Cerena's Song: Part Four
I sat on the front porch of my home and stared out at the rest of the town before me. It had been three weeks since the disappearance of Cerena, and nothing was the same. Cerena’s parents had hardly come out of their home and the rest of the town had run out of ideas on where to look for the missing girl. Everyone had begun to move on, but it never left their minds.
Jewell came over and knelt down beside me. For a while the two of us stared out into the water in silence. “Jeanine, come look for sea shells with me,” Jewell said to break the stillness. She stood up and offered her hand to me.
I shook my head, still avoiding eye contact. She looked at me sadly and withdrew her hand. “I am just going to go to bed,” I replied, then stood up and opened the front door to my home. Jewell watched me as I traipsed inside and shut the door, and then she turned and left.
My bed was cold and uncomfortable as I lay there trying to get myself to fall asleep. Thoughts were racing through my mind as they had been every night since Cerena went missing. For some reason I felt as though I had some part in this. I was the last person who had seen her before she was gone. I couldn’t help but feel guilty, even if I had nothing to feel bad about. I tossed and turned as the sun went down until finally I fell into a deep sleep.
There was a faint glow against my eyelids. I slowly opened them to find a purple light shining in my room. It was the amulet which still hung around my neck. I hadn’t taken it off since I received it three weeks ago. I guess in a way I felt it was a connection to Cerena. The amethyst which was attached to the gold chain was once again glowing as it had that day at the Silva’s house. I sat up and held it in my hand, wondering why it occasionally glowed like this. There had to be something more to this amulet.
I got out of bed and stumbled over to turn the light on. I figured it must have been around midnight, judging by how dark it was outside my window. When I tried to turn on my lamp nothing happened, so I figured the electricity must have been out. I slowly made my way to the kitchen and found a lantern, lit it, and crept down the hall to my father’s room.
“Dad,” I whispered, “the electricity is out.” I stood there at the entrance to his room and waited for an answer but received none. “Dad, are you in here?” I walked in and shined the light on his bed, but nobody was in it. Confused, I trekked through our entire house and found nobody inside. I opened the front door and glanced out over the streets, still not seeing him. The entire town was dark and cold, colder than I had ever felt it before. I took a step onto the front porch and heard a crunching sound. Down, under my foot, was a small sea shell.
I picked up a small piece of the shell and inspected it. Jewell must have found it earlier and left it on my porch. I made my way across the street to Jewell’s house and knocked on the door. Maybe, for some reason, my father was at her house. After a minute of standing out in the cold water, there was no answer to the door. I knocked again, this time a bit louder, but still there was no response.
Quickly, I dashed over to the next house and knocked on their door. There was no response. I ran over to the next house, and the next, and at each home there was no answer. I stood in the center of the town and frantically looked around. “Hello?” I said, almost in a whisper. “Hello?” This time I screamed as loud as I could. There was nobody in town. I was alone, standing there with the faint purple glow from the jewelry around my neck.
First Cerena and now my entire town was missing. Something was incredibly wrong here. Where was everyone going, and why was I still here? Why was I the only one left? All of these questions raced through my mind. I needed to find some help. Maybe if I went to Maraqua I could find some answers. I hadn’t been back there since my father and I left so many years ago, but I had no other choice.
The pathway to Maraqua seemed much longer at night. I could hear a storm raging up above the water and under the water had spooky noises of its own. My lantern flickered occasionally and I feared that it would go out, leaving me lost in the dark. The amethyst around my neck had stopped glowing. After walking for what seemed like hours, I could hear the bubbling pit up ahead of me.
The bubbling pit was said to be home to a monster, the Slug Beast. My father had told me a story about an encounter he had with the beast. He was taking a trip to Maraqua to meet with King Kelpbeard, crossing the bubbling pit, when the monster swam up in front of him. The Slug Beast looked him straight in the eyes and let out a roar, then disappeared back into the depths of the pit. I just hoped I would be given the same kindness.
I reached the bubbling pit and surveyed the area to find the safest route. I quickly determined that there was none. The ruins of Old Maraqua were all around me and the Slug Beast could be hiding anywhere. The bubbles were louder than ever and the heat radiating from the pit was almost unbearable. I held my lantern out in front of me and slowly crossed the giant pit.
I got about halfway across when I felt as though something was watching me. From among the wreckage I could hear the slow, but swift movements of something. It seemed to come from all around me. First to the left of me, and then something seemed to be lurking to the right. I just kept walking and my heart started to beat faster and faster. Suddenly I heard the faint voice that seemed to say, “Go away.”
I sprinted as fast as I could out of the bubbling pit, making sure as to not trip and fall into the deep hole. Once I was safely out, I looked back and saw yellow eyes peering out from the ruins. Ahead of me the light was starting to shine through the water once again and I could see Maraqua before me. The town was more beautiful than I had remembered. The buildings were finely crafted, much nicer than the homes in Roseate. Petpets swam all around me and already I had felt much safer.
The largest building in the back of Maraqua was the one where King Kelpbeard lived. Neopets swam by and smiled at me as I made my way toward the building. I never knew all the Neopets in Maraqua were so kind. Why did my father ever leave in the first place? As I walked through the town, I still looked around for anyone I knew. There must have been a small possibility that they all came here, right? I kept telling myself that.
The guards outside King Kelpbeard’s residence let me in without any question. I guess they knew me since my father made such frequent visits. The inside was magnificent. Although the outside blended in with the rest of the town, the inside was extremely regal with pillars lining a red carpet which led to enormous white doors. There were guards standing in front of the entrance that opened the doors for me as I approached. Inside was a huge court and King Kelpbeard sat in the back, watching me.
“Come in, young one,” he announced. His voice was deep and booming, echoing throughout the room. I glanced around at all the banners which hung down from the ceilings in brown and blue. The floor was light brown and reflective, making the room look even larger than it already was. I reached the steps up to where King Kelpbeard was sitting and looked up at him.
“What is it, child? Why have you come to me today?” He paused for a moment and looked at me strangely. “You are Dimitri’s daughter, aren’t you?”
“Y-yes, I am,” I stuttered.
“Don’t be afraid of me, child. I am no different than anyone else. Now, your being here must be important if you came all the way from Roseate. Where is your father?”
“That’s actually what I am here about, sir. I know you are aware of the disappearance of the girl named Cerena.” He nodded, and I went on. “Well, I awoke in the middle of the night to find that my entire town was now missing. I don’t know what happened last night but I need help to find them. I can’t do it on my own.”
King Kelpbeard stared at me suspiciously. “Entire towns don’t just disappear,” He said. “This is strange indeed.” He snapped his fingers and a servant came over to him. “Get together a team of our finest soldiers. We are going to Roseate.” The servant nodded and ran off. The King gave me a room for the night and the next morning we set out toward my hometown with twenty soldiers.
To be continued...