The Underworld, Page 38Jessica Sorensen
Her head slowly turned and she looked at me, but there was no recognition that she knew who I was.
“Mom,” I whispered. The word felt so strange coming out of my mouth.
She blinked at me, but that was it. There was nothing there—no life, no spark, no nothing.
“Jocelyn,” Alex said, from over my shoulder. “Are you alright?”
Still, my mother stared at us with nothing more than a look of emptiness.
I felt like I might start crying, but knew I couldn’t. Now was not the time to shed tears.
“What should we do?” I asked Alex.
He considered this carefully. “Go over and take her hand, but move slowly—see if you can get her to come with us. ”
I looked at him with terrified eyes. “Maybe you should do it?”
He shook his head. “No, this is something I think you have to do. ”
Whether he was right or not, I took a deep breath and made my way cautiously into the room. My mother made no reaction, just sitting there, her hands resting on her lap.
“Mom,” I said, reaching my hand out toward her. “It’s Gemma…your daughter. ”
She looked at me, and then suddenly, she was really looking at me. She got to her feet and moved in for a hug, but then pulled back quickly, cradling her arms across her chest.
“Gemma,” she said, not looking happy, but horrified. “What are you two doing down here. ” Her voice was sharp and it made me cower back. “You shouldn’t be down here. ”
“We came here to save you. ” My voice wobbled.
“Well, you shouldn’t have,” she said sternly. “How did you even get down here?”
“With an…Ira. ”
Her eyes didn’t widen in surprise. In fact, she acted as if she predicted me to say that. “Well you have to leave now. ”
Easier said than done. “We would, but…my Foreseer power isn’t working at the moment. ”
She shook her head. “I was hoping that would skip you. ”
What the heck was she talking about? “Huh?”
She started to say something else, but a loud cry, like an angry cat, screeched from somewhere.
“We have to go. ” She rubbed her forehead. “But how am I supposed to get you out of here?”
“We need to get to water,” Alex told her as he entered the room. “There’s supposed to be a place somewhere down here that will take us up through the lake. A water route, maybe? Do you know where it is?”
“We can’t go anywhere. ” She frowned. “The Fey will make us suffer if we try. ”
“The Water Faeries are out for the moment,” Alex told her in a gentle voice. “So they can’t make you suffer. But we have to hurry before they wake up. ”
She stared at us in confusion, and then suddenly her eyes lit up. “Oh my God, I completely forgot about that. ” She brushed past Alex and I and ran out into the tunnel.
Alex and I gave each other a look, and then we chased after her.
“Mom,” I yelled. “Where are you going?”
She kept running down the tunnel, her bare feet thumping against the dirt floor. Another cat-like screech rang out from somewhere, and Alex and I sped up our pace and caught up with my mother.
“You forget things sometimes!” she shouted at us as we ran. “Being down here, it messes with your mind and sometimes you just forget. ”
Forget what? Where the exit was? “But do you remember where it is now?” I asked.
She nodded, and a burst of adrenaline soared through me. We ran deeper into the darkness, weaving and turning through the tunnel. I crossed my fingers that my mom really knew where she was going. The cries and screams seemed to be filling the air more and more, and I worried that the Water Faeries were waking up. My mother seemed unbothered by the screams. She just kept running, and didn’t stop until we entered into the cave with the rocked-shaped throne that twisted up to the quartz ceiling.
My mom sprinted over to the throne and circled around it as she stared up at the ceiling. “When I first came here, I was told that if you climbed up the back of the throne it would take you to a place where you could escape. The problem was, I never had a chance to get away. And after awhile, I just sort of forgot about trying. ” She stepped up onto the throne and climbed up the back of it. The twisting shape was like a slide, which made it hard to climb. But, even though it was tricky, she managed to make it all the way up with only a few slips, and then she disappeared through a small hole in the ceiling.
I looked at Alex, stunned.
“Alright,” he said, hopping up onto the throne. “Let’s go. ” He reached up and pulled himself onto the back of the throne. I followed him, but I moved less gracefully than he did. I even managed to scrape my knee of the rock more than once. But finally, I was pulling myself up into the hole where my mom had disappeared.
It was dark up there, but there was a faint light streaming from someplace. A narrow tunnel stretched out on each side. The floor was muddy and water ran from the ceiling in sporadic bursts that had already soaked into my clothes and hair.
“Which way do we go now?” Alex asked my mom.
She glanced to the left, and then to the right. “I think this way,” she said and stumbled off to the right.
Alex and I ran after her. She seemed sort of dizzy, weaving from side to side as we sprinted down the tunnel. The further we went, the brighter the light became, until finally we were blinded by it.
A second later we stepped out onto a rocky ledge, and my heart stopped. At the edge of the ledge was a drop off. The height alone was astonishing, but the waterfall spewing over the side of the drop off was what sent my pulse racing the most. Well that, and the pool of water with a severe looking undercurrent that the waterfall poured down into.
Never did it occur to me, during our talk of our water escape that I would have to dive off a ledge into water that was probably going to suck me under. Oh and let’s not forget to mention the most important part. I couldn’t swim.
“So, what are we supposed to do?” I asked, my eyes locked on the waterfall. “Just jump. Because I’m not sure if I can make it. ”
“Yeah…” he stared down at the water and then back at me. “I think—”
A shriek blared down the tunnel and I could now see them—the Water Faeries. They were still a ways away, gliding down the shadowy tunnel like ghosts.
“Crap,” Alex said, grabbing my hand. “Jocelyn, we need to—”
Before he could finish, my mother, who had been standing on the ledge, suddenly jumped.
I gasped and ran for the ledge. “Mom!” I couldn’t see her, only the violent water whirling. “Mom…” I whispered.
“Gemma. ” Alex’s voices yanked me back to him. “Grab on to me. ”
“What?” I shook my head. “No. ”
Alex looked my straight in the eyes. “Wrap your arms around my neck and hang on. ”
I wasn’t sure I could do this—jump into the midst of raging water, when I couldn’t swim.
“I don’t think…” I glanced at the Water Faeries, who were so close now I could see the bareness in their eyes. I took a deep breath, summoning every ounce of strength I had in me, and wrapped my arms around Alex’s neck, linking my fingers together tightly.
Alex put his arms around my waist and pushed me so far into him I swear the electricity was going to weld us together. “Close your eyes,” he said, and I did, but not before I caught a glimpse of the Water Faeries about to emerge from the tunnel.
Another loud shriek, and then we dove.
The water tore at me at me from every angle, cold and rough, violently trying to steal my oxygen. I tried to hold onto Alex, but the water was making my hands slip loose. Alex was kicking, trying to break us free from the undertow. But we just kept getting pulled in all different directions.
Eventually, the water started to settle, and our bodies became less tangled.
He swam us upward, and finally we broke through. I gasped for air, and so did Alex. He opened his mouth to say something, but I was tugged downward by a set of bony fingers that had snatched hold of my ankle. My hands slipped from around Alex’s neck, and I was submerged by the dark water again. I tried to kick the Water Faerie off of me, but all it did was tighten it’s grip.
And then Alex had my arm. I knew it was him because of the buzzing. He was pulling on me, but the Water Faerie was too. My body felt like it was going to tear apart. Then, Alex was beside me, underneath the water. Our bodies tangled together, along with the Water Faeries. There was a lot of tugging and spinning, and then suddenly I was no longer being pulled down, but whooshing upward and bursting out of the water.
Alex swam faster than I ever thought was humanly possible. Especially while hauling me along with him. And before I knew it, we were lying on the shore, out of breath and panting loudly.
“Are you okay?” Alex asked, out of breath.
I coughed up some of the water I swallowed. “Yeah, I…Wait. Where’s my mom?”
In the snap-of-a-finger, we were both on our feet and searching. But I couldn’t see her anywhere; the only thing in sight was the grey stone castle, the tall-treed forest, and the haunting…Water Faerie filled lake.
“Oh my word,” I breathed.
Alex followed my gaze and his jaw nearly hit the ground.
Across the dark water, the Water Faeries floated. The sight would have been alluring—they looked like ballerinas dancing. But knowing what they really were, and what they could do, the sight only made a chill slither down my back.
“They can’t come up here?” I asked. “Right?”
He nodded, but his bright green eyes were still locked on the water. “I’ve never seen so many of them up here before, especially when no one has summoned them. ”
As I watched the Water Faeries swim around, a thought abruptly smacked me in the head. “Wait. What if my mom’s still in there?” And then I was running toward the lake, my brain too irrational to process the consequences if I stepped in.
Luckily Alex grabbed me, and pulled me back.
“Are you freaking crazy!” he exclaimed, shaking me by the shoulders, with a look of what could only be described as terrified. “You can’t go in there. ”
It took my brain a second to grasp the severity of the situation I had just about gotten myself into. “I’m sorry, but what if she’s in there?”
His harsh expression slipped to a semi-sympathetic one. “If she is, then there’s nothing we can do about it. ”
“We can go back,” I said, my tone razor sharp. “We have to save her. ”
He shook his head. “There’s no way we’re going back there after what happened. Now that they know something’s different about you, they’re going to be all over you if you even step foot in their world again. ”
“So what. ” I was trying with all my might to wiggle my arm free from his grasp. “I don’t care. How do expect me to just let her stay down there after I saw how horrible of a place it is. ” I could feel the tears stinging at my eyes. “Let me go!”