Waiting Out the Storm: Part Six
Fifteen minutes or so had passed, and Jenna was only halfway to the rock, or at least the rock’s general area. Her mind continued to switch back and forth between wanting to keep the necklace for herself and disappear from her friends and family forever to the part of her that was appalled at that presence of mind and wanted nothing but to give the necklace back to where it was originally. Her mentality about the whole thing was confused and cluttered, which did everything but assist her in getting to the origin of the cursed necklace.
The water was murky now, covered completely in darkness. Due to the storm that had blown in and stayed since the trio was at the beach, the waters were rough and choppy, even below the surface. Jenna had some troubles controlling herself and not giving in to the tide. Finally she saw what a part of her wanted to see: the ruins of Maraqua. After what had seemed like an eternity, it was still the same as they had left it.
Jenna slowly began swimming to every boulder, looking behind it to figure out if the statue was there. She was wasting time and she knew it, too. A kind of panic raced through her, cold and chilling, and then was quelled by an unnatural calmness. The inner fight began again.
Just stay put, child, and let the necklace calm you forever, said the evil part.
Why did you have to take this horrible thing from Stan? asked the part that was the real Jenna.
The other part answered, Because you were meant to, and because it was made for you and you alone.
You’re lying! cried Jenna.
Lying? Me? No, it is you who is lying to yourself, it retorted.
The last remark left Jenna completely confused, and she stopped looking behind boulders for a moment. As she floated, she wondered who was lying in this situation. Was it her or the necklace’s “consciousness”?
You are lying to yourself, child.
“No, you’re lying to me!” she cried aloud.
Suddenly she was able to think clearly for the first time since she took the glowing orb. She was wasting too much precious time by allowing the cursed jewelry to argue with her conscience. Instead of talking with it and spending all her energy that way, she could be using it wisely and searching for that one particular boulder.
NO! The voice screamed out in an irate and desperate tone.
Suddenly Jenna’s feet felt stiff as a board, heavy as concrete and lifeless as a rock. She looked down and, to her horror, discovered that her two feet were stones, unable to move and pulling her down to the bottom. Even as she watched, the stone was slowly creeping up her legs, centimeter by centimeter.
A sudden chilling pleasure emanated from the necklace, now that it knew its curse was beginning to take effect. There is no hope left for you, it said. Now that the curse I have put on the necklace is starting up, you will be turned into a statue just as I once was, and I will be returned to my former glory! My feet are now unfrozen, as will be the rest of my body. Once you are in my place, Neopia as it was will be no more!
The creeping stone was halfway up Jenna’s leg by now. She looked around desperately for the rock. Thousands of tall boulders littered the seafloor, but only one had the statue. The necklace glowed even brighter, and suddenly Jenna could hear a kind of “ting”-ing from the other side of a rock directly in front of her.
It was her only hope, so she began to fling her arms and hands and torso to propel herself forward to the rock. The necklace was glowing even more, but this time Jenna didn’t think that it was because of the faerie’s happiness. It was probably because the Lutari was getting closer and closer to the rock.
Her heart lifted a little with the hope that the boulder brought. Jenna struggled to move herself even faster, but as the entirety of her legs became statues, moving was even harder.
Suddenly the weight of her solid concrete legs was too much for Jenna to handle, and she crashed to the seafloor. She was then forced to start dragging herself the fifteen feet to the rock.
Give up, child, and let me win. The pain will only last a few more minutes, and then it will be over with. Just stop struggling against me, Jenna. The voice grew soft and pleading. Just give in now, Jenna. I will make it all go away. Then you can return to your old friends and city, your old home and fashions. You don’t need those two loonies.
Jenna continued to drag herself using only her arms, since from the waist down she was completely immobile. But as she grew even more tired, the faerie’s words made more sense than continuing to struggle. Inwardly she began to give up, while outwardly she still moved on.
The faerie, somehow sensing her weakness, continued. Just give in. I can take it all away, and take you back like this never happened. Listen to me: just give in. You can make it all so much easier for yourself.
Jenna stopped just in front of the statue, vowing that she would get back to pulling momentarily. But she was lying to herself this time; she had halted to listen to the faerie.
I can make this better, and take away your fatigue.
Jenna closed her eyes. “Take it away, please.”
A horrible happiness rippled through the necklace like a spasm, and Jenna felt it grow unbearably hot. Her torso was frozen now; the only things that moved were her arms, head and shoulders. She almost gave in when another voice that she never thought she’d hear again burst in the air.
“Jenna!” Patricia called. “Keep going, don’t give up!”
“Snap out of it!” said a male voice.
Jenna’s expression changed from terribly tired and almost dead to one of happiness and hope.
“Yes!” she cried happily. She turned her head around to greet them.
Patricia and Stan gestured wildly to the statue in front of her, mostly unfrozen in evil-looking and shadowy purple black and gray hues. A burst of anger came from both statue and necklace, and Jenna knew she had only moments left to save herself.
She flung her arm out at the faerie with head and arms of stone, clasping the necklace in her right paw. The red Lutari’s left arm turned to cement, her neck was stone, and the curse was beginning to take effect on her only remaining limb.
With a groan of effort, Jenna dropped the necklace around the faerie’s head and let go, just as her right arm was frozen in time.
A horrid scream filled Jenna’s head as the faerie’s anger exploded. But there was nothing either of them could do about the necklace now. Jenna’s arm was returning to normal right in front of her eyes, and the faerie’s arm turning back to stone. Slowly and surely, they traded places again, as Stan and Patricia sat by them, watching the spectacle.
* * * *
It took the trio a while to return to Mystery Island. Even so, the storm hadn’t yet blown over, and the wind was still going strong. Almost no one was outside, save for a few stray Neopets looking as if they had been blown in because of the gales.
Stan, Patricia and Jenna pulled themselves onto the beach, not caring that they would be covered with sand when they got up. They lay there, panting because of the effort they had exerted to get back home. Finally Stan sat up and stared at his necklace of seaweed, now useless.
“Guess we don’t need these anymore,” he said wistfully and took his off. Jenna followed suit, as Patricia murmured a word of consent.
The three friends stared at their treasures for what seemed like forever before Jenna said, “We should get back home now...” Stan nodded, and Patricia sighed.
Jenna raised herself up then waited for Stan and Patricia. Then they began the walk home, allowing themselves to become soaked in rainwater and cleansed of the sand and salt.
They reached Patricia’s abode first. She looked at them both when she reached the gate and smiled. They grinned back sheepishly. All of a sudden the Uni rushed forwards and hugged Jenna tightly. Surprised, Jenna hugged her back. The embrace lasted for what seemed like forever to the two neighbors.
The Uni turned to Stan and looked uncertain just for a moment. Then she offered her hand and he took it as they shared a formal handshake. They smiled at each other, then Patricia broke the handshake.
Jenna and Stan watched as their new friend waved goodbye, running into her house and slamming the door behind her.
Stan and Jenna walked to the Lutari’s house next door. Jenna turned to him and smiled. It had a certain feeling to it that she would always remember, but never decipher.
“Guess this is goodbye, then,” she said sadly.
She nodded her head and he nodded his, and then she began to walk away. Out of the corner of her eye, she could see him bend down and pick something up. She was almost to the door when he stopped her.
She turned around.
“Don’t you want this?” In his hands he held the sunhat, tattered and beaten by the storm.
“Yes!” she said happily and ran to get it. She grabbed it, and in the process shook his hand. He smiled, which triggered her trademark grin. They locked eyes for one moment, and the look in his eyes was a warm, soft one, almost like a stuffed animal you’ve been sleeping with under the covers. Then they looked away and Jenna began walking up to the porch of her house, still new to her with all its sharp angles and detritus.
As she opened the door, her mom called out, “Hon, where were you?”
She replied, “I was just waiting out the storm with our neighbor, Mom.” As her mother walked away, attending to dinner on the stove, Jenna looked out the window, wanting to say something to Stan.
But when she glanced back he and the storm were gone, replaced by the sunshine and empty air.