Sunny Versus the Volcano (Chapter 20)
“Alright. There’s no reason to be such a smart ass.” I would give Doug the most withering look in my arsenal (I have some good ones, too), but I’m trying my best to hide my real thoughts until I’m well and truly sure Theseus has faded away and gone… wherever he goes when he’s just chillin’ and not spinning bullshit stories about how he’s the victim for stabbing a woman to death and stealing her possessions and leaving her to bleed out on the sand.
Oh, what’s that? You got cursed for all eternity for being a murrrrderer? And you’re a misogynist and a racist, too? Cool, man.
Cry me a river, old white dude. I never heard you actually say you were sorry. Maybe you deserve it; have you thought about that?
But who even has time to hash all this out, because as soon as Theseus is gone, the doppelgänger ghosts start wailing and advancing again, but it’s fine. It’s all good. Because I really do have a plan, and I’m even about fifty percent sure it will work.
I mean—thirty percent. Yeah, that’s about right.
“Stop!” I shout, holding up my hands to the wall of ghosts. Amazingly, they do.
What I mean to say is, of course they do. I totally knew they would. (Because really, we’re all the same—all cursed by the centaur and Theseus and Alice and tied to this mess together. Their pain is my pain, and etc. We get each other.)
So that’s, like, the first part of my plan done.
Oh, right. I need to tell them what to do now.
I grab Ted’s shoulder and drag him forward. “This is Ted. Remember Ted? You don’t like Ted.”
“Uhhh, Sunny? What are you playing at?” Ted says out of the corner of his mouth.
“Don’t be an insecure baby. Trust me,” I whisper.
The ghosts are muttering amongst themselves—looking around with dawning realization.
“He’s the worst!”
Then, in a resounding chorus, “Ted owes us money!”
I try to hide the grin blossoming over my face, but it’s difficult, and it sneaks out the corners of my mouth, just a little. I’m such a freaking genius, sometimes I surprise even myself.
“Sunny,” Doug says in a warning tone.
“That’s right!” I say over the restless, ghostly voices. “He does owe you money, and he has been the worst in the past, but now he has good news—he’s ready to pay you back!”
“What?” say the ghosts.
“What?” says Doug.
“What?” says Ted.
I stomp Ted’s boot. “Absolutely. He came into the possession of a solid gold centaur. Virtually priceless. Worth…”
“Worth how much?” a ghost with my face shouts cynically.
“Well, worth more than…” I search my mind frantically, but my imagination is failing me. What would ghosts find impressive? It’s a gold centaur, for crying out loud. It doesn’t even make sense! “More than this whole island, I tell you that! Enough to clear out all your debts and then some.”
Ted slides his hand down my arm and squeezes my hand. He finally gets where I’m going with this. Either that or he’s just choosing a weird time to get unusually sentimental, and, I mean, I literally don’t have the emotional bandwidth to examine whether Ted might have feelings for me right now.
I step away from Ted, toward the ghosts. “So, uh, yeah. How do you feel about a solid gold centaur?”
They converse among themselves, every now and then sending dodgy glances at Ted, and then break apart. “Generally, we like it. We will accept the centaur as payment for the debts.”
“Great!” I say. “But here’s the thing.” I wipe my sweaty palms on my pants. “We don’t exactly have it with us right now. Black Alice took it from us pretty much the moment we got here. But you can get it because it’s here on the island and you know Alice, and—and there are a lot of you and only one of her. So that should be easy, right?”
The ghosts look doubtful.
“I mean, she stole it from us, and all you need to do is steal it back. And then… it’s yours. And, you’re good, and we’re good. And all debts are settled.”
Suddenly my plan seems not only lame, but pretty unconvincing. These ghosts were loyal to Alice literally just earlier today, and now I think they’re just going to run off and steal the golden centaur from her because I tell them to? I can feel Doug’s cynical (and probably panicked) gaze piercing my shoulder blades, but I try to ignore the sensation, because this is only phase one, and I really just need a win right now. I really just need—
“Okay,” the ghosts say, as one. “We’ll do it.” And with a rushing of wind through the trees, they leave.
“What… just happened?” Doug says.
“Ha.” I say. Then. “HA!” I spin around and jump and hug Ted, who spins me like we’re in some lame romantic comedy.
“Okay. Okay.” Yes, yes, yes.
“Uh, Sunny.” Doug sounds less enthused. “I hate to point out the obvious, but if the ghosts steal the centaur from Alice, then we still don’t have it. And we can’t throw it into the volcano.”
Doug sounds like he’s approaching full meltdown. He even bends over and puts his head between his knees.
Ted releases me and goes to his brother. “Relax, bro.” He slaps Doug on the shoulder.
“Sunny’s got it handled.”
“Does she, though?”
“I, uh, do. Yes.”
“Because you have no intention of actually throwing the centaur into the volcano,” Gabe says. He’s looking at me as though he can see right through me. He gets it.
“Right. Duh. At least, I’m pretty not sure that’s the right move. Not yet, at least.”
“Sending the ghosts after the centaur buys us time—not to mention they won’t be chasing us anymore—and if they actually succeed in getting it from Alice, it will be a lot easier to get it from them than it will be to get it from her.”
I finger-gun at Gabe.
“I still have no idea what’s going on,” Doug says, straightening. “I thought you said we needed to follow Theseus’s plan? You told me to do what he said!”
“That was just to get rid of him,” I say.
“So did you!” Doug rounds on Ted.
“I… wasn’t sure.”
I spear Doug with the glare I’ve been reserving ever since Theseus stood amongst us and delivered his BS sob story. “Listen—You may know all about really old YouTube shows, or whatever—”
“TV,” Doug says, resignedly.
“—but I know all about creepy ass old white dudes who have victim complexes and way too much power.”
Jacinta makes a noise of agreement.
“What does that… mean?” Doug asks.
“It means that Theseus is lying,” Jacinta says. She moves to my side.
“Oh yeah. Lying through his stinky old teeth. I mean, the dude murdered Black Alice over a golden centaur and wants us to feel sorry for him—acts like she’s the unreasonable one. I don’t care what crimes she committed as a pirate; she didn’t deserve to be killed over a piece of treasure.”
“She got trapped in a ghost-state by the curse as much as he did,” Gabe says thoughtfully.
“It’s only here, on the island, that she wields and real power.”
“Right!” I say. “And Theseus needs us, but he doesn’t want us to know that he needs us, so he played it off like we need him.” I study my nails. “But I saw right through that.”
“Okay, Sunny. Since you obviously want me to ask you to explain rather than just being forthcoming. How exactly did you know?”
“Easy! He gave us two options like they were the only two options we had. But they weren’t, actually. He said we could either get the centaur from Alice—and throw it into the volcano—or take our chances with the ghosts—who were trying to kill us. So the first thing I thought we should do is reclaim control over our situation.”
“Get the ghosts on our side,” Doug says.
“And if they actually get the centaur from Alice—even better,” Ted says.
I bounce on my heels. “Disrupt the equilibrium of the island, maybe? Break the illusion, perhaps? Who knows!”
“Exactly—who knows. The ball is in our court now, and that’s where we want it. We’ve been chasing our tails since we got here, and that’s meant we’ve looked super vulnerable to both Alice and Theseus. They’ve both taken advantage of us, so I just thought it’s time we take control back. We know what Theseus did, and now we know what he wants—and for some reason he needs us to do it for him. He needs us. If he could destroy the centaur himself, don’t you think he would?” I take Doug by the shoulders and shake him. “This is a good thing, Captain Doug. We hold the power now.”
Doug offers me a reluctant smile that is more of a grimace. “So what’s next, Sunflower Smith-Jones? You seem to be running the show now. What exactly are you going to do? Where are you going with this? And… where are you going—literally?”
Doug moves to keep up with me as I leap into a jog.
“Have you ever seen this really old movie called Joe Versus the Volcano?” I call over my shoulder.
“How the hell do you know that movie, but you’ve never heard of Lost?”
“It’s a classic!” I say. “Anyhow. Here’s my thought. If Theseus needs us so bad, maybe we should do something totally crazy.”
“Like what?” Doug sounds freaked now. “Sunny. Don’t say—”
“Like throwing myself into the volcano! I mean—I’m already dead. What’s the worst that could happen? Who’s with me!”
“Hell, I’ll give it a shot,” Ted says.
“Me too,” says Manny.
“I can’t jump in a volcano! I’m not dead! Neither is Gabe or Jacinta!” Doug sounds apoplectic.
“Who even says it’s a real volcano?” I spread my arms and vault a fallen log, recklessness filling me with adrenaline. “But, dollars to donuts, old Theseus is going to show up to stop us.
And he’s going to be pissed we didn’t do exactly as he said.”
“And if he doesn’t?”
I grin at Ted. “Then your brother and Manny and I are about to find out if ghosts burn.”
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