Cerena's Song 2: The Amulet's Curse - Part Four
My legs feel like jelly beneath me, and my arms are trembling from pain and fear. I have been sprinting for the past few minutes and am trying to push out any strength I can muster to keep on going. Finally, I collapse from exhaustion, and as I sit there on my knees I am barely able to hold Amelia long enough to lower her to the ground without causing any more injury. “Amelia!” I scream, gasping for air. She lies there motionless on the ground, a picture of beauty in a deep sleep, and I search for any signs of life.
The glow from my necklace is fading slowly, and I know this is the only chance at saving her. There is some kind of magic in this necklace that saved me that night I suffered the same fate the Aisha before me has fallen into, and if I am able to come back from it, I only hope she will too. As I carefully lift the necklace off of me, I close my eyes and clench my teeth, worried that I am still within range of Cerena’s attack. Silence. I take in a deep breath while relief washes over me, and place the necklace around Amelia.
For a moment there is no sign of it working, and I begin to lose faith, tears rushing to my eyes. Suddenly, with a mighty gasp she takes in as much air as she can, her bright eyes flying open. She sits up in a panic, clawing at the sand beneath her and gazes questioningly at me, wondering what has just happened to her.
I throw my arms around her and hold her tight. “You’re okay!” I shout, finally able to breathe again.
She is still in a daze with a zombie-like appearance on her face. “What happened?” she begins, pulling away from my embrace. “It was the most unusual thing... I heard this truly beautiful sound, and in that moment I wanted nothing more than to run toward it, but the noise tore through my eardrums and before I knew it, here we are.” I look at her sadly, understanding. I know the feeling she is describing quite well, it’s not something you ever forget. “Didn’t you hear it, Jeanine?”
“No, but I have before,” I reply, watching as her blank stare turns to confusion. “It’s not the kind of thing I can explain easily, but that girl you saw back there has a certain... gift.”
“She did this to me?” she accuses quickly, her expression now turning to anger. She scrambles to get up and I reach out to grab her arm, bringing her back down to my level.
“Look, I don’t quite understand it either. In fact, that’s partly why I came back to see her tonight. I assume you know all about what happened to my town so long ago.” She nods, and I take a breath, trying to find a way to tell her without breaking out in tears myself. “Well, the stories you heard probably aren’t true, and Cerena may be the real reason as to why my town was destroyed. The time following everyone’s disappearance, I went out looking for Cerena; I found her in a cave near where we were standing before you fainted and when I took my necklace off, I heard the exact sound you did. It was magnificent. My ears felt as though they were going to burst and the next thing I knew, I had awoken outside with the necklace back on. Cerena told me not to take it off again, and so I figured that amethyst must have some magic within it that protects from her song.” I pause, hoping that what I am saying is making any sense, because saying it out loud; it hardly makes sense to me. Amelia sits in silence, not quite seeming to understand completely, but holds the necklace in her hands, listening and studying the jewelry.
After staring at the magic within the amethyst for some time, her eyes meet mine in sorrow. “Is that what happened to Wesley?” I have cleverly left that part out, but as she looks through me, I suppose my expression gives the answer away. She starts sobbing and I try my best to comfort her. “I suppose we are in this together, then,” she says through her tears. “We both have lost loved ones in this whole mess.”
“We don’t know they are gone, Amelia. The only way to know for sure is to talk to Cerena and find out the truth, but we can’t risk this happening again.” I grab the necklace which is now lying on the ground beside us and look her in the eyes. “I have to go alone.”
There is a long moment before she replies. “Okay,” she whispers. “Good luck, Jeanine. I will be in Maraqua, come find me as soon as you get out of there.” I nod and we both stand up, but before I can leave she turns to stop me again.
I turn back to see her fumbling around in her dress pocket for something. She pulls out an old, folded piece of paper and hands it to me. “I hope you can bring Wesley safely back to me, but please, if you can’t, just make sure he gets this. If he’s already gone...” I stop her, taking the paper and nodding at her request. “Thank you,” she says, and then we embrace and part ways.
I still haven’t fully caught my breath upon leaving; I am far too out of shape to keep getting into crazy adventures like this. My pants are torn from when I collapsed onto the ground, and I lean down to brush some of the sand and rocks off that are stuck in the fibers. I figure that I look just as bad as I feel. Luckily, the only other person who will be seeing me is a girl who has lived in a cave the past four years.
I reach into my pocket, running my fingers along the edges of the paper I received from Amelia. The want to open it up and see what is inside is driving me insane. This is a good time to practice self-restraint, though. I know if I were the one asking to have something important delivered I wouldn’t want anyone else snooping. Although, maybe just one glance won’t hurt. I can just peek inside and see if it’s a picture, or a letter, or anything. Maybe just slip it open...
Something catches my attention off to the left of me. I glance over quickly, seeing a field of kelp waving on the sea floor. The water is sparkling around it, the suns rays finally emerging from the nighttime and showing through to the sand beneath. From out of the towering green algae, a dusty old bonnet tumbles slightly along the floor and comes to a stop a few feet outside. I watch in wonder as an Acara, youthful and clumsy, comes stumbling out after the piece of clothing. Her green tentacles look anything but friendly, but she is laughing and innocent as she plucks the bonnet from the sand and sets it back upon her head, adjusting it and smiling. She looks directly at me, her smile dropping from her face, and gasps. Her hand is brought to her mouth as she gapes in horror, her other free hand pointing at me. I stare back, stunned, and realize then that it isn’t me she is pointing at, it is my necklace. I blink and she is gone.
For a moment I stand there, not knowing whether I am in a dream or not. She is gone. Was she really there just now, or was it my imagination? Perhaps I am going insane. I look off into the distance, the mountain can be seen standing prominently where I left it, and then my eyes drifted back to the kelp. I will only be gone a minute, I tell myself.
I inspect the ground where she was just standing and it is undisturbed. Standing up, I pull back a bit of the algae and glance inside, seeing only darkness. My curiosity takes over as I venture into the mass of kelp, wanting to find the girl I had just seen. She had to be real, and there was something about her that intrigues me. I am deep inside now, the slime from the seaweed scrapes against my arms and face as though I have a dozen Slorgs crawling about me. I shudder at the thought. Suddenly, I hear her laugh yet again, further in the distance. I stumble toward it, quicker now, and emerge out into the open water once more.
There she is, running away into the desert of sand, glancing back occasionally at me, giggling, as though encouraging me to follow her in a game of tag. “Wait for me!” I yell to her, picking up speed to catch up.
I don’t know how far I ran. I don’t remember how long. I don’t even know what happened to the girl I was following. All I know is that before me now is a wooden shack, seemingly abandoned and wrecked from years of sitting in the water. The window is gone, only leaving behind two boards that once held the glass in place. There are holes everywhere within the wood, almost giving me a glimpse inside, but not quite leaving enough space to make anything out. The door is gone as well, but there is a small portion of it still clinging to the rusted hinges. I approach it cautiously, standing just outside and look inside. It is pitch black, too difficult to make anything out. Then there is a voice. I know instantly it is not the girl I had seen, for it is the voice of an old woman.
“Come in,” she says.
To be continued...