With an aggravated snort the mare pushed on, sweat dripping down her flank and neck, congealing under Andra’s burning thighs. The endless ride without stirrups to break her fall against the horses’ back would cause an ugly show of bruising. 

     She stole another look at the Pharaoh’s guards. They were closer. Only a few yards now. 

     Andra just had to keep going. Keep ahead just until the sun broke the horizon. Just a little longer. 

     A shocking force slammed into her mount and Andra nearly toppled over if not for her death grip on the mare’s wiry mane. The soldier slashed out with his drawn scythe as he forced his horse beside hers. She ducked, but not fast enough. The tip of the blade caught her left ear. Andra cried out as pain sang from the torn cartilage.

     She didn’t have time to move before the skirt-wearing guard plunged the hilt of his curved sword against her shoulder with explosive force. Something gave an unnerving crack. Andra didn’t even have time to scream in agony – much less breath – as he once again hefted the scythe for another blow, their mounts shoving closer as they both competed for space on the narrowing crest of the dune. 

     Both steeds threw back their heads in aggravation at the unwelcome contact. Nostrils flaring red. Eyes flying back to the whites. Teeth bared and braying. 

     And then the heartbeat started. Thrumming in her ears ever so faintly. It was time to go. 

     Andra let loose a ragged roar, yanked her mount’s rearing head back with all her strength, and threw herself into the side of the massive guard. Startled, the mare screeched and lost her footing, skidding and slamming the rest of its weight into the soldier’s stallion. 

     The three of them tumbled off the top of the mountain dune. A mass of screeching horse hair, sweat, and linen.

     Everything slowed as the first glance of daybreak broke over the desert. Andra felt weightless within the void of air and dust surrounding her. Frozen grains of sand hovering around her. 

     The familiar rhythm of her slowing heart filled her. All she could hear was the steady, soft Ba – bump, Ba – bump, Ba – bump as it rattled through her entire body. Her lungs caught in the breath of the moment. 

     And then her heart began to sink. Like a glass marble in a jar of syrup. 

     Ba – bump . . . Ba – bump . . .

     Ba – bump. . . . . 

     Ba – 

     Until time stopped, and she was strapped down between heartbeats. The Ba – as it surged upward, cut off from the human steadiness of the bump

     And then Andra hit the ground. Shivers of sand falling around her. A hard, cold, smooth tile floor that smelt like chemicals meeting her bare legs. Leaving the soldier to fall to the earth of Ancient Egypt and find her gone. Disappeared out of thin air. 

     The bump of her heart hit Andra as though it hadn’t missed a beat and continued on with its panicked racket ricochetting against her chest, as though she were still atop that wicked little mare. Like a slow motion clip falling straight back into the speed of the present as it ended. 

     Andra slumped against the girl’s bathroom wall, panting, as the pain once again claimed her. Warm blood flowed freely down her neck and her shoulder smarted as she reached to touch the pounding ear. At least the chill of the white tiles somewhat soothed her raw backside. Somewhat. 

     Then she noticed the light streaming through the louvered windows along the height of the wall. The heads of palm trees gently shuddered in the breeze just outside, their green fingers slipping through the metal slants.

     She had been gone for the whole night. At least she hoped it was only one night.

     What day was it? 

     A shrill cry of a rusty bell sounded just outside. 

     Andra cursed and launched at her tattered camo backpack, unzipped the front pocket and fingered inside for her watch. 

      1:55 p.m. Wonderful. 

      Andra shoved herself off the ground and propped her bag on the toilet seat. She was suddenly very glad she had taken her usual stall. It was the largest at the back of the bathroom and sported a private sink and mirror. But it was still disgusting, of course. 

      Andra’s fingers gently grazed the bloody pinna of her left ear as she leaned over the sink and tilted her head to the spotted mirror. She banded her mahogany brown locks back with a spare hair tie and rushed to splash the wound with clean water, wincing as it burned. After dabbing it dry with a few paper towels, she could finally view the ripped cartilage. It looked like someone had torn a deep hoop ring through the upper slope of her pinna. 

     She would go to the nurse later to have it properly cleaned with rubbing alcohol. The last thing Andra needed was an infected ear. 

     She staunched the bleeding with some toilet paper and masking tape and pulled out the extra wrinkled uniform and underwear she kept stored at the base of her bag. 

     Wincing the whole time, Andra stripped off the ancient gown she had snatched and swiped the rest of the blood from her shoulder and neck. The second bell had rung by the time she struggled into her burgundy knee socks, skirt, and white blouse, clambering to remove the jeweled armbands from her person as she unlocked the stall, slipping on her buffed school shoes one step after the other. 

     Andra stumbled over the threshold, stuffing the gold adornments at the bottom of her bag and hurrying toward the science labs. 

     She was out of breath by the time she arrived at the other side of the highschool. She pushed through the door of the science lab and paused as the rest of the class swiveled toward her. 

     “Andrania,” Mr. Careet greeted from where he stood at the white board across the room. “You’re late. Again.” 

     “Um, yeah. I was. . . delayed,” she dodged. 

     The ginger Biology teacher squinted at her, brow furrowing. 

     “What happened to your ear?” he asked cautiously.  

     “Piercing. . . incident.” 

     The whole room seemed to wince. 

     “Jeeze,” he replied, suspicion washing away. “Well, glad to see you survived. At least you showed up. Come in. We’re doing desert ecosystems today. Now, where were we…? Ah. Sahara. Largest desert in the world. Stretching 1800 km wide, and 4800 km…” 

     Andra took her seat near the front, dusting Ancient Egyptian sand from her knee and pulling out her binder. 

     Then everything began to slow and all she could hear was that wretched, uncontrollable Ba – bump . . . Ba – bump . . . . . . Ba – 

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