Waiting Out the Storm: Part Four
Jenna stared at the monster, breathless.
It was a huge, ugly beast with dark-green skin. Its eyestalks were even darker, eerily setting off the yellow eyes. Oddly enough, the slug had a shell of a pale green coloring and two front paws. It also had a long tail stemming out after the shell.
That is quite possibly the ugliest thing I have ever seen in my life, thought Jenna.
It roared, as if reading her thoughts, and revealed a large blue tongue.
Stan and Patricia whipped around and gasped in shock.
“What is that thing?” screeched Patricia, her skin turning white under her fur.
“I think it’s a sea slug...”
Patricia wheeled around in a hurry. “A what?”
Patricia looked at Stan. “Aren’t you going to help her?”
She shook her head. “No, let’s see what she feels like when she’s abandoned in the middle of a crisis.”
Stan shrugged and speedily swam towards Jenna, his heart racing. Patricia rolled her eyes. Her last sentence didn’t seem to affect him.
As he approached the pair of them he slowed down, trying not to upset the creature. It regarded him with angry, accusing eyes. Stan’s heart thumped and thumped, but he tried not to show the fear.
“Jenna,” he whispered. “Just back away slowly with me.”
She nodded very slightly, almost paralyzed with terror. Her eyes opened wider as the two of them simultaneously backed away from the hideous monster. Its eyes followed them. Scared, Jenna looked at Stan.
“Don’t make eye contact,” he muttered urgently. “Just keep backing away.”
Jenna looked at the sand underneath their feet and focused on it completely. Stan followed suit and they slowly gained distance, getting closer and closer to Patricia. The suspense was nearly unbearable to Jenna, whose only wish was to get away. Suddenly she jerked her head up at a sudden, mysterious sound and accidentally looked the slug in the eye.
The creature roared instantaneously and lunged at them. Jenna screamed loudly and jumped backwards, breaking the contact. The noise frightened the slug, which staggered forward even faster. Stan looked back and forth from the angry slug to the terrified Lutari, sizing up the distance between them.
What do I do now? Lunge at her hand, grab it and pull her away, or what?
He decided to take her hand and run for it. Once he grabbed it, she instinctively held on with a tight grip. Even though they were underwater, her paws were soft. He held her hand tightly too and pulled her forward hard. The slug was still going at its warp speed when Patricia decided to swallow her pride.
The Uni pushed at the water with all of her strength, wanting badly to help her friends. With each stroke she pushed her ego farther and farther away and pulled herself closer and closer to the danger. As she pushed closer, Stan and Jenna also propelled themselves toward her, with the slug right on their heels. They met halfway there, between a rock and an unsafe place.
Stan looked at her in shock. “What’re you doing? Go back! Go back!”
Patricia shook her head. “You guys keep going. I’ve got the slug!”
Jenna nodded curtly and pulled at Stan’s hand. “You heard her, let’s go!”
“No!” Stan tried to swim his way to Patricia, who looked back. The determined look in her eyes softened a little as she met his eyes. Then she turned around and swam over to the slug.
As she and the slug stood face to face, Jenna pulled Stan behind a large rock that she hoped would be big enough to protect them if Patricia failed. Although the Lutari knew she might regret it, she peeked out from behind the boulder, revealing only a centimeter of skin. What met her eyes amazed her.
Patricia was standing—well, floating—eye-to-eye with the monster. She was talking to it, calmly, smoothly, not using any harsh words or tones. The slug stood there, breathing rapidly and staring at the Uni with big eyes.
Suddenly it roared, making Jenna gasp and dart behind her makeshift shelter again. She braced herself against the surface and tried to catch her breath. As she slid down, she landed on something hard.
“Ow,” she muttered.
Stan looked at her curiously and opened his mouth as if to say something, but then his ears pricked up. He peered out around the perimeter of the rock.
Patricia was still talking to the slug, still keeping eye contact. Stan was still shaking from where he was, about twenty feet away. He could only imagine her fear, yet she was acting totally collected.
Slowly the wild, infuriated look in the beast’s eyes waned as Patricia continued to calm it down. A smile slid onto the Uni’s face as she raised a hoof to touch the slug’s head.
Instantly it reeled back, the angry look back in its eyes. Stan’s own eyes widened in surprise as he wondered what in the world his classmate would do next. She seemed to have no doubt about it, however.
Patricia continued murmuring to it without even flinching at the sudden sound. Once again the monster calmed down, once again Patricia smiled, and once again the critical moment approached.
Patricia slowly began raising her hand, reaching out to the slug. Stan caught his breath, awaiting the creature’s response. By then, Jenna was staring at the spectacle from the opposite side of the rock.
This time, the creature did not turn away, but instead floated there, breathing heavily. Patricia displayed white teeth and began rubbing its head.
“There now, that wasn’t too hard, was it?”
Stan came out from the rock, moving quickly at first, then moving slowly so he didn’t disturb the slug.
“That was amazing, Pat.”
She blushed a little. “Thanks.”
“You’re welcome.” They both stared at their once enemy for a while, forgetting about Jenna completely. Patricia herself was unable to believe that she’d tamed the sea slug. After all, she had been scared to death. Not to mention that its teeth were about the same length as she was.
Jenna snuck up behind the threesome and scared them both when she said, “You’re amazing, Patricia!” Stan jumped a little, Patricia’s eyes widened, and the creature pulled away from the Uni.
Patricia looked towards it and began stroking the slimy scales again. “Jeez, Jenna, you scared me.”
Jenna looked ashamed. “Sorry.” Then she looked up and smiled. “It doesn’t look that bad, really, as long as it’s not roaring at you or trying to eat you or anything.”
“Yeah,” said Patricia thoughtfully as she stroked it. They all enjoyed a moment of silence, which was broken when Patricia asked Jenna, “Do you think I could get my parents to buy me a Slugawoo?”
Jenna pondered that for a minute. “Well, it’s a lot of work, even though it is just a slug-type thing. Do they know you’re good with petpets?”
“Yeah, they do. It’s just that they don’t really like them, especially slimy ones. Plus, once when I was little I had a petpet, but I didn’t take good care of it and they did. Eventually it ran away, and I don’t really know where it is now.”
“Well, how long ago was that?”
Patricia sighed, “A few years ago. Maybe five or six.”
While the girls continued their conversation, Stan let his mind wander. He thought back to the thing that Jenna had sat on when they were hiding behind the rock. What was it? He was definitely sure he’d seen it before. Maybe on a trip with his owner to Maraqua long ago, when he was a little kitten. It was a short trip, but the Kougra remembered a statue for sure. Slowly he swam to the rock, wanting to confirm his suspicion.
Sure enough, there was the statue. Although when he was little he couldn’t figure out what it was, now he knew that it was a faerie of some sort, her face frozen into a fierce grimace. The hair was floating upwards, her wings forever stuck as if she were trying to fly away.
He was about to leave, fully satisfied, until he saw it.
The chain around her neck was calling to him in its own little way. He kind of heard it in his head, taking on the voice of the faerie that was encased in stone.
Take me, boy. Free me.
He looked at it and cocked his head. Then he asked aloud, “Free you?”
I am encased in stone, forever. But the necklace you may take. Free the necklace.
“Who are you,” he asked, “and how come I can hear you?” But the statue still remained silent as, well, silent as stone. He looked at the necklace, which was speaking to his eyes, shimmering like a shiny bit of seaweed. He closed his fingers around it and pulled. At first the stone refused to give, but slowly it gave in, and the necklace was his within a matter of seconds. He closed his fingers around it, brought it to his face, and stared for a while as it engulfed him in a warm orange light. He would have stared at it forever had Jenna not called out to him.
“Stan, we’re going now. Coming?”
He quickly pocketed the necklace with a trace of guilt and called out. “Coming!” As they swam away he stole a look back at the statue. There was a change in its face that he couldn’t quite detect.
The slug had had enough of the petting and patting and had retreated to its hiding hole, leaving the three of them to continue on their journey. As the trio swam away, something in Stan’s mind clicked.
After he had taken the necklace, the faerie’s face had a little smirk instead of the grimace that was once there.
To be continued...