Waiting Out the Storm: Part Five
The trio swam quite a long way from Maraqua and the slug; so far away that none of them knew where to go except forward. With each stroke, Stan could feel the necklace in his pocket jangling and jingling and his heart growing a little heavier. Although he heard and felt it plain and clear, the girls didn’t seem to. They continuously looked back at him, and when he smiled tightly for what seemed like the millionth time, Jenna finally caught on to something.
“Stan, are you okay?”
He smiled, although it was more like the statue’s grimace. “Perfectly fine.”
She frowned at him. “I don’t think so.” She could be pushy at times, especially when she wanted information. And now was one of those times.
Patricia looked at him. “You really don’t look fine, you know that?”
He was getting even more openly annoyed now. “I am fine,” he muttered through gritted teeth.
Jenna and Patricia looked at each other, exchanging looks of concern and confusion. Stan’s sudden fury grew.
“Leave me alone, why don’t you?” he snapped and glared at them, awaiting a response.
Patricia recoiled, worried that her normally calm classmate had been stretched a little thin. Jenna, however, fired up instantly.
“What is your problem? Ever since you went behind that rock, you’ve been tense and angry and afraid! You haven’t been the same, Stan, and we want to know why! I’ve only known you for a short time, but I do know that you’re normally a calm and rational person, and for some reason you changed in a short period of time.”
Patricia added, “Yeah, you know, she’s right. You changed a lot in the past half hour. What happened?”
Stan bared his teeth, something he’d never done before. “Nothing!” He, too, was shocked at how he’d changed, but wasn’t going to show that to anyone.
Jenna backed away, a hurt look on her face. “Come on, Patricia. If he’s going to be crabby and obnoxious then we may as well ignore him.” The red Uni stared at her for a few seconds as if she were speaking a totally foreign language. Then she looked at Stan like she would look at a hurt pet in the Pound: a look of pity.
If there was one thing Stan could not stand, it was the knowledge that people felt sorry for him. So he said, “Go with her, leave me here. I don’t care!” But he did, and that made it worse than staying behind them.
Jenna’s tiny ears pricked up. “Fine, then. We’ll leave you here, all alone. But when that necklace of yours that you swiped from the statue takes over you completely, you only have yourself to blame.”
He gasped. How did she know about the necklace?
As if reading his thoughts, she added, “I’m not as stupid as you think I am.”
He floated there, completely out of anything to say, mouth gaping wide like a fish’s. Jenna raised an eyebrow, and without waiting for him to respond, swam away. After a few seconds of that horrible pity look, Patricia followed suit. Stan was left alone.
Suddenly something desperate rose in him, and he needed their company badly. He tensed his muscles to go swim after the girls, but something else in him arose, a fierce wave of anger and desire for power. It was a conflicting emotion that had most likely arisen due to the presence of the necklace.
He decided he didn’t care and tried to swim towards them, but something rooted him to the ground. His legs wouldn’t respond. Their muscles flexed and they felt hardened, but they just wouldn’t move off the ground. A horrible sinking sensation followed his initial puzzlement as he looked down to confirm his fears.
Both legs were turned to stone, and the rest of him was to follow.
Panic came over him. He struggled and fought and pulled, but his limbs did not budge. Frantically, he looked around. The only other people who were there were Patricia and Jenna, and they were both angry at him for turning on them.
Jenna’s words floated through his mind. When that necklace of yours that you swiped from the statue takes over you completely, you only have yourself to blame.
He fought against the inner instinct he had to stay where he was forever and called out.
“Jenna!” he screamed sharply. “Patricia!”
They were a good distance away when they heard their friend’s call. Patricia whirled around instantly and stared. Jenna rolled her eyes, grabbed her neighbor’s hand and continued on. She was pulled backwards, however, when Patricia refused to go.
“Come on, we have to help him!”
Jenna shook her head. “No way.”
Patricia gave her that foreign-language glare again. “Are you serious?”
“Why?” Without waiting for an answer, Patricia continued. “Well, never mind! I’ll just go help him if you won’t!” With that she pushed away from Jenna, straining herself to reach her classmate.
When she reached him, she could only stare at first. His body was solid rock from his waist down, and the rest of him was stiff from fear. His eyes were opened wide and afraid. When he saw Patricia, he could only do one thing.
“Help me,” he said.
She looked at him with that Neopet-in-the-Pound look and took his arms. She pulled, but stopped when he gasped and shook his head.
She looked him over several times, trying to figure out what to do. Desperately she began to kick at his feet, trying to shake off the stone and reveal the fur underneath. Her hind hooves were, after all, quite powerful and had broken stone before. She kicked and kicked and kicked, but to no avail. Finally she was forced to give up and stare helplessly at her friend. He stared back, now completely afraid of what was to happen to him.
Jenna suddenly appeared next to them, and just like Patricia before her, was only able to stare. Then she looked right at Stan’s pocket. She cocked her head and pondered it, wondering what would happen if she tried to help.
He looked at her. “What?”
“Could you give me the necklace?”
Something changed in his eyes instantly. It was that same look that he got when she began questioning him about the glowing orb.
Once again she swelled in anger, but this time a look from Patricia forced her to release it. I have to remember that this isn’t really him.
“Give it to me,” she said firmly and put her paw out in an upward position, as if waiting for him to drop it there like a Christmas present.
“No,” he snarled.
“Fine then.” She dove for his pocket suddenly and winced when her hand collided with stone. She dug in further, ignoring Stan’s irate protests. Feeling around, she marveled at what else he had with him. You could always tell what a person was like inside judging by what items they had in their pockets. In Stan’s case, it happened to be a lot of lint, the necklace, random coins, and a picture of the beach. She grabbed the necklace and withdrew her hand.
“What did you go and do that for?” asked Stan angrily. “I—” Suddenly the anger in his eyes faded away, and he continued the sentence. “—need to thank you.”
“That’s what I thought you were going to say.” Jenna smiled.
She could feel the necklace beginning to take over her own thoughts, making her more protective and jealous and thirsty for power. She pocketed it and looked at her friends.
“You okay, Jenna? Seems like you changed too...”
Stan merely smiled tightly. He knew that the necklace could eventually turn her to stone like he almost did, and though he could feel his body slowly turning back to fur, his worries were far from gone.
“Yeah, whatever, guys. I’m going to return this thing to where it’s supposed to be. You know, by that statue over there somewhere?” She gestured in its general direction. “Don’t worry, I’ll be perfectly fine. I’ll talk to you all later. Patricia, that means you stay here until Stan’s back to normal. Then you can follow me if you want to.” Her glare clearly meant she did not want them to. “Okay?”
Stan and Patricia merely nodded. Either way, all they could do was wait. Jenna swam off, uncharacteristically not concerned with her friends’ fate. All she knew was that come half an hour, she, too would have stone legs and a bleak fate.
As she swam away, striking at the water forcefully like any good Lutari does, Stan and Patricia grew even more worried. Stan shifted his weight back and forth between his two legs, realizing that only his feet were stone now. He cast a longing, concerned glance at Jenna’s retreating backside. Patricia followed his gaze.
“Do you think she’ll be okay?” she asked. “Honestly, tell me.”
He looked from his classmate to his friend, and then sighed. “Honestly... No. I mean, I know the power of that jewelry, and that curse-type thing that’s on it is completely unbreakable. That faerie obviously did something to it... that’s what I meant by curse thing.” He was babbling now, and he knew it.
Patricia just looked out.
Stan let out his breath, wishing for his feet to regain their azure color. “Me too.”
To be continued...