Thank you to everyone who contributed to what would happen next
in the interactive short story, Paradise.
The person who made the suggestion I chose asked to remain anonymous.
Here’s a shout out to them – THANK YOU!
Chapters 1 – 3 can be read at – click here
Rain pulverized her skin, but Jewell didn’t care. It didn’t matter that they were in the middle of a tornado. All that counted was Chase’s body against hers.
He bent forward. Jewell shifted to lay flat on her back, longing to have his entire weight on top of her, to help rid the hurt inside.
The ground disappeared, breaking their embrace.
“Chase!” She spiraled downward, her hands grasping for him as he reached for her, but the black hole swallowed her.
“Jewell,” he shouted and faded out of sight.
Feet first, she slid over rough terrain with nothing but darkness and wind to keep her company. Terror engulfed her, and she screamed.
The skin on her arms and legs stung as the sensation of being on a water slide rushed over her, but in place of smooth hard plastic, cold, rocklike lava pounded her. Scared and anxious, she blindly grasped at the sides of the tunnel-like structure, but her speed prevented her from gripping what she believed to be passing objects.
“Jewell.” An echo drifted toward her.
“Chase,” she shouted back into the darkness, her throat growing hoarse.
Pain seared through her arm as her elbow bumped a hard mass. What would happen when she landed? Would water suffocate her, or would rocks break every bone in her body? “No-o-o.”
A small stream of light beamed from above. Chase’s face illuminated from a glow on his forehead.
“Help me!” She passed a cliff and rocketed toward the unknown.
A hand grasped her wrist and she looked into Chase’s eyes coming toward her. “I gotcha.”
“Make us stop?”
A loud crack, followed by another, and her arm jerked as if it came out of the socket. Pain sliced through her as she banged against the side of the tunnel, her head smacking his legs.
Chase held onto something stuck in the lava. “Okay?” he panted.
Choked with relief that she’d stopped moving, she could only manage a whisper, “Yes.”
“Give me a sec while I figure out how to get us out.”
“You happened to have a light and a hook in your pocket?”
“I need to think.”
She ached too much to question him further. Any minute, she’d plummet to the bottom while he held her arm. “Hurry.”
From the little she could see, his face, arms, and chest were scratched, yet his expression was rigid, no sign that they were in a dangerous situation. “What the hell do you do for a living?”
“At the moment, I’m trying to save your sweet ass. Keep quiet.”
He shifted, shined his light past her. When he smiled, she twisted to see why he did.
She laid her face against the hard cool rock as her feet dangled.
Death by drowning.
“Can you hold your breath?”
She could, but not underwater at a depth of 100 feet. Anxiety took over and prevented her from breathing. “Not well.”
He cocked his head when she looked up at him. “I’ve seen you run, you have endurance. You’ll be fine. The water is a blanket, use it to help you.”
“I don’t know that I can,” her voice shaking.
“No choice. I can’t hold you much longer.”
On the contrary, he didn’t look like he struggled.
“The trick is not to collide into anything on the way in.”
Oh, shit. “Like I’m able to control that,” she snapped.
“You will. If the water is hard when you reach it, shift.”
“Won’t it be hard anyway?” She’d read in books that when you reached the water from a high distance it would hurt like hitting cement.
“You have less than ten feet to go. Piece of cake.”
She wanted to shove a piece of cake and his smile up his ass. The idea of falling into the water scared the crap out of her.
“Wait. Whoa. What do you mean?”
“I’m letting go of your hand. Get out as soon as possible.”
“I can’t see. You’re the one with the light. You go first.”
He squeezed her hand. “How am I supposed to do that?”
She sighed. “Good point.” If he jumped, they went in together and his body would push her farther under. She gazed at the dark water below. White caps were the lone clue that the liquid flowed. “It’s like running a race,” she mumbled under her breath. “You can do this.” She blew out a few quick puffs of air. “Go!”
His grip lessened and his fingers slid away from hers.
Her stomach leapt to her throat. The dim light disappeared and something splashed in the water. She stiffened.
Water overcame her as she dropped into the depths of the black liquid, and the creatures she was sure wanted to eat her.
When she could see, she was bold and confident, but in the dark, she wanted to shrivel into a corner and hope no spiders came to visit. Here in the ocean, she didn’t know what to do.
The water enclosed her in a cocoon and panic rose. She replayed Chase’s words: the water is a blanket, use it. She stopped dropping. Her lungs screamed for oxygen. With her feet still pointing downward and no bubbles to lead the way, she swam in the direction she hoped was upward.
A current slapped her side. She moved faster, broke the water’s surface, and sucked in a deep breath.
Her feet hit a hard surface, she stood, and looked in the direction of the voice … above her … that meant … “Holy shit, something’s in here with me.”
“Grab my light and get out.”
“Where the fuck is your light?”
“In the water in front of you.”
The water glowed a few feet in front of her. She could do this. “Okay. I see it.” With each step over what she’d assumed to be molten rock, the eerie notion a sea monster would grab her feet and suck her under grew stronger.
The lava shifted.
“Sea monster,” she screamed as her feet slid out from under her.