Hey, everyone! So here's the second part of our collab story :) Hope you enjoy it! If you've already read the first part, you can skip to Part Two. But if you haven't, you can just read from the beginning. Thanks!
"On the count of three."
Myra looked back at Elliot and I as she prepared to jump into The Pit. Only the heavens knew what lay in The Pit. For all we knew, we were just about to jump into the gaping mouth of some sort of prehistoric monster. The Pit was just a giant, gaping hole in the Earth. If I had to guess, it was at least a hundred yards deep. I had no idea how Myra expected us to survive the fall, but when that insane girl got an idea in her head there was no stopping her.
“You’re insane,” Elliot said, his voice breathy and nervous. He was trembling a little, and his face was pale and sweaty. I couldn’t help but agree with him.
"Well," she yelled and turned around to face us again. "What do you smart alecks want to do? We have no other option. The cave underneath the sea was a bust. There was no mystical giant jewel or whatever the old man was talking about. This Pit, whether you like it or not, is our last hope."
I grabbed Elliot’s hand. I hated the idea as much as he did, believe me. But Myra was right. We were desperate. And desperate times, after all, call for desperate measures. “She’s right, Elliot. We can’t . . .” My voice was shaky, so I cleared my throat. “We can’t just do nothing.”
Giving him no time to reply, I ran towards The Pit and jumped. The ground gave away to empty air and we were soon beyond the point of return. I squeezed Elliot's hand and closed my eyes. Myra had jumped, too, right?
I could barely hear the sound of Elliot’s screams as the wind rushed past my ears. It was weird. I had expected to be scared--I was terrified enough just staring into The Pit, and I hadn’t been able to imagine what it would feel like when we actually jumped. But I wasn’t afraid. Instead, I felt . . . almost peaceful--even as Elliot gripped my hand like his life depended on it.
I started feeling an incredible amount of pressure on my head. The world was turning topsy-turvy. What little lunch I had that day was ready to come back up. Then there was nothing. No feeling at all. I couldn't even feel the air rushing past me anymore.
Elliot was still screaming, tears dripping down his face. It seemed louder now that we were . . . what? Suspended? I looked around, sucking in air when I realized that everything--the falling pieces of rock from the crumbling walls of The Pit, Elliot, still flailing his arms and legs around, me--had stopped. Literally.
I sucked in my breath again. Frantically, I began to attempt to get Chicken’s--I mean Elliot's--attention. He turned to me eventually with his teeth firmly gritted together. "Does anything seem off to you? Like magic?" I asked. I turned back to look for Myra.
Elliot was still hyperventilating a bit, so I whacked him on the arm. “Where’s Myra, Elliot?” He shook his head, not answering. I grabbed his shoulder with the hand not holding his, wanting to get his attention but not willing to let him go for fear of letting him drift away into oblivion. “Elliot, focus. Where’s Myra?”
"Myra?" His gaze was unfocused. "Myra!" He looked around and, as expected, he didn't see any trace of the insane girl. Did she just leave us to die?
And then, and then -- poof. The world disappeared, giving way to darkness.
THREE WEEKS EARLIER
It was a cool summer day and a gentle breeze brushed through the open windows. I sat at the edge of my couch with my legs propped up against a pillow. I turned the page of my book and listened to the gentle crinkling of old paper. I heard my brother, Elliot, watching TV in the back room and thought about what a peaceful, perfect day it was.
“Ilaria!” My mother’s shrill voice cut through the quiet. I roll my eyes, but when I don’t respond, she yells again. “Ilaria, I need you!”
I frowned. “Not now, Mom.” I was just getting to the exciting part of my book. It was the part where the brave heroine shot down the lurking monster that emerged from the pond. I read this book more times than I could remember, but it was still exciting.
“Ilaria!” Her voice sounds closer now, like she was heading my way. “Get your nose out of that book and come help me.” Her head pokes into the doorway. “Now.”
I saw a look of panic creeping over face. What could she be so worried about? Suddenly worried, I jumped up to follow her. She led me through the hallway to Elliot’s room. I passed pinned up portraits of our family. My favorite picture was the one of our happy little family at the beach. It was before our father left to fight in the war. Elliot was smiling brightly despite the fact that we knew our dad would be leaving the next day. When I entered his room, I jumped back in shock.
Elliot’s a sweet kid, only thirteen years old. He tries his best to stay off of everyone’s radar, keeps his head low. He gets consistently average grades--Bs and Cs, no As or Ds--just so that no attention is called to him. So you can imagine my surprise when I found my adorable little brother lounging on his bed, watching Animal Planet, with his shaggy, curly locks dyed bright green.
I gaped. "Elliot, your hair?! It's green!" I was at a loss for words. Why would someone so "normal" like him dye his hair such a noticeable shade of green? It wasn't even a nice shade either. My mom motioned towards my brother who was looking around in a confused manner.
My mother sighed. “You see?” she asked me. “Will you please do something about this?” I shook my head. What, exactly, am I supposed to do about this?
"But I don't... I don't remember...," he stuttered. Elliot cast me a desperate look, looking like a deer caught in a car's headlights. "I don't remember dyeing my hair. I have been sitting here watching Animal Planet for the past two hours!”
I glanced at my mom. She was shaking her head disapprovingly, casting expectant looks my way. She wasn’t going to be of any help. I sighed and approached Elliot slowly, like he was a lion that I’m trying to tame. “Elliot . . . what do you mean you don’t remember?”
"I didn't even notice until you pointed it out," he practically hollered. "Besides, why in the world would I do something like this?" My mom shook her head, exasperated. She obviously didn't believe him and neither did I.
I walked over to his bed and sat next to him. “Elliot, come on. You can tell me,” I said, casting a pointed glance at my mother. She sighed again but nodded and left the room anyway, her high heels clopping against the hardwood floors. I listened for her footsteps to fade away before turning back to my little brother. “Why did you do this? Are you . . . mad at Mom?” I pursed my lips. “Because I know she has high expectations, but--”
Elliot looked around warily, as if he expected that somebody was watching us, even though his Mom had already left the room. "I think." He drew in a deep breath. "Ilaria, I think I was being possessed." I swear I tried not to laugh, but it was just too hard.
A tiny giggle escaped my lips, but Elliot’s serious expression didn’t change. I forced my mouth into a frown. “Um. Possessed?” I coughed, covering up another laugh. “Elliot, I know you don’t want to talk about this, but you don’t have to make something up. I thought we didn’t lie to each other. Ever. Remember?”
"I'm not lying, sis," he said very seriously with his green eyes never leaving my face. "I remember being scared and seeing a face shrouded in shadows. I don't really remember anything after that." He looked scared now, really scared.
My laughter dissolves at the sight of his terrified expression. Oh, God, I think. There’s something wrong with him. There’s something wrong with my baby brother.
I grabbed his arm. "Come on, little bro. We have to call the shrink." We hadn't talked to our psychologist in forever and an eternity. We had gone to him when Elliot thought his imaginary friend, Tim was real and would often run off to play with him.
He yanks his arm out of my grip. “Ilaria, no! I’m not crazy!” He’s got this wild look in his eye now that makes me step back a little, startled. “You act like you’re so different, like you understand and like you notice me and care about me. But you’re no different than her!” I let out a sharp breath. Because I know who he’s talking about. He’s talking about our mother. Our mother, who can’t stand imperfection. Our mother, who will never, ever be able to accept the fact that Elliot is anything less than extraordinary.
I turned back to him with a look of pure concern crossing my face. "Elliot, you really believe that you were possessed don't you? Then... Then...” What? What could I do to help? What if this mysterious man came back? How could I protect Elliot? What if he caused Elliot to endanger my life or--worse--his?
For a second, a hopeful look flitters across Elliot’s face. He thinks I can fix this, I realize in horror. He thinks that now that I believe him, I can protect him. Take care of him. I shake my head, my heart breaking at the disappointment that seeps into his expression. He clutches his green hair and sits on his bed with a thump. He mutters something to himself, and I step closer, uncertain. “Elliot? What was that?”
"Get out!" he screams. "Leave me alone. Your absolutely no help at all." He's tearing up now as fear starts to overwhelm all of his emotions. I nod, unsure of what to do now, but the least I can do is give him some peace. As I close the door to Elliot's bedroom, he starts to cry.