Chapter Twenty Four
After two more whole days I was beginning to lose my mind.
So much so, that I decided that I would go down to the cavern with Alana, just so that I could see another, more or less, living person. The solitude was making me think too much and I didn’t like the places my mind was running to.
I dove into the water, no longer bothered in the slightest by the strange sensation across my skin. It was normal now. I went straight for the bottom, running down things in my head that I could use as excuses for why I’m down here. I walked into the cave and looked around, but Alana wasn’t here.
“What the heck?” I said out loud to myself. I’d been doing that a lot lately…talking to myself so that I don’t forget the sound of my own voice.
“She’s not here.” I heard a familiar voice.
I turned and saw Armela floating in the opening to the cave. “Where is she?”
“Ok, well, when will she be back?” I asked.
“Another day or so.” She replied.
I sighed. “Oh.” I mumbled, and she started to float away. “Hey,” I called. “What do you do all day?” I asked her, trying to keep her from leaving.
“This is all I do.” She said disinterested, her tentacles cutting through the waters. “Float, swim, think…”
If I were her I’d be hoping that a shark might swim by that I could entice into putting me out of my misery.
“I’m sorry.” I said, bowing my head a little, regretting the question. “Do you want to, I don’t know, hangout?” I asked awkwardly. How exactly do you hang out with a girl trapped inside of the body of a jellyfish? She didn’t leave, so I took that as at least a maybe. “So, how old are you?” I asked her, trying to not look at the orb to my right.
“I should be twenty four.” She said in a clipped tone.
“Wow.” Mumbled. “I’m sorry.”
She made a sighing sound. “You’re always saying you’re sorry like you are the one who did this to me.” She said. “I’m the one who did this to me.”
I nodded my head, having to stop myself from apologizing for asking. “What was your deal?”
“A boy, like you.”
“What was his name?”
“Timothy.” She whispered, the affection still clear in her voice.
I smiled at the sound of it. “And is he…?”
“He’s fine.” She told me. “I traded my soul for his, and Alana did hold up her part of the bargain, even though we never got close to collecting the one hundred like you all did.”
“We never would have been able to do it if it weren’t for Theon.” I told her, saying his name making me sad. It was weird to me that I had stopped missing Asher so much, but now that feeling of need comes when I say Theon’s name. Heck, even the smell of the ocean blowing up onto the shore makes me think of him and his spiced cologne and salt water scent.
“Yeah.” She said, her voice going back to her usual snippiness. “Theon is such a lifesaver.”
The sarcasm in her voice was clear. “Why do you have a problem with him?” I asked, feeling defensive. “Did he refuse to help you or something?”
Armela laughed, then began to swim back for the open ocean. “You shouldn’t be in here.” She said. “If Alana were to come back early and catch you, she’d not be very happy.”
I looked around the cavern, eyes landing back on the orb glowing dimly today. “Yeah, of course.” I muttered, a little enamored by it. I yanked my eyes away and followed Armela out of the cave, stepping out into a school of little fish that were impatiently speeding by my face. I looked up and noticed that Theon’s boat still wasn’t here, meaning that he was still gone.
I went back to the beach, pulling out the rake like I have the last few days and began methodically pulling it through the sand, adding little designs to it so that it would take longer, and then before long, night fell on me again. I plopped in the sand, staring up at the sky for hours, watching as the stars seemed to shift in the sky over me as the night rolled into the next day. It was like watching one of those time lapse videos, except that this was just the borningness of my life.
More dangerously boring hours ran by me, when suddenly I jumped up when I heard the sound of Theon’s boat coming. I bolted in a full sprint into the water, diving down deep where he wouldn’t see me. I watched from the darkness as he jumped into the water, and swam up to the beach. I swam up closer, moving around to the side of the rocks where I could see him but I was sure he wouldn’t be able to see me.
He looked so cute.
Why was that my first thought?
I watched as he shook the water from his hair and then looked around the pristinely clean beach. I could see that he was laughing a little, his broad shoulders glistening in the sun as they shook. I smiled at the thought of it, still being able to hear his warm chuckle in my mind, but I stopped when I saw him lift his hands to shield his eyes from the sun and look around, scanning the water.
“He’s looking for me.” I said to myself sadly as I continued to watch him sit in the sand, pulling his knees up to his chest. “He’s waiting.” I sighed, already knowing that this was going to kill me.
“He’ll have to just keep waiting.” Armela’s voice made me jump. “Alana is back, and she needs to see you.”
I looked back up to Theon. He’d pulled over one of the books and was flipping through the pages, chewing on his thick lip. I’ve got to figure something out soon. Anything to get me back out there, because I don’t know how long I can just watch Theon from the distance and not go to him. Especially with him sitting up there waiting on me. I hope that a freaking person will be coming through soon so that I can do as Ms. Kay suggested. I still hold little faith in her plan, but at this point I’m desperate.
I sighed again, then swam back down to follow Armela into the cavern, surprised to find two girls I didn’t know, and Alana in her sea monster form. I was struck again by how hideous she was. Those big blank white eyeballs staring at me like she knew what I’d just thought about her.
She was floating in front of the two girls, taking away their personal space, only making them more uncomfortable and probably more prone to agree to whatever she said. “Whatever she’s going to offer you, you should say no.” I told them without really thinking.
Alana spun in the water, her eyes glowing at me. “You shut up!” Alana’s voice hissed.
Both girls were still stricken with fear, and they weren’t able to breathe, which meant that they hadn’t been tricked into the first part of Alana’s deals yet. “Seriously!” I yelled at them. “She’ll kill you when she is done with you, and anything she offers you is a lie!”
The monster was in my face, shoving me down to the cave floor, whacking my head hard against the bottom. “Lies!” She yelled. “This girl spreads lies!” She swam away from me, and over to the girls again, who seemed to be running out of time. “Make a deal with me, beautiful girls.” She said to them, trying to keep her voice light and appealing but she was losing her hold. “I will give you air to breathe if you only agree.”
If I could only convince them, then I might not even need Ms. Kay’s plan, or Theon’s secret. “Her deal is eternal servitude to her!” I shouted, and the monster held out a webbed hand to me, the air ripping out of my lungs painfully.
“Alana!” Armela yelled. “Your deal!” She called. “What are you doing?”
The monster threw back its head and howled and I looked over to the lifeless girls floating in the water beside the orb. “What have you done?” Alana’s voice filled my ears. “You idiot!”
My eyes were burning and my hands were on my throat. It felt like someone was holding me with a vice grip, but there was nothing there but my own hands. “Help.” I tried to choke out, but water was rushing into my mouth.
“Alana!” Armela yelled again, and suddenly I could breathe again, the pain ceasing instantly.
I laid on the cave floor, coughing to bring in as much air as I could. “What have you done?” Alana’s voice screamed again. “We had a deal!”
“You had already broken one deal with me!” I called back hoarsely.
“I have never broken a deal!” Alana screamed.
“You promised I could leave as soon as I finished the 100.” I reminded her.
“No!” She yelled back. “I promised that you could leave earlier! I never said I would let you go the second you finished, and then you were the one who came back and made a new deal with me! That was all you!” She screamed, the monster body pacing angrily behind the orb. “You made a new deal and you agreed to two years!”
I weakly stood up from the ground. “I changed my mind.” I told her. “I will mess this up for you no matter what.” I told her.
“I will just go get new girls!” She yelled.
“And I will talk them out of doing any of your bidding.” I told her. “I’ll tell them all what you really plan on doing with them.”
“We had a deal!” She screamed again.
“We still have a deal, Alana.” I said coolly, trying not to give away the utter terror I was feeling on the inside. “I’m here, for two years, and every time you bring in girls, I will tell them.” I said. “I will make sure they know that killing innocent people isn’t worth getting to go back to their lives, or saving one person. I will make sure that they know that they have a real choice. I will make sure they know they can say no to you.”
“Did Theon put you up to this?” Alana asked angrily, the rage rolling off of her practically boiling the water around her.
“He had nothing to do with it.” I snapped.
“What do you want?” She screamed, holding her webbed hands to her sickly drooping face. “I can’t stay this way!” She cried out, yanking her hand mirror out from her chair and smashing it against the rocks.
I touched my hand to the amulet sitting in the hollow of my neck. “Let me go.” I told her. “I’ve already botched this group for you, and I will continue to do so.”
Her frame seemed to shrink back, defeated. “Fine.” She said coldly. “Come here.” I took a few steps towards the orb, trying hard not to look into the angry eyes of Alana’s monster form. “Put your hand on it.” She snapped. I sighed, hoping this was really happening, but if not, I’ll take death. I laid my hand gently against the side, the orb pulling it in. I felt electricity shoot through me, all over me, then back to my neck. The orb’s light was blinding, but I could still hear Alana’s menacing cries. “You will come to regret the day that you crossed me, little girl.” She howled. “Remember that.”
The orb released me, and panic set in fast as I could feel the heaviness of the water around me, my long dress weighing me down to the cave floor. Alana laughed as she watched me trying to hold onto the little bit of breath I had left. My heart was pounding and my head was all over the place as I kicked off of the cave floor and began flailing to swim for the cave opening.
I made it out slowly, and when I looked up towards the surface, I felt a numb feeling coming over me. There was no way I was going to be able to swim back up that far. I was going to drown again. I continued to kick, but I knew in my racing hear that it was going to be wasted effort. I kicked until I couldn’t anymore, until no air was left in me and I had to let the water in, crushing into my throat and down to my lungs.
I stared up at the light above me, the sun above the surface of the water. I had made it halfway, but it wasn’t enough. I stilled, watching the light. This was how a person should die, staring into the light, thinking of the people they love, and knowing that they’d done the right thing.
I’m ok with this, I thought to myself, letting the water take me. I saved Levi and Cassandra. I saved Asher. I kept those two girls down there from facing the same fate all the girls before them had had to. I tried to fix all of my wrongs, and I may still have blood on my hands, but at least I can die knowing I’m a better person than I was the first time, and I know that I did do some good.
The light faded away, and I closed my eyes instinctively, the pressure behind them becoming too much to take.
It’s almost over.
“Push.” I thought I heard a small voice call, but I couldn’t be sure if it had been real or imagined. Just like the light touched I was feeling all over my back and on my legs. I felt like I was moving up in the water again, but…
I was too busy to listen or feel anymore.
Too busy with dying, and picturing a handsome face to stare at while the life leaves me.