(The story so far: Alice and her caravan (Jack, Arbuck and Marie) are stranded on a floating rock. A giant lizard lies in wait in the sand below, ready to eat them. When they find out Brock, the man stranded on the rock, has stolen their food, all hell breaks loose…)
What goes up…
Brock looked at them in disgust. “Hey! That’s unfair!” He wanted to rush over to her, but Alice grabbed him and held him back.
“I wouldn’t”, said Alice.
Brock pulled himself loose. “Why does she get all the food and we don’t?” He took a few steps towards Marie, snatched an apple from the floor and hurled it at her. The piece of fruit bounced off her tiny frame.
Jack, Arbuck and Alice looked at each other. They spoke; it was the same word at the exact same time. “Duck.”
They jumped behind the treasure chest. Right on time to watch Marie’s body burst out of its seams. In mere seconds, her shoulders grew three times in size. Her arms and legs exploded with muscles. She turned around. As she stood up straight, she was twice the size of Brock and towered over him. Her eyes were shining brightly, and her lips were pulled to slits. Her cheekbones looked like they could cut a man in half.
With a swift swoop, she lunged for Brock. The balding fat man screamed and scurried backwards as Marie crashed down onto the ground. The rock trembled; Alice, Jack and Arbuck grabbed onto each other.
Marie rushed towards Brock again. Brock tried to dodge her once more, but he was too late. Her large hand wrapped itself around his waist. Brock wriggled as Marie pulled him up from the ground like an annoying hamster. Which, judging from his desperation to hoard as much food as possible, he kind of was.
“What is this?!”, he yelled at Jack.
“We warned you about Marie”, Jack explained.
“Marie, honey”, Brock pleaded. “It’s me. Your biggest admirer.”
Marie said nothing. She sniffed at Brock. He trembled.
“Don’t eat me! Whatever you do, just don’t eat me!”
“Don’t worry”, Arbuck said matter-of-factly, “she’s full.”
Brock looked back at Marie. He tried on his best, non-scared-seeming smile. “Put me down.”
Panic took hold of Brock. He slammed her hand and cried: “Put me down!”
Marie looked him dead in the eye, grunted once more, took a few steps forwards and jumped down from the rock.
Alice sprang to her feet and hurried to the ledge. She was just in time to watch Marie land right squarely onto the Ladder Lizard’s eye. The beast yelled out, thrashing its massive tail. Marie responded by growling right back at it. The lizard opened its mouth and snapped at Marie. Marie snapped back. The beast opened up wide again and roared. Marie shut it up by throwing Brock into its throat. The lizard coughed, swallowed, caught its breath and then lunged for Marie, who fought the beast with all of her uncontrollable force. And there was a lot of uncontrollable force.
“We have to get down”, Alice said, and once again stopped Jack from jumping at the last possible moment.
“I think she’s got this”, said Arbuck.
Alice focused. How could they get down? Marie survived the jump – maybe they could too? But then what? They wouldn’t as much as scratch the lizard and its impervious skin.
A sudden shockwave went through the rock, forcing Alice and Jack to their knees – and Arbuck to the ground entirely. Alice looked at her surroundings. There was no doubt about it. Jack tried to get back to his feet, but another rumble went through the ground and forced him back down.
“We’re shaking!”, said Arbuck.
“Rocking!”, corrected Jack.
The rock violently shook left and right. Jack, Alice and Arbuck were flailing around and held on for dear life. Brock’s words echoed inside Alice’s head: What goes up, must come down. Then, the force of the crumbling rock swung her towards the edge and over it. She could barely hold on as Jack and Arbuck rushed in. They grabbed her hands and tried to pull her back up, but the shaking was too violent and they couldn’t.
“It’s no use, guys!”, Alice yelled. “It’s going down!”
“No, it’s not!”, Jack cried out. “It’s a floating rock!”
“Rocks don’t float!”
Alice looked down. Twenty meters lower, Marie and the lizard were still wrestling. Soon, she would be joining them, crash down into the sand, and if the fall didn’t kill her, then the lizard would. Or Marie, for that matter. She could see the cook grab the lizard into a chokehold and yank it to the right. The rock shook violently. Alice frowned. Her hands slipped further and further down. Marie now dragged the beast towards the left and slammed it into the sand. The floating rock swerved in the same direction.
Alice assembled the puzzle inside her head with lightning speed. The swerving of the rock. The constant presence of the lizard, even three days later. And the strange way Arbuck’s gun had swerved back towards the ledge. It hadn’t been a miracle. It had been…
“Let me go!” Alice cried out.
“You can’t die!”, Jack yelled. “Who will do all the thinking?”
“I am doing the thinking, Jack! Right now!”
“What are you thinkin’, chief?” asked Arbuck.
“Run towards the other edge and jump up and down. Both of you. At the same time.”
“Because you’re going to flip the rock!”
Alice could see Jack and Arbuck exchange glances. Then came nods. They let go of Alice and disappeared. Alice braced herself. She heard Jack count down from three. Thud. The rock leaned forward, allowing Alice to fasten her grip; then it came back to level again. Down below, the lizard had Marie pinned down. If this didn’t work, they were all dead. Alice could hear Jack count down again. The second thud was bigger. The rock rose until it was almost vertical, then slowly leveled itself once more. Then, Jack counted down a third time –
And the third time was a charm.
Alice yelled from the top of her voice: “Hold on! We’re going down!”
A large rumble went through the rock. It flipped all the way sideways, hung suspended vertically for a second; then, like a clockwork gear, something clicked into place. The rock forcefully flung itself on its back; the trio scrambled on top of it and held on for their lives as the rock started its breakneck descent towards the ground. The wind ruffled through Alice’s hair. She pressed her eyes shut. Braced herself.
The force of impact rumbled through her like lightning.