My first fantasy in a while
In the comfortable and deep darkness of a sleepless Sleep, Nikt listened to the sound of creatures crawling and skuttling along the damp floor. She felt the steady heat of her dear younger brother's body just a few feet away from her, and a cool draft coming from somewhere in the Above. She heard the sound of her kin breathing, and the dripping of some erosive melt. She took in a deep breath of damp air and waited for the even deeper darkness of sleep to come.
There was a shift to her right where her brother lay. The soft rustle of worm silk and the sharp change in heart rate signaled his waking. Nikt lay still and pretended to sleep. Her younger brother stood up on first-feet and padded from the room, noisily bumping into the young Mites that guarded the entryway to the corridor. His young and inexperienced hands and feet cautiously felt their way around the slippery surfaces of rock as he left their niche.
Nikt waited until her brother Bit was almost out of earshot to slowly stand up. Her noiselessly smooth third-feet carried her around the Mites and her hands gently caressed the Tites in time with the loud dripping of water. She had known Bit to wonder off in the Sleep, but she never knew where he went. She too slunk away from the niche. Her kin breathed heavily in the Sleep.
She followed just close enough to her brother so as not to lose him, wondering what he thought he was doing. At first she thought he might be trying to sneak to the galleries or perhaps the store of salted fish, but knew he was much too loud to be able to pull off theft. Down to the labyrinth they descended and Nikt could now feel the whole world in Sleep. A lost bat flapped past her ears like a warning cry and Nikt clutched tightly to her silken robe.
Suddenly Nikt could hear her brother wandering somewhere off of the commonway into some unknown fissure in the wall. The sound of distant water rushing disturbed her concentration. Bit's rustling of robes and shuffling of feet became muted. She rushed forward, desperate to not lose her brother. She stopped in front of the small fissure and leaned in, listening as Bit continued to crawl away from her.
Nikt tied her robes tightly together before crawling in after Bit. Her heart raced, but she dared not call after her brother out of both fear of her kin and curiosity of Bit. She felt as the crevice widened into a decent sized crawlway, giving her airspace between her back and the rough ceiling of the rock. The sleeve of her robe tore, but she ignored it, fighting to catch up to Bit, propelling her way with calloused elbows and knees. Just when her breathing was getting heavy, the crawlway dropped off to a small canyon. Bit was already splashing in the water below.
"Bit!" she hissed, but the boy was already walking away.
Nikt knew how dangerous getting into a canyon could be, but she couldn't think to lose her brother. She growled, angry at Bit, and followed down into the cold trickle of water. She shuddered to think of what creatures lived in the cold shallows of the stream. Bit was now far ahead, but his every movement echoed down the long chasm.
Nikt could feel time wearing dangerously on as she continued to run after Bit down canyons, up dangerous slides and through fissures in slabs of rock she could barely squeeze through. She called after him desperately now, but he never stopped. She continued to follow him through the unknown territory, however, because she now not only feared for Bit, but also for her safe passage back to her niche.
Suddenly a rush of warm air rustled her knotted hair. She splashed into another canyon and an unfamiliar sound rang loudly in her ears. Shadows stood more pronounced. The pressure felt different. Bit was close up ahead now, but as she stumbled forward she saw light, and fear stole her heart and stopped her legs. Bit continued on as if unaffected, reaching out to the hole of bright, blinding light. Nikt only put her hand to her eyes and watched in horror as her dear beloved brother transcended through the efflux and into the Above.