Author Gladiatorial Challenge: Round 2, Brian Niemeier
Brian Niemeier is the Campbell Award nominated author of the Soul Cycle series, including the Dragon Award nominated Souldancer. He graciously agreed to enter this Author Gladiatorial Challenge to earn your vote for the Dragon Awards. The awards have passed and Brian has won, but the challenge continues! You can find his entry for round one here. Below is his entry for round two. I hope you find it as entertaining as I did. Declan’s entry will run later this evening, with judging to come tomorrow.
Astlin isn’t entirely clear as to whether the approaching cube is real or another violent hallucination.
One thing is clear, though: the cube. There are all sorts of odds and ends floating inside it. One item in particular catches Astlin’s attention. It’s a stop sign.
Is a stop sign still legally binding when it’s inside a gelatinous cube? Probably not. Then again, what if the cube isn’t really a cube at all? What if it’s a school bus? You can get in big trouble if a school bus puts its stop sign out and you don’t stop.
Astlin has been staring at the stop sign for a good five minutes, weighing the pros and cons of ignoring it or not, when she is enveloped by the cube.
Five more minutes pass before she stops staring at the sign and realizes that she’s inside a ten by ten by ten foot cube of warm gel that’s oozing its way down the corridor. The jelly is in her ears, crackling like a wet plastic bag.
It’s pretty nice in here. She’d forgotten how much of a chore it is lugging her brass body around. Floating inside the cube makes her feel practically weightless. It’s like drifting on a cloud–a warm, sucking, cube-shaped cloud.
Astlin can understand how being inside a gelatinous cube might not be everybody’s thing. Most other people have to breathe, for one. But that’s no problem for her.
The gel itself also seems like it’s pretty corrosive, if the rapidly dissolving rats in here with her are any clue. That’s okay. Her armor can shrug off black dragon breath, so the cube’s acid gel won’t eat through the salamander leather, and it just makes the exposed skin of her face tingle.
Snug as a cherry in the center of a Jello mold, Astlin lies back, relaxes, and goes where the cube goes.
Three hours later, the cube finally gets tired of carrying Astlin’s weight and disgorges her from its bulk. She sits on the tunnel floor for a while, unhurt but soaking wet.
She decides to take her armor off and dry it with her body heat. Upon removing her shoulder-length right glove, Astlin is shocked and delighted to find that her brass flesh has been polished to a mirror shine. The gel must have eaten away the dull buildup that accumulated over the years. Seriously, below the neck she looks like a brand new award trophy or a luxury car hood ornament!