I glanced around the arch, circling it several times to find something, anything that would lead me to Arthur. I didn’t find even a clue, and I was becoming more and more worried. Puzzled was more like it. I stood underneath the arch, looking through to the other side, and I saw a breathtaking view of Mt. Whitney just beyond. I stepped onto the rock and stopped directly under the arch. Suddenly, I was overcome by a strange sensation–something like AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness). The weird thing about it was that I wasn’t at a high altitude, so there was no reason for me to experience those symptoms.
I thought that perhaps if I stepped through the arch I would end up passing through to some other world where I might find Arthur. Then I thought better of it. How silly a thought. Being a writer, sometimes I let my imagination get away with me. But maybe it wasn’t such a silly thought after all. It was obvious that Arthur was close, yet not so close.
It was Arthur’s voice again. He sounded more desperate this time. I had to do something, but I was afraid to go it alone.
“Guys!” I shouted. Eddie, Farrah and Gina emerged from the boulders. “I think I found Arthur.”
“Where?” Eddie stood behind me at the arch.
“Follow me,” I said. With that, I stepped through to the other side of the arch. Immediately, the wind was sucked out of me and I felt as if someone had grabbed hold of my lungs and squeezed them with all their might. I was engulfed by a blinding light and my head was spinning as I was sucked into some sort of vortex.
I heard a deafening roar and then, suddenly, everything just stopped. I thought I was dead, but then felt something warm and rugged on my face. When I realized it was the ground, I knew I still had life in me. But I couldn’t move. I opened my eyes and glanced around, but everything was a blur. From what I could make of the surroundings, it seemed as if i were in the same place as before.
The sun was blazing hot and I desperately wanted to get up, but I couldn’t. I could feel my arms and legs, so I knew I wasn’t paralyzed, but for some reason I was immobile, no matter how hard I tried to move. I was suddenly gripped by fear as I realized that there was no sign of life and no sign of Arthur. I wondered why I heard him earlier, but now that I was in this “place,” I didn’t hear a thing. I didn’t even know what became of Eddie, Farrah, or Gina.
The one thing I did hear was a gunshot. It was distant at first, but then another shot rang out that seemed much closer. Dangerously close. I then heard what sounded like a stampede, then more shots, getting ever so close. I knew at that moment it was time to arise from the dust, but I still couldn’t move.
I tried to speak. “Arth—” It was no use. I could barely form the word on my lips. The stampede grew closer and closer, until I could feel the earth trembling beneath me. I heard another gunshot. This time, I could almost feel the bullet pierce the air right next to my face as I struggled to will myself up from the dirt. I’m dead, I thought.
Suddenly, I felt a strong set of arms wrap around me and I was lifted from the ground. My vision was still blurred, so I couldn’t make out the figure. I was being shaken as the figure ran with me and then whisked me across something hard. As I began to fall over, I felt myself being held up, supported by a warm body pressed against mine. A slew of gunshots resounded, causing my ears to pop with each release.
“Yah!” the man shouted, and we began to move–or rather gallop–across the desert. At that moment, I knew that I was riding a horse. What I didn’t know yet was who had just risked his life to save me? And where was he taking me? More importantly, where was Arthur, and was this mystery man going to take me to him? Or had something terrible happened?