The 13 Secret Cities (Omnibus)

The 13 Secret Cities (Omnibus) by Cesar Torres

Book: The 13 Secret Cities (Omnibus) by Cesar Torres Read Free Book Online
Authors: Cesar Torres
Tags: Fiction
that had felt like human flesh and bones beneath us were mutilated bodies. I saw them clearly now. Bodies thrown there like trash in a landfill.
    I saw the small hill to the right and the mountain towering over us as we approached its foot.
    Though we were moving too fast to free ourselves from the claws of the beast, I wasn’t going to waste my ability to speak.
    “José María,” I shouted. “Can you hear me?”
    He shouted at me, but we were bouncing off rocks and the terrain below, and I couldn’t read his lips. Nothing emerged from his mouth. Only I had the ability to speak, it seemed.
    Because of the blood.
    Tears streamed down my brother’s face like rivers of black ink, and even though he was shaded in the darkest black I had ever seen, he remained familiar—annoying, irritating—but also my brother. I didn’t want him to get hurt. I reached out with my left hand to try to get a hold of his hoodie, but I was too far away.  
    “Stay with me!” I shouted to my brother.
    As we gained height in our climb, I could suddenly begin to understand the vastness of this place.
    The arid land spread out for thousands of miles. My eyes scanned every detail of the black panorama. The ground was coated in a fine, shiny gravel, and my eyes caught many glints through the vast plains that stretched before me. These were insect or scorpion colonies, I wasn’t sure. The rest was emptiness, enclosed by a sky without a single star and without a moon. The desolation of this place suggested to me that it might spread out into an infinity.
    Not just infinity.  
    An infinity. One of many.
    That idea felt suddenly more terrifying than if we had been buried alive and left to rot.
    Here, the darkness eats everything.
    We were now climbing up a slight incline, and the foot of the mountain spread around us. When the rocks became flat, he forced us to walk, keeping his long claws wrapped around our shoulders. When the rocks became too sharp and uneven to clear, he grabbed us by the collar and leapt.  
    We flew into the air, bouncing from one rock to the next. My ribcage rattled and I screamed. We were not just going up the mountain; we were going around it. My sandpaper music-voice sent out futile screams.  
    We reached a flat boulder, and the creature landed on it with a creak of its bones. He tossed us at its edge, and José María landed on top of me. My brother let out another silent shout.
    The creature got down on all fours, and now he was more doglike than ever before. His black eyes showed no iris, no pupil, and his cone of black light let me see the steep slope of the mountain behind his shoulders. He flexed, and the bell sounds rang deep from inside his belly. He pounced on José María, pinning him on his back, and the dog head turned toward me.
    “Is this your gift to me, woman?” the creature sang.
    “Leave him alone,” I said. “Take me first.”
    “You still don’t understand, do you?” the creature said. “You have proven yourself, but no one visits my gate without bearing a gift.”
    “He’s not your gift,” I shouted, and I ran toward the beast. I punched him in the eye as hard as I could. Just like he had been unable to chew through me, my own fist didn’t make the monster flinch.
    You need to distract him; you need to buy time.
    “What is your name?” I said.
    The beast cocked his head, and our eyes stayed locked. Time passed in that trance we held through each other. I saw the fine wrinkles of his dog face, and the edges of his gums drip with slobber.
    Then a single tear ran down his smooth skin.
    The musical note that created the twin cones in the air gave the tear extra dimension and detail, and I could see deep within the tear’s structure, the way the molecules clung to themselves. Even in this world of no light, I could see the tear was transparent as water.  
    “No one has asked my name in a very long time,” the creature said, and he lowered his head. His human arms and legs went slack,

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