Content Warning: Live burial
"The Aviator called out to me, ‘It is this wind or none for us. Shall I take the chance?’
"‘Go!’ I cried, and we leaped away into the void below. Looking back as we fell, I saw the guards clustering about the edge of the cliff, a look of triumph on the face of the foremost as he watched us falling—so he thought—to our deaths. Then, as the Aviator shifted to catch the fresh blast of wind that came rushing up from beneath us, we soared high once more. I laughed aloud to see the guard’s countenance fall. Flying away into the night sky, we left them to stumble back down the mountain in defeat.
"‘Praise be to God,’ I cried out, for a felt a rush of jubilation at our escape. ‘There is none in heaven but him!’
"‘They know us now,’ the Aviator called back to me against the wind. ‘We can never return.’
"‘Not while the king lives,’ I said.
"Putting that gloomy thought from our minds, we flew through the night, always in a straight line, toward the south, putting as much distance as possible between ourselves and the city that would not now admit us back. When morning came, we were looking down upon the sea, watching the waves toss and shift, reaching up us as if to pull us down into the vast depths below.
"‘Where shall we go?’ the Aviator asked, but I only shook my head, for I knew not what we should do or where we might find a haven.
"Journeying on, we began to pass over scattered islands, clustered together into inhabited lands or standing alone and empty, but each rich with fruit-bearing trees and springs of fresh water. I began to think once more of escape from the world of men, of taking refuge with my friend on one of these uninhabited rocks and living out our days free from such tyranny as we had left behind in the walled city.
"As I was musing upon this idea, we passed over another solitary island, and, looking down, I saw people clustered together at the feet of a small mountain. Although they were far below us, I saw that they were bearing a corpse with them, and I watched as they rolled away a great stone from the mouth of a pit that opened down into the mountain’s roots. At the bottom of this pit, littered among the bones of the other dead, lay many rich objects of gold and silver, and many jewels that had once adorned their living owners before they had been cast down into the grave. The vast treasure glittered in the high light of the sun, bewildering my eyes. I released my grip on the frame of our sky-craft to lean out into the wind, holding on with one hand as I gazed down at more wealth than I had seen in any of my travels.
Then I marveled, for after throwing down the body of the dead man, they lowered a woman in after him by rope. She was holding a few small loaves of bread and an earthen jug, and with such provision they left her, replacing the stone over the mouth of the tomb."
At this point, the stranger broke off the story, and a rustling and scraping came from the darkness, as if he was standing up once more. “Do you wish to live?” the stranger asked. “Follow me, and you can escape from this prison of death.”