Image and Dorrie stood next to each other in the dark, listening for a voice. They knew that someone else—or something else—was with them inside of that dungeon, and they wanted to find out who—or what—it was.
They had tried talking to it, but it hadn’t responded. So they gave up on trying to communicate with it and stood blankly at each other’s side.
They had spent about three quarters of an hour in the dungeon when Dorrie felt someone’s presence next to her. She froze, not moving a muscle. Warm breath caressed her neck like a thick fog, and the hair on the back of Dorrie’s neck stood on end. With a shaking hand, she touched Image’s arm gently. Image swiveled around, but kept silent. With Dorrie’s hand leading her, she reached over to where she could feel someone breathing on her.
With repulsion, she yanked her hand out of Dorrie’s grip and recoiled to a corner.
I have to find out what this is, Dorrie thought to herself. Tentatively, she stretched out her hand blindly in the direction of the person/thing. When her fingers came in contact with something soft and fleshy, she pulled away and wrapped her hands over her head, bracing herself. Nothing hit her.
Her entire body trembling but overcome with curiosity, Dorrie reached out again. This time, when she felt something’s skin, she didn’t withdraw her hand. Whatever it was that she was touching didn’t recoil, either. Dorrie just stood there, unmoving. Then, slowly, she moved her fingers to the left a little bit. She felt something strange, then realized it was a nose. A human nose.
Dorrie pulled her hand down a little. She felt something soft and smooth, running her fingers across it. Lips. Dorrie took her hand off of the person’s face, suddenly feeling awkward. Then she leaned in a bout two inches away from its ear and whispered, “Who are you?”
To her horror, the person’s mouth opened and he started screaming bloody murder. Dorrie covered her hears and hunched over, cowering. She winced as she felt someone pelt her with blows from behind, then let out a terrified whimper. Image was at her side immediately, shaking her by the shoulders and asking frantically what was wrong.
How could she not tell? Dorrie thought incredulously, clenching her teeth and swallowing her pain. Can’t she hear the person beating me and hollering behind me?
“There’s someone in here!” she choked out, taking a blow to the back of her skull. “He’s beating me! Get him off of me, Image!”
But, to Dorrie’s irritation, Image didn’t move a muscle. All she did was whisper anxiously, “Dorrie…um…no one’s hitting you.” Dorrie opened her eyes and gaped at where she thought Image was. “What are you talking about?” she hissed, cringing as her attacker sunk his elbow into her spine. “Are you like, deaf?”
“No, I’m not deaf! You’re insane!”
“Wha—ow! Did you just hear that? He punched me in the cheekbone!”
“Nobody punched you, Dorrie! I’m right here; I think I would know it if someone punched you!”
Dorrie was about to snap back a witty reply when the aggressor sent a piercing strike on her right temple. At first, it didn’t even hurt all that much. But, after a second or two, colorful blotches began to blossom in her vision, dancing around vibrantly.
Electrical pain shot through her body. Dorrie sucked her breath in, icing over. Then, with a thud, she collapsed to the hard, stone floor.
“Dorrie? Dorrie, what’s happened to you?”
Image sunk to her knees, trying to blink through the darkness in order to be able to make out Dorrie’s face. Weakly, Dorrie reached out and grabbed Image’s wrist, clutching it feebly.
“You…didn’t believe me…” she croaked, vaguely feeling a throbbing lump form on her damaged temple. “I…I’m gonna…I’m gonna die, now.”
Image snatched Dorrie’s shoulders and shook her back and forth violently.
“No, you’re not!” she shrieked. “You’re delusional, Dorrie!”
“It’s not her fault,” a gruff male’s voice said from across the room, being weighed down by a thick British accent.
Dorrie barely heard Image’s nose whistle as she sucked in the air (or, water, rather) through her nostrils. Hah, she thought dreamily, almost smiling. Even her nose whistle is identical to mine.
“Who…who said that?” Image breathed, standing up warily. “That I cannot tell you,” the voice murmured. “But, once again, I will state that it is not the girl’s fault that she’s acting that way.”
Dorrie’s entire head throbbed, as if it were constantly being whacked with a hammer. The colorful blotches had faded away from her vision and left her with an agonizing headache. “Whaddaya mean, ‘it’s not my fault?’” she drunkenly asked the unseen speaker.
He hesitated before responding. “You’re still…awake?” he whispered, sounding more distant and uneasy than before. Dorrie sat up, clutching her aching head. “Yeah, of course I am,” she replied in a pained voice. “Why wouldn’t I be?”
Instead of a response, Dorrie heard hasty footsteps gliding toward her. Still a little shocked from the attack she’d recently had, Dorrie ducked down and hid her head, feeling faint from the sudden movement.
Hushed whispers came from the upper right corner (if there even was an upper right corner). Image shouted out, “What are you talking about? What’s the matter with Dorrie?”
“Yeah, and who else is there?” Dorrie chimed in, rising to her feet slowly, cupping her hand around the golf-ball-sized lump on her temple.
The whispers died down, then eventually stopped when they realized that someone was walking toward them. Image reached out her arm halfheartedly to stop Dorrie, but then let it fall back to her side. What’s the use, she thought.
Dorrie half-walked-half-floated toward the corner. It feels so weird walking underwater, she thought, running her fingers over her man-made gills. And it also feels weird breathing it in.
As she got closer and closer to the corner, Dorrie began to detect a faint wisp of fear beginning to brew inside of her.
Then her bare feet crunched into the wall that she didn’t know was in front of her. “Ow!” she hissed through clenched teeth, cursing under her breath. Lifting her feet up one at a time, she massaged her toes quietly, trying to listen and see if the whispers had started again.
Dorrie began to walk creep forward, holding one hand blindly out in front of her while using the other hand to brush against the wall to her right. Her shoulder-length hair flowed behind her, resembling very much a piece of seaweed. Her feet sliced through the dense water that was surrounding her, making a gurgling noise every so often.
After wandering around for about ten minutes straight, Dorrie began to wonder whether she’d imagined all of the voices in the first place. Just as she was about to give up and call out Image’s name, she strolled straight into someone who was standing as stiff as a rod in front of her.
Recovering quickly from her surprise, Dorrie reached out her hand and snatched the shirt of the person before he could get away. Gotcha! she thought triumphantly. He started to struggle against her, but gave up quickly. “Come with me,” Dorrie whispered to him, then called out to Image. “Dorrie!” Image shouted from across the room. “Are you okay?”
“Yeah!” Dorrie hollered back, dragging the boy by his shirt back towards where Image’s voice was coming from.
“I caught him,” she breathed once she finally untangled her fingers from Image’s artificial hair after she found her.
“Caught who…?” Image asked warily. In response, Dorrie tightened her grip on the person’s shoulders and thrust him at Image.
Image recoiled. “Who is this? Who are you?” she spat, keeping her distance. “Speak up! Maybe we can help you!” The boy’s jaw tightened and the strong muscles in his arm rippled.
“Name’s Jake,” he growled. Dorrie loosened her grip on his shoulders.
“Why are you here?” she asked him.
Jake hesitated before answering. “They…caught me. And Klaxon.”
Dorrie’s brow furrowed. “Who’s Klaxon? And who’s they?”
“One question at a time,” said a gnarly voice from across the room, also containing an accent. Dorrie would have thought it to be Jake’s voice, but he was standing right next to her. “Okay,” she said cautiously. “Who just spoke?”
Jake answered this time. “That’s Klaxon,” he said. “He is my…um…Klax? Should I tell them?”
“Klaxon is my robot. You probably don’t know what that is, though, but you’ll find out.”
Dorrie smiled. “Yeah, I know what you’re talking about!” she gushed breathlessly. “I just turned 18, so I have my robot too. Are you searching for your Key to Life?”
“Yeah!” Jake said, sounding a lot more relieved than before.
“That’s awesome! But…how’d you get stuck in here?”
“Well…like I said, they caught me. ‘They’ being the mermaids. I’m assuming you’ve met them before, otherwise you wouldn’t be in here in the first place.”
Dorrie nodded, although she knew no one could see her in the dark. “Yeah, we met them. Image wouldn’t stop mouthing off to the fat one, and that’s what got us thrown in here in the first place.”
“Oh, yeah! Image, come here and introduce yourself.”
Image drifted over, reaching out and taking hold of Dorrie’s wrist. “Um…I’m Image, Dorrie’s robot. Yeah, it’s true I was kind of derisive to Calyx. But I can’t help it—I’m a natural cynic.”
“So…” said Klaxon from a few feet away. “Do you guys want to break outta this place?”