The Living Crystals

Gloria Liang

Gloria Liang

It was six in the morning and I was not ready to deal with an intruder.

I scowled at the girl, all petite and proper in her fancy shoes, sticking out among the dusty ground and dead grass behind her. She wore a flowing dress of white lace, and pearls—ill-fit for prospecting.

"This area is currently for prospectors only," I told her firmly, ‘Go back to your mansion, the work of the citizens is nothing you have to concern yourself with." The rich brat frowned angrily. "My father is Mercurius Alexandrite." She was the daughter of my boss.

My blood went cold as she continued defiantly. "I should fire you for disrespect."

Only a job at Alexandrite Company would be able to put food on the table for my family. I'd gone through multiple interviews and practical exams against thousands of other prospectors to snatch one of the lucrative positions. I couldn't lose it.

"What do you want?" I demanded.

Her smirk was sinister. "Help me find something and I won't destroy your job."

I was silent. What other choice did I have? I tossed my pickaxe from hand to hand and growled. "How long will this take?"

The girl's smirk widened. She'd won. "It shouldn't take more than a day."

Disgusted, I began to walk. "What are you looking for?"

The girl skipped happily behind me. "The Living Crystals."

"What, the legend that seniors tell the newbies so they can waste hours looking for nothing?" My voice was venomous."How are you going to find these? The seniors told us they were underground but that's totally helpful."

The girl raised an eyebrow. "Do you even know what the Alexandrite family was known for before they created Alexandrite company?"

Ah. "They were controllers of metal, jewels, and more."

"My grandmother was the last of our line to have metal-magick in her blood, so I can't sense those things. Anyway, she created a map to find our birthright but never finished it." She fished a scrap of old paper from her pocket. "But I did some decoding—they're in the largest cave. That's where you come in."

"Fine, then. I'll lead you there."

I let my feet lead the way. Soon, I was standing inside the largest cave, staring at the stalactites dripping water from above. It was damp and dim inside the cavernous space. The ground sloped downward in front of us and sharp protrusions stuck out on every wall.

I looked for the girl and saw her holding what looked like two rocks, but I knew what they were; I'd used them multiple times—highly concentrated explosives.

Without warning, she hurled them as far as she could and the entire cave shuddered at the impact of the explosion. I slammed into the cave wall; something cracked under the force and I muffled a scream.

The explosives had created a gaping hole in the ground. I coughed at the fine dust floating everywhere and assessed the damage: burns all over my face and neck. I patted the raw skin; I didn't feel anything—had my nerves been fried?

A vise clamped over my arm and began to drag me toward the hole. I yelped in surprise, but mostly pain. The girl yanked us into the gaping emptiness.

Down, lower, lower into the darkness. I was sure I was going to snap my neck but then I heard the splash. I treaded water and shivered at the cold.

The area we'd fallen into was all open space. There was a light in the distance, illuminating the rough walls and ripples of water with a yellow glow.

The girl pushed herself out of the water. Her green eyes were glassy as if she was in a trance. "That's it," she breathed.

She began to walk toward the light. I got out of the pool and limped behind her. The brilliance of the light became so dazzling that I had to close my eyes. The girl's footsteps stopped.

I peeked open my eyes. The cave floor was covered in jewels so bright they seemed unreal. Were these really the Living Crystals? There was no feeling of something supernatural, only something utterly wrong.

I watched as the girl reached to touch the crystals, heart pounding. Her hands were trembling, and my breathing grew ragged.

You have to stop her, my conscience told me.

But she'd been the one who got me into this mess. She was the one who threatened to take away my job.

She deserves this.

Her hands brushed a ruby as I held my breath. Was my intuition wrong?

But then I heard the chilling laughter. My skin prickled at the malicious glee in the high-pitched giggles. The girl swung her head at me, eyes filled with fear.

A snake of greenish mist began to trickle through the pile of jewels. I tried to run but my legs were heavy as lead. The girl seemed to be unable to move too.

The laughter grew louder as I saw the gems shatter. The black shards rose into the air, glowing poisonous green like the mist. The noise became splintered words, spoken so quickly they melted into each other.

"Chosenoneburnworldunpuredestroydiemineralsstopdarknessvessel —"

I blinked and the shards had embedded deeply into the girl's pale skin. A muffled shriek tore out of her mouth and she collapsed with a thud.

The mist swirled into a humanoid shape and began to wail.

"She isn't dead. Save her! Go to our homeland, or you will die with her!"

The mist dissipated and the jewels stopped glowing. I could finally move and I nearly sobbed with relief. I nervously searched the area we'd fallen into, but there was no way out.

As I patted the cave walls, I began to cough and my throat felt itchy. All of a sudden the ground seemed to pitch like I was on a boat. My eyes, my nose—everything was burning.

Too late I saw that the mist hadn't really disappeared.

Then everything was black.
---
First place winner of the Middle School age group for the 2020 Flash Fiction Contest.
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