Austin, er, Aleksander, smirks, relishing in my confusion. And then it hits me. My mother was talking about him with that unknown voice out her window. What was it she said? That "Aleksander" was looking for me?
"What do you want?" I ask, trying as hard as I can to keep my voice strong.
He strides forward and crouches before me, a spark in his golden eyes, "Information."
He slowly reaches out and catches the next drop of liquid in his palm. And the next. I savor the relief of not having my skin be melted off for a few moments. Then, he flips his hand upside down, sending a puddle of the liquid onto my legs. I scream loudly, mostly in pain, and partly in shock. I try to move my hands to brush the liquid agony off, but they get caught by my chains again. I move my legs, and it sends another shock of pain through my body. I start to cry for real now, big tears that drip down my face. I furiously swipe them away, I can't show this guy weakness.
"I'll tell you anything! Just make it stop!"
He smiles at me, his sharp teeth on display.
"Do you know where this water comes from?" he asks.
"No." I whimper, this is nothing like I've ever felt before.
He catches the next drop, and lets it fall through his fingers onto my leg. I half expect my flesh to sizzle and smoke.
"This," he smirks, "is water straight from Mermaid Lagoon."
Mermaid Lagoon? Where the hell is that? I've never even heard of any such lake in all of Colorado.
"The place where the mermaids dwell, Relia."
"But, mermaids don't exist."
He chuckles, "Oh, silly girl. You're living proof that they do."
Now, he really laughs at me. What is he talking about? I'm proof that mermaids exist? I glance down at my shimmering leg, it does kind of add up… I set my jaw and glare up at him, he looks slightly shocked, but amused, at my new found strength.
"Tell me what's going on. Now."
He smiles at me, and lunges forward so quickly I almost fall backwards. He whips out his dagger and presses it to my throat. It stings, but I don't back down. His face has morphed into one of a stone cold killer.
"If you ever," he forces the dagger against my throat, I can feel a few drops of my blood drip from my neck, but I refuse to back away, "talk to me like you have power," he pushes harder, "I will slit your throat."
My blood is now streaming down my throat and onto my chest.
He pulls away, and stares into my eyes.
'Welcome to Neverland, Princess."
Neverland? Like the Neverland? Princess? He reaches into his bag and pulls out a pinch of a familiar looking sparkly sand, but it's black.
"What are you talki-"
"I know all I need to know for now."
"But-" He blows it onto my face, and I slump into the wall, out cold.
I sit up with a gasp, wiping away hot tears and shaking my head to get rid of the nightmare. It's okay. It was all a dream. Taking in my surroundings, it hits me hard that it's not. I don't even know how long I've been out for, but the sun is shining brightly and my cell is kind of hot. The sky is a beautiful blue, with white cotton candy clouds. There is a light breeze that carries with it the smell of the sea. I'm so not in Colorado anymore. I move to stretch, but that sharp pain reminds me that I can't. Almost my whole left leg is scales now, and they shine beautifully in the late morning sun. On the bright side, the water doesn't hurt very much anymore. It has melted off my flesh as much as it could. I just don't want to go through that with my right leg.
At that moment, I hear a scratching sound. Almost like sawing. I scan my room from my spot on the floor, not seeing anything. But, a bit of movement out of the corner of my eye catches my attention. A dagger, nothing like the one Aleksander used on me, is sawing through the bars of my window. No way. Is this a jailbreak? I don't know who's doing it, all I can see is the steady back and forth motion of the dagger against the bar. It's working, my rescuer is almost halfway through with the second bar. I try to call out to them but I fail, I can't speak. My mouth and throat are so dry that I can't talk. All I can do is look helplessly at the dagger, now sawing through its third bar. I sit and wait, within minutes all six bars are sawed through, and the window is open wide enough for a person to fit through. Then, it goes quiet. It appears my rescuer has disappeared. I can't shout for help or to see if anyone is there, I can just stare and hope for the best.
The world is silent, except for the distant calling of seagulls and the salty breeze moving through the trees.
All of a sudden, a guy jumps through my window. He rolls gracefully through and lands on the floor, with his back to me. He straightens and brushes dust off of his loose white shirt. He's wearing brown pants and black leather boots, and has a small dagger, a pouch tied with a familiar weathered white string, and something that looks like an old fashioned flute attached to his belt. He runs a hand through his wavy chestnut hair, with those beautiful hints of red. And then he turns around.
There's a spark in those emerald green eyes as he extends a hand to me, "Peter Pan, at your service m'lady."
A week ago, I would have laughed if someone introduced themselves as Peter Pan. But now, my silver leg and surroundings cause me to believe he's not lying.
He smiles at me reassuringly, and then his eyes land on my leg.
"Shit. You're already in transition."
"I'm-" I break into a coughing fit, my mouth is so dry. I clear my throat and take a few deep breaths before I try again.
"Transition," he repeats, "from a human to a mermaid."
I laugh nervously, "Um, you're kidding right?"
Something inside me knows he isn't, but I don't want to believe it.
His face grows serious, "I'm not. We need to get you out of here and to the lagoon before nightfall, before Aleksander wakes up."
He steps forward. "Are you in pain?"
"Nothing like I've ever felt before."
He cocks his head, "I'm just going to have to carry you, and you're going to have to bear with me. It's going to hurt."
I nod, trying to maintain a brave face.
"I can do it."
He smiles at me, "That's the spirit."
He crouches onto the floor of my cell and reaches into the pouch that contains that sparkling white sand. He withdraws a small silver key, and inserts it into my shackles.
"How do you have the key?" I ask, suspicious.
He moves to my other wrist and smiles at me, "It's a skeleton key. It unlocks anything and everything on this island." He unlocks it and leans towards me, "Alright. One, two, three."
He puts his arms behind my knees and back, and lifts. I bite my tongue hard to keep my scream in. It's unbearable. Silent tears fall, I bury my face in his chest and squeeze hard onto his shoulders.
He straightens and looks down at me, "Will you be okay?"
I tighten my grip and nod. He gives me a sympathetic smile, and lifts off of the ground. Oh, that's right. Peter Pan can fly.
We soar out the window and into this new world. It's very beautiful, we're flying away from my cell over a forest of all sorts of trees, aspens, palm trees, pine trees, and some more that I don't recognize. Looking back, I see that my prison was built into the side of a mountain, located near the mouth of a large cave and a sizable lake fed by a waterfall. That lake empties into an even bigger waterfall that falls down the rest of the mountain range. The waterfall empties into a long creek that leads to a crystal blue ocean. Looking around helps take my mind off of my throbbing legs. I can see a fishing village near the end of the river, right on the beach, that backs up to the forest. The whole island is covered by the lush trees, save the mountains and a dryer plateau on another side. A thin column of smoke wafts up from the plateau, a campfire? Glancing away from the plateau, there is a massive tree that towers above the forest, and seems to glow in the light. My eyes can't seem to tear themselves away from it.
Peter distracts me by dipping lower in the sky, towards a smaller cove on the opposite end of the island. We've traveled a long distance in this time. He lands on a rock in the center of the cove, and gently sets me down on the ground next to him. My legs complain at every small movement. He sits down next to me.
"Are you okay?"
I look up at him, my eyes welling up with tears. God, I need to stop with the crying.
"What's happening to me?" I ask.
As soon as the first tear trickles down my cheek, he pulls me in for a hug. I lean against his chest, thankful for the warmth of another person. He holds me, gently rocking back and forth. I hear the crackle of twigs in the bushes, he hears it too. We turn in the direction of the noise, but nothing is there. This place is weird.
"It'll be okay. It sucks right now, I can't even imagine what you're feeling. But soon, it will all be over."
I tilt my head to look up at him, "What do you-"
He reaches out and puts a finger to my lips, a grin forming on his face.
"Shh. Everything will make sense in time."
Who is everyone refusing to tell me what's going on? I turn away and stare into the water below us, it ripples in the soft wind, bluer than anything I've ever seen. Peter shifts next to me, reaching to his belt to grab the instrument I saw earlier.
I sniff and wipe my eyes, "What is that?"
"This," he smiles down at me, "is my set of pipes."
"Like a flute?" I ask.
He nods, and brings them to his lips. He plays a short melody that sounds like a sea breeze. I can literally feel the ocean caressing my face. I close my eyes and lean against him, listening to him play. He stops suddenly, and I open my eyes. I'm staring into the face of a girl my age, with deep blue eyes and long, wavy dark brown hair. Small, shiny pearls are weaved into it, and a beautiful tiara sits on her head. She's wearing a bikini top made of seaweed, interesting fashion choice; the rest of her body is submerged in the cove's waters. I gasp, Peter tightens his hold on me reassuringly.
The girl smiles at me sweetly, and extends a smooth hand in my direction. I take it hesitantly, and her smile broadens.
She turns her attention to my shimmering leg, and gasps.
"It's silver." she whispers, Peter doesn't hear her.
"Is there something wrong?" he asks, not removing his arm from around my shoulders.
She shakes her head softly and turns her attention back to us.
"No. There's nothing wrong. We need to get going before the others know I'm here."
Peter stiffens against me, "They don't know?"
Her kind face becomes agitated, "Peter, she's the first ever. How the hell do you think the rest of them will react? With our queen having just returned, everyone is already high-strung. We don't need to add her," she gestures to me, "to the mix."
Peter sighs, "Fine. Keep her safe, I'll be back to check on her tomorrow. Deal?"
Her pleasant demeanor is returned, "Deal."
She looks at me, "This is going to hurt, okay?"
"What's going to hurt?" I ask.
Then she snatches my hand and pulls me under. I don't even have time to scream.