Dorrie felt cold. The cold was caressing her left cheek, running down her spine. She shivered slightly, crumpling into a ball. “Look at it,” she heard a gravelly woman’s voice snarl. “It’s repulsive!” “Yes, most certainly, your honor,” a raspy voice squeaked in return. Dorrie froze, keeping her eyes shut. She slowed her breathing to make it look like she was still asleep.
“Just horrible!” the first voice continued. “These revolting creatures are contaminating our sea. We have to get rid of them!” “Yes, of course, your honor,” the second agreed.
“Why is it that they all look the same?”
“I don’t know, your honor.”
“I’m happy Grudge found them; I don’t know what I’d do without him. Come here, Grudge!”
Dorrie heard a tremendous thumping noise. The cold floor shook, and she let her body go limp. “Yes, your honor?” a deep, gnarly voice growled.
“You are promoted for all of your hard work. You get to kill the creatures once they go insane!”
“Thank you, your honor. You are being greatly generous.”
“I know, Grudge. Now, go back and guard the door before I change my mind.”
Dorrie tried to calm her trembling hands, but it was no use. Fear tightened around her stomach, and she felt queasy. “When are these creatures going to arouse?!” the woman roared, her voice ricocheting off of the walls. Dorrie was able to tell that the room was big; the woman’s voice echoed for a long time, dying out after about twenty seconds.
“I…I’m not sure, your honor,” the raspy voice stuttered.
Dorrie heard a loud clang, and a tremor ran through the floor. “Don’t you know anything, Lectar? Stupid fool!” the woman hissed. “I…I apologize, your honor,” Lectar mumbled.
Dorrie felt something stir next to her. She froze, petrified. “Mm…Dorrie?” she heard Image say. Image! Dorrie thought angrily. Shut up!
Image sat up, stretching her arms out in front of her. Dorrie knew she had opened her eyes when she felt her ice over next to her.
“Ah, the princesses are finally awake!” the woman gushed cheerily. Dorrie sat up cautiously, opening her eyes.
A grimy, fat mermaid sat at a throne made solely out of crystal. Her green-tinted hair swayed in the water above her and her thick, blue tail flapped around restlessly. Wait a minute, Dorrie thought, frowning slightly. Water?
Dorrie sucked in her breath, even though she knew she had been breathing the water in for who-knows-how-long. What’s going on? How come I can breathe water? She tucked a strand of hair behind her ear, and it brushed against a tear in her flesh. With silent horror, she gingerly felt her neck. Four long gills had been carved into her skin, ragged and bloody.
Somehow, she was able to breathe in the water through them. Of course, she thought bitterly. How can I not expect to be able to breathe underwater, what with all the other crazy things happening?
Dorrie looked around the room. Like she expected, it was huge. The bare walls were made out of hard concrete, although at some places it was chipping off a bit. Seaweed grew through the cold tiles on the floor, and once in a while a fish would swim up from under them and wander around the room.
Dorrie began to realize that they were in a dome. Well, Dorrie assumed it was a dome, because she was only in one half of it. She turned around and looked at the wall where the dome was divided.
She sucked in her breath. A large, malicious pig stood guarding the wooden door behind him. His hairy ears flopped down behind his head, and there was a large bejeweled ring around his snout. Dorrie noticed that on his neck, too, there were four jagged gashes in his muddy-brown skin. His black, beady eyes looked at her and Image ferociously, narrowing down to slits. If looks could kill, Dorrie thought uneasily.
“Oh, don’t be afraid of good ol’ Grudge. He’s harmless,” said the mermaid sitting in the crystal throne.
Image wasted no time getting to the point. “Who are you?” she asked with confidence. “Why are we here? What’re you gonna do to us?”
The fake smile dimmed a little on the fat woman’s face, but she snapped it back on in a flash. “Now, now, sweets. Not so many questions at one time! My name is Calyx, but you’re welcome to call me ‘your honor.’ I obviously don’t want to boast, but I must tell you—I am the ruler of the sea.”
Image rolled her eyes while Dorrie stayed where she was, frozen. “Okay, Calyx. Why’d you bring us here?”
Calyx smiled, which ended up looking more like a twisted grimace. “I didn’t personally bring you here; it was my guard, Grudge. He’s right over there—say hi, Grudge!”
Grudge mumbled a reluctant “Hello” and made no attempt to smile.
Image ignored him while Dorrie waved timidly. “You didn’t answer my question, Calyx,” she said, an annoyed edge in her voice. “Why are we here?”
“Of course, honey,” Calyx rambled, a little bit too wholeheartedly. “You’re here to help my army and I defeat the…um…the Cavities. Is that what they’re called?” “Yes, your honor.” “Ah, yes. The Cavities.”
For the first time, Dorrie spoke up. “Um, sorry to rain on your parade, but if you’re a Cavity, you immediately get terminated.” Image nodded in agreement, a smug smile playing at her lips.
Calyx opened her mouth as if she were about to say something, but then closed it again. After a minute or two, she said, “Right, right, of course. Excuse me—getting old sure does have its downsides! I’ve been so forgetful lately.”
“So, what are you going to make up next?” Image challenged.
Calyx’s eyes flashed; finally, she was beginning to get annoyed with them. “Oh, so that’s how you want to play it?” she whispered sweetly.
Image stepped up before Dorrie could stop her. “Bring it on,” she spat, sneering.
Calyx rose to her feet—or, tail, rather—and supported herself with a golden cane that was clutched in her wrinkled hand. “Grudge, put them in the dungeon!” she hollered across the room.
Image and Dorrie barely had enough time to blink before they felt Grudge’s strong grip on their frail shoulders. Wow, Image thought. Dorrie should really work out more.
Soon they were being yanked towards the brown door. “Stop, let go!” Dorrie hissed through her teeth, struggling against Grudge’s inhuman grasp. Even though she knew it was pointless, she tried wriggling out of his grasp.
Obviously, it didn’t work.
The door was swung open, and they were thrown violently into a dark, musty room. This must be the other half of the dome, Dorrie thought.
Before either of them could move, the door slammed shut and they were trapped in complete and utter darkness.
“Image,” Dorrie whispered pathetically.
Silence. Then a small, “Yeah, Dorrie?”
“What do we do now?”
Image sighed. “You’re asking the wrong person, Dorrie.”
Slowly, Dorrie crumpled to the floor and hugged her legs close to her body in defeat. Just one problem after the other, she thought. Then, with a surprise, she noticed that she was crying. Big, salty tears dribbled down her cheek and over her nose. Thank God it’s dark in here, she thought.
For a few everlasting minutes, the two stayed silent as they wrapped their heads around their new dilemma. Both of them were too absorbed in their own thoughts and problems to notice a faint scuffle in the back of the room.
But they weren’t that absorbed; both of them froze when they heard a few light footsteps. Instinctively, Dorrie grabbed Image’s hand. Then, in disgust, they both shook out of each other’s grip.
Image decided to be brave and speak up. “Is anybody here?” she called out, her voice echoing as Calyx’s did in the other room. At first, they heard nothing.
But when they listened closer, they heard faint, ragged breathing. Dorrie cleared her throat. “Speak up,” she said clearly. “Image, we’re not alone.”