The Magical Rubber Duck: Part One
“What was I thinking?” Blaze, the orange Kougra, muttered quietly to himself as he trudged on forward through the ominous, stone-tiled hall. The usually unnoticed sound of his paws against the ground sent low echoes throughout the eerie room as he plodded steadily forward.
“I told you this was a bad idea,” Carissa, the purple Usul, groaned, whacking away at dangling cobwebs. Carissa was always a burden.
Just a few hours ago, Blaze, Carissa and Aleena, a shadow Acara, had ventured out to Geraptiku to explore its far-stretching jungle. In the middle of their exploration, they had stumbled across the deserted tomb.
“Come on, guys, it will be an adventure!” Blaze had said, somewhat overconfidently, gesturing towards the open tomb door.
“This seems like a bad idea,” Carissa had said, glancing skeptically at the stone slab that acted as the tomb’s door. “What if that door drops closed once we’re all in? We’ll be trapped!” Carissa had shuddered at the thought.
“It doesn’t look very stable,” Aleena had agreed.
“Don’t be silly, you two.” Blaze had laughed. “Are you scared of the darkness and a few cobwebs?”
Sure enough, however, the stone slab slammed shut once they were all inside, leaving Carissa to perform her well-known I-told-you-so act. However, nothing changed the fact that they were stuck in an empty tomb and that there might not be any way out.
“How was I supposed to know that the door would slide shut right after we slipped in?” Blaze retorted, clearly irritated. He had decided that the best way to get out was to explore and search for an alternate exit within the tomb. After trudging for hours without anything much as a peep of sunlight, however, the group was becoming discouraged and frustrated - frustrated with themselves and with each other.
“You weren’t supposed to know!” Carissa answered Blaze’s excuse haughtily. “And maybe that’s why we shouldn’t have gone inside in the first place!”
“Calm down, Carissa,” Aleena scolded. “Bickering won’t make things any better. You know that.”
Carissa rolled her eyes but stayed quiet for the time being. The trio walked on in awkward silence.
“Come on, guys, we can get through this if we just cooperate,” Blaze encouraged them. He knew that if they were going to survive this, they needed to be optimistic.
Blaze turned what seemed like his thousandth corner, hoping with all his heart that there would be a way out – a door or a crack in the wall... anything! Instead, he felt his heart sink - a dead end. Aleena turned the corner next, then Carissa. Carissa’s eyes grew wide.
“Oh, isn’t this just awesome!” Carissa said dryly, her voice dripping with sarcasm. She gazed straight at Blaze. “And whose idea was this in the first place, pray tell?”
“Carissa!” Aleena exclaimed. “We’re all feeling tired and frustrated here. We don’t need someone like you to make things worse!”
“Worse?! We wouldn’t even be here if it wasn’t for Blaze!”
“Well, we are here, so just deal with it!”
“Guys...” Blaze said quietly. He quickly looked back at Carissa and Aleena who were engaged in a glare-off. “Guys!” he said more loudly. His voice echoed off the stone walls and bounced all the way down the corridor.
“What?!” Carissa and Aleena barked in unison, obviously annoyed.
“This isn’t a wall. It’s a door.” Blaze had pushed aside the vines that hung in front of the wall. Closer inspection revealed that it wasn’t actually connected with the rest of the wall – it was, in fact, a door!
Blaze quickly removed his backpack and crouched down, trying to get a good grip on the door. He heaved and pulled, but to no avail. Aleena came over to help, but the stone slab didn’t move an inch.
“It won’t budge,” Blaze said, obviously discouraged. He slowly backed up, looking at the door pleadingly as if he hoped it would just open up and let them through.
“Yep. We’re doomed,” Carissa said nonchalantly, ignoring Aleena’s scolding gaze. Carissa leaned against the wall, trying to hold back her frustration. All of a sudden, a slight rumbling was heard and the stone door slid up, revealing an open passageway. Carissa regained her balance and stood up straight, looking at the wall behind her. Her weight had caused a stone brick to slide farther into the wall.
“Would you look at that,” Aleena mused. She almost broke into laughter as she exclaimed, “Carissa pressed a hidden switch, opening the door!”
Carissa seemed exceedingly pleased with herself. “What would you do without me?” she asked, smirking at Blaze and Aleena. They decided not to answer.
The trio quickly advanced through the cleared doorway, finding themselves in a gigantic, stone room with high ceilings. Sunlight filtered through the small gaps and cracks of the weathered stone ceiling. Dust motes could be seen floating dreamily in the small rays of light that shone in the room. Ivy crept in and out of the many nooks and crannies in the eroded rock wall. Cobwebs hung, waving gracefully in the air, attached to the ceiling by single, almost invisible strings. Piles of scattered rubble littered the floor. In the middle of the room, a pedestal stood, with entangled vines of ivy wrapping around the base. More vines dropped from the ceiling, slightly concealing the pedestal. An item sat atop the pedestal, too far away to distinguish.
The group walked forward in awe, trampling the moss that carpeted the floor like a soft, green blanket. Blaze pushed a pile of rubble away with his foot. “It seems like this room hasn’t been touched in ages!” he mused, bending down to inspect the floor more closely. He was awed at the marvelous handiwork the floor portrayed.
Aleena ran her paw slowly across the rough surface of the stone wall. “Even if this wall is clearly old and weathered, you can see the beauty of how well it was built.” Aleena turned her attention to Carissa who seemed to be eyeing the pedestal concealed by the tangle of vines.
“Do... do you think...” Carissa stuttered, “...that maybe the rumored treasure of this tomb is on that pedestal?” Carissa glanced at Aleena for an answer. The very thought that there might be a long-forgotten treasure in the same room as her sent tingles up her spine – the kind of tingles Carissa liked.
Carissa had Blaze’s attention now as well. “Well, it does look pretty important...” Blaze answered slowly, more to himself than Carissa. Blaze slowly approached the pedestal, his paws softly crunching the moss. Blaze glanced at Aleena, who nodded, and then at Carissa, who shrugged, before thrusting apart the vines that hung like an opaque canopy over the pedestal.
However, whatever was on that pedestal was not what one would suspect. It wasn’t a bar of gold, or a gem, or a bag of neopoints. It wasn’t a paint brush, or a morphing potion, or a codestone. It wasn’t even a key to the door or a map of the tomb.
No. It was a rubber duck.
“Wha... what is this?” Blaze stuttered in astonishment. “Is this some kind of joke?”
Carissa rushed forward and swept aside the vines with one stroke of her paw. “A rubber duck?!” Carissa almost shrieked. “Oh, that’s just great. We’re trapped in this tomb with no food and little water, probably never to see the world outside again! But hey, at least we have this rubber duck! It makes everything better!” Carissa grabbed the rubber duck from Blaze and threw it on the ground in rage.
“Carissa! Stop it!” Aleena exclaimed. “Stop it this instant!”
“I’m not the one you should be scolding, Aleena!” Carissa screeched. “It’s him!” She pointed accusingly at Blaze, eyes raging like wildfires.
“Carissa...” Blaze was taken aback at her ferocity. “I already told you. I didn’t know...”
“Oh, stop with what you didn’t know! Look where it got us?” Carissa stopped and panted for breath, eyeing Blaze and Aleena who were too shocked to speak.
Silence fell over the room like a blanket. Aleena knew it wouldn’t take much longer for Carissa to burst under the tension.
Blaze spoke first. “Carissa, I’m sor...”
“Apologies won’t change the fact that we’re probably stuck in here for the rest of our lives!”
“ALEENA! Be quiet, this doesn’t involve you!”
“Carissa, you have to come down!”
“Just stop it! Okay?” Carissa drew in a deep, long breath.
“I just wish that this tomb was never even here in the first place!” Carissa interrupted, stomping with all her might on the rubber duck. However, instead of hearing a loud squeak from the rubber duck, Carissa felt a sort of tingling in her tail which quickly spread across her fur to her whole body.
The sensation was wonderful and horrifying at the same time – it was exciting and scary, electrifying and frightening.
Carissa cringed in anticipation for something horrible to befall her, but instead, she heard the calming call of jungle petpets and the rustling of tree leaves in the wind. Carissa opened her eyes. The radiant rays of the sun filtering through the leafy canopy above struck her eyes like cold water. Carissa instinctively closed them shut before slowly opening them again. She was standing in the middle of a dense jungle with Blaze and Aleena.
The tomb had disappeared.
To be continued...